Sadly, here have been several cases of decadence among Orthodox clergy in the Diaspora, especially since the 1950s, no jurisdiction excepted. Clerical scandals have at times turned people away from the Church. People have said: ‘If that is how certain clergy behave, then the Church is no different from the world’. Certain bishops and those ordained and then supported by such bishops have shown a lack of love through weakness of faith or even absence of faith. Such a weakness of faith or absence of faith has resulted in spiritual catastrophes.
Unprincipled careerist political compromises, simony, theft of Church money, moral iniquity and narcissistic jealousy leading to the persecution of honest priests and people, we have seen them all. As a result, the Church on earth has not been able to witness to the world as it could have. Terrifyingly, the culprits will have to answer at the Last Judgement. Thus, in this period, God gave an opportunity for all English-speaking Orthodox in the British Isles at least to be united, but the opportunity was lost. Where did those rejected go in order to survive?
Despite being brought up outside the Church, some of the most zealous and principled, with a sense of Truth and of the Tradition and missionary impulse, joined ROCOR. This was, after all, always part of the Russian Orthodox Church, where they would not have to compromise themselves. However, here, as non-Russians, they were sometimes treated as second-class citizens and also faced petty persecution by those who, under political and sectarian influence, wanted to make ROCOR into a sect. Today, such elements have mainly left ROCOR for their full-blown sects. Freed of them, the new ROCOR can return to normality, to being the old ROCOR with its pre-War roots in the Tradition, abandoning the theological and canonical absurdities of post-1945 Cold War polemics. If ROCOR can show leadership and love, repenting for the injustices and errors of the past, it will bring hope. In the meantime, as a result of the past, others went elsewhere.
The ‘Greek’ Church
As a desperate compromise rejecting ROCOR, Anglicans such as Timothy Ware joined the Church of Constantinople and, after a serious argument in 1965, Fr Sophrony (Sakharov) and his then three monks followed him. As well as them, others, living outside the London-Oxford corridor, were usually turned away and told to ‘go to the Greeks’. This was the result of the refusal to commit to Orthodox missionary work. Today, however, those who made these forced compromises are having to face canonical isolation, the consequence of the contemporary actions of the Phanar, which has trampled over canon law in the Ukraine. Here we see the results of compromising consciences, taking ‘the middle way’ (which is definitely not ‘the golden mean’), the way between Truth and lie, so ending up with Halfodoxy.
Serbian, Romanian and Bulgarian
Only very few joined these other Balkan Churches, realizing that they are mononational, so not for English speakers.
Belarussian and Ukrainian
A few joined uncanonical groups, Belarussian and Ukrainian, in protest at mistreatment. In general, they did not linger long, realizing that there was no place for them in temporary nationalist groups, which were the results of the Second World War.
When in 1995 ten or so unhappy Anglican vicars with some 300 disillusioned Anglicans approached the Church, they were rebuffed and so set up their own ex-Anglican jurisdiction. But here, as they have told me themselves, they had difficulty learning the Tradition and so integrating the Church, remaining on the margins, often not learning how to think, act, serve and sing like Orthodox, still trapped in alien Anglicanism.
A few sectarian-minded individuals left for various curious sects, Greek or Russian, usually because their unrealistic idealism was dissatisfied with the mass of Orthodox who were ‘not strict enough’ for them. Cut off from the Tree of the Church by their own perfectionism, judgementalism and lack of forgiveness, they left themselves to die out.
The final result of compromise was a schism, when in 2007 some 300 joined the Russophobic Paris branch of Constantinople. This had itself been founded through schism by the selfsame aristocratic émigrés, who had betrayed the Tsar and the Christian Empire in 1917. This group now finds itself pitted against the rest of the Orthodox Church and the canonical foundations of Church life, as a result of current bribery and blackmail in Constantinople.
Do we belong to Paul or Apollos or Cephas – or to Christ? Whenever a strong personality, regardless of whether he is talented or not, takes the place of Christ, there is division. At the present time it does not seem likely that locally the Russian Patriarchal Church will recover. Lack of leadership and lack of love may have done long-term damage. The flock was scattered. The Mother-Church behaved like an unloving stepmother. However, if instead of compromise repentant leadership and love are shown by the Patriarchal Church, as it now faces its worst nightmare with the Phanariot schism and bloody persecution in the Ukraine, then there will be the miracle of unity. If it cannot show this, then little ROCOR, with its tiny means and sometimes still unresolved difficulties from the past, will be left to try and take responsibility for this Diaspora.