Category Archives: Apostasy

The Anti-Orthodox War Continues

The elderly Archbishop of Athens and Greek Patriarch of Alexandria have both been threatened by the Greek Foreign Ministry, which is in turn a puppet of the US State Department: Either recognize the Ukrainian schismatics or else you will be sacked and your funds cut off. Essentially, this is the same threat as was made eighteen months ago to the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople who also gave way. Sadly, there are some for whom money is more important than the canons. Nothing new there. There are plenty of careerists in the Church and there always have been. Little wonder that a canonical Ukrainian Metropolitan has likened the Patriarch of Alexandria to Judas:

(https://russian-faith.com/alexandria-patriarch-like-judas-n2545)

 Now the new and aggressive Trump-backed Greek Archbishop in the USA, Elpidiforos, has met Metropolitan Tikhon, leader of the Russian-founded Orthodox Church in America, and threatened him too: submit to me or else.

Who is next in line? Most believe the Patriarch of Jerusalem – also a colonial appointee of the Greek Foreign Ministry. Then perhaps the Archbishop of Cyprus. Clearly, there will also be pressure on the Greek-run Church of Albania and the Church of Romania, whose Patriarch was also appointed by the US ambassador in Bucharest, especially if the State Department can persuade NATO to invade Moldova and bring it by force under Romanian rule. Perhaps the Churches of Serbia and Georgia will also come under pressure from their US ambassadors.

The US policy is transparent: the Orthodox Church must be brought into line with Western Secularism, as was the Vatican in the 1960s. Clearly, the USA is run by atheists. But the US atheist elite has never yet heard about how the atheist Soviet Union fell in one night: Here today, gone tomorrow. Have they not read of the fate of Babylon? MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN…Belshazzar’s feast is coming to an end. You have been warned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Russian Orthodox Émigré Contribution to the Future World Orthodox Church

A few years ago the now Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov asked us the question: What distinctive contribution can the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) make to the Church inside Russia? Here is my answer to him in the light of the most recent events:

Our Orthodox Christian Faith is Trinitarian: God the Father, Who is the instinctive knowledge of the existence of God, God the Son, Who represents the Incarnation of the Faith in all human affairs on earth (as denied for a thousand years by the Western world), and God the Holy Spirit, Who sanctifies all the nations who accept Him. This Trinitarian knowledge has always been expressed in the Russian Orthodox words: ‘For the Faith, For the Tsar, For Rus’. This motto was in turn expressed in recent history by the three ROCOR Saints, the Three Saints of the Emigration:

‘For the Faith’ was expressed by St Jonah of Hankou (+ 1925), the first ROCOR saint. Fleeing as a refugee with the White Russians and absolutely faithful to the fullness of Russian Orthodoxy, within a very short time of becoming a bishop at a very young age in Manchuria, he established an orphanage, a school, and a dining hall for the poor. Thus he combined the love of the Liturgy with practical love for our neighbour, as the Gospel calls us to do. This is indeed the essence of the Orthodox Christian Faith.

‘For the Faith and for the Tsar’ was expressed a generation later by St Seraphim of Boguchar (+ 1950). He expressed the values of Russian Orthodoxy in his writings and was also the great defender of Orthodoxy against both the heresies of the renovationist Paris School in the 1930s and ecumenism, notably at the Inter-Orthodox Council of Moscow in July 1948. He asked: What is the role of the Tsar? He answered that he is the incarnation of the Faith in the life of the State, in social, political and economic affairs. This is why we await the coming of the next Tsar, the White Tsar, whether he is a man of piety, or Christ Himself in His Second Coming.

‘For the Faith, for the Tsar and for Rus’ was then expressed by St John of Shanghai (+ 1966). The first ‘universal saint’, as he has been called, he lived all over the planet and celebrated the Liturgy and preached in many languages, extending the understanding and practice of ‘Rus’ worldwide far beyond East Slavdom, which stretches from Slovakia to the shores of the Pacific. Now we talk about American Rus, Australian Rus, English Rus, French Rus, German Rus, Irish Rus, Peruvian Rus, Swiss Rus. Wherever, worldwide, there is the uncorrupted Christian Faith of the Russian Orthodox world, there is Rus.

Some in Russia would say that this is what they have always believed. True, but the emigration expressed it with a refined purity and much extended significance, all of which became possible only after the catastrophe of the 1917 Revolution.  All three saints together, the Three New Pillars of Orthodoxy, completed their lives on three different continents: St Jonah in China in Asia; St Seraphim in Bulgaria in Europe and St John in San Francisco in North America.

It is this, the global reality of Rus, which the Church inside Russia is now learning from us. Once captive inside the mental borders of the Soviet Union, the multinational Russian Orthodox Church has recently established a Western European Exarchate and a South-East Asian Exarchate, becoming ever more deeply the Church of Eurasia. Now, with the long-expected apostasy of Greek Churches, far too weak to stand up to corrupting American pressure, there has appeared the possibility of setting up a Turkish Exarchate in Asia and solving the old calendarist schism in Greece in Europe.

Moreover, extending to a new Continent, it could set up an African Orthodox Church with local, not colonial, bishops. Beyond this there is the possibility of founding a real North American Orthodox Church, with the future merger of the healthy elements of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) with ROCOR. And ROCOR in turn can, with canonical and practical support from inside Russia, help set up a Church of Oceania and a Church of South America. It is our hope that we shall yet see founded a church dedicated to the Three New Pillars of Orthodoxy, the Pillars of the Russian emigration of three different continents. The future begins now.

Towards an African Exarchate?

The news that the Pope of Alexandria has ceded to Greek State pressure (that is, pressure from the notorious US ambassador in Athens, Geoffrey Pyatt) and recognized the Ukrainian schismatics has been greeted with dismay by some. Despite the venality, there is no need for dismay. The Patriarchate of Alexandria, essentially a relic of Greek colonialism, had done little until recently for the evangelization of Black Africa. Photographs show an almost wholly Greek episcopate and an almost wholly African flock.

Now that the Patriarchate has fallen into the Greek phyletist schism, the Russian Orthodox Church is free to take over the territory of Africa. Where others have failed, it can succeed. It could set up an African Orthodox Exarchate, to become the African Orthodox Church, centred somewhere in Black Africa, in Nairobi or in Johannesburg, for example, establishing a black episcopate. The opportunities are huge and exciting. We greet the news. The cleansing of the Church continues apace.

The Word of the Patriarch

Patriarch Kyrill, the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, 20 October 2019

The existence of Russia is of a great spiritual and cultural value – not only for you and me, but for all humanity. And we are calling for the preservation of the people of Russia, for the birth of our new compatriots, not only and not so much because these people are needed by the country, but also to a great extent because this country is needed by people. Russia must exist and play its irreplaceable role in our destiny with you, in the destiny of our descendants and throughout world history.

The special value of Russia, its special vocation is to be a stronghold of Orthodox Christianity. To oreserve the Orthodox faith, Orthodox tradition and culture, Christian moral principles intact. Maybe that is why the powers that be are so ganged up on the Russian Orthodox Church, wanting to tear away the Greek Orthodox world from the Russian Church, wanting to destroy the unity of the Orthodox Church. We possess reliable information that everything that is happening now in world Orthodoxy is not an accident, not just the whim of a religious figure whose mind has become clouded. This is the implementation of a very specific plan that aims to tear the Greek world away from Russia. According to the perpetrators —I cannot describe these strategists in any other way — the Russian Church appears to be some kind of “soft power”, through which Russia influences the world around it. But why can’t Russia share its spiritual gifts? Is it criminal? This can be criminal only in the view of those who seek to weaken, and if possible to destroy the influence of Russia. In this whole story related to the problem of recognition or non-recognition of Ukrainian schismatics by the Local Orthodox Churches, there is something that is not declared, but which is the main goal of the forces behind the scenes that unleashed this schismatic activity. We in the Russian Church understand this clearly, but today our brothers in Greece and other Orthodox Churches also understand this. We are being asked to resist, not to flinch, to continue the struggle to maintain the spiritual independence of the Russian Orthodox Church from all these centres of world influence, and most importantly – to maintain the unity of Universal Orthodoxy.

 

 

Our Duty: To Pray for the Hierarchy of the Greek Orthodox Church

From the very outset nearly 200 years ago the small Church of Greece was so spiritually weak that it fell victim to nationalism. Thus, nearly 100 years ago, it decided to obey the Greek State and adopted the Roman Catholic calendar. Then it fell for Western-imposed ecumenism, it put pews into its churches (that was starting forty years ago when I lived and worked in Greece), then Greek men and women stopped dressing appropriately for church. Now some in it seem to be about to fall for the anti-Orthodox American bait and recognize the absurd, schismatic semi-Uniat Anti-Orthodox Church (AOC) in (the Western) Ukraine, set up there under immense US political pressure on the Greek nationalist bishops in Istanbul.

Some rather extreme people would say: Birds of a feather flock together: fanatical Greek nationalists attract fanatical Ukrainian nationalists. They all have the same thing in common: they have no love for Christ, only for their primitive tribal racism. Therefore, they can join with the American elite and destroy the multilingual Orthodox Church of Russia with its more than seventy nationalities. Here are the fruits of Greek racial jealousy at a Church that is 16 times bigger than itself.

The US political elite knows exactly how to flatter that weakness. US ambassadors in the Balkans have received their instructions, appointing one Archbishop or Patriarch after another. Having spread the poison of Balkanization to the extreme west of the Ukraine, they have returned to impoverished Greece, ever the soft underbelly of the Orthodox world, so weak that it could not even keep the Orthodox calendar and the other values of Christian Civilization, ever ready to buckle under ‘financial aid’.

Some rather extreme people would quote St John the Baptist and say that the axe must be laid to the root of the Church of Greece. Having fallen into racism, it is ‘ready for the chop’. And then they add, and let the Russian Church take over Mt Athos and all those on the old calendar in Greece and set up a real Church. It must seize the leadership of the Orthodox world, of which the Greeks have shown themselves once more, as at Florence, totally unworthy. Extremists add:

‘Stop the ecumenical dances with Rome and Canterbury and the WCC and the Baltic and Finnish Lutherans. Anyway, these have no real influence left — least of all the WCC and Canterbury. Whether Moscow is present or absent in WCC meetings will not matter anything to anyone. These Western bodies are withering on the vine and will never do anything meaningful to alleviate the West’s inborn hatred of Russia. They have not done anything regarding the Ukraine! Whatever Russia does to be friendly to the West will not avail it anything — what the West wants (consciously or not) is Russia’s subjection. The Russian Church has the opportunity to stand fast and stand gloriously alone, as the Third Rome, as the only great Christian Church that still believes in the primacy of truth over (false) unity and (false) charity. If Rue Daru can repent, then why not the old calendarists’?

However, all of this talk is far too premature. Our real concern is the unity of the ten-million strong Church of Greece. If its Archbishop dares to concelebrate with Sergey (‘Epifany’) Dumenko, the head of the fictitious Church of the Ukraine’, there will be a schism in that Local Church. This is our main concern. We leave petty racist jealousy and politics aside. Today the Greek Orthodox Church faces a self-imposed internal schism between the Orthodox and those who are falling into the phyletist heresy of provincial racism. Pray!

 

The Centre Can Hold Because of the Cleansing of the Church

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

William Yeats, The Second Coming

 

All three groups of Russian Orthodox émigrés have now been cleansed off their extremes:

In 2006 the Patriarchate of Moscow suffered schism in Great Britain and France as the vestiges of old-fashioned modernism and ecumenism finally cast themselves off. Those who adhered to their Russophobic cultural prejudices and desire to dilute Orthodoxy into just another department of Western Establishment ideology left the Russian Orthodox Church for the pseudo-Orthodox US-run Phanariot group in Turkey. The Church was cleansed of those who had no love for the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Christian Empire of Orthodox Civilization and preferred compromised Western secularism to the fullness of the Church of God.

In 2007 ROCOR, the Church Outside Russia, in turn at last lost its censorious, sectarian fringes in tiny schisms to various strange and extremist sects which justify phariseeism. The Church was cleansed.

Now, in 2019, the Rue Daru Archdiocese (the former ‘Paris Jurisdiction’) has lost its extremists, in fact rather a large minority of modernist marginals. Why has it taken so long? Because this was the group most deeply infected by extremism, in this case, of the ‘liberal’ kind, so well-known for its intolerance and terrorist witch-hunts against faithful Orthodox over the decades. As a result, many had already left, even decades ago, persecuted by modernists and freemasons in the group. The minority dissidents, who prefer to celebrate Parisian philosophers who died 60-80 years ago rather than the Saints of God, will now fully merge with the US-run Turkish group in the Phanar (if they have not already done so).

Many of this dissident group are in England. There is also one parish in Brussels that has left for the Romanian Church (its Russophobic priest had already been suspended by the Turkish group a few years back, so he could not return there) and some parishes in France which still remain undecided. However, the fact is that Church has been cleansed, with the Orthodox returning to the Russian Church, the extremists falling away. Moreover, many in Paris who had left in disgust that the Church there was not commemorating the Orthodox Patriarch Kyrill, the leader of the Orthodox world, already returned last Sunday to congratulate Archbishop Jean, who was in tears of joy, on his final decision.

As perhaps the only priest who had suffered from ‘the blood-dimmed tide’ of all three groups of aggressive, troll-like extremists, I cannot but rejoice with our brothers and sisters who have at last escaped the clutches of the Phanariots. The plot of the Phanar to hand over St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris to Ukrainian schismatics and rededicate it to apostate traitors and mass-murderers like the robber of souls, Andrei Bobola or Josaphat, has failed.

Meanwhile, the Phanar’s incoherent and schismatic head, Patriarch Bartholomew, yesterday met Pope Francis and the head of the Ukrainian Uniats in Rome to discuss merging the Uniats with his tiny and failed OCU organization in the Ukraine. A joint Phanariot-Papist Galician Synagogue of Fascist Ukrainian xenophobes may soon be formed there, uniting all haters of the Church of God. It will be financed by the State Department in Washington, which has already sent out its ambassadors in the Balkans to bully and bribe Local Churches into recognizing the Galician Synagogue. In this they failed.

The centre can hold – because only extremes fall apart, and this is how the Church is cleansed. Glory to God for His Providence, for the evil inflicted by the Phanariots has had the reverse effect. The Orthodox have been strengthened, being cleansed from the pseudo-Orthodox fringes who have fallen away.

 

 

The Essence of the Rue Daru Crisis: The Protestant-Style Rejection of Episcopal Authority

Dedicated to Protopresbyter Alexij Kniazeff, Rector of Saint Sergius, Who Knew and Loved and Wanted to Return to the Russian Church

A small group of financially well-off Orthodox, mainly from four Western European countries and centred around their quite small church on Rue Daru in Paris (a church which they did not build and which does not belong to them), their leaders mostly of aristocratic Russian descent, is in crisis. Why? Because after nearly 90 years the Turkish-based Patriarchate of Constantinople no longer wants to keep them as a separate entity within itself, but to absorb them into its local Greek dioceses. There should not really be a crisis because, logically, the group should simply obey their Patriarch: indeed, many would say that the group should have been assimilated after the last Russian-born archbishop died in 1981 and the Greeks have been very patient. Yet, crisis there is. Why?

The essence of the Rue Daru problem is that this unstable group has never accepted any episcopal authority. This is why it left both parts of the Russian Church (inside and outside Russia), both on two occasions, so four times in all, (though claiming to be ‘of the Russian tradition’!!). This is why it refused to obey its first Metropolitan, Eulogius, in 1945 and, unlike him, return to the Russian Church and why, much more recently, it refused to obey its Archbishop Job, sent to it by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, effectively ejecting him. For nearly 90 years the group has been under no Synodal episcopal authority and has been allowed to develop its own fantasies as much as it wanted. Many of its parishes for many decades never saw a bishop even once. And they did not wish to.

Its original leaders, Westernized aristocrats and intellectuals, active in Saint Petersburg before the Revolution, always admired Protestantism. They developed a philosophy of Orthodoxy as a set of ideas, a liberal-bourgeois freethinking ideology, not as a way of life. This why the group has always been anti-episcopal, anti-monastic and congregational. This is why its senior laypeople have always controlled their bishops, electing weak personalities or academics (‘eveques de bibliotheque’) to the episcopate, and, whenever their bishops did want to control them, the laypeople disobeyed them. This is why it developed a heresy called Sophianism, some very bizarre liturgical practices, and many of its senior members were freemasons and some worked for the French Spy services.

The Rue Daru philosophers developed a Protestant-style ideology called ‘eucharistic ecclesiology’ in order to justify their actions. Controlling the Church media and printing presses, with the help of Catholicism (SOP) and Protestantism (YMCA), they propagandized this fantasy. However, in its weakness, until recently, the Patriarchate of Constantinople had left the group to its own fate and never tried to impose episcopal authority on it. Finally, it had enough of the rebels and in November 2018 it dissolved the group, which is now reduced to having a single 75-year old ex-Catholic (exactly like its previous archbishop) for archbishop. Such is the inevitable result of 90 years of anti-episcopalianism and anti-monasticism – it is unable to produce any bishops of its own.

Anti-episcopal, it has never wanted or been able to run its affairs on Synodal (Synod = a group of bishops) lines, like every other Local Orthodox Church always has. It has always been run by a group of power-keeping laypeople, often intermarried, working like a mafia. Any who did not belong to them (for example because they were born in Russia or Moldova, or came from a modest background or, above all, because they followed the Orthodox Tradition) had no say. As a result of its basically racist and class-based exclusivism, over the decades many parishes, clergy and people left it, including for instance the present Metropolitan Athenagoras, a Non-Russian, in Belgium. Thus, the group became ever and ever smaller, almost incestuous, more and more inward-looking and intolerant.

Since last November, more parishes have left the Rue Daru group to join canonical Local Churches. Next month, nearly a year late, the hesitant remnants of the group are to hold a much-delayed meeting to decide what finally they are going to do. The most likely outcome is that perhaps 50% of the group, including the Archbishop, several senior clergy of Russian origin and many Russian-founded parishes in France, will return to the Russian Orthodox Church. However, some 50% on the fringes of the group, who have no idea what the Russian Tradition is, may join various small Local Churches, Constantinople and Antioch (suitable for many of the tiny and elderly ex-Anglican communities in England) and some may simply join sects or set up their own modernist sect.

It is in any case the end of the road for the group and an object-lesson in what happens when you navel-gaze, proudly imagining that you are the centre of the world and, however obviously absurd it is to everyone outside the group, that you are the only true Orthodox. The Orthodox world is much bigger than the tiny minds of liberal bourgeois Parisians. For the Church is not a sect, as it is One, part of the whole; the Church makes saints, not philosophers, as it is Holy; the Church is Catholic, not a Parisian sect, as it operates everywhere and throughout history; the Church is apostolic, as it accepts the authority of bishops, the successors of the apostles. Show Christian humility by accepting the reality of episcopal and apostolic authority or else disappear.  It really is as simple as that.

Western Values: The People’s or the Elite’s?

Yesterday, on 4 July, unreported, or rather censored, by the Western media, Pope Francis met President Putin. They spoke of the vicious persecution of the Church in the Ukraine, Syria and the many cases of persecution of Christians in other countries, as well as of the crisis in Venezuela and support for family life and other Christian (‘traditional’) values. Pope Francis needs the support of the Christian President Putin and Russian help in the fight against Secularism. Clearly he will not find it in anti-Christian Western leaders who hate Christ. All of this is a far cry from fifty years ago. Then the Church in Russia had undergone the most terrible secularist persecution in world history and Western leaders still pretended (though only pretended) to be Christians.

We have indeed come a long way in the last fifty years. In July 1969 three astronauts, reading the Bible, landed on the moon. They were all white males. Today, there would be no Bible, one astronaut would have to be black, one Asian, two would have to be women, one disabled and one (if not all three) LGBT. Otherwise, perhaps, they would simply not be allowed to go to the moon. Not that we are against any members of that group: but we do believe that selection should be on ability, not on political correctness.

Western leaders and journalists still crow about Western values; but they are very different ones from fifty years ago. Today Western ‘values’ include millions of child-murders every year, the aggressive promotion of sexual perversions, ruthless asset-stripping and genocides in foreign countries and the terrorization of the Non-Western world through illegal sanctions, especially against China, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Russia. Roman paganism is alive and kicking. The World Metropolitan elite, ranging from the Clinton clan, EU Commissioners, NATO warmongers, the Rothschild banker President Macron to vastly overpaid and vastly biased BBC and CNN journalists, show their utter contempt for ‘the people’ in their openly snide remarks about ‘populism’.

The Western world has lost its bearings because it has renounced its Christian roots. It is set on a clearly suicidal course. Like every house that has renounced its foundations, it will collapse. This will be the end of Western Civilization: fortunately, in Russia, Christian Civilization survived persecution by Western values and we are ready to shore up the West and convert it. All is not yet lost.

 

It’s 1055 in Lubbock

By Dionysius Redington

The appointment (one can call it “election” only in the narrowest etymological sense) of Metropolitan Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis) as Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America will no doubt be remembered as a significant turning point in the history of the twenty-first Century Church. Whatever hope might have existed that the schism between Constantinople and Moscow over Ukraine is merely a temporary, unimportant event has surely now been extinguished

Archbishop Elpidophoros is a distinguished and knowledgeable theologian. As a Turkish citizen, he is a leading and obvious candidate someday to succeed His All-Holiness Bartholomew on the Ecumenical Throne. In the major controversies of Bartholomew’s reign (the Cretan Council as well as the Ukrainian schism) he has consistently and staunchly defended the Patriarch’s positions and authority. While there is no reason to doubt the sincerity with which he has taken these stances, it is evident that he has a vested interest in strengthening a presently feeble jurisdiction which he is one day likely to command.

Thus his appointment to the second-most powerful post in the Ecumenical Patriarchate has a two-fold significance.

On the one hand, it telegraphs that there is unlikely to be any backtracking at the Phanar when Patriarch Bartholomew leaves the scene. On the other, it raises the theological stakes, because Archbishop Elpidophoros does not consider the Ukrainian affair a trivial matter of reasserting Constantinopolitan control over a wayward province illegally dominated for a few centuries by Moscow.

On the contrary, he uses the most serious term of opprobrium in all of Orthodoxy to describe his opponents, one the Phanar generally goes out of its way to avoid employing. He says they are heretics.

In 2009, then-Archimandrite Elpidophoros delivered a memorable speech at Holy Cross School of Theology which may still be found online, for example at https://www.aoiusa.org/ecumenical-patriarchate-american-diaspora-must-submit-to-mother-church/. In this speech he makes the following interesting statements, which he has elsewhere expanded into his well-known thesis that the Ecumenical Patriarch is “primus sine paribus”:

“Let me add that the refusal to recognize primacy within the Orthodox Church, a primacy that necessarily cannot but be embodied by a primus (that is by a bishop who has the prerogative of being the first among his fellow bishops) constitutes nothing less than heresy. It cannot be accepted, as often it is said, that the unity among the Orthodox Churches is safeguarded by either a common norm of faith and worship or by the Ecumenical Council as an institution. Both of these factors are impersonal while in our Orthodox theology the principle of unity is always a person. Indeed, in the level of the Holy Trinity the principle of unity is not the divine essence but the Person of the Father (“Monarchy” of the Father), at the ecclesiological level of the local Church the principle of unity is not the presbyterium or the common worship of the Christians but the person of the Bishop, so to in the Pan-Orthodox level the principle of unity cannot be an idea nor an institution but it needs to be, if we are to be consistent with our theology, a person… In the Orthodox Church we have one primus and he is the Patriarch of Constantinople.”

Note first the phrase “constitutes nothing less than a heresy”.

Note second the theologoumenon that the person who acts as the principle of unity for the Church Universal is not Christ Himself, but rather some bishop.

Note finally that the bishop in question is not (as a naively literal reading of the Holy Canons would seem to indicate) the bishop of Rome, but that of New Rome. (This latter is a serious point much neglected in the present controversy. Whatever the role of the Primus may be in Orthodoxy—i.e. whether the he is “primus inter pares” or “primus sine paribus”—there is no doubt that for centuries the historical Primus was the Roman Pope. The only reason for rejecting Roman primacy today is that the Roman Church has abandoned Orthodox teaching. And yet Constantinople, with its lifted anathemas, has more than any other Orthodox Patriarchate seemed to imply that no such apostasy exists. How then can the Phanar claim to be essential to the Church, when the Vatican would have to have a stronger claim? If the ecumenical movement were to succeed and full communion with Rome be re-established, would Constantinople gladly cede its primacy? And how does the existence, if only formerly, of Orthodox Rome agree with the Phanar’s claim that the Church “cannot exist” without the Patriarch of Constantinople?)

Perhaps his words are subject to misinterpretation, but Abp. Elpidophoros seems to believe that the Ecumenical Patriarch is a sort of Pope, the Vicar not of Christ, apparently, but of God the Father! He also seems to believe that those who disagree with this view are heretics.

This is a rather more serious claim than “You know, now that the USSR is gone, there really should be an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church free from Moscow.”

How can world Orthodoxy maintain communion with a Patriarchate that promotes an alien ecclesiology, and refers to those who object as “heretics” (a term it does not apply to Roman Catholics and Protestants)?

There is another aspect to Elpidophoros’s elevation that the 2009 speech also illuminates. Although the Phanar has historically been very opposed to ethnophyletism (in part to stop the incursions of the Bulgarian and other churches into its canonical territory), it is a matter of historical record that the Patriarchate has always seen itself as the bulwark of Greek nationalism. (Patriarch Bartholomew himself would probably neither deny this nor see any problem with it, as is clear from his 2018 remarks about the “predecence” of “our people”.)

In his speech, delivered at America’s only Greek seminary, Elpidophoros is largely concerned with this exact issue. He says that “ecumenicity is the heart of Hellenism and by definition alien to any form of nationalism or cultural chauvinism.” He adds that “diaspora” refers not to people temporarily living in lands beyond the Roman Empire, but to those who live there permanently. Nevertheless, in a seeming contradiction, his vision of these people is limited to immigrants from traditionally Orthodox countries and their progeny. His primary concern is the maintenance of (in this case Greek) culture and tradition without assimilation, and he has this to say about “converts”:

“Another great number of candidates to the priesthood come from converts, who possess little, if any, familiarity with the Orthodox experience and they are usually characterized by their overzealous behavior and mentality. It is of interest that the converts who become ordained into priesthood represent a disproportionally greater percentage than the converts among the faithful. The result of this disanalogous representation is that, more often than not, convert priests shepherd flocks that are bearers of some cultural tradition, but because their pastors either lack the necessary familiarity with that tradition or even consciously oppose it, they succeed in devaluing and gradually eradicating those cultural elements that have been the expression of the parishes that they serve.”

While this is a legitimate concern, it is notable that Elpidophoros nowhere talks about an evangelical mandate to bring Americans as an whole into Orthodoxy, nor does he discuss parishes which do not have a single (or any) ethnicity. In the context of a talk at a seminary (where the Dean at the time was named Fitzgerald) the speech seemed to have a clear message summed up in the sarcastic nickname some people gave to it: the “Too Many Xenoi” speech.

I am a xenos. So far as I know, the interaction of my post-Schism ancestors with Orthodox Christians was limited to fighting them on the Eastern Front. My wife and I converted to Orthodoxy in 1988 at the OCA cathedral in Boston. We were the founders and editors of the now-dormant Saint Pachomius Library, one of the first Orthodox patristics websites, in 1994. We used to teach Church history online, and I was involved for a number of years in Orthodox evangelical outreach to the Rastafarian sect. In 1997, we moved from Boston to Lubbock, Texas, where I was ordained a reader in GOARCH and served as a chanter at Saint Andrew Greek Orthodox Church until last October.

Lubbock is a university town with a population of about a quarter-million. It lies in the center of the Llano Estacado, a vast thinly-populated plateau straddling the Texas-New Mexico state border. The first Orthodox in Lubbock were probably Lebanese merchants who arrived around 1900, but there was no parish until a few Greeks decided to found one in the 1970s. They succeeded, after great struggle and many difficulties: Lubbock, although fairly large, is invisible to most Americans because of its isolation. St. Andrew did not have a priest until 1996; before that, people would drive over 100 miles to Amarillo for liturgy.

When my wife and I arrived, we were not sure what to expect. We found a parish that was part of the Greek Archdiocese, but also very multi-ethnic and welcoming. The liturgical rubrics and music were Byzantine, but the services were entirely in English, and every effort was made to accommodate people of different backgrounds: Greeks of course, and converts, and Arabs, Ukrainians, Russians, Serbs, Romanians, Bulgarians… and probably members of other nationalities I am forgetting. The “Greeks” in the parish were themselves a mixture of recent immigrants and families that had been in the US for several generations. Both of the priests who served in my 21 years at Saint Andrew parish were graduates of Saint Vladimir’s (OCA) Seminary.

The parish was not utopia, but it had its successes. Two of the parish’s young men (both of them converts, as Archbishop Elpidophoros might have predicted) went on to become priests of the Greek Archdiocese, a remarkable record for a parish so small and young by Greek standards. They are both, I might add, outstanding, even saintly, clergymen. One of them, whom I especially admire, was featured on the national GOARCH webpage in March. Neither of them answers to Abp. Elpidophoros’s caricature of the convert-priest as a fanatic ignorant of Greek culture (indeed, both of them married Greeks!)

My wife and I were very impressed by the generosity of the Greek parishioners at St. Andrew, their commitment to the religious education of their children, and above all by their sheer persistence in keeping alive a parish in an uncomprehending Protestant fundamentalist town, ignored by the rest of the country, always on the edge of financial collapse. At least twice, the parish seemed certain to close; once it was saved by an “anonymous” donation actually from the diocesan bishop, a very good and holy man.

Then in 2018, the current schism happened. My wife and I had been unhappy with the direction of the Greek Archdiocese for some time (I had been parish council president during the Council of Crete) but had always managed to convince ourselves to stay, if only because there was nowhere else to go: The Amarillo parish 100 miles away was still the nearest, and it, too, is Greek. Moreover, we did not want to cause a division in the already embattled local community; we respected our metropolitan; and (as I remember saying on more than one occasion) “If this were really heresy, and not just rhetoric, surely at least one of the other Orthodox churches would break communion over it”.

The Ukraine issue, however, made Patriarch Bartholomew’s more-than-papalising claim of being “primus sine paribus” impossible to ignore. We decided to leave the parish, and to hold reader’s services privately. We did not however tell anyone what we were doing except for the parish priest. We did not wish to be seen as sowing dissension, and we still hoped that the affair would be resolved in a few weeks. Then we found out that other people had noticed our absence, and eventually we decided to announce publically that we were starting a new parish, under the protection of St. Catherine of Alexandria.

At first we had no place to meet, so we met outdoors, at a park bench on the university campus, with the dome of heaven over our heads, flocks of pigeons (and the occasional hawk) circling above us. A few joggers looked at us in amazement, but for the most part we were ignored. For three months, this was our church.

I had imagined that once we announced our existence, many of our fellow-parishioners at Saint Andrew would wish to join; after all, the theological issues seemed rather clear-cut. This did not happen. Instead, the old parish split along neatly ethnic lines. Nearly all of the parishioners who came from the former Soviet Union joined our group; almost no-one else did. (It might interest Archbishop Elpidophoros that the converts have—so far—stayed with GOARCH.)

This is the tragedy of what is happening: an already barely-viable multi-ethnic parish has become two. Our parish is, I am confident, the Orthodox one, and the other is under a Patriarch and an Archbishop who are in communion with schismatics. But this is not the fault of the remaining parishioners of Saint Andrew. Few if any of them care at all about Constantinopolitan hegemony, much less Ukrainian autocephaly. For them, the parish of Saint Andrew is the Orthodox church, the church they or their parents built from nothing with sweat and sacrifice, the church where they were baptized or married or where they expect their funerals to be served. It is where they have met the Lord every Sunday in the Eucharist. Perhaps it is as impossible for them to leave GOARCH as for French peasants in the twelfth Century to have repudiated papism; for them, it would be “leaving the Church”.

But with the elevation of Archbishop Elpidophoros, surely that is what things are coming down to.

At the mission parish of Saint Catherine, we have had rapid progress.  We were accepted into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia almost immediately. The Dean of Texas, Fr. John Whiteford, has been named our acting Rector; although distance has prevented him from yet visiting in person, we have had two liturgies served by Hieromonk Aidan (Keller) from Austin.

We no longer have to worship on a park bench; an Anglican parish allowed us the use of their abandoned Sunday School chapel, complete with amusing stained-glass windows depicting happy 1930s children from around the world. A parishioner (Alexey Ageev, who deserves mention by name) built a traditional wooden altar and donated some hundred icon prints. God willing, through the prayers of St. Catherine the Great Martyr (and of St. Andrew the First-Called!), we will perhaps, despite our sins and weaknesses, be able to ensure a witness for Christ on the Llano Estacado.

But what about the other parish? What about the Greek “diaspora”? How will they fare under Archbishop Elpidophoros?

The year is now 1055.