Outside the Russian Church, the twelve universally-recognized but small Local Orthodox Churches (in order of size: Romania, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Antioch, Alexandria, Poland, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Albania and Jerusalem) look after only 25% of all Orthodox, on average 2% each. This means small territories and narrow ethnic groups. The two exceptions are the Patriarchate of Alexandria, which looks after the vast African Continent, and the Patriarchate of Antioch, which looks after the Middle Eastern Arab world outside Africa as far as the Emirates and Iraq as well as Arabs and others in the Diasporas. But what of the rest of the world which have never been Orthodox? Who cares for this? Certainly not these twelve small and generally rather nationalistic Local Churches
Neither is it the former Patriarchate of Constantinople. The collapse of that tiny Patriarchate into the papist and phyletist heresies and its resulting falling away from communion with the Russian Orthodox Church is tragic. All we can do is to wait patiently for its repentance. Just as we have been waiting for the repentance of Rome for a thousand years, so we shall wait for Constantinople’s repentance too. However, every cloud has a silver lining. Constantinople’s recent fall from the Church and so self-elimination has led very swiftly to the Russian Church’s decision to set up a mission and build a new church in long-ignored Turkey and establish two new missionary Exarchates.
One of these is for Western Europe, though at present it covers only Andorra, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Italy, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Portugal, France and Switzerland. The second is for South-East Asia (Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, North Korea, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand). Clearly, these are the foundations for new Local Churches. Indeed, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev) has described their long-awaited establishment as missionary.
Thus, if we look at the world scene today, we can see that for the first time in history, most of the world is now catered for in terms of Orthodox missions. There is the tricontinental Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, based in New York, which fundamentally looks after North America, South America and Oceania. Indeed, in the last twelve years, it will have consecrated six American bishops and one Australian bishop. As for Eurasia outside the territories of the twelve Local Churches, the Russian Orthodox Church caters for the multinational Russian Federation, China (naturally, including Taiwan), Japan and now also South-East Asia and Western Europe through its two Exarchates.
This means that in reality the only territories of the world which are not catered for officially are Iran and South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka), in which countries conditions are such that missionary work is very difficult, even sometimes dangerous. However, South Asia contains one quarter of the world’s population. Perhaps one day we shall see two more Exarchates, one for Iran and one for South Asia.
We have come a long way from the anti-missionary bishops of the past who so persecuted us. We well remember Archbishop George (Wagner) of the Paris Archdiocese, who forbade the use of any language in services except Church Slavonic. Indeed, he considered that only three languages should be used liturgically – Greek, Latin and Slavonic. (He considered that the Romanian Church should return to using Church Slavonic).
He and another bishop of his background also unapologetically forbade the veneration of the local saints of Western Europe. Both bishops wrecked their dioceses, with a great many clergy and people fleeing their tyrannies, indeed as far as the USA and Canada. ‘I shall not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord, so did we sing in those dark days of the dark past. Their dioceses have still not recovered and, it seems, probably never will. The vital missionary forces left and their dioceses were abandoned to the ghetto and spiritual death, while others looked elsewhere for spiritual life and grew strong and numerous.
With these two new Exarchates in Western Europe and South-East Asia, which will only grow, the Russian Orthodox missionary revolution of East and West has begun in earnest.