Category Archives: Metropolia

The Inevitable Struggle for the Inevitable Local Church

Foreword

The formation of new Local Orthodox Churches is inevitable, indeed it began long ago. One day there will be four new Local Churches in the world – for Western Europe, North America, South America and Oceania. This is not a prophecy, it is obvious and has been obvious to me for 45 years. When will they appear? This is a spiritual problem, all we know is that the struggle for them is inevitable. Not, I think, in my lifetime, perhaps not even in my children’s lifetimes, but perhaps in the lifetimes of my grandchildren. The formation of a new Local Church in Western Europe is what I have devoted my life to. I hope that, like many others, I will have contributed something positive, however modest, to its foundations.

Introduction

The bane of the Church is any attachment to the world and one of the strongest forms of attachment is nationalism. For example, the Jews could not accept Christ because of their attachment to Jewish nationalism as ‘the chosen people’. Then the Copts and the Armenians broke away from the Church because of nationalism, Western Europe broke away because of Western nationalism, inventing self-justifying ‘Roman’ Catholicism, and the future Protestants broke away from them because of Germanic nationalism. The most flagrant form of this nationalism was perhaps ‘the Church of England’, created by a murderous and power-grasping King.

In much more recent times the unity of the Church has been put under great pressure by flag-waving Greek nationalism, called phyletism, although we still await the repentance of the Phanariot episcopate. Nationalism is by definition worldliness and is therefore anti-missionary. God only speaks the language of the nationalists, be it Hebrew, Latin, Greek or other, and as every Victorian Englishman knew, ‘God is an Englishman’. Nationalist groups inevitably die out, as they are assimilated. Instead of obeying the last two verses of the Gospel of Matthew, they refuse to go out and baptise the world, rather trying to steal the flocks of others, as in today’s Ukraine.

Imperialism

The above is a list of examples of what might be called ‘uncanonical nationalism’, for its extremism always leads to schisms and heresies, that is, it leads to being outside the Church. This we can see with the case of the contemporary Patriarchate of Constantinople, whose schism has taken 100 years to prepare. However, there is also nationalism inside the Church, that is, it is ‘canonical’. Though obviously, by definition, more moderate than the extremist form outside the communion of the Church, it is basically imperialist. Its sign is national exclusivism, it will accept others only if they ‘become Greeks’ or ‘become Russians’, for instance.

This imperialism is marked by the imposition of a single language and a single culture, centralisation and bureaucracy. This is inevitably part of a controlling tyranny, of the bullying and intimidation of both clergy and people at the grassroots. By creating fear and injustice, it hopes to obtain the property and wealth of the people, their church buildings. By mistreating the clergy, this imperialist centralism discourages the missionary impulse, often persecuting any missionary initiative in the name of control and ‘protocols’. Such a mentality is death to the soul and death to the spiritual life of the Church: imperialism is always spiritual death.

Localism

Imperialism is also by definition an attachment to the world, nationalism, but the other extreme of this nationalism is what may be called ‘Localism’. This is the reaction to centralisation, the splitting movement of disunity in the name of some small country, often an artificial one, which has led over the last 200 years to the formation of a whole series of small, ‘Autocephalous’ Local Churches. The most recent example was that which was formed fifty years ago in North America , with the formation of the tiny ‘OCA’, the Orthodox Church in America, a group which in reality united fewer than 10% of Orthodox in North America, perhaps as few as 5%.

The brainchild and scheme of the very practical and frustrated activist Fr Alexander Schmemann, who had taken power from the academic theoretician Fr George Florovsky, the ideologists of the OCA tried to impose US culture, regardless of its lack of spiritual content, on all. Founded not on Orthodox Christianity, this mentality tried to impose the lowest common denominator of local culture – new calendarism, modernism, anti-monasticism, anti-asceticism and anti-spiritual moralism, at best a watered-down rationalistic intellectualism. However, Christ’s Church is founded not on some local human culture, but on His Universal Gospel made incarnate.

Conclusion

For nearly fifty years now we have battled for authentic Orthodoxy, but specifically in the local language (and not in foreign versions of that language!) and for the honouring of local saints, where they exist, and for local traditions which are not opposed to the Church. We cannot ignore the local language, geography and history, we must consult and not ignore experience. All else is arrogance. What we have observed in the last half-century is that every nationalist formation, whether of imperialist or localist nationalism, has died out. Thus, both Greek and Russian Churches have died out here, as has also the attempt to create an Anglican Orthodoxy.

This 21st century will not bring a nationalistic Neo-Anglican ‘British Orthodox Church’, as they wanted. However, it may bring an Autocephalous Western European Orthodox Church, led by His Beatitude Metropolitan N. in Paris. As regards the four peoples and nations of these ‘Islands of the North Atlantic’ (IONA), it would find itself an autonomous part of such a Metropolia. It could have four archbishops, one for England, one for a reunited Ireland, one for Scotland and one for Wales, possibly with vicar bishops.  May God’s will be done.

 

Another Step Towards the Future Metropolia of Western Europe

The Russian Orthodox Church has at last formed two new Exarchates, of Western Europe and South-East Asia. The latter, headed by Archbishop Sergei, is centred in Singapore and covers the territories of eleven countries: Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, North Korea, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand.

The new Exarchate of Korsun and Western Europe is centred in Paris. It includes the territories of thirteen countries: Andorra, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Italy (presumably including San Marino), Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Portugal, France and Switzerland. It thus includes five dioceses (France, Iberia, Benelux, Italy and the British Isles and Ireland). The head is to be the present Bishop John of Bogorodsk, who has spent several years in the USA, currently looks after the Russian Orthodox parishes in Italy and whose patron saint is St John of Shanghai and Western Europe.

Interestingly, the Exarchate does not include the eight countries of the two dioceses of Germany and Austria-Hungary and a possible future diocese of Scandinavia/the Nordic Countries (Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland). Possibly this is for diplomatic reasons relating to the past and these countries will be added to the Exarchate in due course, possibly in the future an Exarchate of Central Europe and Scandinavia is to be formed.

Clearly, this Exarchate is another step towards the long-awaited Metropolia and then future Autonomous Local Church of Western Europe, which only the Patriarchate of Moscow has had the wish and initiative to form. It follows the collapse of the Church of Constantinople and its fall into schism. If the Exarchate is to be successful, it will need to avoid the four all too well-known besetting sins of the various Russian Orthodox jurisdictions in Western Europe,  as we have experienced them over the past five decades, clearly demonstrating:

Faithfulness to the Russian Orthodox Faith, without falling into extremism and making compromises either of the ecumenist/modernist or the old calendarist sort.

The refusal to ask candidates for the priesthood to compromise themselves morally or spiritually.

The building of trust and the refusal to attack, bully, insult and persecute zealous priests and the faithful, using favouritism and injustice.

The missionary impulse to accept local people, use local languages in the liturgy and venerate the local saints, avoiding centralization to distant countries and interests and rejecting any racist attempts to form an inward-looking ethnic ghetto.

 

 

The Exarchate of Western Europe

The Russian Orthodox Church has just announced in Article 105 of its Winter Synod that it is forming an Exarchate of Korsun and Western Europe, centred in Paris. This includes the territories of thirteen countries: Andorra, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Portugal, France and Switzerland. The head is to be the present Bishop John of Bogorodsk, who currently looks after the Russian Orthodox parishes in Italy. Bishop John (Roshin), born in 1974, has as his patron-saint St John of Shanghai and is fluent in English, having spent several years in the United States. Also a new diocese is to be formed for Spain and Portugal, to be headed by Bishop Nestor, who is at present responsible for France, Spain and Portugal. His title will be ‘of Madrid and Lisbon’.

The Onslaught on Holy Rus and Our Response

Introduction

Having destroyed the multinational Russian Empire in 1917 and then 75 years later its successor, the Soviet Union, there remained for the Western Powers only one further thing to destroy, the Russian Orthodox Church. This was openly proclaimed after 1991 by Samuel Huntingdon (‘Torn Countries: The Failure of Civilization Shifting’ in Chapter 6 of his ‘The Clash of Civilizations’) and by the Russophobe Pole, Zbigniew Brzezinski, as ‘the enemy’. In fact all hell had been let loose against us since 1917 with the illegal overthrow by treason and then martyrdom of the last Protector of Christian Civilization, Tsar Nicholas II.

The Onslaught on the One, Holy, Apostolic and Catholic Church

  1. Against the Unity of the Church, already before the Revolution, especially in Saint Petersburg, there were divisions caused by internal traitors (renovationists and ecumenists), many of them clerics who after 1917 defrocked themselves. Indeed, after 1917 renovationism was fed by atheist Communism and soon appeared among the schismatic Saint Petersburg emigration in Paris and elsewhere, fed by pounds and then by dollars. Both inside and outside Russia they were openly supported by the British-run, and from 1948 on, US-run, Patriarchate of Constantinople. This was also active in meddling and creating divisions in Finland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Americas, Western Europe and Australia.
  2. Against the Holiness of the Church there was the Soviet onslaught from 1917 on (though there were many cases of martyrdom as early as 1905), with 600 bishops, 120,000 priests, monks and nuns and countless laypeople martyred.

Since the fall of Communism especially, two new threats have appeared in force:

  1. Against the Apostolicity of the Church there have appeared schismatic groups of sectarian and pharisaical extremists, ‘zealots’, both inside and outside the Russian Lands.
  2. Against the Catholicity of the Church there have appeared nationalists, especially in the Ukraine but also elsewhere, as in Estonia, fed by dollars through Constantinople.

Our Response

  1. In order to affirm the Unity of the Church, we defeated the renovationist traitors by our firm confession of Orthodoxy and so the humanist heresy of Sophianism of the fantasist Fr Sergiy Bulgakov was universally condemned as such by the whole Russian Church. Tiny elderly groups, stuck in the past, still survive here and there, but they are dying out in irrelevance.
  2. In order to affirm the Holiness of the Church, the New Martyrs and Confessors defeated the Soviet onslaught by their holy patience.
  3. In order to affirm the Apostolicity of the Church, schismatic groups of sectarian and pharisaical extremists, both outside and inside Russia, were defeated in 2007, when both parts of the Russian Church united against the ways of the world. Tiny elderly groups still survive here and there, but they are dying out in irrelevance.
  4. In order to affirm the Catholicity of the Church, we now face Inherently anti-Christian, nationalist divisions which go against the multinational nature of the Church (Catholicity), creating nationalistic and politicized ethnic fragments in place of multinational Holy Rus. The canonical territory of the Church of Holy Rus (the ex-Soviet Union minus Georgia plus China and Japan) is over 32 million square kilometres, well over one fifth of the world’s land surface, and is united against the schismatics fed from Constantinople. Therefore, in time, there is no doubt that Patriarch Bartholomew and his Sanhedrin will be judged by a Church Council and their anti-canonical papalist heresies will be condemned.

Conclusion

In the meantime, one response for the reunited Russian Church would be to establish a Metropolia in Western Europe in order to organize missionary activity here. Constantinople miserably failed to do anything like this, when the Russian Church was paralyzed for three generations by atheistic Communism. It had its chance and failed. However, a Metropolia cannot be built on obvious injustices, the promotion of bad priests, bad candidates and bad people over good priests, good candidates and good people, the discouragement and demotion of the good, reliance on money and ornate church buildings instead of on the pastorship of human souls, who are so despised and neglected. There must be the ability to apologize for crass mistakes, made through the refusal to consult locally, and to thank those who have suffered for so long from these mistakes as a result. The reunited Russian Church now has a chance to act. Let it not be said that it too failed to seize the moment.

 

 

Principles of the Coming Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe

Introduction

We first called for a Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe early on thirty years ago, in April 1988, against the background of the then dying Cold War. Far more importantly, 15 years later, in April 2003, after the Cold War, but before the reunion of the two parts of the Russian Church, Patriarch Alexis of Moscow did the same. 30 years on, there is still no Metropolia, but we feel that, despite all the frustration, impediments and delays, its time is at last coming. A Metropolia, and then Church, that is Orthodox, but also Local, is inevitable in Western Europe. What principles must this Metropolia adopt?

  1. Faithful to Orthodoxy, not Heterodoxy

First of all, we say ‘Away with nationalistic Finnish, French and American ideas of ‘localism’’ (Finland / Rue Daru / OCA), which ignore the integrity of the Orthodox Faith, putting the local flag before the Cross. Instead of ideas propagated in Paris and transferred to the USA, we choose a Metropolia that is both faithful and local. This cannot be based on anti-canonical compromises, on spiritual betrayal of the Faith, in the name of State-sponsored or of self-imposed cultural conformism. We must keep the Orthodox calendar and Church canons, ignoring old-fashioned modernism and ecumenism.

  1. An End to Old-Fashioned Ecumenism

It is this latter ecumenism that has especially delayed the formation of a Metropolia, the foundation of a new Local Church. There were those who said: ‘We must not offend the Catholics/Protestants. We must not give local titles to our bishops’. Such voices were those of traitors to Orthodoxy, those who saw us and see it as a mere piece of foreign exoticism, of folklore. No Metropolia could be born until those voices had fallen silent – and they were still very strong in 1988 and in 2003. It is time to move forward to the free and independent future, to the Autocephalous Church of Western Europe.

  1. Bilingual and Missionary

Unlike the old Russian immigrants (and those of other nationalities), who were intent negatively on preserving and pickling the past, even when nobody any longer knew what it meant, and so guaranteed that they would die out – the future Metropolia will have to be bilingual. Here too we put the Cross before the flag. Only in this way will we be able to pass on the spiritual heritage and values of Russian Orthodox Civilization in a missionary fashion to both the descendants of Russian immigrants and to native Western Europeans. Only in this way can a truly Orthodox and a truly Local Church be born.

  1. Pastoral, not Bureaucratic and Racist

One of the greatest problems in Church life at all times is the tendency to put administration above pastoral care, to put marble and gold above church buildings and, above all, human souls. (We can think of the Irish and Rome). There can be no more second-class (or third-class) citizens; non-Russians must be treated as Russians. The past, all too recent past, is a very dark area indeed in this respect. In such a Metropolia, the foundation of a true Local Church, there can be no racism. The old-fashioned attitudes and mistreatment of native Orthodox is not acceptable and must be severely sanctioned.

Conclusion

Fifty years ago, with the Russian Church paralysed, there was still a hope that Constantinople would abandon its Greek imperialism and take responsibility for the Diaspora. It utterly failed to do so. Indeed, the spiritual decomposition of the Constantinople with its new lurch into Eastern Papism, means that its serious clergy and people now want to join the Russian Church (although the long-term solution would be for the Church of Greece to take over the Greek Diaspora and make it Orthodox). The recent, long-awaited appointments of new bishops in Western Europe and those to come, carried out by both parts of the Russian Orthodox Church, are all steps towards the future Metropolia.

 

 

Another Step Towards a Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe

On Thursday 20 September, the six bishops of the ROCOR Synod meeting in London established the Diocese of Richmond and Western Europe. This combines the former Diocese of Richmond and Great Britain and Geneva and Western Europe. The ruling bishop is Bishop Irenei (Steenberg), former lecturer at the University of Leeds and venerator of St Irenei of Lyon, whose name he bears.

Temptation and Opportunity

The recent temptation experienced by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, under intense financial and political pressure from Washington, to set up schismatic Churches under its authority in the Ukraine and (North) Macedonia, has already been publicly condemned by the Churches of Russia, Poland, Serbia, Bulgaria and Georgia. The Churches of Antioch and Czechoslovakia will no doubt agree with them, tired of past meddling from Constantinople. Thus, some 85% of the Church has stood united against uncanonical political interference.

True, the Church of Greece, also tired of past interference from Constantinople, has stood on the fence, as no doubt will the four other tiny, Greek-controlled Churches (Alexandria, Cyprus, Albania and Jerusalem, with scarcely 2 million faithful between them). The Romanian decision, like other decisions there, may perhaps be taken by the US ambassador in Bucharest. The headline, ‘Constantinople falls into schism and is isolated’ is very unlikely, for we are all hoping and praying that this temptation will be resisted by those in the Phanar.

Against this disturbing background, the foundation by the Russian Orthodox Church of an Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe, on hold for fifteen (and more) long years, is moving forwards despite delays. A great step forward was taken last December, when new bishops were appointed in Moscow for Russian Orthodox Dioceses in Western Europe, making the Metropolia inevitable. Only details such as ROCOR participation and timing remain to be resolved. 2018 is thus becoming another turning-point in the formation of this Metropolia.

Western Europe is after all simply the westernmost tip of Northern Eurasia, 90% of which has long been the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, so that a Russian Orthodox Metropolia here is just a natural extension of this territory. It is rather like the Belarusian Exarchate, with its Metropolitan, eleven dioceses, four monasteries, seminary and five million faithful. With as many faithful, eight dioceses, monasteries and a seminary, Western Europe too will have its own Metropolitan, being the foundation of a new Local Church.

This is also like the Russian-founded Churches in Poland and in the Czech Lands and Slovakia. It may have eight dioceses: Italy and Malta; Spain, Portugal and their islands; France, southern Belgium and western Switzerland; the British Isles and Ireland; Scandinavia; Germany and German Switzerland; Dutch-speaking Benelux; Austria-Hungary. Such a Church will be a centre of resistance amidst anti-Christian and secularist Western Europe. It will be larger than the Western EU core, as it includes Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Brexit Britian.

After all, Brexit was never an objection to Europe, but only to the political construct of the European Union. A Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe is an answer to those who want some sort of ‘Euro-Orthodoxy’ or ‘Brussels Orthodoxy’, a salt that has lost its savour, an Orthodoxy mingled with secularism, new calendarist, masonic, liberal and modernist. For this is proposed by those who want to see in the Church of God female clergy and homosexual marriage! But there is no communion between Christ and Belial, God and Mammon.

It is appropriate to consider the foundation of the Metropolia in this centenary of the martyrdom of Tsar Nicholas II. It was he who built 17 churches in Western Europe, hoping to establish a church in every Western capital, including London, for which plans had been drawn up. Speaking fluent English, French, German and Danish and married to an English-educated, Hessian grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, who fully converted to the Orthodox Faith, he well understood the need for a Russian Orthodox Church of Western Europe. As do we.

 

Towards a Local Church of Western Europe

A Metropolia of Western Europe

It was in April 1988 that I first proposed in French a paper on a Metropolia of Western Europe, composed of six dioceses in six different linguistic and cultural areas (cross-border) which I called, Gallia, Germania, Iberia, Italia, Scandinavia and the Isles. (See, ‘A Vision for the Orthodox Churches of Western Europe’, published in Orthodox England, Vol 4, No 1, September 2001). My thought then was that this could become the foundation of a restored Local Church of Western Europe. This was a historic suggestion, as for well over 900 years this had ceased to exist.

Thirty Years Ago

The idea was dismissed in Paris, the historic centre of the Russian emigration in Western Europe, and the forward-looking project proved to be impossible then. There were only three groups who could realistically have contributed something towards it: the Rue Daru or Paris Exarchate group (RD); the Moscow Patriarchate Exarchate (MP) and the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). Of these three, the old Rue Daru had tied itself up in modernist knots (nothing can be built on compromises) and in any case under US-run Constantinople it was not politically free to do anything of the sort.

As for the old MP, it was tiny because it was so distrusted by all. Run in fact by part of the Soviet Communist Party, it too was not politically free and moreover it had dangerously renovationist figures in it. As for the old ROCOR, it was small, disorganized, elderly and above all, inward-looking, as it still defined itself as being a group opposed to the atheist regime inside Russia, rather than as a key part of a future Local Church. It was living in reference to the past, not the future. The situation was to alter radically only after the year 2000, for those with the vision to see ahead.

Fifteen Years Ago

After the Moscow Council of August 2000, with a new archbishop after 1993, the Rue Daru group fell into conversations with the by then largely politically free MP, which was still very small in Western Europe. It was virtually agreed that RD would at last return to the jurisdiction of the MP and become an autonomous Metropolia within it, as a foundation for a future Local Church. However, Archbishop Serge (Konovalov) of the Rue Daru jurisdiction was to die tragically on 22 January 2003 and the next archbishop, Gabriel (De Vylder), was a furious Russophobe and strongly modernistic.

Indeed, since then, having missed the boat and set on a suicidal path, the Rue Daru group has largely fallen into irrelevance, its vital forces having quit it for one part or the other of the Russian Orthodox Church. Looking back, there was Providence here, since Archbishop Serge’s hopes would in any case have been dashed by the dominant wing of the Exarchate, represented by his successor. Today Rue Daru represents only 60 scattered parishes and communities, most of them very small. Most of its living parishes are in fact Moldovan and Romanian, with priests loaned by the MP.

The MP Needs a Partner

Why did the MP enter into such negotiations with Rue Daru? Simply because alone it could do nothing. Thus, even though the once few MP parishes of 30 years ago today number perhaps 250 in Western Europe with six bishops, dwarving the one-bishop Rue Daru group (ROCOR has about 100 parishes in Western Europe with three bishops), it is essentially an ethnic group. It is composed of recent immigrants, often  not understanding local languages and culture. The MP needs those who have this understanding. Let us compare as examples the MP and ROCOR dioceses in the Isles.

Although on paper the MP diocese here is much bigger, in reality most of its communities are tiny (less than ten!), often with only a few services a year, without property and without a regular priest. It is a paper empire, all its money expended on its ex-Anglican church in London. ROCOR probably actually has almost as many people, more property, is better established and tends to attract people who are better-established in these Isles. Often, those immigrants who have been here for more than ten years tend to drift across to ROCOR, their children more integrated into society.

Today

The old, inward-looking and too often politicized ROCOR, which largely died out in the 1980s and 1990s, could not have been a partner for the ultimate aim of building a new Local Church: however, the new ROCOR, born after the reconciliation with the MP in 2007, can potentially be such a partner. The MP of the early 2000s, still with an old-fashioned, Sovietized cast of mind, could not see this and sought the wrong partner, one compromised in modernism. Today it needs a skeleton, a structure, solid Russian Orthodox people with local knowledge: ROCOR can provide this.

Towards a Local Church of Western Europe

Introduction: Local Churches

Over the years there has been much talk of creating Local Metropolias in the Orthodox Diaspora, which could with time become new Local Churches, uniting all Orthodox on their territory. Yet none has ever appeared. This is not only the case in North America, where there was once a (Carpatho-Russian) Metropolia, which then became the minority and for many uncanonical, but largely English-speaking ‘OCA’ (Orthodox Church in America), but it is also true of Western Europe. None of the talk of creating a new Local Church in any part of the Orthodox Diaspora has been fruitful, all the ideas have remained pipe-dreams. Why?

Ethnic projects

First of all, there have frequently been what may be called ‘ethnic projects’. This is the idea of granting autonomy, or even autocephaly, to an Archdiocese or Metropolia in a territory of the Diaspora. This simply amounts to treating the territory as an extension of another and foreign country. Notably, this means creating a Church in a place, rather than a Church of a place.

For example, the old translation of ROCOR (the Church Outside Russia) was ROCA (the Church Abroad). This is an absurd translation – unless what we mean is a temporary extension of a Church, which has been set up for immigrants who will sooner or later return to ‘the old country’ and their Church will then disappear. Those born locally who are part of ROCOR, whatever their origins, are not abroad. Officially, this translation was dropped in the 1970s – and yet is still frequently heard and used! Other national groups have done no better, everywhere it has been the same problem.

Only a Metropolia of a certain territory, and not in it, is the beginning of a Local Church, as by definition it uses mainly the local language or languages, since, in other words, it has integrated and cannot be transplanted elsewhere. If its members want to return somewhere else, always harping after a childhood home, then they will never become local – they will have no roots there. Thus, today, there are Russians, Romanians, Serbs, Bulgarians, Greeks etc in Western Europe who have no intention of staying here, of becoming of Western Europe. They can never form a Local Metropolia, let alone a new Local Church. They are certainly Orthodox, but they are definitely not Local.

Local Projects

On the other hand, there have also frequently been what may be called ‘local projects’. These have always been marked by what can be called ‘autocephalism’ or ‘autocephalitis’. This is the desire to assimilate the local culture, whether it be Catholic, Protestant, Muslim or whatever. In any words, they gain local-ness, but lose the Faith – they are no longer Orthodox.

For example, we have the case of Finland, where many parishes that I have seen appear not to be sure whether they are Lutheran or Orthodox. They say: use only the local language (a dogma more important to them than the Holy Trinity), take out the iconostasis, do away with fasting and confession (and any other ascetic discipline) and give communion to all. Be local, be like the others – conform. This often happens when the locally-born second generation comes to power. Fleeing their parents’ ghetto, they suffer from an inferiority complex. But in desiring the local, they lose the Faith.

Thus, they end up with something local, only it is not Orthodox. I remember forty years ago hearing a recording of an OCA Liturgy. It was not just American, it was super-American; at moments it seemed like listening to a cowboy film. Clearly, this had been done deliberately by people who were second-generation Americans, who wanted to be more American than Americans. Russian intellectuals and aristocrats in France did the same, making Orthodoxy into a bourgeois French philosophy. This was also the case in the old Sourozh project, which was Parisian pretending to be Russian. Phyletist to the core, they threw out anyone who was not ex-Anglican or was Russian-speaking.

Conclusion: Orthodoxy and Integration, Not Heterodoxy and Assimilation

In the real world, Local Churches start by learning Orthodoxy and then become Local. They have to keep the Orthodox Tradition, but also have to be local, inculturated, integrated, using the local language and not ‘translationese’. All must keep faith with the One Orthodox Tradition, without compromise, without assimilation, yet all must prove themselves to be Local, that is, as Churches that cannot be transferred elsewhere. Thus, all must start with the maximum, never the minimum, that is, we start with monasticism, whether it is Sts Cyril and Methodius among the Slavs, St Herman in Alaska or St Nicholas in Japan.

 

St John and What is Above Conservative and Liberal

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.

Einstein

There is nothing new in being conservative and being liberal. Some by nature will always prefer the old, others the new, some will always be pessimistic, others optimistic, some will always be negative, others positive, some will always be closed, others open, some will always be individual, others social, some will always be introverted, others extroverted, some will always be cautious, others visionary, some will always be literal, others allegorical, some will always be passive, others active, some will always be turned to the past, others to the future, some will always be turned to the Divine, others to the human.

In the time of Christ there were Pharisees (fundamentalist conservatives) and Saducees (syncretistic liberals). The former detested it when good was done on the Sabbath day, the latter rejected the Resurrection and miracles. After Christ there were Monophysite conservatives who saw Christ as God alone and liberal Arians who saw Christ as man alone. Then there was the literal school of Antioch and the allegorical school of Alexandria. Later, in Catholicism, there were liberal Scholastics and conservative Scholastics, and in Protestantism there were doom and gloom Calvinists and liberal protestors who rejected all authority.

In our own times, the Roman Catholic and Protestant worlds have long been much divided between conservative and liberal. This has become particularly clear in recent years with the appearance of the question of attitudes to homosexuality, but it has in fact been clear since the 1960s. It is a sad fact that such a division has also appeared in the Orthodox Churches, most obviously in the USA. Here there are old calendarist sects and new calendarist sects, even though the latter often infiltrate and hide behind the Church. They all claim to be Orthodox but, out of communion with the Church of the Tradition, they are not.

Even inside the Church, there are dioceses (‘jurisdictions’) of Local Churches that attract conservative Roman Catholics and Protestants and others that attract liberal Roman Catholics and Protestants. However, the conservatives are shocked when they learn that Orthodox have as a norm married priests, as well as allowing Church divorce, Church remarriage and allowing non-abortive contraception. The liberals are shocked by standing for long services, fasting, prayer rules, modest dress and saints’ names. All of them forget one thing and, if they do not recall it, they too will eventually find themselves outside the Church.

What they forget is the Spiritual. And the source of the Spiritual is the Holy Spirit, which unites both conservative and liberal, as it is beyond, higher than, both of them. We can see this in the life of St John of Shanghai. The ecumenist liberals hated his asceticism, the source of the grace he acquired, his love of the services, the saints, in a word, his love of Orthodox Tradition. Anti-missionary conservatives hated his missionary work, his consciousness that the Tradition of the Holy Spirit is for the whole world. That is why they, clergy and laity, nationalists, right-wing politicians and CIA agents, put him on trial – and lost.

As for us, we follow St John and the Tradition of the Holy Spirit, Holiness. Our spiritual father, Archbishop Antony of Geneva, was the spiritual son of St John (who was born in the same year as my grandfather) and so we are St John’s spiritual grandchildren. Many forget that St John was Archbishop of Western Europe (1951-1962), for far longer than he was Archbishop of San Francisco. Here in Western Europe he is our patron saint. He stands far above the anti-missionaries and nationalists, the intellectuals and modernists. He stands far above petty conservatism and liberalism, for he was and is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

It is on this basis alone that we can look forward to building an Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe and from there a new Local Church. No Local Church can be built without the urge to acquire the Holy Spirit, that is, without the search for holiness. The quest for holiness means monastic and ascetic life, fasting, prayer and almsgiving, repentance, that is, confession and communion, and the veneration of the saints, including the local saints, who acquired the Holy Spirit.  And so we come back to St John of Shanghai, who all over Europe rejected both the ghettoes of the Pharisees and the Halfodoxy of the modernists.