Archpriest Arkadii V. Makovetskii Articles Canon Law Lives of Bishops Moscow Patriarchate

The Role of Bishop Gregory Grabbe in Establishing Parishes of the Russian Church Abroad in the Canonical Territory of the Moscow Patriarchate (1990–1995)

Bishop Gregory (Grabbe), on the right, with Archimandrite Valentin (Rusantsov, d. 2012). Photo: c. 1990

Bishop Gregory was one of the initiators of the establishment of this parallel church structure in 1990, insisted on the consecration of Archimandrite Valentin (Rusantsov) as bishop, and subsequently became a defender of the notion that these parishes should be granted full autonomy. After the parishes in Russia left the ROCOR, Bishop Gregory became the leading apologist for the resulting church structure.

From the Editor

In the year 1935, when the reconciliation took place in Serbia between Metropolitans Anthony and Evlogii, Yuri Pavlovich Grabbe (later Father George Grabbe, then Bishop Gregory) expressed the idea that since this was their private business,  the two hierarchs could not concelebrate until the ROCOR Bishops’ Council would revoke the suspension of Metropolitan Evlogii. (In fact, thanks to the intervention of Serbian Patriarch Barnabas, concelebration did take place.) From the available evidence, it follows that Fr. George Grabbe fully shared the ecclesiology of Metropolitan Anthony (which needs a separate consideration) but Fr George did not acquire the Metropolitan’s great emphatic love for one’s neighbor and in later years this outlook had an impact on Bishop Gregory’s view of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Here is the immediate historical background of Fr. Arkadii’s article. At the end of 1989, a group of Russian writers published in the newspaper Literaturnaia Rossiia an appeal to the ROCOR first hierarch, Metropolitan Vitaly, suggesting opening in Moscow a dependency (podvor’e) of the Russian Church Abroad. In January of 1990, the bishops considered this proposal at a meeting of the Synod. They decided that the Russian Church Abroad did not have the competence necessary to understand the psychology of Soviet people and, therefore, could not be openly present in Russia. However, during Passion Week of 1990, Archimandrite Valentin (Rusantsov) from Suzdal sent an appeal to Orthodox hierarchs outside the USSR, petitioning the reception of his parish of Sts. Constantine and Helen from the Moscow Patriarchate. The only bishop who responded was the first hierarch of the ROCOR, Metropolitan Vitaly. An appeal to Metropolitan Vitaly was sent on the advice of the Russian religious writer, Zoe A. Krakhmal’nikova. Then, during Holy Week, 1990, His Eminence Metropolitan Vitaly, polled the opinion of the bishops over the phone and received approval for the reception of Fr. Valentin under his omophorion, thus changing the decision of the January Synod. The author of this article was a clergyman of Bishop Valentin. Fr. Arkadii is an associate professor of the St. Theophan the Recluse Seminary in Vladimir (Russian Orthodox Church)  and specializes in the history of the ROCOR parishes in the former Soviet Union.

Deacon Andrei Psarev, Jordanville, NY, 15 July 2020

The issue of the establishment of parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (herein: ROCOR, Russian Church Abroad) on the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Moscow in the 1990s has not yet been the subject of academic research. At the present time, we have only a broad canvass of events and a huge amount of publicity generally lacking in historical weight. 1 The legacy of Bishop Gregory Grabbe has an important role in any investigation of the events of the 1990s. Unfortunately, Bishop Gregory’s name has been used by the leaders of the “Free Church” movement for the purposes of popularizing their organization in the media and serves as a kind of trademark for it. For instance, on October 7, 2005, a conference dedicated to the ten-year anniversary of the Bishop’s repose was held in Suzdal, 2 and biographical materials and fragments from his works of literature are published on a regular basis. 3

The future bishop Gregory (secular name: George Grabbe) (1902–1995) ended up in the Russian diaspora after 1920. After studying at the Faculty of Theology at Belgrade University, he became Head of the Chancellery of the Synod of Bishops of the ROCOR and in 1931 he became Executive Secretary of the Synodal Chancellery. In 1944, he moved to Germany, where he was ordained to the priesthood in 1945. He later moved to the United States along with the head of the ROCOR, Metropolitan Anastassy (Gribanovskii), and in 1960 was promoted to the rank of Protopresbyter. In 1979, he was tonsured a monk with the monastic name Gregory and consecrated Bishop of Washington and Florida. In these years, Bishop Gregory’s role in the ROCOR system of governance was quite significant. Metropolitan Filaret (Voznesenskii), First Hierarch of the ROCOR, did not take a single important decision without consulting Bishop Gregory. Throughout his whole life, Father George (Bishop Gregory) repeatedly defended the canonicity and interests of the Russian Church Abroad, and frequently offered sharp and substantive criticism of the position of the Moscow Patriarchate hierarchy, which denied the persecution of the Church in Russia. 4 When Metropolitan Vitaly (Ustinov) was elected President of the Synod of Bishops, Bishop Gregory lost his position and was forced to retire. Nevertheless, he did not fail to become involved in the ROCOR’s important and tragic decision to establish parallel church structures within the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate.

On May 15, 1990, the Russian Church Abroad adopted a resolution to establish dioceses and parishes of its own on the territory of the Moscow Patriarchate. Bishop Gregory played an active part in this process and was a proponent of the idea of appointing a hierarchy of the Church Abroad in the former Soviet Union as well as a convinced opponent of reunification with the Moscow Patriarchate.

Bishop Gregory’s role can be ascertained from his letters and talks, which for the most part have been published yet have gone without notice. Apart from these sources, this article is based on documents and materials from the fund “Documents of Gregory Grabbe, M0964”, from the Special Collections of Stanford University Library in California and Case File 53/38 (Personal File of Bishop Gregory) in the Archive of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops in New York.

One ought to begin to investigate the matter of Bishop Gregory’s influence by examining the events that preceded the establishment of dioceses and parishes on the territory of the Moscow Patriarchate. When the transformation of the Soviet Union began in the late 1980s, the question of the future of the relationship between the ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate became very popular. At that moment, the possibility of reconciliation and reunification seemed very real to some, and was considered, among other things, in the anonymous report “On the Possibility of Dialogue with the Russian Church Abroad”. However, by that time, Bishop Gregory had already declared that this way forward was not possible for the Church Abroad.

Not long before the ROCOR Synod of Bishops adopted its resolution of May 15, 1990, Bishop Gregory submitted his considerations on the report “On the Possibility of Dialogue with the Russian Church Abroad” to the Synod. In defending the impossibility of dialogue with the church authorities in Moscow, Bishop Gregory emphasized that the Church Abroad was not guilty in anything before the Russian Mother Church. This was the difference between the ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate. Metropolitan Sergius (Stargorodskii) had been appointed by the persecutors of the Church and his church administration had been at a spiritual remove from Patriarch Tikhon and the martyrs who served as his locum tenentes. “Instead of confessors,” Bishop Gregory wrote, “the Patriarchate was led after 1926 by people who canonically ought to have been characterized as ‘fallen’ due to their having submitted themselves to serving the atheistic regime. From the very beginning of Sergianism, Metropolitan Antony compared them with the Libellatici in the ancient Church. Subsequently, their service came to be ever more characterized by a servile attitude towards the anti-Christian regime. These principles, assisted by terror, came to prevail among the church authorities. Repeated attempts were made by the Sergianists to spread these principles to the Church Abroad, but the latter did not give in.” The bishop wrote that, for the ROCOR, consenting would mean forswearing the podvig of Patriarch Tikhon and the New Martyrs, among them Metropolitans Peter (Polianskii), Vladimir (Bogoiavlenskii), Cyril (Smirnov), Benjamin (Kazanskii) and Joseph (Petrovykh).

Bishop Gregory held that the division with Moscow could only be overcome under two conditions: fundamental regime change in Russia, and the Patriarch renouncing Sergianism. However, according to him, this was not possible under the prevailing conditions. “Our Council of Bishops”, Bishop Greogry wrote, “rejected similar overtures from the Moscow Patriarchate two years ago, and the Synod of Bishops ought to be guided by this decision.”

Bishop Gregory thought that initiating dialogue with the Moscow Patriarchate would damage the image of the ROCOR in Russia as well as that of its illegal hierarch in the former USSR: Bishop Lazar (Zhurbenko) of Tambov and Morshansk, whose secret ordination in Moscow in 1982 was ordered by the ROCOR Synod of Bishops. 5

Bishop Gregory’s opinion, which coincided with that of the ROCOR First Hierarch, was taken into account. If at the very beginning of the 1990s many émigré bishops considered a revival of the Russian Orthodox Church to be possible, by May 1990 the majority of them had already adopted a more cautious position, which led to the decision being taken to establish parallel diocesan structures of the Church Abroad within Russia and to the former Soviet Union being declared “mission territory”.

Bishop Gregory continued to ensure that there would be no rapprochement with the Moscow Patriarchate. He regularly informed the Synod of Bishops about events taking place in the Russian dioceses of the ROCOR. For instance, in a report from September 30, 1990, he noted some positive developments in the USSR in terms of changes in church-state relations, but at the same time highlighted the lack of a clear legislative basis to support them: “The printing of the life of the Royal Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth in a newspaper is doubtless a positive phenomenon. But when such allowances are made without their being grounded in law — this is enough to remind us that the USSR is still an ideologically communist state. Gorbachev, too, has repeatedly reminded us of this fact. There is a big difference between the non-application of repressive laws in practice and the full abolition of the same. Gorbachev’s catchphrase, that everything that is not forbidden is allowed, has a purely tactical rather than legislative nature: what is one way today might be another way tomorrow.” The Bishop recalled that there was a historical precedent for this when the post-war cessation of persecution was succeeded by new pressure on the Church. In Bishop Gregory’s view, the changes taking place in Russia were of day-to-day rather than a global nature. The plenipotentiary representatives of the Council for Religious Affairs still played a huge role in church life, and for this reason, the anathemas against the Bolsheviks remained in place.

The Bishop did not change his attitude with respect to the church leadership in Moscow, either, and held that it had not only submitted itself to the God-hating regime but had also fallen into heresy by agreeing to join the World Council of Churches. “Many people are so desirous of reunion with the Moscow Patriarchate,” he wrote, “but even people in the Church sometimes forget about this fact. They also fail to note that the Moscow Patriarchate has altered the dogma on the Church by preaching Protestant doctrine in contradiction with Orthodoxy.” 6

In Bishop Gregory’s opinion, the ROCOR ought not be reconciled to its opponents (the Soviet State and the Moscow Patriarchate), but rather lead a struggle against them: “We have gone from a defensive war against atheism in Russian territory to an offensive one. By force of circumstance, the KGB will also presumably change its tactics. Glory to God, we have a Bishop of our own in Russia who recently emerged from the saving catacombs. Yet if we wish to have a greater number of the saved in Russia by the time the Antichrist comes, we must switch from defensive tactics of fighting evil to more decisive, offensive tactics.” For the sake of the success of the ROCOR’s mission in Russia, Bishop Gregory proposed making it easier for clergymen and laypeople from the Moscow Patriarchate to move to the Russian Church Abroad and also to consecrate Archimandrite Valentin (Rusantsov), who had left the Moscow Patriarchate for the ROCOR, as bishop, despite the fact that he was currently under suspension by his diocesan bishop, Archbishop Valentin (Mishchukov) and by then had only been a member of the ROCOR clergy for less than a year, which made it impossible to be sure of his good character and reliability. 7 As is well known, this consecration did indeed take place shortly thereafter.

Bishop Gregory continued his actions to prevent a rapprochement with Moscow subsequently, too. As is well known, in the early 1990s, the issue of dialogue between representatives of the ROCOR and the Church in Russia became relevant again. The first ROCOR bishop to hold regular discussions with representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate in his diocese was Archbishop [now Metropolitan — trans.] Mark Arndt of Berlin and Germany. 8 This led to discontentment and outrage on the part of Bishop Gregory, who addressed Metropolitan Vitaly (Ustinov) with the question of whether it was permissible for ROCOR bishops and clergy to take part in such events: “Did our Synod or Council ever issue a decree empowering Archbishop Mark or any of our other bishops to meet with representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate or conduct a dialogue with them on behalf of the Church Abroad or even of a particular diocese? I am myself unaware of any such decree.” 9 The question raised by Bishop Gregory was discussed at the autumn session of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops in September 1993, which formally neither approved nor disapproved of Archbishop Mark’s actions. Consequently, negotiations in the ROCOR German Diocese continued.

Another problem involving the ROCOR parishes in Russia concerned conflicts among clergymen. In 1993, the ROCOR Synod of Bishops sent a plenipotentiary representative, Bishop Varnava (Prokofʹev) of Cannes, to Russia, with wide-ranging powers bestowed by the ROCOR First Hierarch. However, Bishop Varnava’s activities in Russia, contrary to the tasks he had been set, greatly damaged the image of the ROCOR. Bishop Gregory, who had been watching events in Russia, reacted immediately by submitting a report to the Synod of Bishops. Bishop Varnava’s violations as noted in the report included: 1) receiving clergymen suspended by Archbishop Lazar (Zhurbenko) and Bishop Mark (Arndt); 2) orchestrating judicial proceedings against clergymen of another diocese; 3) claiming the right to administer all the parishes in Russia in conjunction with disregard for the three ROCOR hierarchs, Archbishop Lazar (Zhurbenko) of Tambov and Morshansk, Bishop Benjamin (Rusalenko) of the Black Sea and Kuban, and Bishop Valentin (Rusantsov) of Suzdal and Vladimir. Finally, Bishop Gregory informed the Synod that, on the eve of his forced departure from Russia, Bishop Varnava “smashed the altar and iconostasis in the church of the Ss. Martha and Mary community with his own hands.” Bishop Gregory deemed the temptation from Bishop Gregory’s actions to be so great and his crimes to be so outrageous that he saw no need to conduct a further investigation: “Bishop Varnava ought to be defrocked, and any further verdict, in this case, ought to be issued by a council.” 10 Having heard Bishop Gregory’s report, the ROCOR Synod of Bishops adopted a resolution to recall its representative from Russia.

However, this did not save the Russian part of the ROCOR from new troubles: in 1994, Archbishop Lazar and Bishop Valentin formed the Temporary Supreme Church Administration as a mode of self-governance for the Russian dioceses. Although the ROCOR took canonical measures against them as a result, Bishop Gregory defended the rights of the separatists. He considered that only Bishop Varnava, and not the Russian bishops, ought to be punished.

Bishop Gregory, while exhorting his fellow bishops not to intervene in the affairs of the Russian episcopate and to allow them to govern their own parishes (of which there were around 100) autonomously, made the following conclusion: “The very first paragraph of the Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia states that ‘[t]he Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is an indissoluble part of the Russian Orthodox Church, and for the time until the atheist regime in Russia is abolished, is self-governing on conciliar principles in accordance with the resolution of the Patriarch, the Most Holy Synod, and the Supreme Church Council [Sobor] of the Russian Church dated 7/20 November 1920, No. 362.’ If we now cause the Russian bishops to desire to break off their administrative connection with the Church Abroad, will our flock outside of Russia not ask us what ‘episcopate of the Russian Church’ we are praying for in our churches? Yet if we remove these words from the litanies, that would simply mean declaring ourselves no longer to be a part of the Church of Russia. Would that not mean setting off on the risky and highly dubious path of autonomous existence, without the blessing of the Patriarch and outside the Russian Church of which we always confessed ourselves to be a part? Would such a step not lead us into schism with the Church Abroad itself and the risk — God forbid! — of forming a sect?” Bishop Gregory thought that the Russian dioceses of the ROCOR ought to be endowed with absolute administrative autonomy. These dioceses and parishes were then meant to become the foundation for a “revived” Russian Church within Russia. 11

Bishop Gregory outlined his ideas in letters to Metropolitan Vitaly and attempted to convince him that the Russian bishops were right. “You and I differ,” he wrote, “on the point that you initially received Vladyka Valentin and his clergy with trust and love (which he recalls with a feeling of gratitude to you), but then, under the influence of the likely agent and provocateur [Archpriest Alexii —trans.] Averʹianov operating through Bishop Varnava, you branded him as a culprit while formally not declaring as much. Despite this, his diocese has grown to encompass up to 100 parishes, which the Synod never took into account, acting as if these parishes did not consist of living Orthodox souls. The parishes under Vladyka Lazar and Vladyka Valentin, despite any hindrances with which they might have met, have not only not fallen apart, but rather have continued to grow without assistance from the Synod for over two years now. Nevertheless, the Synod has continued to treat their founders as if they were culprits, refusing to take up contact with them or to inform them of anything, while not replying to their inquiries or requests or even supplying them with antimensia! During this period — as he complained in a letter to me — Vladyka Valentin received only twelve pieces of cloth [i.e. antimensia]. Though the Synod has remained silent in the face of simultaneous harassment of the Russian bishops by Bishop Varnava and the Moscow Patriarchate, they have been conducting intensive work that we have begun to cut short with unprecedented and utterly undeserved severity, while showing no interest in the consequences for their missionary work and the very existence of the parishes that have joined the ROCOR.” Bishop Gregory thought it natural that the actions of the Synod would soon lead to the ROCOR parishes that had been formed within Russia breaking away.

Bishop Gregory’s stance met with a negative reaction on the part of ROCOR First Hierarch Metropolitan Vitaly, who held that the Russian Church Abroad was the only legitimate Russian ecclesiastical body and that there was no need to form an independent church within Russia. “Vladyka, the main, capital error in your thinking amidst all this confusion,” Metropolitan Vitaly wrote to him, “is that you ascribe the force and significance of a canon to an administrative decree of a temporary nature issued by His Holiness Patriarch Saint [Tikhon]. Over the 70 plus years of our legitimate existence on the basis of this very same decree, we have not been able to find one small group of even two or three bishops in the land of Sovdepia [i.e. an ironic term for the USSR — trans.] that has made use of this Patriarchal decree. It is only to our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia that this form of legitimate existence was providentially granted by God. It is for this reason that we are the sole legal church body for all Russian Orthodox people in Russia and in the diaspora, and there is no other legal authority anywhere else in the whole world. There are no canons that can be brought to bear to justify the rebellion of two bishops and make them into a form of supreme church administration for the Church in Russia.” 12

Metropolitan Vitaly was certain that after some time, the two rebel bishops would ordain several dozen more priests, and then they would all fall out with one another, creating new church structures of their own and justifying this with reference to Decree No. 362. “Bishops Lazar and Valentin have opened wide the doors of anarchy in the governance of the Russian Church,” Metropolitan Vitaly wrote. Their commemoration of the ROCOR First Hierarch at services was not enough to pull the wool over Metropolitan Vitaly’s eyes: “Concerning the two bishops’ desire to pray for me, which you, Vladyko, have turned in your mind into a form of prayerful communion, I shall dare remind you of the words of our outstanding canon lawyer Bishop John of Smolensk. The latter affirmed that commemoration of the name of the metropolitan and bishop in litanies is not so much prayer offered for the health of the metropolitan or bishop, but rather a sign of the hierarchical subordination of a priest and his parish to a particular bishop… Hence it is clear that praying for me and not following my orders is a canonical infelicity.” 13

The situation that had taken shape entailed a complete breaking-off of relations between the Russian bishops and the ROCOR Synod and was recognized by both sides as being abnormal and destructive for the future of the ROCOR’s engagement in Russia. Hoping to bring about a reconciliation, Bishop Gregory made an attempt to justify Archbishop Lazar and Bishop Valentin’s actions: “While accusing the Russian Bishops of illegally forming a Temporary Supreme Church Administration and quoting certain portions of their decree, the Synod’s resolution ignores the entire recriminating motivation of these bishops that forced them to break off administrative relations with the Synod of Bishops in the first place. Their congress was a direct consequence of numerous serious canonical violations on the part of our bishops, including, unfortunately, the First Hierarch himself. Since the Metropolitan and Synod had failed to reply to any inquiries, complaints, or requests addressed to them over the course of almost two years, in May 1993, Archbishop Lazar announced that he would be leaving the administrative jurisdiction of the Synod, and Bishop Valentin was forced to do the same in February of this year.”

Bishop Gregory was forced to concede that the policy of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops for its Russian dioceses had failed. “From the way church affairs have been conducted in Russia,” Bishop Gregory concluded, “it is evident that we in the diaspora have demonstrated our total incapability to make sense of the church situation in Russia, and, what is more, that our own Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia does not make any provisions for our administration of dioceses of the Russian Church within Russia.” 14

Bishop Gregory’s final attempt to reconcile the Synod of Bishops and the Russian bishops Lazar and Valentin consisted in his efforts to devise a canonical basis for the Temporary Supreme Church Administration. In a report to Synod secretary Archbishop Laurus (Škurla), Bishop Gregory wrote: “From the very beginning, I considered sending a representative of our Church to Russia when there were three bishops there, one of whom (Bishop Valentin) was also a member of the Synod of Bishops, to be insulting to the Russian bishops and therefore unnecessary. Bishop Varnava’s appointment as such a representative led only to terrible canonical chaos and served as a temptation for tens of thousands of Orthodox souls. […] Canon law does not know any examples of church life being guided by bishops who come to visit from time to time. It speaks only of a single bishop ruling his diocese unilaterally.” 15

When he did not find sympathy for his endeavors among the First Hierarch and the other members of the Synod of Bishops, the elderly Bishop Gregory traveled to Suzdal in May 1995. There, he took part in services and sessions of the Synod of the Free Russian Orthodox Church (FROC), as the clerics who had departed from the ROCOR had begun to call themselves. During his visit, Bishop Gregory showed support for Bishop Valentin and his supporters among the clergy.

On May 22, 1995, Bishop Gregory gave an interview that was published in the official mouthpiece of the FROC Suzdal diocesan administration, the Suzdal Diocese Bulletin, and in a range of secular media, for example, in the Vladimir newspaper Prizyv and the Suzdal newspaper Vechernii zvon. 16 The bishop stated that, until the calling of the next All-Russian Council, the “Free Church” could exist autonomously, without submission to the ROCOR Synod of Bishops. Bishop Gregory replied to a question about the canonicity of this situation by saying: “You will not be guilty of any sin. At the moment, church life is disorganized everywhere. There is the Moscow Patriarchate, there are the Renovationists and others. The only group in the church that is behaving properly is yours. […] Patriarch Tikhon’s decree is very flexible and very wise. In light of this decree, your situation is correct, and you can found new dioceses and consecrate new bishops.” Concerning the disciplinary measures imposed by the the ROCOR Synod of Bishops on the bishops of the “Free Church”, Bishop Gregory said that they were of no significance since they were instituted by a group of bishops who were themselves guilty of a fair number of violations. Bishop Gregory denied that the “Free Church” could join the Moscow Patriarchate, since the sacraments of the latter, as he asserted, were invalid. 17

In another interview, Bishop Gregory continued this train of thought. In particular, he said that reunification with the Moscow Patriarchate was impossible because “all the bishops in the Moscow Patriarchate have aliases in the Communist Party”. In Bishop Gregory’s opinion, they were all compromised to such a great degree by their involvement with the atheist state that any renunciation of their previous sins could be dangerous for them. In the same interview, he expressed his conviction that the “Free Church” was the future. 18

All these thoughts were expressed by Bishop Gregory in a letter he wrote to Bishop Valentin shortly after returning from Russia to the United States: “Visiting a number of churches and parishes in your diocese patiently showed me how quickly they are being restored under your leadership. Taking part in the Council of Bishops in the presence of several clergymen, I was very glad to see that all those present were of one mind and were joined together by the common aim of reviving the Russian Church within Russia itself, as well as by love and respect for you personally. While answering a great many questions put to me by various people (clergy and laity), I noticed that the question that was most important and worried people above all was that of whether I acknowledge the formation of the Temporary Supreme Church Administration and the newly consecrated bishops to be legitimate. I hope that no one has been left in doubt about my full support for the Temporary Supreme Church Administration and in the fact that I regard all its bishops as my fellow brethren and ministers. Taking into account the number of existing parishes of the Free Church and anticipating that this number will only grow larger in time, I see a future increase in the number of bishops as something desirable. As you know, from the very first days of the Temporary Supreme Church Administration’s existence, I have been an avid supporter of it and a steadfast defender of your stance, since I see your actions as being a direct fulfillment of the wise instructions of Patriarch Saint Tikhon and the entire hierarchy of the Russian Church, as outlined in the canonical Decree No. 362.” 19

Bishop Gregory’s trip to Suzdal, and his statements in support of the Temporary Supreme Church Administration and the subsequent actions of the Russian bishops, especially Bishop Valentin, were investigated at a meeting of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops on September 5-7, 1995. Initially, it was resolved to suspend Bishop Gregory for concelebrating with the suspended bishop Valentin and for his statements in direct contradiction with the Synod’s stance concerning the “Free Church”. On the final day of its session, however, the Synod adopted a resolution to confine itself to issuing him a stern reprimand.

“Your name was on the agenda at the last meeting of the Synod of Bishops (September 5-7 N.S.),” reads Metropolitan Vitaly’s letter to Bishop Gregory. “According to all the information we have received (for a bishop, even in retirement, is a highly visible figure subject to public scrutiny from all quarters), you were in full prayerful communion with the suspended Bishop Valentin while in Suzdal. The Synod of Bishops cannot accept this state of affairs. Its first recommendation was to suspend you from your ministry. However, due to your extreme infirmity, you are no longer able to serve. Thus, the Synod, taking a generous view of your infirmities, both visible and invisible, requested that I write this letter to you. As one aware of your past accomplishments, I would like you to take my letter as a stern reprimand on account of your foolish actions that do not in any way fit with your general character. I have also resolved to make a suggestion to you since I have known you for over thirty years as one of the most excellent thinkers and defenders of our church. That said, I am firmly convinced that you are a deductive thinker. It is precisely this quality that has helped you to defend our Church precisely and incisively from any and all attacks against Her. Yet in situations where it is necessary to use one’s intuition—which in the modern world is considered by nearly all outstanding authors to be the most genuine source of knowledge and understanding—you have on two occasions made mistakes. The most recent of these was the lawless assembly that you founded under Bishop Valentin.” 20

This letter was the last in Bishop Gregory’s correspondence with the Synod of Bishops and the First Hierarch; on October 7, 1995, Bishop Gregory passed away at the age of 93.

Bishop Gregory Grabbe’s role in the process of establishing and organizing parishes of the Church Abroad within the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate is thus as follows. The Bishop was one of the initiators of the idea of establishing parishes in the former Soviet Union in 1990. It was none other than Bishop Gregory who insisted it was necessary to consecrate Archimandrite Valentin (Rusantsov) as bishop. Apart from this, Bishop Gregory presented his thoughts on the matter to the Synod of Bishops, which could not help but pay heed to the opinion of one of the most senior ROCOR clergymen. Bishop Gregory used his authority and experience to defend the status of the ROCOR bishops in Russia, and after the departure of the same from the ROCOR, to defend that of the “Free Russian Orthodox Church”. By visiting Suzdal in person and involving himself in the governance of this church structure, Bishop Gregory showed his support for this group, which enabled it to retain the majority of its parishes for the time being. Attention ought to be paid to the fact that Bishop Gregory’s support for the ROCOR bishops in Russia and his reference to Patriarch Tikhon’s Decree No. 362 were uncanonical acts that made it impossible for Bishop Gregory to remain part of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops. Bishop Gregory’s arguments as an apologist for the legitimacy of the Temporary Supreme Church Administration in Suzdal with reference to Decree No. 362 cannot be accepted as substantive, because the situation described in the Decree is fundamentally different from the conditions under which the ROCOR parishes were established and organized in Russia in the 1990s. By repeatedly quoting Bishop Gregory’s statements on the issue of the ROCOR parishes in Russia over a period of many years between 1990 and 2007, the leaders of the “Free Church” were able to lead their flock astray and maintain the illusion that canonical succession between the ROCOR Synod of Bishops and its former Russian dioceses had been preserved.


Grabbe, G., Protopresbyter. O zarubezhnom tserkovnom zakonodatel’stve [On the Ecclesiastical Legislation of the Church Abroad]. New York, 1964.

Grabbe, G., Protopresbyter. Pravda o Russkoi Tserkvi na rodine i za rubezhom (po povodu knigi S. V. Troitskogo «O nepravde Karlovatskogo raskola») [The Truth About the Russian Church in Russia (On S. V. Troitskii’s Book ‘On the Injustice of the Karlovtsy Schism]. New York, 1989.

Grabbe, Gregory, Bp. Doklady Arkhiereiskomu Soboru, Sinodu i Pervoierarkham Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi Zagranitsei [Reports to the Council of Bishops, Synod, and First Hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad]. Moscow, 1999.

Grabbe, Gregory, Bp. K istorii russkikh tserkovnykh razdelenii zagranitsei [On the History of the Divisions in the Russian Church Abroad]. Jordanville, 1992.

Grabbe, Gregory, Bp. Russkaia Tserkov’ pered litsom gospodstvuiushchego zla. [The Russian Church in the Face of the Triumph of Evil]. Jordanville, 1991.

Grabbe, Gregory, Bp. Zavet Sviatogo Patriarkha [The Holy Patriarch’s Testament]. Moscow, 1996.

Grabbe, Yu. Tserkov’ i gosudarstvo v budushchei Rossii [Church and State in the Russia of the Future]. Belgrade, 1931.


  1. For documents concerning the situation surrounding the establishment of ROCOR parishes in Russia, see: Decision of the Temporary Supreme Church Administration of the Russian Orthodox Church, March 1/14, 1995, in: Tserkovnostʹ 3 (1995), pp. 1–3; Resolution of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops on the Case of Bishop Valentin and his Group, Tserkovnaia Zhiznʹ [Church Life], 1996 (5-6), pp. 6-8.

    For publicity directed against the establishment of ROCOR parishes, cf., e.g.: Appeal by His Grace Bishop Evlogii of Vladimir and Suzdal to the Former Children of the Russian Church who are in Schism in the So-called “Church Abroad”, in: Prizyv, August 14, 1993; “O raskole v Suzdale” [On the Suzdal Schism], in: Prizyv, May 15, 1994; “Tserkovʹ dlia Valentina (Rusantsova) (k voprosu ob istorii «Suzdalʹskogo raskola»” [“A Church for Valentin (Rusanstov) (On the History of the ‘Suzdal Schism’)”], in: Pravoslavnyi Suzdal [Orthodox Suzdal] 3 (13) (200), pp. 7-8; “Vozvrashchenie na krugi svoia?” [“Coming around full circle?”], in: Prizyv, July 7, 1994.

    For publicity in defense of the ROCOR, see: “Dni, kotorye potriasli Moskovskuyu Patriarkhiiu. Suzdalʹskaia Khronika” [“The Days that Shook the Moscow Patriarchate. A Suzdal Chronicle”], in: Suzdalʹskii Palomnik 8 (1991), pp. 13-18; Appeal of the Bishops of the FROC to the Children of the Free Russian Orthodox Church,  Suzdalʹskii Palomnik 10 (1991), pp. 1-3; “Pole brani — chelovecheskoe serdtse” [“Our Battlefield is the Human Heart”], Prizyv, March 30, 1993; Encyclical of the Russian Bishops to their God-loving Flock in Russia and the Diaspora, Tserkovnostʹ 3 (1995), pp. 5-7; “Rossiia glazami grafa” [“Russia as Seen Through the Eyes of a Count”], Prizyv, June 9, 1995.

  2. “V Suzdale proshla nauchno-tserkovnaia konferentsiia pamiati Preosviashchennogo Episkopa Grigoriia (Grabbe)” [“Conference in Suzdal in Memory of His Grace Bishop Gregory Grabbe”], in: Suzdal’skie eparkhial’nye vedomosti [Suzdal Diocese Bulletin] 22 (2005–6, special issue), p. 13.
  3. “Zhiznennyi putʹ Preosviashchennogo Episkopa Grigoriia (Grabbe)” [“The Life History of Hi Grace Bishop Gregory Grabbe”], Borʹba za Rossiiu [“The Fight for Russia”], Proesviashchennyi episkop Grigorii i Rossiiskaia Svobodnaia Tserkovʹ [“His Grace Bishop Gregory and the Free Russian Church”], ibid., S. 19-32.
  4. Cf., e.g.: Grabbe, G., Protopresbyter. O zarubezhnom tserkovnom zakonodatel’stve [On the Ecclesiastical Legislation of the Church Abroad]. New York, 1964; Grabbe, G., Protopresbyter. Pravda o Russkoi Tserkvi na rodine i za rubezhom (po povodu knigi S. V. Troitskogo «O nepravde Karlovatskogo raskola») [The Truth About the Russian Church in Russia (On S. V. Troitskii’s Book ‘On the Injustice of the Karlovtsy Schism]. New York, 1989; Grabbe, Yu. Tserkov’ i gosudarstvo v budushchei Rossii [Church and State in the Russia of the Future]. Belgrade, 1931; Grabbe, Gregory, Bp. K istorii russkikh tserkovnykh razdelenii zagranitsei [On the History of the Divisions in the Russian Church Abroad]. Jordanville, 1992; Grabbe, Gregory, Bp. Russkaia Tserkov’ pered litsom gospodstvuiushchego zla. [The Russian Church in the Face of the Triumph of Evil]. Jordanville, 1991; Grabbe, Gregory, Bp. Zavet Sviatogo Patriarkha [The Holy Patriarch’s Testament]. Moscow, 1996.
  5. Report to the ROCOR Synod of Bishops of March 7/20, 1989 (Concerning the Memo ‘On the Possibility of Dialogue with the Russian Church Abroad’), in: Grabbe, Gregory, Bp. Doklady Arkhiereiskomu Soboru, Sinodu i Pervoierarkham Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi Zagranitsei [Reports to the Council of Bishops, Synod, and First Hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad], Moscow, 1999, pp. 61-64.
  6. Report to the ROCOR Synod of Bishops Concerning the Situation of the Church During “Perestroika” in the USSR, ibid., p. 66-7.
  7. Cf.: Report to the ROCOR Synod of Bishops Concerning the Actions of the Church Abroad in Russia, September 17/30, 1990, ibid., p. 70.
  8. Cf.: Artemov, Nikolai, Archpriest. “Sobesedovaniia predstavitelei klira dvukh germanskikh eparkhii (MP i RPTsZ) 1993-1997 gg. kak nachalo vosstanovleniia edinstva Russkoi Tserkvi” [“Conversations between Representatives of the Clergy of the two German Dioceses (MP and ROCOR from in 1993-1997) as the Beginning of the Process of Reunification of the Russian Church”], in: XVIII Ezhegodnaia bogoslovskaia konferentsiia PSTGU: Materialy [STOUH Annual Theological Conference: Materials], in 2 Vols. Moscow, 2008, Vol. 1, pp. 302-24.
  9. Report to Metropolitan Vitaly, President of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops, Concerning the Matter of Rapprochement with the Moscow Patriarchate, July 17/30, 1993, in: Grabbe, Doklady, p. 72.
  10. Report to Metropolitan Vitaly, President of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops, On the Case of Bishop Varnava, September 17/30, 1993, ibid., p. 74.
  11. Report to the ROCOR Synod of Bishops on the Organization of Church Life in Russia, February 9/22, 1994, ibid., p. 76-80.
  12. Grabbe, Gregory, Bp. Letter to Metropolitan Vitaly of May 30, 1994. Archive of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops, Case 53/38, Case File of Bishop Gregory Grabbe.
  13. Ustinov, Vitaly, Metropolitan. Letter to Bishop Gregory of May 31, 1994. Ibid.
  14. Memo to Metropolitan Vitaly, President of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops, On the Formation of a Temporary Supreme Church Administration in Russia, March 30/April 12, 1994. Grabbe, Doklady, pp. 81-2.
  15. Report to ROCOR Synod Secretary Archbishop Laurus, On Draft Statutes for a Representation of the ROCOR in Russia, June 21/July 4, 1994, ibid., p. 83.
  16. Cf. Prizyv, May 24, 1995; Vechernii zvon, May 30, 1995.
  17. “Preosviashchennyi episkop Grigorii (Grabbe) v Suzdale 3/16 maia — 11/24 maia 1995 g.” [“His Grace Bishop Gregory Grabbe in Suzdal from May 3/16–11/24, 1995”, in: Suzdal’skie eparkhial’nye vedomosti [Suzdal Diocese Bulletin] 22 (October 2005 – March 2006), pp. 33-5.
  18. Ibid., p. 35.
  19. Grabbe, Gregory, Bp. Letter to Bishop Valetin Rusantsov of May 23/June 5, 1995. Documents of Gregory Grabbe, Stanford University Special Collections, No. M0964.
  20. Ustinov, Vitaly, Metropolitan. Letter to Bishop Gregory of September 4, 1995. Archive of the ROCOR Synod of Bishops, Case 53/38, Case File of Bishop Gregory Grabbe.

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