Category Archives: Pastoral Matters

Contemporary Pastoral Challenges for the Russian Orthodox Church

Introduction

After a generation of very hard work and great sacrifices, today, with over 350 bishops and over 35,000 churches, 900 of them outside the territory of the former Soviet Union, all may seem to be going well in our great, collective task of restoring the Russian Orthodox Church. But the number of churches is still only half as many in the Russian Empire in 1917 and today there is a higher population than then. Although Russian alcoholism has fallen rapidly and rates are now not much higher than in much of Western Europe and abortion is falling rapidly, halving over the last four years, that figure is still much higher than in Western European countries.

So there remains much to do. Corruption, divorce and environmental degradation remain huge problems. Only when there are 100,000 churches and 1,000 bishops and the old atheist-caused ABCDE – alcoholism, abortion, corruption, divorce and environmental degradation – hardly exist, will we begin to think that the situation has really improved. At present, we would say that there are four great pastoral tasks in Church life, the results of three generations of State-imposed atheism, which we think need to be urgently tackled.

Red or White

In this centenary year of the so-called Russian Revolution (in fact a Western coup d’etat), there are those who have created the false problem of whether Church people should be ‘Red’ or ‘White’ and where our sympathies should lie. Obviously, in reality we are neither Red nor White, but Christ’s. True, in Russian history, the Reds were atheists and mercilessly persecuted the Church and the Whites appeared to support the Church. However, in reality, at least some of the Reds, perhaps the naïve ones, had a sense of social justice, and most of the so-called Whites betrayed the Tsar and the cause of the Church.

Thus, such so-called Whites lost the loyalty of the masses by fighting for material goods, behaving much as the Reds, even using bandits as troops against their own people. During the Second World War, when the former Russian Empire was being bled dry by the Nazis, a few so-called ‘Whites’ actually consciously and voluntarily sided with the Slavophobe racist Hitler. Those of the Whites who were truly White were a minority and were always loyal to Russia and her universal mission, but today we have triumphed, as the icons of the Royal Martyrs are venerated all over Russia, for the faithful everywhere were always truly White. Let us waste no more time on this question: All we Russian Orthodox are Christ’s.

Superstition

The Russian Orthodox Church is today the Church of 140 million converts. Most of our 164 million Orthodox, of all ages, have been baptized within the last 30 years. Many of these masses have often still to be Churched, that is, to be converted inside; they are ‘uncoverted converts’. Thus, some have brought into the Church with themselves certain worldly reflexes, external ritualism, even superstitious attitudes and sometimes a ‘magic’ attitude to Church life. There are some who, for example, will do their utmost to obtain holy water, but are still not married in Church. There are some women who will wear a very modest headscarf, and yet wear the shortest of miniskirts and think nothing of abortion. There are some who attend church, but do not understand the services and make no effort to do so. Sometimes, it is true, this is because the reading and singing are garbled or else done by ‘professionals’, whose Italianate opera repertoire gives no chance to the people to understand and sing.

There are some who appear to believe in the New Testament and yet continually speak of the anthropomorphic, Old Testament, Jewish god, Who continually punishes all and sundry, demanding ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’. There are some who seek miracles at shrines and know by heart the dubious prophecies of dubious ‘elders’, but refuse ever to take communion, the greatest miracle of all. There are some who make huge signs of the cross and boast of their fasting and yet reckon that they are not Pharisees. There are some who will not go to church unless a certain priest is present and yet they are supposed to believe in the efficacy of sacraments of all priests. (Sadly some priests fall victim to such personality cults and then introduce their own ‘special’ practices into the services). This reliance on ‘magic’, that is, the concept that we can receive something without making any effort, is ultimately a consumerist attitude towards the sacred. It must be said that although external rites may appeal to some women, they have little appeal to men. This must surely be in part why 80%-90% of those in church are women. This is spiritually unhealthy and abnormal. Where are the men?

Luxury

In certain capitals, nor least in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, some very rich people, oligarchs, have donated huge sums of money to certain churches. They generally stipulate – and so think that they can obtain power – that this money must be spent on a very baroque style of ornamentation. In a word, there is far too much gold, marble and precious stones in such churches. Why not use gold paint and coloured glass? What is wrong with that? Luxurious vestments and mitres, equally priests and monks driving luxurious, black 4 x 4s, like millionaires, do not impress me at all. Some may drive them out of obedience, but the poison of luxury and then greed for money can get into the soul all too easily.

Beauty, yes, but excess and luxury, no. I think real gold should be banned from church. Let it be sold and money be given to the poor, to orphanages and hospices, to help mothers to give birth to children who can then be adopted, rather than aborted. Perhaps the worse scandal is that 50 kilometres away from Moscow and Saint Petersburg (and in most other places away from the capitals), there are priests who are barely surviving, dependent on parishioners giving them vegetables and eggs so that they can eat and receiving clothes so that they and their families can dress. A Church for the rich and a Church for the poor? This cannot be right.

Lack of Missionary Work

Some among the Church authorities appear to place very little emphasis on missionary work, both internal and external. In a town of 30,000, there may be only one church, attended on average by 200. Why is nothing done to attract the other 28,800? Why is there so little pastoral activity? Surely in a town of 30,000, there should be 30 churches? Why this complacency? Why are these other churches not being built? Where are the youth clubs, the Sunday schools, the brotherhoods and sisterhoods, the temperance societies, the organized visiting of hospitals and clinics? Where is active Orthodox life? Sometimes it is admirable, but more often it is invisible.

The situation is even worse outside the Russian Lands. According to the greatest Russian thinkers and doers, from Patriarch Nikon to Patriarch Tikhon, from Dostoyevsky to Solzhenitsyn Russia has a universal mission and message. So where are the missionaries? One Russian priest visits Taiwan or the Philippines and baptizes a few hundred. Then they are abandoned. There is no continuing pastoral care for them. And why do 200 priests not visit Taiwan and the Philippines and build churches there? Although the Church Outside Russia, with the help of others, has translated all the service books into English (spoken by 1-1.5 billion people worldwide) and most of the service books have been translated into French and German, why are all the service books not translated into the most common languages: Mandarin, Spanish, Hindi-Urdu, Portuguese, Bengali, Punjabi, Javanese, Wu, Malay, Telugu, Vietnamese, Korean, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Turkish, Italian and Cantonese? These eighteen languages are spoken by half of the world’s population. Together with the first three languages, and with languages where translations have existed for a long time (Arabic, Slavonic, Japanese, Romanian etc), translations into these 25 languages would make Orthodox services comprehensible to over 6 billion people worldwide – over 80% of the world’s population. Is that not what we should be doing?

Conclusion

Others would no doubt add other considerations to the above list of four pastoral tasks. True, this is a subjective list, but its considerations would surely figure in any list of the greatest challenges in the ongoing restoration of Church life after the atheist holocaust of the tragic past century. There remains so much to do; we have only just begun.

On Contraception: A Pastor’s Viewpoint

The Orthodox Christian ideal as regards contraception is clear: We do not use contraception.

This ideal is opposed by liberals, modernists, who, like liberal Protestants and nowadays liberal Roman Catholics (who are virtually indistinguishable from liberal Protestants), appear to think that anything goes. The usual suspects on the fringes of the Orthodox Church include the Parisians and their allies, clerics like the heretic Fr Sergey Bulgakov, as well as Fr Alexander Schmemann and Fr John Meyendorff, and philosophers, also verging on heresy, like Evdokimov, Clement, Yannaras and Berdyayev, not to mention their allies in Constantinople and Finland. It is significant that their works are more often read by heterodox and unconverted converts than those inside the Church, who long ago entered the arena. The liberals’ temptation is that they attempt to dogmatize or absolutize ikonomia, pastoral dispensation. The path that they are on leads directly to sectarian liberalism outside the Church.

At the opposite extreme we have the literalists and idealists, almost always ill-integrated converts of conservative Protestant or conservative Evangelical background. They are horrified by any concept of pastoral dispensation and quote out of context the holy fathers and canons just as they used to quote chapter and verse from the Bible – threatening others with hell. Such individuals lack experience of real Orthodox parishes and real Orthodox life, preferring the convert hothouse to what they condescendingly call ‘ethnic parishes’. Their temptation is in fact the same as that of the liberals, that they attempt to dogmatize or absolutize, only in their case they dogmatize akrivia, the strict teaching, never allowing for pastoral dispensation, not understanding that the essential dogmas concern the Holy Trinity and the Person of Christ. The path that they are on leads directly to pharisaical old calendarism outside the Church.

Having considered the two extremes on the fringes of the Church and not of the Church, as they are founded on liberal Protestantism and conservative Protestantism, what then is the Tradition of the Church? It is that the Church has an ideal which we are to strive for, but that for the sake of the salvation of the flock pastors are allowed to make exceptions to specific individuals and in specific contexts, applying pastoral dispensation (ikonomia), wherever it is of spiritual benefit. We do not set the flock a cross that is too heavy and which will break their backs. Those who do so, imposing a spiritual level on those who are not ready for it, will empty the churches, creating pharisaical sects. We have over the last forty years seen too much hypocrisy and too many broken marriages caused by such unwise and ill-discerning converts who dogmatize the ideals of the Church and act without love to weaker brethren and sisters. There is a higher law than the law of the Pharisees; it is called the law of love. That is the law of the Church, of Truth and Mercy, for it alone leads to salvation.

Spirit River Flows

He who was a Ukrainian farm boy from Spirit River in Alberta, Canada, has visited the few remaining parishes of what was once the largest Orthodox diocese in the British Isles and Ireland. However, that was a long time ago – the last Orthodox Bishop of London reposed in 1932.

Within days of his visit, people had been listened to, hopes for restoration had been rekindled, several readers tonsured, several subdeacons ordained, a new priest at last made and other long-awaited ordinations agreed on for a few weeks’ time, doubling the number of active clergy. For the first time, after decades of difficulties, all noticed that the few remaining parishes had now at last begun to become a real diocese, which could at last rapidly develop into many dozens of parishes and monasteries, and so fulfil its enormous potential, meeting the pastoral needs of a huge but until now neglected and so paralyzed flock.

Thank you, dear Vladyka Metropolitan Hilarion of New York, Eastern America, Sydney, Australia, New Zealand, Chiswick, the British Isles and Ireland, deliverer of peace and hope of the English-Speaking Orthodox World! The River of the Spirit does indeed flow through you.

Repose of Monk Joseph (Lambertson)

It is with great sadness that we report the repose of Isaac Lambertson, tonsured only a few weeks ago by His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion as Monk Joseph. Monk Joseph was the liturgical translator into English of a host of Orthodox service books, not least the twelve Menaia, as well as the composer of some 75 services to Western and Eastern saints, who had had no service previously. The whole Orthodox world in the Diaspora owes a huge debt of gratitude to him, and not just the English-speaking world, for his books are used to translate into other languages from French and Spanish to Swedish and Portuguese, as well as a host of Non-European languages.

To Monk Joseph – Eternal Memory!

On the Fringes of the Contemporary Russian Orthodox Church

Introduction

After the Fall in the Garden of Eden, divisions appeared among mankind. These were described ascetically by the Church Fathers as falls to the left and right sides and are also today described politically as left and right. These divisions can be seen in the Gospels, where we encounter Saducees and Pharisees. The former were the ‘positive’ liberals of their age, who thought that everything was ‘relative’ (to use a modern term) and rejected the Resurrection. On the other hand, there were the negative conservatives of their age, the Pharisees and their sidekicks, the scribes. The Pharisees were highly ritualistic and considered to be model Jews in their devotion. However, our Lord called them ‘hypocrites’ and said to them ‘woe unto you’, when they censoriously condemned others, stoning to death and rejecting merciful healings on the Sabbath day.

We can find parallels to this in every religion in the world and throughout history. Thus in contemporary Islam, we can find fanatical young suicide bombers and, conversely, polite, conformist, Western-educated imams, who dress in suits and ties and whose values seem to be almost identical to liberal Guardian readers. Similarly, in contemporary Judaism, we can find fanatical rabbis who literally spit at Christians with furious hatred, but also ‘reformed’ female rabbis who look and sound like middle-class women from any polite suburb in the Western world. Since these two tendencies have always existed, both inside and outside any religion, and always will exist (because human psychology with all its deformations and deviations does not change), what exact forms do they take in the contemporary Russian Orthodox Church?

The Contemporary Saducees

The contemporary Saducees are secularist, syncretist, Russophobic, cosmopolitan, ultra-liberal, rationalist, anti-ascetic, reformist, new calendarist, ecumenist, modernist, masonic, intellectual, pro-homosexual, anti-mystical, philosophical and renovationist Westernizers. Some of them are converts from Judaism. Great advocates of revolutionary 1917 Duma politics and Church Renovationism and haters of the Tsar, they are admirers of the historic Paris School of Philosophy, which later worked its ills in the USA, and of semi-Orthodox, iconostasis-less, Lutheran-style churches in Finland. Many are in spirit Uniats, like the late French philosopher Olivier Clement, notorious for taking Roman Catholic communion, or like those who celebrate Orthodox services in Uniat churches. Eucharistically-minded, they are strongly opposed to confession and make communion obligatory for all at every single service.

In Moscow their leader is Fr George Kochetkov, invited to take over the Paris-style Sourozh Cathedral in London by the schismatic former Bishop Basil Osborne and once suspended by Patriarch Alexey II as a ‘neo-renovationist’. Politically, the Saducees are strongly anti-Putin and anti-Patriarch (both of whom they love to accuse of corruption with the Western propaganda chorus), pro-Constantinople and therefore pro-US and therefore pro-EU. It is suspected that they receive finance from there, just as the left-wing Paris YMCA émigré organization or the right-wing German émigré NTS were US-financed, little more than puppets. Inside today’s Russia, the Saducees look to the Prime Minister Medvedev and technocrats and liberals more extreme than him. A favourite website of theirs is the anti-Church and anti-Russian www.portal-credo.ru, which many suspect is CIA or Soros-financed, as it continually attacks the Russian Orthodox Church.

Pro-Catholic and so pro-Protestant and so pro-Secularist, the Saducees want to ‘reform’ (i.e. desecrate, that is, desacralize) Orthodox services, by shortening them and rewriting the Typicon and the Menaia. They believe that they understand everything, but in reality understand nothing because they only use their heads and not their hearts. They detest clerical dress, beards, long hair, and above all the Psalter, long services, fasting, asceticism and monasticism. They are strongly feminist (in the secular sense, not in the Orthodox sense, of the word (1)), detest modest dress and head coverings for women and have girls serving in their altars and want woman deaconesses and priests, like the late Elisabeth Behr-Sigel and other Parisian intellectuals and modernists in various countries. Being disincarnate, they prefer dreamy, abstract, ‘spiritual’ (= pseudo-spiritual) philosophy to concrete theology, which is based on practical spiritual experience.

Thus they detest any signs of the Incarnation of the Church in national life. Therefore they refuse to venerate saints like the Royal Martyrs, and in general the New Martyrs of the Communist Yoke, St John of Kronstadt, St John of Shanghai and St Seraphim of Sofia. They are admirers of Judas, whom some of them want to rehabilitate, not to mention Origen and Arius. They substitute for the saints their own ‘saints’, for example, those who helped Jews and so became victims of Hitler. In this way, they want to create a ‘new spirituality’, new simplified forms of liturgical life, new layouts of the church building with ‘open’ and low iconostases. Many of them consider smiling and laughter to be ‘a sign of the Holy Spirit’ and seem to believe, like Protestants, that they have already been saved in some magic descent of the Holy Spirit on them.

The Contemporary Pharisees

The contemporary Pharisees are also secularist, but in the opposite way from the Saducees. They are sectarian, ritualistic, ultra-conservative, ultra-nationalist, isolationist, provincial, loving folklore, racist, chauvinist, imperialist (not Imperial – which is very different), anti-Semitic, obscurantist, apocalyptic, rigid fundamentalists (like fundamentalist Protestants). Politically they are anti-Putin and anti-Patriarch, whom they see as moderates if not traitors, and in history they support both the monster Stalin (whom they want to canonize!) and yet they also admire many of Hitler’s policies! At the same time as this Stalinism, some of them call the Tsar-Martyr a redeemer. Although all suffering can be redemptive, there is only One Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Another historical figure they love is Ivan IV, called by his Western detractors ‘the Terrible’. (True, he was far less evil than his Western contemporaries like Charles V or Henry VIII, the latter of whom murdered 72,000, but he still murdered some 4,000 enemies of the State). A recent figure whom they admire is the pop singer Igor Talkov, assassinated in 1991, and they have even written an akathist to him. This admiration positions them as victims of the catastrophic perestroika period, when suddenly all values and identities were called into question, creating huge instability. Many at that time were baptized and made it safely from the rocks of the failed and dissolved Soviet Union to the shores of the Church, but the Pharisees never got there, being bogged down in the illusions of nationalism, just as the Saducees got bogged down in the illusions of anti-national Westernism.

The Pharisees tend to create their own sects, which claim to be ‘of the catacombs’. They are not afraid of falling out of communion with the Patriarch and the rest of the Russian Church and in any case, they do not recognize the rest of the Orthodox Church, the Romanians, the Georgians, the Bulgarians, the Greeks etc (though some have links with Greek old calendarists). In this they have much in common with the isolationist 17th century Old Ritualists. Just like the Saducees, they do not much practise the Faith – standing in church and praying demands faith, love and patience – but some may tell you that placing a booklet with the akathist to Igor Talkov or an icon of Stalin (!) on any part of the body that hurts will cure it. In this sense the Pharisees are anti-ascetic, highly superstitious or rather pseudo-mystical (like the Old Ritualists).

They seem to believe more in magic than God, Who will conjure up for them salvation out of thin air. They also seem to prefer dressing up in pseudo-military and pseudo-monastic uniforms (black being the favourite colour) and taking part in processions with banners to standing in church in prayer. They are also anti-intellectual and burn books by modernist thinkers like Fr Alexander Schmemann and Fr Alexander Men, rather than constructively criticizing them. Their strange slogan is ‘Orthodoxy or Death’; the Orthodox version of which would be ‘Faithfulness to the Church to Martyrdom’. These people are generally singularly humourless, gloomy and fearful, believing, it would seem, more in Antichrist than Christ and are obsessed with apocalyptic prophecies. A favourite website of theirs is http://3rm.info, which is anti-Patriarchal.

Conclusion

In surveying these two extremes, we can see how they meet and are parallel, both groups being incredibly intolerant of everyone else. Let us be frank, there is little theology in either extreme, it is psychology and even psychopathology. Some of these people have actually gone from one group to another, usually from the Saducees to the Pharisees. Thus, the Saducees tend to be of the younger generation, whereas the Pharisees tend to be a generation older. Clearly, the psychological need to be in opposition, to be rebellious, to be outsiders, is very strong. Both groups fail to accept the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. For example, the Saducees include in the Church all, including the heterodox who reject Orthodoxy, but not the ‘super-Orthodox’ Pharisees.

The Pharisees reject all the saints and holiness in general (see their rejection of the Menaia) and the Tradition (the inspirations of the Holy Spirit since Pentecost). They reject the Church and form their own sects, rejecting all the saints (like the Saducees, they venerate only selected saints), thus rejecting the Catholicity of the Church. Both groups similarly seem to reject the Apostolicity of the Church, established in the first century. The reference point for the Saducees is the Protestant Reformation (which is why they do not join Roman Catholicism) and the reference point for the Pharisees is medieval Russian history, especially the 17thcentury Old Ritualists (Russian Protestants), and do not go as far back as the first millennium.

The Saducees love the ‘magic’ of intellectual talk and philosophy, preferring it to actually doing. The Phariseees love the ‘magic’ of showy external parades, but not do not like ‘doing Church’, i. e. praying at church services. If anyone should read the above and feel concerned, let us put all this into proportion. Of some 164 million in the mainstream of the Russian Orthodox Church, these two sidestreams are tiny, perhaps 5,000 on each side, perhaps 10,000 in all. Should we therefore be wary of both equally? In one sense yes, because both are dangerous spiritual deviations, however there is a difference. The Pharisees, being inherently sectarian and so mainly having consciously cut themselves off from the Church, are largely discredited, their ideology much mocked, since its stands up to no logic, let alone theological analysis.

The Saducees, on the other hand, for the moment have the upper hand in terms of influence because they are still officially inside the Church. Being well-instructed, they know how to infiltrate and can even get the ear of some who are in power and in many respects cause the extreme reactions of the Pharisees through their humiliating contempt for the little people and sincere piety. And in that sense they are for the moment the more dangerous of the two deviations. As for us in the mainstream, we will continue in prayer and love, avoiding extremes, venerating all the saints, keeping the fasts and admiring genuine monastic life, the barometer of the Church, following the Tradition and obeying the Patriarchal episcopate of the Church – One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

Note:

1. Secular feminism is part of the attempt to re-engineer human nature, common to both classic Communism with its attempted creation of ‘homo sovieticus’ and to modern Western Secularism with its transgender/ transhuman agenda.

More on the Present Pastoral Crisis

Introduction

Apparently, according to one reader, a naïve convert recently accused me of romanticism!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. This much amused me. Of all my many faults, that is not one, as you can tell from the number of exclamation marks. I think one of my main faults is rather being the opposite of romantic, a wet blanket, pouring cold war on such fantasies as an imminent English Orthodox Church (a perennial favourite of the ex-vicar in question over the last 20 years). Let us be constructive and look at three traits required in dealing with the real pastoral crisis in this country, which must be resolved before we can even start dreaming about building a new Local Church here, which can only be built on the firm rock of faith – and not on the shifting sands of fantasy.

1. Patience with Outrageous and Monstrous Injustices

No Local Church can exist without bishops. But they must be the right bishops. Over the last forty odd years I have met scores of bishops. Among them I have met a pedophile (an Anglican convert), several homosexuals, one of whom used to ordain his boyfriends with disastrous consequences, two womanizers, two narcissists with strong personality cults, many corrupt and simoniac bureaucrats and empire-builders, but above all several righteous men and at least two saints. These latter do not pose any problems, as they work towards the formation of authentic Local Churches, However, the former do pose problems. So how do we deal with them?

First of all, you only leave a bishop if he publicly preaches heresy or asks you to do something immoral, to give concrete examples, if he asks to sleep with your wife in exchange for ordination or asks you to become a freemason. What of opinions? Now, among the saintly bishops that I have met there was one who believed in Atlantis. This was a private opinion and in no way contradicted the teachings of the Church. Similarly, some people, usually over-strict converts, get all het up when their bishops expresses a liberal opinion about Non-Orthodox. Again, this is a private opinion and no more. You do not leave a bishop for that. With all bishops, apart from those who publicly preach heresy or ask you to do what is immoral, we are called on to be patient and pray for them. Any other attitude and impatience smacks of pride.

2. Inclusive Churches

Any Church life must be inclusive of all Orthodox. No Local Church can be built on exclusivity – which, sadly, has been the pattern here for generations. The Church is not built on exclusive clubs, cliques and sects. This is a particular problem in England, where middle-class clubbiness and cliqueiness are very strong. This is why there are already two exclusive groups of Orthodox, which resemble ex-Anglican clubs (though, inward-looking and so unconscious, they would claim otherwise). Similarly, there are three small groups which seem to be clubs for intellectuals, which automatically repel ordinary Orthodox and their children. The discussion of doctorates and cultish esoteric interests do not attract ordinary Orthodox, who naturally feel excluded, as indeed they are. There is definitely a lack of a missionary outlook among such groups.

Other exclusive groups that repel rather than attract are sectarian groups. Fortunately, these are usually by definition tiny, based either around personality cults or else around new or old calendarism. Tiny old calendarist sects are strange since the members seem to be at each others’ throats. One can clearly see that the problem here is psychological (when not psychopathological), as most old calendarist groups are composed of ex-Protestants (Anglicans again). Similarly, there is little attraction to new calendarist sects, which are often highly intellectual, as with many churches in Finland and Paris. Someone also once said that old calendarist/traditionalist sects are replete with repressed homosexuals, whereas new calendarist/modernist (false style) sects are replete with practising homosexuals. Sadly, 43 years of seeing the world tells me that there is truth in this.

3. Wood not Gold

The enormous pastoral crisis in this country is characterized by the immigration of large numbers of often unChurched Eastern European refugees fleeing the economic ruination of their homelands by the EU, for whom there are neither enough priests who understand them, nor churches nor church choirs. If this had happened last year, we could make excuses. However, it has been happening for the last fifteen years and hardly anything has been done about the situation. Indeed, the clergy of fifteen years ago have aged and have less energy now than then. In general, the average age of the clergy is very advanced. Huge efforts now have to be made to make up for the errors of the last fifteen years. Extremely common attitudes such as, ‘We will not busy ourselves with X or Y, because they are a different nationality to us’, are simply unacceptable. A Local Church is for all local Orthodox.

The need for a far greater number of churches is obvious. Due to the refusal and lack of vision of several hierarchs of the time to provide adequate infrastructure in the last quarter of the 20th century, when it was both cheap and available, we are now in crisis. We at the grassroots are having to appeal for funds, scraping together money to buy premises to set up chapels and churches in buildings that are not ideal. The greatest scandal here is when money is available and it is spent on unnecessary luxuries. We have no time for ignoble gold, we need noble wood. After all, that was what the cross, on which the victory over death took place, was made of.

Confession and Communion: A False Problem

Is it that confession is obligatory before every communion or is that you take communion whenever you want and have confession whenever you want?

Such is the false question which I first heard over forty years ago, to which any answer must also be false, for false questions can only have false answers. What is the reality?

Confession and communion are two different sacraments. Thus, you can have confession and not take communion and you can, in some circumstances, take communion without confession. In other words, you can have confession very often and take communion less often. This is the opposite of the modernism’s apparent hatred of confession and love of obligatory communion – which is not part of the Church. The impression given is that modernism does not believe that its adherents any sins and that therefore they have nothing to repent of. If this is so, then it is spiritual pride. Of course, this impression may be quite wrong, but it is the one made. After all, a doctor does not prescribe medicine, if he cannot first make a diagnosis, and confession is precisely diagnosis.

If we are talking about nominal Orthodox who take communion only occasionally, perhaps once or twice a year or once or twice every ten or twenty years, then confession before every communion is the rule.

What about communion whenever you want and confession whenever you want? This statement is a piece of consumerism that treats the Church as a supermarket and has its roots in the anti-sacramental and therefore anti-priestly Protestant mentality that lies behind consumerism: ‘Do whatever you want whenever you want’. Little wonder that this mentality is that of certain unChurched converts, precisely of Protestant origin, who always take communion without confession and even scorn cradle Orthodox who do not take communion at every Liturgy. The result is that cradle Orthodox no longer attend convert services, feeling hostility. And that is a pity because it means that unChurched converts can no longer meet anyone they can learn from, with the result that convert ghettos are only reinforced.

What then is the ideal? It is to take communion, voluntarily, according to personal spiritual needs, when you spiritually need it (not when you want it – ‘want’ is the word of consumerists) and to have confession beforehand because we should need confession before communion. If we do not feel the need for confession, it suggests that we do not need communion. Put simply, if a full dustbin does not know that it needs emptying (confession), then it does not need filling (communion).

There are exceptions to this. Firstly, in parish life, for example during Passion Week or Bright Week or at other times as before the Nativity or Theophany, when there may be liturgies on several consecutive days and simply we may feel no need for confession two or more days running because the faithful are striving to live a quiet and devout life ‘in all godliness and honesty’. The second exception is in monastic life or among those who are living a monastic-style life in the world and may take communion more regularly but only have confession every few days or even every few weeks, according to their spiritual father’s directions.

Preparation before communion assumes not only confession, but also that the fast days in the week before communion and due abstinence are observed, together with the fast from midnight, that the faithful attend the vigil service (or vespers and matins) before the Liturgy and that they also read the rule before communion.

Modernism which has more or less abandoned the sacrament of confession (if it ever knew it) will say that it does not need confession frequently because the ‘early Christians’ took communion every day. This is dangerous spiritual pride. Are modernists seriously claiming that they live on the spiritual level of Orthodox in the first centuries who faced possible martyrdom every single day? Let us face reality. Those in modernist groups who want weekly or even daily communion (impossible for menstruating girls and women) are simply copying heterodox, for whom, in any case, there is no Body and Blood of Christ, but just biscuit wafers with or without some wine. And what is unconsumed among them, they throw away. Such modernism is not Orthodox and should learn what the Apostle Paul says and tremble:

Wherefore whoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you and many sleep. (I Cor 11, 27-30).

Confession and communion form a virtuous circle, for the benefits of communion depend directly on our preparation for it. Modernism which superstitiously misbelieves that communion is a sort of magic, which confers its benefits (listed in the prayers before and after communion) automatically, without any effort on our part, is sadly and dangerously mistaken. I have often seen the sorrowful consequences of this mistake in the past decades and they always lead to lapsing from the Faith, which is the only thing that Satan wants us to do.

Some Constructive Suggestions Towards Overcoming the Chronic Pastoral Crisis in Both Dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church in the British Isles and Ireland

Introduction: The Russian Orthodox Presence in the British Isles and Ireland

There has been a Russian Orthodox presence in England for 300 years. And yet, incredibly, both dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church in our countries (that of the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and that of the Church based inside Russia (the Diocese of Sourozh)) have faced battles to get even the name of their diocese right! Although it is thirty years since the late Fr Mark (Meyrick) of the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) painted his Icon of All the Saints Who Have Shone Forth in the British Isles and Ireland with the correct title, we recently had a battle at the Theological Commission of the Inter-Orthodox Committee of Bishops even to establish this title, since most of the foreign bishops had no concept that there was a difference between Great Britain, the United Kingdom and the British Isles and whether any of these names included Ireland!

The Present Crisis

Both Russian Orthodox dioceses here have been in crisis in recent decades, facing three problems.

The first problem faced by the small Diocese of Sourozh, directly under Moscow, has been a mixture of modernism, liturgical renovationism and a personality cult characteristic of small organizations, all problems inherited from the Paris School of modernist Orthodoxy. This battle for the integrity of the Faith against what was in reality Protestantization resulted in the 2006 Sourozh schism, when the Diocese lost over half its mainly convert clergy and 300 people, also mainly converts. Though this is all in the past, there is still a hangover from that period. The second problem faced by that Diocese is its chronic lack of properties because of its defective ecclesiology in the past. This entailed dependence on Church of England for borrowing properties and so a lack of independence and freedom to preach the Gospel in the Orthodox way. All that the Diocese possesses is a smallish Cathedral in west London and tiny chapels in Oxford, Manchester and Nottingham. The third problem is its chronic lack of (overworked) clergy, whose average age is about 65 and few of whom speak the language of the masses of the Russian-speaking people, whose average age is about 35 (excluding children)!

The first problem faced by the even smaller ROCOR Diocese of the British Isles and Ireland, has been a narrow nationalism mixed on the fringes with old-fashioned Anglo-Catholicism, which in the past created a dead end of insularity. This battle for the integrity of the Faith against such Sectarianism, mixed with personality conflicts characteristic of small organizations, resulted in the 2007 ROCOR schism, when the Diocese lost its only monastery and convent. Though this is all exactly ten years in the past, there is still a hangover from that period. The second problem faced by the Diocese is its chronic lack of properties because of its over-strict narrowness and rejection of any form of mission (there was even a missionary tax!) in the past. This entailed total exhaustion and demoralization of the clergy and so a lack of any encouragement to preach the Gospel in the Orthodox way. With one exception, the Diocese largely only exists in London (and missions dependent on London) and in East Anglia. All that the Diocese possesses is a very small Cathedral in a sidestreet in west London, the largest Russian Orthodox church in the British Isles and Ireland in Colchester (not London) and tiny chapels in a house in Essex, in a private garden in a Suffolk village, in Norwich in Norfolk and near a village in central Ireland, far from where Orthodox live. The third problem is its chronic lack of overworked clergy, whose average age is about 65 and few of whom speak the language of the masses of the Russian-speaking people, whose average age is about 35 (excluding children)!

A Future Solution?

As can be seen, the common crisis is today purely pastoral in nature. Given that two of the three problems of both dioceses, lack of church buildings and lack of clergy, who are elderly, overworked and exhausted, are identical, there should be some common solution. One shrewd commentator has said that the Diocese that will dominate will be the one that sets up proper, large churches in London to provide proper pastoral care for the tens of thousands of faithful there. Notably, churches are required in the south of London, around, Croydon, in the east, around Stratford and in the north, around St Albans. The scandal is that there is only one permanent Russian-speaking priest to cover the country to the east and south of London – one third of the whole country!

However, we should also take into account the wider Russian Orthodox world in continental Western Europe and beyond. The Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) dominates the Russian Orthodox presence in the English-speaking world, in North America and Australasia. However, the Russian Orthodox Church based inside Russia, dominates elsewhere, notably in South America and above all in Western Europe. Here, where 25 years ago ROCOR was dominant and representatives of the Church inside Russia hardly existed, today ROCOR hardly exists. Just the Diocese of the Church inside Russia in Italy is larger than all of ROCOR in Western Europe. This has only eight parishes outside its parishes in western Germany and the few in Switzerland. Surely it is the Russian Orthodox presence in continental Western Europe will one day come under representatives of the Church inside Russia, with its new Cathedral and seminary in Paris and active young bishops, large flocks and newly-built churches in Rome, Madrid and many other places?

On the other hand, perhaps at this point we should consider what can be called ‘the Brexit Factor’. With the United Kingdom, at least, leaving the European Union, it is inevitably returning to closer relations with the rest of the English-speaking world, former colonies, especially in North America and Australasia. Surely, ecclesiastically, this means the Russian Orthodox presence in the British Isles and Ireland one day coming under ROCOR? Rather than the canonically absurd arrangement of two dioceses of the same Local Church on the same territory, there should surely be some rearrangement, at least in the British Isles and Ireland. It may seem premature to talk of this to some, but, after all, the two parts of the Russian Church have been united for ten years now, since 2007. The only delay on such matters can be because of pastoral considerations, in the interests of economy, that the people may not be upset.

Conclusion: Divine not Human

Of course, none of this can take place without the right leader, that is, without the right bishop, one acceptable to both sides, and this must be a bishop who speaks English and understands English people. A pastor. It is no wish of ours to hurt anyone’s feelings with the above considerations. The above is all written in the spirit of throwing a stone into a pond and seeing what ripples there may be. In other words, surely it is time at least to begin discussing such possibilities as we have outlined above in the spirit of pastoral love and unity. Let us remember: All crises are man-made and all solutions are God-made. Let us all strive to discern and do God’s Will.

Which Jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church Should I Join?

Although fourteen Local Orthodox Churches make up the whole Orthodox Church of 216 million, only seven of them are represented by their jurisdictions outside the Local Orthodox Church homelands in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. However, since the Churches of Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria and Georgia generally care only for their own nationals, only three of these jurisdictions are open to Non-Orthodox. These three depend on the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch and Moscow.

However, in Western Europe and North America there at present exist two groups in the Russian Church – that directly under Moscow and that under the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and so indirectly under Moscow. In North America, there is actually a third group, known as the OCA (Orthodox Church in America), originally largely Carpatho-Russian but now basically English-language, which was founded by Moscow. Anyone wishing to join the Orthodox Church may therefore have a choice to make.

Generally speaking, in Western countries, where Orthodox Christians are only a small minority and Orthodox churches are few and far between, this choice will be decided geographically. If you only have one Orthodox church geographically near you, then that is the church to join. However, if you live in or near the capital of a Western country or in or near a large city or town, there may well be a choice to make between the various jurisdictions. What needs to be known in order to choose?

1. The Patriarchate of Constantinople

This jurisdiction is dominated by Greek nationalism (the Greek flag) and generally sends away any Non-Greeks who knock at its door. It should also be known that this Patriarchate is both heavily involved with the Vatican and is run by the US political elite. For it, Washington is the ‘Second Rome’ and therefore the official ethos is modernistic, ecumenistic and generally liberal Protestant, according to the anti-Russian, Anglo-Saxon Establishment model. This is true even of Non-Greek parts of it, even though they try and imitate a few selected Russian customs. Having said this, there are exceptions, with some excellent pastors and pious people, so that any generalizations can be disproved by exceptions to the rule. If you are fortunate, you may live near a church of this jurisdiction that is not nationalistic and so is interested in missions to the Non-Greek world and has spiritual depth and content.

2. The Patriarchate of Antioch

Part of this jurisdiction is dominated by Arab nationalism, but the other part, mainly in Western countries, is dominated by a spirit of mission with a conservative-evangelical Protestant style, with a certain, rather peculiar and amateurish imitation of a few selected Russian customs. The ethos of this part, largely run by ex-Evangelicals, is to proselytize, that is, its ethos is to recruit as many like-minded converts as possible to itself. Some criticize it for this because as a result it cuts corners, fails to observe the canons and has a Protestant feel to it that attracts few cradle Orthodox (and it is not even very interested in this), certainly none who are anchored in the Tradition. Having said this, no-one would criticize this part of Antioch for its lack of zeal, only for its lack of depth and of knowledge of the Tradition. If you are fortunate, you may live near a church of this jurisdiction that has spiritual depth and content.

3. The Patriarchate of Moscow

A criticism of this jurisdiction is that its Patriarch and hierarchy are corrupt. Those who make such assertions never have any proof of them and are engaged in Western-sponsored, anti-Russian politics. However, even if, for the sake of argument, we agree that they were true, we would answer: So what? The Patriarch is not the Head of the Church, for Christ is the Head of the Church and the Patriarch does not run the Church, for the Holy Spirit runs the Church. Such political criticisms show a Papist way of thinking. The parishes of the Patriarchate of Moscow outside the former Soviet Union, mainly in Western Europe and South America, display several tendencies. Some are nationalistic and, Soviet-style, arrogantly imperialistic, some are modernistic, others follow the Tradition and accept Non-Russians. If you are fortunate, you may live near a church of this jurisdiction that has spiritual depth and content.

4. ROCOR

The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) exists mainly in North America, Australasia and Western Europe. As such it has been responsible for much missionary and translation work. It has in its near-100 year history also been subject to many sufferings and persecution, as it has been without the political protection of a powerful State. Thus, the best of ROCOR has been a Church of Confessors and Missionaries, as in its saints like St John of Shanghai. However, other parts of it have been involved in nationalism, excessive strictness to the point of phariseeism and depressing right-wing politics. Today, as part of the Russian Orthodox Church, it has sometimes given the impression of drifting and having lost its identity. This drift has come about whenever its faithfulness to the Tradition has been in doubt. If you are fortunate, you may live near a church of this jurisdiction that has spiritual depth and content.

At Last a Real Cathedral for all Orthodox in London?

One of the greatest pastoral problems in London is the chronic lack of Orthodox churches. For example, St Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Moscow Road is very small, hardly a Cathedral at all, and the medium-sized Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Knightsbridge is smaller than St John’s Russian Orthodox church in provincial Colchester. Of course, there is one church building that would suit Orthodox in London, providing it was frescoed and fitted with iconostases and other Church furnishings. One person who works there would be glad to help us use it.

St Paul’s Cathedral is located on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London. Its dedication to the holy apostle Paul dates back to the original church on the site, founded in 604, though unproven stories assert that this was because St Paul actually preached here. The present Cathedral, dating from the late 17th century, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. At 365 feet (111 m) high, it was until 1967 the tallest building in London.

The first recorded Orthodox Bishop of London was called either Restitutus or Adelphius and attended the Council of Arles in 314. However, the location of his Cathedral is unknown. St Bede recorded that in 604 St Augustine consecrated Mellitus as the first Bishop of the East Saxons, whose territory covered London, and their King, Sabert. Sabert’s uncle and overlord, Ethelbert, King of Kent, built a church dedicated to St Paul in London, as the seat of the new bishop. It is assumed that this first Cathedral stood on the same site as the present one.

On the death of Sabert in about 616, his pagan sons expelled Bishop Mellitus from London and the East Saxons reverted to paganism. Christianity was restored later in the seventh century and it is presumed that either the Cathedral was restored or else a new one was built as the seat of seventh-century bishops like St Cedd and St Erconwald, ‘The Light of London’, who was buried in the Cathedral in 693. This building, or a successor, was destroyed by fire in 962 but rebuilt in the same year.

In 1016 King Ethelred the Unready was buried in the Cathedral. This was burned down with much of the city in a fire in 1087. The Norman occupiers then built a new Cathedral, known to history as ‘Old St Paul’s’. This Gothic building was in turn gutted by the Great Fire of London of 1666. While it might have been possible to rebuild it, a decision was taken to build a new Cathedral. The task of designing it was assigned to Sir Christopher Wren in 1669.

The design process took several years, but the result was the present St Paul’s Cathedral, modelled partly on St Peter’s in the Vatican. St Paul’s is still the second largest church in Britain. The building was financed by a tax on coal and was completed within the architect’s lifetime. It was declared officially complete by Parliament on 25 December 1711, though in fact construction continued for several years after that. In 1716 the total costs amounted to £1,095,556 (£148 million in 2015 money).

Today, though with a small but active Protestant congregation, St Paul’s is largely a tourist monument. With an area of some 6,000 square metres and several altars, it is ideally suited for London’s huge numbers of Orthodox Christians. Consecrated to the holy apostles Peter and Paul, it could become the Cathedral for all Orthodox in London. Fantasy? But our God works miracles.