Tag Archives: Local Church

Who Will Create a Multinational Local Orthodox Church in Western Europe?

Introduction

Millions of Orthodox Christians live in Western Europe and are under some thirty bishops. And yet we have no Local Church of our own, unlike the far fewer in any of the twelve Local Churches in Bulgaria, Georgia, Macedonia, Poland, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Albania, the OCA or for that matter in the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem. Why?

Constantinople?

For a very brief period in the mid-1980s, we hoped that the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople might create a united Local Orthodox Church for the then hundreds of thousands of Orthodox, 99% immigrants or descendants of immigrants, in the countries of Western Europe. Given the political paralysis of the far more numerous Russians and the purely political ideological division between the three warring Russian immigrant groups, ultimately caused by the Soviet atheist regime and the oppression of a hostage-Church inside the USSR, as well as personal passions, the Greek solution seemed possible. The Greeks had a whole network of bishops in Europe and unity. All was possible.

Sadly, the Greeks were largely only interested in playing politics and Greek nationalism, known as ‘Hellenism’, implemented by bishop-bureaucrats. ‘God only understands Greek’, as they used to say and still say, when they told Non-Greeks to ‘go away’. In 1989 Constantinople consecrated an ambitious Non-Greek bishop, but he had to pay a $20,000 bribe out of his pocket for the privilege. It all ended up very badly and he was soon suspended in a scandal. And now it is happening again: an ambitious young convert-careerist, though not in the same Patriarchate, has messed up and created a scandal. We have seen it all before. It is tiresome when a young know it all does not learn from the mistakes of others.

Moscow?

After our long-awaited victory with the reconciliation of the largest part of the Russian emigres with the Church inside Russia in May 2007, for which unity we had worked tirelessly for over two decades, we had new hopes. Sectarianism had at last been suppressed. From 2007 to 2017 we hoped against hope that the reunited and reconciled Russians would use their God-given opportunity to create a new Local Church in Western Europe. This would naturally have meant not repeating the error which the Moscow Patriarchate had made with the ‘OCA’ in the USA, that is, it would have to encourage and involve the co-operation of all the Local Churches with Diasporas in Western Europe, not least the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This would require diplomacy, bringing all on side, not isolationism and exclusivist political and racial ideologies.

Sadly, the Russians responsible messed up big time and chose the wrong way. For example, the main Moscow bishops appointed in Paris went from bad to worse. One was openly homosexual, the next openly lived with his wife and child and was alcoholic, and the next was a ruthless political careerist who backed a schism. Then came Russian isolationism after the schismatic US Greek project in the Ukraine and, among the emigres, full-blooded schism and sectarianism. Russian nationalist ghettoes, increasingly more extreme, more pathological and therefore ever smaller and crazier, were formed. The new level of conflict in the Ukraine and associated persecutions and defrockings of clergy, who have a different political opinion from the official hierarchy. All this, amid the hypocritical silence of the emigres, has made the situation dire.

Bucharest?

Politically-inspired Greek and Russian infighting in Church matters in Western Europe seems petty and irrelevant in the face of the massive Romanian/Moldovan Orthodox immigration to Western Europe of the last 15 years. This now numbers well over 4 million on official statistics (1), in nearly 1,000 parishes, soon with 12 bishops. Unlike Russians and Greeks, of whom only about 2% at most ever set foot in church, Romanians and Moldovans massively practise their faith. Moreover, Romanians speak a Latin language written in a Latin alphabet, they are generally very open, welcoming and want English in their services for their children. And children there are. As one Greek bishop told me: ‘When you go into a Greek church in London and see children, you know that they are Romanians’. They are some of the children of the 200,000 Romanians who live in London alone (there are nearly 600,000 Romanians and Moldovans who officially live in the UK, no doubt more unofficially).

All other Orthodox are outnumbered by them by perhaps five to one. The mantle has then passed to the Romanians, as both Greeks and Russians have failed to meet the challenge of setting up a new Local Church. The Romanian Church is by far the largest Church in Western Europe, bigger than all the others put together, but although autonomous, as the newest it is also the poorest, with the weakest infrastructure. With such numbers there is an opportunity. However, the same mistakes can still be made all over again. In other words, the Church can be made into a nationalist organisation, which will be irrelevant to the UK-born children of Romanian and Moldovan immigrants. We who belong to the Moldovan part of the Church, meaning that we have Russian liturgical customs and the old calendar, are especially conscious of this. Let us not repeat the errors of the Russians, who have mistreated Moldovans as second-class citizens for so long, just as they mistreated us English Orthodox in exactly the same way for so long.

Conclusion: The People’s Orthodoxy and Leadership

What is certain from what we have seen over the last fifty years is that there will never be a Local Orthodox Church in former Roman Catholic and Protestant Western Europe until ideologies cease. It does not matter whether these ideologies are racial (not to say racist), or political (Russian right-wing or Greek left-wing). All ideologies are divisive. Only the grassroots People’s Orthodoxy can defeat such top-down ideologies, but for this they also need leadership. The absence of a Local Church is the result of this failure.

Note 1:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanian_diaspora#:~:text=Therefore%2C%20the%20number%20of%20all,countries%20where%20they%20are%20indigenous.