Three Generations and Three Approaches to Orthodox Europe


Although this brief article concerns the future of Russian Orthodoxy in Western Europe, it also concerns any nationality of any generation in the Orthodox Diasporas, for example, in the Americas and Australia, since human psychology and human nature are the same everywhere. The only difference is that historically the Diaspora in North America is a generation older than in Western Europe, which in turn is a generation older than in Australia.

Generation One: The Ghetto

The first generation of the Russian emigration, which was born before 1917, formed the ghetto. It therefore died out. This is a suicidal mentality, common to all the Russian jurisdictions. Thus, I saw ROCOR in England destroy itself and die out between the 1970s and the 1990s. I saw the Rue Daru jurisdiction in France do the same and that of Moscow too. The first generation dreamed of returning to an idealized Russia, which no longer existed – if it ever did. As a Non-Russian I, like the descendants of this first generation, was never going to move back to Russia.

This generation lived in Europe, but in no wise associated with it, it was in no wise ‘of’ Europe. Thus, I can remember the aristocratic Parisian mitred archpriest, Fr Alexander Rehbinder (+ 1980) condemning the use of French in France not just in church, but also at home! And he was typical of tens of thousands of others, who have now gone the way of all flesh. Their churches have nearly all closed, disappeared off the face of the earth. You have to live in the real world, not the ghetto, otherwise you will lose your children and grandchildren and certainly fail to convert the natives.

Generation Two: ‘European’ Orthodox

These are the children of the first émigrés. These are the rebels (‘soixante-huitards’, as the rector of Saint Serge Fr Alexei Kniazev (born 1913) termed them in 1979 to their face). These are those born in the emigration in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, who in revolt formed the OCA and tried and failed to do something similar in Paris. They wanted to conform to and integrate the world around them, rejecting their parents’ ghettoes. In France they were almost Uniats, in the USA almost Protestants. They have stood in the way of progress of Orthodox and of the next generation, dismissing them and chasing them out, rejecting authentic Orthodoxy (calling it Russophilia, which they so despise) and especially monastic life as relics of their parents’ age. Instead, they claim to be ‘relevant’, ‘modern’ and ‘European’, though they do not have a drop of Western European blood in their veins! Thus, they reject us, the real Europeans and also Orthodox! And they want to be ‘European’ Orthodox!

In reality, no new Local Church can be born if it is not based on Orthodoxy, the real thing. The rest is intellectual fantasy and dreamers’ folklore. In the case of the Rue Daru members (now aged mainly between 70 and 90 and, excluding the Moldovans and new Russians, less than 1,000 individuals), the only logical future is to do what the Greeks want them to do: they must integrate into the Greek dioceses of the countries where they live, mainly in France. Having two Constantinople bishops in Paris is uncanonical! They must get over their psychological complexes towards their parents’ generation and their illogical ideology, which is basically built on their own psychological problems. Either lose your imagined self-importance and superiority complex racism and go to the semi-Uniat and now uncanonical Greeks (they already have the ‘new’ (= Roman Catholic) calendar and Greek vestments), or else be assimilated and go straight to the Roman Catholics. You cannot be ‘of the Russian Tradition’ and yet hate Russia and the Russian Church.

Generation Three: Orthodox Europeans

This is the generation that wants to remain Orthodox, confessing a grounded Orthodoxy, with roots, that is, without compromise, but which also wants the services in the local languages and venerates the local saints of Europe. We are Orthodox Europeans, not ‘European’ (i.e. semi-Orthodox) Orthodox. This is the way ahead because this is the way of the coming generations, our children and grandchildren. This is Orthodox Europe, the path of Orthodox Europeans. And this is the way of the new Exarchate under the new Metropolitan John of Paris and Western Europe, following in the footsteps of his missionary patron, St John of Shanghai and Western Europe.

It is this which is called on to become the Autonomous Church of (and not ‘in’) Western Europe and in due course the Autocephalous Church of (and not ‘in’) Western Europe. The Exarchate of the future, composed of 23 countries (Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, France, Switzerland and the UK), is our future, regardless of our nationality and background. Let us leave the past to the past, for we leave the dead to bury the dead and look to the future of our children and grandchildren.