Our Orthodox Identity and the Future Configuration of the Russian Orthodox Church

Our identity as Orthodox Christians is in our belonging to and confession of the Faith of the One Church of God, founded in Jerusalem by the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost in 33 AD. This Faith of the Church is incarnated in Christian Civilization, the one and only Christian Empire which forms the Orthodox World, the Orthosphere. Today, in conditions of persecution by Western Secularism, this Christian Orthodox Empire, the reflection of the Kingdom of Heaven, stretches from Jerusalem and the Middle East to the greater part of Europe outside its apostatic Western tip, across Siberia to the Alaskan coasts, covering one eighth of the Earth’s inhabited surface. However, this world also includes our oases, which act as Embassies of the Christian Empire, all over the Planet. Our physical passports show many different nationalities, but our spiritual passports show that we belong to this One Global Church and Faith.

For example, our church in Colchester is built of timber and iron from England and the main doors carry Orthodox crosses which were fashioned from an old fishing boat from Felixstowe, the town named after the seventh-century Apostle of the English East, St Felix. However, inside the church there are icons and sacred artefacts from across today’s Orthodox world. Thus, the iconostasis comes from Moldova, the two kissing icons by the holy doors are from Crete and other items in the church come from Carpatho-Russia, Siberia, Poland, Macedonia, Romania, Cyprus, Serbia, Syria, Russia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro.

We do not belong to those Civilizations which never received the Word of Christ, either because they existed before His Unique and Transfiguring Revelation and so far have still not known Him (the interconnected Hinduism, Buddhism, Animism), or else because they rejected Him for worldly and nationalistic reasons after His Loving Revelation (the interconnected Judaism, Islam, Western Secularism). The latter, its tentacles now spread around the world, is the fruit of the strange and deluded deviations from the Orthodox Church, known as Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, which rejected the Church of God and Her Orthodox Christian Faith. Unlike them, our Christian Empire is not the worldly Empire of Rome. This was the mistake of Old Rome and much later of New Rome, both of which succumbed to local racial nationalisms: Latin-Germanic (Catholic-Protestant) and Greek, both of which claimed to have authority superior to (the ‘first without equal’ heresy) that of the Kingdom of God. But the thisworldly Kingdom of Rome is not the Kingdom of God.

The various territories of the world are cared for by the fourteen Local Orthodox Churches, all part of the Christian Empire. Eleven of these cover only tiny canonical territories, for instance, Palestine and the Jordan (the Church of Jerusalem), Czechoslovakia, Albania, Cyprus, Poland, some Greek islands and immigrant enclaves (the Church of Constantinople), Georgia, Bulgaria, Greece, ex-Yugoslavia and migrations (the Church of Serbia) and Romania and migrations. The other three Local Churches cover much larger territories: most of the Arab world and migrations (the Church of Antioch) and the Continent of Africa (the Church of Alexandria).

The Church of Russia is a special case, as it totals 75% of the faithful and consists of two parts. The territory of the first part, administered from Moscow, covers the vast majority of the Eurasian Continent, excluding the above territories of the twelve much smaller Local Churches also in Eurasia, their immigrant outposts in Western Europe and also, in the future perhaps the British Isles and Ireland. This Eurasian landmass, in fact one Continent, is thus almost all administered from Moscow, although parts of it, like the Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Latvia, Japan and China, are largely autonomous. Indeed, they yet become fully independent, as have done the Churches of Poland and Czechoslovakia.

However, the second part of the Church of Russia, once called the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA), which evolved into today’s Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), is centred in New York. This has come to be specialized in the care of Russian Orthodox in the three remaining Continents of the world, outside mainland Europe, Asia and Africa, that is, in North America, South America and Oceania. Perhaps its vocation is to become the Orthodox Church of the Anglosphere and Latin America, as such using five languages: English (the USA, Canada, the British Isles, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand), Spanish and Portuguese (Latin America and the Caribbean), with some French (Quebec and some Caribbean islands) and some Dutch (Surinam and some Caribbean islands).

If this is to be the case, perhaps ROCOR will one day change its name again to correspond to this new reality, which has evolved and become visible especially over the last decade. Perhaps its name will change to something like ROCALA: The Russian Orthodox Church of the Anglosphere and Latin America. True, at present, ROCOR still has a few parishes in countries allied to the USA in Asia and in Western Europe (the vast majority of these are in Western Germany). The future of these parishes may in a generation from now become administration from Moscow. This would be in exchange for the parishes in the Americas (from which both Moscow bishops were expelled last year), Oceania and the British Isles and Ireland, where there are a few parishes still illogically administered from Moscow and not New York. Thus, as regards Great Britain, at present there are only three established parishes with property administered from Moscow, two small ones in Oxford and Manchester, which are ROCOR foundations, and the large one in London, which members of ROCOR helped found. In the post-Brexit world it would be illogical for Moscow to have a jurisdiction here, though until recently the opposite was true. Mistakes have been made on both sides.

Not all is clear, but it seems that in the future, as the geopolitics of US withdrawal from Eurasia after the defeats and disasters of its over-reach in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Ukraine and Syria, and Trump’s statement that NATO is obsolete, we may see all Russian Orthodox in Europe and Asia administered from Moscow. Those in the English-speaking world and Latin America may, however, come to be administered from New York.

May Thy Will be done, O Lord!