The schism of the new ROCOR from the Orthodox Church has its origin in the mentality of certain US ROCOR converts, of woman-hating ‘incels’ and ‘orthobros’. This mentality first raised its head in US ROCOR under the influence of the neo-puritanical, Bostonite old calendarists as long ago as the 1960s. In other words, the ‘orthobros’ mentality today is ultimately the fruit of Gregory Grabbe’s old calendarist ‘We are the True Church’ fanaticism. (Boston’s twenty-year long reign ended in 1986 in unanswered charges by ROCOR of homosexuality and the extreme right-wing Gregory Grabbe, who had been secretary of the New York Synod for several decades, ended in 1995 in old age outside the Church, still calling himself ‘Bishop Gregory Grabbe’, having consecrated the pedophile Bishop Valentin (Rusantsov) in Suzdal in Russia, who was later imprisoned, and banning ROCOR members from attending his own funeral).
Let me say now that there is no personal animosity at all to those family-deprived ‘orthobros’ who are suffering, often from the temptations of sexual deviancy, and need Christ. They are deeply unhappy and lonely, not to say, disturbed individuals. However, the ideology that many of them have developed, once they have been given power over the Church and Orthodox families, is filled with hatred. Our Faith is not an ideology, for it is filled with Love. Hatred, especially towards normal families in the Church, is the unfailing warning sign of the sect. That is why they are so dangerous. That is why they must be prayed for. We still hope for the salvation of all, turning the other cheek. We publicise this simply because it is our duty to defend Church truth against sectarianism and its inevitable consequence which is, as we have seen with our own eyes, schism. And schism from the Church means precisely separation from Love, that is, schism is the path to hatred
The ROCOR schism that began in December 2020 in Cardiff, Wales. It was initiated by a very new ROCOR priest who had belonged to an old calendarist sect for some twenty years beforehand and who had previously been refused admission to the Church. His reception as a priest (without ordination) had therefore been very controversial. He objected to an even newer former Roman Catholic priest in the same city, who had been accepted into the Russian Orthodox Church in the usual way (see below).
Amazingly, instead of rebuking the former old calendarist priest for his ignorance and non-acceptance of Orthodox Tradition and ordering him to concelebrate with his brother-priest of the same jurisdiction, the local ROCOR bishop (himself a convert from Lutheranism who had been received by chrismation into the OCA some twenty years before) backed him and then his ROCOR colleagues backed the whole old calendarist mentality and schism. It was all part of the new ROCOR policy of expelling older, experienced, traditional ROCOR priests and laypeople and replacing them with crazy converts. Birds of a feather flock together….
Thus began an international schism and scandal. Some of course say that this Welsh incident was just a long-awaited trigger and any pretext would have done for those who were already possessed by a sectarian mentality and wanted revenge for the unity of 2007. Too proud to repent for the initial error of backing an old calendarist, ROCOR then launched itself into a vicious spiral of sectarianism and schism. This took it very, very far from the Church, the Tradition and the Love of Christ, Who wills all to salvation.
A Little History
In London the well-respected and unmercenary Fr George Sheremetiev (+ 1971), the spiritual father of the Tsar-Martyr’s sister, the late Xenia Alexandrovna, warned of this mentality in the 1960s. He persuaded the future and now late Metr Kallistos (Ware) to join the Greek Church, and not ROCOR, in order to avoid that new pharisaical censoriousness, as the then Fr Kallistos himself related to me in 1974. Also from London, the late scholar Fr Ambrose Pogodin, who went to the USA, later joined the OCA for exactly the same reason. Western European ROCOR always had a different mentality. This is Old Europe, next to the roots of the Faith, where we keep the Tradition and the canons.
The rebaptism of Non-Orthodox was never accepted by Western European ROCOR, which was faithful to the mainstream Russian Orthodox spiritual tradition of Metr Antony Khrapovitsky. He had consecrated St John of Shanghai and Western Europe (he spent 13 years here, the same period as in China). Naturally, St John did not rebaptise Non-Orthodox, apart from in two known exceptional cases. St John was succeeded by the ever-memorable Archbp Antony of Geneva, who ordained me and many others and who said that the reception of Non-Orthodox by baptism is simply ‘not necessary’. This was always our policy. And in the case of Roman Catholics, reception by confession and communion was always our policy also.
Non-rebaptism had also naturally been the practice of US ROCOR until the 1960s, as ROCOR then had, like the Moscow Patriarchate, kept faith with the pre-Revolutionary Russian Tradition. Look for example at how super-correct ‘Orthodox’ rebaptisers persecuted Fr Seraphim Rose, another disciple of St John of Shanghai. The latter was suspended and put on trial by the political US ROCOR bishops, which stress basically led to his early death three years later.
In 2007, led by the ever-memorable Carpatho-Russian Metr Lavr, we at last thought we had rid ROCOR of this schismatic and sectarian mentality by entering into canonical communion with Moscow. I was there as a speaker at the Fourth ROCOR Council in San Francisco in 2006, in Moscow in 2007 and again in 2012 for the fifth anniversary. Before 2007 those ROCOR bishops responsible had already abandoned their uncanonical old calendarist connections in the Balkans, which had been promoted by a tiny number of ROCOR bishops in the 1990s and rejected and ignored by everyone else. These included the link with the sect of the late Metropolitan Vlasie in Romania, who had preached purity, but before he died had fallen with a nun.
The New Sectarianism
However, in 2017 the mini-Synod took its revenge for the unity of 2007 and seized power after our beloved Metr Hilarion (Eternal Memory!) fell ill. Among other things, they wanted to ‘bring Western European ROCOR into line’ with the US, ‘to drain the swamp’, as they claimed. In fact they did exactly the opposite and brought the US swamp here, destroying the old ROCOR. Their first move was in 2018 when they ‘retired’ the local ROCOR Archbishop of Geneva and the pillars of the parish who had been there for generations, causing huge scandal there, and replacing him with a young and highly inexperienced American convert. The latter had been received into the OCA from Lutheranism by chrismation some 18 years before.
It was the start of a Stalinist purge and micromanagement. Then they insisted that we, who were Russian Orthodox before they were even born, speak American and use novel US liturgical customs! They are typical of the US converts who want to be ‘more Orthodox than the Orthodox’. Their whole reasoning is obsessed with Protestant-style ‘salvation’ and ‘baptism’, with the conservative Lutheran ‘promise’ of hellfire for any who disagree with them. What wonderful Christians!
All here are profoundly shocked by what has happened. Most pretend to ignore it, as ROCOR is so tiny. However, the Greeks here write of the scandal-ridden ROCOR: ‘Once a sect, always a sect’, they say. The MP Sourozh Diocese told us two years ago that American ROCOR needs a ‘psychiatric ambulance’ (It sounds better with a Russian accent). They actually laughed at the antics of these pretend Russian Orthodox and their Disneyfication of the Faith. To get an understanding, see the Polish psychiatrist Dr Andrew Lobaczewski in his book Political Ponerology, where he speaks of a pathological type known as “Schizoidia” or “schizoidal psychopathy“.
ROCOR ignored the advice of Patriarch Kyrill to simply write us letters of leave, as we had politely requested from the start, as we were willing to accept all their humiliations and had done so, but we were not willing to enter into a schism, as we had clearly explained four months before we left. Therefore, seeing the reckless stubbornness of ROCOR, Moscow arranged with their friend, Patriarch Daniel of Romania, for us to be taken into the Romanian Church (Patriarch Daniel’s main canonical adviser and professor of canon law is the brother-in-law of our Romanian priest), until the war in the Ukraine is over. The process of our reception took just four hours.
Moscow had arranged all beforehand. Only after the conflict in the Ukraine will Moscow at last have the opportunity to deal with the ROCOR schism. This means dealing with the crazy and uncanonical elements who seized power from Metr Hilarion and then created a schism with the MP’s Archdiocese of Western Europe, where we have had close family and friends for over 50 years.
If Moscow then offered us and all our churches to join Sourozh, as we had originally wanted in May 2021, I am not sure what we would do. The Romanians have been fantastic to us, real Christians, letting us remain Russian Orthodox, visiting us, concelebrating regularly and making us a real part of the Romanian Metropolia. Of course, we had always been good to them. They are paying us back. Why ever should we want to ask the Romanian Church for letters of leave? They do not try and destroy us and close our churches and they are not jealous, in love with money, are not spectacularly rude and do not bully and threaten. In a word, Romanian Orthodox are Christians.
Our minimum requirement would be for the schismatics to be removed, though frankly they should at least be suspended for creating a schism, which even ‘the blood of the martyrs cannot overcome’ and persecuting those who obey the canons. Then all 16 of us clergy who left ROCOR and did not return would have to receive some sort of compensation. This would be a bit like the slandered Fr Alexander (Belya) and all those with him (we have seen the papers where he was clearly elected by a majority of the Synod), the angelic Fr Christopher Stade, Abbot Tikhon (Gayfudinov), Metr Hilarion’s former private secretary, and Fr Edouard Chervinsky, priest at the Synod building. They all left in disgust at the new clique, which usurped power from the dementia-suffering Metr Hilarion. Their behaviour has been not just uncanonical, but shamelessly unChristian.
The New Rebaptism Book and the Reception of Non-Orthodox
The new American book on rebaptism was written in the convert style by an insecure convert priest in Greece, who had already been rejected by the US Assembly of Orthodox Bishops. I say insecure because none of this is an issue for secure Orthodox, in Greece, Russia, Romania, or anywhere else. It is, however, a perennial theme amongst those from a Protestant background, but who have not yet fully converted. Fr Peter Heers, if he is the author, has no known bishop (he is then on paper a Protestant), until he can prove otherwise. There is nothing new in this book, it repeats the vast debates around this subject to be found in Orthodox literature in the 70s and 80s (St Vladimir’s Quarterly, Eastern Churches Review, Sobornost, Orthodox Word etc, as well as in other languages for example in Le Messager of the Western European Diocese of ROCOR).
This new book appears to recount various practices from history, taking quotes of saints and elders out of context (as Protestants are wont to do) is certainly not sound traditional pastoral practice, but is inclined to the booklore of pharisees. The fact that at certain times and in certain places the reception of Roman Catholics by baptism has been practised is a well-known fact. It has always happened whenever Roman Catholicism was aggressive towards Orthodoxy and seems to have begun, unsurprisingly, with the sack of New Rome in 1204. However, it has not been the practice whenever Roman Catholics have treated Orthodox well and even respected us, in other words, whenever they have behaved like Christians towards us.
The demand for reception by baptism renounces the living Tradition, the Tradition of the Saints, of all the Local Churches, of the Moscow Patriarchate, of the pre-Revolutionary Church (the Tsaritsa St Alexandra was received by St John of Kronstadt by chrismation). Personally, I will always follow the practice of non-schismatic Orthodox bishops in this. Those who do not accept this practice risk putting themselves outside the Church, especially when they refuse to concelebrate with whole jurisdictions because they have received a priest from Roman Catholicism by confession and communion. What was good enough for St Seraphim of Sarov. St John of Kronstadt, the martyred Tsarina Alexandra and for 100% of non-schismatic, canonical Orthodox bishops today is certainly good enough for me.
Any who demand the rebaptism of someone who has already for years been in the Orthodox Church and taking communion also renounce the Creed: ‘I believe in One Baptism….’.
See youtube for how the Moscow Patriarchate today, as ever, receives Roman Catholic priests into the Church:
Outside of this book, which I have not had time to read, I would say the following about the whole invented issue of ‘corrective rebaptism’ – a totally unPatristic term, namely:
If you do not accept the above practice of the ROC, that Roman Catholic clergy are accepted into the Russian Church by confession and concelebration and you cut off communion with those who do accept this, then you are simply not Russian Orthodox, indeed you are simply not members of the Orthodox Church. You belong to a sect. You are schismatic. To cut off communion with others because of their traditional practices in this matter is a schism. That is the sin. And that is what has happened.
Of course, we all practise threefold baptism by immersion in the Name of the Holy Trinity (I do this at least twice a week on average), but watch the above video with one who had already been baptised in the Name of the Holy Trinity being received in the usual way into the Russian Church today. What we do not do is fall into schism and say that others are not Orthodox because they have been received in the way shown in the youtube video above, and not according to the strict teaching. That is anti-canonical – see Canon XV of the First and Second Council under St Photius the Great.
The Orthodox teaching on Non-Orthodox ‘sacraments’ is crystal clear and I will repeat it here for newcomers to the Church, who know nothing of the extensive literature about it written in the 19th and 20th centuries, for the umpteenth time:
There are no sacraments outside the Orthodox Church. However, there are sacramental forms or rites, which actually have the same names as ours and are outwardly very similar to Orthodox emergency baptisms. The spiritual presence that is missing in those forms or rites is obtained when a Non-Orthodox comes into the presence of the Church, the source of the Holy Spirit. The ritual form is then filled with the missing grace.
The problem with any novel doctrine of rebaptism is that:
Its claims about the need to rebaptise Non-Orthodox are old-fashioned, done to death over the last 150 years. This issue was debated to death by Palmer and Khomyakov in the 19th century and thousands of pages were again written about it in the 1970s, especially after the uncanonical, indeed blasphemous, 1976 Guildford ROCOR rebaptisms by Grabbeites of those who had been Orthodox for some years. (This is still done by old calendarists, linked to the Guildford group in England). It came up yet again in the 1986 Boston schism and the Fontrier schism in Paris. Both ex-ROCOR groups went to the old calendarists. As Archbishop Antony of Geneva of ROCOR said to all of us at the time: ‘You receive by economy (chrismation). However, if someone insists on being baptised into the Church, you can do so, though it is not necessary’. When in the 1990s one Polish ROCOR nun at the Lesna Convent, Sister Varvara, learned of the new American ROCOR practice of obligatorily receiving Roman Catholics by baptism, she was horrified. As were we all – and still are.
In 1979 the now local saint, St Sophrony the Athonite, explained to us (and to me) the Orthodox teaching that there is no need to rebaptise. This followed the rebaptism of a Catholic priest by Abbot Aemilianos in 1978. Fr Sophrony had sent the Catholic priest, Fr Placide, to Athos to be received, but was horrified and very upset when Fr Aemilianos, behind his back, received Fr Placide by baptism. It did cause a quite unnecessary scandal at the time. Whatever was missing in the heterodox sacramental form is made up for, and activated by, contact with the grace inherent in, and which radiates from, the Church of God – the Orthodox Church.
The rest is the Protestant-style fundamentalist literalism and ritualism of converts with their psychological fragility and insecurity. In other words, none of the rebaptism hysteria is to do with theology, only psychology and often an unhealthy psychology, even pathology (see above). Young men who come to our parishes for the first time, as they do, having spent hundreds of hours on the internet and are therefore ‘experts’, and at once demand that they be rebaptised, that they must dress in black, grow long beards and hair and change their names from ‘John’ and be called Moses or Seraphim, Silouan or Vladimir do not need a priest. They need a psychiatrist. Either they accept us Orthodox as we are, or else they go elsewhere. We do not have any in our parishes.
This is what Patriarch Alexei II meant some twenty-five years ago, when he spoke of the insecurity of certain small groups of introverted Russian emigrants, who lived in narrow, self-protecting and parochial ghettoes, frightened because ‘others are not like us’, ‘the others are not real Russians like us’ etc.
These claims about the need for rebaptism reject all the ROCOR bishops and priests of the past, those who taught us the Tradition. They were not upstart converts from a US Protestant background, but came from a millennium of Orthodox Tradition.
Rebaptism is obligatory claims mean that all the saints of the Old Testament and many post-New Testament martyrs of the calendar baptised in their blood, and not by triple immersion in water, are not even Orthodox, let alone saints.
Rebaptism is obligatory claims mean that the hundreds of thousands of Uniats received into the Russian Church in Belarus, the Ukraine and Carpatho-Russia in the 19th and 20th centuries by confession and communion (the third rite) never joined the Orthodox Church!
Rebaptism is obligatory claims mean that hundreds of Orthodox priests, received by chrismation as laypeople, are not priests and their sacraments are not valid!
These claims mean that some 100 million Russian Orthodox (some 35,000 of them now priests, at least one hundred are now bishops) are not baptised! Until 10-15 years ago most baptisees there had to stand kneeling forward with two hands in a bowl of water and had water poured over their heads. Quite simply, there were hardly any baptistries.
These claims deny the validity of baptisms by numbers of Serbian and Greek Diaspora (and not only in the Diaspora and not only Serbian and Greek) priests, who baptise by pouring water over the head.
These claims deny the validity of Orthodox emergency baptisms of babies and adults, done in hospital conditions.
The fact is that if you only practise akrivia (the strict teaching), you will wander as far from the truth as those who only practise ikonomia (dispensation). Pastors use both according to need. Intellectuals and theoreticians fall for one or the other, lapsing to the right side or to the left side. Pastors are practical and, by definition, pastoral.
Once the war that the US began in 2014 in the Ukraine is over, because this is of course a war between Moscow and Washington, for whose military-industrial complex 500,000 Ukrainian soldiers have already died, these matters will be sorted out. The events in the Ukraine and those ensuing in the Baltics, Moldova and Western Europe have distracted Moscow from the events here.
Eventually, the sectarians will refuse to repent and will no doubt found yet another wealthy (through internet influencing and podcasts) American sect, ROCOR – Russian Old Calendarists Outside Russia. However, Orthodoxy does not exist in podcasts and on the internet, it exists only in buildings, services and sacraments, in our incarnate Christian way of life. But sects do not want to know about that.
Those Orthodox who still remain in ROCOR, and these include some of their bitterly divided bishops – I am told by one source that the division is indeed bitter – will become part of the MP, or whatever it will come to be called after the conflict in the Ukraine is over. This is the future. Moscow will pick up the sane pieces, once the insane pieces have expelled themselves into their sects in a repeat of the 1986 Boston schism and the multiple schism between 2001 and 2007. I have not the slightest doubt about it and have not doubted it since 2007. The post-2007 crisis of identity of ROCOR, with all its absurdities and now schism from the Moscow Patriarchate, would have been overcome by ROCOR in Europe, Latin America and Australia merging with the MP, or in North America with its local American branch, the OCA. It will happen anyway.
Then ROCOR would simply have merged with the MP and so become its missionary arm outside Russia. Providentially, it would then have helped the MP from sinking into disastrous Russian nationalism and Soviet-style centralism and injustices, like defrocking priests with differing political opinions about the Ukraine. And at the same time, through its engagement with the masses, and not with ghettos, ROCOR would have helped the imploding Western world to refind Christ.
Sadly, the new ROCOR, renouncing the old and traditional ROCOR with its pre-Revolutionary heritage, took the other sectarian, way. It sovietised itself and at the same time turned to the right-wing ghetto instead of to the mainstream. In the end, however, the forces of moderation and sanity will prevail. Light always wins against darkness in the end.