Category Archives: Witness

Spreading Love: Towards Our Local Church of Western Europe

‘Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake’.

  1. Introduction: The Battle Against the Extremes of East and West

Although the Body of Christ was through the Resurrection victorious in the battle over the kingdom of hell and death nearly 2,000 years ago, the battle for the Body of Christ on earth has raged on. Just as the Body of Christ, that is, the Church, obviously belongs to Christ, and so also the clergy and people who serve Her belong to Christ, though some may imagine otherwise. This sense of belonging to Christ is why, like St Alexander Nevsky, whose 800th anniversary it is and who fought both the extremes of East and West, for exactly fifty years we too have had to battle the persecutors of the Church from both East and West. By the grace of God we have confessed God’s Truth, resisting and rejecting seven persecutors who came from West and East, sometimes one by one, sometimes together.

These were: the British Establishment, petty and divisive émigré personality cults, freemasonry, pressure from the KGB, modernism, sectarianism and Russophobic pressure from the CIA. All through the five decades of our conscious Orthodox lives we have been persecuted directly and indirectly by these persecutors inasmuch as they, although opposed in nearly everything else, were all totally united in not wanting the Church of Christ to expand and especially in their opposition to the foundation of a new Local Church of Western Europe or indeed anywhere else. But we have always remained faithful to the Church of Christ, seeing them off and retaining our pastoral freedom for the sake of building up our Church for the future generations.

  1. Faithful and Local

During all that time we have fought for the creation of a united multinational Church which is Local to Western Europe and yet still fully Faithful to Russian Orthodoxy. For the Russian Orthodox Church is surely called to be the Second Jerusalem, that is, the New Jerusalem which spiritually unites the immensely diverse Old World of Eurasia, on which the rest of the world depends. This unity is in the spirit of St John of Shanghai and Western Europe, who spent all his life in Eurasia until the final four years. Then he had to go to his Gethsemane in the distant USA. Here he was put on trial by those whose ancestors had loved power and riches more than Christ.

Just as they had betrayed the Church, the Tsar and the Russian people in 1917, so they betrayed him. Tried by them as a thief and found innocent, from there St John went on to his victorious Golgotha repose before the Icon of the Mother of God. For then, as now, there were the money-minded who did not want a Local Church, but a destructive, sectarian and political ideology, as one of St John’s disciples, Fr Seraphim (Rose), so clearly understood. They opposed the missionary work of St John, who had said that ‘the task of the Church Outside Russia is…the spreading of Orthodoxy in the countries where they live’. For them the Church was none of this, but merely a sectarian and cultish ideology of power and wealth.

  1. The Money-Minded and the Church-Minded

Those money-minded who opposed him still oppose the missionary spirit of St John, as is proved by their actions, though not always their words. They are characterised by ultra-conservatism, ritualism and moralism and are therefore recognisable by the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. They see the Church as an outpost of a foreign power and ideology. They belong to this ideology, and therefore see a Local Church as unnecessary. For some of these there is even already a Local Church: Catholicism or Protestantism. The only reason that they do not belong to these isms is purely nationalistic.

Then there are also those who do want a Local Church, but a controlling sect or totalitarian cult which excludes all except their own Western nationality and they refuse to speak a ‘foreign’ language. Thus, they compromise Orthodox Truth, as the Truth is ‘foreign’ to them. However, we have for fifty years proclaimed that we must be faithful to Orthodoxy and at the same time Local, we must be Transcendent and Incarnate, with God and with Man. We do not put money first, but put the Faith of Christ first.

  1. The Unity of the Orthodox Church

Today the Russian Orthodox Church of Western Europe, the legacy of St John, is composed of many dioceses with nearly 500 parishes and communities and 410 priests, of whom some 80% belong to the Patriarchal Russian Orthodox Church and its missionary arm, the Archdiocese of Western Europe: there is no need to prolong the now unnecessary divisions of the past, for the Cold War is over, despite the intentions of some to revive it.

We have all our lives resisted the attempts to divide the Russian Orthodox witness. Whatever diocese we have witnessed in, we have worked for unity against all the quenchers of the Spirit, with their nationalistic, sectarian, political and alien influences which have tried to divide us. Satan does not want those who love the Church and sets his friends against us; so we remain and resist.

  1. Resisting satan

We resist satan precisely by resisting his acts of betrayal and so division of the Church. Since 1917 satan has worked to disunite the Church on earth by attacking the centre of its earthly unity in Russia, overthrowing the Christian Empire and subjecting it to the martyrdom of Western atheist values. This new disunity was first seen in Greek nationalist and then other nationalist divisions introduced into the Orthodox Diaspora.

It was revealed again in the adoption of the Roman Catholic (so-called ‘new’) calendar for the fixed feasts by such Balkan nationalists.  With the outward revival of the Russian Church following the failure of Western atheism in the Soviet Union to destroy her, in the 1990s the secularist powers took fear and openly decreed that the final enemy to be overcome was indeed the Russian Orthodox Church and its otherworldly values.

  1. The Contemporary Two-Pronged Attack on Unity

The first prong of this new and divisive attack on the Russian Orthodox world, the modernist prong from the left, came through Ukrainian nationalism, supported by Greek nationalism, both of them financed by atheists from overseas. The second prong of the attack on the Russian Orthodox world, the sectarian prong from the right, has appeared in the Western world. Here there are those conscious or unconscious agents of disunity, supported by the selfsame powers as those who supported division in the Ukraine, who wish to renew Russophobic division in the recently reunited Russian Orthodox Diaspora. The creators of disunity declared on the reunion of the Russian Church in 2007 that, if we cannot divide from them from the outside and so rule them, then we shall infiltrate them and divide them from the inside and so rule them.

I know the above because I heard the former US ambassador Herbst and his bishop from Odessa saying it behind my back in San Fransisco. For long the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church has in part been led on earth by those who do not believe in Her. They do not believe in Her Unity and try to divide Her, they do not believe in Her Holiness and reject the saints, they do not believe in Her Catholicity and like sectarians refuse to admit Her Universality at different times and in different places, and they do not believe in Her Apostolicity and ban missionary work. They prefer loving themselves to loving the Church. Not believing in the truth and so denying it, they dwell in slavery, for only the truth sets free.

  1. A Life for the Tsar-Confessor and the Tsar-Martyr

We have sacrificed fifty years to live the destiny appointed for us. This has been to do in my native town and native region, and so very, very modestly, what would have happened, had the Orthodox Empire not been overthrown and the Emperor and his servants not been martyred by dark forces from 1916 on. For Tsar Nicholas, a Confessor before becoming a Martyr, had encouraged the Church authorities to bring Christ to the world, especially to Eurasia, thus uniting it. Had he not been martyred, he would have established a church in every European capital. His destruction was therefore ordered by enemies from near and from far.

In our life for the Tsar we have tried, however feebly, to walk in his footsteps, for his enemies have also been ours. Unlike him, we have not been called to martyrdom; therefore we are called to confessordom, for must all follow one way or the other. We have endeavoured to continue his interrupted missionary task, but in towns of our own locality, the East of England, this tiny corner of Western Europe, also in the hope that others may do likewise elsewhere. After 20 years of telling the truth, such missionary work was banned. However, those who wish to remain in their echo-chamber and close their ears to the facts always lose both spiritually and morally.

  1. Tradition or Disincarnation

In doing all this we have also done what we can to renew the veneration of the Old Saints of the West from the distant past, for that too was part of the Orthodox world. This veneration is because we believe in continuity and the need to gather together the vestiges of Faith from the past. We have never believed that it is necessary to start all over again, tampering with what has already been done. Rather we must rebuild. We do not believe that it is necessary for the young to trample down the foundations that have already been laid for a Local Church through the sacrificial blood, sweat and tears of the past fifty years.

Those who reject the already laid foundations as disincarnate are on the margins of Church life. Those who want only the new imagine that they are not in Europe. They have little sense of pastoral work, of the reality of the people. They are those who are new to the Church and use alien convertspeak to communicate. We, however, follow the Tradition, not the false spiritualism of Disincarnation. You cannot lead when you have no followers because you are disincarnate. We need an incarnate missionary arm to the Russian Church locally.

  1. Authority or Tyranny

Christ taught ‘as one having authority, not as the scribes’ (Matt. 7, 29). Authority is not imposed, for that would be mere authoritarianism. Authority, like respect for it, comes from strength of faith and from the presence of the Holy Spirit, as in the case of the saints. However, where there is no such spiritual authority, there is authoritarianism, that is, tyranny, imposed authority and bullying.

The fall that follows the refusal to listen is a classic, textbook case of hubris. Pride always does go before the Fall. The suicidal refusal to listen, to sweep the truth under the carpet and gag and censor the truth-tellers, leads to a fall. However, the Truth will out. Missionary work will continue. A Church or a Diocese, like anything else, cannot be built on injustice. Like a boomerang, injustice always backfires. The result of dismissing the truth has constantly been that the truth explodes in the faces of those who are in denial. This is the mystical law.

  1. Persecution and Division

Periods of bitter, indeed, unheard of, persecution pass. For the Church is a ship which has at last sailed to a safe haven. However, when the righteous, but much-tried, captain gives up his soul, it eventually falls victim to princes, not servants, of the Church. The crew are held hostage. However, we do not despair or grow bitter, because we know that we will be saved, for the Church belongs to God. God, not man, saves His Church from the injustices and untruths of men. God’s Truth is always revealed despite all the attempts to conceal it.

We have seen in our lifetimes how in the Diaspora each national grouping has a spiritual meaning, identity and purpose, and therefore has a long-term existence, only if it contributes towards the creation of Local Churches. This is the case in North America, Western Europe, Oceania and Latin America. If this contribution is not positive, if it is nationalist in any form, sectarian in any form, cultish in any form, divisive in any form, political in any form, if it looks only to the past and not to the future also, then the grouping will inevitably die out like the barren fig-tree. It will not be fit for purpose and the dead will bury the dead. This is the warning we give.

  1. The Judgement of God

We have always challenged sectarian disuniters with their extremisms, which are always allied to the secular, with political parties and ideologies. A little like fools for Christ, we say what the disuniters do not want to hear. Of course, we unworthy ones lack the holy and prophetic vision of the holy fools, but we tell the truth. Among them there have been those who have opposed the inevitable work of the grace of God and prevented both the veneration of the saints, old or new, and all missionary work, which work is then replaced with the personality cult. we have seen it so many times in our lives.

We patiently awaited the judgement of the highest court to be revealed and take effect and so for injustices to be removed. This was always only a question of time, God’s own time. We have always known that God will reveal His Will in His own time, whatever the doubts of men who have mocked what they saw as our foolishness. Like the mockers of Noah building his ark on dry land, they mocked us. But then the flood came and we were proved right, for they even tried to take away our arks. The flood will continue and wash the mockers away. Meanwhile, the arks of salvation built for the people sail intact to their safe haven.

  1. Conclusion: The Church as the Body of Christ

Thus, if the only interests of a grouping are power, property, money or a divisive and destructive ideology, either nationalist or sectarian, with all the injustices which stem from such interests, it will die out. As for us, we have always rejected the institutionalised corporations of the modern scribes and pharisees, who are more interested in worldly property, tyrannical power, earthly glory and ugly lucre, than in the pastoral needs of the flock. But we accept the Church as the Body of Christ, the place of salvation of human souls.

This is why we act as missionaries: not because we wanted to, but because there was no-one else to do it. For nearly fifty years we have accepted the Cross of apostolic missionary work to serve the people, not because we wanted to, but because there was nobody else to do it. We have ever supported heartfelt Faith against dead institutions, apostolic Hope against money-loving worldliness, compassionate Love against dry bureaucracy. But above all we have rejected the evident lack of love of those who oppose Christ’s Holy Church.