Church, State, Mission.
- Editorial - Church, State, Mission
Priest Andrew Phillips
With the doors in the former Soviet Union now open to
religious freedom, many people there are searching
through a maze of different confessions for the path
to God. They are not alone. Scores of disaffected
Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Protestant
Evangelicals, dismayed by the modernist drifts and
shallow theologies of their respective faiths, are
likewise seeking for that fullness of faith which was
once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Are we
doing anything to help them?
Next year the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia
will glorify three hierarchs: Innocent of Moscow and
Alaska, Nicholas of Japan, and John of Shanghai and
San Francisco. All three were apostles, all three
drew hundreds of souls into the saving enclosure of
the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Their
success was due not only to their personal sanctity
but also to their well-defined vision of the
Church-her nature, her vocation and her relation to
One of the most difficult dilemmas that has always
faced the Church is her relations with the State, the
paradox of being in the world but not of it. Through
the Incarnation the Church, the Body of Christ, has a
human nature, but she also has a divine nature, a
spiritual ethos, for My kingdom is not of this world
(John 18:36). Sadly, the delicate and fine balance
between being in the world but not of it, of rendering
unto Caesar the things of Caesar and unto God the
things of God (Matt. 22:21) has rarely been achieved.
We have only to think of the heretical Patriarchs of
Constantinople, who signed anything the Emperor told
them to; or those Russian rulers and nobles who
interfered in the spiritual realm: Ivan the Terrible,
Peter I ("the Great"), Catherine II ("the Great");
there is the case of the Romanian Church in the
inter-war and post-war period with its State-appointed
bishops and vicious persecution of those who had
another vision of the Church. In the Donatist schism,
which plagued North Africa in the fourth, fifth and
sixth centuries, and among the Russian Old Believers
who did not accept the seventeenth century Nikonian
reforms, there were strong currents of a sectarian
There have been, however, periods of harmony or
symphony between Church and State, when the State saw
to the physical well-being and safety of its citizens
and the Church was free to look to the spiritual
well-being and safety of her flock. Thus the period of
St. Constantine the Great or Sts. Justinian and
Theodora, or Kievan Rus', or Muscovite Russia before
the deposition of Patriarch Nikon in the seventeenth
century, or in England before the martyrdom of St.
Edward in 979, or in Ireland after its conversion and
for several centuries thereafter. And there are many
other examples from church history.
What is the situation today? We see church leaders
playing the "nationalist card", turning the Orthodox
Faith into a nationalist cult in order to keep "in"
with a hostile or indifferent State, catering to
masses who, though indifferent to religion, will still
come along for an ethnic fiesta. We see extreme Old
Calendarists in Greece and certain "catacomb" groups
in Russia, modern Donatists, who condemn the
sacraments of all other Orthodox as without grace.
Thus contemporary Orthodoxy is dominated on the one
hand by churches that are "officially recognized" but
have introduced all manner of uncanonical practices,
and on the other by groupings that claim to be
Orthodox, are pious and persecuted, but seem never to
have heard the words of St. Simeon the New Theologian:
"Theology without love is the theology of the demons."
Fortunately, this polarized view does not give the
whole picture. There are, for instance, many in the
"official churches", laity and clergy, who are sincere
and pious and wish to follow the Church's teachings
whatever their bishops and "theologians" may declare
at ecumenical meetings and in masonic lodges.
Similarly, there are moderate Old Calendarists in
Greece, Romania and Bulgaria, and those in the Russian
catacombs who simply want to be obedient to the
Church, not condemning others with censorious pride.
What can be done in this situation? Here are some
observations of a parish priest of the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside Russia on what this Church can
1. Conserve the Orthodox Faith among the Russian
emigration. This task is complicated by the secular
nature of modern life, with Orthodox of Russian origin
being assimilated into the countries where they live.
The result is that in Protestant countries there is a
tendency for the Orthodoxy of parts of the emigration
to resemble an "eastern-rite" Protestantism or
Anglicanism, and in Catholic countries, Uniatism. At
the other extreme there is the temptation to form
ethnic ghettos which simply die out after a generation
or two, as the memory of the "old country" fades away.
We must conserve the Faith, not merely preserve it-
in whatever language it is necessary to do this.
2. Continue the missionary work of the Russian
Church in which were involved such holy men as St.
Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, and the three holy
hierarchs-Innocent, Nicholas and John-whom we are soon
to canonize. Make more use of the local language to
attract converts, following the example these
hierarchs. Encourage more non-Russians to enter the
priesthood; we should fear not de-russification but
3. Help to restore Orthodoxy in Russia. There we
must witness that, although in the world, the Church
is not of it. And to do that we must in no way
compromise ourselves through possible political
temptations, the seductions of power, glory, pride or
financial gain. Our witness must be spiritual; only
thus can our help be positive and canonical.
These threefold tasks, carried out in humility,
avoiding extremes, are Trinitarian in their inner
meaning. To conserve the Faith is to be faithful to
the Father. To continue our missionary tasks is to be
faithful to the Incarnation of the Son. And a
spiritual witness in Russia that the Kingdom of Christ
is not of this world is faith in the Holy Spirit. And
if we seek a living icon of one who did his utmost to
carry out these three tasks, I can think of none so
clear as Blessed John of Shanghai/Paris/ San
Francisco, who embodies the very vocation of our
Church: to bring all who wish to follow Her to the
life and salvation in Christ, the Crucified and
Resurrected Lord of all.
Priest Andrew Phillips
Church of Christ's Resurrection, Meudon-la-for�t, France