Category Archives: France

Christ the Invincible Power

Answers to Questions from Recent Conversations and Correspondence

Q: When did you first become conscious of the Russian Orthodox Church?

A: My introduction to the Orthodox Church was through the local saints of England in my native north Essex, notably St Edmund, but also St Albright (Ethelbert), St Cedd, St Botolph and St Osyth. However, as regards the Russian Orthodox Church as such, my first encounter was almost fifty years ago, just after my 12th birthday, in August 1968. As a result of that revelation, I began teaching myself Russian in October of that year in Colchester because I already knew that the Russian Orthodox Church is my spiritual home. However, I had to wait nearly another seven years until I could take part in Russian Orthodox life, as in those days (it is not much better now) there were so few Russian churches anywhere. I only managed to visit any Russian churches in 1973.

Q: Which part of the Russian Church did you join?

A: Having been told by two of its members that the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) would not allow me to join it because I was English (I had no idea at that time that my great-grandmother was Russian, I only discovered that distant link much later), I had no alternative but to join the Moscow Patriarchate. They may have been many things in those distant days, but at least they were not racists.

Q: What was your path to the priesthood after that?

A: A very hard one. First of all, since I could not live and work in Russia on account of the Cold War at that time, for my first job I went to live and work in Greece. I thought that was the next best alternative. After a year there and visiting the then Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, I understood that the Balkan Churches were no solution to the need for a Local Orthodox Church in the West. They were all inward-looking, culturally very narrow and hopelessly nationalistic. Later, contacts with Romanians and Georgians told me the same about them and in the Romanian case there is the huge problem of simony. So, with Russia closed off, in 1979 with the blessing of Metr Antony (Bloom) I went to study at the St Sergius Theological Institute in Paris, which I had in my ignorance imagined to be a Russian Orthodox seminary.

Q: What was it in fact?

A: It was the remains of a Russian Orthodox seminary mingled with an institute of philosophy and, frankly, of heresy. It openly preached modernism or Renovationism, which is Protestant-based, and is therefore not even remotely interesting to someone coming from a country like England with a Protestant culture, so alien to me. One English priest, rather harshly, called St Serge a Methodist Sunday School. Very harsh, but there was some truth in it.

Q: Why did you not think of going to Jordanville in the USA?

A: For the same reason as before. I was repeatedly told by members of ROCOR that they only took Russians. Remember in those days there was no internet, no advice, you had to make your own way, you went by what local representatives told you, even if it was incorrect.

Q: What happened next?

A: In 1982 I was offered the priesthood by the Moscow Patriarchate on terms which I can only describe as scandalous. I walked out, never to return, and enquired again at the Church Outside Russia. I got the same answer as in 1974, though I noted that this time there were actually a few ex-Anglicans in a separate branch of ROCOR in England. However, these rather eccentric conservative Anglicans seemed to have no interest in the Russian Orthodox Church, but only in being anti-Anglican and they had a huge interest in fanatical Greek Orthodox sects. Never having been Anglican and having lived in Greece, I had no interest in either. This was all the more frustrating since ROCOR had just canonized the New Martyrs and Confessors and naturally I had their icons and venerated them. Nevertheless, in 1983, I decided to emigrate to France and join my wife’s jurisdiction, the Paris Jurisdiction.

Q: Wasn’t that foolhardy? I mean you already knew about the problem of modernism there?

A: What you have to understand is that in Paris in 1981 they had elected a new Archbishop. Under the very elderly and saintly old one, renovationists had come to the fore, taking advantage of his old age, but the new Archbishop promised us personally that he would sweep them away and return his jurisdiction to Orthodoxy and canonical Russian practice. So this was a time of great promise and even excitement. Patriarch Dimitrios of Constantinople even said at the time that the Paris Jurisdiction would be returned to the Russian Church as soon as it was free. So, with hope in a promising future, in January 1985 I was ordained deacon there.

Q: What happened next?

A: in May 1985 I was offered the priesthood providing that I would become a freemason. I refused, scandalized. Then we became witnesses to the complete takeover of the jurisdiction by renovationists. The new Archbishop ordained them one by one, completely breaking his promise – not because he was a liar, but because he was weak. It was the same problem as Metr Evlogy, the first Paris Jurisdiction ruling bishop; he had never wanted to leave the Russian Church, but he was a weak man surrounded by powerful laymen, mainly freemasons and those who had betrayed the Tsar and organized the February Revolution. It was the end of the possibility that that jurisdiction would ever return to the freed, restored and reunited Russian Church. But I only understood that the meaning of that bitter disappointment afterwards.

Q: Why did you not leave such a masonic group?

A: Not all by far were freemasons and I felt that I had to labour on until God’s will for me should be revealed.

Q: When was that?

A: Without doubt it was in summer 1988 when the Paris Jurisdiction celebrated the millennium of the Baptism of Rus. Instead of inviting the Russian bishops in Western Europe to the Cathedral on Rue Daru in Paris and returning to the Russian Church in unity, they railed against the Russian Church and invited the Roman Catholic Cardinal of Paris. I was not only scandalized but spiritually distraught. I was an eyewitness to treason and apostasy. It was the last straw. They preferred heresy to Orthodoxy.

Soon after, I met Archbishop Antony of Geneva of ROCOR, who told me that he would be happy to receive me and that I had no need whatsoever to labour on in such anti-canonical conditions. I jumped at the opportunity. 17 people left with me, including a priest. So we all joined the Church Outside Russia in January 1989. That was a transforming moment because previously I had only known the Church Outside Russia in England. On the other hand, Vladyka Antony, heir to Vladyka John of Shanghai, though traditional, was not racist or fanatical, but missionary-minded. He lived in a different world from the fanatics in England and we freely concelebrated with other Orthodox.

I remember him telling me about the extremists who were trying to take control of ROCOR in New York. He said: ‘But there’s nowhere else to go’. I have not the slightest doubt that he would have returned to Russia, if he had had the chance. I also remember conversations with him about Metr Antony of Kiev (Archbp Antony came from Kiev), whom he had known well in Belgrade and whose name he had taken. He was the real ROCOR. Real Russian Orthodox. At last. It had taken me 20 years to get to that point! 20 years of facing illusions, lies, broken promises and corruption. You would think it would have been easy, but nothing of the sort. All hell was against the Russian Orthodox Church, a sure sign of truth.

Q: What happened next?

A: Well, I was at last living as a proper Russian Orthodox. Nearly three years later, in December 1991 I was ordained priest for the new ROCOR parish in Lisbon in Portugal.

Q: What was your attitude to the Moscow Patriarchate?

A: We were all just impatiently waiting for it to become politically free and free of renovationism. That happened officially with the Jubilee Council in Moscow in 2000.

Q: So why didn’t the Church Outside Russia join up with the Patriarchate straightaway in 2000?

A: It is one thing to proclaim the truth at a Council, but another for the decisions of that Council to be implemented. For example, after that I can still remember how at the London Patriarchal Cathedral they refused to put up icons of the New Martyrs and also, incidentally, they refused to sell the books of Fr Seraphim (Rose) or anything traditional. Priests and people coming from Russia were persecuted by the renovationists because they were ‘too’ traditional. We had to wait for the Patriarchate to free itself from such Renovationism.

Also, it must be said, we had to wait until the fanatical elements that had done so much harm to ROCOR since they had started infiltrating the Church in the mid-sixties had left us. When the extremists did finally leave, almost at the same time, there was a huge sigh of relief, because then we could get on with being Orthodox. So it was we had to wait until 2007.

Q: How do you know that people are free of Renovationism?

A: Easy: The yardstick is veneration for the New Martyrs, especially the Imperial Martyrs. The renovationists hate them.

Q: How do you know that people are free of sectarian fanaticism of the sort you describe as having infiltrated ROCOR?

A: Easy: The yardstick is the willingness to concelebrate with other Orthodox Christians.

Q: What is going to happen in the future? At present there are countries like England where there are two parallel jurisdictions of the Russian Church, one dependent on Moscow, the other dependent on the Church Outside Russia?

A: According to the 2007 agreement, where there are two parallel jurisdictions, ROCOR should, in time, absorb the Patriarchal jurisdiction. This will probably take a generation, so that no-one will be under any pressure and everything will take place naturally, organically. However, in reality, already nine years have passed and we can see that in certain areas, like North America and Australasia, ROCOR will indeed clearly take over responsibility for those territories, whereas in other areas the Patriarchate will take over, as in South America, not to mention South-East Asia. The problem comes in the mixed area of Western Europe, including the British Isles and Ireland. In this area, only time will tell, clearly it is the more competent of the two that will take responsibility.

For the moment we shall lead parallel lives. There is in any case so much to do. I could start 12 parishes tomorrow, if I had the money to buy buildings and get candidates for the priesthood ordained. The state of Orthodox infrastructure and the general pastoral situation here are so appalling as to be scandalous; no wonder so many Orthodox lapse or become Roman Catholic or Protestant. All we pastors meet with is indifference. Those in authority should hang their heads in shame. Why is there not a church, our own property in every town over 100,000? This should have been done a generation ago. For example the teeming millions of London only have two small churches!

Colchester is the 50th largest town in England (and incidentally the 500th largest in Western Europe). It has a church that belongs to us. But want about the other 49 larger ones? Only five of them have their own churches: London, Manchester, Nottingham, Norwich, Birkenhead-Liverpool. That is a scandal. There is no missionary vision at all. Birmingham is the second largest city in the UK with a population of two million. And where do the faithful of the Patriarchate have ten liturgies a year on Saturdays (that’s all the priest can manage)? In the Ukrainian Uniat chapel. The next time you hear some naïve Orthodox boasting about his Church, tell him that. Orthodox should be ashamed of themselves.

Q: So is there competition between the two parts of the Russian Church locally?

A: No, not at all. It all depends on who has the priests and the buildings. A concrete example. I was asked to visit a prison in Cambridgeshire. Now, since there is no ROCOR presence in Cambridgeshire (because through incompetence it refused to set anything up there in the 1980s), I gave the prison authorities the references of the Patriarchal priest who lives in Cambridgeshire. On the other hand, when there was question of the Patriarchate setting something up in Norfolk (it had lost what it had had there a few years before, also through incompetence), but knowing that ROCOR had a presence there dating back to 1966, it was referred to me. So here is a territorial division. Now, where there is a double jurisdiction, as in London (the only case), something will have to be sorted out. But, as you can see, that will be as a result of competence. Only time can settle such matters. The more competent part, the more spiritual part of the Russian Church will prevail and form a united jurisdiction.

Q: So there is no rigid territorial division in Western Europe?

A: No, nobody wants to impose such a system. Let everything be done freely, let the people choose. Though, having said that, we can observe a tendency for ROCOR to dominate in the English-speaking world. Canada, the USA and Australasia are clear examples. For example, with Archbishop Mark of ROCOR retiring to Germany and the ROCOR Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland being taken over by Metr Hilarion of New York, we can even talk about a sort of ROCOR Brexit. Metr Hilarion will in fact be Metropolitan of New England and Old England. That is an exceptional event, historically speaking, and may be significant, a turning-point.

So it is possible that in a generation from now ROCOR will only exist in the English-speaking world, but will unite all Russian Orthodox there. ROCOR will become ROCA – the Russian Orthodox Church in the Anglosphere. That is one quite organic and natural possible scenario, a united Russian Orthodox Metropolia for the Anglosphere, the English-speaking world. The Patriarchate will look after everything else in various Metropolias, in Latin America, in Alaska, in Western Europe, in Asia etc.

Q: So Western Europe would completely go to the Patriarchate?

A: That is the way that things are developing at the moment. All the young bishops and all the dynamism in the Russian Church there is Patriarchal. ROCOR only has three ageing bishops and is not opening any new churches.

Q: Is there a difference between ROCOR churches and Patriarchal churches?

A: I think there is a small one, in general. Strangely enough, ROCOR is at one and the same time more Russian, but also more local, more integrated. We have done the translations, we print in English, we speak the local languages and know the local laws, we were born here. At the same time, however, we are utterly faithful to the best of the Tsar’s Russia, never having endured the Soviet period and Renovationism. ‘To quote the saintly Metr Laurus: ‘We are for the purity of Holy Orthodoxy’. We are Imperial priests and people.

Q: What about your own relations with the Russian Church inside Russia?

A: We are very close to all those who are Churched in Russia and they feel close to us. For example, in Moscow one of the closest friends of ROCOR has always been Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov), whom some have even suggested will be the next Patriarch. (Bp Tikhon has been in the news recently, since he outraged the British Establishment by inviting students from Eton College to experience Christianity in Russia; not something the atheist Establishment likes). In general, those who especially venerate the New Martyrs and Confessors at once feel at home in ROCOR. I have this nearly every Sunday. People from different parts of Russia, from the Ukraine, from Moldova and elsewhere say that they feel at home, whatever the language, the atmosphere is like at home. In my native town of Colchester, that is a great thing that we have such an oasis of Orthodoxy.

Q: Who are the unChurched in Russia?

A: You find all sorts of people. There are those on the right hand side who mingle superstition with Orthodoxy, for instance, those ritualists who think that holy water is more important than holy communion, who mix in pharisaic sectarianism, puritanism and judgementalism, or, on the other hand, those on the left hand side, who mix in Soviet nationalism, love of the tyrant Stalin, or modernism. But all that is superficial, the majority make their way to the Church sooner or later. You do not waste time on the convert fringes of the Church – otherwise you might end up thinking that that is the Church! A terrible delusion!

Q: Why have you stayed faithful to the Russian Church despite all the difficulties that you have faced over nearly fifty years?

A: Because the Russian Orthodox Church is the Invincible Power. History since 1917 proves it. The gates of hell have not prevailed – and shall not prevail – despite all the enemies and traitors, both external and internal, we have faced. Judas betrayed, but the other apostles triumphed. So tragedy becomes joy. The stone that was rejected is become the headstone of the corner. Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!

Whose Temple Are They Building?

Over the last two weeks France and Germany have been deeply troubled by revolting murders carried out by Islamist psychopaths. In the latest tragedy, a devout 86-year old priest, ordained 58 years ago in 1958, had his throat slit while celebrating the mass. One of his assailants had been encouraged by the campaign of the Western media and politicians not so long ago to go to Syria and fight against the government there – a campaign now recognized as an error, though still not apologized for by the culprits. Their unpunished irresponsibility has now brought terror to their very doorstep.

The Middle East from Afghanistan to Libya is indeed littered with failed ‘democratic governments’, built in the ruins of stable but undemocratic countries, as created by Western meddlers. As one Iraqi citizen put it recently: ‘Before there was one Saddam Hussein, now thanks to the West there is a thousand’. More than this, the slaughter of Christians, ultimately caused and tolerated by the West all through the Middle East, has now arrived in Western Europe. Tonight, atheist French politicians, many of them lapsed Jews, most of them freemasons, have attended mass at Notre Dame in Paris.

We can only hope that they may one day be brought to repentance for the refugee crisis that they have created. However, at present these selfsame leaders are still backing the daily and unreported terrorism of the Kiev Army against Ukrainian civilians in Donbass, so there is little realistic hope. These leaders belong to the Western world of smartphones and smartbombs, which they do not know how to use wisely, as their ‘smart civilization’ has failed to invent wisephones and wisebombs. Before they act, they should first think what they are building – the Church of God or the Temple of Antichrist. We fear that when they reflect, if they ever reflect, they will find that it is the latter.

About Ionan Orthodoxy: An Interview with Archbishop George of London

12 May 2041

Q: What is the territory of your Archdiocese?

AG: As you know, our Archdiocese is part of the Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe under Metropolitan John. This stretches from Ireland to Austria and Iceland to Sicily and includes the Latin, Germanic, Celtic and Basque peoples of Western Europe. Our Archdiocese includes the four now sovereign nations of England, Ireland (which was finally reunited five years ago, if you remember), Scotland and Wales. At present we have four bishops, myself, Bishop Patrick in Dublin, Bishop Andrew in Edinburgh and Bishop David in Cardiff. For our Local Synods we always use our premises on the Isle of Man, the only place from which all our four nations are visible.

Q: Why did you take the name Ionan for your Archdiocese?

AG: Originally, the name ‘Diocese of the Isles’ was suggested for the Archdiocese, but this was considered too vague, since there are isles all over the world. Then the name ‘Isles of the North Atlantic’ was suggested, so forming the acronym I.O.N.A. This conveniently refers to the Ionan Orthodox monasticism of St Columba, which originated in Egypt and came to Ireland via Gaul. Since St Columba’s monastery on Iona spread to England via Lindisfarne and from there Orthodoxy went south, converting much of England, and authentic monasticism had always been the one thing missing here, we felt that this was a good name.

Q: How did ‘Ionan Orthodoxy’ come into being?

AG: As you know even into the early 21st century there were two forms of Orthodoxy in Western countries. The first was that which looked back to the ethnic homeland, which meant that in each Western European country there was a multitude of dioceses, called jurisdictions, each living in a sort of divisive ethnic ghetto and using mainly a language other than English. This was all right for first-generation immigrants, but it did not work for second and subsequent generations, who were simply assimilated into the Non-Orthodox milieu. And after three generations, 75 years, abroad, the first generation always died out and so the Church with it. It happened to the Russians in England (arrived by 1920) who had died out by 1995 and to the Greek-Cypriots in England (arrived by 1960) who had died out by 2035.

Q: What was the second form of Orthodoxy in the West?

AG: Seeing the obvious short-sightedness and failure of the above form, there were second and third-generation Russian intellectuals who by reaction took the opposite stance. Their second form of Orthodoxy consisted of merging all Orthodox, whatever their background, into a melting pot. Their common point was the lowest common denominator, that is, the ethnic identity of the (Non-Orthodox) host country. Their policy was then to sell this as the new and substitute ethnic identity of a new Local Church. This second form only developed in full in North America, where immigrants had begun arriving much earlier than in Western Europe, at the end of the nineteenth century, and where people were far more cut off from the roots of Orthodoxy than in Europe. In Europe we did not want to repeat that mistake.

Q: What was that mistake?

AG: It was the attempt to create an ‘American Orthodoxy’. That was a mistake because it put a culture, Non-Orthodox at that, above the Church. This was not a theological movement, but merely a sociological movement of adaptation and conformism. For example, through the inferiority complex of immigrants, most Orthodox churches in the US adopted pews and many of them organs, one institution tried to use a guitar accompaniment to the Divine Liturgy and adapt the theme tune of the cowboy film ‘Shenandoah’ to it. In other places the Divine Liturgy would be stopped at Christmas in order to sing Protestant Christmas carols!

Someone at the time drew a cartoon of an ‘All-American Patriarch’, a clean-shaven man in a clerical collar with a foolish grin on his face and a glass of coca-cola in his hand, like an advert for toothpaste. Of course, this was only a carton, but it did sum up the situation. At that time when the USA still ruled the world, there were actually individuals in the US who arrogantly and blindly imagined that this second form of Orthodoxy there was the only true form of Orthodoxy, that it was at the centre of the world and that it was their duty to colonize the rest of the world with it! In reality, of course, it was a mere provincial backwater experiment, to be allowed to die out quietly because this experiment simply pandered to the weaknesses of the host country. It placed the Church of God below heretical culture. That was blasphemous, which is why it was racked with scandals.

Q: But did the same temptation not occur in Europe, even if it did not have time to develop to the same extent as in the USA?

AG: Yes, of course, it occurred; human nature is the same everywhere, it was just that it took on different forms according to the local heterodox culture. The same thing has happened among unChurched, semi-Orthodox people in Greece, Romania and Russia. It is simply the heresy of phyletism. And make no mistake, it is a heresy because you can lose your soul in it – that is what a heresy is.

For example, in France a whole jurisdiction catered for a kind of ‘philosophical and aesthetic Orthodoxy’, ‘l’Orthodoxie a la francaise’, as one might say. This theory of Orthodoxy, or theorizing about Orthodoxy, did not present the Church as the Christian way of life, but as a complex and highly intellectual philosophy, full of long words and isms, which no-one really understood. Of course, it could have been expressed in very simple language, which everyone knew already. But as long as it sounded theoretically and philosophically fine, ‘cosmique’ as they used to say, all was fine, but of course, it was not fine and that jurisdiction died out, as it was built on sand, not on the Rock of the Faith. This theorizing was about the god of the philosophers in the language of philosophers, not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the language of the fishermen of Galilee. You simply cannot build a Local Church based on Non-Orthodox culture! That is common sense, but you could not say that out loud to those who were taken up by such delusions.

Q: What about in other countries in Europe?

AG: It happened everywhere, not just in France. For example, in Germany the first liturgical book to be translated was the Typikon. In other words, Orthodoxy there was confused with the Non-Orthodox German mindset and produced an Orthodoxy of rules, a stubborn, black and white system, without any flexibility, any understanding of the human component, which is what it is all about. They lost their way by confusing the means (the services) with the ends (the salvation of the soul). For instance, I remember one German priest refusing to give a woman communion because she was dressed in trousers. Well, she was of course wrong, but a few decades ago there was a fashion for women to dress in trousers (fortunately, long since over now). That was bad, but what right did the German priest have to excommunicate that woman? Suppose she had died in the night after she had been refused communion? That sin would have been on the conscience of that priest.

Q: And in England?

AG: It was the same thing again. The national weakness here was not theorizing or creating a book of rules, but it was to adapt Orthodoxy to the British Establishment, to create a compromised ‘Establishment Orthodoxy’, a ‘British Orthodoxy’. This State-controlled and State-worshipping Orthodoxy, that of converts from Anglicanism, was of course just a repeat of the Anglicanism that had long ago been invented by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. There were even two whole but tiny jurisdictions dedicated to this State-approved pietism. It was all salt that had lost its savour. Some such people used the treacherous, half-Norman Edward the Confessor as the mascot of their ‘Establishment Orthodoxy’. Of course, it all came to nothing and has died out now, largely a fantasy of the late-twentieth century and the curious personalities who reigned supreme in the bad old days then. It was very oppressive because, as they were emperors in new clothes, you were not allowed to contradict them!

All these examples show the danger of compromising the Faith with local culture. And all those who did so have now died out, as withered branches. And that is the answer to your question, how did ‘Ionan Orthodoxy’ come into being. It came into being as the only living alternative to the two false alternatives – the ghetto or worldly compromise.

Q: So what do you base ‘Ionan Orthodoxy’ on?

AG: Simply, we put the Church and the Faith first. If we put the Kingdom of God, Orthodoxy, first, then all will fall into place, including the language that we use in services, which today is for about 90% in English, regardless of the ethnic origin of the parishioners, regardless of how well or how badly they speak another language. We are united by Orthodox Christianity, not by ethnic origins, and we are carried forward by the faithfulness to the Church and Her Tradition of the younger generations, who are all primarily English-speakers.

Q: You now have over 350 parishes in the British Isles and Ireland, all established quite solidly and with their own clergy and premises. Every city and town over 50,000 and the area around it is covered. This is quite unlike even 25 years ago, when the Russian Church, a small minority at that time, had mostly tiny communities with services once a month, borrowed premises and a suffered from a huge shortage of priests to go out and do vital missionary work in the area surrounding their churches. What about the other jurisdictions, which collectively still have over 50 parishes outside the Archdiocese?

AG: We live with them as good neighbours. People are free to join us and free to remain outside us. As you know, the parishes outside our jurisdiction are composed mainly of elderly people who settled here from various countries 50 years ago or more and they use very little English in their services. Virtually all the young people come to us. Time will show which way things will go. Live and let live.

Q: What is the future? Do you think of autocephaly?

AG: The Western European Metropolia, with just over 2,000 parishes now, is united, with six archdioceses, Iona, Scandinavia, Germania, Gallia, Italia and Hispania. True, the Metropolia has autonomy, but at the present time there is no desire at all for autocephaly. True, 2,000 parishes is more than in some other Local Churches, like the 700 parishes of the Hungarian Orthodox Church which recently became autocephalous, but a lot fewer than in others. Take China for example. That is still also an autonomous part of the Russian Church, even though it now has over 25,000 parishes. And the Russian Church Herself did not become autonomous for centuries, only after the Empire had fallen in New Rome. At present, I cannot see any reason to become autocephalous. That situation may of course change, especially in China, but not yet. It all takes time.

Q: Are you saying that autocephaly granted prematurely can be dangerous?

AG: Definitely. And especially in Western Europe.

Q: Why?

AG: Because Western Europe has for over a millennium veered between extremes which we do not want to repeat.

Q: Which extremes?

AG: The first is that of despotic centralism. This was the extreme of the pagan Roman Empire, which Charlemagne foolishly tried to revive and fortunately failed to, but it was indeed revived after 1050, causing Western Europe’s schism from the Church, and that lasted until the anti-Latin nationalist outburst of the Germanic Reformation. After that, despotic centralism was tried again by warmongers like Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler, and then by the EU Fourth Reich – and we all know how that ended.

Each time there was a reaction to this despotism – nationalism, and that led to terrible fratricidal wars in Europe, like the so-called ‘Wars of Religion’ in the 16th century, just as centralism created the World Wars. We do not want those extremes, we must follow the golden mean of unity in diversity, which is what we have in Ionan Orthodoxy and in the Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe in general. Europe has to be a Confederation of Nations, not a Union, a United States of Europe, but not a series of warring, nationalist states either.

In the same way, the Tsardom of Rus, as it is now called, successfully overcame provincial Ukrainian nationalism a generation ago and reunited huge territories, one sixth of the world. However, it only did this by rejecting the old centralism of the Soviet Union, which had done so much damage to its credibility. Once it had done that, again on the basis of unity in diversity, all of Eastern Europe joined in a free and mutually beneficial economic confederation with it, throwing off the shackles of the old European Union, which was in fact just a repeat of the Soviet Union.

Q: Will you drop the word ‘Russian’ from the name of the Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe? Most of your faithful are either not Russian or else do not speak it.

AG: In the bad old days of Western nationalism, for example in North America in the Cold War, they detested the word ‘Russian’ and dropped it. Now we are more enlightened and we all understand that ‘Russian’ does not mean nationalism and means uncompromised, unsecularized Orthodoxy. We exist because we have been helped to exist by the Russian Orthodox Church, the only multinational, Imperial Orthodox Church. I think we should keep it. Do you remember the old Roman Catholic Church, as it used to be called? Well, there were hardly any Romans in it!

Q: Why has the Western European Metropolia been so successful?

AG: Without doubt because of the sacrifices made to underpin it in the twentieth century and since. The Church is built on blood, sweat and tears. We should remember with gratitude the prayers and work of those who went before us. For example, I can remember decades ago, how people wanted more English in the services. So, one bishop said yes, do the service in English. What happened? The people who had been clamouring for more English could not even put a decent choir together to sing just the Liturgy! Some of them said that the singing was so bad that they preferred the Liturgy in a foreign language, in which it was properly sung. In other words, you have to make sacrifices in order to achieve anything. We owe a great deal to those who sang properly in English, showing others that the Liturgy in English could be just as beautiful as in Slavonic. Actions speak louder than words.

Yes, mistakes were made in the past, but we learned from those mistakes. Take for example our English translations which stretch back to the turn of the 20th century, nearly 150 years ago, those made in the USA with the blessing of the holy Patriarch Tikhon by an Episcopalian Isabel Hapgood and by Orlov in England. Those were foundation stones. Yes, those translations have been improved and on the way we have seen archaic translations in a Latinate, Victorian style like those of Hapgood or even with 16th century spelling, we have seen those made into street English as well as into soulless, jarring academic English, all sorts, but today we have definitive translations, avoiding all those extremes. It is easy to criticize, but the fact is that without those tireless efforts of the past, however mistaken they sometimes were, we would not be where we are now.

Let us first of all thank our recent fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters in Christ who went before us, who built our Church, our parishes and our souls. Our Metropolia, in effect, the Church of the Old and the New Europe, would not exist without them. But let us also thank the saints of the first millennium. Through venerating them, we have earned their prayers and because of their prayers we are here today. We are built not on dead souls, but on spiritually alive souls, whether of the distant past or of the recent past. Always on spiritually alive souls: Remember that.

Some Autobiographical Notes

I have been asked a number of questions about how, coming from a simple, earthy English background in rural England, I came to be a Russian Orthodox priest of the Church Outside Russia. Making use of some unexpected time this week, I have looked back through some old papers which I had forgotten and can now answer those questions with some dates.

Q: How did you come to the Russian Church?

A: After a countryside childhood strangely filled with interest in faraway Russia, I started teaching myself Russian in October 1968. I was told to do so in a particular spot in Colchester, which I could take you to now, by a voice heard coming, brought as it were by a wind from the east. So I began to read a lot of Russian literature in translation and Russian history. Two years later, in 1970, I had decided that I wanted to be part of the Russian Church and had begun reading as much as I could to find out about it (very little was available at that time). However, it was only after my sixteenth birthday that I managed to visit Russian churches.

Q: Where? In London?

A: No, my family never went to London, which we always looked on as a different planet, ‘the smoke’ as we still called it. The countryside was our home. I won a bursary and at the end of February 1973 I managed to visit a Russian church in England. This was the tiny Russian Patriarchal house chapel in Oxford, where I prayed at vespers on two successive Saturdays. Then in the same year I won another bursary to visit the then Soviet Union; in fact the first church I visited there was St Vladimir’s Cathedral in Kiev. As I entered those churches, I knew that I wanted to be part of their inner life and that this was my destiny, the whole meaning of my life, regardless of all the barriers that would be put in front of me. I felt that I had always been here, that this was in my blood. (Only in 2004 did I discover any possible though very distant explanation in a Carpatho-Russian great-grandmother – my mother’s mother’s mother). At the end of 1973 I also managed to visit the Patriarchal Cathedral in London, of which I had heard. ROCOR then had no existence outside itself, being largely unknown to the outside world, at least in England.

Q: Which part of the Russian Church did you join?

A: As soon as I was free to do so at the age of 18, in 1974, I asked to join the Russian Church. Of course, there were two parts then. Firstly, I met two representatives of the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), who solemnly informed me that I would not be allowed to join their Church since it was in any case ‘for Russians only’. I also met other, rather fanatical and sectarian individuals from ROCOR, who completely turned me away. I therefore took the only option left to me and joined the Patriarchal Church, presuming that this was identical to the Church that I had seen in Russia and the Ukraine.

However, I very soon found out that the small Oxford Patriarchal parish was dominated by two opposing clans – on the one hand, by haughty Parisian-type modernists, and, on the other hand, by Soviet chauvinist nationalists, for whom the Communist Party could do no ill! I gave myself spiritual life by reading Russian theological books I ordered from Jordanville and elsewhere. Visiting Soviet Russia for a second time in 1976 and spending time there, I saw again how the real Russian Church was different from the Oxford cliques. In 1977 a priest I had met in Russia the year before suggested that I study at the Moscow Theological Academy. I would very much like to have done that, but at the height of the Cold War this was absolutely impossible. That was tragic.

Q: What did you do?

A: I did the next best thing and in 1978 went to live and work in Thessaloniki in Greece for one year. Here, I saw how traditional the ethos could be, quite different from the Church of Constantinople, which I had seen in England, but also, unfortunately, I saw narrow Balkan nationalism and came across the semi-Protestant Zoe and Sotir organizations – closer to Methodism than Orthodoxy! However, I also visited Mt Athos and was especially influenced by Fr Ephraim at Philotheou and the very poor and heroic monks at the Russian St Panteleimon’s Monastery. I remember especially Fr Seraphim, Fr Misail (who wanted me to join the monastery and be the librarian) and the choir director from Odessa. These were real, exemplary Orthodox. It was at this point that I decided that I should go and study at a Russian seminary.

Since I had been told (in fact lied to) that Jordanville only accepted Russians, I took the only option left and went to St Serge in Paris. (The two ‘seminary’ establishments of the OCA held no interest for me since they were both on the Catholic/Protestant calendar and deviated in other ways from the ethos and practice of the Russian Church inside Russia. I knew enough from talking to people who had been to them and from my visits to Russia to understand that they were not right for me. I wanted the real thing).

Q: What happened next?

A: I went to study at St Serge in Paris. There I experienced the battle royal between the two factions in Paris at that time. The first, led by Protopresbyter Alexis Knyazev, a wonderful teacher, was the pro-Russian one that was clear-sighted enough to see that the only future was to rejoin the Russian Church, but on some autonomous basis.

The second group, the Fraternite Orthodoxe, led basically by the Jesuit-educated Count, Fr Boris Bobrinskoy, notorious for having celebrated the liturgy in a Catholic convent with the filioque (!) – so as ‘not to offend our Catholic brethren’, was virtually composed of Uniats. Other members included the fantasist and Athos-hater Olivier Clement and a Georgian priest who spent his time extolling the Second Vatican Council. I soon gave up going to their courses. The modernist and manipulative Fraternite was populated by patronizing aristocrats and fantasist ideologues who preyed on naïve Catholics and converts. Descendants of those who had carried out the Revolution, they absolutely hated Russia and had no intention of ever returning to the sobriety and discipline of the Russian Church. Naturally, I supported the first group which alone was authentic and also realistic.

These two groups depended on the Rue Daru bishop, the weak, elderly but saintly Archbishop George (Tarasov). The Fraternite was clearly waiting for him to die and then seize power, which they only managed to do in full twenty years later. Members of the Fraternite, some soon to become priests, used to hiss, mock and boo Archbishop George publicly. It was awful. I believe that Archbishop George, a former WWI Russian pilot from the Western Front, was a saint. Had he been in good health and lived another fifteen years, he would have returned the group to the Russian Church with the status of an autonomous Metropolia.

Q: Where did you go after St Serge?

A: Having met my wife, who is basically of Anglo-Italian-Romanian origin, and married in Paris, we returned to England. We stayed here for three years, trying to find some sort of balanced spiritual life between the extremes of the pseudo-Patriarchal Church and the Church Outside Russia, with their cliques which were not Churchly at all, quite different from the Church inside Russia, which I had seen in 1972 and 1976, and again at St Panteleimon’s on Mt Athos.

Having discovered the scandalous truths about the extremists dominating both groups in England, we returned disillusioned to France and my wife’s jurisdiction (Rue Daru). Here the new German Archbishop had personally promised us that he was going to steer the Church away from the modernist and ecumenist Fraternite Orthodoxe and back to Russian Orthodox Tradition, but using Western languages whenever necessary. Enthused by this sensible direction and the support of Fr Alexis Knyazev, who was still alive then, I was ordained in Paris in January 1985.

Q: What happened?

A: I had fallen from the frying pan into the fire. Within four months I was asked to become a freemason, which I refused to do, thus signing a kind of spiritual death warrant for myself. Through weakness of character, the new Archbishop had by then taken a suicidal path. He was ordaining freemasons and other members of the Fraternite, while also forbidding the use of local languages, doing exactly the opposite of everything he had promised. He was guaranteeing the death of Rue Daru, whose only hope for survival was in fact to return to one or other of the parts of the Russian Church.

So I surrendered to God’s Will. And in 1987 I was granted the grace of meeting the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva, a representative of the real ROCOR, just waiting to return to a politically free Russian Church. Coming from Kiev, where I had first been to an Orthodox service, Archbishop Antony showed me the real, multinational ROCOR, which I had read about, but totally failed to meet in London with its nationalism and sectarianism. In July 1988, Rue Daru held a service in honour of the millennium of Orthodoxy in Rus, attended by the modernist Catholic Cardinal of Paris, but from which all Russian bishops had been banned!

It was the last straw and, thanks to God, Archbishop Antony gladly received a group of 17 of us spiritual refugees into ROCOR at the end of that year. This was actually a turning-point for the Rue Daru group, as ever since then the flow of serious Orthodox leaving it has not ceased, giving up the fight to save it. We now realize of course that that fight was impossible and we had undertaken it out of misplaced idealism. The well had been poisoned from the outset. It was also a turning-point for us, from which we have never looked back.

Q: Looking back, what would you do if you had your time again?

A: A purely hypothetical question. Hindsight, as they say, is a wonderful thing. At the time I had no advice at all, except for very bad advice, and there was no internet. Today, there is no doubt in my mind at all that I should have studied in London and then, in 1977, gone and studied at Jordanville. However, if I had not done what I had done then, how could I know all this now? Only experience teaches.

If I had not done what I did do, I would never have understood the Church of Greece, I would never have met the saintly Archbishop George Tarasov, the heroic Archbishop Antony of Geneva and so many other saintly figures, like the last representatives of the real White Russian movement, Fr Silouan of Athos of the Patriarchate (the disciple of St Silouan), the wonderful Baroness Maria Rehbinder, that exquisite Parisian poetess Lyudmila Sergeevna Brizhatova, the last White officer Vladimir Ivanovich Labunsky, and so many others, the representatives of the real Holy Rus in all jurisdictions of the Russian emigration.

Neither would I ever have understood the tragic renovationist decadence and absurd Soviet nationalism within parts of the Patriarchate outside Russia at that time, the two sides of the suicidal Rue Daru jurisdiction (sadly, today there is largely only one side left) and how ROCOR was nearly enveloped by the marginal extremes of narrow Russian nationalist chauvinism and fanatical old calendarist converts, but saved by the holiness of Metropolitan Laurus and the many with him, who so exactly expressed our values in Holy Rus, Eternal Russia.

There is in even this short, forty-year experience a lifetime of joys and sorrows. I have been privileged to know it all. In that sense I do not regret anything, even though I have met many tragic individuals, seen much waste and many lost opportunities, and seen parts of the Russian Diaspora committing suicide through spiritual impurity. However, I have been even more privileged in that I have also seen the old and artificial disunity fall away and become heartfelt unity and so life in the dynamic present and future. The worst, and it was really bad, is over and the best is now and in the future. Over nearly the last twenty years Providence has allowed me to work freely for the Russian Orthodox Church in missionary work in my own homeland of the three counties of the East of England.

Can Western Europe Repent?

Last Friday evening The Eagles Death Metal band was playing in Paris. Just as they began playing ‘Kiss the devil’ with the opening words ‘I have met the devil and this is his song’, an atrocious massacre began.

As a result, the Schengen Agreement is de facto dead. As a result, much to the horror of the US government, Western European countries are now ready to repent and co-operate with Russia in destroying the US-founded IS in Syria. As a result the Western support for the anti-democratic rogue junta in Kiev has all but been forgotten. As a result anti-Muslim nationalist parties, like the National Front in France, have become even more popular.

As a result some at least in Western Europe are beginning to question if there is indeed only one choice, between the blasphemous Charlie Hebdo and fanatical and murderous Islamism, or as it was expressed over 20 years ago, between McWorld or Jihad (1).

In Eastern Europe, whether in Russia, Poland, Slovakia, Czechia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria or elsewhere, there has never really been any doubt to that question. For all these countries and their peoples knew from their history all about Islam and, ironically behind the screen of Communism, had also long protected their Christian tradition, sovereignty and identity from McWorld. Hence their attitude to the immigration invasion of recent months.

The only question is if in Western Europe there are those who are honest enough and rooted enough in their historical Christian tradition to do the same.

Note:

1. See the 1994 ‘The Healing of Civilizations: Orthodox Christianity, Western Capitalism and Islam’ in ‘Orthodox Christianity and the English Tradition’.

The Continuing Crisis in Rue Daru

There is now great dissatisfaction in the Paris Exarchate (‘Rue Daru’) with its new archbishop. In blogs and comments, criticisms abound. Whatever the truth behind the sometimes serious accusations, one thing stands out. This is that Archbishop Job’s critics appear to have no concept of what a bishop (or a liturgist) is. Some of the behaviour criticized is that of almost any bishop of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and of other bishops in other Local Churches. We fail to be scandalized by this. A bishop who quotes the canons and is guided by them is a normal bishop. The impression of some of those who complain is of a group of people who have been living without the canons for a very long time. After all the liberals and modernists who are complaining are the very people who persecuted ordinary Orthodox for decades and chased them out of the Church. Now they are suffering in their turn and now they know what it feels like. There really is no-one as intolerant as a liberal.

The fact is that the Rue Daru jurisdiction always had weak bishops, who were appointed by exiled laypeople, at first by aristocrats, who had wanted the anti-Church Revolution and so power for themselves, and then by intellectuals. Whether it was Metr Eulogius, who was so indecisive that he kept changing jurisdictions, or the saintly but weak and openly mocked Metr Vladimir and Archbishop George (Tarasov), or the bishops born in Western Europe who followed them, the Paris Exarchate never had a bishop who stood up to its powerful laypeople, least of all Archbishop George (Wagner), who ordained several of those who are now in trouble. Now that the jurisdiction has an appointee of Patriarch Bartholomew, of course some in it are very dissatisfied. The problem is that when your Patriarch has appointed your bishop, who is a Phanariot loyalist, there is only one way you can avoid him and that is to leave his jurisdiction. Essentially, what is happening is that the jurisdiction is at last having to face reality after decades of fantasy.

After all, the Rue Daru jurisdiction has always been a ‘Protestant’ jurisdiction, both in the sense that its elite is composed of protestors (les ‘frondeurs’ et ‘soixante-huitards’, as Protopresbyter Alexis Knyazev used to call them) and also in the sense that it is composed of rationalists (like Protestants). This is clear from the code of camouflaged words, with which its elite defines itself. For example, they talk of their spirit of ‘renewal’ ( = in fact, pseudo-intellectual, renovationist modernism), their combination of ‘Orthodoxy with Western rationalism’ (= in fact, desacralization and spiritual decadence), their ‘creativity’ (= in fact, the condescending pride of those who imagine themselves to be the centre of the world, when it is in fact marginal French navel-gazing, ‘du nombrilisme hexagonal’) and of course ‘ecumenism’ (= in fact, apostasy from the Tradition). In many respects, it would make sense for the Roman Catholics to set up a Russian Uniat Exarchate in Paris which such individuals could join, as modern Catholic values differ little from rationalistic Protestant values.

It is said that Rue Daru is divided between those who want to remain ‘Russians’ and those who are ‘open’ and want to build a ‘Local Church’. What utter nonsense! All that was 30-40 years ago under Archbishop George (Wagner). This is now just self-justification for a gerontocratic ideology, which lives on notions removed from reality (sobornost, being, communion), and consistently avoids everything that is practically and concretely Orthodox. The daydream of ‘building a Local Church’, or rather, talking about building a Local Church, purely secular-liberal in its progressivism, is leading nowhere in Rue Daru. Elsewhere we are faithful to the Russian Tradition and also celebrate in the local languages and venerate the local saints. There is no either/or between faithfulness to the Russian Tradition and being a Local Church, it is both/and. The modernists play on the ambiguity of locality, appropriating arguments which require an Orthodox Church to be an Orthodox Church in a particular location. It then misuses those arguments to claim that therefore their own secularist foibles – which they have managed to enforce in that particular locality (Paris) – should be normative for the Orthodox Church there.

All of this illustrates the identity crisis of Rue Daru, a jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, supposedly of the Russian Tradition (though as someone said to me, the Russian Tradition never even stayed the night in most places in Rue Daru). Is it Greek or is it Russian? Before its former representative in England, Bp Basil (Osborne), was defrocked, he had the title of Bishops of ‘Amphipolis’. Various wags soon deformed this into Bishop of ‘Amphibious’ and Bishop of ‘Ambivalence’. Joking apart, there is here a serious question. Who do you think you are? The clergy that I knew and knew of in Rue Daru were all clergy who wanted Rue Daru to return to the Russian Orthodox Church as soon as the political obscenities in Russia were over. They have long been over. Archbishop George (Tarasov), Archbishop Sergiy (Konovalov), Bishop Alexander (Tian-Shansky), Bishop Methodius (Kulmann), Bishop Roman (Zolotov), Protopresbyter Alexis Knyazev, Archpriest Alexander Rehbinder, Archpriest Vsevolod Dunaev, Archpriest Igor Vernik, must all be turning in their graves at what is happening today. They would all long ago have returned to the Mother-Church, together with a mass of laypeople, who wanted none of this nonsense.

Apart from the hopelessly old-fashioned modernist ideology of its elite (an anachronism in a post-modernist world) Rue Daru has enormous financial problems. The Cathedral on Rue Daru needs two million euros, St Serge appears to be bankrupt and the pre-revolutionary church in Biarritz needs expensive repairs. It is difficult to see how such a group can maintain the pre-revolutionary churches in Florence and San Remo – also part of the Russian (not Greek) Orthodox heritage in Europe. Then there is the problem of finding priests to serve – more and more of them come from Eastern Europe and have no time for or understanding of the modernist ideology of the elite or its liturgical fantasies. Two people have said to me that one day Rue Daru will have more defrocked than frocked clergy. Here is the result of decades of easy ordinations of the untrained and uncanonical, showered with high awards – presumably for chasing out and persecuting faithful Orthodox. All this was carried out in order to build a jurisdictional empire. As a parting thought, perhaps if we do not get the bishop we need, then we get the bishop we deserve.

Afterword: The Euro-Orthodox Alternative to an Orthodox Europe

Following the recent trilogy of articles on gathering together Russian Orthodox of all nationalities and languages in Western Europe into a Metropolia, the first of which was posted on 25 July and the last, the article ’The Path to Unity’, on 5 August, a member of the Paris Exarchate (Patriarchate of Constantinople) has written to reject this vision for an Orthodox Europe, or a ‘Russian Europe’ as he strangely calls it. Since he is not Russian Orthodox and, according to his very undiplomatic words, never will be, his rejection of something which does not concern him seems not relevant. However, if he is interested in one day seeing a Local Church of Europe, we must recall that the only Local Church which is proposing an Orthodox Metropolia in Europe, precisely the basis for a future Local Church of Europe, is the Russian Orthodox Church. In other words, the offer by Patriarch Alexis II over ten years ago is the only offer on the table.

The only purely theoretical alternative consists of a now very old-fashioned, autocephalist, that is, nationalist, ideology. This was once again put forward by the Greek Orthodox ‘Fraternite Orthodoxe in Western Europe’ at its Fifteenth Congress in Bordeaux in Spring 2015. With absolutely no offer of autocephaly (canonical independence) made at any point over the fifty years of its existence to this small, mainly French group by the US-run Patriarchate of Constantinople (to which virtually all its members belong), doubts were long ago raised about its practicality. No autocephaly can ever be given to this small group because it is on a shared canonical territory.

No-one would want to repeat the error that the Soviet-epoch Patriarchate of Moscow made in the USA nearly fifty years ago, giving a canonically disputed autocephaly to a small and rather nationalistic American group, led by Parisian intellectuals, now called the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). One does have the impression of leaders blinded by their autocephalist ideology misleading sincere and idealistic but also blind converts, who have no concept of the practical problems and realities of the Local Orthodox Churches and Diasporas outside their own narrow, intellectual horizons.

A French TV film of their recent Congress shows members of the Paris-based Brotherhood singing in French at a meeting or service (it was unclear what it was) in a modern conference hall in Bordeaux. There were virtually no icons, no iconostasis, no candles and no-one at the meeting or service, standing in lines in front of rows of chairs, appeared to make the sign of the cross. The atmosphere presented was that of a ‘charismatic’ event, common to Catholic modernism (or Protestant modernism – it is the same thing). Present were two Greek bishops, one of them the controversial leader of the schismatic ‘Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church’, and a Catholic bishop. The impression was that many of those present were either Catholics or else ex-Catholics. The meeting was certainly highly ecumenical and also political.

The atmosphere of exaltation, of a lack of sobriety and prayer, and the absence of any Orthodox dress code indeed gave the impression of a political meeting, rather than of a Church service. Most of those shown in the film looked to be middle class people, mostly of the same older generation, aged between 60 and 75. Could this be because they joined the Fraternite in its heyday in the late 60s, 70s and 80s, after the French social revolt of 1968? Enclosed and isolated in the same intellectual ghetto for so many years, without exposure to the realities of the contemporary Diasporas of the Local Orthodox Churches in Europe or in their homelands, members have had no opportunity to evolve. In this way they have not adapted to reality and the generation which has grown up in the Orthodox Churches since the fall of Communism and the liberation of the Local Churches in former Communist countries. Could this be why ‘passeiste’ (living in the past) members still insist that ‘nothing has changed’ in Russia and Eastern Europe and still appear to be living in the Cold War?

Of course, a film can give a false impression. Unfortunately, it is exactly the same impression that was given to us by Fraternite members in the 70s and 80s and also that given to Orthodox from other Local Churches who have visited their Congresses in recent years. They have all said the same thing: that this is a divisive group driven not by spiritual concerns but by political concerns. Its spirit, different and alien to that in the vast majority of Orthodox monasteries and parish churches in Western Europe, gives the impression of a New Age cult or sect. There is a ‘pick and mix’ mentality, for example, you fast and confess only if you really want to, taking communion freely, as in modern Catholicism. It takes what it likes from the Russian Church and the Greek Church, but rejects the disciplines of both the Russian Church, both inside Russia and outside Russia, and of the Greek Church in Greece. (It should be noted that this group is quite outside the discipline of the diocesan jurisdictions of Greek bishops in Europe).

A great many contemporary Protestants will tell you that the empty moralism of their ahistorical and now dying denominations has been suicidal for them. A great many contemporary Catholics will tell you that they do not believe in the Pope and think that compulsory clerical celibacy is wrong. In other words they agree with us. And some look to the Orthodox Church for sustenance. The one thing that the Orthodox Church can offer those who live in the contemporary spiritual desert of the desacralized Western world, whether of Catholic or Protestant origin, is spiritual food. This is the food of faithfulness to the discipline of the Church Tradition that alone unlocks the door to the Holy Spirit, that alone gives spiritual beauty, spiritual nobility and spiritual elegance, the food that feeds the soul. This means not transmitting our little selves, but transmitting that which is far greater than ourselves, that which is both collective (cat-holic) and eternal. This is that which only the Church can give and provide the sense of the sacred, a sacralized faith that brings heaven down to earth and so makes the earthly spiritual.

The impression given, and not only by this film, is the opposite. What appears to be on offer here is a desacralized cult, worship made comfortable for the Western consumer, a castrated and rationalized piece of theatre that makes the spiritual earthly. Nowhere was there any mention of the glorious European heritage of the saints, those who had been earthly but became spiritual, neither of the ancient saints of Europe, like St Irinaeus of Lyon, St Hilary of Poitiers, St Martin of Tours, St John Cassian and others who combated heresies and died for the Faith, or of the new saints of Europe, like the Russian New Martyrs, St Nicholas of Zhicha, St Justin of Chelije and St Paisius the Athonite. This is the result of doing away with the ‘sanctoral’ and applying the other decrees of the Second Vatican Council to the Orthodox Church, as was the heartfelt desire of Fraternite lovers like Fr Elie Melia, the teacher of Pastoral Theology at the St Sergius Institute of Theology in Paris in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

The overall impression of the Fraternite is of a disincarnate form of faith invented in the past, of a rather late and old-fashioned monogenerational offshoot of the ‘charismatic movement’ of the late twentieth century, unknown to the Orthodox Church. Theirs appears to be a phyletistic or nationalistic ideology, a Euro-Orthodoxy, that puts modern Europe first and Orthodoxy second, exactly the opposite to what the Russian Orthodox Church is proposing in its forward-looking vision of an ‘Orthodox Europe’. New Local Churches have always been built on strict adherence to the Church Tradition and had a heavily ascetic, monastic and episcopal foundation, for example among all the Slavs, the Alaskans and the Japanese. Unlike their examples, the intellectuals of the Fraternite, stuck in the 1960s, seem to be proposing building a Church on the basis of an ideology that is anti-ascetic, anti-monastic, anti-episcopal, anti-Tradition and therefore in effect anti-Orthodox. Needless to say, this cannot succeed.

An Appeal for Faithfulness and for Unity

The Past

When eight years ago in Moscow a senior archpriest of the Moscow Diocese asked me to write the full story of Metr Antony, I answered him that, straight after a schism, it was not yet time, that people were not ready for it. I maintain that point of view today – only bit by bit can the story be told, only inasmuch as it serves the edifying and overriding goal of faithfulness and so unity. A bit more has been told this month at the instigation of a ‘Patriarchal’ priest of the Russian Church in the Diaspora, and only in order to point the way towards further unity. All revelations are for a good reason, not by chance, and are thought out beforehand. As for the rest, I have maintained silence on the whole story for 33 years – it can wait longer.

Thus, the article we published on 25 July regarding the past of English Orthodoxy and, most importantly, to provide a vision for the future unity of Russian Orthodoxy and all Orthodoxy in Europe has been like a stone thrown into a pond – it has created ripples, many for and some against. That shows that people are alive. It also shows just how divisive Metr Antony was, especially considering that the article was written most diplomatically, quoting Metr Kallistos. The conclusion must be: divisive personalities create division. Let us recall that the goal of the Church is to bring down the Holy Spirit on earth to produce saints, like St John of Shanghai, not to produce personalities.

Sadly, the truth hurts. And the article pained some, especially the naïve who are still in denial. But without growing pains, there can be no maturity. I have been there. As they say: ‘No pains, no gains’. And, in this case, although we would rather not talk of any of this, but keep it quiet just as everyone else keeps it quiet, this truth that hurts must be heard now. This is because to keep quiet now is to impede unity and the prize of unity is too great, for no Church or spiritual life can ever be built on myths and illusions, just as no Church or spiritual life can ever be built on schism and fragmentation. And schism and fragmentation were the case of the old Sourozh Diocese and the Paris Exarchate and, indeed, to a lesser extent, the case of both once divided parts of the Russian Church Diaspora.

Some have criticized details in the article. Two criticisms were quite right. These mentioned quite correctly that the Greek Metropolitan for Benelux is Metr Atheagoras (not Panteleimon, who was his predecessor) and that Maximos is not a Greek name. Thank you. As these were mistakes, like all the mistakes that I make, they were corrected at once. As a matter of historical fact, the Fr Maximos in question (he formerly had the fine Christian name of Michael) quit the Greek Orthodox priesthood after only two weeks. (Sadly, not a record; last year this was beaten by one recent convert, ordained without preparation, who stayed for only one day).

Another correspondent asked what was wrong with Greek vestments. He had missed the point; there is nothing wrong with Greek vestments – except when you claim to be following ‘the Russian Tradition’. Or do those words mean a consumerist, ‘pick and mix’ attitude to the Church? Another asked about Russian dress code in the spirit of, ‘But I know someone who…’, and also missed the point. I was talking about the context of general Christian dress code (which only the Russian Orthodox Tradition seems to have kept), not about the exceptions of loose sharivari trousers as worn by some peasant women in Serbia or African or Asian native dress. Orthodox dress code is universal and can be summed up by the words, ‘modesty without provocation’. Sadly, some in the name of an ideology alien to the Church, but not alien to secularism, like to provoke.

One asked me about my view of the ‘unusual and unique practices’ of Fr Sophrony (Sakharov). To which I simply answered that it is hardly for me to judge the spiritual value of such practices which take place in the Patriarchate of Constantinople. That is for the Church and Her hierarchs to judge. In this matter I am a mere observer who simply states facts and accepts the judgement of the whole Church, whatever that will be.

Another asked why we should have confession before every communion. Again he had missed the point. I was talking not about a pious convert monk who took communion every day and did not need confession every day (though his inexperienced and over-rigid convert confessor was demanding it!), but about the average Orthodox in the average parish who takes communion every two or three months and therefore needs confession before each communion. Even more so for the Greek who takes communion at every liturgy, but hotly denies even the existence of confession; since he has never heard of it and as he has never been asked to do it, it does not exist for him.

In this context, confession before communion is not some exotic Russian Orthodox tradition, it is the universal tradition of the Church – visit any Local Church and ask the faithful; everything else is mere decadence. There is only one Tradition, despite the vain attempts by Protestant-minded and Protestant-backed liberals to invent a new and alternative one and then reject the Tradition as ‘old-fashioned’ or ultra-conservative’, so moving the goal posts so that they can justify their conformity to secularism. Their technique of calling the Tradition ‘ultra-conservative’ was well-practised by the modernist Catholics and Protestants long before fringe Orthodox blindly copied it.

One said that the article was simply untrue; however, he was quite unable to reject a single point, as he is in denial of reality. All such articles are written from experience. You can deny that someone has experienced something if you wish, but it makes no difference to the fact that the experience has taken place. You are simply in denial, because you have some personal axe to grind. You are welcome to disagree with my interpretations of the facts, but to deny the facts is to deny reality and dwell in fantasy. Another who had been there at the time, squirmed and then reluctantly admitted that the whole article was true. The truest statement came from a third person who simply said: ‘We all know that this is the truth, it is just that no-one has dared say it out loud until now’. Such is the fear of the political correctness of the modern Jews.

One asked about naïve young Russian women in Russia who admire Metr Antony’s Russian (not English) writings, which Patriarch Alexis II expressly asked him to write in the 1990s. In my view, they are right to admire them, they are very well-written, ideal for beginners, just as beginners in Russia also admire the writings of C.S. Lewis. New to the Church, they need food for the mind and the highly talented Metr Antony gives this. That is why he was so popular with Anglicans, others outside the Church and those on the fringes of the Church. He wrote for them. From an atheist and secular background, he was well able to address the rationalistic doubts of people from that secular background. However, if such young women wish to be Churched, to enter the Arena, they will need to move on beyond introductions and rationalizing food for the mind and find writings with food for the soul. As for the tragic legacy of Metr Antony in England, which is what we were writing about, such young women, new to the Church, have no idea about it. We do, because we were subjected to the tragedy which wasted so much and drove so many away.

One correspondent asked about the need for a European Metropolia, and not a local English Orthodox Church. It is my polite suggestion that he should think about what I wrote of a ‘British Orthodox Church’. I wrote that we must avoid nationalism on the one hand and on the other hand admit that we are far too small to dream about a Local Church now. There may be at least 300,000 Orthodox in the UK, but fewer than 10% (30,000) practise and of that 10% it is doubtful if even 5% (1,500) are English people who practise. And most of the 30,000, including hundreds of the English people, have no desire for an English Orthodox Church; they are quite happy to belong to a Church that is based in another country. This is exactly what happened in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) – most Orthodox Americans of Non-Orthodox origin do not belong to it, thus making its claims strange.

In any case, who would provide the initiative for such a new Local Church? Not the Russian Church, for it has learned from its sad experience precisely with the OCA, whose canonicity is denied by most, as it received its contested Cold War autocephaly on a shared territory. What I was saying to this correspondent, and what I am saying here, is that now is the time for unity in a Metropolia, which could with time become autonomous and then, only with the consent of all, become a new Local Church. Now is not the time for narrow national division.

In a word, I am slightly disappointed, though not at all surprised, that some, perhaps a few on purpose, criticized the details of the trees, but forgot to look at the forest – which was, after all, the point. Above all I am disappointed that some seemed to pay less attention to the second part of the article, a vision of unity for the future, which to my mind is ten times more important than the first part. That simply lists the mistakes of the past and so explains how NOT to build unity and the future – on divisive personalities and divisive modernism. Perhaps some are not ready for the future. I am.

The Future

On what then can future Church unity be built? It can only be built on faithfulness to the Tradition. You cannot build unity on faithfulness to compromise, as I remarked thirty years ago to Archbishop George (Wagner) in Rue Daru, who could provide no answer to this truism, after he had just preached about the need for faithfulness, but never explained faithfulness to what. Why faithfulness? Because the Church that is faithful produces saints and, as we said above, this bringing down of the Holy Spirit to produce saints is the goal of the Church. A so-called Church that is against fasting, monasticism and asceticism, radically shortens and changes the services, destroys a prayerful atmosphere, conforms to the secularist spirit of the Western world, constantly berates Mt Athos, compromises on everything, and does not prepare the next generation of spiritual heroes, the saints and martyrs, as were produced by the Russian Church in the nineteenth century, is not a Church.

In a word, that is a Church that is unfaithful, it is disrespectful of the saints, does not produce saints, it produces only intellectuals who have no role to play in an organism where all the most important and so saving knowledge comes from the Holy Spirit, not from dry books of philosophy that only give you headaches. That is the Church of the philosophers, not the Church of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of illiterate Galilean fishermen, of the Saints of God. Such an unfaithful Church is no longer a Church at all and instead of saints produces only apostates, heretics and schismatics. A glance at twentieth-century Church history confirms this in abundance.

As I said to a former Sourozh priest in Cambridge in 1982, one who had just denied to me the need for spiritual heroes or even their existence and had just launched a magazine about such a new ‘Church’, that Church is just another rationalistic, secular and anti-spiritual organization, for it has nothing to feed our souls with. The Church has one foot in heaven and one foot on earth; the modernists want to make a Church with two feet on earth. They can do so if they want, but it will no longer be a Church, just a Protestant-type social club.

We have in recent years turned a generational corner in the Diaspora. Some in the old generation still seems to think that there are two parts to the Church, those who celebrate the services in ‘foreign’ languages and those who do not. At the mere mention of the word ‘faithful’, they think of their departed parents’ or still earlier generations who culted ‘the old country’ and a ‘foreign’ language. This old generation with all its complex of identity is hopelessly old-fashioned and is dying out. Today, everybody in all jurisdictions in the Diaspora uses English or another appropriate local language.

Today there are still two parts to the Church, but their division has nothing to do with language; of today’s two parts, the vast and often silent majority are trying to be faithful, a small but very vocal minority are not. The latter is not trying to be faithful because it believes in being ‘modern’, in other words, because of psychological and sociological complexes it is trying to conform to the world. ‘Faithful’ no longer means old-fashioned ethnicism; only old calendarists believe because of their chronic insecurity that faithful means a mere aping and anti-creative parroting of the past with pharisaical, imitative, almost Anglo-Catholic ritualism. Faithful means following the practices and spirit of the Church in whatever language we need. Language is totally irrelevant to faithfulness, languages are only permutations of a variety of consonants and vowels, of God-given human speech, of the Word and Breath of God that distinguishes men from animals.

True, one Georgian Orthodox priest did once tell me that God only speaks Georgian. And, some years before that, the same Archbishop George (Wagner), a convert from Catholicism and with an amazing complex about his Berlin past, while railing against the ‘modern’ Romanian use of Romanian in services, told me quite seriously that God only understands Latin, Greek and Slavonic in the services. (Little wonder that the Peckstadt parish and family, like so very many others, left his jurisdiction in those years). However, they were and are wrong! Thank God that that generation, the ones who said quite literally, ‘we would rather see our church close than hear French (or English) here’ has gone. Today, there are still two parts to the Church – but they are divided not according to language, as some in the old generation still think, they are divided according to faithfulness and lack of faithfulness. Agree with me or not, as you like, but my combat has always been with those who want to destroy the faithfulness of the Church and to pray for their enlightenment.

Faithfulness is so important because we know that our Russian Church has produced tens of thousands of saints and so survived, whereas renovationism has produced not a single one – it has produced only apostates, heretics and schismatics, those who conformed to the world, collaborated with atheists and secularists and persecuted and persecute the faithful. So why is faithfulness so necessary in the Diaspora just now?

I believe that we are now at a unique time, a turning point in our Russian Church Diaspora history. In both North America (ROCOR/MP/OCA) and Western Europe (ROCOR/MP/Paris Exarchate) there are three groups of Russian Orthodox (or at least two which are Russian Orthodox and one which has Russian Orthodox origins). All three groups are now faced with the possibility of further unity – or disunity. And unity becomes possible precisely through faithfulness, whereas disunity becomes possible precisely through lack of faithfulness, as we saw with all those tiny sects which rejected the unity between the two parts of the Russian Church in 2007, or with the old calendarists and their 12/13/14/15/16? tiny synods.

Today, in North America, the former leader of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) is a member of ROCOR – a unity unthinkable in the bad old days of the Cold War. The OCA itself is now held by a steady hand, Metropolitan Tikhon, whose very name takes the group back to its historic origins with a Saint of the Russian Church. It may be that unity is at hand, that the modernist-minded and divisive extremes, which have for so long impeded OCA unity with the rest of the Russian Church in North America, will leave the OCA, just as the extremes of ROCOR and the Sourozh Diocese had to leave before their unity and that of both parts of the wider Russian Church could be achieved in 2007. Extremes, mainly Protestant-minded, ‘autocephalist’, fringe modernists, who could not accept united episcopal authority could join the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople or Antioch. This would leave the former OCA free to join a united Russian Orthodox Metropolia in North America.

Today, in Western Europe, the Paris Exarchate is now also held by a new hand, Archbishop Job, whose very name indicates the suffering that must be endured if this group is to return to unity. It may be that there too unity is at hand, that the modernist-minded and divisive extremes, which have for so long impeded Church unity with the rest of the Russian Church in Western Europe, will leave the Paris Exarchate, just as the extremes of ROCOR and the Sourozh Diocese had to leave before their unity and that of both parts of the wider Russian Church could be achieved in 2007. Extremes, mainly Protestant-minded, ‘autocephalist’ fringe modernists, who could not accept united episcopal authority could join the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople or Antioch. This would leave the former Paris Exarchate free to join a united Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe.

I have always refused to take part in anti-unity, anti-mainstream, fragmenting, fringe movements, whether of the Sourozh Diocese, seeing where it was heading in 1982, or of the Paris Exarchate, seeing where it was moving in 1988, when Archbishop George (Wagner) preferred to celebrate the thousandth anniversary of the Baptism of Rus with a Catholic cardinal rather than with the Russian Church, or of old calendarism which had infiltrated the local Diocese of ROCOR in 1974 and was still there in 1997, but is now gone. This is because anti-unity movements are by definition unfaithful.

You can agree with me for wanting faithfulness and so unity, or else throw stones at me for wanting faithfulness and so unity, as some indeed have done. That is your choice, though God is your Judge too. But I will not change the fight for faithfulness and so unity, that is, for true unity, the unity that is founded only on the truth and which comes only from faithfulness, not founded on myths, delusions and faithlessness. For it is no use papering over the cracks and indeed the chasms, as old-fashioned ecumenists, stuck in the 1960s, do, unity is always in truth, that is, in faithfulness. Ask St Photius the Great, St Gregory Palamas and St Mark of Ephesus.

Let me be even clearer. What I am saying is this:

When ‘The History of the Orthodox Church Diaspora, 1917-2027’, comes to be written, what will it read? Perhaps:

‘The history of the Orthodox Church Diaspora is a sad one. Apart from the one bright moment of intra-Russian unity in 2007, it is a history of disunity and bickering because of divisive personalities with divisive policies. This has continued to this day and there is little hope for the future. Starting from Pan-Orthodox Diaspora unity under the Russian Orthodox Church in 1917, which was destroyed by the tragic Russian Revolution, Pan-Orthodox unity in the Diaspora has still not been restored after 110 years, to this very day’.

Or will it read like this? Perhaps:

‘Starting from Pan-Orthodox Diaspora unity in 1917, today, 110 years after the tragic Russian Revolution which destroyed that unity, unity is once more within our grasp. This has been achieved by restored Russian Church unity, the firm foundation of which was laid in 2007 by the adherence of both parts of the Russian Church, inside Russia and outside Russia, to the Russian Orthodox Tradition by the blood of the New Martyrs and Confessors, as represented in the Diaspora by the universal spirit of St John of Shanghai. Then came the confirmation of that unity when two former fragments, the former Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and the remains of the Paris Exarchate, overcame their politically-inspired Russophobia, as well as their equally divisive American and French phyletism, and, having jettisoned that secularism, joined in with Russian Church unity.

Today, other national groups in the Diaspora, now again faithfully adhering to the unity-creating principle of the Tradition, rediscovered after generations of decadence and conformism to the practices and values of the Non-Orthodox world (in North America thanks greatly to the monasteries founded by Fr Ephraim), are uniting around this example of responsibility. For they are joining in the life of the Four multinational Metropolias, formed on the initiative of the Russian Orthodox Church, in Western Europe, North America, Latin America and Australasia. The formation of four new multinational Local Churches, following the impetus and examples of these Russian Metropolias, is now within sight. The cleansing of Church life from spiritual impurity, from heterodox-inspired secularism and historic injustice, is now leading to restoration and the return to canonicity’.

In other words, Diaspora unity, which is what we all want, cannot be built on divisive compromises, but only on faithfulness to the One Saint-making Tradition, our lifetime combat.

In other words, the ship is preparing to leave the port. We should make sure that we have tickets for it. Otherwise we shall find ourselves isolated and stranded on the dilapidated jetty of the desert island of dying heterodoxy – a lonely place to be at the best of times.

The Situation of English Orthodoxy and a Vision for the Future of Russian Orthodoxy in Europe

God is not in Might, but in Right.

St Alexander of the Neva

Introduction

I have been told that, ‘I tell it as it is’. Perhaps as a result, I have been asked to write of the contemporary situation of English Orthodoxy, with particular emphasis on the tragic legacy of the late Metr Antony (Bloom) and the resulting Sourozh schism. This I will do, as I knew the Metropolitan well, some forty years ago between 1974 and 1982, and in January 1981 he tonsured me reader. I also think it is worthwhile because the past and present situation in England reflects much that is true in the broader European picture. However, I still do this reluctantly as I dislike talking about the sad past and would much prefer to talk about the future. On the other hand, how can we have a vision of the future, if we do not first understand the past and the present?

True, I have few good memories of the past. However, apart from hundreds of young parishioners, of whose children I baptize up to fifty a year, I have six adult children as well as grandchildren and it is for their future, not for my past, that I live. This is why I think we should put the situation of English Orthodoxy into the general situation of all us Russian Orthodox in Western Europe. In so doing I also wish to avoid the common English (and not so English) disease of parochialism and insularity. The past is a dead country, all we can and must do is pray with compassion for those weak human beings like us who took part in it. One day we shall all stand side by side at the Dread Judgement. Let us look to the future, where all is possible. However, before we can do this I must do my duty and start at the beginning.

Part One: The Past and Present: English Orthodoxy

Today, around two thousand English Orthodox (the numbers of Scottish, Irish and Welsh Orthodox are even tinier – there being only a few dozen of each at most) and some seventy English clergy are divided among three main jurisdictions or dioceses. The other four jurisdictions present in England, as elsewhere, the Romanian, Serbian and tiny Bulgarian and Georgian Orthodox jurisdictions, are almost wholly mononational and have hardly any English members. The three jurisdictions or dioceses with English members are: the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Patriarchate of Constantinople (two groups) and the Russian Orthodox Church (two groups).

1. The Patriarchate of Antioch

Some twenty years ago about 300 dissatisfied Anglicans were received with their own agenda into this Patriarchate. They had previously been turned away by the Patriarchate of Constantinople and by the Sourozh Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, which were both bound by their ecumenical ties with Canterbury. As Antioch had hardly existed in England until then, basically a new jurisdiction and so a further division were born. All the priests except for one now in this group were once Anglican priests, ordained as Orthodox priests with little training. One now suspended man was ordained within three days of being received.

Given this history, today the group seems to form a rather isolated ex-Anglican club, holding less attraction to the vast majority of English people. Indeed, some in the group seem to reject Non-Anglicans, one parish even banning the use of any language except English, and some call this group ‘Anglioch’. These ex-Anglican parishes appear to have little to do with Arab Orthodox and seem to avoid concelebrating with other jurisdictions, though they dress as Russian clergy. One person, perhaps unfairly, put it to me that: ‘Anti-Russian and Anti-Greek = Anti-och’.

Such a view represents only the negative half of the reality. On a positive side, this group is very dynamic, some parishes have their own properties and there are some younger clergy, over fifteen altogether now. Its larger parishes attract mainly Eastern Europeans, who are deprived of services in their own languages, or of once lapsed Greeks. Some of these people know their Faith and are able to educate the Antiochian clergy. The recent appointment for them, 20 years late, of an Antiochian bishop, who may get a visa to come to England this November, could at last mean the introduction of liturgical discipline and an entry into the mainstream of the Church from the margins. This should include teaching clergy how to serve, teaching people how to sing (at present Anglicanized ‘Russian-style’ singing is used), as well as stopping intercommunion, ‘charismatic’ and other alien practices, such as the commemoration of the Armenians and Ethiopians as Orthodox, using girl acolytes or making communion compulsory for all, as does happen in some parishes.

Antiochian services I have attended resemble a mixture of Anglicanism and a very confused knowledge of the Orthodox typicon with invented services, a kind of ‘make it up as you go’ approach. This style has discredited the Antiochian group. In conclusion, the Antiochians have zeal, which is admirable, but not knowledge, which is not admirable. The question is if they want the knowledge and have the humility to accept the discipline and traditions of the Orthodox Church and an Orthodox bishop, instead of imposing Anglican agendas on the faithful. Retired Anglican priests whose hobby is the ‘Eastern rite’ are one thing, the Orthodox Church is another.

2. The Patriarchate of Constantinople

a. The Archdiocese of Thyateira

This is a large and mostly Greek Cypriot Diocese, whose ruling hierarch must have either a Greek or Cypriot or Turkish passport. However, as the Greek Cypriots mainly moved to England from Commonwealth Cyprus between 1945 and 1975, they are now dying out. Nationalism is rife and English enquirers into Orthodoxy (as well as Romanians and others) are typically turned away from parishes and told to go and join the Anglican Church because they ‘are not Greeks’. The loss of young Cypriots is such that no fewer than six ethnic Cypriots are priests in the Anglican Diocese of London. At least there they can understand the services.

The hellenization of the few Anglicans who have been received and ordained is obligatory. Ultra-Greek names like Kallistos, Meliton, Aristobulos, Athanasios, Eleutherios, Dionysios, Christodoulos, Pankratios, Ephraim, Panteleimon, Palamas, Kosmas etc are placed on ex-Anglican vicars with perfectly good Orthodox names and they are ordained as cheap (unpaid) Greek Orthodox clergy. One of them is so hellenized that he even changed his surname to a Greek name. The best-known example of this group is the former Oxford academic, Timothy (Metr Kallistos) Ware, who lives very much as a retired parish priest and has never been a diocesan bishop, but rather a ‘conference bishop’. These hellenized ex-Anglicans use Russian-style singing in their services, probably because of the difficulty of using foreign-sounding Greek chant in any language other than Greek.

b. The Deanery of the Exarchate

As elsewhere in the world, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has for political reasons also taken into its jurisdiction dissidents such as Ukrainian nationalists and the Paris Exarchate. The latter group has again been present in England since 2006, refounded by 300 mainly ex-Anglican ‘Bloomites’, including over ten clergy. In other words, these were dissidents from the Sourozh Diocese of the then Moscow Patriarchate (MP), previously run by Metr Antony Bloom (see below, Paragraph 3b). After the death in 2004 of Metr Antony, their leader and protector, these did not want to adhere to the discipline and traditions of the real Russian Orthodox Church, which were then being reintroduced into their Diocese. Thus, they left for the Paris Exarchate, at first under the controversial Bishop Basil (Osborne), then after his defrocking becoming a small Deanery.

Here, under the Patriarchate of Constantinople, they would be allowed to do anything they wanted, including keeping the personal practices of Metr Antony (Bloom), without interference from either Constantinople or Thyateira or Paris, as one of their clergy proudly told me. For example, they could have communion without confession, give intercommunion (as their Amphipolis website used to proclaim, though now they tell me that intercommunion is limited to Monophysites), use the new calendar, celebrate the Proskomidia in the middle of the Church, wear Greek vestments (strange when you claim to be of the Russian Tradition) or shout out names during the service in Anglican ‘charismatic’ style, or make communion compulsory for all.

This group is very small, with several communities of ten or fewer people. Where it is bigger, it is because of the presence of Eastern Europeans, for example Church-deprived Romanians, who have no loyalty to or knowledge of Bloomite ideology. The Deanery has virtually no property of its own and although it has in recent years ordained several retired Anglican clergy virtually without any training, it seems to be dying out. The average age of its clergy is about 70 and many of the original laypeople are of the same generation.

It seems difficult to understand, if they wish to survive at all, why they do not simply join the ex-Anglican Antiochian group or at least join the ex-Anglicans in the mainstream Thyateira Diocese. Some have suggested that their isolation is to do with their ferocious Russophobia, which Antioch does not share. Indeed, some of their statements about other Christians makes it difficult to believe that they are Christians. Interestingly, their cause was backed to the hilt at the time by the Establishment Times and the MI5-fed Daily Telegraph. Others have suggested that there is a class reason, that it is because the Exarchate is largely composed of upper-class Anglicans, whereas the other ex-Anglicans are middle-class. Some call this group, like the Antiochian group, ‘Anglicans with icons’ or ‘Anglodox’, rather than Orthodox.

3. The Russian Church

a. The ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland

Having established the first ROCOR parish in England in 1919, ROCOR established a diocese in England in 1929 under Bishop Nicholas (Karpov), who uniquely was not given a fictitious title like ‘of Thyateira’ or ‘of Sourozh’, as given to other dioceses, but the real title ‘of London’. It was also the first Orthodox diocese to have any monastic life in England and the first diocese to use English, from the 1930s on. The diocese expanded after 1945 with a wave of new immigrants. However, after the departure of Archbishop John (Maksimovich) (now St John of Shanghai) in 1962, the diocese fell into nationalistic and sectarian currents and for a time became isolated.

From the 1970s on, a small group of unintegrated Anglo-Catholic converts began to impose old calendarism, imported from the USA under the influence of Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) in New York. Their views were marked by anti-Anglicanism rather than Orthodoxy, a negativity that came from spiritual pride. Given the failure of nationalistic Russians to pass on the Faith to their children and grandchildren and these sectarian trends, once far larger than the new Diocese of Sourozh, in the 70s and 80s the ROCOR Diocese began to die out. In the late 1970s and 1980s, in quick succession it lost its last two elderly and ill bishops, its London priest and its London church building. English people were turned away from the Russian parishes or were deterred by the sectarian old calendarism trying to take over diocesan life. It seemed as though the ROCOR Diocese would disappear altogether.

This period must be understood in the context of the then general internal battle in ROCOR between New York and Jordanville, that is, between the political, nationalist and sectarian wing of ROCOR and the spiritual wing, which saw in St John of Shanghai its figurehead. (Sadly, it is also true that when St John was in England, he was never frequented by personalities such as Metr Antony (Bloom) or Fr Sophrony (Sakharov), by both of whom he was at best ignored). In his later life in San Francisco, St John was much persecuted by this political wing of ROCOR because he was a missionary to Non-Russians, because he prayed for the captive Patriarchs of Moscow and because, like the mainstream in ROCOR, he knew that Church unity would come as soon as the Church inside Russia was free from atheist tyranny. This was denied by the political sectarians, who from the 1970s began to assert in justification for their sectarianism that the MP was ‘without grace’ and that somehow ROCOR was the last True Church on earth!

As the elderly Russians died out in the ROCOR British Diocese, in the 1990s it was providentially renewed by new arrivals from Russia, who found the same underlying ethos in it as in the MP inside Russia (unlike in the Sourozh Diocese, which, ironically, was officially part of the MP!). These new arrivals paid for the building of the small, Russian-style ROCOR Cathedral in London. As unity between ROCOR, under the ever-memorable Metr Laurus, and the MP, under the former émigré Patriarch Alexis II, approached in 2007, the long predicted schism occurred. Some forty mainly Anglo-Catholic converts and a few very right-wing individuals of Russian extraction (including even pro-Nazis) lapsed from ROCOR. This mirrored exactly the Sourozh schism (see Paragraph 3b below).

This was a spiritual tragedy for them but the relief felt by the faithful was palpable – the abscess which had been growing since the infiltration of sectarianism from the USA in the 1970s had at last burst. Peripheral and other problems also solved themselves as a few other individuals left and by 2009 all the extremes had fallen away, normal Church life could continue from a now healthy centre and the Church was ready to grow again. ROCOR was able to return to its destiny and pioneering historic path of being the integrated and bilingual Russian Orthodox Diocese, faithful to the Tradition, culturally at ease in the British Isles, and without fear of interference from outside forces. Having been through its adolescent growing pains, the ROCOR Diocese had overcome the crisis and become much stronger and adult.

What is the situation today? Today most members of ROCOR are people who have settled in England (and also in Wales and Ireland) from the ex-Soviet Union. In other words, the flock is virtually identical to the flock of the new Sourozh Diocese (see Paragraph 3b below). However, eight of the clergy are English, though there is also a Romanian deacon and two excellent Russian clergy from the ex-Soviet Union. In 2006 the future Archbishop Elisei of Sourozh was actually nominated to the Patriarchate in Moscow (then faced with the Sourozh schism) by the ROCOR ruling bishop, Archbishop Mark of Berlin.

Although most members of ROCOR come from the ex-Soviet Union, unlike Sourozh, the ROCOR Diocese has a long history, with memories going back before the Second World War and the Revolution to the time of the Tsar, a long and deep pastoral experience, including the use of English, its own church buildings and therefore a voice independent of heterodox organizations. In other words, ROCOR could certainly never be accused of being dependent on one personality or being ‘Soviet’, as the Sourozh Diocese sometimes is, and it is much better established than that Diocese. However, the weakness of the ROCOR Diocese is definitely its shortage of priests, especially in Wales and Ireland, and its lack of a resident ruling bishop. The main issue now is further growth.

b. The Diocese of Sourozh – the former Moscow Patriarchate (MP)

Several hundred English Orthodox find themselves in the Sourozh Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia, which used to be known as the MP. Some go back to the time when that Diocese was ruled by Metr Antony (Bloom) (+ 2004), others have come more recently. I have been asked to set down a record of Metr Antony’s tragic legacy. This will be long, as it is complex.

When the small Paris Exarchate parish in London returned to the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) jurisdiction after the Second World War (following its leader in Paris, Metr Eulogius), Fr Antony (Bloom), a beardless hieromonk without theological education, was sent by Moscow from Paris to look after the group in question. The vast majority of Russian emigres in England, whether arrivals after 1917 or after 1945, would have nothing to do with the Moscow Patriarchate or the modernist-looking Fr Antony, and continued to belong to the far larger parishes of the Diocese of the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR).

Therefore, virtually without a flock, the very talented Fr Antony learned English and began to do missionary work among Anglicans, attracting several hundred into the former Anglican church he used in London. Over the years, their numbers swelled, perhaps to over 2,000, and he was able to form a tiny diocese which was given the title of Sourozh. This looked good in theory; the reality was quite different. The Sourozh Diocese was a paper diocese, an empire of the imagination. There were three reasons for this.

Firstly, Metr Antony, as he had become by the early 60s, anxious to create a diocese, would take people without preparation, that is, without relieving them of their Anglican baggage and so spiritual impurity first. As they had little idea of the Russian Orthodox Tradition, most of them lapsed very quickly, often within a few weeks or months. As an example of this, I will relate what five years ago one of the new Russian subdeacons from the Sourozh Cathedral in London told me about a weekend visit of the new ruling hierarch, Archbishop Elisei of Sourozh, to a provincial community.

When Archbishop Elisei got up on the Sunday morning, the priest’s wife asked him whether he would like bacon and eggs for breakfast. Now that is a normal question in the Church of England (or even in parts of the Catholic Church today), where communion, if it is given at all, is simply a memorial of bread and wine and there is no fasting before it. For an Orthodox of course it is shocking that an Orthodox priest would have bacon and eggs before the Liturgy and communion. In fact, I was shocked by the subdeacon and said: ‘You mean to say that you did not know that that was how the whole Sourozh Diocese was run for decades?’ I was amazed by his naivety and told him: ‘Now you understand why serious Orthodox joined ROCOR’.

In 1976, falling foul of the Soviet government’s anti-Solzhenitsyn line (which it also forced onto the MP) and looking for political freedom from Soviet political pressure (especially distasteful to the upper-class Establishment Anglicans in his London Cathedral), Metr Antony asked to join ROCOR. As a result of his unOrthodox attitudes, illustrated above, he was refused. ROCOR did not want a bishop with unOrthodox practices; if ROCOR had accepted him, it would all have resulted in scandals.

Secondly, Metr Antony never reached out to the mass of English people, to whom he remained completely unknown despite his TV appearances (at a time when only the wealthier half of society had TV) and radio interviews. He concentrated on the upper class, especially wealthy academics, artists, novelists, musicians and poets, many of whom lived around his former Anglican Cathedral in the richest part of London. Metr Antony seemed to have little time for ordinary English people, if ever he knew we existed.

He was also notorious for never visiting his parishes and flock. Most of these had never seen him there and had no idea what an episcopal visit or service was. (Metr Antony usually served as a priest, refusing to celebrate episcopal services, if he knew how to do them). He was not a liturgist and did not teach anyone how to celebrate the services. His was a religion of the elite and it was often difficult to know exactly what he said – it all seemed to be the French philosophical style and not substance. In the 1970s and early 1980s, as I know only too well from personal experience, he had no time at all for the veneration of local saints, though he was later forced to change this attitude. And he also had no space in his Cathedral for icons of the New Martyrs, even after their later canonization in Moscow in 2000.

We should not forget that Metr Antony was himself from the Russian upper class and, partly as a result, his convert group seemed to be an upper-class Anglican club or clique. Conversations that I heard at his Cathedral revolved around villas in Tuscany and on Patmos which belonged to these people: hardly typical English people, who felt excluded by such snobbery. All this was combined with Metr Antony’s marked emotionalism, his strong psychic abilities and affectations, which lacked the sobriety of the Orthodox Tradition. Some middle-aged women fell in love with him and, with his good looks and exotic and exaggerated Russian-Parisian accent, by the 1970s his nicknames included ‘the guru’ and ‘the romantic bishop’. I remember one such tragic case very clearly. For us who came from solid and pragmatic English backgrounds, this was all nonsense. We would see through this act from miles away.

This brings us to the problem of Metr Antony’s personality cult. As we have said, he was an immensely talented man with a very strong personality. Indeed, his father, Boris Bloom (buried in Meudon outside Paris), a Tsarist diplomat who was well-known in Paris, had delved into the occult and taught his son how to hypnotize. I knew two women whom Metr Antony tried to hypnotize in the 1970s. For what reason I do not know. In such a Diocese there could be room for only one personality. This is why in 1965 an equally unusual Parisian personality, the former Hindu, Art Nouveau painter, personalist philosopher and one-time monk of Mt Athos, where he had met a saint, Fr Sophrony (Sakharov), left the Diocese of Sourozh. With his three monks. he switched back to the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the new calendar and introduced some very unusual and indeed unique practices. The fact that Metr Antony was notoriously anti-monastic did not help.

The cult of Metr Antony was also why his ordinations were generally controversial, often being those of men who for canonical reasons would never have been ordained by another bishop. This created a dependency of such clergy on Metr Antony, a misplaced sense of gratitude and idolization among weak personalities. This was also why Metr Antony strongly discouraged English people from visiting other parishes and travelling to Orthodox countries, especially Russia and Mt Athos; he did not want them to be exposed to the broader reality, which would raise awkward questions about his peculiar style and values.

Here I do not wish to go into the painful details and I would rather quote the Establishment figure of Metr Kallistos (Ware), who is now in his eighties. Known as ‘o anglikanos’ (the Anglican) by certain of his Greek brother bishops, Metr Kallistos is known for his caution in speaking. Although he has very curious and Phanariot views of the Diaspora, he is well-known for this Anglican-style diplomacy. In an interview with the liberal ‘Pravmir’ site, he has expressed the situation around Metr Antony as mildly as is possible:

‘Now the main criticism that I would make of Bishop (sic) Antony is that he would allow people to become colossally dependent upon him. They would idolize him. Perhaps that was not entirely his fault that they came to feel such ardent devotion towards him. But I felt there was something unhealthy here. It was too personal in the wrong sense, that they saw him almost as a god on earth. And he would allow people, particularly women, to become very closely dependent upon him. And then he would suddenly abandon them. I don’t think I am indulging here in malicious gossip, but I know a number of cases where he had spent a lot of time with people, particular people, and then suddenly he would cut off, not see them any more, not respond to their letters or telephone calls. Now I don’t know why he allowed such a close relationship to be built up and then abandoned them. But if I was to criticize his work, I would think there was the weakest point’.

In other words, it could be said that Metr Antony was the London equivalent of Bishop Jean (Evgraf) (Kovalevsky) in Paris, a bishop who set up a kind of fringe diocese on the edge of the Church and which also collapsed after his death. (However, many clergy and laity also left the Sourozh Diocese during Metr Antony’s lifetime, having seen through it). True, Bishop Jean attracted guenonists, occultists, freemasons and other marginals, ordaining them within days, whereas Metr Antony attracted those who fell in love with his personality and pseudo-mysticism. Sadly, Metr Antony’s existentialist personalism (mid-twentieth century French intellectual philosophy rather than the Church Fathers, whom Metr Antony hardly ever mentioned) had led to the construction of a mini-diocese ‘centred on his personality and not on the Church’. These are the exact words used to me by the present ruling bishop of Sourozh, Archbishop Elisei, soon after his appointment in 2006.

Now anything built on a personality, even more on a dead personality, is extremely fragile. People who idolize a personality are unable to pass on anything to their children, who cannot get to know the personality because he is dead, and so the members simply get old and die out, becoming historical sidelines, alienated from the mainstream. A diocese centred on a personality is a paper diocese. Thus, Sourozh still has hardly any Church property because everyone, as I was told in 1981, was expected to go to London and worship at the feet of the personality. So, nothing got built up. Tragically, the Sourozh Diocese still only has a fairly small Cathedral in west London (far too small for the flock) and four chapels in Oxford, Nottingham, Manchester and London, which can only contain a few dozen Orthodox. For the rest, the Sourozh Diocese is still dependent on borrowing mainly Anglican churches which it can occasionally use, often only once a month on a Saturday.

On top of this it suffers from a chronic shortage of priests with training. The average age is about 63. The disastrous personality cult in other words completely failed to set up the infrastructure necessary for a real diocese, however small. Everything had to be centred around the Cathedral in London because that is where ‘the personality’ was. This is the tragic legacy of Metr Antony, an utter lack of vision because there was no Tradition, only a personality. It contrasts very sadly with the radiant legacy of a saint in another island archipelago on the other side of Eurasia, St Nicholas of Japan, who built on the Tradition.

In 1982, a senior priest, the American Fr (later as Metr Antony’s successor, Bishop) Basil Osborne told me that ‘as soon as Metr Antony is dead, we’ll go to the Greeks’. This statement as well as the personality cult and renovationist practices (no confession before communion – as in Anglicanism – , the introduction of the new calendar, no Third and Sixth Hours before the Liturgy, no attempt to ask women to dress as Russian Orthodox etc.), caused us to leave the Diocese of Sourozh for good. I had wanted to be part of the Russian Orthodox Church, not of an émigré cocktail of modernist practices and fantasies, which had nothing to do with the Russian Orthodox Tradition. In such a way the Sourozh Diocese chased away those who were the most devoted to the Russian Orthodox Church. People were ready to die for the Church, for ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church’, but in Sourozh the seed of the faithful was rejected – and so the Church did not grow. This was no way to treat the faithful.

In response to my view that the Church was failing to preach the Gospel to ordinary English people and was not providing food for the soul, but only intellectual philosophy, Fr Basil also told me that ‘there is no such thing as ordinary people’. Clearly, this said a great deal about him who became Metr Antony’s successor. Living in the ivory towers of Oxford, Fr Basil simply had no contact with the vast masses of English people. Later, an aristocratic priest-colleague of his, also ordained by Metr Antony, told me exactly the same thing. In 2005 it was Bishop Basil who provocatively invited the notorious neo-renovationist, Fr George Kochetkov, once suspended by Patriarch Alexis II, to come from Moscow and become the main priest at the London Sourozh Cathedral. This makes clear that the Sourozh schism was indeed a renovationist schism and it is indeed renovationists who revere Metr Antony’s memory.

Apart from his English convert adepts, it is true that Metr Antony was also idolized by some naïve Soviet convert dissidents, mainly of Jewish origin. These ‘intelligenty’ of the third wave started to arrive in London in the 1970s and fell in love with Metr Antony. I remember one of them telling me how he had first seen the Metropolitan cleaning the Cathedral floor, dressed in a simple undercassock. The dissident at once took him for a saint! I told him that all bishops and priests in the Diaspora lived like this and that if that was a criterion of sainthood, then we were all saints. Conditioned by Soviet practices of distant and unknown bishops sweeping past the people in big black cars under KGB surveillance, he could not make the cultural jump to Diaspora reality. Culture shock totally distorted his judgement.

From the 1990s, in the last years of Metr Antony’s life, as immigrants flooded in from the ex-Soviet Union, a virtual civil war began in his London Cathedral. The immigrants expected Russian Orthodoxy, not some pseudo-mystical convert personality cult. Apart from the small ROCOR Cathedral, there was no other church they could go to in London. Inevitably, only two years after Metr Antony’s death, with the young Bishop Hilarion expelled, the Sourozh Diocese collapsed. The bubble had finally burst. Metr Antony’s divisiveness and pastoral failure had led in turn to the divisiveness and pastoral failure of his pupil, Bishop Basil (Osborne).

Just as the Paris Exarchate’s modernist experiment failed (and Metr Antony was 100% Parisian), Metr Antony’s experiment failed because he had tried to build a Diocese on the divisive sand of a personality cult instead of on the collective rock of Russian Orthodox Tradition. This all came as no surprise to us who had known how it would all end since 1982 and had been pleading with the Moscow Patriarchate since 2000 to do something about the catastrophic pastoral situation in London. Nevertheless, we can at least learn from such failures.

Part Two: The Future: European Orthodoxy

I have done my duty in answering questions about the past and present situation of English Orthodoxy and Russian Orthodoxy in England. I hope that this will help us to avoid repeating the errors and extremes of the past and will also help us to pray for those involved, whether living or departed. That is our duty, for we are no better than they. I would now like to speak of something much more positive, much closer to my heart, the future.

1. The European Dimension of the Orthodox Church

In this context of the future people ask me about the possibility of there one day being a ‘British’ Orthodox Church. Since the 1990s I have written about such a possibility – and always negatively, even though I have since 1975 championed the use of local languages in services, whether English or French, and at great personal cost from hostile clergy. Why, this refusal of even the concept of a ‘British Orthodox Church’?

Firstly, it is because there is no such thing as ‘British’. Just as we do not talk about a ‘Soviet’ Orthodox Church, so we do not talk about a ‘British’ Orthodox Church. The word ‘British’ has only been used on three occasions in history and always by foreign invaders. Once by the Romans, then by the Normans and lastly by the Hanoverians and their Germanic followers among the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Victorians and those nostalgic for their imperialism like Thatcher, Blair and Cameron. In other words, ‘British’ is a word for an artificial, colonial conglomerate of countries and as such is used by London imperialists; the Irish rightly long ago rejected it as a dirty word and the Scots are now in open revolt against it. Personally, like everyone I grew up with in the English countryside, I have never recognized myself as ‘British’, but as English, and I hope that the Irish, Scots, Welsh and we English will soon gain complete freedom from the ‘British’ and their tyrannical and foreign Establishment, to which the alien ‘British’ alone belong.

Secondly, all European countries, including Britain, are in any case far too small to have their own Local Orthodox Churches and, thirdly, Europe has anyway suffered quite enough from nationalism. We do not want any more insularity and nationalism in the Church – there is enough of that in the Balkans. What we need today is vision. Now, in this context, nearly thirty years ago, in 1986, I wrote a paper at the request of Archbishop George (Wagner) of the Rue Daru Paris Jurisdiction (Patriarchate of Constantinople) entitled, ‘Une Eglise Orthodoxe pour l’Europe: Vision ou Reve’ (‘An Orthodox Church for Europe: Vision or Dream’). As he was German, I thought he might be interested, especially as I had envisioned the Rue Daru jurisdiction as the possible kernel of such a future Local Church – in 2004 Patriarch Alexis II was to make the same mistake. I later found the paper thrown away into his kitchen wastepaper bin. Such were those visionless days – and he was by far from being the only bishop who had no vision for an Orthodox Europe.

Since that time it is true that we have seen the development of the pompously-named ‘Pan-Orthodox Episcopal Assemblies’ (= bishops’ meetings) in Western Europe. This is the imperialistic concept of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, rather naively promoted by Metr Kallistos (Ware) and Metr Athenagoras (Peckstadt) in Belgium. Of course, it is good that now the Orthodox bishops of any territory actually meet each other and know what each other looks like, but we all know that these meetings are going nowhere; they are often talking shops which occasionally meet, but at which no decisions of any consequence are ever taken. They just give a superficial prestige to Constantinople.

What I am saying from both the above examples is that we can expect nothing for the future of Orthodoxy in Western Europe from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which has never freely given any Church autocephaly and has continually tried to take back autocephaly even when political circumstances forced it to grant it – as in the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia etc. In this way Constantinople, fallen since 1453, politically captive since 1948, and through Greek nationalism totally failing to recognize that Church leadership long ago passed to the Russian Church, today resembles the other Balkan Churches. None of them has the vision, is big enough, is missionary-minded enough or is unphyletist and mutinational enough to set up the Pan-European Metropolitan structure necessary for the foundation of any future Orthodox Church in Europe.

2. The Duty of Care of the Russian Orthodox Church in Europe

This leaves the Russian Orthodox Church, fifty times larger than the Patriarchate of Constantinople, as the only Local Orthodox Church which can do anything for European Orthodoxy. After all, of all the Local Churches only the Russian Orthodox Church is large and supra-national. Its name in Russian is ‘Russkaya’, meaning ‘of Rus’, not ‘Rossiyskaya’, meaning ‘of the Russian Federation’. In other words, it alone is multinational – like its Patriarch, the Russian Orthodox Church is the Church of All Rus and this means not just Russia, the Orthodox Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Carpatho-Russia, but any part of the world where Russian Orthodox faithful live. It alone has kept the old multinational Orthodox ideal of ‘romaiosini’, of the unity in diversity of the Christian Empire. Indeed, in 2004 Patriarch Alexis II at last spoke precisely of the need to establish a Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Western Europe. However, in 2004 the proposition of Patriarch Alexis II could only be theoretical. Only since 2007 has the Russian Orthodox Church even been in a theoretical position to establish such a Metropolia. Why?

a. Russian Orthodox Church Unity

In May 2007, the MP and ROCOR signed the Act of Canonical Communion in Moscow. With this one act, the division that began after the Russian Revolution between the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and the Church Inside Russia (then called the MP) and was forced onto the Church by atheist persecution inside the Soviet Union ceased. According to the 2007 agreement, ROCOR was gradually to give up its few small temporary communities on the territory of the ex-Soviet Union (the canonical territory of the Church Inside Russia) and in return, in time, the Church Inside Russia would, as is only logical, cede its relatively few but sometimes large communities outside Russia to ROCOR.

The first part of this agreement took place fairly swiftly, but the second part of the agreement, for perfectly good pastoral reasons, can only be implemented with time. This situation concerns above all the shared territories of Western Europe and Latin America, since the vast majority of Russian Orthodox parishes in its other territories in Oceania and North America are in any case under ROCOR. Thus, for the moment, we still have the absurd situation of two Russian Orthodox bishops of Berlin, Archbishop Theophan and Archbishop Mark. However, all agree that this will not last.

In effect, both the old MP and the old ROCOR ceased to exist on that day in May 2007. What came into being was a reunited and worldwide Russian Orthodox Church, three-quarters of the whole Orthodox Church, with the same Faith and under the same Patriarch, politically free but administratively in two parts, inside Russia and outside Russia, so that both parts are Patriarchal, but one is based in Moscow and the other, much smaller, is based in New York. The unique canonical territory of the Church inside Russia covers all the countries of the former Soviet Union (except Georgia) and countries where all the missions were founded by it, officially only China and Japan, but in reality also Thailand, Iran, Cuba and North Korea.

The territories of the Church Outside Russia, and these are territories mainly shared with other Orthodox, include Western Europe, North America, Latin America and Oceania (including Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia). Thus the new ROCOR has the potential to become again (as it was in the beginning) a multi-Metropolia Church, with four Metropolias, one in Western Europe, one in North America, one in Latin America and one in Oceania. Perhaps one day it could also include Alaska as a fifth Metropolia, but only if that territory returns to the Russian Orthodox Church from its present American administration.

b. The Territory of Europe to be United in a Metropolia

Europe, that is Western Europe, is a cultural ensemble, because it is all basically ex-Orthodox (1,000 years ago) and now, as it has largely lapsed into its Gadarene secularism, ex-Catholic (historically ex-Protestant also means ex-Catholic). I am speaking of the following 25 countries: Iceland, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, Norway, Denmark (with the Faeroes), Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, France, Monaco, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Hungary, Portugal, Spain (and the part of Spain called Gibraltar), Andorra, Italy, San Marino and Malta. I exclude from this definition of Western Europe Poland, the Czech Lands and Slovakia, as they already have their own Local Churches and canonical territory. Similarly, I also exclude Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, since, like Montenegro and Macedonia, they are part of the canonical territory of the Serbian Church. As for Albania, like Romania, Greece, Bulgaria and Cyprus, it already has its own Local Church.

It is true that Finland, which is in this list of 25 countries, has over 20 parishes and other communities that at present belong to the Patriarchate of Constantinople and celebrate Easter on the Catholic calendar (similar to a non-canonical group in Estonia). However, Russian Orthodox do not frequent such churches, whose Faith has been called ‘Lutheranism with icons’. They prefer to attend the quite separate and canonical Russian Orthodox churches in Finland, which are growing. Also there are those who consider that Hungary, also in the list of 25 countries, should have its own Local Church, like the Poles and the Czechs and Slovaks. However, we live in the world as it is now, not as it may be one day. For the moment, therefore, Hungary must be included in the territory of a European Metropolia, as defined above.

3. A Future Metropolia

a. Structure

Now as regards a future European Metropolia under the Patriarchal Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), it is clear that this will be a real Metropolia with several hundred real parishes and real churches and, very importantly, real monasteries. This will not be like the Paris Exarchate or the old Sourozh Diocese, a paper empire, a series of modernistic, semo-Uniat communities often fewer than ten or twenty in number, celebrating in front rooms and garden sheds, or composed of clergy who were ordained with little training because no-one else would ordain them or even who use blackmail against their Archbishop in Paris: ‘If you do not allow me to do what I want, I will join the Greeks’. (Or the Romanians or someone else. Much more rarely, this blackmail may involve a threat of passage to ‘the Russians’. However, this threat is rarely used because those who today remain in the Exarchate generally believe in Russophobia – the ideology which justifies the continued existence of the Exarchate).

Where should the geographical centre of such a Metropolia be? Until recently I had always thought of it as Paris, the historical centre of the Russian emigration, where there is, in temporary premises, a Russian Orthodox seminary and where a Cathedral complex has long been planned. However, as a Metropolitan centre this choice is threatened by two things, the ecumenism and modernism apparently ingrained in the Paris air and the Russophobic policies of the present US-controlled French government. Today France is in a state of social chaos and disintegration. It may therefore be that we should think more radically. Indeed, two other possible centres for a Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe exist: they are Berlin (there are large numbers of Russian Orthodox in Germany) and Rome (where there is the large Russian church of St Catherine’s and above all which is the historical centre of the Western Patriarchate. After all, the initials of the English words ‘Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe’ spell R.O.M.E.).

It now seems to me that there should initially be seven dioceses in such a Metropolia. These are: Germania (Germany, German-speaking Switzerland and the Netherlands, including Flemish-speaking Belgium); Gallia (France, French-speaking Belgium, French-speaking Switzerland, Luxembourg and Monaco); Iberia (Spain, Gibraltar, Portugal and Andorra); the Isles (the British Isles and Ireland); Italia (Italy, San Marino, Italian-speaking Switzerland and Malta); Scandinavia (Iceland, the Faeroes, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland); Austria-Hungaria (Austria and Hungary). With time two or three bishops could be appointed to such large dioceses, under an archbishop. For example, Germania could have an archbishop in Berlin, a bishop for western Germany, a bishop for the Dutch-speaking areas and a fourth for Switzerland. Scandinavia could have an archbishop in Stockholm who would also look after Denmark, a bishop in Helsinki and another for Norway and Iceland. These are mere possible examples for two dioceses or future archdioceses. Who knows the future?

At present the episcopate of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe is not organized as one and some members are elderly. ROCOR is concentrated in Western Germany and Switzerland, though with several parishes in France, Belgium, Denmark and England, but it has virtually no existence in Italy, Spain and Portugal or in the rest of Scandinavia, in which countries the Church Inside Russia has over 100 parishes. ROCOR has three bishops, the youngest of whom is aged about sixty. ROCOR certainly has experience, but it will need new bishops. Some of the dioceses in Europe, which are still for the moment dependent on the Church Inside Russia, will also need new bishops in the future. Episcopal candidates must speak languages apart from Russian, know the cultures and cultural references of the countries where they will live and have a dynamic and missionary view of their episcopate. In other words, they must realize that their task is not just to look after immigrants from the ex-Soviet Union. They must be able to communicate with the children and grandchildren of such immigrants, as well as with the descendants of the centennial emigration, now in its fifth generation, and the native people of European countries, both Orthodox and Non-Orthodox.

For example, we know of one episcopal appointee whose first act was to buy an expensive black car. On that day he lost the confidence of his diocese. He did not understand that being a Russian Orthodox bishop in Europe is not at all the same as being a Russian Orthodox bishop in the former Soviet Union. Secondly, any diocesan bishop must also be a uniter – in Europe we still have bad memories of the late Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) who was an ecumenist and intercommunionist (in Rome) and did not want to do missionary work among native Europeans. Such figures were ultimately partly responsible for the Sourozh schism and the lack of trust among European Orthodox in bishops who were visiting them from the Soviet Union. On the other hand, we have an excellent memory of Archbishop Basil (Krivoshein) who warned Metr Nikodim precisely against his political policies. Who then could be the Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe? We believe that there is already at least one suitable candidate, at present an Archbishop.

It is now becoming urgent to establish such a Metropolitan structure. Millions of Orthodox have had to flee Orthodox Eastern Europe in the last 25 years for economic reasons. Since the fall of Communism, Eastern Europe has been seized by a wave of post-Communist corruption. Combined with the deindustrialization forced onto Eastern European countries when they joined the EU, millions of young people have been forced to leave their homes and families to take on mainly menial jobs in the building sites, factories and offices of Western Europe. There are now more Orthodox in Western Europe, the territory of the future Metropolia, than there are in the four ancient Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem, combined. How then can this Metropolia be organized?

b. Organization

Before such a Metropolia could come into existence, all kinds of groundwork have to be laid. First of all, who should be the patron saint of such a Metropolia? To our mind, there can only be one candidate, the only saint of the Russian Orthodox Church who in the twentieth century lived for well over a decade in Western Europe – St John of Shanghai. He is the only canonized member of the Russian Orthodox Church in Western Europe. He stands head and shoulders above all the personalities, intellectuals, artists, writers and philosophers of the emigration, for he was a saint and a universal saint at that. Strictly faithful to the Russian Orthodox Tradition, for which he was much despised by modernists, he was also open to the pastoral needs of local people, encouraged the veneration of the historical saints of Europe and was the inspiration for Fr Seraphim of Platina, for which he was much despised by nationalists. In my view, St John has no rivals. However, the appointment of such a patron saint must be made by the Russian Orthodox bishops in Europe. We are not an anti-episcopal organization like the ‘Fraternite Orthodoxe’ in Paris, so we can only suggest to our bishops.

Secondly, we need a Metropolia website, run by people who have the skills and time to devote to this. Their skills must not only be technological but also linguistic. The website should, we believe, be in Russian, Romanian for our many Moldovan parishioners, English (as the international language) and, in the appropriate sections, in one of the other thirteen local languages of the Metropolia (German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Hungarian, Portuguese, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Maltese and Icelandic). Perhaps, eventually, as pastoral need dictates, there could be pages in minority languages like Basque, Gaelic, Sorbian, Breton, Welsh etc. Who are the Russian Orthodox bishops in Europe? Such a website could present them with their photos. How many Russian Orthodox priests are there in Europe today? 200? That is only our guess; we do not have the information. The website could provide it.

Such a website could provide a calendar including the local saints of Europe, for example, Clotilde, Alban, Agnes, Ursula, Eulalia, Senhorina, Leander, Columba, Blandine, Olaf, Maurice, Kevin, Willibrord, Anschar, Sigfrid, Audrey, Corbinian, Illtyd, Odile, Devota, Publius, Gertrude, little known outside their own countries and regions, whose prayers can bind us together. There is a practical and a mystical necessity to link ourselves to them for it is ultimately on their noble Orthodoxy that European culture was built. The fact that modern Europe in its ignoble rush for self-destruction has turned its back on them only means that we should venerate them all the more. The website could present such information along with parish profiles, the addresses and phone numbers of individual parishes, their websites, histories, pictures of their church buildings, their clergy and parishioners, details of languages used in services, timetables and other activities and publications. And all our vital monasteries must have their place there too. There should also be some kind of resource of services in the many languages of the Metropolia and a simple vocabulary in the sixteen languages. How do you say ‘Orthodox Church’ in Hungarian, ‘priest’ in Finnish, ‘confession’ in Maltese or ‘candle’ in Norwegian? The website could tell us. Again, all this can only be done with the blessing of the Russian Orthodox bishops in Europe.

Thirdly, we need to hold a conference of Russian Orthodox clergy in Europe. We do not know each other. Initially, there could be a small conference with, say, two representatives from each country. One priest from Italy has already suggested the excellent idea of twinning parishes. Knowledge of one another could also be obtained from pilgrimages to local saints or relics or on the basis of visits to priests or laypeople who are already linked. Europe is rich in shrines, in Bari, in Rome, in Turin, in Milan, in Compostella, in Cologne, in Paris, in Lyons: Why not organize Europe-wide Russian Orthodox pilgrimages to such shrines? Alternatively, there could be pilgrimages to some of our wonderful churches in Europe, built under Tsar Nicholas II, in Wiesbaden, Geneva, Nice etc., or others built more recently in Brussels, Rome and Madrid. In such a way, by meeting, we can begin the most important task of praying for one another. Again, all this can only be done with the blessing of the Russian Orthodox bishops in Europe.

Two years ago I was contacted by a Russian woman in a province of France. She was in tears, very upset. She had been to a so-called monastery of the Paris Exarchate, where she had been refused confession because ‘she had not murdered anyone’. This meant that she had also been deprived of communion. She had found me on the internet, not knowing any priest in France. She told me her story on the telephone, how she and her son had been abandoned by her French husband and how she desperately needed a priest to talk to. Now, such things are happening all over Europe. The duty of care of the Russian Orthodox Church in Europe is to its faithful of all nationalities, to people like her. Let us begin by appointing a priest or priests whose duty it will be to look after the Russian Orthodox flock in any particular region of Europe. Since the above 25 European countries are divided into some eighty regions and there are a lot more than 80 Russian Orthodox priests in Europe, this can be done and the sort of incident that I have related above can be avoided. Everyone must have a priest to go to.

Some, reading the above, might ask about the role of Non-Orthodox in this. We believe in good-neighbourly relations with those who do not belong to the Orthodox Church. After a thousand years outside the Orthodox Church, many of them still believe in the Holy Trinity and the Divinity of Christ. Some, especially Catholics, go further than this and believe in the Virgin Birth, the Mother of God, the saints and the sacraments. Some share our moral views on such issues as abortion and euthanasia. The fact that the faith they have inherited is deficient in the understanding of the Holy Spirit, and therefore lacks an authentic spiritual and ascetic life, only means that it is remarkable how close some of them are to us. We have no reason not to be on good terms with them. However, this does not mean that we do not freely practise our Faith without compromise. Most Europeans have in the last generation or so decided to be atheists or at least agnostics, Europe today is a mission territory open to all. Conversely, most in the Russian Lands have in the last generation or so chosen to be baptized Orthodox. We should respect each other’s differences. We may be Europeans, but we are also firmly Christian and follow the Russian Orthodox Church in full.

Some, reading the above, might ask about the role of other jurisdictions in the shared territory of Europe, such as Constantinople’s Greeks and its political dissidents. In our view, the establishment of a Russian Metropolia in no way means that they cannot continue just as now. They could even establish their own international structures if they wish. The difference will always be that the Russian Orthodox Metropolia will alone be Europe-wide and multinational, not mononational, and therefore with the potential of growing into a new Local Church, as Patriarch Alexis II hoped. In the long term, as we know from experience, the jurisdiction that will survive in Europe will be the spiritually serious one, not the ones that wave nationalistic or ideological flags and so automatically alienate others and lose the second and following generations, who find such nationalism and ideologism foreign and irrelevant. Just as the fringes attract the fringes, vagantes attract vagantes, sectarians attract sectarians, personality cults attract personality cultists, so serious jurisdictions will attract serious people.

Conclusion

In recent years I have visited Russian Orthodox in Austria, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Lands, Slovakia, Belgium, Portugal, the Netherlands, France, Sweden and Finland, as well as receiving visits from Russian Orthodox from many of these countries and from Norway, Ireland, Spain and Italy. In all of them I have noticed the consistent ability of many Russian Orthodox to keep the best of Russian culture and to absorb the best of Western culture at the same time. This is because of our ability to see and live European life and culture through the correcting prism and filter of Orthodox Christianity. It is the pastoral duty of the Russian Orthodox Church to its own flock and to all European Orthodox to live like this, keeping faith and yet being European, not repeating the errors of either sectarian nationalists or of the equally sectarian modernists of the Paris Jurisdiction and the old Sourozh Diocese.

We European Orthodox have four layers of identity: local, national and continental (= cultural) and spiritual. In my own case, this means the East of England, England, Europe and Russian Orthodoxy (= Rus). All of these layers of identity can be combined by saying that I belong to the East of England Rus (Vostochnoangliyskaya Rus’), to the Russian Orthodox world that is planted in the East of England. Others can say the same thing, that in Sweden they belong to Scanian Rus, in Spain to Catalan Rus or Galician Rus, in Italy to Sub-alpine Rus or Sardinian Rus, in the Netherlands to Frisian Rus, in Scotland to Hebridean Rus, in Germany to Bavarian Rus or Saxon Rus, in France to Breton Rus or Occitan Rus, in Austria to Carinthian Rus or Tyrolean Rus etc. This is the unity on which our future Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Europe (R.O.M.E.) can be built, from Iceland to the plains of Hungary, from Lapland to the islands of Malta, in the local regions of the 25 nations of the continent of Europe where we live, and on our complete faithfulness to the integral Russian Orthodox Faith and Tradition.

Archpriest Andrew Phillips
ROCOR Missionary Representative for Western Europe

Brittany, 24 July 2015