Shipwreck or Salvation on the Rivers of Babylon?

Introduction: Shipwreck

Whenever groups have left the Church for political, that is, for secular, reasons, they have inverted the values of the Church and so found themselves shipwrecked. Thus, the founding values of the Christian Empire, long ago defined as ‘Orthodoxy, Sovereignty (deliberately misunderstood by secularists as Autocracy) and the People’, are all derived from our Trinitarian Orthodox Christian Faith. ‘Orthodoxy’ refers to our Christian Faith in the Father of Love, ‘Sovereignty’ refers to the Incarnation of the Son in the world but sovereign and free from the world, and ‘the People’ refers to the sanctification of the peoples by the Holy Spirit.

We can see the inversion of these principles in the values of the renovationists and modernists on the fringes of the Orthodox Church, like those around the Paris Archdiocese of ‘Rue Daru’. They deform the values of ‘Orthodoxy, Sovereignty and the People’ into their opposites, ‘Anti-Orthodoxy, Secularism and Russophobia’. With Faith in the Father rejected in favour of fallen humanity, Faith in the Incarnation of the Son in the Christian Empire rejected in favour of the secularism of disincarnate private delusions, and Faith in the Holy Spirit rejected in favour of intellectuals, Orthodoxy is reduced to mere rationalist humanism.


Anti-Orthodoxy is expressed by liturgical modernism in imitation of heterodoxy. This includes the use of the Catholic calendar (so-called ‘new’ calendar), the celebration of evening Liturgies and the deliberate absence of iconostases (‘to be more like the Catholics’), defective knowledge and ignorance of how the services are celebrated, sometimes even of the Eucharistic Liturgy) and the substitution of knowledge of the Typikon by abbreviations and fantasies, such as conducting the Proskomidia in the centre of the church or the interruption of the Liturgy by ‘charismatic’ calling out of names of anyone to be prayed for.

It includes a lack of musical culture, poor behaviour in church (sitting on the floor; children running about without discipline), the use of colloquial Russian instead of Church Slavonic in the Liturgy, the disappearance of confession and obligatory communion for all, including that of practising homosexuals and Non-Orthodox. This is not only not the Russian Tradition and certainly not the Greek Tradition of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in fact it is no Tradition at all. To liturgists like the late Archbishop George (Wagner) of the Paris Archdiocese (‘Rue Daru’) it was, and to others like him it is, only ignorance.


Archbishop George (Wagner) used to complain to me that the problem of Rue Daru was that it had been founded by individuals who had wanted the Revolution. In other words, among them left-wing politics (liberalism and freemasonry) had replaced Churchliness. Indeed, their whole approach to Church life was marked by politicization. Their movement was, after all, part of a political foundation before the Russian Revolution which created that Revolution. In their movement the values of the Kingdom of Heaven are replaced by heterodox fashions and dependence on secularism in its basically atheistic, Western liberal form.

We can see this in the recent Charlie Hebdo and Copenhagen murders. These sparked massive demonstrations, but the murders of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya, as those of thousands of Christians in Iraq, Syria and the Ukraine, were dismissed by the propaganda-filled Western media, which are so keenly followed by these secularists. In Paris the secularists, ‘Orthodox’ among them, decided on the slogan ‘Je suis Charlie’ and those who rejected this slogan in favour of ‘Je ne suis pas Charlie’ because it would mean that they supported blasphemy, were dismissed as terrorists and their lives were threatened by atheists.


In the days of the atheist regime in the Soviet Union, all agreed that the ideology of the materialists who had usurped legitimate power was abhorrent because they persecuted the Church. However, there were those who opposed it for purely political reasons. They were those who had usurped authority, then lost the power that they had seized to the Bolshevik bandits and were exiled to Paris. They did not care very much about the persecution of the Church, of the martyrdoms of the Tsar and the clergy, only about ‘human rights’ and the persecution of minorities, liberals, freemasons, Uniats, heretics, Jewish intellectuals etc

In those days they detested the Church inside Russia because the bishops lied, as they were held hostage by the regime. They should rather have had sympathy for the Church inside Russia, including captive bishops. Today they justify their continued isolation and rejection of the Church through their Russophobia. They say: ‘We cannot return to the Russian Church because She is still not free but is held in feudal subjection to Putin’. The absurdity and sheer ignorance of such arguments is apparent to the rest of the world, but not to the politicized, who are an integral part of the anti-Russian and anti-Orthodox Western Establishment.

On the Rivers of Babylon

The saddest thing about the Paris Archdiocese, ‘Rue Daru’, is that those bishops who founded it and led it for decades, Metropolitans Evlogy and Vladimir, Archbishop George (Tarasov), Bishops Methodius (Kulmann), Alexander Tian-Shansky and Roman (Zolotov), full well believed that their jurisdictional attachment to the Patriarchate of Constantinople was only a temporary arrangement which would last only as long as the Church inside Russia was not free. They would be horrified if they could see where its extremists have wanted to take it in recent decades. A group that has lost its way now only has self-justification left to it.

In exile they sat down ‘on the rivers of Babylon’, on the banks of the Seine, and there they wept. The emotional Metr Evlogy could not wait and, in 1945, he rejoined the Russian Church – too early, for the persecution had not yet ended. Bishop Methodius, like Protopresbyter Alexei Knyazev, Archpriest Igor Vernik and many others, was also tempted, tired of isolation. There is no doubt that if any of them were alive today, they would have rejoined the Russian Church in the last fifteen years, as Archbp Sergiy (Konovalov) also wanted. However, there were always forces present which prevented the inevitable return.

The Past

I have known Rue Daru since 1979. The first thing that struck me was how isolated and insular it was, unlike anything else in the Orthodox world, which I already knew quite well. And yet that there were people at Rue Daru who saw themselves as being in the centre, instead of the reality, that they were on the margins. Parisian intellectualism was their ethos and their lost grasp of reality caused them to dwell in fantasies. Archbishop George (Wagner) used to remark to me that one day at Rue Daru lists of names of those to be prayed for would contain not only titles like ‘the sick’, but also ‘the intellectual’ (‘intelligent’ in Russian).

A lifeboat was offered Archbishop Sergiy’s Rue Daru by Patriarch Alexey II in 2003. Through no fault of his own and his untimely death, it was rejected. It has seemed ever since that the Paris Archdiocese has chosen a suicidal course of drift and shipwreck. With the Rue Daru Cathedral belonging to the city of Paris, most of its active people from the ex-Soviet Union, with unintegrated and politicized converts (though many of them later see through it all) manipulated by the descendants of liberal emigres who have themselves never known the Tradition but only delusional fantasy, it seems to have little future, having become marginal.

The Present

Today the once prestigious St Sergius church and Institute are in crisis, most students transferred to the new seminary of the Russian Orthodox Church. A new Cathedral and Diocesan centre, already blessed by Bishop Nestor of the Russian Orthodox Church and Archbishop Job of Rue Daru, is about to be built. Only 80 and 90 year olds, living in the past, still believe that Rue Daru, now very small and rather irrelevant, can be the foundation for a new Local Church in Western Europe. This is part of their delusional fantasy that Constantinople will one day grant Rue Daru autocephaly and create a ‘Western European Orthodox Church’.

Constantinople was never going to and never will grant them their pipe-dream fantasy. At last the ruling bishop, Archbishop Job, is doing exactly what Archbishop George (Wagner) promised us what he would do in 1981, but let us down and doing the opposite through weakness. 33 years have been lost. Over the decades so many have been chased out by the intolerant ideology of the liberals and modernists that only a few faithful are left. At last now, problematic individuals who caused so many huge difficulties in the past and forced serious Orthodox to leave, have been removed. And some serious clergy have come from Russia.

The Struggle

As I have written before, we must all intensify our prayers for Archbishop Job. He bears a name of much suffering. Can he right the errors and weaknesses of the last fifty years? Renovationism, a Vatican II Orthodoxy in the Finnish-Lutheran style, is what the extremists want. Over fifty years they have step by step come to power, making the lives of the Archbishops miserable, intolerantly chasing out the Orthodox, making Rue Daru ever more sectarian and marginal. Instead of being inclusive, their intolerance has forced many to leave. Why do they not simply join the Uniats? This at least would be honest on their part.

The present disciplinary actions of Archbishop Job and his courageous attempt to restore the isolated Rue Daru jurisdiction to canonical Orthodox norms after a decade of disastrous drift are to be welcomed. As one senior priest of the Paris Archdiocese in England said to me last year, the first thing that Archbishop Job has to do just in England is to defrock three members of the clergy. In France perhaps too. We must pray for Archbishop Job. Can he steer the ship of the Church away from the rocks of the irrelevant, renovationist meanders of the past towards its future of helping to witness to authentic Orthodoxy in Western Europe?

The Future

The most Churchly elements in the Russian emigration understood its providential mission and future – to witness to authentic Russian Orthodoxy in Western languages. Thus St John of Shanghai spoke of the Russian mission to witness to the rest of the world. Metropolitans Antony and Anastasy, like Archbishop Seraphim of Chicago and many others, also knew that God has sent us forth to convert the world. Thus, in Western Europe the great task of the Russian Orthodox Church is to become an autonomous Metropolia, the foundation of a future Western European Orthodox Church under the loving guidance of our Patriarch in Moscow.

We wish Archbishop Job every good thing in his long and arduous struggle to at least attempt restore all of Rue Daru to the canonical norms and traditions of the Russian Orthodox Tradition, which it claims to represent, but in large part, clearly does not. He has the youth to attempt to reverse the marginalization of Rue Daru that has gone on for far too long and so return it to the mainstream of the Orthodox Church. After a decade of disastrous drift and ever smaller numbers, only his actions can prepare it to reintegrate the Russian Church and to take at least a modest part in the great task of witnessing to authentic Russian Orthodoxy.

Conclusion: Salvation

The reunited Russian Church in Western Europe goes from strength to strength. It has many historical monuments, large churches and large numbers of Orthodox. In Western Europe the two German Dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church alone are at least twice as big as the whole Rue Daru group, which has been built on tiny communities which gather in private or rented rooms, usually fewer than twenty in number. The whole jurisdiction is only a few thousand strong and most of these would leave tomorrow if the Churches they actually feel allegiance to, mainly the Russian and Romanian, were equipped to look after them.

In 1980 I married in St Nicholas church in Boulogne Billancourt in Paris. Among the guests was Archbishop George Tarasov, to whom we were close. I often think of the future Archbishop, flying on the Western Front one hundred years ago. What was he fighting for? For Russia and Her Church; not for the project of today’s iconoclastic renovationists. His life as Archbishop in Paris was made a misery, he was publicly booed and hissed by the Brotherhood and he lived in poverty. Can his humble tears ‘on the rivers of Babylon’ help steer Rue Daru from shipwreck to salvation? We pray that it may be so.

Archpriest Andrew Phillips,
Colchester, England

4/17 February 2015