Dealing with Heresy -- A Historical Perspective
- Vladimir Kozyreff has posted his views on heresy, including some quotations
from some of the Holy Fathers that he used to support his positions.
I would like to make some comments on this issue.
No one can possibly argue that the Holy Fathers expressed extremely harsh
condemnations of heretics and those who would have prayerful communion with
There is an imperative need for the Church to protect the flock from
heretical teachings -- to preserve the faith pure and unadulterated.
So the Holy Fathers, in their instructional and polemical writings, were
unanimous in the severity of their statements regarding heresies and heretics.
However, we see from the history of the Church, that notwithstanding these
harsh condemnations, when actually dealing with returning heretics to the
fold of the Church--the Church consistently applied condescension and
economy, in oder to make the return to the Church as simple as possible.
We see this in the Holy Canons of the Ecumenical Councils, where, time and
again, the Church has directed that certain heretics, including the worst
kind--those who preached a Trinitarian heresy, or one that taught
incorrectly about the Divine and human natures of Christ--were to be
accepted into the Church by means other than Baptism--in some cases, by
Chrismation, in others, by repudiation of error and confession.
We see this economy being applied to Arians, to Nestorians, and to the
Iconoclast heretics, to name a few.
In each case, the Church facilitated the return of those who had gone
astray by exercising economy--by not requiring (re)baptism, or even by
accepting the previously heretical clergy without (re)ordaining them.
The same applies to the current problems with modernism (including the new
calendar), ecumenism, and also to the Moscow Patriarchate.
The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia has condemned ecumenism and
Sergianism in the strongest terms possible--guarding the flock from these
false teachings, just as the Holy Fathers of the early centuries spoke out
against the false teachings of their times.
Certainly, very harsh words were used in polemical materials with regards
to the Moscow Patriarchate. These polemical statements were needed to
define our position and for the protection of the "little ones."
But, as in the past, we must always be striving for the reconciliation of
those who have gone astray, and we must be ready to apply economy to
facilitate this reconciliation.
And, a final point.
Virtually all of the condemnations of the Moscow Patriarchate that were
expressed in polemical materials written by bishops and others of the
Church Abroad in previous years focused on the fact that the Moscow
Patriarchate was in an active union with the atheistic authorities in the
Communist Soviet Union, and that the Moscow Patriarchate was subjugated to
the communist rulers and acted under their direction.
But--and let's be real about this--things have changed.
There is no more atheistic government dedicated to the eradication of the
Church and the Orthodox faith itself.
There is no more communist state.
The faithful are able to freely attend Church, and instruct their children.
Thousands of churches are being reopened, new churches are being built,
Church schools, hospitals and universities are being opened, hundreds of
monasteries and convents are being opened.
The President of the Russian Federation is an Orthodox Christian, has an
Orthodox Archimandrite as a spiritual advisor, and goes to Confession and
All this would have been unthinkable just over ten years ago.
So--as things change, so must our reaction to things change.
The previous condemnations simply do not apply now, since the Moscow
Patriarchate is no longer the "tool of the atheist state."
The vestiges of Sergianism and participation in ecumenism must still be
eliminated--that is clear.
But there is a very strong anti-ecumenist movement among the clergy and the
faithful in Russia, and we must pray that this movement will be strong
enough to sweep the relatively few "professional ecumenists" away, just as
the opponents of the glorification of the Royal Martyrs were overcome.
To some people--nothinng will ever be able to eradicate their image of the
Moscow Patriarchate as the perpetual "bogeyman." They see no positive
change in the situation of the Church in Russia at all, nor do they permit
the idea of such a change to enter their firmly shuttered minds.
They are like men who put on blindfolds and then stumble around, saying:
"See how dark it is," when, in reality, dawn has broken and the sun is shining.
There are none so blind as those who will not see.
With love in Christ,
Prot. Alexander Lebedeff
- Fr Alexander (Lebedeff) wrote:
> how in the world could you and your people say, as they did,Well, your arithmetic is mistaken, father.
> again and again, that the "majority" of the clergy
> of the Western-European Diocese broke with Bishop Amvrossy?
The 2 Castelbajacs broke with bishop Amvrossy this was the very
matter discussed still you count them on "your side".
Moreover, 2 other priests not mentioned at all in your count
left communion with vl. Lavr and joined vl. Varnava / Met.
Vitaly, but somehow you want to hide the matter to the List.
Last but not least, you count priest Adrian Eschevarria among the
How come ?
I thought he had been banned, together with priest Paul Tsvetkov
(who, subsequently repented) as a result of their public letter of
October 1/14 2000 (1)
(1) It might be worth reading this public and instructive letter:
Geneva, October 1/14, 2000
On the eve of the XXth century, our parish is at a turning point of
Many persons among the responsible parish organs expressed their wish
on one hand not to stay away anymore from the ecclesial renewal in
the Russian Church (to which our community is historically linked)
and, on the other hand, to be able to fully commune with the orthodox
pleroma from now on.
In response to the desire expressed by a part of the clergy and by
the Parish Council to join the Church of Russia, we very recently
received a proposal of His Holiness Alexis 2, Patriarch of Moscow and
of all Russia, to receive us in the bosom of the Moscow Patriarchate,
and to grant to our Parish the stavropigical status, i.e. of total
administrative and financial independence. The building and the goods
of our church will not be alienated by an external power, and the
members of the clergy will keep their posts.
The Parish Council, nearly in its entirety, finds it opportune to
answer favorably to this proposal. It is time, indeed, that mistrust,
ignorance and resentment give place to confidence, comprehension and
love in Christ.
We are conscious that some of you will be shocked, or even indignant,
by this perspective. Alas, the recent positions taken by the ROCOR
Synod of Bishops do not leave us other choices if we want to remain
members of the universal Orthodox Church.
We wish however to consult you. You will find attached a
"Reminder of the main events of the Russian Orthodox Church since
reestablishment of the Patriarchate in 1917". With this
information, you are kindly invited to express your opinion in
written, in Russian or in French, and to mail it to us before October
31, at the Chancellery of the church (Fr Paul or fr Adrain, Russian
orthodox church, 18 Baumont street, 1206 Geneva). Your personal
notice will be read only by your priests, who will draw an anonymous
May our Lord ... by the intercession of ... by the prayers of ...
bless you and grant you the wisdom so that we may do the right choice.
Priest Adrien Echevarria Archpriest Paul Tzvetkoff