A Metropolia of Western Europe
It was in April 1988 that I first proposed in French a paper on a Metropolia of Western Europe, composed of six dioceses in six different linguistic and cultural areas (cross-border) which I called, Gallia, Germania, Iberia, Italia, Scandinavia and the Isles. (See, ‘A Vision for the Orthodox Churches of Western Europe’, published in Orthodox England, Vol 4, No 1, September 2001). My thought then was that this could become the foundation of a restored Local Church of Western Europe. This was a historic suggestion, as for well over 900 years this had ceased to exist.
Thirty Years Ago
The idea was dismissed in Paris, the historic centre of the Russian emigration in Western Europe, and the forward-looking project proved to be impossible then. There were only three groups who could realistically have contributed something towards it: the Rue Daru or Paris Exarchate group (RD); the Moscow Patriarchate Exarchate (MP) and the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). Of these three, the old Rue Daru had tied itself up in modernist knots (nothing can be built on compromises) and in any case under US-run Constantinople it was not politically free to do anything of the sort.
As for the old MP, it was tiny because it was so distrusted by all. Run in fact by part of the Soviet Communist Party, it too was not politically free and moreover it had dangerously renovationist figures in it. As for the old ROCOR, it was small, disorganized, elderly and above all, inward-looking, as it still defined itself as being a group opposed to the atheist regime inside Russia, rather than as a key part of a future Local Church. It was living in reference to the past, not the future. The situation was to alter radically only after the year 2000, for those with the vision to see ahead.
Fifteen Years Ago
After the Moscow Council of August 2000, with a new archbishop after 1993, the Rue Daru group fell into conversations with the by then largely politically free MP, which was still very small in Western Europe. It was virtually agreed that RD would at last return to the jurisdiction of the MP and become an autonomous Metropolia within it, as a foundation for a future Local Church. However, Archbishop Serge (Konovalov) of the Rue Daru jurisdiction was to die tragically on 22 January 2003 and the next archbishop, Gabriel (De Vylder), was a furious Russophobe and strongly modernistic.
Indeed, since then, having missed the boat and set on a suicidal path, the Rue Daru group has largely fallen into irrelevance, its vital forces having quit it for one part or the other of the Russian Orthodox Church. Looking back, there was Providence here, since Archbishop Serge’s hopes would in any case have been dashed by the dominant wing of the Exarchate, represented by his successor. Today Rue Daru represents only 60 scattered parishes and communities, most of them very small. Most of its living parishes are in fact Moldovan and Romanian, with priests loaned by the MP.
The MP Needs a Partner
Why did the MP enter into such negotiations with Rue Daru? Simply because alone it could do nothing. Thus, even though the once few MP parishes of 30 years ago today number perhaps 250 in Western Europe with six bishops, dwarving the one-bishop Rue Daru group (ROCOR has about 100 parishes in Western Europe with three bishops), it is essentially an ethnic group. It is composed of recent immigrants, often not understanding local languages and culture. The MP needs those who have this understanding. Let us compare as examples the MP and ROCOR dioceses in the Isles.
Although on paper the MP diocese here is much bigger, in reality most of its communities are tiny (less than ten!), often with only a few services a year, without property and without a regular priest. It is a paper empire, all its money expended on its ex-Anglican church in London. ROCOR probably actually has almost as many people, more property, is better established and tends to attract people who are better-established in these Isles. Often, those immigrants who have been here for more than ten years tend to drift across to ROCOR, their children more integrated into society.
The old, inward-looking and too often politicized ROCOR, which largely died out in the 1980s and 1990s, could not have been a partner for the ultimate aim of building a new Local Church: however, the new ROCOR, born after the reconciliation with the MP in 2007, can be such a partner. The MP of the early 2000s, still with an old-fashioned, Sovietized cast of mind, could not see this and sought the wrong partner, one compromised in modernism. Today it needs a skeleton, a structure, solid Russian Orthodox people with local knowledge: it is only ROCOR that can provide this.
After almost dying out by 2007, the Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in Great Britain and Ireland has in the very recent past begun to be rebuilt. Now with twelve parishes (London, Colchester, Birkenhead, Norwich, Cardiff, Stradbally, Belfast, Mettingham, Cheltenham, Bury St Edmunds, Wisbech and Ashford), it has hopes of opening a monastery, new parishes in four more places in different parts of our four countries as well as many hopes beyond that. Moreover, it already possesses many premises of its own, including unique, purpose-built churches in the Russian Orthodox style and also the largest Russian Orthodox church in these islands, if not in Western Europe.
This September, the bishops of the Church Outside Russia will be meeting in Synod in London. This will be a historic meeting at which decisions may be made for the longer-term future. The saints of the Isles and of all Europe are calling us: The time for sleep is over, wake up!
The news has come that last week’s Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow agreed to include the names of three Irish missionary saints in Western Europe, Sts Gall, Fridolin and Columban, into the Russian Orthodox calendar. It is yet another step in bringing the Church inside Russia into line with the practices of the Church Outside Russia, which has a far greater experience of local Orthodox life and missionary work.
The Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) began introducing such local saints into its calendar over 60 years ago with St John of Shanghai, his disciples Bishop (later Archbishop) Nathanael (L’vov) and Archbishop Antony of Geneva and then their disciples in England and the USA, just as it began using local languages in services. Thus, 40 years ago, the Church Outside Russia accepted St Edward the Martyr into its calendar, painted his icon and composed a service to him.
It now remains for the whole Church to accept all 10,000 Saints of Orthodox Christian Europe into its calendar, as was proposed by ourselves 43 years ago, in 1975, and has been ever since. The acceptance of the local languages and local saints of Orthodox Christian Western Europe into the Russian Orthodox Church’s spiritual and liturgical life and the rejection of divisive petty nationalism sets the Church against Western Europe.
Western Europe has consistently abandoned its saints, replacing them with popes, kings, knights, soldiers, philosophers, architects, conquerors, artists, explorers, inventors, writers, nationalists, dictators, scientists and mass murderers. It has, in other words, consistently abandoned the things of God for the things of man, it has abandoned the Spirit for the worship and justification of fallen man, of sin, of Heaven for Earth, of sacrifice for comfort.
As a result of this abandonment of Orthodox Christianity and the mixture of its vestiges with a host of isms issued from Roman paganism and barbarian heathenism, it did not adopt Orthodox saints into its calendar. Rather it set about attempting to destroy their Christian world and its civilization, notably in 1204 sacking and looting the Christian capital of New Rome, and then in 1917 sacking and looting the Christian Empire itself.
The European Orthodox thinker wonders and asks: ‘Where will all this end?’ And he receives the answer: ‘It will end with the end’.
Q: What would have happened if ROCOR and the Russian Patriarchate had not signed the Act of Canonical Communion in 2007?
A: First of all, if the two parts had not been reconciled by depoliticizing themselves (i. e. repenting), the Russian Orthodox Church would quite simply not have been reconstituted. Everything else flows from this one vital fact. The 2007 agreement was the necessary return to Church roots by all those who had strayed from Church Truth beneath the weight of Cold War politics.
For example, without even the preparation for this reconstitution, the Patriarchate would have continued to suffer from its fringes. Thus, the cleansing Sourozh schism of 2006 would not have happened, and instead of the Church being freed, She would have continued to have been oppressed by the fringes and their spiritual impurities. Then also, without ROCOR, the increase in the understanding of the universal meaning of the sacrifice of the Royal Martyrs and the desire to oppose old-fashioned ecumenism would have been far weaker within the Patriarchate.
On the other hand, ROCOR would have disintegrated, being deserted massively by its core clergy and people who would have gone to the Patriarchate, once it had repented. Myself among them, at least after the Sourozh schism after 2006. Our patience had already been wearing thin in the 1990s with the uncanonical and ‘un-catholic’ (= anti-soborny) actions of Metr Vitaly in accepting into the Church sectarian individuals and even criminals (though he did not know that) inside Russia (whereas we are precisely the Church Outside Russia). Equally, there was the nonsense promoted by the theologically ignorant or else CIA-paid (like Bp Gregory Grabbe) about the Patriarchal sacraments being graceless (sic!), which had begun after 1945 with the West’s declaration of the Cold War. Thus, ROCOR would have disappeared, leaving just a few tiny, irrelevant, politically-based, CIA-funded, pharisaical old-people’s sects, whose theology is non-existent and which spend their time cursing and warring with each other and against the Church of God.
Q: At the moment both parts of the Russian Church are present in Western Europe in separate but parallel dioceses and jurisdictions. Which part will emerge the victor?
A: By ‘victor’, I presume you mean the majority? The answer is very simple: the ‘victor’ will be the more pastorally and spiritually competent (or the less pastorally and spiritually incompetent, according to your viewpoint). The same is true of all Orthodox jurisdictions, not just Russian, and is also true everywhere in the Diaspora, not just in Western Europe.
Thus, there are those ‘jurisdictions’ that are destined to disappear (‘let the dead bury the dead’), because they are shackled to some modernist political ideology (large parts of the OCA, the Finnish Jurisdiction and the Paris Jurisdiction), or else to some ethnic/nationalist ideology or simoniac ghetto (the ‘ethnic’ or rather mononational jurisdictions), and those that will survive and become the dynamic foundations of new Local Churches.
Q: Why do you not take part in any internet fora?
A: Apart from the fact that I am too busy doing Orthodoxy, I believe that most such time-wasting fringe fora tend to encourage people with psychological problems. We should not encourage self-righteousness, priggishness, pompousness and the clericalism that comes from the Protestant world and has nothing to do with real Orthodoxy. The vast majority of Orthodox have nothing to do with internet fora. If you did not know that, you will have had a very warped view of Orthodox.
Q: The old generation of Anglican converts, now dead or else in their late 70s, 80s or 90s, is dying out and is not being replaced. Does this not suggest that the idea of English Orthodoxy has been a failure?
A: Not in the slightest. All this proves is that the theologically absurd idea of ‘Anglican Orthodoxy’, that of old-fashioned ecumenists like Nikolai Zernov, who died over 35 years ago, has been a failure. But those of us who were never took part in such a fantasy have always known this to be a failure and that it would die out. Either you are Anglican or else you are Orthodox, you cannot be both.
With rare exceptions, Anglicans do not become Orthodox, but, even after formally joining the Church, remain in a sort of Anglican world bubble. This is regardless of whether it is an arch-conservative Anglo-Catholic, clericalist, puritanical, misogynistic and old calendarist bubble, or an arch-liberal, Liberal Democrat, anti-clericalist, modernistic, feminist and new calendarist bubble. (The two are simply the opposite sides of exactly the same Non-Orthodox coin).
In my experience, the few Anglicans who still exist in this country are generally either aged over 60 or else Afro-Carribeans. Our interest has never been in converting Anglicans. Our interest has always been in firstly looking after our own Orthodox and secondly witnessing to the rest of the world – the 99% of the population who are not Anglican or have no idea what Anglicanism is.
The future in these islands is in English (English-language) Orthodoxy and it always has been. It has never been in a fake and fantasy ‘Anglican-Orthodoxy’. This is why we should pass by jurisdictions and parishes where you never become Orthodox and which keep converts in a state of delusion, that they are Orthodox when in fact they are in a fool’s paradise of thinking that they are Orthodox when they are not, but just in a state of foolish intellectual pride.
You recognize such people because they are well-read (all the wrong books) and rage on about having ‘the true faith’. But what is the true faith? It is the Christian way of life. In the Gospels it is described as clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and those in prison etc. It is not reading books by self-appointed experts on ‘Orthodoxy’.
An elderly Anglican lady wrote to me some years ago about her son who had ‘become Orthodox’ and refused to attend the funeral of her husband (a retired Anglican vicar) as the son ‘could not pray with heretics’. She was outraged, though not as much as me. I told her that her son had not become Orthodox, but belonged to a sect of Pharisees that was not in communion with the Orthodox Church (all of which was true). To some extent she was relieved, to some extent she was worried because he had been taken over by a sectarian guru. I told her that all she could do was pray for him, for ‘a mother’s prayer avails much’.
Q: Someone said that most converts in English-speaking countries are Celts, with for example Irish names. Is this true?
A: I think this is largely racist and sentimental nonsense. It is in the same style as ‘Only Greeks/Russians/Romanians/Georgians/Serbs etc can be Orthodox’ because ‘God only speaks Greek/Russian/Romanian/ Georgian/ Serb’ etc. I have only known eight Irish people in Ireland who have joined the Orthodox Church in the last 45 years. Generally, Roman Catholics from any European country do not join the Orthodox Church because of their brainwashing and conditioning that the only Christians in the world are Catholics – either you are Catholic or else you are nothing. Similarly I only know a handful of Scottish and Welsh people who have become Orthodox in that period. This is because although Protestants do join the Church, generally they do not become Orthodox because they remain with their baggage of the Protestant moralistic mindset and so stay on the fringes of the Church. This is especially true of Calvinism which still dominates the religious (and anti-religious) mindset of the Scots and the Welsh.
However, there is a more serious point here. In order to become Orthodox (sadly, that should be the same as joining the Orthodox Church, but it is not), you have to give up the mythical superiority of your cultural prejudices, cleansing yourself of them and putting Christ above them. For many, less educated people, that is easy because they have never had the mythical superiority of cultural prejudices anyway. But for those who belong to the Establishment, this is virtually impossible. This is because the Establishment is wholly based on cultural prejudices, i. e. on not putting Christ first.
An example of this is the tragic case of the late David Balfour (1903-1989), who as a British spy and friend of the late Fr Sophrony Sakharov, obtained a Western passport for him in Paris after the latter’s expulsion from Mt Athos after World War II. Balfour was an Establishment figure and intellectual who had become a Jesuit, then got himself ordained as a Greek Orthodox priest and became the confessor of King George II of Greece. At the same time as this, he was working in Athens as a British spy, betraying all the secrets of confession of the King during World War II. He was of course eventually defrocked. (As for the King who was known for election-rigging, he was thrown out of Greece and went to live with his mistress in an expensive part of London, but that is another story).
Balfour’s story is a very typical story of someone who put the Western Establishment first. There have been many other converts like him, most of them who got ordained (often through simony), then get defrocked or sidelined. I have seen so many of them, washed-up intellectuals with their doctorates, and/or private school aristocrats who have never made it, never having been accepted by the Orthodox people. What a pity that the Greek Church was so naïve that it received this predatory individual Balfour. I only met him in the 70s, when he still came over as an incredibly arrogant and unrepentant person. I hope he did repent before the end.
Q: Whom do you hope to see canonized in your lifetime?
A: There are many figures, but I hope that the first will be the visionary Elder Nikolai (Guryanov), who bore the prophetic message that is already coming true. He carried a revelation from heaven who may help change the destiny of the world by helping to bring about mass repentance in Russia that we are still waiting for. Only after mass repentance can Russia begins its universal mission of preaching repentance to the rest of the world, which another prophet, St Seraphim of Sarov, canonized on the insistence of the martyred Tsar, spoke of. This is all necessary in order to prepare the world before the end.
Q: Do you consider that as Russian Orthodox in the West we should be, as it were, ‘ambassadors’ of the Russian Federation?
A: Not at all! What a terrible idea! The Russian Federation is a temporary and secular political settlement to a problem caused by 1917 and is not long for this world. However, what we are is ambassadors of the once and future Christian Empire and Emperor, which will be restored. Restored, but only after we have overcome the Soviet subculture of today’s Russian Federation and the petty Balkan racism and disintegration in the rest of the once Orthodox world, as we so clearly saw at the pathetic forum in Crete in 2016.
In his astounding ignorance, the Hitleresque buffoon and British anti-diplomat Johnson seems not to know that the Nazis were defeated by the much-suffering peoples of the Soviet Union. Thus, Great Britain was saved from capitulation to the Nazis, with 27 million Russians and others sacrificing themselves to do this and free Europe from the Western Nazi scourge.
It is time that the British Foreign Office, whose anti-Russian theories have been rejected by both British scientists and even the corrupt EU, which Britain is supposed to be leaving, employed people with a little historical knowledge and a little knowledge of the word ‘proof’. The Western world, isolating itself from the other 90% of the world, the teeming masses of Russia, Asia, Africa and Latin America, is now fighting for its life. In its desperation US Democrats have begun blaming Russia for losing the elections and others even for bad weather.
The future is outside the discredited West. China has the industry, India has the culture, Africa has the people, Brazil has the natural resources, Russia has the energy, food and, above all, the ideas. The world is moving to a new configuration. After the tragedies caused by the West in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and the Yemen, the new millennium will transform.
The truth will set you free.
Blessed are you, when men shall revile you and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my Name’s sake.
As a result of the tragedy that struck the Russian Empire in 1917, today there exist four Russian Orthodox-connected Church jurisdictions or groups outside the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church (that is, outside the former Soviet Union except for Georgia, plus China and Japan). These are, in order of size: The international ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) group; the international Moscow Patriarchal group; the local OCA (Orthodox Church in America) group, geographically limited to North America; the local Paris group, geographically limited to a scattering in Western Europe. Their future is important because it will shape the now vital prophetic mission of the Russian Orthodox Church to today’s apostate and spiritually vacant Western world.
- The Past and the Present a.The ROCOR group
The exiles in this group, born just before or after 1917 as well as their descendants, often had an unjustified admiration for the pre-Revolutionary Russian State. This émigré childhood nostalgia for the largely unknown past was to a considerable extent illusory. After all, the Church administration before the Revolution was dominated not by the spiritual, but by careerists, nationalists and bureaucrats, opposed by renovationists. Between them they managed to cause all the divisions inside and outside Russia after the Revolution. In March 1917 most of them at once betrayed the pious Tsar, whose desire to canonize the saints, like St Seraphim of Sarov, they had resisted – a clear resistance to the Holy Spirit! If everything had been so wonderful before 1917, there would indeed never have been a Revolution and if, impossibly, we recreated the past as it was, there would simply be another Revolution. Moreover, that Revolution was caused by the treason of the elite of aristocrats and intellectuals, so many of whom ended up as nostalgic emigres, leaving the Russian Empire and Church to its tragic fate that they had created.
Historically comprising the vast majority of Russian émigrés, ROCOR has always had two wings: a political wing and what may be called a ‘Johannite wing’. The political wing was always much concerned with political, administrative, nationalist, financial and property matters (even accepting money from the CIA during the Cold War, placing anti-Communism before Christ). The Johannite wing is that of the three saints, St John (from whom it takes its name) of Shanghai, Western Europe and San Francisco, St Jonah of Hankow and St Seraphim of Sofia. Of course, it also includes many others: Archbishop Antony of Geneva, Archbishop Averky, Bishop Sava, Bishop Nektary and a great number of clergy and faithful. It has always seen itself as an integral and organic part of the Russian Orthodox Church and Tradition, only temporarily separated from the then enslaved Church in Moscow. (I write as a spiritual son of the ever-memorable Archbishop Antony of Geneva, + 1993, who was in his turn a spiritual son of St John, + 1966).
Today, numbering several hundred thousand, ROCOR faces domination by American cultural conservatism. Centred in New York and with the vast majority of its parishes in North America and its Australian satellite, outside of which it has lost much of its former influence and numbers, it must look to reality and the future. It cannot be a prisoner of the past, for the authentic Tradition is always spiritual, radical and dynamic. It must conserve and live, not preserve and die, in other words, it must keep alive, not preserve as in a museum. It must resist the temptation of the New World which, without its own culture, tends to preserve and freeze all imported culture in the state in which it was first imported, regardless of its spiritual value, as a sort of ethnic curiosity from the Old World. Today, ROCOR has been much revitalized and renewed by immigration from the ex-Soviet Union and so links with reality. Its survival is dependent on these links with the living source of its Faith.
b. The Moscow Patriarchal group.
This group used to be tiny and paradoxically often expressed Soviet State nationalism. It was at times capable of being pro-Stalinist and often showed strong signs of the spiritual impurity of renovationist modernism. These spiritually repulsive abuses are rapidly disappearing into the darkness of the past. With huge immigration from the ex-Soviet Union, the group has now greatly expanded, especially, but not only, in Western Europe. Today in numbers it has begun to rival ROCOR, which it will soon overtake. With the gradual transfiguration of the Church inside the Russian Lands over the last generation, especially since the turning-point of the Council in 2000, the living Church inside the Russian Lands is the key on which this and all the other groups depend.
c. The OCA Group
The OCA group, numbering 90,000 faithful, grew out of Slav Uniat immigrants to North America from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. At last free of Roman Catholic and State oppression, they joined their ancestral Russian Orthodox Church in the USA in the years around 1900. Today, the OCA is only indirectly under the patronage of the Russian Orthodox Church. This group has for 100 years been politically and culturally subject to domination by American cultural liberalism. This is not at all a question of the use of the English language, which of course is perfectly natural as language is only a missionary tool, but a question of the assimilation of an alien, anti-Orthodox American culture and so spiritual degradation.
The OCA will either remain anchored to the Orthodox Tradition of its Mother-Church or else it will die out as spiritually irrelevant, like parts of the Greek Archdiocese in North America, assimilated into the surrounding Non-Orthodox culture. Optimistically, over one quarter of it does remain faithful to the Tradition and parts of the rest have been revitalized and renewed by immigration from the ex-Soviet Union and so by links with reality. However, its future remains fragile and uncertain after a century of instability and there are voices in it which wish to betray the Mother-Church.
d. The Paris Group
The Paris group, by far the smallest of the four, was formed by pro-Western masonic aristocrats and emigre intellectuals who had plotted and created the anti-Tsar Revolution, setting up the brief, incompetent Kerensky dictatorship in 1917. This group was so politicized, anti-Russian and modernist that it rejected the Russian Orthodox Church and Tradition. Today, it has in part been renewed by Moldovan immigrants and so links with reality. However, it is not yet clear if the Paris group, controlled by ageing ideologues who have deliberately cut themselves off from the living Russian Church, will meet the spiritual needs of its flock, or if it will be assimilated into spiritual irrelevance.
- The Future: Making the Church Local
In the last few years before the Revolution there were between 142 and 163 bishops for some 117 million faithful in the Russian Orthodox Church. This was pitifully few bishops, on average about one for every 800,000 faithful. Today, for example, the Church of Greece has 100 bishops for 8,500 priests and 10 million people, one bishop for every 100,000 people. On this basis, the Russian Orthodox Church should today have 1,640 bishops and 139,000 priests for its 164 million faithful. Instead, there are only 368 bishops and a pitifully few 36,000 priests, one bishop for every 450,000 faithful and one priest for every 4,500 faithful! Bishops are still very distant figures. (In the Church of Jerusalem which has a flock of 130,000, there are 20 bishops, one for every 6,500 faithful).
It is clear that at least another 100,000 priests and churches are needed in the Russian Church, if ever this pastoral crisis of nominalism is to be overcome. Clearly, just as has long been done outside Russia, devout married men, financed by secular occupations, will have to receive basic practical training and then be ordained as ‘worker priests’. Under the direction of experienced full-time priests, they could serve in simple, cheap-to-build, wooden churches, without the golden luxury and marble pomp of cathedrals. Such ‘kit-churches’ would create real local parishes and pastoral centres, at last bringing the Church back home to the people at the local level. However, this ‘pastoralization’ and ‘localization’ of the Church is still for the future. But at least the first step in making the Church local has taken place in the process of ‘Metropolitanization’.
Here the principle of one bishop for about every 100 priests is now respected in the Russian Church. These 368 bishops have at last been arranged in groups, generally of four or five bishops, called Metropolias. The word ‘Metropolia’ means ‘the Church of the Mother-City’ and ‘Metropolitanization’ is an attempt to return to the practice of the first centuries and make the Church local. Metropolias are thus like miniature local churches within the Local Church. This ‘Metropolitanization’ of the Russian Church worldwide is a sign of health and is inevitable and irreversible. Non-Metropolitanization is a sign of distance and irrelevance of the Church to local life, its reduction from an incarnate way of life to a theatre of ideology.
However, outside the canonical territory of the Church, Metropolitanization is a gradual and complex process. This is firstly because there are two parts of the Russian Church outside the canonical territory, that directly under the Patriarchate and that under the self-governing Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). Both must first agree to co-operate and so it takes time to form new Russian Orthodox Metropolias worldwide (regardless of whether the two local fragments, the OCA and Paris, would one day want to take part – probably not). Secondly, and even more ambitiously, new Russian Orthodox Metropolias outside the canonical territories are ultimately called on to become the foundations for new Local Churches. This will be when other Orthodox, from far smaller Local Churches and living in those territories, wish to participate in them. This would be a purely voluntary process that could take another 100 years or more.
This setting up of Metropolitan structures, foundations for new Local Churches, is a question of responsibility. There is no room here for destructive nationalism and centralization, either of the aristocratic emigre Russian sort or of the ‘Soviet tank’ sort. Instead sensitivity is required towards different peoples and their legitimate customs. In all these matters we would do well to recall the words of Christ in St Matthew’s Gospel concerning the phariseeism of the Old Jerusalem, which rejected the New Jerusalem: ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent to thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not’.
After the revolution of the last generation, the generation since the end of the Cold War, what is the situation of the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church today, of the Russian Patriarchate and of the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR)? Once they were bitterly divided. And now?
A. The Russian Patriarchate of the Past
1. Attitudes to the Outer World
In the bad old days, a few prominent bishops of the Patriarchate were forced to sit in front of cameras and tell blatant lies, for example, that there was no persecution of the Church inside Russia. Why? Simply because if they did not, their priests and parishes would suffer. As hostages, they took the political sin of lieing onto themselves. Personally, such blatant lies never really bothered me. I knew why they were doing it. Frankly, I thought the sin was more with those who asked them such compromising questions. However, something else did bother me.
2. Attitudes to the Inner World
What bothered me was hypocrisy. There were certain bishops and others of the paralysed Patriarchate who were utterly corrupt, whether sexually or financially. And that corruption rotted all of Church life. Those people were not Christians. As a victim of them at that time, I know what I am talking about.
B. ROCOR of the Past
1. Attitudes to the Outer World
In the bad old days, ROCOR in the USA sometimes took CIA money. That bothered me. At that time, quite a few in ROCOR worked for various anti-Soviet (in fact, anti-Russian) Western spy agencies. These people have today almost all left the Church or else died of old age. Today, for example, I know of people who have joined the Paris Exarchate because they are not allowed to join either part of the Russian Church as they work as spies at GCHQ or spy agencies in Paris. Loyalty to the Western Establishment comes first for them, Christ second. That is clearly wrong.
2. Attitudes to the Inner World
Hypocrisy in the old ROCOR also bothered me. Some considered that as long as you were anti-Communist, you were fine, you could be as anti-missionary and racist as you wanted, as well as practise abortion. I could quote names. Fortunately, such outrageous phariseeism was the domain of a minority.
C. The Russian Patriarchate Today
1. Attitudes to the Outer World
Today, the Patriarchate is a Church of 150 million converts and various neophyte deformations can be found on the fringes. For example, we can find secularizing, pro-Soviet attitudes, the arrogance and racism of the old ‘Soviet tank’ mentality that simply wants to barge in and take over everything. This type of imperialism, with an undiscriminating admiration for the present State, pays no attention to pastoral matters and building up parish life, has little understanding of families and children. It is ritualistic, careerist and money-orientated, its representatives never having suffered.
However, we can also find pro-Western (ecumenist, liberal, ‘diplomatic’) attitudes among those from a bourgeois background. They vilify the Soviet past, dismissing its positive preservation of re-Revolutionary cultural values, detest President Putin and adore the Atlanticist Prime Minister Medvedev.
2. Attitudes to the Inner World
We can also find a conservative, pietist movement. Piety is good, but pietism generally means ritualism, sentimentalism, zeal without understanding, words without meaning. How many churches have we visited where services are read and sung in such a way that not a single word can be understood. This is what drives away men, meaning that services are attended by 80%-90% women. This may have been normal in abnormal Soviet times, when men would lose their jobs for attending church, but today it is abnormal. A huge work of catechism is under way. There is far to go.
We can also find a pro-social movement. Many of its representatives are very liberal, but they are at least beginning to deal with the huge social problems of post-Soviet society: massive and endemic corruption, alcoholism, abortion, drug-taking, environmental degradation, the handicapped…
D. ROCOR Today
1. Attitudes to the Outer World
Today, there is a danger of ROCOR becoming an Americanized Church, which simply refuses to understand the unpaid clergy and the plight of the mass of poor people who have come to us out of Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe. It does not want to know our sufferings. Here too there is a certain arrogance and spirit of takeover. ‘We are right, you are wrong’. Just as in today’s Russia, there can sometimes be a spirit of show, a concentration on externals. There can also be a spirit of mafia, a concentration of power among the first and wealthy, so that others are excluded as second-class citizens.
This lack of love is also fostering a liberalism, unheard of before in ROCOR, which comes from outside the Church. If unchallenged, this American-style cultural infiltration of ecumenist, liberal and ‘diplomatic’ attitudes from a bourgeois background will hamper our uncompromised witness.
2. Attitudes to the Inner World
Exactly as in the Patriarchate, we can also find a conservative, pietist movement. Piety is good, but pietism generally means ritualism, sentimentalism, zeal without understanding, words without meaning. How many churches have we visited where services are read and sung in such a way that not a single word can be understood. This can be accompanied by a self-righteous denial of the ROCOR past. ‘Everything was perfect’. This nostalgia of course is totally unjustified. Many ROCOR parishes are real and model communities, examples for the Patriarchate, but not all.
Pastorally, many are positively moving parish life into the inevitable multinational and bilingual future and creating real communities. Here there is also a danger – that Church life becomes only social, emotional, all words, the ascetic foundation forgotten, as in the Exarchate and the OCA.
Thus, we can see remarkable parallels, indeed convergence, between the two parts of the Russian Church. Clearly, only the positive trends are needed, all that is negative is not needed. Above all, we need the central unity of the spiritual food to be found in the purity of our Tradition of Holy Rus.
Introduction: Pastoral Work
There is a common myth that there is a difference between parish work and missionary work. In fact, they are exactly the same thing. All parish work is missionary work and all missionary work is parish work, because both are pastoral work. There are two impediments to real parish/ missionary/pastoral work. The first is practical and involves the disastrous lack of Orthodox infrastructure in Western countries, the second is ideological and involves what may politely be called ‘mononationalism’ – making those of other nationalities into second-class citizens.
Lack of Infrastructure and Mononationalism
Today, the Orthodox Church is faced with the interrupting and disrupting consequences of a century of persecution, apostasy and so decadence. With few devoted to the Church and knowledgeable about the Tradition, we lack premises, priests, singers and finance – and so we lack infrastructure. The second problem is one of racist mononationalism, the refusal to accept those of other nationalities into the Church. And yet we are called on by St Matthew (Matt. 28, 19) to ‘go, teach and baptise all nations’, that is, to accept all people, regardless of nationality, background and class.
We are called on to have no ethnic prejudices (for example, the abuse of accepting only Anglicans, only Greeks, only Russians etc into our churches). We are called on, for instance, not to impose alien customs like the Roman Catholic calendar, obligatory communion without confession, chairs and pews and other anti-Orthodox practices. Such novel customs just put off real Orthodox and are just as phyletist and divisive as using only a single, non-local language in services. Either we are Christians and obey the commandments (Matt. 28, 20), or else we are not,
Negativity and Realism
Some find us negative. In fact, we are realistic. Like Russians, we of the people, tell the truth, however unpleasant it may be to naïve idealists and those in a state of illusion. Nothing is ever built on illusion. That is building on sand. Evil is real. Indeed, if I wrote down all that I have experienced, then you would be shocked. But I do not write it down. St Paisius the Athonite said that when walking on Mt Athos you should remove the excrement of wild animals from the paths, so that others do not tread in it. That is my task here in the world, to remove such unnecessary and distasteful realities.
The Orthodox Church will again be seen to be the only Christianity, as in the Beginning
Today Anglicanism, like all other forms of Protestantism, and like their source in Roman Catholicism, is dying and in some places already dead in the first (Western) world. (In the second world, Eastern Europe, as in the third world, they are still very much alive, though in traditional local forms: thus, in this country, Anglicanism survives thanks largely to Africans and Afro-Carribeans and Catholicism largely thanks to Poles. But this will only last for another generation. All who participate in the Western secularist and supremacist myth are corrupted and destroyed by it sooner or later.
Therefore, we are seeing the end of the old movement of Anglican/ Episcopalian Halfodoxy, called ‘Anglicanism with icons’ etc. Where it is not dead, it is dying, except in places where it has been taken over by Eastern Europeans, Romanians, Moldovans and Baltic Russians, but is therefore no longer Halfodox. Both wings of such ex-Anglican convert groups, the moralizing liberals (liberals are always moralizing because they have no spirituality) and the sectarian, ultra-conservative Anglo-Catholics, have painted themselves into corners. We are English Orthodox, not Anglican Orthodox.
Conclusion: Real Missionary Work
Real missionary work is not conducted by shouting on street corners or ramming the Gospels down people’s throats like Protestant sectarians. The results, if any, are superficial and never last. We do not have plans, we simply have hope, faith and love. We do the services together and pray. The rest will come. This was how 75 years of Western atheist tyranny ended in the Russian Lands and 400 years of Turkish occupation ended in Greece. We will do the same here and end the 1,000 years of occupation by anti-Christian and Russophobic (the two go hand in hand) Western Establishment elites.
Introduction: Missionary/Pastoral Experience since the 1970s
My experience has been in England (Cambridge and the Fens for 3 years), France (14 years) and Portugal (6 months). I have also served in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, USA and Australia, lived for a year in Greece, and spent several months since the 1970s in Russia and the Ukraine. I have been in England again for 21 years since 1997. Here I now cover 25,000 miles a year doing pastoral work all over the East, in four prisons and in ten counties – Sussex, Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Norfolk and Lincolnshire.
Two Problems in the Diaspora Everywhere
- The first is the ideology of what may be called mononationalism: forbidding other languages. We saw how ROCOR nearly died out in this country in the 80s and 90s because of this and how now others are dying out because of this. We also see the same Anglican-style mononationalism/racism/phyletism among those who impose English only, obligatory communion, no confession, the new calendar, chairs etc in the ’Anglican Orthodoxy’ of the past.
- The second is our lack of infrastructure, lack of our own premises, priests, singers and finance.
The Need for New Missions
Every few months I am contacted by someone to open a ROCOR mission, this month in Wiltshire, three months ago it was Newcastle on Tyne. Two or three times a year we also have visits from people at church, asking for a new mission. We must also recall that we can and need start only on virgin territory, where there is no similar Russian Orthodox presence already, as there is for example in Oxford, Brighton, Portsmouth, Southampton, Nottingham and Derby. Also we recall that all missions must be in centres of population, where Orthodox already live and so provide a base and not be a project in the middle of nowhere.
Public Missions in the East to Date (apart from house chapels)
- Colchester (Essex). St John of Shanghai. Our property, bought with £180,000 raised in an internet appeal through the orthodoxengland site.
- Norwich (Norfolk). St Alexander Nevsky. Our property, bought with £65,000 raised in an internet appeal through the orthodoxengland site.
- Bury St Edmunds/Newmarket. (West Suffolk/South Cambridgeshire). All Saints. I already served in Bury from 2000 to 2002 and have now been there again for nearly two years. We need something here or in this area in West Suffolk, perhaps in Newmarket. The area includes St Felix’s 7th century monastery in Soham, St Audrey’s birthplace is in Exning and St Edmund’s former monastery in Bury. Hence the possible future dedication to All Saints, if we can obtain our own building in this area.
- Wisbech (North Cambridgeshire/West Norfolk/South Lincolnshire). St Matrona. This is a new mission, blessed by our bishop, in an ideally-located route centre – all around live thousands of Eastern European fen workers. I have already visited Orthodox in Spalding and March. We could with funds build a beautiful wooden Russian church here, as land is cheap.
Twelve Other Possible Public Missions in Eastern England, God Willing, Remembering that We Orthodox Have no Plans, only Hopes, and We Depend on the Needs of the Grassroots, not on Theories and Pins in Maps
- Kettering (Northamptonshire/Bedfordshire). Icon of the Mother of God. There is a huge Eastern European population all over the East Midlands, as it is near Luton Airport, where Easyjet flies to Vilnius, Riga and elsewhere. I have many local contacts and know the area well from missionary visits to Orthodox.
- Canterbury (Kent). Christ the Saviour. The historic centre of English Christianity.
- St Albans (Hertfordshire/Eastern Buckinghamshire). St Alban. A historic centre near London.
- Lincoln (Lincolnshire). The Dormition. A great many Russian-speakers live in this agricultural county.
- Crawley (Sussex/Surrey). St Michael and all the Heavenly Hosts. A centrally located position, not far from south London, next to Gatwick and close to Brighton.
- Winchester (Hampshire). The Resurrection. A centrally-located historic royal centre and the pre-Norman capital of England. Hence the dedication.
- York (Yorkshire). St Constantine and St Helen. In the centre of Yorkshire, St Constantine was present here when proclaimed Emperor in 306.
- Sheffield (Yorkshire). The Transfiguration. A presence in heavily-populated South Yorkshire, in a town where metal was once transformed (hence the dedication).
- Sunderland (Northumbria). St Nicholas. A presence in a former ship-building town (hence the dedication) in the North-East.
- East Cowes (Isle of Wight). (The Royal Martyrs). Commemorating the Imperial Family’s presence here.
- Rochester (Kent). (St Andrew the First-Called). A historic location for the large Medway population.
- Berwick on Tweed (Northumbria). (St Cuthbert). A pastoral centre between Sunderland and Edinburgh, near the historic Holy Island.
Conclusion: Sixteen Missions
With these sixteen missions we could cover Eastern England, providing access to Orthodoxy for 90% + of the 28 million population of the East within a 25 mile radius of each centre. If we achieved only half of this total, that would be a miracle. Give me the tools and I will finish the job, as I wrote 20 years ago.
Archpriest Andrew Phillips
Felixstowe, 1 February 2018