Tag Archives: The Church

Towards a Planet of Twelve Patriarchates

Today’s Reality

The first millennium saw the development of seven Local Orthodox Churches, arranged in five Patriarchates and two Autocephalous Churches: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and the Churches of Georgia and Cyprus. In theory, these covered the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe. Their number decreased to six after the defection of Rome to its new creed of Papalism and the Western tip of Europe fell away from the Church.

However, in the second millennium the number increased. This happened when the Patriarchate of Constantinople was infected by Greek nationalism (Hellenism) and monolingualism. This nationalism had already played a role in the nationalistic foundations of Monophysite and Nestorian denominations in Egypt, Ethiopia, Armenia and groups in Syria, but it fragmented further in Balkanization. Thus, the autocephalous Serbian Church was founded, followed by the Russian, Romanian and Bulgarian, creating another four Local Churches.

In the 19th century Imperialist Britain also forced the Greek Church to separate from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, making eleven Local Churches. Then in the 20th century, the Polish and Czechoslovak Churches were carved out of the Russian and Serbian Churches for political reasons and the Albanian Church came into being, because the border between Greece and Albania was unjustly delineated, adding another three Local Churches. Thus, at the present time there are fourteen Local Orthodox Churches, so many of which exist only because of the vagaries of politics and nationalism.

What If?

What if the twelve apostles were to meet today in a new Council of Jerusalem, as they did before in 33 AD, with the above information, a map of the world as it is in front of them and information about history, geography, culture and present-day populations (Asia, 4.45 billion; Africa, 1.2 billion; the Americas 1 billion; Europe 740 million; Oceania 40 million), how might they divide the world amongst themselves? Perhaps into Twelve Local Orthodox Churches, something like this?

  1. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem and All the Holy Lands. (A Church based in the City of the Resurrection and covering today’s Israel, Cyprus, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and the Balkans (Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and ex-Yugoslavia), thus uniting two of the present ancient Patriarchates and seven of the present autocephalous Churches.
  2. The Patriarchate of Baghdad and All the Middle East. (A Church to cover all the Christian and Muslim Middle East, from the Lebanon, Syria and the Jordan to the Arabian Peninsula, to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan).
  3. The Patriarchate of Nairobi and All Africa. (A Church based in Nairobi to cover the 1.2 billion people of the African Continent. Main languages: English, French, Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish and native African languages).
  4. The Patriarchate of Moscow and All the Russias. (A Church covering most of Northern Eurasia, one sixth of the planet, including Mongolia and the Korean Peninsula).
  5. The Patriarchate of Vienna and All Western Europe. (A Church based in the cultural heart of Central Europe, and not in off-centre Rome, to cover all of what was Roman Catholic and Protestant Europe, from Iceland to Hungary and Portugal to Finland, including the territories of the Local Churches in Poland and the Czech Lands and Slovakia).
  6. The Patriarchate of New Delhi and All India. (A Church to cover the ancient territory of Hindu Civilization with nearly 1.4 billion people, together with Nepal and Bhutan).
  7. The Patriarchate of Beijing and All China. (A Church to cover the nearly 1.5 billion Chinese population, Taiwan and Tibet).
  8. The Patriarchate of Tokyo and All Japan. (A Church to cover the ancient and unique Japanese Civilization).
  9. The Patriarchate of Bangkok and All South-East Asia. (A Church to cover the largely Muslim and Buddhist populations of Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia).
  10. The Patriarchate of Manila and All Oceania. (A Church to cover the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua, New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand and all the Pacific Islands).
  11. The Patriarchate of Washington and All Northern America. (A Church to cover the USA, Canada and the Carribean. Main languages: English and French).
  12. The Patriarchate of Rio de Janeiro and All Latin America. (A Church to cover South and Central America and Mexico. Main languages: Spanish and Portuguese).

The Gap Between Reality and What If?

As we can see from the above, only Churches No 1, 2, 3 and 4 already exist, although: Church No 1 is at present tiny and seems to be run largely as a Greek clerical colony; Church No 2, though claiming to be the Church ‘of All the East’ is at present small, based in Damascus/Beirut, though claiming to be in Antioch in Turkey, and is largely run by four merchant families; Church No 3 is also small, and though claiming to be ‘of All Africa’ is governed almost entirely by Non-African bishops, is based very far from its flock, in Alexandria, and has converted only 1% of those in its canonical territory. Although Church No 4 would remain much as now, Churches Nos 5-12, to cover some 5.5 billion human-beings, do not even exist.

We should be ashamed of ourselves.

 

On the Two Jurisdictions of Russian Orthodoxy Outside the Canonical Territory of the Russian Orthodox Church

Introduction

Some may be surprised to read of the existence of only two jurisdictions of Russian Orthodoxy outside the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church (the ex-Soviet Union minus Georgia, plus Japan and China). They say: Surely there are three groups, since there is the Paris Jurisdiction? They forget that that jurisdiction was founded by aristocrats who, obsessed with Western Europe, hated everything Russian. So much so that it betrayed the Tsar for the sake of its class privileges and in Paris exile left the Russian Church for the sake of its privileged fantasies. Thus, the Paris Jurisdiction has never been part of the Russian Church, even though it had an influence on some ex-Uniat Slavs from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire settled in the USA  (now in a group called ’the OCA’). However, those who were involved are all dead now.

Today, the tiny Paris Jurisdiction, at worst, the disgruntled and dissident or, at best, the betrayed and naïve, is dying in lost relevance and lack of Tradition. It continues only as self-justification for its schism and disobedience. All the pro-Russian forces that were once in that jurisdiction have since 1989 gladly returned to one or other of the two jurisdictions of the Russian Church. Cut off and isolated, Paris has been left with nothing to say about the Russian Church. So in the context of Russian Orthodoxy outside Russia, the Paris Jurisdiction, like the North American jurisdiction that is called the OCA (Orthodox Church in America), can be ignored here, for it has for generations not been part of the Russian Church. So which are these two jurisdictions of Russian Orthodoxy outside the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church?

  1. The Patriarchal Churches Directly Dependent on Moscow

Once upon a time this was largely an ethnic jurisdiction of those who were at times such Soviet patriots that they were even prepared to lie about the persecution of the Church inside the then Soviet Union, denying even its own martyrs. Once upon a time it contained corrupt and compromised senior figures, both inside and outside Russia, who were allowed to do anything they wanted as a result of the paralysis of the Church administration, which was under KGB surveillance and desperate for ecumenical links to counter persecution. That political enslavement is over and the compromised are dead, though one can still meet ageing individuals who live and think in the past.

A very small jurisdiction a generation ago, today it has over 300 parishes and seven bishops. Notably, it has some 35 parishes in North America, a diocese in South America, all the parishes in Thailand, other parishes scattered throughout Asia and, above all, some 250 new parishes in Western Europe. It is here that enormous growth has taken place through the economic emigration from the ex-USSR , especially from Kazakhstan, Moldova and those ethnically cleansed from the Baltic States and the Ukraine. Thus, those who always belonged to these Patriarchal churches and were both patriotically and internationally minded, their ideal being Holy Rus, have been much reinforced.

  1. The Patriarchal Churches Indirectly Dependent on Moscow

Once dying out, there are now nearly 600 parishes in the self-governing Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), headquartered in New York but part of the whole Russian Orthodox Church. Once, in the bad old Soviet and immediate post-Soviet days, ROCOR was providentially independent of the politically enslaved Church administration in Moscow and so the free voice of the Russian Orthodox Church. At that time,however, there were also some who belonged to ROCOR who were not so much Orthodox as simply anti-Communists. These often worked for Western spy agencies in various countries and saw the Church as a mere vehicle for their right-wing nationalist political ideology.

Obsessed and blinded by their right-wing politics, they did not understood that their work against the Soviet Union for Western spy services or propaganda agencies, like The Voice of America or the BBC, was in fact work against Russia and so against the territory of the Russian Empire. This is now history, for today the whole of the Russian Church is politically free. That situation of political enslavement is over, though one can still meet individuals who live and think in the past. On the other hand, those like the ever-memorable Metr Laurus, who belonged to ROCOR and were always both patriotically and internationally minded, their ideal being Holy Rus, have been much reinforced.

The Future

Given the fact that most of the faithful of both jurisdictions are people who have left the ex-Soviet Union since 1992 and frequent churches in both groups, why are there still two jurisdictions when there is fundamental unity under the same Patriarch? Why should past history still play a role? It plays a role because the present unity has existed for only ten years, since 2007, and not a full generation. The influence of the past will continue for some years, perhaps even for a generation, to come. What can we say of the process that will eventually lead to a seamless unity in the future? Then the existence of two jurisdictions will not depend on history, it will depend on efficiency, competence, missionary-mindedness and the decision to treat the clergy and people properly by listening to them. Incompetence will be unacceptable.

Thus, in recent years we have seen that most Russian Orthodox churches in South America have passed to being directly dependent on Moscow and not on ROCOR, whose parishes were lost because of the lack of local episcopal care. Exactly the same thing seems to be happening throughout Western Europe, where parishes directly dependent on Moscow now outnumber those indirectly dependent by three to one and the lack of episcopal understanding is losing ROCOR favour. This too is a total transformation when compared to 25 years ago. As a result, Moscow now has a clear and logical intention of setting up a Western European Metropolia based in Paris. Only in Russophobic North America and Australasia does indirect dependence still prevail. An American-based ROCOR seems to be the future: the rest will depend directly on Moscow.

 

The Fringes and the Church

Introduction

There are isolated individuals on the fringes of Church life. These marginal figures are either on the left side – the illusory optimists, the absurdly unrealistic, the deluded and exalted, who believe in Origen’s heretical salvation for all, for everything is wonderful and Christ is All-Merciful only – or on the right side – the merciless pessimists, the depressed despairers, the doom-laden and gloom-mongering, who seem to believe in the Apocalypse more than in the Second Coming of Christ, as salvation according to them is virtually impossible, for Christ is a strict and ruthless Judge only.

The Left

On the left side we find three interlinked groups:

1. The Careerists and Corrupt (in the Russian Church these are usually called Sergianists)

These dangerous people are obsessed with money, luxury, papal-like power (that makes them pro-Catholic), prestige and their own personal appearance. In the Russian Church, they can be recognized because they often have a cult of the late Patriarch Sergius. Their scandals involve money and/or sex (usually not the heterosexual sort, though the defrocked Metr Filaret of Kiev is an exception to this). Thus, simony and/or perversion are their chief domains.

2. The Modernists and Ecumenists (in the Russian Church these are usually called Renovationists)

These are obsessed with being as Western, and therefore as Russophobic, as possible. They hate Tsar Nicholas II and also Vladimir Putin and admire the EU and the US. Westernization used to mean protestantizing themselves, but now it means adopting politically correct secularism, including LGBT, an aping of the West, which is the result of their primitive, Third World inferiority complex, which in turn is the result of their lack of the independent Orthodox Faith.

3. The Intellectuals

With an over-developed intellect, but undeveloped faith, these are often so cynical that they run the risk of losing their already weak faith altogether. They may also suffer from sexual obsessions, as several of them are homosexuals. Some are involved with gossip and scandal-mongering on blogs and fora, which further develops their cynical attitudes and weakens their faith. They stain their own souls and the souls of others through their spiritual impurity.

The Right

On the right side we also find three interlinked groups:

1. The Pharisees

These include loveless monastics, or rather pseudo-monastics, whose religion is not Love, but that of the typicon, canons and ceaseless and needless rules that make the Faith into a mere religion. They call themselves traditionalists, but in fact they do not follow the Tradition because the Tradition is the continual inspiration of the Holy Spirit all down the centuries. These suffer from the temptations of sectarianism and judgementalism. This is pride.

2. The Nationalists

These follow an ideology which reduces the Faith to mere provincial folklore, with no international relevance. In Russia such nationalists can even defend Stalin. They are marked by profound theological and historical ignorance and narrow-minded bigotry, which means that they revert to a Protestant-like fundamentalism and literalism in their views. They have no real interest in Church culture or Church services and are very insecure and anti-intellectual.

3. The Pietists

These are sentimentalists, disincarnate and impractical dreamers, philosophers but also often strict moralizers. They like to group around gurus, mistakenly calling them ‘spiritual fathers’, ‘startsy’ and even ‘saints’, aping them like clones and condemning all others outside their cult. Like the Pharisees, their temptation is sectarian. Their spiritual disease is ‘prelest’, that is, spiritual delusion, which is merely vulgar pride in an elegant, philosophers’  envelope.

Conclusion

These six fringe groups, careerists, modernists, intellectuals, and their parallels, pharisees, nationalists and pietists, are those who make of Faith and the Church of God a mere religion, a mere manmade institution, a cult. They confuse the means and externals, services, canons, rituals, church buildings, knowledge, with the ends and internals, which is salvation, meaning the salvation of the human soul from evil, from all that is not Love. Such groups have always existed, under different names and under different guises, they are all part of fallen human nature.

The balance between all these fringes is among the masses, in the mainstream of the Church, which by definition is not to be found on the fringes and margins, but in the Church. This balance is to be found in traditional monasteries and good parishes, founded on loving and solid families. Good and true, loyal and faithful to Christ through the Tradition, those in the mainstream include bishops and monastics, pastors and people. All for them is built on love. For if a patriarch lacks love for his bishops, the bishops will lack love for their priests and the priests will lack love for the people.

 

A Parable: The Greatest River in the World

There is a great river, by far the greatest river in the world. It flows from a single Source, high, high in the snow-capped mountains, in the clouds near to heaven. No-one has ever seen this Source, but some brave souls have approached it and they all say that the water that flows from it in such incredible abundance is crystal clear, like a mirror. It is utterly pure, has a transfiguring power and a taste which they can only describe as ‘Divine’.

As this great stream descends from the mountains, it becomes ever broader, as it has many tributaries, great and small. Descending to the plain and the forests, there are many other tributaries, a few quite large, but many very small. Indeed, water seeps into the great river from all along the banks, on the left and the right. Some of this water brings mud into the river with it. Indeed, it is important not to go into the shallow water along the edges and fringes of the river, for there is much mud there. Much better is it to venture further out, into the mainstream, where the water is deep and pure and there is no sign of mud at all.

As the river is so powerful, sometimes it bursts its banks and overflows. Once it has gone down and returned to its bed, it leaves pools of water by the banks. Some of the water in these pools seeps back into the river and so into the mainstream, but some of it remains in the pools. Here it stagnates and smells, attracting mosquitoes, and eventually it becomes mud before it altogether dries up.

As for the greatest river in the world, a huge and unimaginably deep and broad stream of pure water, it ever powers on and on, majestically and irresistibly, towards its destiny, the Great Ocean, the Ocean that is called the Ocean of the Love of God. And the name of the river? It is called Holiness.

The Answer is Staring You in the Face

The Christian world outside the Orthodox Church appears to be in turmoil. Two billion people seem to be ever more leaderless in a world that is storm-struck. The overwhelming mood of the moment is that of drift and the drift is towards rapid and total secularisation.

Protestantism seems to be in dissolution, literally dissolving into secularism, as it does not have the spiritual force to resist the secular world. This is because Protestantism gave birth to secularism and so has always carried within itself the seeds of its own destruction. As an anti-sacral reaction to Catholicism, its very anti-sacral nature inevitably gave birth to secularity – the opposite of sacrality. Its half-way house is no house at all when the storm strikes.

Roman Catholicism has been shaken to its foundations by scandals, both financial and moral. It is difficult to know how many of the accusations are true, but if only some are true, the situation is grave. At a time when the world needs strong leadership, the Roman Catholic leadership has been compromised by its own misdeeds. No-one will believe those who do not practise what they preach. The tendency therefore is to reject everything out of hand.

Only your racial and cultural prejudices prevent you from seeing it. We have spent nigh on forty years trying to break those down, to make you see outside yourself. The answer is not in some fake version of Orthodoxy, Eastern-rite Anglicanism; the answer is in the real thing.