уторак, 22. септембар 2015.

The Unity of the True Orthodox

September 6/19 2015                                                               To the Holy Synod of
Commemoration of the Miracles                                    The Russian True Orthodox Church
 of the Holy Archangel Michael

Our Common Duty:
The Unity of the True Orthodox in Truth and Love

By this all will know that you are my disciples:
if you have love for one another.
John 13:35

Your Eminence, Your Graces, Most Honored Brother Hierarchs in the Lord!

Please allow the least and youngest of Your brothers to address You with this humble letter of plea for the unity of true Orthodox Christians.

One of the greatest blessings of our work in the vineyard of the Serbian Church in these difficult times has been the true brotherly love, understanding, and support that we have experienced from Your Hierarchs, Holy Synod and the entire Russian True Orthodox Church.  Your concern for our fragile Serbian True Orthodox Church is a great comfort to us, and we pray to continue in communal growth and unity in the Holy Faith in which the Lord has called us to be fellow fighters.

In the spirit of openness and brotherly trust which has always existed between us, we would like to begin an exchange of reflections on the direction we should take for the unity of the True Orthodox Churches.

As You know, the Holy Fathers warn us of two great dangers which can separate us from the Church:  heresy and schism.  In our times, the great majority of the historical Orthodox Churches, or to be more exact, the institutions and their followers, have fallen into the heresy – or, rather, pan-heresy - of ecumenism, most likely the greatest heresy of all time.  Meanwhile, within the small minority of True Orthodox remaining, numberless schisms have appeared.  Thus many who would seek refuge in the True Church and who sincerely desire to abandon the ruins of “World Orthodoxy,” can only be scandalized and confused, and ask, “where is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”?

A pure confession of faith is absolutely necessary for someone to be in the Church, but it is not enough.

Just as we strive to confess the faith, so at the same time and with the same fervor should we strive to be in communion with those who share our confession.  Just as we should be the champions of True Orthodoxy, so should we be champions for the unity of the Church.  We must never be satisfied with such a state of affairs as this in which those who confess the Orthodox faith are nonetheless ecclesiastically separated and cannot commune of the Holy Mysteries of Christ together.

In light of the great need for the unity of the True Orthodox, we would like to ask You to reconsider two of Your recent statements:

1.       The statement of December 11, 2014, in which You categorize the union of the former “Synod in Resistance” with the Church of the True Orthodox of Greece as the fall of the Greek TOC into the heresy of crypto-ecumenism or “Cyprianism,


2.       The announcement of August 11, 2015 of the reception of Greek clergy “temporarily under the omophorion of the Hierarchical Synod of the RTOC until the establishment of a hierarchy of the True Orthodox Church of Greece” with the intention of the RTOC establishing an episcopacy of the Greek TOC, on account of the fact, as it states in the announcement, “that the current hierarchy has departed from an unsullied Orthodox confession of faith which is the result of a union with the Greek Synod in Resistance.”

Of course, we share Your concern about “Cyprianism” and are wary of the direction which the Greek TOC has taken in entering into this union.  Be assured that we are on guard, like allied firefighters, who after the wildfire (Cyprianism) has been extinguished, keep vigil over the ashes from which in some places sometimes appears some smoke.  The Greek TOC, however, until now has not in any way demonstrated a fall into heresy, and we believe that it is inappropriate to qualify them as apostates or heretics.  There is no reason to pronounce such a severe and final condemnation, which declares, “they are finished, they are outside the Church.”

            In order to eliminate any doubts about the Orthodox confession of the Greek TOC after the union of March 2015, we consider it needful to address a representative of the Synod of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece, most likely Bishop Photios, the secretary of their Synod, directly and personally, in order to clarify the situation by asking him  questions to which we wish to know the answer, and to become acquainted with his synod’s point of view.  Too often in the history of the battle of the True Orthodox, over the last few decades, there was no attempt to establish honest communication and mutual understanding among hierarchs who, as it became apparent later, did not differ in matters of faith. This mistrust, this coldness in relationships and lack of a fiery desire for our brother’s salvation, this lack of Christian love, have led to various schisms which have sorrowed and destroyed many souls.

            In any case this would be an opportunity to begin a dialogue about the resolution of problems which the Greek TOC created with their hasty and unconsidered reception of Metropolitan Agathangel into communion, which was a rough interference into the unresolved internal problems of the Russian Church. 
            We know very well that Your and our experiences with the Synod of the Greek TOC were often difficult, but in spite of this we are still called to struggle for the unity of the Church and to show true Christian love, long-suffering and forgiveness, which implies the leaving aside of all personal motivations and feelings so that we can dispassionately fulfill God’s will.
            It is very likely that there is no hierarch in the world at this moment with whom it would be more difficult for us Serbian bishops to renew dialogue than with Archbishop Kallinikos and his Synod.  Nonetheless, we honestly believe that this is what we are called to do.  If the judgment that they have fallen into heresy is not correct, if they have in fact made “Cyprianism” a thing of the past, and if they have brought into process the formation of a large, united True Orthodox community, including the sizable and ecclesiologically very strict Romanian Old Calendar Church, then we have the obligation to begin a dialogue with them with the goal of the establishment of normal church relations.  Not to do this would be the same as opposing Christ Who summons us to unity, Who said to His disciples, “By this all will know that you are my disciples: if you have love for one another.”

            What then should be done?  Your holy Synod can make an announcement that, despite the reasons for which you look critically upon the union of the Greek TOC and the Synod in Resistance, upon the petition of your brother Serbian True Orthodox Church, you will temporarily withdraw your two announcements in expectation of further research and discussion.  We, the Serbian hierarchs, are ready to participate in a common session of our two sister Churches in order to examine the entire problem and form a shared position about these matters.  Then together we can address the bishops of the Greek TOC, explaining to them our concern and seeking that they clarify their position on these questions.  If we do not begin this and carry it through, if we do not give them the chance to make themselves clear, then we become “judge, jury and executioner,” which corresponds neither to our actual position in this matter, nor to the way in which great and holy Fathers dealt with such situations in the past.

            If we honestly examine the history of the Russian Church Abroad, we will notice that our fathers in the faith, from whom we have our apostolic succession, including St. Philaret, never published on a synodal level such a clear and thorough condemnation of ecumenism  as that of the ecclesiological statement of the Greek TOC in March 2014.   They never declared that any of the “World Orthodox” jurisdictions were “without grace.” They never formally ceased communion with anyone except the Moscow Patriarchate, the North American Metropolia (now the OCA), and the Evlogians.  They never could agree on what the Anathema of 1983 actually meant, whom it refers to, and whether it was in their power to apply it to anyone outside of their own flock.  All the affirmations that the Anathema of 1983 was of world-wide significance were personal opinions of individuals, none of which was a hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad. 

            Yet this is the very Church which consecrated Archbishop Lazarus, who, as it is known, in regards to the validity of the Moscow Patriarchate’s and other ecumenists’ holy mysteries had a stance very similar to “Cyprianism.”  The Russian Church Abroad from which the hierarchy of the RTOC was born was in communion with the Cyprianites for nearly a decade.  Only in the Church-Laity Sobor of 2008 in Odessa was a clear stance against Cyprianism defined. 

            You have grown in your understanding of the real state of affairs in World Orthodoxy, and now have decided to take a stricter position about it.  When your bishops Dionysius and Ireneus left you, it was for this very reason, that you had changed your position about the holy mysteries in “World Orthodoxy.”  Not all True Orthodox came to this strict understanding at the same speed, but rather gradually, as God enlightened them.  If my True Orthodox Synod arrives at a strict position about these questions before another True Orthodox Synod, does that make us “The Church” and all the rest “schismatics and heretics”?  Do they have to make repentance to us, even if we until only recently shared those same positions? 

            It is a similar matter with Metropolitan Agathangel, who justified his separation from the other Russian hierarchs because of their anti-Cyprianism, which he declared a sick extremism that devastated the church.  The “Agathangel Synod” jurisdiction is built on these Cyprianist doctrines.  Nevertheless, the union of March 2014 enrolled Metropolitan Agathangel, despite all of his shortcomings, into the ranks of those who took a stand on the firmly Orthodox foundations of the Ecclesiological statement of March 2014, which indirectly meant a clear rejection of the Cyprianite teachings.

            This is not a matter of disagreement about the dogmatic teaching of the Church that heretics are outside of Her and that the mysteries of those outside the Church are not salvific.  Rather, it is a disagreement about the application of this teaching in our situation.  In the attempt to make a basis for the manner in which this teaching should be applied, the Cyprianites went astray into a dogmatic error in that they asserted that they know that the grace of God remains with public and unrepentant heretics until they are anathematized by some special body, a so-called “unifying council.”  Those who hold to such a teaching will in the end come to the conclusion that no single heretic has ever been excommunicated by the Church.  It turns out that no one is a heretic if he was not excommunicated by the Church first!  However, the Church excommunicates heretics because they have a heretical confession;  She does not “create” heretics by excommunicating them!  They have abandoned such a stance, as can be clearly seen by the Ecclesiological Statement of March 2014, which states that the Church does not assert that the mysteries of the heretics have grace.  The Greek TOC bishops who received them into communion decided for the sake of the unity of the Church not to seek from them a public repentance for heresy, accepting their explanation that these theories had never been accepted as dogmas, but were rather like some kind of experimental attempt to deal with these complicated theological questions.  If the former bishops of the Synod in Resistance were insincere when they said this, then let the sin be on their souls.  The Greek TOC condescendingly chose to accept their explanation, even though they were the ones who had suffered the most in the misfortunes created by these dogmatic errors and the schism of the reposed Metropolitan Cyprian.  As they realized that the flock of the Synod in Resistance has a great respect towards Metropolitan Cyprian, and that his posthumous anathematization would needlessly drive these people away from uniting to the Church, they decided to cover his errors with their mercy.

            Instead of reproving the hierarchs of the Greek TOC for their action, would it not be better to talk with them about it, aware of the fact that we ourselves have for many years fought to understand these things and come to our own ecclesiology, and that we as well have only with much difficulty applied this ecclesiology in our own pastoral situations.  The dogmatic error of Cyprianism asserts that they know that grace is present among the heretics, and that heretics will have the grace of God until the end of time unless they are condemned by some imaginary organ, a so-called “unifying council.”  The position of our fathers from the Russian Church Abroad, on the other hand, was that they did not yet know whether the Official Orthodox were outside the Church, in that situation which reigned in the twentieth century, and that they did not make so bold as to make a ruling about it. 

            Thus, if we, in our situation, several decades later, have to confirm publicly who is within and who is without the Church, let us do this with fear and trembling, always having in mind the unity of the Church.  The Church of the TOC of Greece and the True Orthodox jurisdictions who are in communion with her are discussing the holding of a general council of all True Orthodox to resolve the problem of the practical application of the church teaching that “outside the Church there is no salvation” to the ecumenists. Should we not support them in this endeavor?  Should we not also wish to be a part of this council? 

 Our wish, furthermore, is that the Russian Church consolidate and strengthen herself by means of the union of your Holy Synod with the Synods of Metropolitan Agathangel and Metropolitan Theodore of Suzdal.  You are three related parts of the Russian Church, who today preserve an identical confession of faith and even have the same sources of apostolic succession.  Love and zeal for the unity of the Church can heal all the previous wounds and bring the Russian Church closer to the glorious, lofty place it always occupied among the family of Orthodox Churches. 

            We beg you to forgive our boldness, venerable Fathers and beloved Brothers in Christ, Hierarchs of the Russian TOC, and that you receive our words in the spirit of brotherly love in Christ, the same in which they have been written.

                                                                                                +Bishop Akakije of Uteshiteljevo
                                                                                    President of the Holy Hierarchal Council
                                                                                       of the Serbian True Orthodox Church

                                                                                    +Bishop Nektarije of Shumadia

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