Tag Archives: Conciliarity

Returning Church Administrations to the Royal and Conciliar Way: A Plea for Catholicity

As a result of Constantinople’s US-financed aggression against the Russian Church in the Ukraine, begun in December 2018, the crisis among Local Orthodox Churches continues. The Russian Church is out of communion with Constantinople and several Greek Churches, or parts of them, and all for purely political reasons. Moreover, this Ukrainian division between Moscow, 70% of the Orthodox world, and Constantinople, one of the smallest but also the most prestigious of the Patriarchates of the Orthodox world, which followed the division in Estonia thirty years ago, has now also spread to Lithuania.

Meanwhile, Moscow and its out-of-control schismatic and sectarian ROCOR branch, which has still not been called to account for breaking communion with Moscow’s Western European branch, again all for political reasons, have been trying to impose themselves. The swamp has not been drained. All this means, ‘imposing’ their compromised authority against some of their most senior pastors by using the canons politically! The result is that all their uncanonically ‘defrocked’ pastors, the ones who have integrity and principles, are taken into other Patriarchates, not least into Constantinople.  The political use of the canons is only that – uncanonical. Those who do that subject themselves to canonical and spiritual punishment.

As a result of all this, the situation in Africa is appalling, with the Church there split into two and the Patriarchate of Alexandria ‘defrocking’ poor Africans. The poor African Orthodox, deprived of everything, have become political pawns between Moscow and Alexandria. There is still an uneasy peace between the Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Antioch. Now there is tension between the Patriarchates of Moscow and Bucharest about the canonical jurisdiction of the Orthodox churches in Moldova, with Moscow again ‘defrocking’ many clergy for purely political reasons, as also in Lithuania and Russia. The Romanian Church accepts them all, ignoring the abuse of the canons, just as Moscow ignores the very same misuse in Africa and elsewhere.

All these arguments and divisions are about territory. This has long been the case in the Diaspora in Western Europe, the Americas and Australia. All that has happened is that more territories, the Ukraine, Africa and the Baltics, have been added to the disputed list of the Diaspora. For where there are churches on a territory, there is income. In other words, all these sordid stories are about sordid money. And money is power. Just as Judas sold out Christ for money and power, so now they do the same. The simple people, families, clergy and monastics, are all betrayed by those who are supposedly spiritual guides!! What is to be done?

On 17 March 2024 two letters of His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Albania were published. These were written to Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria concerning the Russian Orthodox Church’s African Exarchate’s activity on the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. The first letter is from 7 February 2023, the second is from 14 March 2024. As a real archpastor, Archbishop Anastasios takes a mediating position, offering both support and criticism as necessary. He has consistently opposed Constantinople’s interference in the canonical Ukrainian Church and the creation of a gangster group called the ‘Orthodox Church of Ukraine’.

Archbishop Anastasios has also written to persecuted hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, assuring them of his prayerful support against Constantinople’s gangsters. However, he has also told Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow that he does not support the Russian Synod’s decision to break communion with Constantinople. In February 2023 Archbishop Anastasios stated plainly: ‘The incursion of the Patriarchate of Moscow into Africa (done in revenge for what Constantinople had done in the Ukraine) was clearly an unacceptable anti-canonical action, undermining the unity and the missionary work of the Orthodox Church. What you describe in detail confirms that a clear schism is unfolding within Orthodoxy’.

At the same time, the Archbishop told Patriarch Theodore: ‘Our long Church experience and theological engagement confirm that the tactic of reprisals, however justified it may seem, does not solve problems; instead, the prolongation of the conflict deepens the wounds. What is needed is the therapy of reconciliation and resolution’. As the Archpastor has done repeatedly since 2018, he again calls for a pan-Orthodox Synod to resolve the problems in the Ukraine and Africa.

His letter from March of this year repeats the same points: ‘We clearly do not agree with the demonstration of power on the part of the Patriarchate of Moscow, especially in the sensitive area of mission in Africa. We clearly deem such methods unacceptable and condemnable. Equally, we do not agree with the adoption of a similar mentality and methods of reaction – with the depositions of hierarchs and the creation of a climate of tension among the Orthodox Churches in the media. On 16 February 2024 the Alexandria Synod decided that it was ‘defrocking’ Bishop Konstantin of Zaraisk, the Russian Church’s second African Exarch. The Synod had already decided to ‘defrock’ the first Exarch, Metropolitan Leonid of Klin, in November 2022 in addition to two Russian priests in February 2022. (Metr Leonid has since been defrocked by Moscow itself, like so many of its recent bishops, but that is another story…).

Unilateral actions offer nothing to Church unity, says the Archbishop. ‘The problems that have arisen in recent years, due to the end of Eucharistic communion between Orthodox Patriarchates, cannot be resolved through unilateral decisions and announcements’. Again he calls for a Council of the whole Orthodox Church. In this way His Beatitude sums up the views of hundreds of politically free Orthodox bishops, in Albania, Romania, Antioch, Serbia, Bulgaria, Poland, Georgia and in other Local Churches, and indeed the views of the vast majority of Church people and clergy.

Enough is enough. Let them stop doing things for political and nationalistic reasons, let them do what they do for Church reasons. In disputed territories, enlightened politicians allow the people to choose for themselves which country they want to belong to. This is called self-determination. Why not apply the same principle to territories that are in dispute between Churches, such as Moldova? Such matters can be debated in a free Council. The Inter-Orthodox Royal way, that is, the Conciliar and Catholic way is the only way. This is the multilateral and multipolar, not unilateral and unipolar, way.

After the US proxy war in the Ukraine ends with the inevitable Russian victory, the Church situation there will have to be resolved by the granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Its future territory will be defined by the coming peace agreement between Moscow and Kiev. The Russian State has won the war there, but that only means that the Russian Church will have to be magnanimous in victory and do what should have been done over thirty years ago: Grant the Church of the New Ukraine autocephaly – full independence. Otherwise their churches in the Ukraine will be empty and bankrupt.

The desovietisation, that is, decentralisation, of the Russian Church is inevitable. This concerns not just the Ukraine, but elsewhere, in the republics born out of the USSR which collapsed in 1991 not because of some mythical victory of the West, but because of its faulty economics. As the new generation that grew up after the collapse of the USSR comes to the Russian episcopate, all will change and the old-fashioned centralising nightmare will end anyway. The Russian Church, like the Church of Constantinople, will have to return to the mainstream, the Royal Way. Then the Constantinople schism can also be resolved and schismatics, whether Russian or Greek, called to account. All this confirms that every division in the Church is always caused by politics, by this world. There is nothing spiritual in any of this at all. It is sordid.

The Victory of Martyrdom and the Victory of Confessordom

In the 20th century the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia won a great victory against Western materialism in its Communist form, a victory won mainly through martyrdom. With 600 martyred bishops, 200,000 martyred priests, monks and nuns and millions of martyred laypeople, its sacrifices were an immense example to the whole world, as long as that world wished to see it and not be blinded by its cultural prejudices causing it to hate the Church of God.

At the same time, living in outward freedom, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia won a great victory against Western materialism in its secularist form, a victory won mainly through confessordom. With figures like Metropolitans Antony, Anastasy, Philaret and Laurus, Archbishops Averky, Antony of Geneva, Tikhon, John and Antony of San Francisco, and a host of faithful priests, monks, nuns and laypeople, it resisted the ways of the Western secularist world, remaining faithful to the best of the Tsar’s Russia.

At one point, during the decadence of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the Church Outside Russia was indeed virtually alone in speaking on behalf of authentic Orthodoxy and combatting the modernist and ecumenist compromises of new calendarism, while the Church inside Russia was paralysed, a hostage of the Soviet atheist regime. The Church Outside Russia opposed Frankish-style ‘Orthodox’ ‘theology’, which fills the brain with mere academic theories, but does nothing to nourish the heart, and the attempts to create a Western Establishment Halfodoxy, in fact an anti-Orthodoxy, instead of real Orthodoxy.

The victory of the Church Outside Russia is apparent in that the now free Church inside Russia is speaking with the same voice and spirit as the Church Outside Russia. Ecumenists, immoral bishops, personality cultists, syncretists who wish to merge Hinduism with Orthodoxy in ashrams, are all of the past. Today the old decadent modernism and ecumenism, so prevalent in the Patriarchate of Constantinople for example only a few years ago, is dying out, its remaining representatives mostly in their 80s.

This double victory of both parts of the Russian Orthodox Church is apparent in the forthcoming Inter-Orthodox Council to be held perhaps in 2016. (The 2015 date prematurely announced was always unrealistic, given the amount of work there is to do in preparation). This Council was unthinkable, as St Justin of Chelije pointed out in the 1970s, as long as Eastern Europe suffered under Communist persecution and the Greek Churches were chattels of the CIA. If the Patriarchate of Constantinople can be persuaded to accept the autocephaly of the Churches of the Czech Lands and Slovakia and of America, and if the Patriarchate of Jerusalem can renounce its imperialist ambitions in Qatar, then a Council as early as 2016 is still possible.

With the Patriarchate of Constantinople now having accepted the Orthodox principle of consensus, as against the papist system of majority voting, the Local Orthodox Churches together will have to prepare an agenda, as the old one was long ago hopelessly discredited. It is true that because this Council is to be held in Constantinople, where resources are very limited, only about a third of the 800 or so Orthodox bishops will be able to meet. However, it may be that after this initial Council there will come another and more significant Council, which could be held for example in Russia, where there is the infrastructure to hold a Council of 800 and more bishops.

However, it is good that this Council is to be held. The heterodox world will learn something. It will help to put an end to the decadent drift in the smaller and spiritually weaker new calendar Local Churches and could also end US and EU meddling in Orthodox Church life. This could also put an end to the cultural isolationism and nationalism of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the other new calendar Local Churches. It was, after all, the cultural isolationism of Western Europe that brought it into the Great Schism in the 11th century, when it replaced God by Western man with its filioque heresy.

Then the Western world cut itself off from the Church of Christ and the Holy Spirit and propelled itself forward into fallen humanisation. It entered the ever deepening and tragic ideology of its filioquist civilisation and its ensuing inevitable secularism and atheism. If the new calendar Churches can be brought back to the Orthodox calendar and its ascetic and liturgical ethos, this will be a mighty example for the heterodox world. Perhaps the Council, gathered together in unity, could even speak prophetic words to the contemporary world, like St John the Baptist before the First Coming – repent for your sins before the Second Coming.