Once Western people have spiritual understanding and experience, they can begin to escape from the box of their cultural conditioning and the manipulations imposed on them by their controllers. Then they will recognize that Catholicism, Anglicanism and the other forms of Protestantism, all rapidly dying out in the Western world today, are only a few hundred years old and are only human inventions, as defined by Western political powerbrokers, Popes, Kings and politicians, past and present. They ask: Where then, as Christians, do we belong? Where then can we go to church and worship the Holy Trinity, our God Who is not mocked?
With such a basic level of understanding, it becomes obvious that only the Orthodox Church is the Church, founded by Christ, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. From here, however, arises the question, but which Local Church do we join? For the Orthodox Church is a family of fourteen, universally recognized, canonical Local Orthodox Churches, of which seven represent their immigrants and their descendants in Western countries. These seven Local Churches are the Russian, the Greek (correctly, the Constantinopolitan), the Antiochian, the Romanian, the Serbian, the Bulgarian and the Georgian.
Most people join the geographically nearest Orthodox community belonging to one of these seven Churches, providing that one exists nearby (the Bulgarian and the Georgian are very, very few and far between) and which is welcoming to other nationalities. However, most Romanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Georgian and many Greek ones are not welcoming to other nationalities, but represent an ethos of national clubs, ethnic ghettoes. These latter churches are called mononational (sometimes just ‘nationalist’). In other words, they prominently display their national flags, cater only for one immigrant nationality and will even ask those of other nationalities to leave, which visitors do anyway because they do not understand the language which these nationalities use. The real choice therefore is often very limited: Greek, Antiochian and Russian.
For many the very small and impoverished Greek Church of Constantinople is not an option because of its oriental manner and curious music, as well as its doctrinal compromises, forced on it in its weakness by outside pressures and finance over the last 100 years. On top of this, there is its extraordinary racist imperialism, which has led it into schismatic and even heretical acts in recent times, putting it out of communion with the majority of Orthodox. The Antiochian Church would seem like an option to Anglicans. However, since there are only some 750,000 practising Anglicans in England, this leaves 55 million who are not attracted and do not at all feel at home in an ‘Angliochian’ church, with its untrained clergy (who often attempt to dress and sing like Russian Orthodox clergy, but make basic mistakes) and its ethos of ‘Anglicanism with icons’. Anyone who has experienced the real thing, real Orthodoxy with its living Christian values, senses this at once. Its Establishment mentality makes it seem like a branch of Anglicanism, a culture alien and quite unknown to the vast majority of ordinary English people. Given this lack of choice on the ground, what are the pros and cons of joining the Russian Orthodox Church?
Reasons Put Forward for Not Joining the Russian Orthodox Church
For those who live in the past, the Russian Orthodox Church is a centralized, Soviet steamroller. Of course this was to some extent true generations ago during the Soviet period, when all the Russian bishops representing the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow were vetted by the KGB. Then some such bishops freely committed gross violations of the canons of the Church in places like London, Paris and Vienna, as well as inside the Soviet Union. This was not the Russian Orthodox Church, but the ‘Soviet (and therefore, by definition, unOrthodox) Church’. However, this is all ancient history. Let us rather live in the present for the sake of the future.
Some accuse the Russian Orthodox Church of not being open enough to the secular world. Here there is a profound misunderstanding: it is not for the Church to become like the world, but for the world to become like the Church! Those who have not yet become Orthodox Christians, though attracted by some aspects, sometimes find Russian (and actually all other) Orthodox bishops authoritarian. However, this is because they have a Protestant, and not Apostolic, understanding of what a bishop is. When bishops reject the secular ‘democratic’ fantasies or support for homosexual ‘marriage’ (doing like the anti-Christian world) of such individuals, they are often very offended. Thus, their criticisms of ‘authoritarianism’ are simply psychologically-motivated self-justifications for their disobedience and secularist mentality, which they justify as their ‘culture’!, but which is in reality not part of the Christian mindset.
Finally, there are those who have been so brainwashed by Western Cold War propaganda and political prejudices that they have become Western cultural nationalists and as a result Russophobes. This Russophobia comes from the Western nationalist secular mentality and refusal to look at the facts of history, trusting rather in incredibly ignorant journalists who pour out their absurdities, paid for by wealthy political groupings. For example, such people will actually believe the propaganda that the Russian Federation State controls the Russian Orthodox Church! They are of course thinking in Anglican terms, since the Church of England is indeed controlled by the British State. This is why if you are a British spy, based in London or Cheltenham, for example, you will not be allowed to join the Russian Orthodox Church, only the Greek. Others will say in a similar vein that they cannot be Russian Orthodox because there are so many abortions and so much corruption in post-Soviet Russia. But this is like saying, I cannot be a Protestant because there are so many abortions and murders in England!
Reasons for Joining the Russian Orthodox Church
The first reason to do this is that the Russian Orthodox Church is by far the biggest of the fourteen Local Churches. Over 75% of all Orthodox are members of the Russian Orthodox Church. More exactly, of 220 million Orthodox Christians in the world, 164 million are members of the Russian Orthodox Church, over a third of whom are not Russians. It is clear that only such a Church can even hope to provide the necessary infrastructure. Indeed many others are dependent on it for this.
Secondly, as we have seen above, the Russian Orthodox world (sometimes called ‘Rus’) is not necessarily Russian in an ethnic sense. The Russian Orthodox Church is by far the most multinational. It has at least seventy nationalities in it, its singing (unlike that of other Local Churches) can be adapted to any language, it has founded independent Churches in Poland and the Czech Lands and Slovakia, Autonomous Churches like ROCOR – the Church Outside Russia (centred in New York and catering mainly for the English-speaking world), in Japan and China and has Exarchates (future Autonomous Churches) in Western Europe and South-East Asia. Its culture, like its singing, is very much European, unlike in the Greek Orthodox Church. As a result of its multinational and multilingual qualities, the Russian Orthodox Church can be called ‘Imperial’, though definitely not ‘Imperialist’.
Finally, today the Russian Orthodox Church is politically independent and so is faithful to the Christian Tradition. Thus, it is not controlled by any government, including the State Department in Washington, which fully controls the tiny Greek (Constantinopolitan) Church and which also appointed the leader of the Romanian Church, as well as exerting huge political and financial pressure on Local Churches in small countries like Greece, Cyprus and Georgia. Clearly, only such a large Church as the Russian Orthodox Church can resist pressure from States of any sort to compromise itself and its Christian teachings. With its spiritual treasure-chest of the New Martyrs and Confessors of the Communist Yoke, at least 100,000 of them and perhaps many more, of whom some 35,000 have been canonized so far, the Russian Orthodox Church is spiritually resistant. Therefore, it is traditional, for instance faithfully keeping the Orthodox Christian calendar, though it does not consort with the tiny uncanonical sects of extremist ‘old calendarists’, as can be found in Greek Orthodoxy.
Following the golden mean between extremes, the Russian Orthodox Church has attractions. Its weakness is its lack of infrastructure in countries like the UK and in Western Europe in general. Here there are still large areas and cities where you cannot find a single Russian Orthodox Church! Over the last 45 years it has fallen to our lot, as to that of others, to begin to remedy this chronic lack of coverage. Progress is here, but is very slow, as we have to fight against extraordinarily difficult conditions, lack of finance and lack of support. Can you help us?