Tag Archives: Authenticity

Why American ‘Orthodox’ Missionaries Are Unsuccessful

For many years we in England have been subject to the aggressive missionaries of two Non-Christian American sects, the Jehovahs’ Witnesses (Russellites) and the Mormons. They have yet to understand that we are not interested. We have our own history and traditions which predate 19th century New World sects. The only ones they can recruit are the disinherited (immigrants and socially abandoned), the uneducated in history, or the pathologically unstable and insecure. Even among them the turnover is huge. Sadly, in recent years, we have also been subject to the missionary activities of pathological neophytes who claim to belong not to Non-Christian sects, but to fringe parts of the Orthodox Church.

In fact, although nominally members of the Orthodox Church, these neophytes share in exactly the same Calvinistic/Lutheran mentality as the others. First of all, they share in the sectarian American culture of exclusivism: ‘only we are right, all others are beyond salvation, join us or be damned, either you are with us or else you are against us’. Secondly, in their arrogance they impose their language and culture on all others, who are rooted in the local culture. They meddle in and lack all respect for the local language, local culture and local traditions, which are all far older than they are. Thirdly, they express the same very proud, Calvinistic mentality of punishment, cursing with hellfire all those who do not share in their deviations and perversions.

I remember how in the 1970s three American men, claiming to be ‘novices’, all dressed up as Orthodox monastics and in long beards were sent over from California (from where else? – as East Coast Americans know) to Oxford Street in London. The ‘mission’ of these who had been ‘saved’ – to convert shoppers to Orthodoxy. Apparently, it had never occurred to them that there were already plenty of Orthodox churches for local people in London, where those who wished to go could go and that shoppers might be intent on shopping, not on a bunch of black-robed Hari Krishna-type weirdos.  Naturally, the shoppers either ignored or rejected the fruitcakes of the latest US sect, who were preventing people from shopping.

Naturally, the three ‘novices’ totally failed in their ‘mission’, and returned to California, condemning people in Oxford Street to hell, as not one of them had been converted to their pharisaic pride. Thank God for that. If you want to convert people, first live among them, help them and show that you are a kind person. Set an example. Instead, the ‘novices’ could not even provide a church or any infrastructure, where those interested could have gone. And do not think that you have the right to interfere in their lives, just because you imagine that you are superior to them, especially when you are novices. Sort out your own house first and see what you are made of before you speak to others. Stop being meddling Methodists.

The American pseudo-religious mentality is only a reflection of the American secular mentality. They are the same because they are both born of the same arrogance and pride. We have seen it in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and the Ukraine. First, they eliminate the local individuals, presidents, kings, dictators, or even priests, who understand and so are in control of the situation. Then, having lost the controllers who understand and created destruction and chaos, they appoint their own puppets and control-freaks, but are surprised that the local people do not like them and reject them. When they discover that, they proceed to condemn to hellfire all who resist their overweening pride and then run away, as in Saigon, Kabul and soon in Kiev.

To see genuine Orthodox missionary work, read the lives of saints, such as St Herman of Alaska and St Nicholas of Japan. The results of their work is long-lasting, enduring, they do not condemn, nor do they run away. Those who come here, pretending to have a native accent and pretending to be Orthodox but in fact know very little and do not consort with lifelong Orthodox, are fakes. We saw through them almost immediately. They will not last, they never do – we have seen it all before. Here today, gone tomorrow. Their coming departure, after their proclamation that they will never be nice and that those who resist them are evil, will be no loss. The Church ignores them and goes on without them. We do not need fakes.


Two Types of Missionary Work

Much is done in the name of missionary work. Some of it is good, but some of it is bad, for some compromises are made not in the name of pastoral dispensation (‘economy’), but in the name of seeking after personal popularity, that is, seeking after the vanity of fame, of having their photo everywhere. Those who do this (the name of the disgraced Protodeacon Andrey Kurayev comes to mind, among others…) always fall and their work comes to nothing.

The authentic missionary’s work is deep, it lasts for generations and centuries, it is always heartfelt, a living example of sacrifice. We can think of the apostles, and also equal to the apostles like St Helen and St Nina of Georgia, Sts Cyril and Methodius, St Olga, St Stephen of Perm, St Herman of Alaska, St Seraphim of Sarov, St John of Kronstadt, St Nicholas of Japan, St John of Shanghai….

The inauthentic missionary’s work, always headborne and not heartborne, is superficial and soon fades. Most of those ‘converted’ by its mere intellectualism fall into philosophy and theorizing, or else reformism, or else cynicism, always lapsing and disappearing, like their gurus, the pseudo-elders or self-appointed ‘startsy’, who ‘converted’ them to their personal fantasies.

How do we recognize the true missionary? ‘By their fruit, ye shall know them’.


Those Who Lapse and Those Who Last: The End of ‘Euro-Orthodoxy’ and the Beginning of Orthodoxy in Europe

For some 40 years between the 1960s and the end of the twentieth century, some two thousand Anglicans joined certain parishes of the Orthodox Churches in England – mainly those under the then Parisian ‘Sourozh Diocese’. Together with a small number of ordinary (Non-Anglican) English people, they joined the Church for many reasons. Some of us, perhaps especially the Non-Anglicans, joined because we were sincerely seeking, not being influenced by any personality, but called by Christ to help rebuild His Church in the Western desert. For us, the Orthodox Church was and is the only Church, our spiritual home, to which we had come after realizing that this is God’s Will for us and our souls will die without spiritual food, that is, outside the Church. We have lasted and not lapsed because for us, belonging to the Church has always been a matter of spiritual survival, although and because we have been voices crying in the anti-Orthodox and so secularist wilderness.

However, some did not last but lapsed, for it seems that they were not attached to the Orthodox Church and Faith. Dissatisfied with the ever-changing and ever-new fads of Anglicanism, they attached themselves only to some personality or intellectual philosophy, and not to the Church Herself. Some were perhaps received by marginal figures who, without support from Churched Orthodox, needed to build personality cults for themselves among the naïve, ill-prepared, uninstructed or deluded. In other words, attraction operated for negative reasons, by being against something else, and some never accepted the Church as She is. Deluded by anti-Incarnational fantasies, sometimes of Hindu or Buddhist origin, Russian fakirs and charlatans and secondary and superficial attractions, some remained ‘converts’, not actually becoming Orthodox because of their baggage. They joined the Church, but did not become and live as Orthodox Christians.

The fundamental error of such ‘converts’, as they often liked to call themselves, consisted in not first separating themselves from the 900 + years of the anti-Orthodox and therefore also anti-English, Norman-founded British Establishment. This included its Anglican extension under the syphilitic Tudor tyrant Henry VIII and his followers, not least his murderous ‘theologian’ daughter Elizabeth, the genocidal Cromwell and then various other mercantile Dutch, German and ‘British’ Protestant Imperialists with their ‘Rule Britannia’ jingoism that invaded and enslaved the world. In no way therefore were they able to adopt the Orthodox Faith, for they had not first cleansed their minds and souls from the Anti-Orthodoxy, which they had been conditioned and deluded into thinking of as ‘Western Christianity’. Not having first made room in their minds and souls for the Orthodox Church, the only authentic Western or any other Christianity, they could not last and so lapsed.

Unwilling and so unable to live according to the Orthodox way of life and the Orthodox view of the world and so to think naturally in an Orthodox way, many lapsed completely, some returned to Anglicanism, and others lapsed into a fringe ‘Anglican Orthodoxy’. This inability and unwillingness to integrate meant that these latter tended to form exclusive cliques and convert clubs, which made their church into a ‘Halfodox’ hobby, Anglicanism with icons. Thus, some allowed the baggage which they had brought with them into the Church to define their lives and block possible spiritual growth and understanding. This was because their Western-founded Norman Establishment has always called us, the people, ‘Anglo-Saxons’ or ‘plebs’, although we have always called ourselves simply ‘English’. Their alien Norman Establishment has always patronisingly despised us natives and all who ‘go native’, that is, all who are Orthodox Christians in mind and heart, who are foreign to them.

With this mentality of Establishment condescension and pride towards us English, they also rejected the Orthodox people, with our unintellectual and unphilosophical simplicity and uncomplicated and unmoralizing piety. Thus, some refused in their imagined racial ‘superiority’ and intellectual theorizing to ‘go native’. Between about 2000 and 2010, with Anglicanism altogether disappearing into the New Age blur, few Anglicans asked to be received into the Church, while the by then ageing converts from the last century began to isolate themselves and die out. In recent years, however, a new period has begun. Some ordinary (Non-Anglican) English people from the vast majority have begun to join the Orthodox Church. Like the few Non-Anglicans among those who had preceded them, they have had little difficulty in renouncing the Norman-founded British Establishment and its corrupted culture, because they have in any case never even belonged to it.

Thus, unlike some who had preceded them, they have never been tempted to put British Establishment culture above Christ, so betraying Christ, His Church and also His Orthodox England. For this reason they can begin to develop a real English Orthodox culture. Far more importantly, what has happened in England is only an example of the wider situation all over Western Europe. The betrayal of Western Europe by its Christophobic elite, making it into a wayward, schismatic and isolated province through heresy in 1054 and then apostasy, the betrayal of the real England, Orthodox England, finally destroyed in 1066, the repeated Western betrayals of the Christian Emperors and invasions of the multinational Christian Empire between 1204 and 1917, these are what real Orthodox in Europe reject. What we accept is the end of the old compromised ‘Euro-Orthodoxy’ of the philosophers and the beginning of the real Orthodoxy of the saints of Europe, the Restoration of Europe.

The choice for Christophobic and so Russophobic Europe today is fast becoming Apocalypse or Repentance. Europe, on its suicidal death-bed, caught between self-invented Secularism and self-imposed Islamism, has a last chance. If the peoples of Europe can yet throw off the degeneration of their millennial brainwashing, they can still learn that the truth will set them free from stepping lemming-like off the precipice into the abyss. If they can accept that their elites have deluded them into thinking that they are ‘free’, by being enslaved to the elites’ millennial secularist ideology, regardless of whether it is called Roman Catholic, Scholastic, Protestant, Anglican, Conservative, Socialist, Communist, Democratic, Liberal, Agnostic, Atheist, Post-Modernist, then suicide can be averted. If they can accept that their roots are only in the Tradition, Orthodox Christianity, the Church of God, and not in any latecomer manmade religion, then Repentance even at this late hour is still possible.

Afterword: The Euro-Orthodox Alternative to an Orthodox Europe

Following the recent trilogy of articles on gathering together Russian Orthodox of all nationalities and languages in Western Europe into a Metropolia, the first of which was posted on 25 July and the last, the article ’The Path to Unity’, on 5 August, a member of the Paris Exarchate (Patriarchate of Constantinople) has written to reject this vision for an Orthodox Europe, or a ‘Russian Europe’ as he strangely calls it. Since he is not Russian Orthodox and, according to his very undiplomatic words, never will be, his rejection of something which does not concern him seems not relevant. However, if he is interested in one day seeing a Local Church of Europe, we must recall that the only Local Church which is proposing an Orthodox Metropolia in Europe, precisely the basis for a future Local Church of Europe, is the Russian Orthodox Church. In other words, the offer by Patriarch Alexis II over ten years ago is the only offer on the table.

The only purely theoretical alternative consists of a now very old-fashioned, autocephalist, that is, nationalist, ideology. This was once again put forward by the Greek Orthodox ‘Fraternite Orthodoxe in Western Europe’ at its Fifteenth Congress in Bordeaux in Spring 2015. With absolutely no offer of autocephaly (canonical independence) made at any point over the fifty years of its existence to this small, mainly French group by the US-run Patriarchate of Constantinople (to which virtually all its members belong), doubts were long ago raised about its practicality. No autocephaly can ever be given to this small group because it is on a shared canonical territory.

No-one would want to repeat the error that the Soviet-epoch Patriarchate of Moscow made in the USA nearly fifty years ago, giving a canonically disputed autocephaly to a small and rather nationalistic American group, led by Parisian intellectuals, now called the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). One does have the impression of leaders blinded by their autocephalist ideology misleading sincere and idealistic but also blind converts, who have no concept of the practical problems and realities of the Local Orthodox Churches and Diasporas outside their own narrow, intellectual horizons.

A French TV film of their recent Congress shows members of the Paris-based Brotherhood singing in French at a meeting or service (it was unclear what it was) in a modern conference hall in Bordeaux. There were virtually no icons, no iconostasis, no candles and no-one at the meeting or service, standing in lines in front of rows of chairs, appeared to make the sign of the cross. The atmosphere presented was that of a ‘charismatic’ event, common to Catholic modernism (or Protestant modernism – it is the same thing). Present were two Greek bishops, one of them the controversial leader of the schismatic ‘Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church’, and a Catholic bishop. The impression was that many of those present were either Catholics or else ex-Catholics. The meeting was certainly highly ecumenical and also political.

The atmosphere of exaltation, of a lack of sobriety and prayer, and the absence of any Orthodox dress code indeed gave the impression of a political meeting, rather than of a Church service. Most of those shown in the film looked to be middle class people, mostly of the same older generation, aged between 60 and 75. Could this be because they joined the Fraternite in its heyday in the late 60s, 70s and 80s, after the French social revolt of 1968? Enclosed and isolated in the same intellectual ghetto for so many years, without exposure to the realities of the contemporary Diasporas of the Local Orthodox Churches in Europe or in their homelands, members have had no opportunity to evolve. In this way they have not adapted to reality and the generation which has grown up in the Orthodox Churches since the fall of Communism and the liberation of the Local Churches in former Communist countries. Could this be why ‘passeiste’ (living in the past) members still insist that ‘nothing has changed’ in Russia and Eastern Europe and still appear to be living in the Cold War?

Of course, a film can give a false impression. Unfortunately, it is exactly the same impression that was given to us by Fraternite members in the 70s and 80s and also that given to Orthodox from other Local Churches who have visited their Congresses in recent years. They have all said the same thing: that this is a divisive group driven not by spiritual concerns but by political concerns. Its spirit, different and alien to that in the vast majority of Orthodox monasteries and parish churches in Western Europe, gives the impression of a New Age cult or sect. There is a ‘pick and mix’ mentality, for example, you fast and confess only if you really want to, taking communion freely, as in modern Catholicism. It takes what it likes from the Russian Church and the Greek Church, but rejects the disciplines of both the Russian Church, both inside Russia and outside Russia, and of the Greek Church in Greece. (It should be noted that this group is quite outside the discipline of the diocesan jurisdictions of Greek bishops in Europe).

A great many contemporary Protestants will tell you that the empty moralism of their ahistorical and now dying denominations has been suicidal for them. A great many contemporary Catholics will tell you that they do not believe in the Pope and think that compulsory clerical celibacy is wrong. In other words they agree with us. And some look to the Orthodox Church for sustenance. The one thing that the Orthodox Church can offer those who live in the contemporary spiritual desert of the desacralized Western world, whether of Catholic or Protestant origin, is spiritual food. This is the food of faithfulness to the discipline of the Church Tradition that alone unlocks the door to the Holy Spirit, that alone gives spiritual beauty, spiritual nobility and spiritual elegance, the food that feeds the soul. This means not transmitting our little selves, but transmitting that which is far greater than ourselves, that which is both collective (cat-holic) and eternal. This is that which only the Church can give and provide the sense of the sacred, a sacralized faith that brings heaven down to earth and so makes the earthly spiritual.

The impression given, and not only by this film, is the opposite. What appears to be on offer here is a desacralized cult, worship made comfortable for the Western consumer, a castrated and rationalized piece of theatre that makes the spiritual earthly. Nowhere was there any mention of the glorious European heritage of the saints, those who had been earthly but became spiritual, neither of the ancient saints of Europe, like St Irinaeus of Lyon, St Hilary of Poitiers, St Martin of Tours, St John Cassian and others who combated heresies and died for the Faith, or of the new saints of Europe, like the Russian New Martyrs, St Nicholas of Zhicha, St Justin of Chelije and St Paisius the Athonite. This is the result of doing away with the ‘sanctoral’ and applying the other decrees of the Second Vatican Council to the Orthodox Church, as was the heartfelt desire of Fraternite lovers like Fr Elie Melia, the teacher of Pastoral Theology at the St Sergius Institute of Theology in Paris in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

The overall impression of the Fraternite is of a disincarnate form of faith invented in the past, of a rather late and old-fashioned monogenerational offshoot of the ‘charismatic movement’ of the late twentieth century, unknown to the Orthodox Church. Theirs appears to be a phyletistic or nationalistic ideology, a Euro-Orthodoxy, that puts modern Europe first and Orthodoxy second, exactly the opposite to what the Russian Orthodox Church is proposing in its forward-looking vision of an ‘Orthodox Europe’. New Local Churches have always been built on strict adherence to the Church Tradition and had a heavily ascetic, monastic and episcopal foundation, for example among all the Slavs, the Alaskans and the Japanese. Unlike their examples, the intellectuals of the Fraternite, stuck in the 1960s, seem to be proposing building a Church on the basis of an ideology that is anti-ascetic, anti-monastic, anti-episcopal, anti-Tradition and therefore in effect anti-Orthodox. Needless to say, this cannot succeed.

A Vision for the Future Orthodox Church in Western Europe

Sadly, vision has all too often been in short supply when it comes to a future Orthodox Church for Western Europe, On the one hand, there have been those, whom I have known personally, who failed to rise to the challenge and simply rejected the concept, preferring the ethnic ghetto and nationalist club and hiding behind Slavonic or Greek. On the other hand, there have been those who wanted to create ‘une structure d’attente’, a temporary structure waiting to be absorbed into Roman Catholicism, in the notorious and legendary words of one Jesuit-educated senior priest of the Paris Jurisdiction over 35 years ago.

At present one view is that the US-run Patriarchate of Constantinople should make autonomous its Western European group or ‘brotherhood’, as it has already done in Finland and Estonia. This would be based on extreme liberalism and a copying of modernist Roman Catholicism (Roman Catholic calendar, no confession, intercommunion, no iconostasis, clean-shaven clergy, masonry, an upper middle-class pseudo-intellectual ethos with as many members as possible holding degrees in philosophy etc). Such an exclusive club is in fact just as ethnic as the ethnic ghetto; worse, it is class-ridden as well.

Only recently, I have come across two cases of Russian Orthodox being refused confession by such groups because they did ‘not have any sins’. One 25-year-old Romanian priest- ‘theologian’ actually told one that confession was ‘no longer necessary’. The other was told that ‘since you have not murdered anyone, you do not need confession’. Others have been told that they must abandon the Orthodox calendar. Another who attended the chapel of a tiny convert group defined it as ‘an upper class club for Anglicans’. All that happens is that the faithful are scandalized and quit such groups in search of ‘real Orthodox’.

I quote these sad examples because it is clear that the Church of the future can never be built on such practices because they are exclusive. Just as nothing can be built on a mononational and monolingual (be it Greek, Slavonic, Romanian, English, French or German) ethnic narrowness. The future will be built on inclusivity. And that inclusivity will not be built on a modernist, anti-Orthodox ideology, whose tone is set by the CIA, but on respect for the feelings of the faithful (and not lapsed) Orthodox people. The Church is the people; we are not clericalists in the Orthodox Church.

The Church of the future will be built on uniting different nationalities of Orthodox, not on dividing them by minimalism, built on being inclusive, not exclusive. The most anti-pastoral aspect of this is the attempt to impose on faithful Orthodox a degutted, pseudo-Orthodox, modernist ideology. If convert and semi-Uniat Orthodox want faithful Orthodox to come to their churches and chapels, then they must first become Orthodox themselves. ‘Halfodoxy’ has no attraction to us whatsoever. We do not ask for an acceptance of another language, simply an acceptance of the Orthodox Faith and Tradition.

The Future of Orthodoxy in Western Europe

Russian Orthodox in Western Europe often suffer from the lack of infrastructure and disorganisation of their Church. For example, many parishes suffer because they have no local bishop who speaks the local language, visits his parishes and understands local difficulties, including financial ones. One part of this problem goes back to a time when the KGB (which then controlled Patriarchal churches outside Russia) used Western Europe (and the USA) as a place of exile. In order to counter isolation which results from the lack of local episcopal pastoral care (inter-parish meetings, pastoral conferences etc), parishes have themselves to build up contacts with other parishes. Isolation, parochialism and provincialism are dealt with by being pro-active in this matter.

On account of the lack of understanding local structures and a slow and bureaucratic centralism that can take its place, a lot of patience is needed. Sometimes central authority only reacts if it thinks that it might be losing its parishes. For example the Patriarchate in Moscow was warned for several years about the situation in the Sourozh Diocese in London, but did not react in time or adequately. As a result there was schism. On the other hand, it is disturbing that some believe the Western media’s anti-Russian propaganda that portrays the Patriarchate as compromised with or even feudally controlled by the anti-oligarch Russian State, which is ironically portrayed as mafia-bound, oligarch-ridden and thoroughly corrupt. Why are such absurd things believed?

They are believed because of Western European pride, the idea that in Western Europe Orthodoxy can be done differently, ‘better’, without reference to the Church and the Tradition. This is ‘Schmemannism’, ‘Orthodoxy Lite’, ‘Euro-Orthodoxy’, ‘Halfodoxy’, as in parts of Finland, the Paris Jurisdiction, other parishes of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and also of Antioch (and in parts of the OCA). This is in fact a form of Uniatism, a simplified, homogenised and neutered rite without Orthodox content. It means abbreviated services, no confession before communion, Protestant-style clergy, no iconostases, intercommunion etc. This is the ‘legacy’ of the emigres of the Paris School and their disciples who follow their path. It is the path to schism and apostasy.

This School is the path of illusion, the tediously dry and Spiritless rationalism that does not feed the soul, but only the unspiritual mind, the imagination and sometimes the emotions. This ideology (and it is an ideology) is extremely Russophobic. This is because the Russian Church, which has above all others kept the Tradition intact and uncompromised, is the only thing that stands in the way of ‘Orthodoxy Lite’. Thus, Russophobia exists as self-justification for apostasy. The Paris School, liberal, ecumenical, academic, proud, loves itself and its personality cults, imagining that it loves Christ and His Church. There is enormous spiritual danger in this delusion. Real Orthodox mission in Western Europe is the way of integrity and faithfulness to Orthodoxy, but in the local language.