A Vision for the Future Orthodox Church in Western Europe

Sadly, vision has all too often been in short supply when it comes to a future Orthodox Church for Western Europe, On the one hand, there have been those, whom I have known personally, who failed to rise to the challenge and simply rejected the concept, preferring the ethnic ghetto and nationalist club and hiding behind Slavonic or Greek. On the other hand, there have been those who wanted to create ‘une structure d’attente’, a temporary structure waiting to be absorbed into Roman Catholicism, in the notorious and legendary words of one Jesuit-educated senior priest of the Paris Jurisdiction over 35 years ago.

At present one view is that the US-run Patriarchate of Constantinople should make autonomous its Western European group or ‘brotherhood’, as it has already done in Finland and Estonia. This would be based on extreme liberalism and a copying of modernist Roman Catholicism (Roman Catholic calendar, no confession, intercommunion, no iconostasis, clean-shaven clergy, masonry, an upper middle-class pseudo-intellectual ethos with as many members as possible holding degrees in philosophy etc). Such an exclusive club is in fact just as ethnic as the ethnic ghetto; worse, it is class-ridden as well.

Only recently, I have come across two cases of Russian Orthodox being refused confession by such groups because they did ‘not have any sins’. One 25-year-old Romanian priest- ‘theologian’ actually told one that confession was ‘no longer necessary’. The other was told that ‘since you have not murdered anyone, you do not need confession’. Others have been told that they must abandon the Orthodox calendar. Another who attended the chapel of a tiny convert group defined it as ‘an upper class club for Anglicans’. All that happens is that the faithful are scandalized and quit such groups in search of ‘real Orthodox’.

I quote these sad examples because it is clear that the Church of the future can never be built on such practices because they are exclusive. Just as nothing can be built on a mononational and monolingual (be it Greek, Slavonic, Romanian, English, French or German) ethnic narrowness. The future will be built on inclusivity. And that inclusivity will not be built on a modernist, anti-Orthodox ideology, whose tone is set by the CIA, but on respect for the feelings of the faithful (and not lapsed) Orthodox people. The Church is the people; we are not clericalists in the Orthodox Church.

The Church of the future will be built on uniting different nationalities of Orthodox, not on dividing them by minimalism, built on being inclusive, not exclusive. The most anti-pastoral aspect of this is the attempt to impose on faithful Orthodox a degutted, pseudo-Orthodox, modernist ideology. If convert and semi-Uniat Orthodox want faithful Orthodox to come to their churches and chapels, then they must first become Orthodox themselves. ‘Halfodoxy’ has no attraction to us whatsoever. We do not ask for an acceptance of another language, simply an acceptance of the Orthodox Faith and Tradition.