1990 (4) ROCOR Position Statement

Not checked against original.

The Position of the Parishes of the
Free Russian Orthodox Church

(Adopted by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad,
2/15 March 1990):

I. The free Russian Orthodox parishes are neither an independent nor a new hierarchal structure; they are in eucharistic communion with and in the jurisdiction of and subject to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which is headed by its first hierarch, Metropolitan Vitaly, and is the preserver of unadulterated Orthodoxy and the traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church.

II. The clergy are not to join in eucharistic communion with the Moscow Patriarchate until it renounces the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, until it repents of the errors which followed this uncanonical declaration, and removes those ruling bishops who have compromised themselves by uncanonical and immoral acts, who have been involved in corruption and the embezzlement of church funds, who have been placed in power through the interference of the secular authorities, and who have allowed distortions in the services of the Russian Orthodox Church.

III. The parishes may not pray for the government as long as the controlling and guiding power remains the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which has a militantly atheistic and anti-Church program. In addition, prayer is allowed for apostates only during the prayer, "that Thou might appear to them who have fallen away," but not during the proskomedia.

IV. The reasons for the establishment of free parishes:
The free Russian Orthodox parishes have opened due to the absolutely paralyzed, unrepentant state of the hierarchy and clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate, who have fallen away from pure Orthodoxy through the acceptance of the declaration by Metropolitan Sergius (who usurped the power of the Church in Russia) in 1927 of loyalty to the militantly atheistic communist Soviet power.

The main errors of the Moscow Patriarchate after the declaration of 1927 are as follows:

  1. The excommunication of those hierarchs, clergy, monastics and laymen who did not accept the declaration, which was followed by mass terror and murder of those who did not accept the atheistic government.

  2. The desecration of the memory of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors.

  3. The collaboration with the atheistic government even in the business of closing churches. Devoted service to the government and public prayer to strengthen its power, which in turn fights against faith and the Church.

  4. The distortion of the sacraments, rites, sermon, and carelessness in the spreading of the Word of God. Refusal to catechize, which has led masses of laypeople into ignorance and a superficial acceptance of Christianity.

  5. The participation and membership in the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement, for the creation of a worldwide "church", that would unite all heresies and religions.

  6. Submission to secular, atheistic authorities and the allowance of them to rule the inner life of the church even to the extent of direct control, with the ultimate goal of destroying faith.

  7. The alienation of the hierarchy and clergy from the flock, and a careless, proud relationship towards the laypeople in direct violation of the apostolic injunction to clergy to be an example and not exercise power over others.

  8. The wide-spread moral depravity and mercenariness among the uncanonical clergy.

  9. Uncanonical and capricious transferring of diocesan bishops.

V. Parish Life
The basic guiding rules and laws for the free Russian parishes are as follows:

1. The guidelines of the Russian Church before the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius in 1927.

2. The rules and decisions of the council of bishops of the Russian Church Abroad.

3. The free Russian Orthodox parishes have the right to make unbiased judgments concerning social and political events based only on the teaching of the Gospel, and Orthodox Christian morality, but must refuse to take part in political activities.

4. Disrespectful attitudes towards the representatives of other religions is forbidden. Union in prayer with the heterodox and non-Christians is categorically forbidden.

5. The clergy of the Russian Orthodox parishes are members of the Russian Orthodox Church, who have transferred, through written and public repentance, to the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and who have received their orders directly from our Church. All the clergy of the free Russian Orthodox parishes must make a vow not to reveal secrets of the Church.

6. Those clergy who are laicized or are under disciplinary action for uncanonical or immoral acts cannot be accepted into our Church. This rule does not apply to those who are under ban for turning to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad for acceptance or for those persecuted uncanonically for criticizing the apostasy of the Moscow Patriarchate's hierarchy .

7. The relationship to the clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate should be like as to those who have fallen away, lost brothers. No concelebrating can be permitted with them considering them to be under penance until there is repentance. There should also be no sign of haughtiness in relationship with them. The relationship towards the laypeople of the Patriarchate should not be condescending but like as to those who have left True Orthodoxy not willfully, but due to circumstances beyond their control.

8. In raising up prayers for the "union of all", the Russian Orthodox parishes hope for the repentance of the Moscow Patriarchate which has become hardened and deeply rooted in its errors. We pray and hope for the imminent union of all the children of the Russian Orthodox Church both in Russia and abroad, which will be a joyous event.

A Possible Form of Accepting Clergy
from the Error of the Moscow Patriarchate:
  1. The clergyman may appear before a bishop of the Russian Church Abroad with the request to be accepted into union with our Church through the repentance of Sergianism and a resolution from the bishop of the Russian Church Abroad.
  2. Repentance of the clergyman before the people on the ambo during the Hours.
  3. An explanation to the people of the errors of the Patriarchate.
  4. Repentance of the people for following the errors of the Patriarchal Church and for all possible offenses in church life.
  5. An invitation by the clergy to those laymen who wish to follow their pastors and remain faithful to their church leaders by kissing the Cross and Gospel and an oath.
  6. Formation by the clergy of a new contract with his parish similar to their former one.
  7. Announcement of the fact of the parish transfer both to the Moscow Patriarchate and the secular authorities.
Bishop Hilarion
Secretary of the Council of Bishops

Excerpt from the Epistle of the Local Council of the Moscow Patriarchate
to the Beloved-in-the-Lord Pastors, Honorable Monastics and All the
Faithful Children of the Russian Orthodox Church:

Editors note: With the election of a new patriarch in Moscow, an epistle appeared in which much attention was directed to the Russian Church Abroad. We offer our readers an excerpt from this epistle which directly concerns us followed immediately by an answer to the words of the new patriarch in the form of an epistle of the Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad.

"With sadness the Council turns its attention to yet another disorder in church life. The Russian Church Abroad having no communion with neither the Moscow Patriarchate nor with any other local Orthodox Church, has taken steps, which witness to the striving of its leaders to deepen the already existing division (among us), and to transfer the "diaspora" schism into the heart of the Russian Church. As of May 3/16, of this year, she announced her intention of establishing her own parishes and hierarchy in our country on the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate.

This action signifies that the leaders of the Church Abroad do not recognize the grace-filled life of our local Orthodox Church which is in full communion with Universal Orthodoxy. In other words she has set herself in a position against the rest of the entire Orthodox Church, crudely trampling upon the basic principles of Orthodox ecclesiology and the sacred canons. This action of the hierarchy in the diaspora conclusively proves that the psychology of the Karlovtsy Schism up to this moment has still not been able to overcome its (false) concept of the Russian Church Abroad. Its current leaders have used the very first opportunity to sow discord and confusion in our Church, to weaken her and to tear apart her unity at a time when this unity will have much to do with the future of our Church and the witness of Christ among our people.

Our local church repudiates the uncanonical pretensions of the hierarchy in the diaspora and calls upon the Orthodox Christians who belong to the Russian Church Abroad, who hold dear the spiritual well-being of our common fatherland, to realize how distant these pretensions are from the real needs of the Orthodox Church. Christians are called upon to show an example of oneness of mind and brotherhood to those people hungering for the Word of God, not to scandalize them by division and animosity.

The Council reminds everyone that political considerations and various opinions of historical events, and even diverse theological views in light of the One Faith cannot and must not serve as obstacles for unity at the Saving Chalice of The Lord, as we read in the words of the Apostle, "For there must be also heresies (Greek trans.) among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest to you" (I Cor. 11:19). We are deeply convinced that life itself will reveal a just assessment of that historical path which the Russian Church and all of our people have followed in the twentieth century. In saying this, we have in mind ourselves and all the Russian diaspora. Whether we desire this or not we all are participants in the fate of our much-suffering homeland.

We have never so warmly desired as we now do to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters. It is well known that we repeatedly, right up to the opening of the present Council, extended our hand to them. Now, relying on the mercy of the Lord towards those who have suffered and sealed themselves with the blood of martyrdom and the tears of the confessors of our Church, we direct our voice to our brothers in the diaspora and cry out: In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ stop what you are doing, for that which you are creating is displeasing to God! We remind you and all of like mind with you that the sin of dividing the One body of Christ, according to the teachings of the Holy Fathers, is not washed away even by the blood of martyrdom.

To you the beloved in the Lord, all the faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church, we call in the words of the Apostle: "I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them" (Romans 16:17).

Epistle of the Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
to the Faithful Children of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Homeland & Diaspora

Beyond doubt, major changes in the external order are taking place in Russia in our time, bringing about a spiritual emancipation of the people This emancipation, however, still has not embraced the hierarchy of the official Church. Once again this is borne witness to by both the convocation and the acts of the council of the Patriarchate of Moscow which was called to elect its new primate. As this event was unfolding, we read reports in the press concerning an alleged radical change in the state of the Orthodox Church in Russia resulting from the new politics of so-called perestroika. We did not know whether to hope that new and healthy ecclesiastical powers would be manifested at the council, capable of replacing hierarchs who have discredited themselves by collaborating with the atheistic regime.

Many of the faithful began to think that a radical change had already set in. Certain expressions used in the beginning of the epistle of the Moscow Patriarchate might have raised our hopes. "Our Church and all the people," it says, "have entered an age of great changes, bearing the hallmarks of new possibilities and a new responsibility." The epistle says correctly: 'And now as perhaps never before, it is essential that we interpret critically our own past and present condition, condemning in ourselves not only those internal sicknesses which were engendered by the constrained internal circumstances of church life, but also those which resulting from our own weakness and imperfection, that all of us may 'walk in newness of life' (Rom. 6:4)."

However, further on the epistle does not dwell on the essence of the internal sickness" mentioned in it, nor does it "critically interpret" anything Speaking of relations with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the epistle places it only on the plane of "dissension" and therefore, open to possible reconciliation. "We have not desired, nor do we desire, anything more fervently than reconciliation with our brothers and sisters," the epistle says.

It is an easy thing for Christians to "be reconciled" when the question concerns only personal offenses, which are eliminated by mutual love and mutual asking of forgiveness. But how can one say "Christ is in our midst" when, on the one hand, there is the Truth so dear to our heart, which forms the basis of the life of Christ's Church, and on the one hand there is falsehood, which is alien to it?

We are compelled to remember that the path of the Moscow Patriarchate, which introduced this falsehood beginning with the policies of .Metropolitan, later Patriarch Sergius in 1927, which were implemented to preserve the external organization of the Church, declared that the joys and sorrows of the regime, which was inimicable to the Church, were also :the joys and sorrows of the Church he headed. Metropolitans Peter and Cyril, who did not agree with this blasphemous falsehood, together with their countless followers, entered the ranks of the martyrs and confessors which adorn the Church of Russia.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Anthony of Kiev, who then headed the portion of the Church of Russia beyond its borders, condemned the new path of Metropolitan Sergius with great sorrow, as a path of falsehood. On May 6, 1933, Metropolitan Anthony wrote him a letter: "I beseech you as my former student and friend, free yourself from this temptation; renounce, for all to hear, this lie which Tuchkov and the other enemies of the Church have placed in your mouth; do not hesitate in the face of probable tortures. If you are granted a martyr's crown, the Church in heaven will join with the Church on earth in the glorification of your courage and of the Lord Who gave you strength. But if you remain on the wide path leading to perdition (Matt. 7: 13), on which you stand at present, it will ingloriously lead you down into the abyss of hell, and the Church will remember your betrayal until the end of its earthly existence."

At that time, however, the hierarchy headed by Metropolitan Anthony could do nothing more than denounce the falseness of the path of Metropolitan Sergius and his followers, as well as reveal to the whole world the truth concerning the persecution of the faith in Russia, where no bishops were at liberty who were not dependent on the atheistic regime. The declaration of Metropolitan Sergius forms the basis of the schism between the Patriarchate of Moscow and the portions of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia and abroad which have preserved their inner freedom. Having taken this path, the Moscow Patriarchate has fallen into full dependence upon the atheistic regime.

The hierarchs have become the obedient tools of the persecutors of the Church. There is eloquent testimony to this in the report of the former president of the Council for Religious Affairs, Mr. Furov. Among other things, he remarks that the Council is conducting a systematic "educational work" with the members of the synod and through them is showing the "required influence" on all the episcopate.

Further on in Furov's report he assesses the degree of reliability of various members of the episcopate from the communist point of view. Furov placed Patriarch Pimen first. Metropolitan Alexis, who has now been elected patriarch second Furov places him among a group of hierarchs who "have proved their loyalty not only in word but also in deed" and, "observed the laws concerning religious rites, guiding the rectors of parishes and parishioners in the same spirit. They know, following the government's policy, not to expand religion and the role of the Church in society, and therefore do not try to extend the influence of religion among the people."

Such a man, whatever he might write under altered circumstances cannot inspire the trust of the flock. And when he tries to stigmatize us as "schismatics", when he tries to ascribe to us an alleged violation of the oath of loyalty to the Moscow hierarchy made at his consecration, we must remind him, first of all, that there is not a single bishop amongst us who has ever given such an oath of loyalty to the present Moscow Patriarchate. And as for any "schism", be it known that it was initiated not by the Church Abroad, but by the infamous declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, which those who now head the Moscow Patriarchate continue to follow, and which there newly-elected head defends.

When, in addition to the subjection of the Church to the atheists, they added, because of Soviet policies, a betrayal of Orthodox doctrine on the unity of the Church and entered the World Council of Churches, our division deepened. The Moscow Patriarchate found itself drawn into a heresy new to the history of the Church, a heresy which denies the teaching of the Creed, of the holy apostles and the ecumenical councils, viz. that the Savior founded only one true Church on earth (see Eph. 4: 5). Outside of the Church are all the various heretical religions with which, contrary to the canons, representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate have communion in prayer at meetings referred to as "ecumenical."

The question of the new martyrs also divides us. The Moscow Patriarchate has for many years denied their struggle and even the very fact that persecution has taken place.

If the newly-elected patriarch really desires reunification with us, let him show that he is truly free from the control of the civil authorities, that he cares for Orthodox education of the people with faithfulness to the teachings of the holy fathers concerning the unity of the Church, let him do battle with the propaganda of amorality which is growing in Russia. But as long as he finds it difficult to win the trust of the people because of his former collaboration with the regime, it would be better for him to have the courage and decisiveness within himself to acknowledge that he has compromised himself too grievously to receive the common trust of the faithful children of the Church.

Contrary to the demagogical pronouncements of the new head of the Moscow Patriarchate, we, the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, have not hastened to form our own parishes on the territory of Russia. Yet we dare not ignore the cry of the believing people, who entreat us to receive them into lawful ecclesiastical communion, following the words of the Savior: "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?" (Lk. 11: 11). It is precisely ; in this manner that the schism initiated by Metropolitan Sergius in 1927 is overcome.

In view of the continuing servile subjection of the Moscow Patriarchate to the atheistic regime, its trampling upon the canonical and dogmatic bases of the Orthodox Church, and its refusal to submit to the Truth and to the desires and expectations of the faithful of the Church of Russia, we do not find it possible for us to recognize the appointment of the new head of the Moscow Patriarchate as the conciliar will of the Church of Russia. He and the bishops who submissively "elected" him are accustomed not so much to care for the spreading and strengthening of the faith, as to obedience to the atheistic civil authorities.

Conscious of our personal weaknesses we call upon all, to whom the fate of our Church is dear, to cleanse themselves of all sin, falsehood and evil, so that in deed, and not only in word, we may begin to walk "in newness of life," mindful that one cannot achieve God's will by unworthy means. In this may the Lord help us, through the prayers of the holy new martyrs and all the saints who have shone forth in the Russian land.

+ Metropolitan Vitaly
+Archbishop Anthony of Los Angeles
+Archbishop Anthony of Western America
+Bishop Mark of Berlin and Germany
+Bishop Barnabus of Cannes
+Bishop Hilarion of Manhattan
+Bishop Daniel of Erie
+ Bishop Gregory
14/27 July 1990 New York

From Orthodox Life, vol. 40, No. 4, July-August 1990, pp. 16-25.

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