2002: A Premature Plan for Local Autonomy
It was in 2003 that His Holiness Patriarch Alexis made the long-awaited announcement about setting up an Autonomous Russian Orthodox Metropolia for Western Europe (1). Nearly ten years on nothing has happened. To understand why, we must first realise that the situation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora at that time was very different from that of today.
The concept of an Autonomous Western European Metropolia was in reality a direct response to the desire of Archbishop Sergiy of the Paris Exarchate (’Rue Daru’) to return directly to the Mother-Church, only gaining Autonomy. In this way, Archbishop Sergiy would bypass the intermediary Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, or ROCOR, the Church authority for the Russian Diaspora, founded by the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Tikhon in 1920. It was from ROCOR that the Rue Daru splinter had broken off for political reasons after that saintly Patriarch’s death (probably martyrdom) in 1925.
Thus, seeing that the three generations of paralysis and subservience of the Church inside Russia to atheist government were over in 2000, Archbishop Sergiy of the Exarchate wanted his Rue Daru group to return to the Russian Church. He clearly saw, as we personally had already seen by 1988 (2), that Rue Daru had no future under the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople in Turkey, and even less of a future as a tiny uncanonical group attached to no Local Church, as it had already been for nearly six years, from late 1965 to early 1971 (3).
In his desire for Autonomy, Archbishop Sergiy was influenced by the ‘Orthodox Church in America’ or ‘OCA’. This was, and still is for the moment, a small American group, which had also left the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia in 1925 (later returning to it for over a decade but, tormented by politics, leaving it again). In 1970, at the height of the Cold War, this group had received still much-disputed, full independence, or Autocephaly, from the Church inside Russia. Having seen this thirty years before, Archbishop Sergiy wanted something similar for his Paris-based group. However, much smaller still than the OCA, his group could not, he knew as a realist, receive a premature or dubiously canonical Autocephaly, but it could receive limited internal independence, or Autonomy.
Therefore, after the turning-point of the Jubilee Council of the Church inside Russia in 2000, which at last showed it to be free of the Russian State by meeting the demands of ROCOR (4), Patriarch Alexis and Archbishop Sergiy conducted negotiations to ease Rue Daru’s way back into the Russian Church. We shall never know whether return this would have been possible, because too early, in 2003, Archbishop Sergiy suddenly died. After this, although Patriarch Alexis made the historic announcement, Archbishop Sergiy’s successors fell into the sort of Russophobic politics, to which many Rue Daru members have always been prone.
Moreover, in 2002, the idea had been to appoint the controversial and divisive personality of Metropolitan Antony Bloom as head of the Metropolia (3), but in 2003 he also died. Given the 2006 modernist schism (5) within Metr Antony’s former Diocese on the part of a small group that left for Rue Daru, claiming to be following the ‘legacy’ of Metr Antony Bloom, we shall never know whether this appointment would have been successful or catastrophic. We shall never know either, whether the Patriarchate of Constantinople, in whose jurisdiction Rue Daru then was, as still today, would even have released Rue Daru to return to its Mother-Church. However, all these considerations are purely academic, because they were overtaken by other much more important events.
2012: A Mature Plan for Worldwide Autonomy
These events were the reconciliation between the Church inside Russia and the vast majority of the Russian emigration, who belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, or ROCOR. This took place in 2007, after protracted and detailed negotiations which had effectively begun in 2003 and the All-Diaspora San Francisco Council of ROCOR in 2006. Thus the Russian Orthodox Church, the ROC, was reunited. Outside Russia, where the reunited Church is largely represented by the Autonomous ROCOR, there are many bishops, clergy and laypeople in some forty countries, including in Australasia, Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan, Jerusalem, the Americas, North, Central and South, and all over Western Europe. This is a multinational and multilingual Church.
In October 2012 all bishops of the Russian Orthodox Diaspora met in London and celebrated the fifth anniversary of the reconciliation between the Church inside Russia and ROCOR. Here, for the first time, we began to see the structures of the future ROCOR. As is natural, the still remaining historic fragments of the Church inside Russia in the Americas and Western Europe are to be gradually absorbed into the new ROCOR. Its administrative centre will probably remain in New York, as now. However, initially, it will probably have three Metropolitan Areas: one for the Americas, with its senior Metropolitan and main seminary; one for Western Europe, with its Paris seminary and new Cathedral, which is about to be built; and one for the vast and numerous Australasian Diocese. Each Metropolitan Area will be built on dioceses and deaneries with their own bishops and deans.
Whether fragments of the OCA or Rue Daru will want to participate in the new ROCOR, we cannot say. It is entirely up to them. As regards the OCA, it now has no fewer than four Metropolitans, three of whom are ‘retired’, one of whom wishes to leave it; it also faces possible bankruptcy and has many scandals and internal divisions from its tragic past to deal with. As regards Rue Daru, having missed the boat, with its last, lone bishop now so tragically ill – our prayers are with him, since we well remember him when he was a young priest – lay factions are jostling for power and it faces ghettoisation as a result of its chosen path of isolationism.
It may well be that the more Orthodox parts of both jurisdictions will return to ROCOR in its new and united form. Perhaps, since Rue Daru, like the OCA, is increasingly dependent on newly-emigrated Russians for clergy, singers, finance and the living Tradition, few will wish to remain outside the reunited Russian Orthodox Church. However, some, who have lost the Tradition and so their identity, will probably accept the same fate as the Carpatho-Russian Diocese in North America. Dying out, this has recently had to accept the humiliation of a Greek Bishop, meaning that its traditions will be swallowed up, disappearing into the Church of Constantinople.
Some in Rue Daru will certainly prefer to stay under the Greek Metropolitan in Paris. There they are free to ‘innovate’ within the Westernised and US-financed, new-calendarist Patriarchate of Constantinople, without the discipline of the authentic Russian Church Tradition. This suited (and suits) uprooted the dissident Parisian dreamers and philosophers of Rue Daru. They are, after all, descendants of pre-Revolutionary dissidents and freemasons (‘intelligenty’), who actually supported the genocidal anti-Russian Revolution. They want not ‘Western Orthodoxy’, that is Russian Orthodoxy in its missionary integrity in Western languages, venerating the local saints of the West, but a ‘Westernised Orthodoxy’. That is an unrepentant and self-justifying, self-exalted semi-Orthodoxy, protestantised, uniatised, sanitised, sterilised, salt without its savour, so that it is spiritually nearly dead.
This latter never suited the many, more solid and down-to-earth Non-Parisians, among them Archbishop Sergiy, who was from Brussels, and the many others who, seeing the writing on the wall, began to quit Rue Daru from the 1980s on. As regards when this will come to pass, all remains uncertain – except for one thing. This is that the multinational and multilingual Autonomous Russian Orthodox Metropolia of Western Europe, part of the Autonomous Worldwide ROCOR, will be built on the canonical foundations of the catholicity of the Church, and not on local French masonic philosophy, disincarnate Origenistic intellectualism, or any other type of modernistic thinking. Anything premature or partial, as in the project of 2002, will not survive. As it is said: Man proposes, but God disposes.
Archpriest Andrew Phillips,
7/20 December 2012
St Ambrose of Milan
2. http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/oewesteu.htm. At the time this visionary document, requested by Archbishop George, was entirely rejected by the then Rue Daru Archbishop George (Wagner). He did not want to know anything of any multinational and multilingual Diocese, even though that is what he already had. His personal tragedy was that in principle he wanted to be faithful to the Russian Church, but he only understood this as a narrow faithfulness to a language, Church Slavonic. Thus, in reality, he allowed modernist, Non-Russian customs to take over his Diocese, while remaining ferociously opposed to the use of local languages – those very languages which his flock used and understood. Obviously, feeling rejected by him as human-beings, many left his diocese as a result. Long before Archbishop Sergiy’s belated attempts to save the day, this suicidal policy was already the beginning of the end for Rue Daru.
4. These were: a) The condemnation and rejection of erastian subservience to the militant atheist Soviet State, known as ‘Sergianism’; b) The subsequent and long overdue canonisation of the New Martyrs and Confessors, who had suffered under the atheists; c) The rejection of religious syncretism or so-called ‘Ecumenism’.
5. ‘Schism’ is the precise term used by Patriarch Alexis at the time. (I was the official translator of the documents).