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Journey of the Holy Order of MANS / CSB

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    2001.01-03 AGAIN: The Doors of Repentance The Journey of the Holy Order of MANS / Christ the Saviour Brotherhood and the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood into
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2001
      2001.01-03 AGAIN:
      The Doors of Repentance

      The Journey of the Holy Order of MANS / Christ the Saviour Brotherhood and
      the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood into the Canonical Orthodox Church

      by Hieromonk Jonah (Paffhausen)

      The Christ the Saviour Brotherhood (originally the Holy Order of MANS)
      started out as a "new religious movement" of the late 1960s. Over the
      course of the last thirty years, it went through many stages, which
      prepared its members to be transformed by their contact with the Orthodox
      Church. That journey into the safe harbor of the One, Holy, Catholic and
      Apostolic Orthodox Church came to fulfillment in the last months of the
      year 2000. At that time, dozens of churches and monasteries, hundreds of
      faithful, clergy and laity, monks and nuns were received into the communion
      of the Orthodox Church. It has been a long journey, but it is a time for
      the whole Church to rejoice and welcome into its fold these faithful people
      who diligently sought the true Christ and the authentic Church.

      The various communities have gone into three jurisdictions in America. The
      men¹s and women¹s monasteries that came out of the St. Herman of Alaska
      Brotherhood and some parishes and missions have been received by Bishop
      Jovan of the Diocese of Western America, and Bishop Longin of the New
      Gracanica Diocese, both of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Many parishes and
      missions have gone into the Orthodox Church in America under Archbishop
      Dimitri of Dallas, Bishop Job of Chicago, and Bishop Tikhon of San
      Francisco. Several other parishes and missions are being received by
      Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Patriarchate. The ordination of the
      clergy and mass chrismation of all the members of the communities were
      joyous events, involving many Orthodox from all the jurisdictions.

      The Christ the Saviour Brotherhood is now redefining itself as an
      organization. No longer is it unto itself, no longer a communal
      semi-monastic movement. No longer are the members of the CSB even in the
      same jurisdiction. Rather, each community is working in its local context,
      fully integrating into the fabric of the greater Orthodox community. The
      CSB itself remains, perhaps moving towards becoming some kind of foundation
      to support missionary work; but that has not yet become entirely clear.

      Personal Discipline and Sacrificial Service: The Holy Order of MANS

      The Order initially functioned as communities with strict personal
      discipline, liturgical life, and teaching; a semi-monastic way of life. The
      members worked day jobs, and most donated their entire paychecks to the
      common till. The members did "street missions," where they would go out on
      the streets, and simply try to provide a peaceful presence in the midst of
      people and minister to their needs. This was an especially important task
      with thousands of young people living in the streets and parks. They took
      people in off the streets, fed them, gave them a place to stay, counseled
      them and gave them a discipline and purpose in life. Members of the Order
      also gave out vouchers for food and shelter, and opened up emergency
      shelters for the homeless.

      As the Order grew and expanded, their internal ways of life as well as
      their missionary outreach changed. Many of the priests (both men and women)
      married and formed families. Others formed more traditional monastic
      communities, one for men and another for women. Other communities lived at
      and operated the Raphael House homeless shelters in San Francisco,
      Portland, and St. Louis. Still other communities, with various forms, lived
      at foreign mission sites in Europe. The shelter ministries became more
      formal and professional, offering a complete range of services from
      counseling to job placement; the Portland Raphael House also became a
      shelter primarily for women with children who suffer from domestic violence.

      As the Order became more mature, it also became more and more traditionally
      Christian. By the early 1980s it had lost much of its early gnostic
      character and developed an ecumenical focus, working with and within
      Christian churches of all kinds. The Order strove to be a model traditional
      Christian church, albeit with a unique and elite vision, and an eclectic
      synthesis of Christian traditions.

      This transformation created an identity crisis within the community, as
      well as in its members. This change, and the subsequent movement towards
      Orthodoxy, alienated many members who were more interested in a New Age
      type of religious experience. By the mid-1980s, no elements of the old
      gnostic teachings or practices remained within the Order.

      Contact with Orthodoxy: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood

      At the same time the Order was struggling to develop a more traditional
      Christian identity, its leader, Andrew Rossi, met Abbot Herman of the St.
      Herman of Alaska Monastery in Platina, California. The Herman Brotherhood
      began at the same time as the Order, both in San Francisco but in radically
      different contexts.

      The two founders of St. Herman Brotherhood were Gleb Podmoshensky, a
      Russian immigrant who finished Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, New
      York; and Eugene Rose, a California intellectual and graduate student of
      Chinese and Eastern philosophy at Berkeley. Under the direction of
      Archbishop (later Saint) John (Maximovich) of San Francisco, of the Russian
      Orthodox Church Outside Russia, Gleb and Eugene began a publication, The
      Orthodox Word, and a bookstore.

      Their striving together eventually bore fruit in the formation of a
      brotherhood, and later a monastery, in the mountains of Northern
      California. Both Gleb and Eugene were eventually tonsured as monks and
      ordained as priests, Fr. Herman and Fr. Seraphim respectively; and the
      Monastery grew and flourished. The Orthodox Word became extremely
      influential in some circles, and nurtured a zeal for the Orthodox Faith and
      mission to convert ordinary Americans.

      Tragically, Father Seraphim died in the autumn of 1982. This left Father
      Herman in great grief and directionless, as their monastery and mission had
      been a shared dream. The situation deteriorated, culminating in the
      suspension of Fr. Herman from the priesthood in 1984, and his eventual
      defrocking by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. As a result of this, the
      monastic community began to fragment, most of the monks and novices
      leaving. During this period, Fr. Herman was looking for a new direction and
      a new bishop, feeling estranged from his own hierarchy in the Russian
      Church Abroad.

      The Christ the Saviour Brotherhood

      Fr. Herman and Andrew Rossi met in 1983, and founded themselves in similar
      situations, both looking for direction. Rossi had come to the conviction
      that the Orthodox Faith was the direction that he needed to pursue, partly
      through reading the works of Fr. Seraphim Rose. Fr. Herman meanwhile came
      into contact with Metropolitan Pangratios (Vrionis) of the Archdiocese of
      Vasiloupolis, a community of Greeks and Romanians based in Queens
      (Vasiloupolis in Greek), New York. Fr. Herman subsequently accepted to go
      under his omophorion, and led the Order into Orthodoxy in this context.
      However, Pangratios was not canonically recognized as a bishop by any other
      Orthodox Church.

      Fr. Herman felt he had found a context for his missionary movement in
      America, despite the fact that it was outside the canonical structure of
      the Orthodox Church. Fr. Herman's traditionalist approach and "catacomb"
      ecclesiology also fit in well with the vision of the Order, as a faithful
      remnant preserving the full integrity of the ancient Tradition in a hostile

      Andrew Rossi introduced many elements of Orthodox faith and worship into
      the life of the Order in the period between 1984 and 1988. In 1987, Rossi
      was present at the meetings of the Evangelical Orthodox bishops with
      Metropolitan Philip, at which the EOC submitted to the Antiochian Orthodox
      Church. There had been a long acquaintance between the communities, and a
      shared direction towards the Orthodox Church. Rossi declined to go under
      Antioch, having decided that the Order¹s path was linked with Fr. Herman
      and his traditionalist catacomb vision.

      During Pascha of 1988, 750 members of the Order were baptized into
      Orthodoxy. Metropolitan Pangratios ordained members of the Order as priests
      for the new parishes of his jurisdiction. This marked a complete
      transition, a fundamental rejection and renunciation of the old Order, and
      a new identity, theological as well as communal, emerged: the Christ the
      Saviour Brotherhood.

      Despite the institutional changes, the work of the CSB continued,
      especially in the human services area, with a continued development and
      professionalization of the Raphael House ministries. The cooperation with
      the St. Herman Brotherhood also proved particularly fruitful, resulting in
      creative new ministries, publications, and remarkable missionary efforts.

      The CSB funded many activities for Fr. Herman in a teaching ministry which
      stretched across North America and Europe to Moscow. Priests and deacons
      serving the missions were trained, and the precious Orthodox Tradition was
      studied. The Valaam Society bookstores, small missionary communities with a
      bookstore in front and a chapel in back, sprang up all over the country.

      In Russia, the Valaam Society set up a publishing mission in collaboration
      with the Publishing Department of the Moscow Patriarchate. Fr. Herman
      realized part of his dream of the revival of the spiritual journal Russkiy
      Palomnik (Russian Pilgrim), and the publication of works especially by Fr.
      Seraphim Rose. As a result of this, Fr. Seraphim is perhaps the best-known
      Orthodox American writer in Russia.

      Another unique ministry made possible by the greatly expanded influence of
      St. Herman Monastery through the Valaam Society was the Death to the World
      youth Œzine, reaching out to the most at-risk youth who are consumed by
      nihilism, and the books and other 'zines that came from that movement.

      Thousands of people in America, and tens of thousands in Russia brought to
      and strengthened in the Orthodox Faith, and ministered to, by this work. In
      addition, there were numerous conferences, teaching sessions and retreats.
      Schools were opened in Forestville at St. Paisius Women¹s Monastery, and in
      Kodiak. There seemed to be unlimited potential and tremendous fruit.

      A Dead End

      Eventually, however, both Fr. Herman and the leaders of the CSB came to the
      inescapable conclusion that their position in a noncanonical group was
      untenable. They were rejected by the wider Orthodox community from
      concelebration and communion. From the early 1990s, discussions were being
      conducted by Fr. Herman with bishops from a variety of Orthodox Churches
      both in America and abroad to resolve the jurisdictional separation of his
      monasteries and the CSB from the canonical Church. While the noncanonical
      context provided complete freedom for Fr. Herman to do his work without
      hierarchical interference, it was compromised by being outside the
      structures of the Church.

      This was a period of great pain for many people in this movement. They had
      often had bad press in the past. Now having sacrificed so much to become
      Orthodox, they were being "Hermanites," and regarded as a sect by the
      Orthodox Churches. They were being told their baptisms and chrismations
      were invalid, and that they were not really Orthodox. The CSB clergy were
      told their ordinations were invalid, and they were not priests. Hence, what
      was the status of all sacraments they had performed? This had to be resolved.

      New Beginnings

      At the beginning of 2000, with failing health and realizing that his
      personal situation was a large part of the problem, Fr. Herman stepped
      aside from his role of leadership, both of the CSB and as abbot of his
      monasteries. This permitted the various communities to find their right
      places within the existing canonical structures of the Church.

      The saga of the CSB and the St. Herman Brotherhood underlines that the
      Church is a community of reconciliation and healing. Glory to God that they
      have come home to a safe harbor! But it also underscores the tragic
      ecclesiological crisis in which the Orthodox Church finds itself in North
      America. The lack of administrative unity and the denominationalizing of
      the multiple Orthodox jurisdictions presents a profoundly confusing vision
      of what is supposed to be the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

      Twenty-one parishes and missions and eight monastic communities which came
      out of the CSB and St. Herman Brotherhood have now entered the canonical
      Orthodox Church.

      In the monasteries that have come out of the St. Herman Brotherhood, there
      are now nineteen men monastics and forty women monastics. Of these
      monastics, twenty-three men and women have come from the Christ the Saviour
      Brotherhood and its communities. Twenty-five clergymen who have come out of
      the CSB have now been ordained in the canonical churches, and many others
      are preparing for ordination.

      Despite the organizational chaos, and the immense personal transformation
      the members of the CSB have had to go through over the past thirty years,
      they remain profoundly committed to Christ and His commission to serve
      those in need, both spiritually and materially. The little bookstore
      missions, the emergency shelter ministries, the monasteries and the
      parishes all survive based on tremendous personal sacrifices and selfless
      service. The ascetic traditional vision of Orthodox Christian life is
      incarnated in each of these efforts, which provide endless opportunities
      for people to serve others.

      This commitment to service in self-denial, trusting in the Lord Jesus
      Christ, is the core and essence of the vision of the faithful people who
      have now entered fully into the life and communion of the Orthodox Church.
      We must not only welcome them rejoicing with open arms: we have a lot to
      learn from them. May we all be enriched by the gifts God has brought into
      the Orthodox Church through the entrance of these strugglers for the Faith.

      Hieromonk Jonah is Economos of the Monastery of St. John of San Francisco,
      Point Reyes Station, California, of the Orthodox Church in America. He has
      been closely acquainted with the fathers of the St. Herman Brotherhood for
      over twenty years, and with the CSB for ten years. He formerly worked at
      Raphael House in San Francisco and the Valaam Society publishing mission
      "Russkiy Palomnik" in Moscow.

      Again, Vol. 23, No. 1, January-March 2001, pp. 23-26

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