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A LETTER from the UK to his Eminence Metropolitan Laurus & all faithfull children of ROCA

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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
    Dear-in-Christ, Archpastors, Fathers and Brethren, I ask your Archpastoral  and pastoral blessings and prayers. Many of our people have urged me to write this
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2003
      Dear-in-Christ, Archpastors, Fathers and Brethren,

      I ask your Archpastoral  and pastoral blessings and prayers.

      Many of our people have urged me to write this letter as they feel that
      their voice will not be heard at the All-Diaspora Clergy Conference, held
      in Nyack next week.  At the time of writing the representative appointed to
      attend the conference from England has not canvassed our views and in
      general he has very little contact with the two monastic communities and
      our English-language missions.

      I can only define our people, as those who look to Saint Edward Brotherhood
      for some kind of leadership, the parishioners here and at the Convent of
      the Annunciation in London, those in the other missions within the
      English-language deanery, and those who correspond with us, and
      increasingly so those who contact us by e-mail.

      The visit of our ruling hierarch, His Grace Archbishop Mark, to London in
      October opened up the subject of the possible rapprochement between the
      Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate.  Nowadays
      people have much freer access to information through internet reports and
      lists, and so the question in the last few weeks has come very much to the

      In these exchanges I have only found one person who seems wholly
      enthusiastic about developments.  Many others have various misgivings and
      feel disquiet in various ways, and I would like to put these matters before
      you, so that you are as fully informed of the situation as possible.  I
      shall not be able to do this with any great wisdom or learning, and may
      have misinterpreted various events or positions, but I ask you to bear with
      this, that our voice might be heard.

      Having mentioned the one person who enthusiastically endorses the idea of a
      union, I should also say that I have only come across one or two people who
      believe that any approach to Moscow on the part of our hierarchs is
      essentially and fundamentally wrong.

      In the main this letter reiterates what I have already addressed to
      Archbishop Mark, and which he has assured me "will certainly help" him
      "when participating in the conference," although I have expanded several
      thoughts.  As in my letter to the Archbishop, I think it may be useful if I
      list under various headings some of the things which are troubling people:-

      A)  Timing.  This seems to come highest on everyone's list of worries.
      They have the impression that we are rushing towards an agreement, and feel
      strongly that we should be taking time, testing every step as we go.  They
      fear that the union seems likely to be agreed within months, whereas they
      would feel happier if the time scale extended over several years or even a
      decade, for reasons that I hope will become clearer in the items below.

      B) Fundamental Issues.  They feel that the two fundamental issues are the
      Sergianist past and present of the Patriarchate, and its espousal of
      Ecumenism, and they hope that these will be wholly renounced and expunged
      from the life of the Patriarchal Church before we enter into communion with
      Moscow.  From various statements from Moscow spokesmen it seems that rather
      than renouncing the legacy of Metropolitan Sergius, it is being lauded and
      he is seen now as something of a hero, whose compromises "saved" the
      Russian Church.  Many have the impression that the present emphasis has
      been to gloss over these issues and to concentrate on administrative
      matters pertaining to the status quo after the union.

      C) Study of our Past History.  It is felt that before we proceed far
      along the path to any union, a thorough study should be made of the Synod's
      past position, so that we do not make some kind of unfortunate u-turn on a
      matter of principle.  For instance, when Patriarchs Sergius, Aleksii I,
      Pimen and the present Patriarch were "elected," our Hierarchs issued
      statements saying that they considered these elections (in that they were
      not free) out of order.  If this is so, do we not have to somehow accept
      the legitimacy of the present Patriarch, and on what grounds can we do so?

       D) Study of the Present State of the Patriarchate: This is also an
      imperative.  It is obviously true that the Soviet state has fallen, but it
      is by no means clear that the Moscow Patriarchate now operates free of
      state or government interferance.  According to many commentators, the
      present socio-political situation in Russia is even more deleterious than
      it was under the Soviets, and it appears that the Church is deeply involved
      in many aspects of what seems to be a "Gangster State" in a way that is
      less excusable than its subservience to the Soviets, which after all was a
      totalitarian tyranny.

      E)  Putin. Putin's rôle in the present process has also caused widespread
      disquiet.  One appreciates that perhaps he was only a catalyst for contact,
      and no one has any wish to decry his personal piety or adherence to
      Orthodoxy, but it does appear that his "zeal" is not always according to
      knowledge.  Soon after meeting our hierarchs, it is reported that he went
      to Rome and proposed some kind of rapprochement between Rome and Moscow.
      Further, his interest at the best seemed to be to support the Russian
      state.  This aim might be laudable and something we would all like to
      contribute to, but it is not the purpose of the Church, which is to save
      souls. It appears that his imput is itself a continuation of the Sergianist
      tradition:  that the "reunion of the churches" is primarily to serve a
      socio-political purpose.  Interestingly enough in this regard, parishioners
      from the Patriarchal Cathedral Parish in Ennismore Gardens, London,
      contacted me, and said that they would rejoice to witness the re-union of
      the two churches, but also felt some disquiet over the present moves, and
      that it seemed to them to be politically motivated and something of a
      "fix."  They speak much more boldly of the perceived political motivation
      behind the present moves from the Moscow point of view, than any I have
      heard from our side. One,  a Russian who spends much of his time in Moscow,
      when visiting us, declared, "Obviously, Putin wants this, and has leaned on
      the Patriarch!"  Such is their trust in the freedom of the Patriarchal

      F) ROCOR in Russia.  In the early nineties or thereabouts, our Synod began
      to offer pastoral care to the faithful in Russia, who in conscience could
      not remain within the Moscow Patriarchate; we provided them with a
      hierarchy and pastors.  In many ways, in retrospect, it seems that this
      development was not well nourished and supported, and, as we all know,
      various schisms not unlike those among the Greek Old Calendarists, have
      arisen.  But there remain people in Russia, a number have contacted us, who
      are still loyal to the Church Abroad for reasons of conscience.  A speedy
      or improper union with Moscow, would betray their faithfulness and loyalty.

      G) Our Sister Churches.  Also after the visit of Archbishop Mark to the
      Monastery of Sts Cyprian and Justina at Fili in the same decade, our Church
      entered into a special relationship of Sister Church with the Synod of
      Metropolitan Cyprian, that of Metropolitan Vlasie in Romania and with
      Bishop Fotii's diocese in Bulgaria.  Here people are disquieted that this
      special relationship is also being betrayed.  We have heard nothing of any
      discussions with the hierarchs of these Sister Churches about a move which
      will assuredly greatly change our relationship with them.  I think it was
      Khomiakov who characterised one of the greatest evils of the schism of Rome
      from Orthodoxy in the eleventh century as a lack of brotherly love because
      they acted unilaterally and without consulting their Sister Churches in the
      East.  It now appears that ROCA is following a similar course with regard
      to her professed Sister Churches in Greece, Romania and Bulgaria.

      H) The Proposed Autonomy. This has given rise to disquiet at various
      levels.  Some see it as a useful temporary arrangement to ease the way to
      full unity, if such a unity can be achieved in a right way without
      falsehood and compromise of principles.  However, several people have
      expressed the thought that it seems to be the primary concern of our
      hierarchs and that it is being promoted only so that they can safeguard
      their own positions and prerogatives.  In Britain, for instance, it would
      make our situation particularly difficult, and even more so for those of us
      who are not of Russian extraction and who do not follow Russian liturgical
      practices.  What would be the point of our being under a Bishop in Germany,
      if it were perfectly right and proper to be in full communion with the
      Moscow Patriarchate who have two hierarchs in this country, and the first
      language of whose ruling hierarch here is English?  (But more of the
      British situation later).

      J) Global Orthodoxy.  Entering into communion with Moscow would put us in
      unhindered and full communion with "Global Orthodoxy" and with those
      ecumenist jurisdictions such as Constantinople and Antioch (which, Antioch,
      is de facto in communion with the Monophysites, and in which, as we heard
      from one of their priests two weeks ago, they are permitted to offer the
      Holy Msyerties to Roman Catholics).   When he spoke to us in October, His
      Grace Archbishop Mark expressed the view that each rector could refuse to
      concelebrate with or offer the Mysteries to clergymen, whose position he
      found uncertain.  But this seems on reflection to be untenable, and puts us
      in the realm of having to make personal judgments.  I remember that when I
      was sent to England in 1977, I was told by the then Protopresbyter George
      Grabbe, and I assumed this was with Synodal authority, that I should not
      concelebrate with any non-ROCA clergy, but was to explain that this was not
      a reflection on the Orthodoxy of the other jurisdictions but only a
      pastoral matter.  Fr Milenko Zebic of the Serbian Church then wanted to
      come and concelebrate and I explained what I had been told.  He was deeply
      upset and reported the matter to the Serbian Synod who complained to our
      Synod, and, as Secretary at that time, Fr George himself wrote rebuking me
      for following the very course he had enjoined upon me!  This was simply one
      instance, and with regard only to the Serbian Church.  What opportuities
      for misunderstanding would open up if "technically" we were in communion
      with Global Orthodoxy?  It would leave our church in a position not unlike
      that of a Protestant sect which existed in this country until a generation
      or so ago when it amalgamated with another similar group.  This sect called
      themselves Congregationalists, because each local congregation decided its
      own policy measures.  The hierarchical nature of our church would dissolve.

      K) ROCA's present position lost.  It has been put to me that ROCA has been
      respected for decades - a respect which seems to have lapsed somewhat under
      the Metropolitanate of Met. Vitaly, when her position often seemed unclear
      or vasillating, - for her firm traditonalist stance which avoided
      extremism.  This respect was accorded us even by those who were in some
      ways our enemies, and it appears that it greatly heartened numbers of the
      faithful in Russia, who dismayed by their own corrupt Church
      administration, could look to the Synod as a beacon.  Presumably it was for
      this reason that people in Russia looked to the Synod for pastoral care as
      soon as, with the weakening of the Soviet tyranny, this opportunity was
      opened up to them.  If we are subsumed into the Patriarchate that position
      will be lost, even the "Autonomy" will mean that our position is
      compromised beyond repair.

      L) Central Ground.  Over the years ROCA has also seemed to maintain a
      perillously difficult central ground, striving to remain faithful to the
      teachings of the Fathers, but being moderate and accommodating to the
      weaknesses and difficulties of others.  She has thus avoided the extremism
      and, indeed, the fanaticism of many of the "Old Calendarist" groups and
      their sectarian spirit, and the laissez-faire attitude of the more
      "liberal" jurisdictions with regard to the patristic tradition.  If she
      enters precipitiously into union with a Moscow Patriarchate which has not
      set her course aright in this regard, a precious path of moderate
      traditonalism within the "Orthodox world" will be lost.

      M) Glorifications. Some have raised the question of the gloifications of
      the New Martyrs and other Saints.  The Patriarchate has blocked the
      glorification of those New Martyrs who opposed Metropolitan Sergius' policy
      (a witness to their continuing Sergianism?), whereas the Church Abroad
      glorifies these Saints.  Further Moscow seems of late to have canonised a
      series of saints, about some of whom it does not seem fanatical to have

      N) The situation in Britain.   The above points have all been general, but
      there are a number of points which perhaps pertain only to the situation in
      Britain.  Joining with Moscow, with or without autonomy, would put us in
      full communion with the Sourozh Diocese, which in many ways is completely
      different from other eparchies of the Patriarchate.  It is to all intents
      and purposes the creation of the late Metropolitan Antony (Bloom) and thus
      reflects many of his eccentricities.  Its character is essentially Evlogian
      rather than Moscovite; there is a strong anti-monastic bias among the
      majority of its clergy and people; feminism in various shades is prominent
      among its intellectuals and Met. Antony even came close to endorsing the
      acceptance of women priests; many of the clery have impediments to
      ordination (it was often said this was how the Metropolitan held their
      "loyalty");  it is ecumenist broadly and deeply in a way that the (New
      Calendarist) Greek Archdiocese in this country is not; and in general it
      reflects the most "liberal" trends within "Orthodoxy."  Most of the Moscow
      parishes and missions in this country operate on the New Calendar.  In one
      parish, at least, the Holy Mysteries are regularly given to Roman Catholics
      who "wish to become Orthodox."  Even if all other things were equal as
      regards the Patriarchate as a whole, one would not want to be in full
      communion with Sourozh.  Visiting clergy from Russia (MP) have often told
      us that they see it as something like the "Living Church".

      P) Our People.  Because ROCA's presence in this country has been weak for
      decades - (In Archbishop Nikodem's (+ 1976) declining years, the presence
      naturally weakened.  Immediately after his repose there were several
      changes of administration.  I believe that Bishop Constantine's tenure here
      did not give people confidence in ROCA, and although Archbishop Mark has
      done much for the ROCA presence in the eighteen years he has been our
      ruling hierarch, he has of necessity been an absent landlord, and there has
      been no spokesman for our church here) -  because of this, many of the
      people who now belong to our church have come to us from other
      jurisdictions, only with time and effort seeing the purpose of ROCA's
      position.  In our own congregation in Brookwood, a number of the people
      first joined the Patriarchate including three of our monks.  They joined us
      not because of better opportunities, but because they believed that ROCA's
      course was true and that of the Patriarchate and of Sourozh off course.
      They have grave misgivings about any hasty "reconciliation."   Furthermore,
      as a community, we have grown, and have been loyal to ROCA, even though as
      individuals and as a community we have not always been welcome or
      supported, even though attempts have been made to destroy us by people
      (even clergymen) within ROCA, and even though in any one of the "official"
      jurisdictions we would probably have been helped and supported both
      financially and morally to a much greater extent.  We have done so because,
      even though this left us within a tiny minority of the Orthodox, among
      people who did not accept us - (even this week people from the Russian
      language parish who wanted to make a pilgrimage to our brotherhood tell us
      that they were forbidden to do so on a Sunday), -  among people who do not
      understand us, we believed ROCA's course to be true and worth suffering
      for.  Perhaps as a result of faint-heartenedness we feel now that perhaps
      that struggle was in vain.

      I hope that putting these disquiets before you, does not hurt or offend
      anyone.  I felt it was imperative to write as we feel it is important that
      these disquiets come to the attention of Your Graces and the other
      clergymen and of the members of the Conference meeting next week in Nyack.

      I ask your holy prayers and blessings, and that you attempt to set hearts
      at rest.

       Your unworthy son in Christ Jesus,

          the sinful monk and unworthy priest,

             Archimandrite Alexis
                  Saint Edward Brotherhood,
                      Brookwood, England
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