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Epistle of the Synod of Bishops

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  • Fr. John R. Shaw
    Dear in the Lord Fathers, Brothers and Sisters! For 90 years now, the dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia have existed on all continents,
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 7, 2006
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      Dear in the Lord Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!

      For 90 years now, the dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia have
      existed on all continents, along with monasteries, publishing houses and parishes.
      Everything that signifies church life: parish councils, sisterhoods, schools, youth groups,
      general parish meetings, magnificent choirs, altar boys, etc. gathered around them. All
      this arose as diocesan conferences and Church Councils convened, which regulated all of
      church life. Thus, through the chaos of the persecution of the Russian Church, the Russian
      Orthodox people gathered to stand around their Hierarchy, which found itself abroad, and
      strove to serve towards the emancipation and rebirth of their people on the foundation of
      the Orthodox Faith.

      Within the boundaries of Russia, persecution took the form of the absolute destruction of
      faith in Christ. Much was destroyed, many suffered. But the Lord did not permit the
      disappearance of the Church in our Homeland. In those places where ancient churches
      survived, people are once again gaining spiritual nourishment. That which was destroyed
      is being rebuilt. Church life is rising from the ashes. Archpastors, clergymen and believers
      are trying to rebuild Orthodox Russia anew. This process of renascence requires effort and
      the strength of will, since it is necessary to conduct spiritual educational work with the
      descendants of the generations of godless violence which touched absolutely every person
      without exception. Many obstacles remain on this path, but we see that these obstacles,
      and the remnants of Soviet times, are gradually being overcome.

      The day has arrived when we must seek the reestablishment of communion with the
      wellspring of our own traditions. For there are two wills at work—one being that of those
      Russians who are children of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, prepared in
      every way to cooperate in the reestablishment of church life and development of the
      spirituality of the people, and the other is from our brethren and sisters in Russia, who
      labor towards her rebirth and extend their hand to us.

      Positive changes in the church life of our Homeland spurred the Council of Bishops of
      October 2000 to establish a Committee on the unity of the Russian Church and to bless
      the organization of scholarly conferences on church history with the participation of the
      members of our Church and representatives of the Church in Russia. These conferences
      were held in 2001 and 2002. Then, in December 2003, a Commission on discussions with
      the Moscow Patriarchate was formed. At the same time, the Holy Synod of the Moscow
      Patriarchate decided to create a similar Commission on dialog with our Church. This bore
      witness to the earnest and good-willed effort of both parts of the Russian Orthodox
      Church to make sense of the tragedy of our common history, so that we "may discuss
      peacefully… whatever question there is which separates your communion from us," as we
      read in Canon 92 (103) of the Council of Carthage, which called upon the flock to trust
      their Hierarchy, which possessed the right to heal the divisions between the Orthodox and
      the Donatists.

      The "Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia," the by-laws under
      which our Church lives, demand that we regularize the situation of the Local Russian
      Church. It is important to note that a commission to revise the "Regulations of the Russian
      Orthodox Church Outside of Russia" was established before the year 2000.

      This shows that even then it was apparent that our "Regulations" are in need of
      amendment. Since 2000, new possibilities emerged in this regard. Now, in connection with
      the adoption of the "Act on Canonical Communion," our by-laws can be reexamined,
      taking into account new possibilities.

      Still, it is necessary to point out that we are not discussing the "self-abolishment" of the
      Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Our Church will exist as before, as attested to
      by the first paragraph of the "Act on Canonical Communion:" "The Russian Orthodox
      Church Outside of Russia, conducting its salvific service in the dioceses, parishes,
      monasteries, brotherhoods and other ecclesiastical bodies that took shape through
      history, remains an indissoluble part of the Local Russian Orthodox Church." These words
      in the "Act" attest to the recognition on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate of our
      historical path and of the living bond between the entire Local Russian Orthodox Church
      and its part abroad, which always existed and which we never denied. This historical
      document will reestablish the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church, through this mutual
      act acknowledging the lawful status of the Russian Church Abroad and the Moscow
      Patriarchate in Russia. Each side, preserving its identity as a Church, will continue to exist
      in full legality and independence, but now recognizing the other side and declaring the
      unity of the Russian Church. For this reason, this means the reconciliation and mutual
      recognition of each other while yet preserving our administrative self-governance, for we
      understand the needs of our clergy and of our flock better than they understand them in
      Moscow.

      The IV All-Diaspora Council and the Council of Bishops that followed approved the steps
      towards reestablishing unity already taken by our Hierarchy, and blessed its continued
      progress.

      The above-mentioned "Act" has been approved and confirmed by the Synod of Bishops,
      but it will be finally adopted when it is signed by the Primates of the two parts of the
      Russian Orthodox Church. Working out the details of this signing, and also the Rite of the
      establishment of canonical communion has been assigned to the Commission on
      discussions with the Moscow Patriarchate. It is expected that it will embark on this task
      jointly with the Commission on dialog with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of
      Russia at their next meeting. Then, the results of this meeting will be considered at the
      next session of the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in December of this year.

      Dear in the Lord fathers, brothers and sisters! We do not intend to depart from our
      positions of principle, in particular with regard to the ecumenical movement. We intend to
      continue to firmly speak out in condemnation of the so-called "branch theory" and of joint
      prayer with heretics, which is emphasized in our anathema of ecumenism adopted by the
      Council of Bishops of 1983. This is reflected in the documents of the church Commissions
      confirmed by both Holy Synods and published in the official publications of the two parts
      of the Russian Orthodox Church. From this we see that in the Moscow Patriarchate, our
      attitude towards the heresy of ecumenism has long ago been absorbed. That is why we are
      not compromising the inherited principles which have always guided us. Still, we were
      always open to dialog with everyone, but on the condition that this be done without any
      hindrance to Orthodox teaching. In the decisions of the Councils of Bishops we always
      held fast to the ecclesiology of moderation, and never rejected the presence of grace in
      the Moscow Patriarchate or in other Local Churches.

      We will continue to maintain the spirit of our great fathers, the founders of the Russian
      Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, following their legacy and the historical path of our
      Church. To carry this great inheritance to Russia is the mission we strive to fulfill.

      We will always remember that only in the Kingdom of Heaven will everything be perfect
      and good, that in the Church on earth we will perpetually experience difficulties caused by
      human passions, failings, temptations and sins, which must be overcome by means of
      beneficial fraternal dialog and cooperation, condescension, understanding and a Christian
      attitude towards each other, as Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians: "correct such a one in
      the spirit of meekness" (Galatians 6:1).

      In conclusion, let us remember Schema-Archimandrite Amvrossy (Kurganov) of blessed
      memory, the Abbot of Vvedensky Milkovo Monastery in Serbia, whence came several
      bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, since departed. The eminent
      church figure of the Russian diaspora, P.S. Lopukhin, writing on the Christian death of Fr
      Amvrossy, said: "I preserve in my memory this image of a man, weeping in joy on his
      death bed for Divine unity." Blessed Metropolitan Anthony said of Fr Amvrossy that in
      spirit he was closer to him than anyone.

      May God grant all of us to experience this feeling of "spiritual joy in Divine unity," leading
      us to the successful conclusion of the process of reconciliation of the two parts of the
      Russian Orthodox Church.

      May the Lord help us! Amen.

      (Signatures)
    • Mike Woodson
      Whether this is the will of God will be made known. Everything done in secret is made known, the good and the evil. This is the time in which faith in the
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 8, 2006
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        Whether this is the will of God will be made known. Everything done
        in secret is made known, the good and the evil.

        This is the time in which faith in the Lord Jesus Christ brightens. In
        whom will it last? For everyone despite our differences, I hope and
        pray. Whose hearts are safe in God alone?

        asking prayers,
        Michael


        --- In orthodox-synod@yahoogroups.com, "Fr. John R. Shaw"
        <vrevjrs@...> wrote:
        >
        > Dear in the Lord Fathers, Brothers and Sisters!
        >
        > For 90 years now, the dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church
        Outside of Russia have
        > existed on all continents, along with monasteries, publishing houses
        and parishes.
        > Everything that signifies church life: parish councils, sisterhoods,
        schools, youth groups,
        > general parish meetings, magnificent choirs, altar boys, etc.
        gathered around them. All
        > this arose as diocesan conferences and Church Councils convened,
        which regulated all of
        > church life. Thus, through the chaos of the persecution of the
        Russian Church, the Russian
        > Orthodox people gathered to stand around their Hierarchy, which
        found itself abroad, and
        > strove to serve towards the emancipation and rebirth of their people
        on the foundation of
        > the Orthodox Faith.
        >
        > Within the boundaries of Russia, persecution took the form of the
        absolute destruction of
        > faith in Christ. Much was destroyed, many suffered. But the Lord did
        not permit the
        > disappearance of the Church in our Homeland. In those places where
        ancient churches
        > survived, people are once again gaining spiritual nourishment. That
        which was destroyed
        > is being rebuilt. Church life is rising from the ashes. Archpastors,
        clergymen and believers
        > are trying to rebuild Orthodox Russia anew. This process of
        renascence requires effort and
        > the strength of will, since it is necessary to conduct spiritual
        educational work with the
        > descendants of the generations of godless violence which touched
        absolutely every person
        > without exception. Many obstacles remain on this path, but we see
        that these obstacles,
        > and the remnants of Soviet times, are gradually being overcome.
        >
        > The day has arrived when we must seek the reestablishment of
        communion with the
        > wellspring of our own traditions. For there are two wills at
        work—one being that of those
        > Russians who are children of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of
        Russia, prepared in
        > every way to cooperate in the reestablishment of church life and
        development of the
        > spirituality of the people, and the other is from our brethren and
        sisters in Russia, who
        > labor towards her rebirth and extend their hand to us.
        >
        > Positive changes in the church life of our Homeland spurred the
        Council of Bishops of
        > October 2000 to establish a Committee on the unity of the Russian
        Church and to bless
        > the organization of scholarly conferences on church history with the
        participation of the
        > members of our Church and representatives of the Church in Russia.
        These conferences
        > were held in 2001 and 2002. Then, in December 2003, a Commission on
        discussions with
        > the Moscow Patriarchate was formed. At the same time, the Holy Synod
        of the Moscow
        > Patriarchate decided to create a similar Commission on dialog with
        our Church. This bore
        > witness to the earnest and good-willed effort of both parts of the
        Russian Orthodox
        > Church to make sense of the tragedy of our common history, so that
        we "may discuss
        > peacefully… whatever question there is which separates your
        communion from us," as we
        > read in Canon 92 (103) of the Council of Carthage, which called upon
        the flock to trust
        > their Hierarchy, which possessed the right to heal the divisions
        between the Orthodox and
        > the Donatists.
        >
        > The "Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia,"
        the by-laws under
        > which our Church lives, demand that we regularize the situation of
        the Local Russian
        > Church. It is important to note that a commission to revise the
        "Regulations of the Russian
        > Orthodox Church Outside of Russia" was established before the year 2000.
        >
        > This shows that even then it was apparent that our "Regulations" are
        in need of
        > amendment. Since 2000, new possibilities emerged in this regard.
        Now, in connection with
        > the adoption of the "Act on Canonical Communion," our by-laws can be
        reexamined,
        > taking into account new possibilities.
        >
        > Still, it is necessary to point out that we are not discussing the
        "self-abolishment" of the
        > Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Our Church will exist as
        before, as attested to
        > by the first paragraph of the "Act on Canonical Communion:" "The
        Russian Orthodox
        > Church Outside of Russia, conducting its salvific service in the
        dioceses, parishes,
        > monasteries, brotherhoods and other ecclesiastical bodies that took
        shape through
        > history, remains an indissoluble part of the Local Russian Orthodox
        Church." These words
        > in the "Act" attest to the recognition on the part of the Moscow
        Patriarchate of our
        > historical path and of the living bond between the entire Local
        Russian Orthodox Church
        > and its part abroad, which always existed and which we never denied.
        This historical
        > document will reestablish the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church,
        through this mutual
        > act acknowledging the lawful status of the Russian Church Abroad and
        the Moscow
        > Patriarchate in Russia. Each side, preserving its identity as a
        Church, will continue to exist
        > in full legality and independence, but now recognizing the other
        side and declaring the
        > unity of the Russian Church. For this reason, this means the
        reconciliation and mutual
        > recognition of each other while yet preserving our administrative
        self-governance, for we
        > understand the needs of our clergy and of our flock better than they
        understand them in
        > Moscow.
        >
        > The IV All-Diaspora Council and the Council of Bishops that followed
        approved the steps
        > towards reestablishing unity already taken by our Hierarchy, and
        blessed its continued
        > progress.
        >
        > The above-mentioned "Act" has been approved and confirmed by the
        Synod of Bishops,
        > but it will be finally adopted when it is signed by the Primates of
        the two parts of the
        > Russian Orthodox Church. Working out the details of this signing,
        and also the Rite of the
        > establishment of canonical communion has been assigned to the
        Commission on
        > discussions with the Moscow Patriarchate. It is expected that it
        will embark on this task
        > jointly with the Commission on dialog with the Russian Orthodox
        Church Outside of
        > Russia at their next meeting. Then, the results of this meeting will
        be considered at the
        > next session of the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in December
        of this year.
        >
        > Dear in the Lord fathers, brothers and sisters! We do not intend to
        depart from our
        > positions of principle, in particular with regard to the ecumenical
        movement. We intend to
        > continue to firmly speak out in condemnation of the so-called
        "branch theory" and of joint
        > prayer with heretics, which is emphasized in our anathema of
        ecumenism adopted by the
        > Council of Bishops of 1983. This is reflected in the documents of
        the church Commissions
        > confirmed by both Holy Synods and published in the official
        publications of the two parts
        > of the Russian Orthodox Church. From this we see that in the Moscow
        Patriarchate, our
        > attitude towards the heresy of ecumenism has long ago been absorbed.
        That is why we are
        > not compromising the inherited principles which have always guided
        us. Still, we were
        > always open to dialog with everyone, but on the condition that this
        be done without any
        > hindrance to Orthodox teaching. In the decisions of the Councils of
        Bishops we always
        > held fast to the ecclesiology of moderation, and never rejected the
        presence of grace in
        > the Moscow Patriarchate or in other Local Churches.
        >
        > We will continue to maintain the spirit of our great fathers, the
        founders of the Russian
        > Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, following their legacy and the
        historical path of our
        > Church. To carry this great inheritance to Russia is the mission we
        strive to fulfill.
        >
        > We will always remember that only in the Kingdom of Heaven will
        everything be perfect
        > and good, that in the Church on earth we will perpetually experience
        difficulties caused by
        > human passions, failings, temptations and sins, which must be
        overcome by means of
        > beneficial fraternal dialog and cooperation, condescension,
        understanding and a Christian
        > attitude towards each other, as Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:
        "correct such a one in
        > the spirit of meekness" (Galatians 6:1).
        >
        > In conclusion, let us remember Schema-Archimandrite Amvrossy
        (Kurganov) of blessed
        > memory, the Abbot of Vvedensky Milkovo Monastery in Serbia, whence
        came several
        > bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, since
        departed. The eminent
        > church figure of the Russian diaspora, P.S. Lopukhin, writing on the
        Christian death of Fr
        > Amvrossy, said: "I preserve in my memory this image of a man,
        weeping in joy on his
        > death bed for Divine unity." Blessed Metropolitan Anthony said of Fr
        Amvrossy that in
        > spirit he was closer to him than anyone.
        >
        > May God grant all of us to experience this feeling of "spiritual joy
        in Divine unity," leading
        > us to the successful conclusion of the process of reconciliation of
        the two parts of the
        > Russian Orthodox Church.
        >
        > May the Lord help us! Amen.
        >
        > (Signatures)
        >
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