Q: Why is the ‘Orthodox England’ site called that? Since you were born with British nationality and must have a British passport, why is it not called ‘Orthodox Britain’? And why are you, a Russophile, in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and not directly under the Patriarchal Church in Moscow?
A: Here there are actually four different questions. Let me answer each of them in turn.
- Initially, ‘Orthodox England’ was a quarterly journal, first published on 1 September 1997, after some 25 years of wonderings. The actual website was launched over three years later in the first year of the new 21st century. Although the journal continued for twenty years, appearing every quarter without fail until 2017 when the website took over altogether, today it is the website which is much better known.
When the journal was launched in 1997, interest in the Orthodox Church and Faith among the native peoples of these Islands, as indeed ever since the first real interest appeared in the 1960s, was still often, though not always, coloured by two small groups. Unfortunately, these groups were encouraged by some of the local Orthodox episcopate. Hampered by the inferiority complex of the immigrant and refugee, they wanted to be more Establishment than the Establishment and forgot the people.
On the one hand, there was a conservative faction, sometimes quite wealthy, who at times imitated false ideas of Russianness or Greekness. In extreme cases, some of them even dressed like Russian peasants with huge beards (the last Russian peasants had stopped doing that 100 years ago and real Russians were naturally astonished at such eccentric behaviour, as were we). They spoke English, scattered with mispronounced and misunderstood Russian words. Or else there were those who bought second homes in Greece and mixed in a few words of Greek with upper-class accents and thought they were Greek Orthodox. I saw all this and wondered at the strangeness of it all.
I think such people mainly saw Orthodoxy as oriental exotica, perhaps useful to bolster souls that had been hurt and wanted to be different. Some, bored with financially secure and humdrum lives, gave an impression of Orthodoxy as though it were not actually Christianity, but some escapist and esoteric cult. They certainly did not want the riff-raff joining them, but wanted tiny, exclusive, private chapels. Some were in love with an idea and were looking for an intellectual plaything, a cult with a ‘mystical’ guru or ‘starets’, an ashram and a mantra for those with more money and philosophical books than common sense. And they soon found the pseudo-mystical Russians to exploit their romantic fantasies and take their money. This was certainly easier than living a Church Christian way of life, that is, loving the Cross of the Orthodox way of life.
On the other hand, there was a liberal faction, also sometimes quite wealthy, who appeared to want a kind of Anglican Orthodoxy, the ‘Byzantine Liturgy’ (whatever that is) with a Protestant mentality and hymns and, obviously, the Roman Catholic (so-called ‘new’) calendar. Some of these basically wanted to remain Anglican, but to have more exclusivity than wishy-washy, ‘make it up as you go’, ‘believe whatever you want’, State-invented Anglicanism could ever provide. This could be called ‘Anglican vicar syndrome’, and at times it seemed indeed to be about a misogynistic rejection of lady vicars, without love for the real Church and Her sufferings.
A very strange reason for joining the Orthodox Church. Such were often especially devoted either to Constantinople Orthodoxy (much more acceptable to the British Establishment, which had already vetted Prince Philip and loved that freemasonry), or else to the curious liberal and aristocratic deviations from Russian Orthodoxy within the Church of Constantinople (which was already then controlled by the CIA and before that had been controlled by MI6). Such people had little time for real, down-to-earth and martyred Russian Orthodoxy. Today the few such people still like this still tend to be Russophobes and also Liberal Democrat Remoaners.
As for us plebs, we were harshly persecuted and slandered by both the above conservative and liberal factions. And factions they were, as can be seen by their ever-continuing factionalism, with tiny schisms and continual infighting, all about nothing really. These splits of the ‘three men and a dog’ type were about divisive backbiting. This was brought as baggage into their fringes of the Church from the infighting of Protestantism, which mentality they did not exchange for Christianity.
Unlike them, I wanted to make clear that Orthodoxy and England can and must go together. If Christ had come for everyone, then it meant that He had come for us too. Orthodoxy and England need not be separate and disincarnate. Just as Christ has a Divine and a human nature in One Person, so there is Orthodox Russia, Orthodox Romania, Orthodox Greece, and so too there can be Orthodox England (as also Orthodox Ireland, Orthodox Scotland and Orthodox Wales), something really English and also Orthodox (and not half-Orthodox, Anglican and Non-Orthodox). For no Church can be founded on the basis of the psychological factionalism of the bruised ego, but only on the basis of the theological Tradition of the Holy Spirit.
- As regards Britain, it does not exist – it is a purely political construct. True, the Romans had governed ‘Britain’, but that was before the English arrived. The Normans wanted to recreate pagan Roman Britain, but they failed to reconstruct what had by then already become a myth. After all, the vast majority of the population were by then English, the best of whose elite the Normans exiled and the rest of whose population they decimated. Similarly, in order to subdue the Celtic ‘Welsh’, who had arrived here over 500 years before even the Romans and joined the original inhabitants, the Normans had to massacre and oppress them too with their giant castles.
It was only in the eighteenth century, on the basis of Protestant Tudor imperialism and piracy and afterwards of the appalling genocide of the Leninist monster Cromwell, that the idea of Britain was reborn. First, in 1707 corrupted and bribed Scots voted for union with (i.e. repression by) the slave-trading, ‘Rule Britannia’, John Bull merchants who had beheaded the King, seized control of Parliament and dubbed themselves ‘British’. Corrupted and bribed Irish followed into ‘union’ in 1801.
Today, many English people themselves want freedom from British (= Norman/Establishment/ London) oppression, let alone the Irish (true, they partly obtained it 100 years ago), the Scots and the Welsh. There is no such thing as Britain, let alone ‘British’ saints or ‘British Orthodoxy’, indeed there has never been a ‘British Church’. Like ‘Britishness’ itself, this is all an Establishment myth. The only fully Christian project on the cards today or tomorrow is to be part of the Russian Orthodox Church and its newly-founded Patriarchal Exarchate of Western Europe, at present under Metropolitan Antony.
There is no doubt that this is the foundational structure of the future Western European Orthodox Church, of which all full-hearted and politically free Orthodox will in due course become part. Together, whatever our present diocese, we can build this new Church on the firm rock of real Orthodoxy. We cannot build it on the shifting sand of some CIA-controlled political compromise with politically-appointed bishops and immensely provincial nationalism, including English nationalism. That puts a mere language and a mere culture above Christ. Nationalism is always at heart pagan, because it reveres part of Creation, not the Creator. Christ is spiritually and morally irrelevant to nationalism, as we saw with Hitler’s nationalism.
- I am no more Russophile than I am Greekophile, Romaniaophile, Moldovaophile (though I do have a soft spot for Moldovans!) or Anglophile. I am an Orthodoxophile, that is, a Christophile. And you?
- In the early sixties there began a period of spectacular injustices in the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), which opened with certain loveless bishops putting our saint, John of Shanghai and Western Europe, on trial in the USA. Such a thing was another act of the Pharisees and Pilate. It continued with the ordinations of bad men to the priesthood and the suspensions of good priests. This tried the long-suffering of us all. We sighed in resignation and put all our hope in God, not in men, and waited for better times. These aberrations were all due to a powerful minority in ROCOR who had lost their roots and wandered off into a US-financed nationalist darkness.
This was the dark night of the narrow and censorious ritualism of the political pharisees. They had quite cast aside compassionate love, the very chiefest idea of the founding First Hierarch of ROCOR, Metropolitan Antony of Kiev, and the only idea which bestows spiritual, moral and canonical authority and meaning on the Church organisation. Battling us and persecuting us, those elements received their first major defeat only in 2007, when at long last ROCOR managed to begin its long return to its historic and missionary destiny. That destiny was and is to remain faithful to the Orthodox Christianity of Holy Rus, but with one vital difference – to be local at the same time. This is possible (and necessary) precisely because we are ‘outside Russia’ and not in Moscow.
The Russian Orthodox Church, centred in Moscow, cannot found new Local Churches in Western Europe and the New World (North America, Latin America and Oceania) without us (and of course without others). Yes, they have administrative abilities, central infrastructure and, at least sometimes, the necessary missionary vision, but we have the local knowledge, the languages, the translations and the cultural references of the people. The people are with us. These are what is needed to gather the people together around Christ and establish new Local Churches which are to become part of the restored Orthodox Commonwealth.
Without us at the grassroots, all that exists is a hollow structure, diplomatic links with elites and, less attractively, the sad consequences of the errors of the Soviet past, from which I and many others have so much suffered. Once Moscow is fully freed of the bad habits dating back to Peter I, so disastrously multiplied by the Soviet period (centralisation, bureaucracy, temptations of power and money and false ‘spiritual fathers’), we will be able to found the new Local Churches which are our inevitable future. In the meantime, we have to continue to serve the people whom God sends us every day from everywhere.
I may not live to be a priest of the coming Western European Orthodox Church. I may not live to see an England liberated from the British myth and so obtain an English passport. I may not live to see the dream of an IONAn (Isles of the North Atlantic) Confederation of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with a Confederal Assembly on the Isle of Man, looking out on the four nations. Nevertheless, I still believe that my direct descendants will see at least much of this. We work for a much greater idea than a bishop or patriarch or jurisdiction, we work for our common future, for the One Eternal Idea and Reality, for the Kingdom of God.