Category Archives: St John of Shanghai

1938-2018: St John on the Decline of the Patriarchate of Constantinople

THE PRIMACY among Orthodox Churches is possessed by the Church of the New Rome, Constantinople, which is headed by a Patriarch who has the title of Ecumenical, and therefore is itself called the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which territorially reached the culmination of its development at the end of the 18th century. At that time there was included in it the whole of Asia Minor, the whole Balkan Peninsula (except for Montenegro), together with the adjoining islands, since the other independent Churches in the Balkan Peninsula had been abolished and had become part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Ecumenical Patriarch had received from the Turkish Sultan, even before the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, the title of Millet Bash, that is, the head of the people, and he was considered the head of the whole Orthodox population of the Turkish Empire. This, however, did not prevent the Turkish government from removing patriarchs for any reason whatever and calling for new elections, at the same time collecting a large tax from the newly elected patriarch. Apparently the latter circumstance had a great significance in the changing of patriarchs by the Turks, and therefore it often happened that they again allowed on the Patriarchal Throne a patriarch whom they had removed, after the death of one or several of his successors. Thus, many patriarchs occupied their see several times, and each accession was accompanied by the collection of a special tax from them by the Turks.

In order to make up the sum which he paid on his accession to the Patriarchal Throne, a patriarch made a collection from the metropolitans subordinate to him, and they, in their turn, collected from the clergy subordinate to them. This manner of making up its finances left an imprint on the whole order of the Patriarchate’s life. In the Patriarchate there was likewise evident the Greek “Great Idea,” that is, the attempt to restore Byzantium, at first in a cultural, but later also in a political sense. For this reason in all important; posts there were assigned people loyal to this idea, and for the most part Greeks from the part of Constantinople called the Phanar, where also the Patriarchate was located. Almost always the episcopal sees were filled by Greeks, even though in the Balkan Peninsula the population was primarily Slavic.

At the beginning of the 19th century there began a movement of liberation among the Balkan peoples, who were striving to liberate themselves from the authority of the Turks. There arose the states of Serbia, Greece, Romania, and Bulgaria, at first semi-independent, and then completely independent from Turkey. Parallel with this there proceeded also the formation of new Local Churches which were separate from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Even though it was unwillingly, under the influence of circumstances, the Ecumenical Patriarchs permitted the autonomy of the Churches in the vassal princedoms, and later they recognized the full independence of the Churches in Serbia, Greece, and Romania. Only the Bulgarian question was complicated in view on the one hand of the impatience of the Bulgarians, who had not yet attained political independence, and, on the other hand, thanks to the unyieldingness of the Greeks. The self-willed declaration of Bulgarian autocephaly on the foundation of a firman of the Sultan was not recognized by the Patriarchate, and in a number of dioceses there was established a parallel hierarchy.

The boundaries of the newly-formed Churches coincided with the boundaries of the new states, which were growing all the time at the expense of Turkey, at the same time acquiring new dioceses from the Patriarchate. Nonetheless, in 1912, when the Balkan War began, the Ecumenical Patriarchate had about 70 metropolias and several bishoprics. The war of 1912-13 tore away from Turkey a significant part of the Balkan Peninsula with such great spiritual centers as Salonica and Athos. The Great War of 1914-18 for a time deprived Turkey of the whole of Thrace and the Asia Minor coast with the city of Smyrna, which were subsequently lost by Greece in 1922 after the unsuccessful march of the Greeks on Constantinople.

Here the Ecumenical Patriarch could not so easily allow out of his authority the dioceses which had been torn away from Turkey, as had been done previously. There was already talk concerning certain places which from of old had been under the spiritual authority of Constantinople. Nonetheless, the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1922 recognized the annexation to the Serbian Church of all areas within the boundaries of Yugoslavia; he agreed to the inclusion within the Church of Greece of a number of dioceses in the Greek State, preserving, however, his jurisdiction over Athos; and in 1937 he recognized even the autocephaly of the small Albanian Church, which originally he had not recognized.

The boundaries of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the number of its dioceses had significantly decreased. At the same time the Ecumenical Patriarchate in fact lost Asia Minor also, although it remained within its jurisdiction. In accordance with the peace treaty between Greece and Turkey in 1923, there occurred an exchange of population between these powers, so that the whole Greek population of Asia Minor had to resettle in Greece. Ancient cities, having at one time a great significance in ecclesiastical matters and glorious in their church history, remained without a single inhabitant of the Orthodox faith. At the same time, the Ecumenical Patriarch lost his political significance in Turkey, since Kemal Pasha deprived him of his title of head of the people. Factually, at the present time under the Ecumenical Patriarch there are five dioceses within the boundaries of Turkey in addition to Athos with the surrounding places in Greece. The Patriarch is extremely hindered in the manifestation even of his indisputable rights in church government within the boundaries of Turkey, where he is viewed as an ordinary Turkish subject-official, being furthermore under the supervision of the government. The Turkish government, which interferes in all aspects of the life of its citizens, only as a special privilege has permitted him, as also the Armenian Patriarch, to wear long hair and clerical garb, forbidding this to the rest of the clergy. The Patriarch has no right of free exit from Turkey, and lately the government is ever more insistently pursuing his removal to the new capital of Ankara (the ancient Ancyra), where there are now no Orthodox Christians, but where the administration with all the branches of governmental life is concentrated.

Such an outward abasement of the hierarch of the city of St. Constantine, which was once the capital of the ecumene, has not caused reverence toward him to be shaken among Orthodox Christians, who revere the See of Sts. Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian. From the height of this See the successor of Sts. John and Gregory could spiritually guide the whole Orthodox world, if only he possessed their firmness in the defense of righteousness and truth and the breadth of views of the recent Patriarch Joachim III. However, to the general decline of the Ecumenical Patriarchate there has been joined the direction of its activity after the Great War. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has desired to make up for the loss of dioceses which have left its jurisdiction, and likewise the loss of its political significance within the boundaries of Turkey, by submitting to itself areas where up to now there has been no Orthodox hierarchy, and likewise the Churches of those states where the government is not Orthodox. Thus, on April 5, 1922, Patriarch Meletius designated an Exarch of Western and Central Europe with the title of Metropolitan of Thyateira with residency in London; on March 4, 1923, the same Patriarch consecrated the Czech Archimandrite Sabbatius Archbishop of Prague and All Czechoslovakia; on April 15, 1924, a Metropolia of Hungary and All Central Europe was founded with a See in Budapest, even though there was already a Serbian bishop there. In America an Archbishopric was established under the Ecumenical Throne, then in 1924 a Diocese was established in Australia with a See in Sydney. In 1938 India was made subordinate to the Archbishop of Australia.

At the same time there has proceeded the subjection of separate parts of the Russian Orthodox Church which have been torn away from Russia. Thus, on June 9, 1923, the Ecumenical Patriarch accepted into his jurisdiction the Diocese of Finland as an autonomous Finnish Church; on August 23, 1923, the Estonian Church was made subject in the same way, on November 13, 1924, Patriarch Gregory VII recognized the autocephaly of the Polish Church under the supervision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate—that is, rather autonomy. In March, 1936, the Ecumenical Patriarch accepted Latvia into his jurisdiction. Not limiting himself to the acceptance into his jurisdiction of Churches in regions which had fallen away from the borders of Russia, Patriarch Photius accepted into his jurisdiction Metropolitan Eulogius in Western Europe together with the parishes subordinate to him, and on February 28, 1937, an Archbishop of the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch in America consecrated Bishop Theodore-Bogdan Shpilko for a Ukrainian Church in North America.

Thus, the Ecumenical Patriarch has become actually “ecumenical” [universal] in the breadth of the territory which is theoretically subject to him. Almost the whole earthly globe, apart from the small territories of the three Patriarchates and the territory of Soviet Russia, according to the idea of the Patriarchate’s leaders, enters into the composition of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Increasing without limit their desires to submit to themselves parts of Russia, the Patriarchs of Constantinople have even begun to declare the uncanonicity of the annexation of Kiev to the Moscow Patriarchate, and to declare that the previously existing southern Russian Metropolia of Kiev should be subject to the Throne of Constantinople. Such a point of view is not only clearly expressed in the Tomos of November 13, 1924, in connection with the separation of the Polish Church, but is also quite thoroughly promoted by the Patriarchs. Thus, the Vicar of Metropolitan Eulogius in Paris, who was consecrated with the permission of the Ecumenical Patriarch, has assumed the title of Chersonese; that is to say, Chersonese, which is now in the territory of Russia, is subject to the Ecumenical Patriarch. The next logical step for the Ecumenical Patriarchate would be to declare the whole of Russia as being under the jurisdiction of Constantinople.

However, the actual spiritual might and even the actual boundaries of authority by far do not correspond to such a self-aggrandizement of Constantinople. Not to mention the fact that almost everywhere the authority of the Patriarch is quite illusory and consists for the most part in the confirmation of bishops who have been elected to various places or the sending of such from Constantinople, many lands which Constantinople considers subject to itself do not have any flock at all under its jurisdiction.

The moral authority of the Patriarchs of Constantinople has likewise fallen very low in view of their extreme instability in ecclesiastical matters. Thus, Patriarch Meletius IV arranged a “Pan-Orthodox Congress,” with representatives of various churches, which decreed the introduction of the New Calendar. This decree, recognized only by a part of the Church, introduced a frightful schism among Orthodox Christians. Patriarch Gregory VII recognized the decree of the council of the Living Church concerning the deposing of Patriarch Tikhon, whom not long before this the Synod of Constantinople had declared a “confessor,” and then he entered into communion with the “Renovationists” in Russia, which continues up to now.

In sum, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in theory embracing almost the whole universe and in fact extending its authority only over several dioceses, and in other places having only a higher superficial supervision and receiving certain revenues for this, persecuted by the government at home and not supported by any governmental authority abroad: having lost its significance as a pillar of truth and having itself become a source of division, and at the same time being possessed by an exorbitant love of power—represents a pitiful spectacle which recalls the worst periods in the history of the See of Constantinople.

From Orthodox Word, vol. 8, no. 4 (45), July-August 1972, pp. 166-168, 174-175.

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.

 

2017: On the Spiritual Significance of the Church Outside Russia

On the eve of 2017, the centenary year of the catastrophic Russian Revolution and a decade since the triumphant reunion between the Patriarchal Church inside Russia and the emigre Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in 2007, we may wonder what will become of the heritage of the Russian emigration of 1917? After all, the generation of adults that emigrated into exile in and soon after 1917 has long since died out and we are now onto the generation of their great-great-grandchildren. In Church terms, this emigration, almost wholly rejecting the compromised authority of the then enslaved Church inside Russia, consists not just of ROCOR, but also of the small Paris splinter group. What will survive spiritually from the two parts of the Russian emigration?

The tiny Paris Archdiocese part of the emigration, perhaps 10% of the whole, survives. However, as a splinter group of dissident and disincarnate philosophers, intellectuals and aristocrats that went into schism from the Russian Church for political reasons 85 years ago, it has long been without Russian bishops because of its inherent anti-monasticism. It is tending to become a sub-group of untrained convert clergy wishing to become a tiny ‘French Orthodox Church’, though some in it imagine becoming a ‘Western European Orthodox Church’. But that is megalomania. The group often reflects Schmemannite modernism, ecumenism and liberal French Catholicism (i.e. Protestantism), having steadily abandoned the Russian Orthodox Tradition.

True, there are still a few faithful, Orthodox calendar parishes run by priests mainly imported from Russia and the Ukraine and some selected Russian customs remain, though with little understanding of their meaning. The tendency is to try and proselytize middle-class liberal intellectuals, sometimes with contempt for ordinary people, an ethos that also used to infect parts of the OCA in North America and renovationist groups in the Soviet-period Patriarchate of Moscow. The Archdiocese generally tends to cut corners, failing to observe the canons and attract cradle Orthodox, whom as a non-inclusive group it rejects. Certainly it attracts none who is anchored in the Tradition.

However, the overwhelming majority of the emigration, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), exists outside France and French philosophical intellectualism, mainly in North America, Australasia and Western Europe. As such it has from the start been responsible for much missionary and translation work in many languages. Without the protection of any State it has in its near-100 year history also been subject to many slanders, mockery and persecution for its faithfulness to the Tradition. It has often been the voice crying in the wilderness of Secularist materialism, whether Communist or Capitalist, witnessing and prophetically calling like the Forerunner and Baptist John to repentance before the apocalyptic events of the last century.

However, it is also true that in the past parts of ROCOR were also compromised and infected by Russian nationalism, excessive strictness to the point of negative phariseeism and depressing right-wing politics – some fringe elements were even so blind as to support Hitler. However, the best of ROCOR has been revealed as a Church of Confessors and Missionaries, as in its three saints: St Jonah of Hankou, St Seraphim of Sofia and St John of Shanghai. Moreover, further saints are yet to be revealed. Whatever the future shape of the present administrative structures of ROCOR, these saints have given ROCOR eternal significance, as only the saints can do, as everything else gathers the dust of history, being only passing fashion and political intrigue.

Ten years ago, in 2007, seeing the Church inside Russia at last free, ROCOR rejoined Her and in the last ten years the two parts of the Church have worked closely together. Some therefore ask why does ROCOR still exist? The answer is simple: we have a mission to witness to the Orthodox Truth specifically outside Russia. When in the past the Church inside Holy Rus was enslaved and fell silent, with the representatives of the Soviet-period Patriarchate abroad mostly abandoning ideals, sometimes disgracefully compromising themselves in renovationism, ecumenism and other ills, ROCOR spoke out. So also today ROCOR continues to proclaim outside Russia what the best of the rest of the Church proclaims inside Russia – the ideals of Holy Rus. What are these?

These ideals are Trinitarian, reflecting on earth the heavenly reality of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These Christian ideals can be expressed as: Faith, Throne and People, that is, the Orthodox Faith, the Christian Emperor, the Faithful. All three go together. If any one element is compromised, then all three are compromised. Thus, if we reject the Orthodox Faith, we do not build the Christian Empire among the People, as has happened in the Western world. If we reject the Incarnation of the Christian Empire, we fail to reflect the Faith in the Father and fail to preach the values of the Holy Spirit among the People, as has happened in disincarnate Parisian philosophy. And if the People lose the Orthodox Faith, there will be no Empire, as happened in 1917.

Just as we cannot have the Father without the Son and the Holy Spirit, so we confess all three of these ideals of Holy Rus together. This means that we are called on to proclaim the uncorrupted Orthodox Faith of the Church (the Father), the restoration of the Incarnate Christian Empire and Emperor (the Son) and that we call all the peoples of the world to join us (the Holy Spirit), as St Seraphim of Sarov prophesied nearly 200 years ago. These are the Trinitarian Orthodox Civilizational values of the Returning Christian Empire which is coming soon. Thus, we clergy and people of ROCOR are the free and conscious servants of the Faith and People of the Tsar-Martyr, called on to reverse the treason of 1917 and its disastrous worldwide consequences.

Three Hundred Years of Russian Orthodoxy in the British Isles and Ireland

The 300-year old Russian Orthodox presence in the British Isles and Ireland was for 200 years of that time limited to that of an Embassy church in London. Although occasional interest would be shown by an individual or there would be an Anglo-Russian marriage, Non-Russians, especially outside London, never knew that such a church existed. However, with the Anglo-Franco-Russian alliance of the First World War, more and more Russians came to work in London for the war effort. By 1916 Metropolitan Pitirim (Oknov) of Saint Petersburg, who was then responsible for churches outside Russia, was drawing up plans to build a Russian Orthodox church in London. Translations of some Orthodox service books had already been made into English by Orlov and, in the USA, by Hapgood. This progress was all interrupted by the 1917 Revolution, but that in turn brought some 2,000 Russian refugee-émigrés to London and the surrounding area.

This resulted in the consecration of a bishop for the Russian community in London, Bishop Nicholas (Karpov). Sadly, he fell ill when very young and after only three years he reposed in 1932. The hopes of the first Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky), that he would be able to present the Russian Orthodox Faith to English people were unrealized. In 1937 the former English Tutor of the Tsarevich Aleksey, the Yorkshireman Sidney Gibbes, returned to England from the Far East. By then he had not only joined the Orthodox Church but had been ordained as Fr Nicholas Gibbes (+ 1963), the first 20th century English Orthodox priest, bearing the name of the martyred Tsar. An academic by temperament, he opened an Orthodox chapel in Oxford. After 1945 several thousand Russians, mainly from pre-war Poland, what is now the western Ukraine and Belarus, came to England and many settled in the north of England. A new chapter in our history had begun.

Archbishop (later St) John (Maximovich) (+ 1966), based on the Continent, looked after most of the faithful, but by 1954 those in the North had their own Bishop Nikodim (Nagaev) of Preston, who later became Archbishop in London (+ 1976). Meanwhile, in 1957 the small Patriarchal parish in London obtained a bishop in the future Metr Antony (Bloom) (+ 2003), who was to become well-known to Anglicans and others through his talks and books and also radio and TV appearances. By the 1960s, with the old certainties gone and doubts about everything, numbers of English people, mostly Anglicans, began to show an interest in the Russian Orthodox Church. This seemed to them to have far more continuity of Tradition than more recently-appeared varieties of Protestantism (including Anglicanism) or Roman Catholicism. Many Anglicans were attracted to the personality of the English-speaking Metr Antony, who set up a tiny network of communities, called the Sourozh Diocese. Witness was greatly helped by the fact that churches were then beginning to conduct services in English. At first this was only in London and Oxford, where the only permanent churches and chapels existed, but it has since spread.

Today, fifty years on, there are Russian Orthodox churches all over the British Isles and Ireland, though only a few of them in permanent buildings that belong to Russian Orthodoxy and celebrating regular services. Moreover, a majority of Russian Orthodox clergy are natives of the British Isles. Long gone are the days when just to witness a Russian Orthodox service you had to go to one of the two London churches or to the chapel in Oxford, indeed the largest Russian Orthodox church building in the country is elsewhere. With the immigration of Russian Orthodox, mainly from the countries of the ex-Soviet Union, and the immigration of other Orthodox from Eastern Europe over the last fifteen years especially, we now need to expand rapidly. There remains a huge amount to do. In the meantime, a small but steady stream of native people from all four countries of the British Isles and Ireland, continues to come to our services and some join the Church, attracted by our faithfulness to the bimillennial Orthodox Christian Tradition.

Thus, we can see that our 300-year old history can be divided into three distinct periods. The first lasted 200 years – the period as an Embassy church in London. The second that lasted 50 years was a London-centred period of survival and consolidation and pastoral care for Russian speakers. The third which began after 250 years of presence and which has lasted 50 years so far, has been a period of openness to the surrounding world, a period of witness and expansion throughout these islands. Our future place and role in these islands is precisely to continue to expand and witness to the Orthodox Tradition and Faith, not just for our own people, whose children and descendants are English-speaking and locally educated, but for those who seek – and find – spiritual comfort in partaking of the roots and origins of Christianity in the Faith and Tradition of our worldwide, multinational and multilingual Russian Orthodox Church.