Foreword: The Wages of Sin Are Death
In the old days, the hierarchy of the Persecuted Church inside the Soviet Union (called the Moscow Patriarchate) was held hostage by compromises with militant atheism, whereas the Persecuted Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) was the surviving free remnant of Russian Orthodoxy, largely clean of the stains of either form of atheism, both Communist and the perhaps even worse Capitalist atheism. Since 2007, when the two parts of the Russian Church linked together, their potential to transform themselves into one worldwide missionary Church has continually been pointed out. But also, again and again, people warned of the dangerous temptations of money and power, which could poison them both.
The last four years in particular have seen that poison spread very, very rapidly. And so, very sadly, their potential has not been realised and both have fallen to the temptations of Mammon. The heritage of St Seraphim of Sarov, St John of Kronstadt and St John of Shanghai have alike been falsely accused, put on trial once more and unjustly condemned. In reality, however, only those who have carried out these uncanonical acts have been condemned, or rather have condemned themselves. As a result of these grave sins, spiritual crimes, the faithful of the Church have been deprived of grace and are, literally, at war. And the blood spilt divides them cruelly. Once more the Russian Church has lost its freedom to the State, as before the Revolution, so after the Revolution, so also today.
The dead hand of the State is, as always, killing spiritual life, reducing all to a mere right-wing, State-controlled Protestant denomination with rituals. Bureaucratisation, centralisation and politicisation mean that many have once more put the State above Christ and harshly punish all who witness to Christ. Protocols above the Holy Spirit! When, long before the Revolution, St Seraphim was asked why Russia would fall, he answered that it was because Orthodox no longer kept the fasts, including Wednesdays and Fridays. For St John of Kronstadt, who prophesied the consequences of the imminent Revolution in detail, it was the refusal to prepare for and take communion, reinforced by the clericalist hypocrisy opposed to frequent communion, scandalously depriving the people of the Body and Blood of Christ.
For St John of Shanghai and Western Europe, the Ukrainian Saint who after the Revolution lived all over the world, hounded and put on trial in San Francisco by pharisaical Statist bishops, even though they had no State, and who so hastened his repose, it was the ethnically-based refusal of the racist ghetto to tell the Non-Orthodox world about Christ which was destroying Church life. Today’s disastrous and tragic war in the Ukraine illustrates the consequences. All are being chastised in the Russian Church for their sin of not loving one another. Here are the consequences of sin – lack of love and so war. Where in the Gospel does it say that we should destroy or close churches and kill each other? The wages of sin are indeed death, both spiritual and physical death.
Introduction: The Conflict in the Ukraine
After nine months of its present and second phase, the conflict in the Ukraine is about to enter a third and far more intense phase. So far it has largely been fought between Russian-backed Ukrainian militias with their Chechen and contracted allies and the Western-backed Kiev Army with their NATO training and immense amounts of arms and tens of thousands of Polish troops and mercenaries, dressed in Ukrainian uniforms. Over 100,000 have been killed and 400,000 injured, just on the Kiev/NATO side, and at least another 10,000 killed and 40,000 injured on the other side. Millions of young men have fled the Ukraine to avoid conscription and almost certain death or mutilation. Now the actual Russian Army is preparing to enter the fray with its winter campaign. There is going to be a real war.
The Ever-Smaller Russian Church in the West
As a result of the first phase, the Western elite’s choice between February 2014 and February 2022 to take over, arm and train the Kiev forces, nearly 14,000 Ukrainians were massacred in the Eastern Ukraine by Nazi elements from Kiev and the rest of the population were told to leave. As a result of the second phase since February 2022 and the ensuing sanctions, it is clear that in the future only very few Russian Orthodox from Russia will be allowed to settle in the Western world. In the Ukraine Ukrainians refuse to attend churches where the Russian Patriarch’s name is mentioned. Like them, very, very few of the, for the moment, 3.5 million newly-arrived Ukrainians in Western Europe, unlike the Orthodox among the 6 million Ukrainians who have been forced to flee to Russia since 2014, wish to attend Russian churches.
During the Cold War, when citizens of the USSR were also not allowed to settle in the West, Russian Orthodox clergy, like those in the tiny Moscow Patriarchal Sourozh Diocese in England, run by the late Metropolitan Antony Bloom, turned their attentions to missionary work, to bring Orthodoxy to the native people. They had to attract local people into the Diocese simply in order for their group to survive. This too is now not an option, for a free Church no longer exists. The old freedom has gone. Missionary work is being stopped and even hounded by harsh and compassionless ritualists and bureaucrats, who take pleasure in trying to steal and then close the most popular churches. Today, no Western people are attracted to the politicised, centralised and bureaucratised Russian Orthodox Church, which appears to persecute its own faithful openly and quite shamelessly, on the internet for the whole world to see. And even if people were attracted to such, would they be allowed to join it?
Russian Orthodox churches under the Russian Patriarch are now banned in much of the Ukraine and completely in Latvia, and perhaps soon in Lithuania and Estonia, where government interference in Church matters is becoming ever more aggressive. In the UK and the USA all Russian bishops from Russia are banned and they are now in exile. Their churches have no bishop. In the UK, USA and Canada you are not allowed to belong to the Russian Orthodox church if you work for the local ‘security services’. In addition, the Russian Patriarch is physically banned by personal sanction from the UK, as also from Lithuania and Canada. It is also very difficult to obtain insurance for Russian church buildings in the UK. And without insurance, you cannot legally operate.
Over fifty years ago, at the height of the Cold War, a way out for Russian Orthodox who were long settled in Northern America was found. This was in the ideological heart of the then Cold War. This took the form of autocephaly (full independence), given to them in the form of a new Local Church, the ‘OCA’ (Orthodox Church in America). Thus, they had their own Church, independent of any political or other connection with the Russian Church in Moscow, which was then held hostage by the Soviet regime. But today, with unheard-of Soviet-style centralisation, no such autocephaly is being given to Russian Orthodox in Western countries. The results are ever smaller churches, as there is no possibility of doing missionary work: the centralised, ethnic Russian authorities will not allow it. They do not want ‘foreigners’ in their Church. The Russian Church in the Western world is closing down, or rather, closing itself down and being closed down.
Once the Russian Orthodox Church was rightly seen as the Persecuted Church, the Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors. It was the bearer of the multinational ideal of Holy Rus. As such it attracted sympathy, prayer and members. The faithful wanted to stand together with the New Martyrs and Confessors. However, today, as a result of careerist power structures many see the Russian Orthodox Church as a single Persecuting ‘Church’.
Thus, many see it as the secular and political ideology of a ‘Church-Business’. Their ‘executives’, or ‘effective managers’, scandalously task their clergy with extracting as much money as possible from the faithful. Complaints are swept under the carpet and whistle-blowers absurdly and uncanonically punished. Naturally, principled clergy and faithful refuse to take part in this and have gone into exile. Loyal to the old Russian Church, its martyrs, saints and its spiritual values, they have left because of their principled refusal to accept the ideology of a money-making ‘Church-Business’, which is the moral low ground, where Caiaphas and Judas live.
Others left for a totally different reason – they were political disciples of the liberal Parisian Metr Antony Bloom, as in, for example, the Netherlands and Italy, where they have gone to Constantinople, and in Spain. (In the 1970s Metr Antony Bloom was himself demoted by the Moscow Patriarchate for his support of Solzhenitsyn, which led him to requesting admission into ROCOR. That was turned down by ROCOR, as he was considered to be a liberal, among other things).
In any case, the new structures, concerned with careerist power politics and money, the sin of Judas, no longer seem to represent the old Russian Orthodox Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors, which we knew and loved. Faithful clergy and people always belonged to it in the past, spiritually belong to it now, and spiritually will always belong to it in the future.
When you are cut off, because the central Church structure in another country has temporarily been taken captive by a Non-Orthodox ideology, whichever it may be, and there is no chance of independence or autocephaly from that Centre, you can take one of two secular paths:
You can go outwards to the secular left, taking the path of new calendarism, ecumenism, liberalism and modernism, assimilating into the secular world and disappearing into it. This is happening now. However, this wholly outward-looking path sooner or later leads to assimilation and disappearance into the woke sects of liberal pseudo-intellectuals. So they die out.
Or you can go inwards to the secular right, taking the path of old calendarism, extreme conservatism, ‘catacombism’ and ghettoism, cutting yourself off from all others and so becoming disembodied. However, this wholly inward-looking path sooner or later leads to Protestant-style right-wing sects of apocalyptic judgemental pharisees. So they die out.
We have personally lived through and seen both these above tragic paths and seen specifically various different parts of the Russian Church of the émigré past of two generations gradually disappear almost completely into both these black holes. Thus, we witnessed the agonising suicidal deaths of the groups that took those paths. Just as we did not go there then, we are hardly going to go there now. Suicide is not part of our mentality. We prefer life to death.
The Third Way
There is another path, a third way. If you wish to survive as a Church, you must follow this path. This is the path of the saints of all the Local Churches, ancient and modern, of the whole Church. This is the path of the Church which is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. These four words stand for the Four Pillars of the Church, the Martyrs, the Confessors, the real Monastics and the real Pastors:
The Church is One because of the Unity of her Martyrs. The Church is Holy because of the Holiness of her Confessors. The Church is Catholic because of the Catholicity of her real Monastics. The Church is Apostolic because of the Apostolicity of her real Pastors. These are the Four Pillars of the Church on Earth, as in Heaven. We follow them.
If you live in the Western world and you refuse either of the two secular paths and follow this third path, you will inevitably find yourself developing into part of a new Local Church. As the saints have no nationality, no passport, you will find yourself in a multinational parish and network of parishes, an international Deanery and even Diocese. You will find the children of immigrants turning to you, for they no longer identify as citizens of the countries which their parents emigrated from, but as local and speaking the local language. This is a foundation stone of a new Local Church. For we look forwards to local enrootment, not backwards to the past and dependence on the elsewhere. Local Churches define and embody the Dogma of the Incarnation and also the Teaching of the Holy Spirit, which means the spreading and enrootment of the Church to countries where once it was not.
And if you are not allowed to take the path of the saints, which is the only future for the Russian Orthodox Church in the Western world, what do you do? You leave it and take refuge in the jurisdiction of, and under the canonical protection of, another Local Church until new times. This is called Divine Providence, which is the salvation of the Holy Spirit and keeps the flame of hope alive.
Conclusion: A Future?
Is there any future for the Russian Orthodox Church in the Western world? Yes, there is, but only for the Russian Orthodox Church of the New Martyrs and New Confessors, the Church of the saints and the fools for Christ, the Church of the ignored Spirit-driven prophets and the persecuted elders, and their multinational ideal of Holy Rus and charismatic universal missionary work. This was witnessed to by the Three Saints of the Russian Emigration, St Jonah of Hankou, St Seraphim of Boguchar and St John of Shanghai. Thus, there is a future, but only for the authentic Russian Orthodox Church, the Church of the Saints of God, of the Martyrs, the Confessors, the real Monastics and the real Pastors. The Holy Spirit is greater than all the narrowness and nasty politics of mere men. Victory awaits the faithful for their patience.