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Essay on the Position of the Russian Exarchate of the Ecumenical Jurisdiction

Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Fr. Vasily Zenkovsky, Metropolitan Seraphim (Lade) of Berlin, Fr. George Benigsen, Fr. Dimitri Gisetti. At the conference of the Russian Christian Student Movement Berchtesgaden (Munich area), 1949. Source: Archpriest A. Schmeman, Dnevniki [Journals]
Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Fr. Vasily Zenkovsky, Metropolitan Seraphim (Lade) of Berlin, Fr. George Benigsen, Fr. Dimitri Gisetti. At the conference of the Russian Christian Student Movement Berchtesgaden (Munich area), 1949. Source: Archpriest A. Schmeman, Dnevniki [Journals] (Moscow, 2005)

Some of the points of this canon law discussion still carry valid arguments in contemporary ecclesiastical reality.

From the Editor

Fr. Mikhail Polsky’s article is an important link in the remarkable postwar discussion regarding what canonical structure in the Russian diaspora corresponds more with Orthodox teology. The discussion began with the publication of Archpriest Mikhail Polsky’s book “Kanonicheskoe polozhenie vysshei therkovnnoi vlasti v SSSR I zagranitsei” [The Canonical Positon of the Supreme Church Authority in the USSR and Abroad].  Priest Alexander Schmemann discusses the section of the book devoted to the canonical position of the Russian Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Western Europe in his article “Church and Church Structure: Regarding Archpriest Polsky’s Book ‘The Canonical Position of the Supreme Church Authority in the USSR and Abroad’ .” This article by Fr. Mikhail is a response to this publication by Fr. Alexander.

In 1929 Father Mikhail escaped from the Soviet prison on Solovetsky Archipelago. He selflessly served the Russian Church in Palestine, Europe, and the United States. (See, for example, Sophia V. Goodman “Fr. Michael Would Open This Bag and Say: ‘Fill, Fill, Fill!’ ”  ) His defense of the rights of the Russian Church against interference by “the Throne with the primacy of honor” deserves attention. However, when Fr Mikhail defends the canonicity of the Church Abroad he does not take into account the canonically unprecedented nature of the condition of the Russian Church, both in the homeland and in dispersion in the post-revolutionary period. Also, when he interprets the 34th Apostolic Canon, [1]It behooves the Bishops of every nation to know the one among them who is the premier or chief, and to recognize him as their head, and to refrain from doing anything superfluous without his advice … Continue reading which is one of the fundamental ones, Fr Mikhail apparently follows the interpretation of Bishop Nikodim (Milosh) uncritically, while the word “ethnous” in the given context denotes “people” rather than “ethnicity” in contemporary understanding. St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite interprets this in the same way in the Pedalion. Thus it seems wise to agree with the retorts to Fr. Mikhail regarding the territorial principle dominating over his opponent’s national one by a likewise remarkable Christian writer – Fr. Alexander Schmemann. It is apparent from a temporal perspective that all who are faithful to our Mother the Russian Church could have existed in the framework of temporary autonomy without any pretensions of centralized power over other metropolitanates. Likewise, history did not support Fr. Mikhail’s assessment that the Moscow Patriarchate episcopate became like those fallen during the persecutions of Christians in the first three centuries.

The publication of Fr. Mikhail’s work becomes topical today when the future of the Russian Exarchate in Western Europe is being decided once again. It is noteworthy that it follows from the article that its submission to the Constantinople Patriarchate was regarded as a temporary measure. The discussion between Fathers Mikhail and Alexander comes to a conclusion with the latter’s response entitled “Epilogue.” 

Deacon Andrei Psarev,
February 18, 2019

A New Arrangement

The Russian diocese in Western Europe, now called the Exarchate of the Ecumenical (Constantinople) Patriarch, is made up of old and new refugee parishes and churches, and had been within the Russian Church until 1931, when it submitted to the Patriarchate. The Supreme Church Authority, which was formed in 1919 in Southern Russia in connection with the Civil War and the separation of segments of diocese of the Church’s center appointed on October 2, 1920 Archbishop Evlogii as Temporary Ruler of the Russian churches in Western Europe. On March 26, 1921 the Patriarchal Synod in Moscow announced in its ruling that it regards him in this position “due to the decisions of the Supreme Church Authority Abroad that have taken place.” These churches had previously been under the authority of the Metropolitan of Petrograd.  And on January 30, 1922 the same Synod elevated Evlogii to Metropolitan with the following words, by the way: “Noting (…) your high position as head of the Western European Russian Churches.” Internal division, rivalry, and mutual struggle have splintered our forces to no purpose.

With the shutting down of the Supreme Church Authority Abroad in May of 1922 the Moscow Patriarchate assigned temporary direction of Russian parishes abroad to Metropolitan Evlogii (Decree 438 of May 5, 1922), who had been a member of this body abroad from its inception here.

Metropolitan Evlogii, with the assent of all the hierarchs, decisively declined (announcement of August 5, 1922) to rule all of churches abroad and joined the newly organized Bishops’ Synod. However, the basic idea of this decree regarding the change in the organization of the church governance abroad remained unchanged equally for all hierarchs. The part of the Russian Church that was abroad could be only in the jurisdiction of the Russian Church and would unchangeably remain so, and the appointment of Metropolitan Evlogii from the Russian Church center simply confirmed this. Metropolitan Evlogii did not think otherwise.

On December 7, 1917, the All-Russian Local Council divided all of the dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church into five groups from which diocesan hierarchs would be called upon to join the Holy Synod, and the fifth group included the North American Diocese, along with the Japanese, Chinese, and Urmian missions.  In this way, representatives from dioceses and missions from outside Russia participated in the Supreme Church Authority on an equal footing with all the dioceses, without any distinction from them. And there was never any problem of the Russian Church transferring its churches abroad to anyone else – to the Church of Constantinople, for example.

The Patriarch of Constantinople, upon establishing his exarchate in Western Europe on April 5, 1922, with the see of Metropolitan Germanos of Thyateria, made official proclamations in March and April of 1923 and in June of 1924 that the metropolitan of the Western European Russian Churches was uncanonical and had no right to rule over these churches, and also asserted that the Russian Churches could not have under its submission any churches outside the borders of its nation, and that all of its missions in all countries (in Japan, America, and other places) must submit themselves to this Patriarchate.

In 1923 and 1924 His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon protested the violation of the Russian Church’s rights in Finland and Poland, while the representatives of the Russian Churches Abroad – the Synod of Russian Bishops – challenged these claims of the Patriarchate in Europe. And Metropolitan Evlogii, along with the Bishops’ Synod, rejected these claims, and in 1926 (in a May 18 letter to Metropolitan Dionizy) wrote “This is an act of interference of the Patriarch of Constantinople in the internal matters of the Autocephalous Russian Church.”

Thus, the whole structure of the Church and its submission to canonical power totally excluded the possibility for any diocese to leave the jurisdiction of its Russian Church, and such a departure could appear to be only arbitrariness or lawlessness, a schismatically separate action, and a violation of church unity in one’s own Church. Finally, the confirmation of these rights was received by the subsoviet Patriarchate in 1927 (Decree 93).

That is how it was in essence. As a result of various bids for his rights [2]Protoierei M. Polskii, Kanonicheskoe polozhenie vysshei therkovnoi vlasti v SSSR i zagranitsei. Dzhordanvil’. 1948. p. 132-155. (Archpriest M. Polsky, The Canonical Position of the Supreme Church … Continue reading Metropolitan Evlogii, on June 16/29, 1926, broke off demonstratively with the Bishops’ Council Abroad, placing himself under its suspension. For a year he and his diocese existed as autocephaly, without anyone at its head, announcing their special rights which he had rejected four years before. Finally, confirmation of these rights was received from the subsoviet Patriarchate in 1927 (Decree 93 of July 14), and his entire governance abroad extended no further than his previous diocese, until, finally, due to his disobedience to Bolshevik directives, transmitted through the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Evlogii was denied the right to rule (June 30, 1930) and banned from serving (December 24, 1930).

The correct path of the Bishops’ Council Abroad and the Synod, which had maintained self-rule and independence from the straitened Moscow Patriarchate was proved once again. But Metropolitan Evlogii didn’t return to it but fled also from the Russian Church, saving himself from what was now two prohibitions by Church authorities, whom he had recognized himself and to whom he submitted voluntarily.

And so, one willfully left his Church, while another, the Patriarch of Constantinople, (decree of February 18, 1931) accepted one who had been banned without giving it a second thought and despite various Church canons (188; Canons of the Apostles 12, 38; First Ecumenical Council 1; Antioch 6).

In this way Metropolitan Evlogii himself, in whose person the rights of the Russian Church Abroad were established, betrayed his views and the ruling of our all-Russian Church authority and the principles of the All-Russian Church Council of 1917 regarding the Russian Church Abroad and in 1931 went under the Constantinople Patriarchate. The Russian diocese took the name of the Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarch (the title of the Patriarch of Constantinople). The Bishops’ Synod remained faithful to the Russian Church and defenders of its inheritance abroad.

However, it turned out that this obvious willfulness did not end the lawlessness. Both sides, that of Metropolitan Evlogii and of the Patriarch of Constantinople, formally and officially declared in 1931 that the departure of the diocese from the Russian Church was temporary. This was proved when Metropolitan Evlogii, having taken the mirage of the Russian Church’s freedom for reality, returned to the Moscow Patriarchate and was accepted by it on September 11, 1945. And since he had not asked the Patriarch of Constantinople permission for this he remained in two jurisdictions, Moscow and Constantinople, simultaneously for a year until his death in August of 1946, and as exarch of both Churches.

Further on, as it tried to unwind this tangle of delusions, the diocesan meeting of the Western European Exarchate held on October 17, 1946 decided to prevent a repetition of the previous error and went further in defining its position, this time turning unreservedly to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch. And the latter, referring to the diocese’s direct dependence upon him, said nothing about it being temporary in his letter of March 6, 1947. The meaning of this silence regarding the form of submission was obvious, but was concealed from the flock by the diocesan authorities. And only recently did the new Diocesan Assembly, held from September 29 to October 5, 1949, definitely state that it rejects the temporary and confirms the diocese’s permanent presence in the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and, in an attempt to base in principle its new rights, calls upon other churches and jurisdictions to follow its example.

In this way, the diocese which had split off from the Russian Church after Metropolitan Evlogii’s death started defending, in the person of its representatives, its position not as temporary and accidental, but as permanent, and took upon itself the mission to assert the legality of the new rights of the Constantinople Patriarchate that were previously unheard of and recognized by no one.

In this way, the error of Metropolitan Evlogii’s departure from the Bishops’ Synod Abroad brought about a series of new intensified errors, but he still didn’t depart himself from the modest position of the temporary situation in the Constantinople Patriarchate until his death, and at the same time didn’t disavow the rights of the Russian Church upon its segment abroad without discussing the claims of the Constantinople Patriarchate, which was taken up by his successors as diocesan leaders, fundamentally changing the diocese’s previous position and digging a deeper chasm between the Russian church orientations that had been in conflict outside Russia.

Calling a situation permanent means recognizing given circumstances as being totally normal. Permanency is the principled basing of a new order as legitimate, and in this case, the inclusion of the solution of the issue of the mutual relationship of local churches into the competence and rights of a diocese.  Calling a situation temporary implies recognition of still being within the Russian Church, while calling it permanent implies leaving it.

 In this way, the diocese based itself on entirely new grounds, which fundamentally contradicted even the position of Metropolitan Evlogii, who, in spite of his arbitrariness, could still envision its limits.

The diocese ratified this position of complete union with the Church of Constantinople forever by the highest authority of its 1949 Diocesan Assembly, in its Message by a whole series of declarations made by the Diocesan Assembly, and in articles by its ideologues in Tserkovnyi Vestnik, the Exarchate’s official organ, and in the Slovo Tserkvi newspaper. This was in accordance with the announced power over all of the churches of the diaspora that had not yet been recognized by the other local churches.

But, however, this position of the diocese cannot be regarded as the last one, either. A significant article entitled “The Canonical Position of the Exarchate and the Message of the Diocesan Assembly of 1949” appeared recently in Tserkovnyi Vestnik quite unexpectedly. It definitely states on behalf of the diocese, although in the words of one of its priests, that “we are continuing to be part of the Local Russian Church only temporarily (this word is underlined in the article), due to the particularly complex canonical and political situation of being subject to the Ecumenical Patriarch” (p. 13). And this is being announced, as we will see, after categorical assertions that there cannot be any parts of the local churches abroad and that we should stop thinking of the temporary situation of dioceses abroad. The article now has the need to prove assiduously that “the present exarchate is precisely the same one that existed under Metropolitan Evlogii as well” (p. 15). As for the “Message” of 1949, “It must be admitted here that certain expressions in this Message aren’t very apt,” says Father cautiously.

In the expectation of what is now the latest official explanation of the diocese’s new zigzag, we must examine those bases of the position advanced by the diocesan representatives in the last period and clear up that muddle and those contradictions and untruths that point to the uncanonical position of the latter as well.

The message of the Diocesan Assembly of September 29/October 5, 1949

The Message speaks of the evil of church divisions. Having mentioned “Orthodox of various ethnicities who hardly ever associate with each other it speaks of “mutual enmity” when bishops and priests lay claim to the same flock, “we exhaust our forces not only on fighting each other, but in fruitless doubling and tripling of parishes and church institutions.” This calamity is eliminated “by unity of the holy hierarchy and church governance, if not in the entire universe then in each place where the Church exists.”

Thus, if the issue is, first of all, the healing of our Russian internal division and multiple authorities in our Church Abroad we need to restore first of all unity among us Russians.  For the Church Abroad got started with this internal unity in 1920. Then we had the unity of the holy hierarchy and governance for the portion of the Russian Church that was abroad and was cut off from its central government in the person of the common Bishops’ Council and Synod. And this continued until 1926 when Metropolitan Evlogii left the Bishops’ Council and “the unity of the holy hierarchy and church governance” and from that time “claims to the same flock and the doubling of parishes” began. This is an indisputable historical fact.

The Russian diocese, having broken unity among the brotherly union of bishops and their dioceses, zealously preaches unity to the Church Abroad, which, according to its own design of shared episcopal authority, is an internal unity that is so wide-ranging and necessary for us. “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?” (Rom. 2:21), we can ask the diocese.

Having said that a bishop rules his region over people, “although they are made up of various nationalities and languages,” the Message, however, allows that “he might deem fit to establish for the common good within the bounds of his diocese special parishes, deaneries, or vicariates, for the Orthodox of various nationalities. This would not disrupt the Church’s good management, as long as common agreement and unified authority are observed. Multiple authority, i.e. rule by several bishops, over a single region is condemned by God and the Church.

However, we might say, if we recognize the Western European region in the supreme jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate, it still cannot be “within the limits of its diocese” according to the same law of two national exarchates, the Greek and Russian one, that are independent from each other. A Russian should definitely be vicar to a Greek diocesan hierarch and be subject to him. Otherwise, we have here that multiple authority which the Message condemns so much.

If multiple authority in the presence of the national division of parishes and dioceses in one region doesn’t “disrupt the Church’s good management as long as the common agreement is observed,” then supreme jurisdiction over this region is possible not only for just the Constantinople Patriarchate but for a few churches as well. But international multiple authority “is condemned by God and the Church,” since it is not at all opposed to “common agreement” but is inner-national, which is based on disagreement, at it is for us Russians.  This distinction must be made.

However, the governance of a diocese seeks not our Russian church unity but external union under a common jurisdiction by a single authority of another Church. An illness must be treated in its root from which it began and where it nestles until now. Who caused division and multiple authority? The Western European Diocese should, first of all, restore internal unity between us Russians and the unity of the hierarchy and governance, from which it was the first to walk away.

It is not difficult to see that the diocesan authority does not distinguish missionary regions and local churches, and, if we connect “agreement” with “single authority” it is wrong to apply the principle of this local territorial single authority everywhere. Holding on to the law, “as to a blind wall” the authority does not wish to envision the law’s essence just in agreement, in this basis of true unity, independently from an administrative single authority, since agreement and unity assume the agreement of equals, rather than of those under submission to others.

How does the Diocesan Assembly conceive of this single Authority?

“God Himself ordained that one of the supreme hierarchs enjoy primacy in the entire Church Catholic,” the Message goes on, “and that there should be the authority of one bishop, deputy to his Son on earth, in any region or city, along with a single presbyterate in unanimous concord with all Orthodox, even if it may be made up of people of various nationalities and languages.”

Thus, only one hierarch enjoys primacy in the entire universal Church, and then bishops in any region or city…, but where are the primary bishops of any nation? According to the 34th Apostolic Canon, “It behooves the Bishops of every nation to know the one among them who is the premier or chief, and to recognize him as their head” and jointly, in unanimity, to rule the Church according to the image of the Holy Trinity and to its glory.  Thus, “God Himself ordained” precisely an autocephalous and self-governing Church in any nation, and the Ecumenical Patriarch is also ordained by God to be the head of only his nation and his local Church, being equal to all the others as a brother, albeit the eldest among brothers, who are first hierarchs in their churches. But here it turns out that the entire universe is the Ecumenical Patriarch’s territory, and that regions and cities are headed by his diocesan hierarchs. It turns out that all find themselves in the Ecumenical Church, while the concept of Local Churches and their rights is eliminated – there’s no sign of them.

So why is such a large gap as the self-headship of Local churches made between bishops of regions and cities and the Ecumenical Patriarch? And wasn’t it for camouflage that they suddenly called all diocesan hierarchs Christ’s deputies? Don’t get the idea, they must be thinking, that we’re latinizing, that we skipped over the bishops of local churches and left just the him who is first in the universe.

Let us hasten further along to clarify the ideas of the diocesan authorities. What is the practical measure of unity which it proposes? “Let us all unite,” the Message says, “into a single Church in the countries to which God has led us and our brothers. Let us make every effort toward forming a single Western European Orthodox Church (…) let us eliminate the actual reason for the quarrel, which is division according to church styles…we are calling everyone (to unite) who lives with us in the same countries (…) making our filial request of His Holiness the Patriarch of Constantinople to bless our undertakings.”

The representatives of the Russian Diocese go on to explain their understanding of the Constantinople Patriarchate’s authority.  They turn to him only because “The Ecumenical Throne is responsible for the care of all church matters that cannot be conducted by the resources of other local churches. This power belong to the Ecumenical Throne not because it is of Constantinople or of Greece, but because he has primacy in the Universal Church.”

“Power belongs because he has primacy” (…) The concept of primacy includes the concept of power. What has long been rejected by the Orthodox in papal claims is being repeated here. This is juggling of concepts. Power and primacy are different concepts.

Our reproach to the ideologues of the exarchate isn’t evidence of slander. An article issued by its leaders ([3] “Slovo Tserkvi”, Russkaia Mysl’, no. 219, February 1950. ) notes that a Latin magazine ([4]Rossiia i Khristianskii mir”, no. 3-4, 1949. ) is establishing a connection between “the Roman Catholic concept of unity” and the concept of “the role of the Patriarch of Constantinople in the Ecumenical Church” (this implies a recognition of primacy and power) discovered by the Russian exarchate. Although in its response, the article rejects the ”leaning toward papism” in the Exarchate, it asserts that if such an understanding of “the ancient idea of primacy brings us closer with certain Catholic circles, we can only thank God for this.”

It only remains to us to make a reminder of the fact it was precisely “the ancient idea of primacy” that forced the Orthodox Ecumenical Church to reject the Pope’s attempts to establish his power in the Ecumenical Church under the guise of this primacy, which no one denied him.

Where does the Ecumenical Patriarch get such power, which is included in his primacy, that he can even act without the consent of those with the special cycle of church matters which cannot be handled with the aid of other local churches? If he is not just of Constantinople and Greece there is yet a particular ecumenical church where his power is exercised. So where is this ecumenical church?

Well, simply the Ecumenical Throne, having power only in Constantinople and Greece, relying on its primacy, started managing those institutions of Local Churches that were outside their borders even without their consent, and the Paris Exarchate affirms and justifies such a secret and arbitrary course of action, trampling upon the principle of conciliarity and strengthening the power of one patriarch at the expense of the rights of the other ones who are his equals. There is no basis for this anywhere, while the papist understanding of primacy violates the canonical structure of the Church and introduces the heresy of papal absolute power.

The strange and surprising request made to only His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch to “bless the undertakings” of the diocese and the establishment of a new international church demonstrate that the diocese does not recognize the rights of any other Church, including his own Russian one, as they don’t exist and never will anywhere in the word! Even the newspaper ([5]Russkaia Mysl’”, November 30, 1949. ), which loyally follows the Exarchate, found it necessary to add with hindsight that “such a fundamental modification of church structure in Western Europe (…) depends not upon us but upon the agreement of all autocephalous Churches, especially those that have their dispersions on the territories of Western Europe.” The diocesan administration did not let this sentence drop.

The issue of the impossibility of the Russian Church having any properties abroad was already completely resolved by the Paris Exarchate, and they will no longer ask the Russian Church. The Diocesan Assembly, made up of clergy and laity, determined the will not only of the Russian Church but of the Ecumenical Church as well. “Blessed is the day,” the Message continues, “when we will all be able to return to liberated Russia and join the Church of our land.  But we must not forget that while being currently in exile, by God’s will we no longer find ourselves bound by it, and we live in totally different conditions, which places particular tasks of church structure before us.”

The Message states, “It is apparent that many Orthodox will remain in Western Europe even if there’s a possibility of returning home (…), and we must think not only of our homeland and its Church but about the establishment of Orthodoxy in the West… we ought to labor, following the example of the apostles and the equals to the apostles who have glorified the Russian church as well, in order to spread Orthodoxy in the West. But is this possible when we are divided and obsessed by fighting each other?”

Considering, along with us, the Church Abroad of Russian settlers as a mission, the diocesan administration leads us to unity under the Patriarch of Constantinople. But if a certain portion of settlers returns to our homeland the schism must be eliminated by the decision of the free Russian Church. Russian parishes abroad have always been in their own jurisdiction as missions, so why would they need the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate in the future? The missionary right belongs not to the Church of Constantinople but to all of them. Being in it, the diocese has to receive aid from the YMCA, but there will be no need for this in Russia. Genuine internal unity is possible for us now as well by the diocese’s decision to return from the Constantinople Church Abroad into the Russian Church Abroad. It is at the very least pointless to offer this method of unifying in Western Europe to the latter when its parishes and dioceses are in various countries. Isolated provincial tasks which have in mind only its self-assertion of the uncanonical existence of this diocese does not correspond at all with the latter’s founding principles. And finally, the Constantinople jurisdiction doesn’t have what it takes to remove the internal schism of a few sovietized churches, inspired abroad by Bolshevik agents.

Fighting for the unity of the holy hierarchy in each country, region, and city and persuading us at the same time that each of us will always be able to serve our homeland in pan-Orthodox unity as well the diocese wishes to create a church, not of a certain nation (according to Apostolic Canon 34) but a new international one.

This situation witnesses, in a way that calls for crying out, that the given missionary region in Western Europe hasn’t matured at all for the development of such a single Church here (the Message doesn’t specify whether it would be local, autocephalous, or of a single Greek Exarchate) which would have its homeland here and would not be thinking, because of its makeup, of another homeland and church, about which the Message is speaking. You cannot place as a cornerstone what is merely the unification of all in one territory for the unification of such a makeup into one international church under one head, neither for the Church’s benefit nor for the observance of the sense of canons.

The church of any nation knows a first bishop (34th Ap. Canon), has single leadership, and only, for this reason, does any territory of any ethnic group have single leadership. For instance, the Austro-Hungarian territory has in the past had as many Orthodox single leaderships as ethnic groups. This was not multiple leadership causing harm to church unity. Single leadership which is without ethnic unity, and in addition is on the territory of a missionary region without its own local church, doesn’t signify unanimity, agreement, and a Church’s well order, since no one here will have kinship ties with his single leadership which is seen as foreign and is totally incapable of satisfying the needs of churches. Total agreement without any clash of interests and contradictions is possible here with single leadership in each national church, and only without multiple leadership in it. This is the main point that the canons have in mind, always assuming a single nationality in a single territory, in any case, one that is in the majority and having primacy from the beginning.

The Message categorically condemns those who wish to divide God’s Church according to ethnic groups, even if they live in one and the same country, or, even worse, according to political orientations or any kind of personal opinions. “Whoever submits the Church to ethnic considerations sins greatly.”

But, first of all, “physician, heal thyself.’ In its report to the Diocesan Assembly ([6] Tserkovnyi Vestnik no, 21. 49. p. 11. ) the administration regards the diocese’s canonical situation “not totally perfect, since we are only the Russian Exarchate, coexisting with other Orthodox entities on the same territory of Western Europe.” And another article says that “Our existence as the Russian exarchate, which is parallel to the Greek one, likewise is also being currently defined by ethnicity” It turns out that the diocese itself sins greatly, submitting the Church to ethnic considerations, and does so with total awareness.

However, we repeat again that canons relating to the structure of local churches cannot be applied to missionary regions abroad. Here, according to the instructions of Church practice, “the Church divides according to ethnic groups” administratively for the success of Christ’s work.

In everything else everything ethnic submits to the Church, which transforms the moral character, the whole way of life, and the actual civil powers of the nation (for example, from pagan to Christian). There is no person and no Christian who doesn’t belong to a known ethnic group, and there is no sphere for Christian life or activity other than in it. Using the words of a certain writer, the Church has and must have free creative and transformative participation in the entire fullness of life of its people, including its public, social, and cultural elements, and in world history through its people. A Christian of any ethnic group must be against both a pagan unchurchlike nationalism and ascetical disdain for national origin on the part of some churchmen (see Prof. A. N. Kartashov’s articles in [7] Pravoslsavnaia Mysl’, no. 6, p. 48; Put’, no. 44, p. 34. ). Only through his people, his national Church, his diocese, and his parish is each Christian a member and builder of the Universal Church.

Thus the reproach for dividing the Church according to ethnic groups or for submitting the Church to ethnic considerations in the sense of administrative delimiting of national parishes and dioceses in missionary countries that do not yet have their own autocephalous local churches for local ethnic groups makes no sense. But settlers in missionary parishes haven’t lost their nationality and haven’t assimilated into the local population to the extent of forming a single one ethnic group with them, nor has the local population yet accepted Orthodoxy in sufficient numbers to make up a single Orthodox Church here. Members of the Russian Church Abroad remain Russian for the most part under special circumstances, feeling duty-bound toward their Mother Church. With the same aims of saving its own people, the church leadership of any nation (“the bishops of any nation”) belongs to its nationality, has an organic link with it, and directly guides it. For this reason, the parallel coexistence of the Greek and Russian dioceses in Western Europe, which seems imperfect and even sinful to our captives of Constantinople’s theories and their errors, is absolutely necessary before a Local Church is developed here, while the supreme leadership of the Patriarch of Constantinople is totally unnecessary for the same reason. Why the territory of Western Europe isn’t the territory of Constantinople’s local church, and only its Church Abroad exists here. Why is it better for the Russian diocese to be in the Greek Church Abroad than in the Russian one?

But “The farther you go into the woods the more logs there are” [Russian proverb]. “Opponents of church unity sometimes refer to the temporary nature abroad,” the Message goes on to say. So who are these opponents of church unity? The principle of unity lies at the basis of the Bishops’ Council Abroad, which professes the “temporary situation” of the Russian Church Abroad, but it was precisely the Western European Diocese which in 1926 broke off from the first six years of unity within this Church and from being under the Council’s authority, and which is now professing administrative separation from the part of the Russian church that is abroad in order to unite with another Church. The part of the Russian Church that is abroad cannot allow this betrayal of its foundations, which are rooted in all of its rulings, and casts it into the lot of the diocese which has the boldness of calling others opponents of church unity for this.

The rationale for establishing a church outside Russia permanently in the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople in view of the fact that “a third generation is already growing here” and “many Orthodox will remain outside Russia even should there be a possibility of returning to the homeland” is also without any merit. No circumstances increase our rights and authority to such a degree as to decide questions regarding permanent establishment indefinitely. The  world situation does not allow us to argue, in spite of what is obvious, about the permanent establishment of anything and to speak in these circumstances about its permanent establishment, or to assume that Russia is finished and it won’t exist, that the voice of the

Russian Church is not needed to arrange matters in its segment abroad, as the Constantinople Patriarchate supposes.

The Church and its Structure

The September 1949 Diocesan Assembly was preceded and followed by articles of a certain author, elaborating the viewpoint of the Message by the Exarchate’s diocesan administration regarding its canonical situation. [8]Priest A. Schmemann, Tserkovnyi Vestnik, no. 14, 15, 17 “The Church and Church Structure: Regarding the book by Archpriest Polsky The Canonical Position of the Supreme Church Authority in the … Continue reading

For instance, the article asks, “What can be the meaning of the part of the Local Russian Church that is abroad? For it is apparent that a local church is first of all delimited by its place and cannot have parts outside of it” (…) “a contradictory word combination since the canons know only the borders of churches and nothing about churches outside them.” (pp. 19, 17)  Of course, we cannot assume that only the Church of Constantinople has borders, for it, according to Chalcedon 28, had only three regions beyond its boundaries, leaving the others to other churches.

And the meaning of the “word combination” is likewise clear from the “Temporary Situation” of 1935, edited by Metropolitan Evlogii, which says that “The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which consists of dioceses, spiritual missions, and churches which are found beyond Russia’s borders, is an indissoluble part of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is temporarily subsiding on an autonomous basis.” Besides their boundaries Churches also have missions beyond them that are under them administratively as parts of the same Church.

But the article asserts that “The Church Abroad can hardly be placed on the same footing with a mission, which by its very nature is an establishment that is either temporary or limited by a specific task (p. 19). The Church Abroad is a temporary institution, although it was not created specifically to “preach Christianity” to the heterodox, as were originally all Russian Orthodox missions, and has a specific task to “minister to Russians” the same way as this article understands missions, following the precedent of the Jerusalem Mission. Thus the Church Abroad can only “be placed on the same footing with a mission.”

However, according to the article’s concepts, “What is most important is that we cannot make use of phenomena that were themselves results of the relaxation of canonical consciousness for a canonical grounding of our viewpoint”…  According to this sentence churches abroad must not exist just as the “synodal structure” of the Russian Church, which Metropolitan Antonii opposed, must not exist. However, he organized the Church Abroad viewing this matter in a completely different way. The right of Churches to establish missions, parishes, and dioceses outside their countries “appears to us” the article asserts, “absolutely incompatible with age-old universal Church Tradition, with that basic principle of church structure which is organically connected with the dogmatic essence of the Church itself.” (p. 18) The author has in mind the Church’s local unity which was supposedly violated by the jurisdiction of churches outside their boundaries in missionary regions. Such a concept of Church Tradition, structure, and the teaching on unity was until now only in the Papist Church, which had appropriated the universe, i.e. jurisdiction over the entire world. So whose Orthodox canonical consciousness has been relaxed?

The article seemingly reasonably affirms that “giving bishops titles according to the place of their appointment has deep significance,” that “a bishop’s power, his jurisdiction, cannot be removed from his territorial Church,” that “a bishop cannot have any jurisdiction beyond the boundaries of his diocese, and thus the hierarchs who had retained the titles of their dioceses for years, in spite of their sees having been filled in Russia, only emphasized their uncanonical situation” (17,19) However, it seems to us that the Ecumenical Patriarch himself understands this matter differently, giving his Greek exarch Germanos in London the title of the apocalyptic Church of Thyateria, to Kassian, Rector of the Paris Institute, the title of Bishop of Catania, and to John, Rector of the church in Florence the title of Bishop of Messina. This is why “taking into account those who opened the book of canons“(19) we affirm that bishops of actually existing churches which haven’t broken away from them, “in view of their enslavement by the Russian lawless,” retain “everything that is characteristic of a bishop to create and perform, and may any act of leadership coming from them be affirmed as solid and legitimate” (6th Ecum. Council, 37).  If their flock here is in Canada, Australia, or other places and gets a new name according to the new place, it still does not cease belonging to the Church Abroad in the same manner as the American and other foreign dioceses and missions of the Russian Church always existed.  Again, it makes more sense for a Russian bishop to have the title “of Australia” than, for example, “of Catania,” since it is given according to the place where the Russian bishop lives and ministers to a Russian flock, although the mission here, using the words of the article, hasn’t been “completed by the establishment of a new Local Church” (19), which is based on the local ethnicity.

If the Exarchate representatives are “seeking the norms of church structure” at a time when “the representatives of the Council’s jurisdiction are seeking precedents than can in one way or another give it a canonical basis” [9] Tserkovnyi vestnik, no. 2-23, pp. 10, 13. , it means that he former regard the current situation of the Church as normal, while the latter see it as unusual and extraordinary. The latter defend the rights of refugees during persecution and likewise distinguish the norms of local churches from the church structure of missionary regions and churches abroad. And the former deny both the rights of refugees and the distinctions of the new structure, and speak very briefly (in seven pages out of 23) of the Church Abroad in the cited article. Misunderstandings will grow from such a position by those who polemicize. When they pose the question, they not only do not solve it but complicate it even more. They write that “in America something like six or seven Orthodox bishops of various nations and national jurisdictions rule over the same territory, which is against the basic canon that says that in one city and in one territory (diocese) there can be only one ruling bishop standing before God’s Church, i.e. on behalf of all Orthodox Christians living in that region who make up “one body and one spirit,” and “are called to one hope and for whom there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” [10] Tserkovnyi vestnik, no. 10, 1948, p. 9. . Now the question arises, who was the first violator of this principle here in America, where there had been one bishop of the Russian jurisdiction for all the Orthodox? The first bishop to arrive here was the appointee of the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1918, when the theory about his universal jurisdiction didn’t even exist, and he came here without any claims of ruling over anyone except Greeks. We must assume that he thought that this wasn’t a territory of a local church, in which he wouldn’t have dared appear that way, but was a missionary region. [11]The Russian Church cooperated with the formation of other national missions from its jurisdiction. In 1922 His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon gave permission to Patriarch Gregory of Antioch to take Syrian … Continue reading He never professed the theory of his future exarchate regarding one bishop in one territory of a missionary region at the expense of its ethnic groups, because his practice and experience told him something different, and, of course, he did not think that the different ethnic leadership of churches could harm the one spirit, one hope, one faith, one baptism. Those to whom the leadership was foreign could have harmed something sooner. And when there will be one ethnicity here there will be one native commemoration.

Even more curious is the reasoning of the Exarchate’s ideologues ‘The basis of Orthodox church structure lies not in autocephaly but in precisely the territorial principle, with one bishop heading one church in one place, with his unity and uniqueness manifesting and fulfilling the unity of the people of God, in whom there is no Greek nor Jew but new creation in Christ” [12] Tserkovnyu vestnik, no. 5, pp. 5-26, 1950. .

We on our part categorically affirm that the basis of the Orthodox Church structure lies in Apostolic Canon 34, which has in mind not only the diocesan bishop, or a single bishop heading a single church in one place, but those in organic unity around the main bishop, so that neither they without him, neither he without them, can rule the entire church of a known nation. This way they make up a single, independent, self-ruling entity precisely in such a union – a Church coming into the Ecumenical Church or other Churches with the same rights. This may be either a self-ruling (autocephalous) metropolitanate or patriarchate, but the primary unity of bishops of a known ethnic group with the rights of self-heading and self-rule is the basis of church unity, and it is namely this first internal unity of bishops and a self-ruling church that is likened in Canon 34 to the Holy Trinity’s unity. This way, this primary, basic, and conciliar unity of bishops amongst each other must be there at any cost, and it is indicated in any nation and provides a basis for further and loftier unity of the Ecumenical Church and the Ecumenical Council.

What do we see in the Exarchists’ sentence? The conception of their thoughts is the same as in the Message. Only the diocesan bishops are in their places, and so the Ecumenical Patriarch is first among them, but he’s universal, not local, and thanks to the “local principle” all Greeks and Jews, all ethnic groups get blended into one universal church under one head, not under the Pope of Rome but under the Patriarch of Constantinople. And all proofs of the Exarchists amount to this. The “local principle” as such is totally unconnected with the principle of autocephality. “Autocephality is not ontological to the Church but to its historical order” and “in the Ecumenical Church local churches have various merits and definite ranks,” and, finally, “in the twenty-first century it (the Church) can equally become autocephalous or a diocese of a  universal patriarchate with its center in Rome, Constantinople, Moscow, or somewhere else, and all of these changes in its status regarding the structure of the Universal Church will change nothing, and in its ontological fullness, as God’s Church, remaining in its place in integral universality.” [13] Tserkovnyi vestnik, no. 5, 1950. .

The Exarchists suppose that if the national principle instead of the local one is used to structure the Church, “The Orthodox Church in such a case is a federation, a simple union of national churches, whose interactions are analogous to relations between sovereign nations, i.e. on the principle of non-interference in each other’s matters, defense of one’s own rights, etc.” [14]Tserkov’ i tserkovnoe ustroistvo,” p. 18. . “The one universal Church does not fall apart into separate parts and is not a federation of independent units, but a living organism based upon the adherence of its members to Christ.” (9, 14)

It’s a curious fact that the Patriarch of Constantinople is not at all afraid of the word “federation” with respect to the Church. In the interview with the Ecumenical Patriarch which appeared in [15] Tserkovnyi vestnik (no. 3, 1932, p. 13) the Patriarch said, “We never dreamt of refusing primacy of honor to the Bishop of Rome.  But the Pope of Rome doesn’t want primacy of honor and seeks to rule the Church, and to rule it absolutely. Instead of a federal system, he wants absolute centralization.” Rendering the views of the same patriarch from the Greek, [16] Tserkovnyi vestnik no. 16, 1949, p. 8 informs us that “Autocephaly is also usually given in connection with national development of Christian ethnic groups. Thus, over the past decades, the Ecumenical Throne granted autocephaly to the Serbian, Greek, Romanian, Albanian, and Bulgarian Churches. This took place each time in connection with the national independence of these ethnic groups.

This way such an organization of the Church not only doesn’t prevent the Church from being a living organism but is actually conducive to it. It is to the canons that the concepts of non-interference, rights, etc., belong, which the Exarchist rejects with such disdain because unity of faith and graceful association brings together all Church members based on equality of rights, national individuality, administrative organization, and independence. But to reject the organization (of non-interference and rights) for the sake of the organism is absurd. [17]The structure of the Message was explained further, probably by one of its authors. (See Slovo Tserkvi [a Word From the Church], Russkaiia Mysl’, no. 219, February 1950, “Rossiia i Khristianskii … Continue reading

Here is how the matter stands with the question of autocephaly. One can have autocephaly and lose it in accordance with circumstances of life (a decrease or increase in the number of sees, the condition of a peoples’ civil independence or its loss, the dividing up of territory and all else), but the primary unity of diocesan bishops, giving them the right of self-heading and self-rule (autocephaly) is the basic law of arranging the Orthodox Ecumenical Church, making each Church its member with independence and equal rights, representing itself and not being represented by any other Church.  This is the sort of “federal system” that the Constantinople Patriarchate has in mind.

The Church was organized according to Apostolic Canon 34 over the first millennium, and it rejected the “absolute centralization” claims of the Roman popes in the eleventh century. It completes the second millennium with the same structure as the first centuries. With poetic fantasy dreamers about another order in the twenty-first century are not going, of course, with the Orthodox Church, since the whole essence of conciliarity is already destroyed by “absolute centralization,” which has turned the entire papist church into a “diocese of one universal patriarch centered in Rome” long ago, and turned diocesan hierarchs into vicars under him, a structure which the Russian Exarchate won’t be accepted, since it is already in a corresponding situation. [18]The attempt of the Patriarch of Constantinople to appropriate, independently of the veracity of his behavior, purely external authority and even a special dogmatic and canonical position in the … Continue reading

This theory evidently reflects the diocese’s position, finding itself in the Ecumenical Church, having dropped out of the local one. The Ecumenical Patriarch “guarantees its inclusion in the ecumenical church organism” (21), according to them, as if before then all of the churches abroad, belonging to their churches, were excluded from this organism. Therefore it turned out, according to this theory, that there is only a diocesan hierarch and the Ecumenical Patriarch, and that autocephalous churches aren’t needed in principle. Therefore the conciliar unity of bishops is omitted and therefore what is recommended is not internal unity between Russian bishops but external unity under the jurisdiction of another church which alone doesn’t have borders. This false uncanonical situation has created a false theory which, as we have seen, doesn’t even correspond in everything to the theory and practice of the diocese’s lofty patron, the Ecumenical Patriarchate. From this it is apparent logically, and even without logic, looking just at facts, that the diocese’s connection with its leadership is lifeless, nominal, and fictional, and that the genuine leadership and jurisdiction over the diocese is currently in the hands of its Theological Institute in Paris, and even that, is seems, is with the predominant influence of that generation which could have been churched only abroad, and already in the days of the diocese’s break off from the Russian Church. A period of twenty to twenty-five years is sufficient to raise such a generation to modify the aims and paths of our beloved Russian Diocese. It needs to stop in time.

The diocese’s ideologues wish to separate with seeming reasonableness the canonical situation from the content of church life and not to determine the canonicity of one or another task and holy mission (pp. 23-24). But if “faithfulness to the Russian Church is this content” by their definition, then unity, this essence of church structure, is preserved only by the faithfulness of each member of the Church (1 Cor. 4:2, 2 Tim. 2:2). Those who are faithful to their Church in precisely such a form are faithful to the Ecumenical one as well. Such “Karlovci mentality” definitely contradicts the mentality of the world’s citizens, for whom faithfulness to their home church gets put on the back burner along with the loss of its territory. For them territory is the greatest principle, even where there is no local church, for a special Ecumenical Church is found here, and there is an Ecumenical jurisdiction and a special Ecumenical mentality. We have to make these deductions in order to show the absurdity of the basic position of the former diocese of the Russian Church, and we have no thought of accusing the members of the diocese of denationalization. We will say even more – the more the diocese occupies itself with Russian matters, the farther it gets from its canonical leadership, which either doesn’t understand Russian church matters or cannot interfere in them, or is hampered by the political orientation of its nation and is neutral toward the Russian Church’s truth, thus making its leadership over the Russian diocese fruitless, formal, and totally accidental, because it isn’t even on its territory

How would the feeling of undivided unity with the life of the Russian Church, faithfulness to it, and the freedom of acting for its benefit have been possible in the Church Abroad if its top church authority would have submitted to the highest jurisdiction of the Constantinople Church, at least from the times of its presence on its territory until now? The Russian Church Abroad would have approved the renovationists with total moral indifference and would have demanded the Patriarch’s removal and the elimination of the patriarchate in spite of the will of the Russian Church. Or else it would have bolstered Sergii and Alexii on the patriarchal thrones to the benefit of the same Bolsheviks and, finally, would have given up all of its missions, parishes, and dioceses into the power of the Constantinople Patriarchate in spite of its will and all history, and with the same indifference to the truth and the interests of its Mother Church. The entire senselessness and, even more, the entire disgrace of such a path are obvious. And the mission of the Russian Church Abroad demands that canonical order which it has legitimately.

The Exarchate really does live “on two planes which are essentially diverse.” Its canonical situation contradicts the content of its church life. Would it not be better if its canonical situation defined, directed, and characterized the content of its church life, but, unfortunately, it hampers it and has a harmful effect upon it. Here is the evidence: “We do not take upon ourselves,” they write on the diocese’s behalf, “the mission of representation to the catacomb Church and the role of future judges of the Moscow hierarchy, and this is because, in our opinion, our position authorizes us to do so.”

Such a comment can come first of all from those who refused to be part of the Russian Church and the rights of the Russian diocese, and are in a foreign jurisdiction. But of course, of no little significance is the secret awareness that after two contacts with the Moscow Patriarchate (in 1927 and 1945), of what right of judgment over it can we speak, when we should ourselves become defendants? Why did those who were free need compromises with the enslaved? And the protest movement against the Moscow Patriarchate (clandestine Christians or the “catacomb” Church), which delights the Church Abroad so much, is simply undesirable to those who were themselves in compromise with this Patriarchate.

Perhaps a few minor comments of this kind remain which we should attribute to errors and misunderstandings and which seem honest to us. We cannot say this about other polemics.

Untrue Words

The report to the Diocesan Assembly entitled “On the Canonical Situation of the Exarchate” (Tserkovniy vestnik, no. 21, 1949, pp. 2-20) amazes us with its falsifications.

“How did our diocese arise?” the speaker asks. “Totally differently,” it turns out, “from the Supreme Church Authority Outside Russia and the Bishops’ Synod. “On October 2, 1920, the totally legitimate Supreme Church Authority in Southern Russia appointed Metropolitan Evlogii as head of all the parishes in Western Europe. On March 26, 1921, the Patriarchal Synod confirmed this appointment. But the Patriarchal Synod confirmed it precisely  “in view of the ruling by the Supreme Church Authority Abroad without distinguishing it at all from the Southern, and for it these authorities were totally the same, at least because in both cases Metropolitan Antonii was the head. Metropolitan Evlogii himself, recognizing the first authority, was part of the second one abroad until 1926. However, it is already good that the first, namely Crimean, Authority is recognized as canonical, for the speaker of the previous Diocesan Assembly of 1946 to this days regards the Crimean Authority as uncanonical and a violator of both “primacy with the Stavropol Council” of 1919 and the “area and sphere of activity” it established [19] Russko-Amerikanskii Pravoslavnyj Vestnik, June 1949, p. 91. , so that because of this and of Metropolitan Evlogii’s appointment to Western Europe his action of going outside his sphere is illegitimate. And the author of the brochure “Tserkov’ i ieio ustroenie” feels even that the fact that “canonicity was being removed from the Supreme Church Authority in Southern Russia” (p. 17) was a “real tragedy for Orthodoxy,” which was a total failure to realize that the disconnection from the church center in Russia itself and the self-rule that it organized was not only one of the reasons for the appearance of the Patriarch’s Decree of November 7/20, 1920, but was also a sufficiently legitimate canonical basis of the organization of the self-rule of similar dioceses abroad that were disconnected from the Russian Church center. Diocesan commentators of history and canons ought to come to an understanding among themselves regarding a canonical basis for their diocese.

It gets more curious further on. “November 1921 was the second notable date of our diocese,” says the speaker. “Metropolitan Evlogii, along with 33 other members of the Karlovci Council, refused to sign an inappropriate monarchist declaration by the Council and demanded the removal of the actual discussion from the Council’s agenda.” Only it should have been added to this that out of four bishops who protested against this was no other than Metropolitan Anastasii (then an archbishop, as was Metropolitan Evlogii). But the Council minutes say something very different than the speaker. “On the order of the voting procedure, Archbishop Evlogii indicated that the appeal contains two ideas, about monarchy and dynasty. We all agreed on the first idea, since it was introduced in an ecclesiastic light, while the second is strictly political and was met with disagreement. If the idea of a monarch as God’s anointed can be treated from an ecclesiastic viewpoint and in an ecclesiastic light, the idea of dynasty, of course, has no ecclesiastic character and as such is not subject to discussion in a church assembly.”

Archbishop Anastasii, the current head of the Bishops’ Synod, gave that same idea an extensive and profound basis, “The Church, as an eternal divine institution, is not tied to any particular form of governance, and therefore should not dogmatize any of them” he said, “But the Church is a historical fact, and the behests of the early builders of the Russian land have started speaking inside us and promote us, like a church organ, to have our say regarding the necessity of restoring tsarist rule in Russia. And we said this in total unanimity. But the discussion of this issue cannot be taken off foundations of principle…” (Acts of the First Council Abroad, pp. 51, 120). This way it was not the “monarchist declaration” as such that was rejected by both hierarchs, but only the part specifying a political party.

Although the principle of tsarist power isn’t a dogma or canon a local church practice of a Christian state blessing a monarch for his service by repeating the sacrament of chrismation, but no one can eliminate it and explain such an elimination, if need be, except for a new all-Russian Holy Church Council. Viewing tsarist power, the anointed servant of God responsible before God is not a political issue in the Russian Church, but an ecclesiastic one. The diocese’s habit of acting on the spur of the moment was apparent also in deciding issues of principle. [20] The brochure by Bishop Kassian, Rector of the Theological Institute in Paris, “Tsarstvo Kesaria pred sudom Novogo Zaveta” [The Kingdom of God Before the Judgment of the New Testament] is … Continue reading

The statement that “the conciliar jurisdiction devotes the first place in church life to a political basis” is an intentional exaggeration of the position that as part of the Russian Church its life is filled with Russian interests, and it fights atheistic power and persecutors of the Church, as well as any compromises with them in the person of either the Moscow Patriarchate or its temporary or permanent sympathizers.

The statements “The conciliar jurisdiction rejects the territorial principle of church structure (…) and it is necessary to have a canonical connection with any legitimately existing local church authority.” But how could it, without the permission of local churches and, so to speak, actually rejecting the territorial principle, have its parishes in their territories? And if the conciliar jurisdiction allows the Russian jurisdiction to have mission parishes on the territory of local churches in missionary regions, they don’t deny this right of other churches as do some of the latter.

“The conciliar jurisdiction roundly condemns the entire Russian Church that is under the Moscow Patriarchate, regarding it as actually being condemned,” the speaker lies even more. How can that be said, when back in the fall of 1945 Metropolitan Anastasii in his reply to the Moscow Patriarchate stated, “The representatives of the Church Abroad were obliged to break with just the Supreme Church Authority in Russia, since it had started stepping away from the path of Christ’s truth, and through this to break off spiritually from the Orthodox episcopate of the Russian Church, and along with that from the believing people of Russia, who from ages past have remained preservers of piety in Russia.” The speaker states, “We condemn the pro-Bolshevik statements of the Russian hierarchs no less than the Karlovites” (…) Since when? Metropolitan Anastasii’s message came out right when you were experiencing “paschal” delights at Rue Daru in your encounter with that same Soviet hierarchy.

Finally, there’s more: “The Conciliar Jurisdiction asserts that to be a Russian Orthodox Christian, zealously seeking the good of the Church one must formally announce membership in the Russian Church. Such an assertion is absurd – if we would be even formally separated from the Russian Church, we would still remain Russian Orthodox Christians, wholly devoted to the Russian Church. But the Conciliar Jurisdiction preserves not only formally but actually its parishes, missions, and dioceses in the Russian Church abroad.” Its Western European Diocese handed over its parishes to the Patriarch of Constantinople. Or is this just a formality and we don’t know who will be deceived – the Russian Church or the Constantinople Patriarchate? And in general, from where is such a formulation of assertions and positions of the Conciliar Jurisdiction finally taken?

Hardly anyone would refrain from agreeing to call these unsubstantiated assertions irresponsible chatter, in which the speaker called his own fabrications and falsifications absurdities and with which, to our amazement, the diocesan leaders regaled the respectable Diocesan Assembly.

And subsequently, in reply to our protests against slander, Tserkovnyi Vestnik (no. 1-22, 1950) said, “Let them point out who and where slandered, i.e. consciously and with evil intent said what wasn’t true, about the (Conciliar) Jurisdiction, and point out displays of hatred toward it? And it goes on to utter, regarding the Pravoslavnaia Rus’ magazine, “This magazine was never noted for scrupulousness in finding the means of fighting all who are differently minded.” No, there could only be a tough form of truth there, but such “means of fighting” as are found in Tserkovnyi Vestnik cannot be found there. And we haven’t had any so-called “unworthy expressions” (Tserkovnyj Vestnik, January 1950) regarding the Western European Diocese, although perhaps there may have been worthy expressions for the unworthy actions of its leadership.

If the Exarchate leadership is unintentionally confused in the dispute about several jurisdictions in one territory by not distinguishing that situation in local churches and missionary regions, and the norms also, from extraordinary circumstances, its assertion that “our Western European Diocese has preserved the canonicity and primacy obtained from the confessor Patriarch, which was forced to break off from the Moscow Patriarchate, but receiving support from the Ecumenical Patriarch” sounds like an intentional falsehood [21] Utochneniia [Elaborations], Slovo Tserkvi,  January 1950 . So what does it preserve, if His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon categorically protested the transfer of the Russian Diocese to the Patriarch of Constantinople, while Metropolitan Sergii’s Moscow Patriarchate, from which the diocese broke off, itself strayed from Tikhon’s path? What particular opposition to Moscow does the Ecumenical Patriarch support, except its new “right” to appropriate the Russian inheritance abroad, with which the diocese cooperated?

Further on, the diocese persistently refuses to distinguish the free acts of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon (such as Decree 362 of 1920) and those that weren’t, in spite of the obvious nature of their content and of the conditions of their publication, and again blindly insisting on the legitimacy of shutting down the Supreme Church Authority in 1922, which Metropolitan Evlogii rejected until 1926 as well. Then the prohibitions which fell upon the diocese from Moscow ought to be recognized as legitimate as well. This is a blind and evil falsehood.

Even less impartial and objective are the judgments of the diocesan leadership about the application of Decree 362 of 1920 regarding the organization of the Supreme Church Authority for the regions cut off from the Moscow church center.  In its view, the decree had in mind only the organization of the Supreme Church Authority within Russia in the regions separated from Moscow, from Soviet rule [22] “Ot eparkhiial’nogo Soveta” [“From the Diocesan Council”], Slovo Tserkvi, November 1949. .

And such an authority of the diocese as Prof. A. V. Kartashev simply asserted that “everything that has been thought up around Patriarch Tikhon’s decree of November 7, 1920, about the supposed legitimization of the Russian Church Abroad, is pure illusion, scattered about by a simple puff.” [23] Slovo Tserkvi, April 1950. Then we would ask you, without repeating previous conclusions regarding the sense of the decree, according to what other decree or rule could the administration of the Russian Churches abroad have been organized? Did the Patriarch’s decree, ratifying Metropolitan Evlogii’s appointment to his diocese abroad, as it says literally, “in view of the ruling of the Supreme Church Authority Abroad” contradict Decree 362 regarding the organization of such an administration for the region of those separated from the church center? Why do you think that the Patriarch’s ruling of May 5, 1922, that you always recollect with pleasure “will keep temporarily the management of Russian parishes abroad with Metropolitan Evlogii,” while Metropolitan Evlogii’s note to the Bishops’ Council of May 5, 1922, stipulates that “all of the Russian bishops who have gathered are to start organizing a central organ of a supreme church authority abroad.” Why are these acts, do you think, not a fulfillment of Decree 362 or contradict it? It is meant to arrange the legitimate conciliar episcopal rule over the dioceses in case they “find themselves outside any communication with the Supreme Church Authority” for any reason, without any distinction whether it is a consequence of front movement or a change in national borders, etc.” The decree was given for the future, without foretelling the reasons for any disconnection or enumerating them, and therefore foreign missions, parishes, and dioceses, flight, and the development of new dioceses cannot be excluded from this order. And its position on its segment abroad belonging to the Russian Church and on the form of its governance was so axiomatic that a reference to this decree had ancillary significance for the Russian Church Abroad, and the very organization of its self-rule in Constantinople and Serbia and the First All-Diaspora Council of 1921 are facts that precede any reference to this decree. Official and justifiable reliance on this decree began from 1922 on to guard the freedom of the Church Abroad from erroneous guidance that was to become harmful by the straitened Moscow Patriarchate, which, as before, was, in fact, estranged from anything abroad.

This suggests that if it had never been for that decree the bishops would have had to act only according to what was in the hierarchical document. i. e. once there is estrangement from the church center in Russia to gather and organize the governance over Russian parishes and churches abroad at least in regions outside local churches, and, with their permission out of respect for their refugee status during persecution, on their territories. And that’s the way all this happened, as much as it was possible, both correctly and legitimately.

But now the Diocesan Council forgot that Metropolitan Evlogii, in his reply to the Moscow Patriarchate on November 26, 1926, wrote that “We have no recourse but to rely on the decree,” and the Diocesan Assembly of June 29, 1930, resolved that “the moment has come to submit to the instructions of November 29, 1920, and for Metropolitan Evlogii, the ruling bishop, to assume full power of the diocese entrusted to him.”

Decree 362 is now being rejected only because it is necessary at any cost to justify their self-will and arbitrariness, and being left without any Russian decrees, to be in the Constantinople Church abroad rather than in the Russian one with the Council of Russian Bishops, with whom they had broken for the same reasons.

And Prof. A. V. Kartashev, who hadn’t used even his “puff” to scatter our “illusions,” to no purpose, using his language, engages in “horsemanship” in the area of jurisdictional disputes instead of ceasing here his youthful light-mindedness in diocesan ideology, setting up not God’s Church, but castles in the air, and in general the jurisdiction of the Theological Institute over the diocese.

Finally, there’s the issue of relations with the Moscow Patriarchate. The Exarchate’s leadership writes, “The Moscow Patriarch is recognized by the heads of all of the autocephalous churches.” [24]“Nash otvet” [Our Response], Russkaiia Mysl’, no. 187 . A. V. Kartashev declares, “Patriarch Alexii of Moscow is a legitimate patriarch” [25] Russkaiia Mysl’, no. 229. .

Of course, following the principle of non-interference into matters of an autocephalous church, the heads of other churches can recognize the patriarch whom that church had chosen, but the part of this church which can protest against the selection is under no obligation to take their point of view, and will await the restoration of truth and legitimacy. The Russian Diocese can in no way remain neutral if it didn’t stop being part of the Russian Church, which did apparently happen with the Russian Diocese in Western Europe, which bears the name of the Exarchate of the Ecumenical Patriarch.

Nothing can be said not only in essence, but also formally, in defense of the canonicity of the Patriarch of Moscow. In 1927 Metropolitan Sergii usurped church power by starting to act, “without the bishops’ advice and approval,” exceeded his power, destroyed concord (Ap. 34) through individual dictatorship, complicity in the violence of atheistic power, picked out an episcopate for himself, which, composed of only 18 individuals, elected him patriarch in 1943. In 1945 a new council elected Patriarch Alexii, and in both cases the entire episcopate which hadn’t recognized the usurping power. Such councils are illegitimate according to the canons.  Given all this the last Moscow patriarchs accused sufferers from godless persecutions of political unreliability and showered the opponents of their church power with prohibitions and in that way justified and encouraged the violence perpetrated by the godless regime over the Church. The holy canons condemned such who fell during persecutions as betrayers of the Church.

In spite of all this the Russian Diocese, which had now become an exarchate of another Church and in 1927 and 1945 submitted directly to the Moscow Patriarchate and remained in this duplicate and false situation in spite of the words of condemnation with which it now, at a very late point, lashes against this Patriarchate.

The Position of the Diocese in the Last Period

The Western European Russian Diocese rejects the structure of the Russian Church and has fully withdrawn from it, standing up against it and defending illegitimate actions. It violated the internal order and discipline of the Russian Church! The views of the Russian Church toward its segment outside Russia are well known, so, for this reason, are the more absolutely necessary for it. Up until recently, it likes to recall Metropolitan Evlogii’s past appointments and powers, totally without anticipating or allowing any possibility of the separation of his diocese from the Russian Church and it is joining the Constantinople Church abroad. This crime is all the weightier because of the existence of these appointments and powers, which condemn the diocese’s current position.

In defending the interests of the Constantinople Patriarchate the diocese denies prior history, the correctness of Patriarch Tikhon’s protests, the resolutions of the 1917 Council, which put the organization of the Church Abroad in order, and its own history over several years within this Church.

Once there are resolutions of higher church authority than the diocesan one which are absolutely necessary for it, it can in no way decide its fate for the Russian Church to which it belongs and whom it is obliged to obey.

If we closely examine the transition from a temporary status in the Constantinople Patriarchate to a permanent one, basing this issue on principle and theory, the appropriation of the rights of an autocephalous Local Church in determining its fate and in managing the Russian Church’s inheritance abroad amounts to lawlessness, exceeding everything in its boldness than what can be expected of any church organization.  If the temporary departure from the Russian Church was illegitimate, a permanent departure is a pure unseemliness on the part of the diocese, which has forgotten to think of its rights and possibilities. And if we add to this that local churches did not recognize the universal jurisdiction and that the prior practice of the Ecumenical Church and the canons do not know this, while only the Russian Diocese went along with these claims, having ended up in this jurisdiction accidentally, we are convinced without a doubt that this diocese has lost all sense of discipline and responsible leadership.

The part of the Russian Church and any region that is abroad and is separated from the central church administration takes part in the church life of its homeland, is accountable to it, and will be included in its conciliar administration. With the transition to a permanent position within the Constantinople Patriarchate, the Russian Diocese no longer has anything to do with the administration of the Russian Church. But the problem is that it likewise has nothing to do with the administration of the Constantinople Church and has no part in its governance, is thus excluded from the conciliar makeup of any local church. The diocesan bishops don’t go to Constantinople on matters of the governance of the whole Great Church. However, if it again considers itself to be in a temporary situation, does the Patriarchate consider it to be in that position? It doesn’t matter. For destroying unity, for self-will, schismatic actions motivated by the temporary or permanent establishment of the diocese, the diocesan leadership is subject to the Russian Church’s judgment.

The final period of the Western European Exarchate is the same as the preceding one, but is also particularly false.

The One True Way

Relationship with the Mother Russian Church is a basic principle determining the situation of its segment abroad. It can establish its canonicity only thinking of itself as being within its Mother Church, and therefore not seeking any special, equal, or submissive relationships with other local churches. This way the temporary situation unites all parts of the Church Abroad, be they old or new émigré parishes, or refugee parishes from all corners of the world, equally awaiting liberation from the jaws of the godless.

The temporary self-rule of the Russian Church Abroad on the basis of the supreme power of the General Council of all Russian bishops abroad is an indisputable canonical principle that is steadfastly maintained by the Bishops’ Synod and the Synod Abroad. There is no possibility of justifying any kind of deviation from the power of this General Council since everyone belongs to the Russian Church and is in the same states of alienation from it. We understand enough about all of the benefits of such unity and independence of the Russian Church Abroad. Internal division, rivalry, and mutual struggle fragment our forces in vain.

When you forget about this distress for a minute, when you recall how much of what is valuable is evident in the part of the Russian Church that is abroad – Russians are gathered everywhere for spiritual salvation in church communities, a multitude of temples are erected anew throughout the face of the earth, there are schools, monasteries, and printing presses, spiritual literature is being printed, and the main thing is that the Synod Abroad has preserved, from the first days of its disconnection from the Mother Church, the path of freedom and true faithfulness to it with that Gospel directness in truth and devotion to Christ’s truth, which is not in compromise with falsehood and lawlessness, and is independent of calculations of eternal gains and successes. All of this is ours, in our unity. All of this is ours, common to all Russians abroad if we unite.

Isn’t our next task, having cast off what is not beneficial, and being cleansed of the accidental and erroneous, to unite everything together and for all to rejoice that we have preserved and acquired good things even separately, in unbrotherly rivalry and estrangement? When shall we embrace each other, what will impel us to do this, what power will destroy the barriers between us? Could it not be goodwill, illumined by God’s grace? The truth gets chosen by the gift of freedom given to us by God. And isn’t this last point obvious?

Translated from Russian by Priestmonk Alexis (Lisenko)

Materials of the Ensuing Discussion Posted on This Website

1948, Archpriest Michael Polsky, “The Canonical Position of the Supreme Church Authority in the USSR”

1949. Priest Alexander Schmemann, “The Church and Church Structure: Regarding the book by Archpriest Polsky The Canonical Position of the Supreme Church Authority in the USSR and Outside Russia”

1949. Archpriest Michael Pomazansky, “Our Church’s Legal Consciousness”

1949. Bishop Nathaniel,  “On the Destiny of the Russian Church Abroad:  A Response to Fr. Alexander Schmemann”

1950. Priest Alexander Schmemann, “A Debate About the Church”

1950. Bishop Nathanael, “The Local Principle and the Unity of the Church”

1952. Priest Alexander Schmemann, “Epilogue”


1 It behooves the Bishops of every nation to know the one among them who is the premier or chief, and to recognize him as their head, and to refrain from doing anything superfluous without his advice and approval, but instead, each of them should do only whatever is necessitated by his own diocese and by the territories under him. But let not even such a one do anything without his advice and consent and approval of all. For thus there will be concord, and God will be glorified through the Lord in Holy Spirit, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
2 Protoierei M. Polskii, Kanonicheskoe polozhenie vysshei therkovnoi vlasti v SSSR i zagranitsei. Dzhordanvil’. 1948. p. 132-155. (Archpriest M. Polsky, The Canonical Position of the Supreme Church Authority in the USSR and Abroad, Jordanville. 1948, pp. 132-155).
3  “Slovo Tserkvi”, Russkaia Mysl’, no. 219, February 1950.
4 Rossiia i Khristianskii mir”, no. 3-4, 1949.
5 Russkaia Mysl’”, November 30, 1949.
6 Tserkovnyi Vestnik no, 21. 49. p. 11.
7 Pravoslsavnaia Mysl’, no. 6, p. 48; Put’, no. 44, p. 34.
8 Priest A. Schmemann, Tserkovnyi Vestnik, no. 14, 15, 17 “The Church and Church Structure: Regarding the book by Archpriest Polsky The Canonical Position of the Supreme Church Authority in the USSR and Outside Russia”  and a separate 1949 brochure. By the way, the author and apologist of submission to the Patriarch of Constantinople, is now in the American Metropolia, which is not under the Patriarch of Constantinople and which has absolutely no canonical basis. Decree no. 362 of the Patriarchal administration, issued on November 20, 1920, ordered that dioceses that found themselves “outside of any communion” with him to enter into a relationship with other dioceses “with the object of organizing the highest level of authority for several dioceses that find themselves in similar circumstances” and makes it “an absolute duty” of the senior hierarch of this supreme church authority or a temporary supreme church administration for all dioceses that can be in unity, and it totally excludes schism, the group division which the Metropolia hierarchs chose when they didn’t recognize the Bishops’ Council and Synod, which are based on conciliarity. There is no way that the Metropolia can base its existence on Decree 362 by rejecting the supreme authority of church governance over itself.
9 Tserkovnyi vestnik, no. 2-23, pp. 10, 13.
10 Tserkovnyi vestnik, no. 10, 1948, p. 9.
11 The Russian Church cooperated with the formation of other national missions from its jurisdiction. In 1922 His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon gave permission to Patriarch Gregory of Antioch to take Syrian parishes from the Russian Diocese in America, and the Bishops’ Synod Abroad acted upon this in 1936. A detailed account of the practice of churches abroad was not included in the current brochure, which makes up only a third of what has been printed and acquired independent significance.
12 Tserkovnyu vestnik, no. 5, pp. 5-26, 1950.
13 Tserkovnyi vestnik, no. 5, 1950.
14 Tserkov’ i tserkovnoe ustroistvo,” p. 18.
15 Tserkovnyi vestnik (no. 3, 1932, p. 13)
16 Tserkovnyi vestnik no. 16, 1949, p. 8
17 The structure of the Message was explained further, probably by one of its authors. (See Slovo Tserkvi [a Word From the Church], Russkaiia Mysl’, no. 219, February 1950, “Rossiia i Khristianskii mir” [Russia and the Christian World].  “Conciliarity is based not on the equality of autocephalous churches, united in a democratic federation, but on the mystical equality of the entire Orthodox episcopate. If the canons allow the selection of one bishop in each region from among fellow brethren who are essentially his equals to be either a metropolitan or patriarch they also anticipate such a selection of one bishop as first among equals in the entire Ecumenical Church.”

But these canons, which do not “allow” but command the designing of church governance based upon the unity of the first with the bishops equal to him in a common council, do not “anticipate” the Ecumenical Patriarch at all, because a special ecumenical church outside the union of local churches simply does not exist, and the “anticipated” ecumenical hierarch has no other region for exercising his authority except for his own Local Church. This is why the first bishops of local churches are endowed with executive power in relation to his legislative council, and the first bishop of the Ecumenical Church has no power in that Church, other than when the first bishops of other Churches turn to the First Hierarch of Constantinople turn to him for a brotherly arbitration tribunal in their disputed issues. And this possible and conditional right cannot be called power. But if, according to Apos. 34 the senior hierarch “cannot do anything without … the consent and approval of all,” then he is not empowered to do anything at all without the consent of local churches. But do we need to list all of the instances of self-willed actions (since 1922) of the Patriarch of Constantinople without the consent of other Churches? Thus, conciliarity necessarily includes and anticipates the equal rule of council members, with their freedom and legal independence, and at the same time their apostolic brotherhood, “united in the bond of love,” dependent on the Church’s same dogmatic foundations. Thus the attribution of equality of rights in the Ecumenical Church to a “democratic federation” is an exaggeration, while confessing just a “mystical equality” of the episcopate is erroneous.

18 The attempt of the Patriarch of Constantinople to appropriate, independently of the veracity of his behavior, purely external authority and even a special dogmatic and canonical position in the Church body in the Ecumenical Center finds its basis in Vselenskii Patriarkh i Pravoslavnaia Tserkov’” [The Ecumenical Patriarch and the Orthodox Church”], no. 1, 1950. After the Russian Church indignantly rejected the Unia with Rome in the fifteenth century, and his “concern and care” about its internal matters, after such authentically Orthodox practice, what sense do these external papist claims have? Given the common enemies that the World Council of Churches has – godlessness, heresies, schisms – what will the “Ecumenical Center and the Ecumenical First Hierarch” say? The Russian Church received no support from him in its temptations of godlessness and schism. And in vain does the Exarchate leadership grab at the expressions of reverence and honor with which Metropolitans Antonii and Anastassii addressed the Ecumenical Patriarch in the past and in the present, calling him the Supreme Judge among brother bishops and a “top leader” in the fight with world evil. (Slovo Tserkvi, Nov. 1949). What the Orthodox would like to see in the Patriarch of Constantinople always remains from ages past. But what can he do? Won’t we have to defend ourselves from him again? Leaders in Christian and Church struggle weren’t always “centers,” thrones or patriarchs. To suddenly attribute special meaning to the Patriarch of Constantinople and to reach out only to his external authority might place ourselves into such a web of falsehood that it would be hard to escape from it.
19 Russko-Amerikanskii Pravoslavnyj Vestnik, June 1949, p. 91.
20  The brochure by Bishop Kassian, Rector of the Theological Institute in Paris, “Tsarstvo Kesaria pred sudom Novogo Zaveta” [The Kingdom of God Before the Judgment of the New Testament] is revealing and amazing in characterizing this orientation. In spite of the obvious meaning of all of the Holy Scripture texts, he cites here. The deduction of the “alienation” of Christianity from the state and state power is dragged in a far-fetched way. The entire power of his conclusions was reflected in such words as “we detected,” “felt,” “interpreted” (pp. 12, 14, 25). Later they came to “psychological motives” lying behind the Apostle Paul’s teaching on authority, connected “with the conditions of the historical moment,” when “in these conditions, the safety of the community forced Paul to demand loyalty to the bearers of power” (pp. 18, 19), and they finally actually reached “direct condemnation of the government” for the devilish temptation of the Savior with power over world kingdoms and in Antichrist (pp. 34, 48). We suppose that there’s just one place in Scripture that speaks of the reason for the alienation of Christians and Christianity from the authority and state of the time. This is when to King Agrippa’s words “You almost persuade me to become a Christian,” the Apostle Paul answered, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.” (Acts 26:28-29) This reason is the alienation of the state power itself from the light of Christ. But power and state, just like culture, family, and everything natural were subject to transformation under the influence of this light. The whole course of the brochure’s discussion and the conclusion that “past experience and the knowledge of true nature of the state does not allow us to dream of a Christian power on earth” drives the thoughts of a Christian reader into a blind alley. Where do we find the difference between power as God’s servant and as the devil’s servant? Where is power as God’s establishment, “from God,” and as a demonic perversion of God’s work? Where is the work of Emperor Constantine and Prince Vladimir, and of Lenin or Stalin? (…)  The “pen of the scribes” (Jer. 8:8) leaves Orthodox Christians without guidance to the delight of those who want the Church to be apolitical for the sake of establishing power in Russia that is either without religion (after being against religion), or without Orthodoxy. Catholics, for instance, know perfectly what kind of power they want. If we won’t be wanting Orthodox power, they might come into power, and woe to us then.
21 Utochneniia [Elaborations], Slovo Tserkvi,  January 1950
22 “Ot eparkhiial’nogo Soveta” [“From the Diocesan Council”], Slovo Tserkvi, November 1949.
23 Slovo Tserkvi, April 1950.
24 “Nash otvet” [Our Response], Russkaiia Mysl’, no. 187
25 Russkaiia Mysl’, no. 229.

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