From the Editor
In Soviet Russia, Archpriest Michael Polsky (1891–1960) belonged to the movement of “non-commemorators”, that is, clergymen who invoked the name of Patriarchal Locum Tenens Metropolitan Peter Polianskii of Krutitsa at services, but not that of his deputy, Metropolitan Sergius Stargorodskii, because they considered the latter to have usurped authority in the church after 1927. In 1930, Father Michael crossed the border into Persia; he would serve in the ROCOR from August of that year until his passing. During World War II, Father Michael was the priest of the Dormition parish in London, which was under Archbishop Vitaly Maximenko of Jersey City. The hierarchy of the North American Metropolia, of which Archbishop Vitaly was a part, recognized the patriarchal election of Patriarch Sergius Stargorodskii in 1944 and gave a blessing for his name to be commemorated liturgically in churches. Although Archbishop Vitaly signed that decision he permitted Fr. Michael not to commemorate Patriarch Sergius. (His fellow priest Archimandrite Nicholas Gibbes refused this course of action.) In November 1946, at the Seventh All-American Council in Cleveland, Ohio, the North American Metropolia adopted a resolution to exit the ROCOR. After this, ROCOR dioceses were reconstituted by ROCOR bishops who since 1935 had been incorporated into the Metropolia. In 1948, Father Michael became part of the clergy of the Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco. That same year, he served as an expert witness in the legal dispute between the ROCOR and the North American Metropolia over the ownership of Holy Transfiguration Church in Los Angeles. As a result of the preparations for the trial, in which the ROCOR ultimately came out on top, Father Michael wrote his work Kanonicheskoe polozhenie vysshei tserkovnoi vlasti v SSSR i Zagranitsei [The Canonical Status of Supreme Church Authority in the USSR and Abroad ], which was printed in 1948 by Saint Job of Pochaev Press at Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville. Before the revolution, Father Michael had been a diocesan missionary in Stavropol Diocese, and his anti-sectarian, polemical attitude found expression in this work, which served as a catalyst for discussion of the ROCOR’s canonical status. That same year, Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann published a reivew of Father Michael’s book, titled Tserkovʹ i tserkovnoe ustroistvo [The Church and Her Structure]. In 1949, Father Alexander’s review of Father Michael’s book received three responses, from Bishop Nathaniel Lvov (“O sudʹbakh Russkoi Tserkvi Zagranitsei” [“On the Destiny of the Russian Church Abroad”]), Archpriest George Grabbe (“Kanonicheskoe osnovanie Russkoi Zarubezhnoi Tserkvi” [“The Canonical Basis of the Russian Church Abroad”]), and Archpriest Mikhail Pomazanskii (“Nashe tserkovnoe pravosoznanie” [“The Legal Consciousness of Our Church”|]). In the following year (1950), Father Alexander replied to Bishop Nathaniel and Fr. George with the article “Spor o tserkvi” (“The Dispute over the Church”). In response, Bishop Nathaniel published a piece titled “Pomestnyi printsip i edinstvo Tserkvi” [“The Local Principle and the Unity of the Church”]. In 1950, Protopresbyter Grigorii Lomako, an opponent of Father Michael’s from the Metropolia at the trial in Los Angeles, replied to the latter in an brochure titled “Tserkovno-kanonicheskoe polozhenie russkogo rasseianiia” [“The Ecclesiastical Canonical Status of the Russian Diaspora”].
In 1952, elaborating on the topic of non-canonical trajectory of the Paris Exarchate set out below, Father Michael published a brochure titled “Ocherk polozheniia russkogo ekzarkhata vselenskoi iurisdiktsii” [“An Outline of the Status of the Russian Exarchate in the Jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate”], only for Father Alexander Schmemann to reply with another article, “Epilog” [“Epilogue”], that same year. In a brochure published in Munich in 1959, “O nekotorykh vazhneishikh momentakh poslednego perioda zhizni sv. patriarkha Tikhona (1923-1925)” [“On Some Highly Important Moments in the Final Period of the Life of Holy Patriarch Tikhon (1923–1925)”], Archpriest Vasilii Vinogradov pointed out imprecisions in Father Michael’s book.
The book O nepravde Karlovatskogo raskola [On the Unrighteousness of the Karlovci Schism] by the pre-revolutionary canonist S. V. Troitskii, published in Paris in 1961, drew the greatest amount of attention of all to Father Michael’s work. Prof. Troitskii’s book must be considered in the context of the prewar polemics surrounding his works on the canonical organization of the Russian diaspora church. Defending Father Michael’s conception, Archpriest George Grabbe replied with a book Pravda o Russkoi Tserkvi na rodine i za rubezhom [The Truth About the Russian Church in Russia and Abroad], published in Jordanville in 1961. The publication of Troitskii’s book sparked a discussion in print that was only tangentially relevant to Father Michael’s work.
The bulk of Father Michael’s book was about the status of the church in the USSR, and its structure and line of argument follow that of the typewritten Josephite anthology “Delo mitropolita Sergiia” [“The Case of Metropolitan Sergius”] (1929). Since our Internet hub is dedicated to the Russian Church Abroad, I would like to commend to your attention the chapters from Polsky’s book that cover the Russian diaspora. This translation has been made possible by a grant from the American Russian Aid Association – Otrada, Inc.
Deacon Andrei Psarev, June 17, 2021
9. The Bishops’ Council and the Synod
The canonical position of the portion of the Russian Church that is abroad, as soon as it could be developed due to the disruption of communications with its Mother Russian Church, has to be defined, as we must assume according to necessary logical consistency, by its relationship with the Supreme Church Authority in the USSR and with the Russian Church in general. As part of the Russian Church it must regard itself as being within it and to be bound by duty to be faithful to it. By virtue of this same faithfulness to the Russian Church its portion abroad must refrain from submission to it until the time when the Russian Church obtains freedom and settles its matters at its free local council.
This is the meaning of faithfulness to the Russian Church in its trials and sufferings on the part of its portion abroad, and of faithfulness to the holy canons.
It is unlikely that other criteria might exist to make judgments about its canonicity.
The Supreme Church Authority
According to Apostolic Canon 34 “It behooves Bishops of any 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.” Therefore, any kind of new church administration within the Russian Church could only arise with the permission or sanction of the patriarch and his Synod and Council.
Having been isolated from the center by the front of a nearly three-year military conflict the southwestern part of Russia had to self-govern itself somehow, and in May of 1919 the South Russian Holy Council took place in Stavropol in the Caucasus, which established the Temporary Supreme Church Authority in Southwest Russia, uniting several extensive dioceses.
The establishment of this Supreme Church Authority received recognition later by the patriarch and his administrative organs in the highest manifestations of his authority. These included the consecration of bishops (Seraphim of Lubny, Andrei of Mariupol), the appointment of bishops to sees (in Russia, Ekaterinoslav, and abroad, in Europe and America), trial over bishops (Sergii Lavrov, Agapit of Ekaterinoslav), and release to retirement (Ioann of the Kuban).
Thus, this conciliarly organized authority was a canonical establishment, due both to the means of its formation by a council and to the acknowledgment of its directives by the Central All-Russian Church Authorities.
After the Civil War, at the end of 1920, the large Russian flock came abroad. Up to two and a half million people, along with their bishops and priests, distributed themselves in various countries, with some of them going into already existing parishes but with most establishing many new ones. The properties of the Russian Church were expanded abroad. Dioceses in America, the Far East, Persia, Palestine, and parish and embassy churches in Europe and South America had existed for a long time.
The Russians who found themselves abroad had their own church organization as well.
In November of 1920 the Russian hierarchs had their first Council in Constantinople, which changed the name of the Southern Church Authority of Russia to the Supreme Russian Church Authority Abroad, and from then on this Council has met annually, according to the canons. In 1921 the church administration moved to Yugoslavia.
The presence of the large Russian Orthodox flock, dispersed among various countries, of sizeable church properties in missions, parishes, and dioceses, and a large number of Russian bishops abroad, both those who had lost their sees in Russia and those who had been at theirs here abroad necessitated the organization of this portion that was abroad, as an unshakeable inheritance of the Russian Local Autocephalous Church into a single body, and to maintain it as such until it again comes under its one ecclesiastical All-Russian authority.
Given the unity of interests of all the Russian people abroad who feel and think of themselves as Russian and Orthodox and are awaiting either a return to Russia or a prospect of being under its previous spiritual care and protection, it was natural to seek abroad a single spiritual center and guidance toward this general aim. It turned out that enough bishops were here to organize all church life on the basis of self-rule on the principle of conciliar church law.
Thus, the Bishops’ Council could be formed by the entry into it of the entire existing complement of Russian hierarchs who were abroad, and many of them, such as the bishops of Finland, Lithuania, Harbin, and Peking had permanent sees and complete administrative independence. The unified episcopate obtained all the fullness of ecclesiastical authority over all Russian churches abroad temporarily until the time when the abroad portion would again flow into the course of the Russian Church. The Supreme Church Authority in Southwest Russia already possessed this fullness of authority.
Such conciliar administration by part of the Church is canonical by its structure, since the conciliarity of the supreme power is established by canons of universal significance.
The canonicity of a council is determined by the general presence of bishops who are vested in supreme grace and are successors to the apostles, independently of the degree of their administrative rights. As we already stated, it included bishops who had been ruling abroad and those who again received sees in newly established dioceses after losing other sees and leaving their dioceses not of their own accord but because of persecutions by enemies of the faith. According to the holy canons they maintain episcopal honor and service while in exile as well. They perform ordinations to various clerical ranks, and make use of the privileges of their seniority according to their limits, and “any action of leadership coming from them is recognized as firm and lawful ” (Antioch 18, 6th Council 37).
The Supreme Russian Church Authority Abroad, and then the Bishops’ Synod, became the executive organ of the Bishops’ Council for the interconciliar period. Thirty-four bishops were entered into the actual Council through personal or written participation. Here are their names:
Antonii, Metropolitan of Kiev and Halych, Chairman of the Bishops’ Council and of the Supreme Church Authority, Antonii, Bishop of the Aleuts. Anastasii, Archbishop of Kishinev, Alexander, of Archbishop of North America, Bishop Adam, Apollinarii, Bishop of Belgorod, Director of the Jerusalem Mission, Vladimir, Bishop of Bielostok, Veniamin, Bishop of Sevastopol, Gavriil, Bishop of Chelyabinsk, Germogen, Bishop of Ekaterinoslav, administering in Greece, Africa, and Cyprus, Daniil, Bishop of Tsaritsyn, head of the Pastoral – Theological Academy, Daniil, Bishop of Okhotsk, Elevferii, Archbishop of Lithuania, Euthymius, Archbishop of Brooklyn, Evlogii, Metropolitan of Western Europe, Innokentii, Archbishop of Peking, Mar-Il’ia, Bishop of Urmia, Iona, Bishop of Tian-Tsin, Mefodii, Archbishop of Harbin, Meletii, Bishop of the Trans-Baikal, Mikhail, Bishop of Alexandrovsk, Mikhail, Bishop of Vladivostok, Nestor, Bishop of Kamchatka, Panteleimon, Archbishop of Pinsk, Platon, Metropolitan of North America, Seraphim, Archbishop of Finland, Seraphim, Bishop of Lubna, administering in Bulgaria, Sergii, Bishop of Belsk, Sergii, Bishop of the Black Sea, Sergii, Archbishop of Japan, Stephan, Bishop of Pittsburgh, Simon, Bishop of Shanghai, Feofan, Bishop of Poltava, Feofan, Bishop of Kursk, (Ioann, Bishop of Latvia was denied participation in the Council due to local political conditions).
The Bishops’ Synod
In difficult compromises with Soviet authorities, hoping to gain any kind of easing of persecution. Patriarch Tikhon issued a decree on April 22/May 5, 1922 shutting down the Supreme Church Authority. The Soviet regime, in order to destroy its opponent who had gone abroad, acted through its Church authorities, making deceitful promises. The unlawful motives of this act, that are indicated in it — “for political speeches without any canonical basis’ — have already been mentioned.
In response to this decree the Bishops’ Council ruled on August 31/September 13, 1922 that the Supreme Church Authority would be abolished in compliance with the directive of the patriarch and his Synod and the Council, on the basis of Decree 362 of November 7/20, 1920 by the patriarch and the same administrative organs, to organize the Temporary Holy Bishops’ Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
Thus, the supreme canonical organ of church authority abroad is the Bishops’ Synod, which has not been shut down nor dissolved by any decree, and remains in force in order to replace the Supreme Church Authority as its executive organ with another, the Bishops’ Synod. That the Bishops’ Synod made the correct decision by changing to a new basis for continuing the existence of its administration, is shown by the actions of church authorities at this moment in Russia itself.
With the decree of May 5 the Patriarch shut down the Church Authority Abroad, and a few days later gave “all the “fulness of authority” to Agafangel on the basis of the 1920 decree, who in a missive of June 18 asked hierarchs to “administer their dioceses independently,” in other words, in accordance with the same decree. At that moment the 1920 decree went into effect and only later was rejected by Sergii in principle, since he wished to retain church authority and agreed to compromises of legalization, going into schism with the episcopate.
The 1920 decree was issued not for that year, but for when the moment that was indicated there would come, in other words when the activity of the patriarch and of other supreme church organs ceases. That is what happened at the moment when the decree shutting down the church authority was received abroad.
Thus, the external situation and the already existing law, coinciding with the situation, and going into effect just at that moment, necessarily obliged the Bishops’ Synod to open up a new church administration abroad on a new basis. As the leader of a part of the Russian Church, the Council of its bishops could do nothing without deliberation or against the will of the first hierarch, and shut down the church authority on the basis one of his directives, and on the basis of another, which was going into effect at that moment, opened up another one, because the need for it remained the same for the abroad, the same as yesterday.
According to the new law of its existence the church authority abroad received independence, and due to its condition of permanent isolation from the Russian ecclesiastical center it had permission for self-government. If in Russia the connection of dioceses with the center, even with it being present, was unrealized, and the dioceses were in fact being administered independently in the era of persecutions, the law, at the moment of the loss of conciliar organs of administration and of the replacement of the first hierarch with arbitrary substitutes, acquired exclusive significance for the Russian Church Abroad according to the conditions of its life and even greater isolation from its center.
Thus, the law of decentralization, of local administration in connection with persecution of the Church in Russia and the isolation of parts of the Church with its center, became the basis and ground of the ecclesiastical authority of the Bishops’ Synod Abroad.
The Southwestern Church Authority, which was created back in Russia was probably a precedent for the patriarch to issue at least a few positions on the law of decentralization in 1920, and the Bishops’ Synod, being the rightful successor of the of that church authority in Russia, which was recognized by the Patriarchate, was established anew on an indisputably canonical basis here in the part of the Russian Church that is abroad.
In its very essence the decree abolishing the authority abroad had only the formal sense of the patriarch’s compromise with the Bolsheviks due to the demands of the moment, and was formally accepted by the Bishops’ Synod, which abolished this authority, but preserved the essence of the matter, the church authority abroad, as the Bishops’ Synod. This placed the law of local self-rule, which was being put into practice, on a new basis. It is also of essence that, in accordance with it, the new establishment, which is organized locally by conciliar authority, and is confirmed in advance by the central ecclesiastical authority, is accountable to it and awaits its sanctions regarding its own directives upon the restoration of this authority and of this establishment’s connection with it.
The Bishops’ Synod informed the Patriarch of Moscow about its activity, but the patriarch could express his attitude toward its existence only by silent agreement, since the Bolsheviks have repeatedly regarded the Patriarchate’s interaction with the White emigré clergy as a political crime. And yet, in his telegram and letter regarding matters of the Harbin Diocese and the dispute regarding the Czechoslovak jurisdiction the patriarch definitely took into account, as before, during the rule of the Supreme Church Authority, the decision of the hierarchs abroad. The previous activity of the Bishops’ Council continued, and no censure of its activity followed, neither from the patriarch nor from those who took his place, despite the Bolsheviks’ demands. To all this we must claim categorically that the canonicity of the single church authority abroad, from the moment of its appearance, has never been subject to any doubt. And this authority, when it was the Bishops’ Synod, was defended there by the Russian episcopate from Bolshevik encroachments up until 1927, All of this is apparent from the preceding account as well.
Relations with the Sergian Patriarchate
The question of whom to follow, the first hierarch, who had betrayed the Church or the Church against him and the godless power, with whom he had entered into union, was decided definitely for the Bishops’ Council and for the entire Russian immigration by its entire preceding activity. Throughout all those years it spoke out as an incessant defender of the Russian Church before all the autocephalous churches and even world governments for any reason or event within it., such as new outbreaks of persecution of the Church, the patriarch’s interment, the renovationist schism, and so on.
The Patriarch’s directive to abolish the Church Authority Abroad was unlawful in its motives at the time that it was issued, being clearly dictated by the force of godlessness, and demonstrated the Patriarchate’s total lack of knowledge regarding the state of the Russian Church abroad. But the Council Abroad had only a certain forewarning about this in case of a similar or even worse attitude in the future, and sought interaction, support from the Patriarchate, and administrative guidance, if possible. And now, with the issuance of Metropolitan Sergii’s declaration, it would be insufficient to expect simply normal relations with Russia in order to renew its submission to its ecclesiastical authority. What was needed was not only the liberation of the Church from persecution by the godless, but from the enslavement of its own church authority.
Metropolitan Sergii’s declaration prompted a response by a definite decision. The Bishops’ Council resolved the following: “The part of the All-Russian Church that is abroad must cease administrative relations with Moscow’s church authorities, in view of the impossibility of normal relations with it and in view of its enslavement by the godless Soviet regime, denying it freedom in exercising its will and freedom in the canonical administration of the Church.”
In order to free our hierarchy in Russia from responsibility for the non-recognition of the Soviet regime by the part of our Church that is abroad until the restoration of normal relations and the liberation of our Church from persecutions by the godless Soviet regime it must administer itself, in accordance with the holy canons, the definition of the 1917-1918 Council, and the Patriarch’s resolution of November 7/20, 1920, with the help of the Bishops’ Synod and the Bishops’ Council.
The part of the Russian Church that is abroad considers itself to be an indissoluble spiritually unified branch of the Great Russian Church. It doesn’t separate itself from its Mother Church nor does it regard itself autocephalous. As before, it regards the Patriarchal locum tenens Metropolitan Peter as its head and still commemorates him at services.
Further on, a direct response was needed to this statement in Metropolitan Sergii’s declaration: “We have demanded that the clergy abroad provide a written affirmation of complete loyalty to the Soviet regime in all its social activity. Anyone who does not provide such an affirmation or violates it will be removed from the list of clergy subject to the Moscow Patriarchate.”
The Council stated in the same definition, “If this is followed by Metropolitan Sergii’s and his Synod’s ruling regarding the removal of bishops and clergy who are abroad who refused to sign a statement of loyalty to the Soviet regime from the list of clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate, such a directive will be uncanonical.”
“Metropolitan Sergii’s and his Synod’s suggestion that we sign a statement of loyalty to the Soviet regime should be decidedly rejected as uncanonical and very harmful to the holy Church.”
But these uncanonical actions inevitably followed.
Decree 104 of the Sergian Synod of May 9, 1928 declared that the Bishops’ Council and Synod were abolished and all their actions were repealed.
On June 24, 1934, after fruitless correspondence with Patriarch Varnava of Serbia, this Synod of Metropolitan Sergii “commits the Karlovci group to ecclesiastic trial as having disobeyed the legitimate church leadership and causing schism, with prohibition of serving church services up until a trial or repentance.”
However, the attack became even more serious. Only the last resolution by the Bishops’ Synod of 1927 turned out to be sufficiently foreseeing. A Moscow church delegation appeared abroad, and in this way one reason for the break with Moscow church authorities fell away — “the impossibility of normal relations with it.” But the other reason to “cease administrative relations” with it, “in view of its enslavement by the godless Soviet regime, denying it freedom in exercising its will and freedom in the canonical administration of the Church,” now appeared in full and proven force.
A delegation from the Sergian Patriarchate appeared abroad in 1945, distributing Patriarch Aleksii’s address of August 10 to archpastors and other clergy of the so-called Karlovci group, urging it to offer repentance, or else the 1934 decisions would be confirmed.
In October 1945 Metropolitan Anastasii, chairman of the Bishops’ Synod, issued a message to the Russian Orthodox regarding Patriarch Aleksii’s message in which he affirmed in detail one basic position: “Bishops, other clergy, and laity subject to the jurisdiction of the Bishops’ Synod Abroad have never broken canonical and spiritual unity with its Mother Church. The representatives of the Church Abroad were forced to break only with the Supreme Church Authority in Russia, since it itself has started deviating from the path of Christ’s truth, and in this way to break away spiritually from the Orthodox episcopate of the Russian Church, for whom we do not cease to offer our supplications at each service together with Russian believers, who have remained preservers of piety in Russia from the earliest times.”
For this same reason, the Bishops’ Synod, having united 26 bishops, 16 of whom were present at the Assembly in Munich on April 27/May10, 1946, declared, “We do not find it morally possible for us to agree to these calls as long as the Supreme Church Authority in Russia is in an unnatural union with a godless regime, and as long as the entire Russian Church is denied the true freedom that is natural to it according to its divine nature. The supreme hierarchy of the Russian Church has embarked upon a false path, keeping silent about the truth that is bitter for the Soviet regime, presenting the Church life situation not as it is in reality and consciously declaring the blasphemous lie that there is no persecution of the Church and has never been in Russia, and mocks the suffering exploits of numerous martyrs among the clergy and laity.”
For a final determination of the position of the Bishops’ Synod we will add one more confession of Metropolitan Anastasii: “The Bishops’ Synod has actually always been regarded as a temporary establishment, but not until simply the restoration of relations with the Supreme Church Authority in Russia, but, first of all, until the restoration of a normal general and ecclesiastical life within it. This prerequisite has always been regarded as the most important and basic one in determining the period of the existence and activity of the Council and Synod Abroad. We are basing this on the position that, regrettably, the end of this period is not yet upon us, and on this basis we affirm the necessity of continuing the existence of the Synod.” (Letter of November 14/27, 1945)
The correct path. We must make it a point to remember that the 1920 decree on decentralization was the voice of a free supreme and totally authoritative church administration that is uncompromising toward the Church’s enemies. For the Church Abroad it serves as a basis because it is continually isolated from the Mother Church, and, according to the conditions of its life, it is independent of Soviet constraint and is able to fulfill its duty freely and uncompromisingly. All subsequent directives from Moscow, starting with the 1922 decree, are dubious, since they are dictated by compromises with the Soviet regime and its use of force, and obviously do not correspond to the truth, canons, and Church interests. By relying upon the 1920 directive and guarding against the uncanonical and purely political demands of the Moscow Church authorities the Bishops’ Synod, in its refusal to obey them in 1927, is not indulging in any kind of arbitrariness, willfulness, or violation of obedience to its normal Supreme Central Russian Church Authority. On the contrary, it alone, due to its conditions of freedom, is able to live normally and lawfully, while the Russian Church authorities, due to their constraints, fall away from this norm.
What is most essential and important is that at this very moment the Bishops’ Council here abroad firmly and decisively, without the least amount of doubt, joins the Spiritual Council of the Russian Bishops and along with it condemns the actions of Metropolitan Sergii as unlawful.
The moment that was being so acutely experienced by the Church was understood totally correctly far away from the native land. It was starting with this test that the Bishops Synod became irreproachably canonical, being at one with the Tikhon route. At that time it joined the Russian Church, not nominally but actually, with everything that decisively broke off all administrative relations with the Moscow Patriarchate, and relied once again and more firmly than in 1922 on the decentralization and local administration law, which Metropolitan Sergii did not attain, and he bound part of the episcopate along with him.
These relations with the Church authorities abroad with those under the Soviets have the classic formula in these words “We were obliged to break only with the Supreme Church Authority in Russia since it had started to step away from Christ’s path of truth, and in this way to break away spiritually from the Orthodox episcopate of the Russian Church… together with Russian believers (Metropolitan Anastasii’s Message of October 1945).
Not to recognize the Supreme Church Authority in Russia and to consider itself part of the Russian Church is completely natural and lawful, and there have been many instances in history when the supreme church authority acted unlawfully, and it was fought against, disobeyed, and its fall was awaited. The duty of this struggle always lies on someone, and in this case it lies on that part of the Church which can and must lead it according to its position, and which cannot refuse this duty, for that would be its death and the triumph of lawlessness for the entire Church, which can in no way be allowed.
Thus, from the first days of the struggle in Russia’s South and later in the emigration the Bishops’ Synod took upon itself the mission of witnessing to any truth about the Mother Church, its sorrows and trials, whatever phases it might be experiencing, be it persecution by enemies or betrayal by its own, and it cannot refuse this mission without betraying God.
It is in the interests of the Church in Russia that it be defended abroad, especially when this is not being done by its own Church authorities. The whole mass of the episcopate and other clergy of the Russian Church wishes freedom to the Church abroad as its moral support in struggle. It is full of hope that truth does not fade and is proclaimed somewhere. Sharp blows are experienced there by betrayals to it, by falls. If those abroad fall as well, then where is truth, and who keeps it? The position of the Russian Church Abroad is alacrity and comfort for everyone in Russia who loves the Church. Such is the witness of anyone who has been interred or exiled in Russia and conducted the struggle for the truth about the Church, and then obtained the good fortune of freedom abroad. Documents speak about this, and this is good for the Church. To oppose the Church Abroad in Russia is just as unnatural as opposing oneself. The heart of each Orthodox person in Russia, and even more so in its catacombs, fills up with a sense of profound satisfaction and joy, that the part of the Russian Church that is abroad has not departed from its path of truth and struggle for its Mother.
Hostile actions. Eliminating the administration abroad or submitting it to the authority of the fallen church authority under the Soviet Union would be a task only for the Church’s enemies, the Bolsheviks, while coming out against it by Church authorities is a betrayal of the Church. But this is purely Soviet morality. There, one confined to prison, in order to ease his situation, slanders others who are likewise sent to prison, but both the betrayer and the betrayed are executed. There are absolutely no guarantees of freedom for the Church in Russia in general and for the church betrayer in particular. And it has already been said that going along with such a deal with a known deceiver and sworn enemy of the Church is impossible, and that evil means are not appropriate for good purposes in the Church. Having lost its own freedom, the church authority under the Soviets is trying to take away the freedom of others with great fervor and zeal, violates the conscience of the free, forces the acceptance of already unrighteous slavery, and imposes its language of lies and deception while continuing its shameful statements. This is that same struggle not for the Church but for its own existence, for its own affirmation in the Church, for the avoidance of future judgment and the justification of its uncanonical path. It wishes to compel witnesses against it to silence, so that everyone would submit everywhere and be silenced before it, as it did in Russia.
It is now understandable why the Bishops’ Synod Abroad with its Chairman Metropolitan Anastasii is enemy number one at the Bolsheviks’ church front and for the Sergian Synod.
The Moscow delegate in America, striving to unite the Metropolia with the Patriarchate, said, “There are no more demands, just break with Metropolitan Anastasii.” The first item in the written document giving the prior conditions by the Moscow Patriarchate for removing the prohibitions against the Metropolia’s clergy is “the cessation of canonical and prayerful contact with Metropolitan Anastasii.” (Chicago, December, 14. 1945)
Anything but participation in this front. However, this isn’t sufficient. How can the chairman of the Synod Abroad be stigmatized or discredited in the eyes of the world? There is no material. But Metropolitan Anastasii’s address of gratitude to the German government of June 12, 1938 is presented as a crime.
On February 25, 1938 the German government issued a law preserving Russian Orthodox Church property in all German cities for our Church’s needs, relieving it of debts and lawsuits.
On May 30 / June 12, 1938 Metropolitan Anastasii consecrated a cathedral that was built for the Russians by the German government, which gave the first part of a grant of 45,000 marks, and then more as needed.
The war began a year after this event, on September 3, 1939. A few days before that, on August 23, 1939, the Bolsheviks concluded a non-aggression pact with Germany and jointly divided up Poland, and until the summer of 1941, when they went to war with them themselves, helped Germany against England and France with oil, provisions, and resources. Serbia, where Metropolitan Anastasii was living, was under German occupation from April 6, 1941. So how did Metropolitan Anastasii act from the war’s start in general, and then during Germany’s war with Soviet Russia?
From the start of the war he, along with the Bolsheviks, did not help the Germans in their fight against the Allies, and later he issued no written acts in the Germans’ favor, as did others, such as a certain metropolitan in Paris on June 22, 1941 and a certain archimandrite in Berlin on June 29, 1941.
And how did he act under the occupation? Patriarch Gabriel of Serbia, when he was in London in October of 1945, announced, with a feeling of deep sympathy and personal friendship toward Metropolitan Anastasii, to various Russian, English, and Polish church circles that he had displayed great tact and wisdom under the Germans, was always loyal toward the Serbs, underwent searches several times, and was not trusted by the Germans at all.
This testimony is so authoritative and significant that it dispels any shadow of lies and slanders.
Thus, an expression of a necessary debt of gratitude back before Chamberlain tried to convince Hitler to curb his appetite, while the Bolsheviks whetted it along with him, is made into an accusation by the falsehood of this world against a person simply because back in 1938 he did not express hostility to the German leader when he was building a church for Russians. And public statements with the Germans in no way prevent one to become a Soviet exarch and another one to become an American bishop. Of course, such is their lot in the world, but a true helmsman of an ecclesiastical ship cannot navigate without a wheel and sails at this very hard and troublesome time. Metropolitan Anastasii’s path is one of pure truth, and the slander is proof of this, for there are no other means against him.
One striking fact demonstrates the significance that the Bishops’ Synod and its truth have for Russia. Number 9 of the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate for 1946 has two articles directed against the Synod by Archpriests D. Bogoliubov and M. Vikentiev (Arkhireiskii Sobor zagranitsei and escho odin Miunkhen, pp. 74-80). But what a surprise it was when this article could not be found in another copy of the same number which was obtained through other means. Thus, Russian readers cannot be given information about the truth for which the Bishops’ Synod is fighting, even in the form of polemics.
Faithfulness. The irreconcilable position of the Bishops’ Synod is the position of those who are languishing in prison to this day, while many have been executed. The Russian Church Abroad confesses the truths of those nine hierarchs of the camps of the Molotov (Perm) Region who refused to sign their agreement with the Moscow Patriarchate and be released. It relies on that mass of believers with whom the Chekist on Church Affairs George Karpov polemicizes. He tells his Council of Bishops that the change in the relationship between the Church and the government “is not a tactical maneuver, as certain ill-wishers try to present this matter or as it is sometimes expressed in philistine discussions.” (Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, 1944:12) As in Russia, such discussions are held by Russians abroad as well.
The faithfulness of the Russian Church lies in remaining within it and not submitting to its current Patriarchate as being unlawful, lacking authority, not representing the Church, and in the conditions of its freedom preserving the banner of lawfulness and truth, raising it high, and awaiting and demanding its restoration and triumph. And this task of the Russian Church Abroad has been fulfilled and is being fulfilled among temptations, threats, prohibitions, lies, and slanders by enemies, treason and betrayal by its own, either through silence or through attacks in the press.
The Russian Church Abroad, with the Bishops’ Council and Synod at its head, not only confesses itself, but is actually within the Russian Church. It never broke away from it, living by its interests, needs, struggles, truth, defense of canons and martyrs, continuing abroad that old Tikhonian canonical path of its initial ten years, which went off to the catacombs there from the day Metropolitan Sergii fell.
The Independence of the Bishops’ Synod
The part of the Local Russian Church which is abroad, precisely as its part, is indisputably and unchangeably within it and is in full canonical communion with the entire Church Universal. In its administrative structure, as part of a local autocephalous church, it obeys the directives of its All-Russian Church Authority, starting from November 7/20, 1920.
The rights of the Bishops’ Synod arose, as a phenomenon of the internal church life of the Russian Orthodox Church, first in Russia, as the Supreme Church Authority, and then continued abroad, existing independently of the will and consent of any local church. The recognition of the jurisdiction of the Bishops’ Synod alongside the jurisdiction of these churches is required only on the territories of local churches. Russian bishops could perform any administrative or liturgical acts only with the consent of these patriarchates, and so they actually existed there. It follows from this that outside these patriarchates they perform liturgical and administrative acts without their consent, defense, and supervision, as soon as there are Russian parishes in these places.
There were in old Russia, with the consent of the Holy Synod, metochions in the Churches of the Greek Patriarchates, and in their course our missions and churches were in Jerusalem and other patriarchates with their consent, but in their own jurisdictions. The right to have its own missions and churches outside the territory of local churches was realized by the Russian Church as it was by other churches, without anyone’s consent in America, Japan, China, and Europe. In connection with civilian events of recent times the properties of the Russian Church have only expanded abroad, having obtained temporary unification next to foreign church authorities until they are united with the Russian authority,
The Serbian Church, recognizing the authority of the Bishops’ Council and Synod over all dioceses, missions, and churches outside Russia attributed its own significance to this authority, independent from its being in Serbia. Chairman of the Bishops’ Council and Synod Metropolitan Anastasii spoke about this 8n 1927: “Neither the Council nor the Synod are bound by territory. Should it happen that the Synod cannot fulfill its functions in Serbia, it will move to France, Germany, England, China, or into some other nation. The Council can gather in any country that way as well.”
The Antiochian and Bulgarian Churches have unfailingly displayed the same signs of recognition, love, and helpfulness as did the Serbian Church. From the other churches attitudes were changeable. They would be good, changing to the worse under various influences, and again becoming good.
The claims of Constantinople. Of course, we would be unlikely to expect all local churches to go in step with the Serbian Church, maintaining the interests of their Russian sister without self-interest, especially on the part of the Constantinople Church. Due to its primacy and chairmanship among all it bears the ecumenical title. With the downfall of the guiding role of the Russian Church the Ecumenical Patriarchs felt themselves to be successors to its ecclesiastical authority and world influence, especially since the expulsion of all Christians from Turkish Asia, when the patriarch was barely able to hold on in Constantinople with a few small dioceses. It could fix its position only by extending its power mostly onto the part of the Russian Church that is abroad. Taking into account the tasks of the Bishops’ Synod we will understand to what degree its existence was sometimes inappropriate for the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
In 1922 Constantinople established its exarchate in Europe, headed by the Metropolitan of Thyateria and announced, through decrees of March 16 and April 27, 1923 and June 28, 1924, that Metropolitan Evlogii of the Western European Churches was uncanonical and had no right to rule those churches, and also stated that the Russian Church cannot have churches under its submission outside the limits of its nation, and all churches in Japan, China, and other places must submit to him. The Synod and the metropolitan challenged these claims in a series of letters.
In June 1923 the Patriarch of Constantinople broke directly into the confines of the Russian Church and placed under his submission the Russian Diocese of Finland as an autonomous church. Leaving Patriarch Tikhon’s protests and those of the ruling Russian bishop in December 1923 without consequences he consecrated uncanonically the genuine pseudo-bishop German Aava to please the Finnish government.
In 1924, at the hardest moment in the life of the Russian Church, when one could have counted on the help of the senior hierarch of the Ecumenical Church, the Constantinople Patriarchate, influenced by the Bolsheviks and renovationists, displayed hostile actions toward the Russian Church. It recognized the condemnation of the patriarch by a renovationist council, sought his removal, urging Patriarch Tikhon to renounce his authority and abolish the patriarchate, and intended to send an investigative committee into Russia. The patriarch sent a special message rejecting such unlawful interference in the affairs of the Russian Autocephalous Church.
Concurrently and under the same influence, the Constantinople Patriarchate demanded that two Russian archbishops in Constantinople transfer into its jurisdiction and cease commemorating Patriarch Tikhon and being under the Bishops’ Synod. The Patriarch of Serbia refused this and the Patriarch of Antioch categorically condemned such interference as being without foundation and deplorable.
In November 1924 the autocephaly of the Polish Church was recognized, whereby it was fully placed into the power of its government, Orthodoxy’s enemy. This violation of the rights of the Russian Church was categorically condemned by Patriarch Tikhon.
Metropolitan Antonii, Chairman of the Bishops’ Synod, after defending the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1923 from being expelled from Constantinople and emphasizing to the president of the Lausanne Conference the significance of that patriarchate for Orthodoxy, was obliged to send a mournful message on February 4/17, 1925 to Constantinople Patriarch Constantine VI using the following expressions: “Until now I have been raising my voice only to glorify the Ecumenical Patriarchs, however I am not a papist and I remember that besides the great bishops there have been many heretics, anathematized together with Pope Honorius. And now the same path of disobedience to the Church was taken by Patriarchs Meletios and Gregory VII, who have picked out the Polish and Finnish Dioceses without the consent of the All-Russian Patriarch out of a wish to please heterodox governments. Metropolitan Antonii asked them to give up their claims to the borderlands that were seized from the Russian Patriarchate.
But Patriarch Basil III explained that all Orthodox immigrants who live outside their Mother Churches must be under the Constantinople throne.
And Patriarch Photius II accepted into his jurisdiction the Western European Diocese, which was part of the Petrograd Diocese, attaining what was striven for in 1922.
And finally, in May 1936 the Patriarch of Constantinople accepted into his jurisdiction the Russian Diocese in Latvia in the same unlawful way and placed Metropolitan Augustin there.
In 1937 he placed a bishop for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America.
At the same time, he displayed his acquisitive strivings toward the diaspora of the Serbian Church in various countries. He proclaimed Mount Athos to be the exclusive property of the Greek Church and barred Slavic monks from going there, bringing their monasteries to decline, liquidation, and seizure by the Greeks.
Taking advantage of the difficult situation of the Russian Church the Constantinople Patriarchate allowed itself to interfere in its matters and border, without having any canonical basis for this. His reference to a canon (Chalcedon 28), according to which “bishops in barbarian lands” obey him, that is those who establish new churches outside the Byzantine Empire, but in the provinces of Pontus, Asia, and Thrace, which were no longer subject to this patriarchate. All autocephalous churches have this right to have missions outside their boundaries that are subject to them. But the canons forbid a bishop to “extend his authority to another diocese, which previously and from the beginning was not under his or his predecessors’ authority (Ephesus 8). For when were Finland, Poland, Estonia, or Latvia, or the parishes of Western Europe, under the authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople? And when did bishops of his jurisdiction establish new churches in these “barbarian lands”? Isn’t the Patriarchate seizing inheritance belonging to others which had never belonged to him? Such Greek papism and imperialism of Constantinople violates the very core and joy of the true structure of the Ecumenical Church as a brotherly and apostolic union of different and freely self-ruling local churches.
The same canon speaks about this: “May the arrogance of worldly power not creep in under the guise of a religious rite, and may we not imperceptibly lose, little by little, that freedom that the Lord gave us with His blood.”
The normal situation — The Moscow Patriarchate was powerless to fight against such interference, being held captive itself, a situation from which other naturally flee. In place of the All-Russian Church Authority its temporary representative, the Bishops’ Council and Synod steadfastly defended the heritage and rights of the Russian Church all these years.
Autocephalous churches have always and everywhere had the right and duty to have missions outside their boundaries and in those of other autocephalous churches, and to assign their bishops there, and this right has never been taken away from them for the benefit of any other church. The Russian diocese and parishes in Europe, America, China, and Japan have never been under any other, and were always subject to the Russian Synod.
And lately, having been isolated by circumstances of war and revolution from its Mother Church, its parts that are abroad must remain within it and cannot submit to other patriarchates arbitrarily or also arbitrarily establish autonomies and autocephalies.
And other local churches and Eastern Patriarchates cannot lay claim to the inheritance of the autocephalous Russian Church.
Such is the canonical and indisputable foundation, casting away any anarchy and lawlessness, of the existence of the part of the Russian Church that is abroad, which has its episcopate here, in order to realize in its council the general episcopal authority and to lawfully assume the head of this special portion of the Russian Church until the onset of normal times and canonical structure in it, for which it is likewise fighting.
In order not to err against the holy canons the Eastern Patriarchs nor only cannot lay claim to the Russian inheritance or accept it in subjection without the consent of the Russian Church, but they cannot take any side in that internal canonical dispute which the latter might have. The holy canons and past bitter experience with renovationism forewarn against such interference. Patriarchs can be mistaken in evaluating Russian ecclesiastical events.
The final judgment over its affairs belongs to the local Russian Church itself.
The relation of the eastern patriarchs to the contemporary Moscow Patriarchate is a relation of equality and even seniority, and requires nothing of them. Without any other head of the Russian Church they deal with this one. And in recognizing it at a trial over it they can participate in a similar way, having been invited for it by the local Russian Church. Such is the law of autocephaly.
However, the presence of a canonical dispute between Russians suggests at least caution to the eastern patriarchs, and they cannot use their authority to force any part of the Russian Church to submit to the current Moscow Patriarchate, as it happened in 1945 in Jerusalem in connection with the Russian Spiritual Mission.
The part of the Russian Church that is abroad has a firm basis to claim that the current Moscow Patriarchate is an uncanonical establishment that does not represent the Russian Church, that unworthily occupies a place among the canonical heads of all Orthodox local churches, and will inevitably lose it according to the coming judgment of the Free Russian Local Council.
Attitudes and politics are changeable. At present the Constantinople has lost part its unlawful acquisitions (Estonia, Latvia, the Czech Republic) unexpectedly, by the Soviet occupation of these areas. In the future it might reexamine and correct its principled positions for the triumph of peace, order, and love in the Universal Church.
10. Exarchates and Autonomies
While faithfulness to the Russian Church for its part that is abroad lies in remaining within it but in refraining from becoming subject to the current uncanonical Patriarchate until the Russian Church receives freedom and a normal life, unfaithfulness to it, presupposing purely logically, could be expressed in three possible courses:
1) Going into the jurisdiction of another local church
2) Separating from the Russian Church by autocephaly or autonomy
3) Submitting to the Sergian Patriarchate
All of these courses have been realized in practice.
The course of the Bishops’ Synod is unprecedented and foundational, while the development of other currents could occur only through schism, through separation from it. The Synod cannot be accused of schism, since there was no one for it to separate from, and, most importantly, it did not betray itself, its initial course, in order to become a reason for schism and to yield its primacy to others.
Incidentally, a certain higher pattern inevitably arises here, as well as a certain parallel. The Orthodox Ecumenical Church cannot be accused of schism, as the local Roman Church is trying to do. It has changed the eighth section of the Creed, introducing the filioque and violating the equality of the persons of the Holy Trinity, and the ninth section, allowing papal primacy to violate the equality of the first bishops of all of the self-ruling local churches that stand in brotherly apostolic union at the head of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. The papist Church betrayed Orthodoxy, brought into it what it did not know, and yet it accuses the Orthodox Church of schism, casting blame from an ailing head to a healthy one.
Thus, in this case, the position of the Bishops’ Synod with respect to schisms turned out to be profitable and true in principle as being true to itself and the Russian Church, while the schisms condemned themselves by their history.
The Constantinople Exarchate
The former Western European Diocese of the jurisdiction of the Russian Bishops’ Council and Synod Abroad is now in the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who has been successful here in the role of his numerous claims.
This diocese has followed a tortuous path. It was under the Russian Church Abroad from October 1, 1920 until July 16, 1926. Then it was under Patriarch Sergii’s Moscow Patriarchate from August 1927 to October 1930, and under the Constantinople Patriarchate from February 17, 1931. Then again it was under the Moscow Patriarchate from September 11, 1945, and, finally, it was under the Constantinople Patriarchate from March 6, 1947. Thus, the diocese took its fifth position only recently.
In the concluding stage of the Civil War, in February 1920, the future helmsman of the diocese, Archbishop Evlogii, was already in Serbia, and from there, after a trip to Europe at the request of the Supreme Church Authority in Southern Russia, asked through Archbishop Dimitri of Tauride, the Supreme Church Authority to assign him to the Western European Diocese. He was assigned on October 1, 1920 as temporary administrator of these churches of the Petrograd Diocese. However, the rector of the Paris embassy church, Fr. I. Smirnov, wished to have confirmation of this assignment from the central Russian Church authorities, and it was received at the intercession of the Finnish archbishop. The Patriarchal Synod in Moscow, under Metropolitan Evsevii’s chairmanship, recognized the legality of the actions of the Supreme Church Authority and referred to Metropolitan Evlogii’s appointment in the following words: “In view of the ruling made by the Supreme Church Authority Abroad the Russian Churches in Western Europe are to be regarded as being temporarily administered by His Eminence Evlogii.”
In May 1922 the Patriarchal Synod and Council, shutting down the Supreme Church Authority Abroad, said in the decree, by the way, the following: “Taking into account that the appointment by that same authority of His Eminence Metropolitan Evlogii as administrator of the Russian Orthodox churches abroad, no sphere remains for the Supreme Church Authority for its activity. Therefore, the aforesaid Supreme Church Authority is hereby abolished, with Metropolitan Evlogii remaining temporary administrator of Russian parishes abroad. He is charged with presenting ideas regarding the order of administrating the aforesaid parishes.”
Thus, the Patriarchal authority assumed that it was eliminating the authority abroad not just because of its political statements, but also because it was not needed, since it had no sphere for its activity. Therefore, Metropolitan Evlogii’s rights that were previously recognized covered administrative rights even without expanding them, and remained as before. Patriarch Tikhon’s administration did not know that there were nine dioceses under the authority abroad with twelve ruling and vicar bishops.
It is natural that Metropolitan Evlogii, with the presence of the Bishops’ Council, could seek “ideas regarding the order of administering” only from it, especially since at that point the Patriarch was arrested in Russia and was acting according to the decree of November 7/20, 1920. And wherever connection with the center has been lost, according to the decree the diocesan bishop is to immediately get in touch with bishops of neighboring dioceses in order to organize the highest level of church authority. And only if this is impossible does the “diocesan bishop take upon himself the fulness of authority” (November 7/20, 1920, decree no. 362). The most favorable conditions for self-rule and the lawful organization of church authority turned out to be abroad, and Evlogii could not act otherwise than to seek the decisions of the Bishops’ Council.
In connection with this act, Metropolitan Evlogii gave the Bishops’ Council a memorandum saying “I propose the immediate shutdown of the aforesaid authority and for all Russian bishops abroad to immediately start organizing a new central body of supreme church authority abroad, or to restore the old one that was in effect before the Karlovci Council.” Along with the Council he accepted the new basis for the organization of the Bishops’ Synod and signed a circular announcement to thar effect on August 31/September 13, 1922. After that he had occasion to refer to this 1920 decree as valid.
On July 3/16 of that same year Metropolitan Evlogii wrote to Metropolitan Antonii, “It was undoubtedly issued under Bolshevik pressure.” And he wrote in 1925, “I do not recognize any necessary power behind this document, even if it was written and signed by the Patriarch. This document has a political character, not an ecclesiastical one. It has no significance outside the borders of the Soviet nation for no one and nowhere.” And in a message to his flock on June 23/July 6, 1924, he was proving the canonicity of the authority of the Council and Synod Abroad.
However, the temptation of personal power may have appeared for Metropolitan Evlogii already at the final meeting of the Supreme Church Authority to discuss its abolition on August 29/September 11, 1922, when one Bishop (Veniamin) insisted on “the transfer of the fulness of supreme church authority” to himself. Twelve votes, including that of Metropolitan Evlogii, were opposed to this. But still, from that moment on, Metropolitan Evlogii started striving toward the determination and intensification of his rights and privileges.
Beginning in 1922 Metropolitan Evlogii, without the Synod’s knowledge, was sending reports, memorandums, and proposals, directed against Metropolitan Antonii and the Bishops’ Synod, either through Athens and Vienna, or through Finland. In January 1924 he was asking Patriarch Tikhon, through the archbishop of Finland, about abolishing the Bishops’ Synod and confirming his rights. He also asked for the Jerusalem Spiritual Mission to be transferred to his diocese. He asked the same of Metropolitan Peter in 1925. But the patriarch left all of the numerous submissions by Metropolitan Evlogii without consequences, although it was known that he provided receipts for these papers. The Synod would hear about this correspondence, but Metropolitan Evlogii would deny this at meetings of the Council and Synod.
In the Synod Metropolitan Evlogii systematically maintained his particular opinion. Having received his diocese from his fellow brethren he strove his hardest to rule it without the Council and the Synod, to expand his rights and, creating a dyarchy, introduced chaos into Church life. The Bishops’ Council, wishing to set limits to these bids for power, accepted his plan for the Western European Metropolitan District, giving him what was almost autonomy.
But Metropolitan Evlogii allowed himself to intrude upon the sphere of other church bodies and diocesan hierarchs, With Metropolitan Antonii’s blessing a church community was started in Australia and was included in the jurisdiction of the Bishops’ Synod. Metropolitan Evlogii intruded there, and the same happened with Paraguay and Uruguay. Finland had been an autonomous diocese since 1918. Metropolitan Evlogii allowed his own parishes to be started there without the consent of the ruling bishop and called upon the Finnish flock to submit to pseudo-Bishop German on February 12, 1926, who was categorically rejected by Patriarch Tikhon and the Russian episcopate on December 28, 1923 and October 27, 1925. And it should be added that the renovationist “metropolitan” Vasilii Smelov, who had fled from Russia to Persia with his wife and two daughters, and was rejected there by the archimandrite of the Russian Spiritual Mission of the Bishops’ Synod, was received by Metropolitan Evlogii with no questions asked on October 22, 1933, no. 1891, with an assignment to “start the task of setting up the Church of Christ in faraway Persia.” as if there hadn’t been a Russian Orthodox parish there until then.
He was constantly in touch with organs and official figures who were subject to the Bishops’ Synod and other ruling diocesan hierarchs without their knowledge. He would issue church messages as the head of the Church Abroad without having the authority to do so, and not being recognized as such by the episcopate. He would give orders affecting the entire Church without obtaining consent from the Supreme Church Authority of the Bishops’ Council and Synod.
By the rights of the Supreme Church Authority, which had appointed Metropolitan Evlogii to a part of the Petrograd Diocese and formed a metropolitanate out of it, the Bishop’s Synod found it necessary, for the Church’s benefit, to separate six parishes in Germany out of that diocese into an independent diocese, which gave cause for Metropolitan Evlogii to break away from the Bishops’ Council.
Patriarch Tikhon’s decree expanding the rights of vicar bishops was unceremoniously disregarded by Metropolitan Evlogii, and when the Bishops’ Synod demanded its fulfillment, Metropolitan Evlogii in an official letter refused to publish and fulfill it. This gave final impetus for the Bishops’ Council to free up the German vicariate with its Bishop Tikhon from Metropolitan Evlogii’s rule as despotic.
On June 16/29, 1926 Metropolitan Evlogii left a meeting of the Bishops’ Council because it refused to examine this issue as the first item.
A bishop’s departure from obedience to the Bishops’ Synod simply because it made a decision he didn’t like is an unacceptable route toward church anarchy, an undisciplined and uncanonical act.
Then Metropolitan Evlogii started an argument about the Synod’s powers and finally stated his secret thoughts, whose realization he had been striving for the past four years. “On April 22/May 5, 1922, after the Patriarch condemned the Karlovci Council,” he said, “my church powers were not only confirmed, but significantly strengthened and expanded. I was directed to close down the Church Authority Abroad that was in Karlovci, take control of all the Russian churches, and to present my ideas on how to administer them. This decree essentially gave me all of the power over Russian Orthodox churches abroad.”
In further polemics Metropolitan Evlogii presented himself of equal status with the Council on November 26, 1926, to which the chairman of the Synod, Metropolitan Antonii, replied, “The Bishops’ Synod regards your statement that you regard yourself and the Bishops’ Council to be of equal status as blasphemous. Not only any of the hierarchs, but even the Patriarch, cannot hold a position equal to the Bishops’ Council.” (Tserkovnye vedomosti, January 1-15, 1927)
The purpose of the Bishops; Council, which was openly confessed from the beginning is the unification of all dioceses and spiritual missions abroad into a single entity, (Message of August 27, 1927) That is why it is the Bishops’ Council Abroad. Metropolitan Evlogii on his part found it necessary to “limit the unlawful, in his opinion, claims of the Karlovci Synod to seize the entire fulness of church power over the whole Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.” (Tserkovnyi vestnik,6-7, 1930) In the name of what? In his name, his own personal claims, which he regarded to be lawful, supposedly according to the exact sense of the 1922 decree. He said that “The attempt to cast out of historical circulation the 1922 Moscow decree, which is clear and is not subject to any misinterpretation, simply because it is not to someone’s liking, is arbitrary and unlawful.” (Address of August 6, 1926) But are the attempt to cast out of historical circulation the presence of an entire council of bishops abroad, the law of the same Moscow Patriarchate, which was being implemented due to existing conditions, the uncanonical motives of the shutting down of the Supreme Church Authority, the notorious violence of the Bolsheviks and the Patriarch’s captivity, whose decrees therefore lost all juridical power and authority, and, finally the undoubted lack of understanding by the Moscow Patriarchate of the situation abroad lawful and arbitrary? Why would that be? Well, because it was pleasant for just one bishop and supposedly gave him the opportunity to stand alone in opposition to the entire Council even after four years. Thus, independently of words and verbal reassurances, Metropolitan Evlogii actually rejected the canonical principle of conciliarity, regarding himself equal to the Bishops’ Council and destroyed church authority. But this is not at all a dispute between different sides but disobedience by one of the hierarchs of the Bishops’ Council, as a church authority. (Bishops’ Synod’s Definition of November 25-26, 1926.)
Regarding his departure from the Council Metropolitan Antonii wrote to Metropolitan Evlogii, “You tried to justify your departure from the Council in every possible way, but this is not the first time that you are resorting to such means of influencing the Council. This happened at the 1922, 1923, and 1924 Councils, and was your practice in Russia” (August 17-30, no. 1001). These are interesting facts to characterize the personality.
Having left the Bishops’ Council in June of 1926 Metropolitan Evlogii, in step with his previous activities, hurried to anticipate events. A week before the act separating the German Diocese from the Metropolitanate was published and received he sent out circulars to German parishes regarding disobedience to the Synod. However, on August 4/17 he suddenly sent a written declaration recognizing the canonical judicial and administrative power of the Bishops’ Council and delegating two vicar bishops to resolve disagreement, with an expression of regret for leaving the Council. But without waiting for a reply and the Council’s decision he brought consternation to it and the delegates by issuing on August 6/19 a message to the flock, affirming his exclusive rights and in attacks insulting to the Synod entirely annulled his recent steps toward peace. Following this, still not receiving a reply from the Synod, he hastily went to Germany, visiting German parishes and trying to rouse them against the Supreme Church Authority.
With the exception of two or three of his vicar bishops, Metropolitan Evlogii had no supporters among the overwhelming majority in the Bishops’ Council (35 in all). The hierarchs remaining in their sees were respected by their flocks, but also respected in their brotherly union of bishops. From them he had unanimous rejection, since they could perfectly discern his psychology and understood the true spirit of his power seeking, knowing his mode of operation. Thus, it remained for Metropolitan Evlogii to rely only on the respect of his flock. Only agitation could accomplish its recognition and affirmation of his special privileges.
Messages to the flock, student gatherings, a series of deanery meetings, clergy and laity drawn into the dispute between hierarchs, an intelligentsia ignorant about church canons, lectures, the acceptance and encouragement of addresses, a press pouring tubs of dirt, slander, lies, insinuations — everything in the Western European Diocese was set in motion against the Bishops’ Synod. The leaders of student other organizations named Metropolitan Evlogii a confessor, sufferer, and head of the Church Abroad, although not a single bishop of that church regarded him as such. Metropolitan Evlogii did not protest. He himself fired up church unrest, inciting the clergy and the flock to disobey the Synod, fighting for his personal power and influence against the institution which stood in the way of his ambitious thoughts. His falling away from the Bishops’ Council that he had previously recognized and his open rebellion speak for themselves. And he convicted himself by all of his contradictory actions, arbitrariness, diplomacy, and cunning.
He arbitrarily removed Bishop Tikhon, whom the Council had appointed, from his duties and took it upon himself to forbid him from serving. Only the Council can do this, and Metropolitan Evlogii himself demanded an ecclesiastical trial over the American “church rebels” Bishops Alexander and Stephan and Metropolitan Platon (letters to Metropolitan Antonii of December 14, 1922 and February 11, 1923). At that time he forbade Priest Znosko along with the Council, but now he took it upon himself to allow Archpriest Prozorov to serve, who had been forbidden by the Council. The only power that is canonical for such actions no longer existed for him. After proclaiming himself to be equal to the Council he had actually become a thief of general episcopal power.
He had previously opposed the subjection of the part of the Russian Church that was abroad to other local churches, but now he became with definite purposes in favor of the subjection of those who are in the territories of these churches. Already after the Supreme Church Authority was shut down he responded to the claims of the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1923 and 1924 (March 28, no. 352 and July 10, no. 978) by defending the Bishops’ Synod, and he wrote the following: “All of these churches become Russian metochions at the present time within the new Orthodox Church in Czechoslovakia, and their situation is identical to that of the Russian Spiritual Mission with its churches in Palestine, and also to the current situation of the churches in Constantinople, Serbia, and other Orthodox countries.” Now he was advocating the independence of those Russian parishes that are only outside those countries, such as, for instance, his parishes, while recommending that parishes directly subject to the Bishops’ Synod and located mostly in the territory of other local churches, become subject to those churches. Thus, his purpose is to destroy the Synod’s significance along with the destruction of his own central diocese. He was shamed only by Serbia, which with its authority and defense supports the Bishops’ Synod, for otherwise he would not have taken it into account for a single day, without giving it its own central and uniting significance for the Church that is abroad, but would have fully attempted to concentrate it around himself. He wished to please Serbia and other local churches, sacrificing Russian parishes to them, only to deal a blow to the Synod and raise his significance. He was now for breaking up the part of the Russian Chruch that was abroad into numerous independent organisms in order to pick them into his jurisdiction part by part, according to his prior method.
The polemics between the Bishops Synod and Metropolitan Evlogii lasted seven months with acute experiences, at least for the Western European Diocese, and on January 13/26, 1927 the Bishops’ Synod ruled that Metropolitan Evlogii was to be brought to trial by the Council and removed from ruling the diocese. Another bishop would be appointed, and he would be forbidden from serving (Circular Message no. 114, of January 22/February 4, 1927).
The Bishops’ Synod cannot be accused of hasty action, insufficient patience, excessive strictness, or of unfulfillment of a duty or a striving toward schism. Much valor was needed not to yield once again to Metropolitan Evlogii and to resolve to censure him, and to endure the loss of a large diocese and grief from Parisian unruliness.
The Bishops’ Council had over twenty instances of Metropolitan Evlogii’s despotism and disobedience. The truth may not be understood, but it must be fulfilled in the expectation of the future judgment of history which is fuller and unbiased.
Thus, the cause of the schism here was the ruling of the Russian Patriarchal administration, which was unlawful in its motives. Erroneous, compromising, and brought about by Bolshevik violence, the actions of the Patriarchate resulted in the same consequences here as well as in Russia. And the temptation of power appeared here for one bishop with disparagement of the Council’s power.
The censure by that Bishops’ Council, to which the bishop in question himself belonged, and which he left out of his self-will, have insuperable canonical force, besides just repentance and a return to obedience. Other bishops cannot accept him without the consent of the first ones. In order to hold on to any portion or form of canonical church existence Metropolitan Evlogii naturally rushed to be defended by the heads of other local churches. In the spring of 1926 he was not yet thinking of the possibility of such an appeal and wrote to Metropolitan Dionisii of Warsaw on May 5 /26 (no. 736, Voskresnye chteniia, no. 74): “I regard the appeal to the Patriarch of Constantinople and his participation in this matter (presumably for organizing the Orthodox Church in Poland), and with all my deep respect to the lofty position of this Orthodox hierarch, as incorrect, and I see in this action, which is not justified by the canons, interference with the internal matters of the Autocephalous Russian Church.”
The Ecumenical Patriarch, who in 1923-24 proclaimed Metropolitan Evlogii to be uncanonical and didn’t commemorate his title, was now (on June 18, 1927), encouraging him and condemning the Synod’s actions. The Patriarch of Alexandria, formerly Ecumenical, and the Metropolitan of Greece likewise issued such messages (in April and May), guided by political influences and also being at odds with the unifying idea of the Russian Church Abroad.
But the path that Metropolitan Evlogii chose was dangerous for him. While the Bishops’ Synod declared that the abolition of the Supreme Church Authority was unlawful and dictated by Bolshevik forcefulness, he focused his attention on his privileges received upon this abolition and was naturally forced to dismiss thoughts of forcefulness by the godless and recognize this action as a matter of the free volition of the Moscow Patriarchate, affirm his subjection to it, and from then on to deny the Synod’s right to rely on the 1920 decree. This reliance on the power of the Moscow Church and the “behests of Patriarch Tikhon,” which are now mentioned continually, was, of course, insincere, and came with the secret hope that this power would actually not be realized and remain as fiction, but only in order to be freed of the Bishops’ Synod and expand his own privileges. However, he earnestly proceeded to affirm his new canonical basis, which in his opinion was unassailable and unique, and dug a hole for himself into which he fell with extraordinary effect.
The first subjection to Moscow. When Metropolitan Evlogii was writing on June 5/18, 1927 to his flock, “We wish to remain faithful to the end not in words but in deed, to the behests of our father, the Holy Confessor Patriarch Tikhon… we will obediently fulfill the wishes of his lawful successors” (Tserkovnyi vestnik, no. 1), Metropolitan Sergii was preparing his declaration of July16/29 in Russia. Two weeks earlier, before it was issued on July 1/14, he sent Decree 93 to Metropolitan Evlogii proposing that he and all archpastors and pastors abroad provide a signature of loyalty to the Soviet Union. Those refusing to do so would be discharged from the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. The leader of the Western European Diocese was now receiving confirmation of his privileges under conditions what were too difficult, but he had no place to go. He himself and his vicar bishops sent a refusal to make “political statements” to Moscow, pastors’ statements were “being kept in his office,” and lists of all the clergy who complied with these obligations were likewise sent to Moscow (Metropolitan Sergii, December 1927, Terkovnyi vestnik for April 1931).
He himself pictured his flock’s mood this way: “A general negative attitude is being created not only to the person of Metropolitan Sergii, but also to his case.” And later he described it to Metropolitan Sergii in the following words: “You don’t know what agitation and what indignation was evoked by your request that I and my clergy express loyalty to the Soviet regime… It took great effort on my part to relieve that agitation” (October 27, 1927 and July 8, 1930). But the question is, for what and for whom was this subjection to Moscow and this moral forcefulness over the conscience of pastors and the flock, who, according to their emigré nature were opposed to the Soviet regime? Absolutely for no one in the entire emigration, except for Metropolitan Evlogii, who now needed to fix his uncanonical situation (that of Metropolitan Sergii as well, it should be noted), and in practice to justify this already taken false position. Trouble incited him when he broke with the Bishops’ Synod, setting off completely along the mistaken path, for one mistake gave birth to another.
But it is curious that in the face of general indignation, this decision to become subject to Moscow likewise passed through a diocesan assembly as a schism with the Synod. As always, too few heroes were found who would go against the leadership’s falsehood. There were few principles, little knowledge, and the total absence of other guides from among their intimates who could be followed. The diocese deserves, of course, pity rather than condemnation for the falsehood with which the clergy and its flock was ensnared and for the impotent indignation over experimentation on themselves. The time when the Bishops’ Council Abroad joined the Spiritual Council of Russia’s bishops and together with them condemned Metropolitan Sergii’s actions as uncanonical, was when Metropolitan Evlogii recognized subjection to him as his only canonical support. While nobody besides him needed this abroad, in Russia even Metropolitan Sergii didn’t need it, just the secret police. Having committed the sins of breaking from the episcopate abroad, Metropolitan Evlogii came under Metropolitan Sergii’s submission, who committed the same sin at that time. Two violators of general episcopal authority were united. The Church Abroad was ailing with the same diseases as was the Mother Church. But here and there a healthy orientation was present which was struggling against the sickness of the times which had arisen in the new conditions of the Church’s existence. Having broken communion with his fellow brothers abroad, Metropolitan Evlogii, upon recognizing Metropolitan Sergii, broke likewise with the martyred bishops, prisoners, and confessors in Russia, who were faithful to Tikhon and rejected the legalization conditions that were enslaving for the Church.
Having signed his loyalty to the Soviet regime, the Church’s enemy, Metropolitan Evlogii was drawn into Metropolitan Sergii’s fornication, which had evoked general indignation in Russia.
When Metropolitan Sergii send his proposal abroad, the imprisoned clergy asked themselves if anyone would take this bait? And someone was found to take it. At the time it called forth only general bitter irony. And the irony could be cruel there. Thus, upon receiving word that Patriarch Damian of Jerusalem had recognized the renovationists, a certain aged imprisoned archbishop said in indignation, “Demyan Bednyj…”
Like Metropolitan Sergii, Metropolitan Evlogii did not recognize the 1920 rulings and fought for individual rights against general episcopal authority. This was a mini-Metropolitan Sergii abroad.
Obviously, such an unnatural union was a heavy burden and excessive enslavement for the free part of the Russian Church. On January 4, 1928 Metropolitan Sergii demanded an explanation of a panikhida for the victims of the Revolution held at the Paris cathedral and how this “corresponds to the requirement of not participating in political activity.” On August 5 he again asked about a panikhida for known individuals who had just been executed in Russia. On October 15 he asked about the content of some message of he delivered to his flock and suggested that it would be better to present them in advance “for approval” to the Patriarchate. In 1929 a wave of protests arose in all countries of Western Europe against religious persecutions in Russia. At first, Metropolitan Evlogii took part at a Protestant gathering in Paris on this subject, and then on March 16, 1930 he did so at Westminster Abbey in England. On April 4 Metropolitan Sergii again demanded explanations regarding this “political activity.” On June 7/30, 1930 he removed him from ruling the diocese, and on December 24 he forbade him along with his vicar bishops from serving until his trial and repentance.
In his reply to the Patriarchate on November 26, 1930 Metropolitan Evlogii finally wrote: “We have no alternative other than to rely on this decree [of November 20, 1920] to guard the freedom of church life from political influence.” But on May 20, 1931 he received an order forbidding him, his vicar bishops, and the entire clergy from serving for disobeying his directives. All this time Metropolitan Evlogii was already in the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople.
In all of these addresses abroad Metropolitan Sergii demonstrated his extreme and obvious criminality. His totally uncanonical demand, with the threat of removal from the clergy, for signatures of loyalty to the Soviet regime from the clergy abroad, the prohibition on prayers for cessation of persecutions against the Russian, Church and panikhidas for victims of Soviet terror, should be placed in the appropriate place in his indictment as his “activity for the benefit of the Church’s enemies.” This was total betrayal of the Church’s interests. Not only did he not confess the truth, but also forbade others who were free to do so. Such cooperation with a godless regime, to the point of sacrificing any truth, is profoundly immoral.
Therefore these demands should have been categorically rejected by Metropolitan Evlogii from the very beginning, and he shouldn’t have held to that path of compromises with Metropolitan Sergii, and trough him with the godless regime, simply to enhance his own privileges.
Thus, it is obvious from this bitter experience that the political motivation of the closure of the Supreme Church Authority in 1922 was so unlawful and insufficient, that Metropolitan Evlogii never, not only in four, but in ten years as well, could not substantiate his claims to power and had to regard them as nonexistent. A little more politics (the Karlovci Assembly of 1921) or a little less politics (participation in prayers for ceasing persecutions) were equally criminal for the Bolsheviks. They needed definite policies — for their benefit. Metropolitan Evlogii was tempted by his privileges that were received from Moscow, made use of them, and then was himself shut down through the same political motives as was the Supreme Church Authority. He started regarding the existence of the Authority or Synod unlawful rather late after its closure by Moscow. But this was only for the Synod. He likewise allowed himself to disobey Moscow now. On June 29, 1930 the wonderful diocesan assembly, that only supreme authority of his power, spoke on the occasion of his removal by the Patriarchate, and issued this ruling: “An actual disruption of normal administrative relations with the supreme church authority in Russia has come about, and the possibility of receiving from it free commands has ceased… and therefore the moment had come to submit to the directives of November 20, 1920, and, without breaking spiritual and canonical connection with the Mother All-Russian Church in faith, prayer, and love, up until the restoration of a normal situation, ruling bishop Metropolitan is to take on the fulness of authority over the diocese entrusted to him” (Tserkovnyj vestnik no. 8, 1920).
The poor diocese suffered for three years to finally come to a fair solution, having copied word for word the 1937 Polish ruling of the Bishops’ Synod. Only Metropolitan Evlogii was again unable to accept the fulness of authority, according to the sense of the 1920 decree, if other diocesan hierarchs were present in the same Russian Church. If only a return to this decree and any church decision in general was serious, efforts should have been made to hasten to unite with them to organize anew levels of supreme church authority.
Metropolitan Evlogii was punished severely for leaving the Bishops’ Synod and the erroneous nature of his course was proven for all to see, as were the correctness and lawfulness of the actions of the Bishops’ Synod. He pronounced his own judgment on himself by his actions and his contradictory activities, falling into a trap that he had set up for himself. His sins fell upon his head.
But, mainly, the canonicity of his authority, his former rights to rule, were lost completely. Metropolitan Evlogii was removed by those two bearers of church authority to whom he was subject. Conscious subjection to authority obliges the subjected to submission and obedience. He was dismissed and forbidden by the Council of Bishops Abroad in 1927 and by the central authority in the Russia of Metropolitan Sergii in 1930. If he didn’t recognize either authority known to be higher than his, both from whom he drew his privileges and appointments, he was being arbitrary. He accepted his appointment, but he didn’t accept removals or any kind of obedience from them.
Having been forbidden twice from supreme church authority, he saw that the “fulness of authority” according to the 1920 decree appeared to him only more obvious by his self-will and by nothing more. The events he experienced justified the route taken by the Bishops’ Synod and overthrew his claims to power to nothing, and now all that remained was to acknowledge this courageously and firmly, and, having been shamed by his sin and falsehood, to repent and return to the Council. But he wasn’t on the spiritual level of Metropolitan Sergii, who, having made an obvious error with regard to the renovationists, took off his klobuk and publicly repented. With unusual ease and rapidity Metropolitan Evlogii went over to a third jurisdiction, seeking defense and affirmation from those who had been awaiting the acknowledgment of their special rights over all churches in the dispersion.
The first subjection to Constantinople. Of course, readily responding to Metropolitan Evlogii’s pleas, Ecumenical Patriarch Photius announced in a proclamation on February 17, 1931 “our temporary Russian Orthodox Exarchate in Europe” had been arranged. And he gave no explanation why it was temporary — was it because this diocese would be returned to the Russian Church as soon as an appropriate moment would come for it, or because it would then be transferred to permanent rule by the Greek exarch in Europe? In any case, Metropolitan Evlogii understood this in his own way. On February 25 he wrote in a message to his flock, “a dark cloud that had been hanging over our diocese has been dispersed… A new difficult trial has come to a solution… The Ecumenical Patriarch has accepted our Russian Orthodox Churches abroad… This new order is of a temporary nature. When the generally recognized central church authority of the Russian Orthodox Church is restored, we will again return to our previous status.” That was how it turned out later, without prior arrangement and independently of the Patriarch’s consent.
However, the history of the Church has no such precedent of a double jurisdiction, with a metropolitan as an exarch of one patriarch in his previous diocese, regarded as an integral part of another local church, independent of this patriarch. This is clearly an uncanonical situation. Russian hierarchs and parishes that have gone over to the Constantinople Patriarchate are canonically outside the Russian Church, since it is impossible to be subject to two jurisdictions simultaneously. According to the holy canons the Patriarchate of Constantinople could not lay claims on other dioceses, as has already been said, and could not accept anyone forbidden by another hierarch, if he had recognized the Moscow Patriarchate. On the other hand, Russian bishops, pastors, and parishes cannot leave their church on their own and join another. A canonical violation had taken place, both on the part of the diocese and the Ecumenical Throne. The holy rules allow change of jurisdictions only with the consent of that church authority to which that hierarch and his parishes had been subject (Carthage 24, 3). Any violation of the rights of autocephaly and interference in matters of another church are considered invalid (Ephesus 8) and presents a threat of “appropriate punishment through immediate expulsion from its rank by the Holy Council” (Antioch. 13).
Thus, the Russian Exarchate of the Constantinople Patriarchate in Western Europe is an uncanonical establishment, no matter from whatever side we might look at this matter. If the Ecumenical Patriarch stands firmly on the idea of his authority over all of the churches of the dispersion, he could have set up the Russian Exarchate under the openly presented condition that it would be subject to him forever. But this certitude didn’t exist, either because the Patriarch himself started questioning the canonicity of his claims or because he questioned the possibility of their realization in such a direct way. At any rate, this establishment unquestionably remains uncanonical.
However, those who have lost all of their own canonical existence were glad that they had covered themselves up with someone else’s legitimacy and found harbor in another port. For the sake of its own existence, canonical at least in form, in the guise of subjection to any kind of higher church authority in general and being spared of the accusation of self-willed trampling upon any supreme authority, that poor diocese had to sacrifice all of its principles, for which it had previously fought and which it had now betrayed so cruelly.
Patriarch Tikhon, whose bequests Metropolitan Evlogii bragged about, the Bishops’ Council Abroad, which he was part of, and, finally, Metropolitan Evlogii himself in 1922, 1923, and 1926, fought so hard against the acquisitive actions and strivings of the Greek patriarch, and now Russians themselves, first of all in the person of the leader of the Western European Diocese, were supporting and affirming the unjust and unlawful claims and past actions of those who took advantage of the difficult situation of the Russian Church, dealt it great sorrows, and made attempts on its inheritance. That these are all Russians and Orthodox, and have remained as such, is true, but so is the fact that they did not act in the Russian way or in the interests of the Russian Church and took the false path, which is not to be praised.
However, history would have condemned the Russian sides if they had not made any attempts toward reconciliation and reunification. The Bishops’ Synod was glad to lift, on August 28, 1934, the prohibitions that were imposed upon Metropolitan Evlogii and his vicar bishops. In his letter to Metropolitan Antonii of March 17/30 he wrote that he was ready to admit that in defending his position he perhaps should not have resorted to leaving the Council in 1926, that he regretted this very much, and was asking to forgive him and to remove the prohibitions against him and his clergy. But, having received what he asked for in his message to his flock on September 11/24 he also expressed happiness that his prohibition was lifted, “although imposed unlawfully,” and went on to express his dissatisfaction that it wasn’t lifted “as if it hadn’t happened,” and, finally, declared that “the basic principles of our position remain steadfast and unwavering.” Thus, if this was only diplomacy, this time it turned out to be rather successful, for the prohibition was lifted and unification did not take place.
But then, on November 6/19 1935, a joint message from the Bishops’ Synod and Metropolitan Evlogii was sent to the entire Russian flock in dispersion, announcing that Patriarch Varnava, head of the Serbian Church, seeking ways to restore Russian church unity abroad, had invited four hierarchs of the main regions to a conference, which decided to create four metropolitan regions, “firmly united in a common center —the Council of Russian Hierarchs Abroad and its executive branch, the Holy Synod.” “Seek peace and pursue it” (Ps. 34:15), the hierarchs proclaimed to general joy.
At the first meeting Metropolitan Evlogii expressed his readiness to unite with all the parts of the Russian Church Abroad, if the Ecumenical Patriarch blesses this. The Serbian Patriarch offered his mediation for this, and Metropolitan Evlogii accepted it with gratitude. At the last meeting, although he didn’t want to ask the Ecumenical Patriarch to relieve him of the title of exarch, he promised to be obedient and submit to him. Finally, after the meeting a letter appeared in the press in February 1936 to the Ecumenical Patriarch requesting him not to release him from his jurisdiction. Again, at the Diocesan Assembly, reports by the Diocesan Council and an address by Metropolitan Evlogii himself, who fully renounced the work toward restoring peace and unity in which he participated himself, were set against the already clearly expressed urge toward church unity.
The second subjection to Moscow. In the fall of 1944 Metropolitan Evlogii started corresponding with the Patriarch of Moscow through the Soviet ambassador in Paris and stated his readiness to submit right away. He didn’t inform anyone in the diocesan administration of this initiative, wishing to present this to everyone as a fait accompli. After having taken these steps, he responded to posed questions at a clergy conference that such was his decision as a metropolitan. While waiting for Metropolitan Nikolai’s Moscow delegation to arrive in Paris he gave a press interview in which he said that he was against the Vienna conference of Karlovci hierarchs. With the election of Patriarch Aleksii he issued a decree to parishes requiring his liturgical commemoration as the lawful head of the Church. The question of relations with the Ecumenical Patriarch — “This is a question for my large flock, My own heart is open without guile, here it is. My thoughts have been with my native land since I found out that the Church there has been restored and is free.”
On August 29 an informational meeting of the clergy was held with a report by Metropolitan Nikolai. In spite of bold objections by leading members of the meeting against subjection to Moscow Metropolitan Evlogii interrupted the discussion like a dictator and decisively announced subjection. On August 30 he sent a telegram to the Patriarch of Constantinople, asking for his blessing to return his diocese to the Russian Church. There was no reply to his request to respond immediately by telegraph. Metropolitan Nikolai assured him that in negotiations with Moscow the Ecumenical Throne had already given its consent, and on September 2 a liturgy officially marked the union.
On September 11 the Moscow Patriarchate issued a decree uniting the Western European Diocese and creating a Moscow exarchate out of it.
Although Metropolitan Evlogii left Constantinople’s jurisdiction without obtaining consent, which the Ecumenical Throne did not give, he remained its exarch as well, and in connection with this he issued a circular (no. 477) on October 2 placing the exarchate into the Moscow jurisdiction and ordering his commemoration at liturgy as Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch. This “complicated” situation was to last until the receipt of the canonical release from the Patriarch, to whom he sent a report on the same day with the corresponding request. This ambiguous presence in two jurisdictions simultaneously in the midst of church turmoil continued for almost a year.
Early in the morning of August 8, 1946 Metropolitan Evlogii reposed. On August 9 the Moscow Patriarchate informed the Ecumenical Patriarch by telegram that it “has ruled to regard the temporary jurisdiction of the Most Holy Ecumenical Throne over the Western European Russian parishes as ceased.” On August 12 Moscow delegate Metropolitan Grigorii, who came specifically for the funeral, conducted it with the concelebration of the other hierarchs who had now entered the Moscow jurisdiction.
In accordance with the written will of the deceased his vicar, Archbishop Vladimir took over administration of the exarchate, but on August 14 Metropolitan Grigorii handed him Moscow’s decree appointing Metropolitan Serafim Lukianov as successor to the deceased. Referring to the expectation of Ecumenical Patriarch’s decisions, Archbishop Vladimir took this decree into account, but not into execution. Patriarch Aleksii called Archbishop Vladimir to compliance in a telegram, and the flock to compliance in a message, but without success. The majority turned out to be opposed to subjection to Moscow.
The second subjection to Constantinople. A diocesan assembly took place on October 16, which ruled “not to accept the decree of the Moscow Patriarchate, which was uncanonically encroaching upon the abolition of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s authority over us.” Thus, all of Metropolitan Evlogii’s were proclaimed “as not have happened,” as if the initiative of these “uncanonical encroachments” came not from him. And during that time there had been, with the Patriarchate’s consent, actions such as the consecration on February 24, 1946 of Archimandrite Nikon (Greve) as Bishop of Sergiev, using the name of the town of Sergiev Posad outside Moscow. This was actual subjection to the Moscow Patriarchate and presence in its jurisdiction.
What is important is that the Diocesan Assembly, in not following its leader, finally fully, in a delicate manner, although after his repose, condemned him and openly condemns those who had to bury him. Metropolitans Sergii and Evlogii, fifteen years after their break, were back together. God will be their merciful Judge, as He is for everyone, but on earth their paths were unrighteous. They cannot say to their flocks, along with the apostle, “our word to you was not Yes and No.” Their word was “Yes, Yes, and No, No.” Only their teacher and elder, Metropolitan Antonii, appeared before God in directness and purity of his service to God’s truth.
The Diocesan Assembly expressed substantial sympathy to Chairman of the Bishops’ Synod Metropolitan Anastasii and expressed its “sincere wish to be in prayerful liturgical relations and brotherly collaboration with the Russian Church and all of the Russian church developments that are currently outside its borders.”
The Assembly’s resolution says nothing about a possible future return into the Russian Church, or about continuing to exist within it, but speaks of some sort of equal brotherly relations and collaboration with it. If the Exarchate was breaking with the Moscow Patriarchate, then what kind of collaboration with the Russian Church was it talking about? If it essentially had nothing against it and is ready to collaborate with it specifically on a brotherly basis, that is very bad. Having become entangled twice in relations with this Patriarchate, they lost their criteria of the truth and of benefit to the Russian Church and knowingly broke from its genuine interests and that canonical and gospel truth for which confessors have fought and are still fighting in Russia.
This might be the saddest thing that can be said about the Western European Diocese after many years of being raised under Metropolitan Evlogii’s leadership, either with his relations with the Moscow Patriarchate or with the “quiet harbor” of the Ecumenical Patriarch, in which it is easy, and had to be, to refuse to take part in any struggle for the Russian Church, and to rest content with “peace and freedom,” as resolutions say about this, when the native Church is suffering. These paths and zigzags have brought forth their regrettable spiritual fruit.
However, the idea not of filial, but brotherly relations with the Russian Church by the Russian Exarchate in Europe (this brotherhood would sooner be appropriate only for “Russian church developments abroad”), is extremely serious, and those who made the resolution knew what they were writing, even if those who accepted it didn’t understand everything in it.
The Diocesan Assembly asked to present its “petition to preserve our exarchate under the previous terms as an autonomous Russian exarchate within the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in accordance with the edicts of Patriarch Photius and Benjamin, due to the lack of any local Orthodox Church in Western Europe.”
Back on August 29, 1945, at a meeting of clergy and laity, a representative of Metroplitan Evlogii’s diocesan administration developed the theory that Russian hierarchs who find themselves on the territory of other local churches, had to submit to them with their flocks, but Western Europe isn’t a neutral, spot, either. It was under papal power, and after the Pope broke off from the universal Orthodox Church, his power naturally went to the Patriarch of New Rome — Constantinople. This is why they should submit to him. Metropolitan Evlogii, as the speaker affirmed, “when he left Moscow for Constantinople,” was simply restoring normal church order.
We will now ask, based on this, will the Western European Exarchate be subject to Constantinople temporarily or forever? Of course, its rights to Western Europe are permanent, since it is already a territory of the Ecumenical Patriarch, at least according to the strange succession from the Pope. The speaker supported his ideas by referring to a colony of Greeks who, fleeing the Turks, settled in Russia and submitted to the Synod. And the current Moscow Patriarchate, recognizing the autocephaly of the Georgian Church, gave it the Russian parishes, with a request to preserve their language and customs. So this is about submitting forever.
Of course, our mission in Jerusalem and our churches in all Western European countries and at the other ends of the earth were built on an entirely different basis, and that is why the hierarchs abroad defended them so persistently from Constantinople’s claims, until Metropolitan Evlogii “restored normal church order.” But still, for the sake of such order, it is necessary for one or another Moscow Patriarchate to recognize Constantinople’s rights to this Western European Diocese and to hand over Russian parishes to it officially, if for now it is not necessary to ask that the Russian language and customs be preserved. If the Greek colonies settled in Russia permanently, they had little right to request autonomy. But if this was temporary, then, like the entire Russian emigration that found itself on the territory of local churches, according to the sense of canonical rules, which were taken into account as well by the Church of Serbia, where the Russian hierarchs settled, they had the right to self-organize and self-administer.
On March 6, 1947 the Ecumenical Throne determined that the Russian Exarchate in Western Europe “was to preserve its direct dependence upon it,” and there is not a single word reminding that this is temporary, as was the case with the earlier Diocesan Assembly and in spite of what was in the acts of both sides in 1931. Archbishop Vladimir’s message about this (Tserkovnyi vestnik no. 6, 1947) simply notes that “the danger was great,” and that defense, as in 1931, came again from the Ecumentical Throne, and inevitably we are reminded, who brought on this danger both times, if not the former guide of the diocese himself? In all of these acts the word “temporary” is missing because the Ecumenical Patriarch, accepting the self-willed diocese, of course wanted to have it under firmer conditions than before. This condition can only be transfer into the Ecumenical Patriarchate for good.
This is why the Western European Diocese has now suddenly been emboldened to speak of brotherly relations with the Russian Church, as if it is no longer Russian, not its native part.
We don’t know the civilian and ecclesiastical significance of the resolution of the Diocesan Assembly of October 17, 1946, consisting of three hierarchs, 61 priests, and 53 from the laity, with its unreserved transfer into the Ecumenical Patriarchate. But it is possible that the Patriarchate obtained definite rights in this resolution, for which it might argue and fight in the future. It could no longer allow itself to be fooled with.
Are the Russian parishes of the Western European Diocese aware of the significance and meaning of such decisions? Are they satisfied with the guidance that led them away into the “quiet harbor” of another patriarchate from the Russian Church, from the understanding of its true task and situation? Why do they need someone else’s protection, which is totally uncanonical in its methods and its essence? Don’t they see that Metropolitan Evlogii, who had mixed up much and had led them to the wrong place, was undoubtedly sincere, at least in his dreamy attraction to his Russian Mother Church and in his affirmation of the temporary nature of his situation abroad? But his diocesan leadership of the last assembly for some reason kept silent about this most important point of their existence and already placed them into brotherly relations with the Russian Church. Was this all that they needed?
“We are not seeking to fight,” said Archbishop Vladimir, now metropolitan, “having been established on an unshakeable basis, we are able to avoid it” (Tserkovnyj vestnik, no. 6). Yes, we would say, having been established on someone else’s basis, out of loyalty to the Constantinople Patriarchate, you betrayed your duty to the Russian Church, you do not sense its enemies and dangers, you have not known for a long time that inner truth for which it is fighting over there against its false leadership, with whom you are ready even today to collaborate as brothers, because your non-Russian leadership can stand in that position. You ran into some else’s yard and hid from the enemy, having endured a few defeats from him because you fell into schism with your brothers who have remained unshakably in their positions. You have lost you Russian ecclesiastical tasks and your canonical truth, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s own canonicity in no way corrects your uncanonical state in it. You confess yourselves that you are avoiding fighting, so this means that you have broken away from the Russian Church spiritually and became foreign to its interests, for it is still engaged in a difficult struggle and awaits the triumph of truth and our help and support. Russians abroad cannot avoid this struggle, for that would be betrayal.
We cannot allow the entire diocese to now have only “great worship and devotion to the Mother Church” of Constantinople (Tserkovnyi vestnik, no. 8) instead of our Mother Russian Church, which suddenly became for it not a mother, but a sister. Who needs this? Probably only those who lead the diocese, but not the diocese itself.
Metropolitan Evlogii relied in his rule upon the members of his official diocesan administration, instructors of the Theological Institute and leaders of student circles from that same sphere. In addition, he had a group of highly placed, moneyed, or penniless intellectuals, most of whom had lived forty or fifty years without God and then, not without influence, undertook to guide church matters abroad. In the face of their great tolerance of church ignorance and from a position of struggle against other religious figures, a figure of clerical rank might appeal to them and gain a reputation as a person of high general culture, which is topmost for them. They will brand those who are ecclesiastically stricter with their whole abusive lexicon. “He be a Solomon,” you will have a reputation of an obscurantist, a Black Hundreds member, a retrograde… And it doesn’t matter to them who’s who in the Church, such as Metropolitan Antonii, that great theologian and church writer and administrator, a person of a great mind and a sage, an instructor of generations. He was a living example of monastic vows, non-acquisitiveness, chastity, obedience, fasting, and prayer. Glory will belong to people of “high culture,” but Metropolitan Evlogii, unfortunately, has occupied an advantageous position in that environment.
When he was starting the Theological Institute in Paris, he asked the Bishops’ Synod to confirm its existence. The Synod requested for this the same things it later requested from the Harbin Theological Faculty — the fulfillment of rules of Russian theological academies, including an ustav, plans of study, faculty makeup whose scholarly works had to be examined, information about its financial position and sources for its support. But none of this was presented, and the Institute started its existence on the spur of the moment according to the general system of diocesan administration, being one of the points of disobedience. Of course, it can be said with satisfaction that at present certain professors at the Institute would not have been offended or frightened by the demands regarding them. It was different in the past.
There was the time when Metropolitan Evlogii had to defend the real heresy of Sophianism. Archpriest S. Bulgakov, who according to the oath of priesthood was obliged to preserve Church dogma unaltered, started teaching, with a nod to teachings of scientific philosophy, the eternity of matter, proclaiming that it had been created from eternity. It would seem that if it was created, then it isn’t eternal, and if it eternal, then it isn’t created and is equal to God in its existence. Wouldn’t it have been easier to say that it has a beginning, but as God’s creation can be without end and indestructible, as the soul, for example. Only God is eternal and sufficient for the world’s emergence. But the philosopher made things co-eternal with God and in this way equal to the Son and the Holy Spirit, although different by their origin as precisely created, and not born or proceeding from God’s nature. And he was later obliged to lean toward pantheism, bring them into Divinity, and call them the impersonal nature of God — Sophia, the fourth hypostasis, the representative of all creation. But this ingenious system distorts Orthodox teaching about God and the incarnation. God’s nature is absolute Spirit by its immateriality, and as a rational Spirit it is not essentially impersonal and belongs to three manifestations of self-awareness, known as persons. It is to this nature that the impersonal nature of the world, its matter, also created in time, was united through the incarnation of the Son of God. The eternal idea of matter or the creation of the world is a true spiritual, not a material, reality of God’s freedom, which only allowed the existence of another will besides its own. And this eternal idea dwelt in the Word, the Son of God, through whom the world began its time and accepted His appearance. That is why from the beginning there is no other Wisdom of God, no Representative, Intercessor for creation and for the responsive love from it, besides Him, the Second Hypostasis of the Holy Trinity.
In the new Sophianist heresy we see the ancient pagan practice of the Gnostics, who tried to adapt Christianity to changing worldly theories rather than the opposite. And although the heresy can in no way serve to the glory of the Theological School of Studies and is a sign of its unsupervised existence, Metropolitan Evlogii, instead of fulfilling his hierarchical duty of preserving the purity of the faith undertook to defend the heretical freedom of thought against the just condemnation of the Bishops’ Synod, and in that way, of course, earned glory and sympathy from those unsupervised circles. The situation of this school remained without changes until 1947. Along with the wonderful and useful work entitled Evkharistiia [The Eucharist] there appeared the Vetkhozavetnaia bibleiskaia kritika … Continue reading He was responsible for preserving peace here or find for himself yet another base from which to fight with his fellow brothers, who did not constrain the Orthodox freedom of the Harbin Theological School, and it flourished, both in the number of spiritual pupils and in the quality of instruction.
Thus, there are one or two groups who do not seek decisions in meetings, but offer them ready-made for guiding the diocese and diocesan meetings. Of course, if such decisions coincide with the general will, they help it, and if they don’t, they force it.
The American Autonomy
The triumph of truth is the most important thing, regardless of who might say it, whether it’s a general meeting or its leadership, for there are occasions when the leadership can be powerless before a general meeting that comes under outside influence and even antichurch agitation, trampling upon the higher rights of bishops and even upon truth itself.
But if an ecumenical council is one that has expressed the teaching of the Church in an Orthodox manner, having universal significance, it is a law for us, and if that was done not in an Orthodox manner, it is not a law for us, and it can be resisted and fought against, which is what can be said about a local council and even more so about a diocesan assembly, for example the one in America in 1946. Here each Orthodox Christian is obliged not to comply with such a meeting and to fight against it.
But we will start from the beginning regarding the American Autonomy.
The American Diocese of the Russian Church has already undergone three periods since the breakup of direct contact with Russia in 1920.
From 1920 to 1926 it was in union with the Bishops’ Synod Abroad.
From 1926 to 1935 it was on its own and independent from everyone.
From 1935 to 1946 it was again in union with the Bishops’ Synod.
From November 29, 1946, after the Cleveland Assembly, it was again independent and under the conditional spiritual leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Right now it is in the fourth position, but it cannot be said that being in at least one of them the diocese was true to the direction it had chosen. A wish for autonomy or autocephaly is essential for the diocese, or rather for its leadership, but how to realize it, how it can be recognized, how to live without a higher authority — these are the questions which are still unanswered, and not a single step toward such autonomy has been taken.
In union with the Bishops’ Synod — The first guide of the complex American Church politics, Metropolitan Platon, came out of Russia and abandoned his see there during a difficult event that is characteristic of him.
At the end of the Civil War, on January 24, 1920, when the Bolsheviks broke into Odessa and attacked the bishop’s residence, they didn’t find Metropolitan Platon, who at that moment managed to hide in a foreign cruiser that was docked in the bayside. The next day a huge crowd of miserable weeping people gathered by the cathedral, where just a few days before the inspired authoritative preacher made loud speeches against the Bolsheviks, organized a holy unit for the salvation of the land, and urged people to register for this on a special list. Up to a thousand youths, aged 18 to 16, were executed that night on the basis of that list. The irresponsible organizer had no idea what he was doing.
Upon coming to the Supreme Church Authority in Southern Russia Metropolitan Platon received from it an assignment to North America to put matters of the American Diocese in order. Who would have thought of investigating his behavior at that moment? Prior to 1919 all the ruling bishops were appointed to America by the Russian Holy Synod. That year, based on a resolution of the All-Russian Council, the diocese elected Alexander Nemolovsky to be its hierarch.
On May 3, 1922, a Mr. Colton, an American who was in Moscow, gave Patriarch Tikhon a request he had received from America to appoint Metropolitan Platon to rule the diocese, to which the Patriarch replied that he is giving his recommendation, which he should convey to “the Council of refugee bishops abroad, who administer the Church’s matters there.” Archpriest Theodore Pashkovsky, who was the interpreter for the American and the Patriarch, upon arriving abroad, gave the report about this, dated July 1, 1922, to the Bishops’ Synod
Since on July 3, 1922 Archbishop Alexander asked Metropolitan Platon to take upon himself the temporary administration of the diocese, on August 23/September 5, 1922 the Bishops’ Synod (by then the Supreme Church Authority had been shut down) appointed Metropolitan Platon as temporary administrator of the North American Diocese. A year later, on September 29, 1923, Patriarch Tikhon issued a decree appointing Metropolitan Platon, citing his determination that was back in 1922. Later, based upon certain of his compromises with the Bolsheviks, the Patriarch dismissed Metropolitan Platon from ruling the diocese in a resolution dated January 16, 1924 and even summoned him to Moscow for trial.
On the occasion of such a decree a council was called, consisting of clergy and laity, in Detroit. The measures opposed to Moscow’s actions included, in the first place, the election of Metropolitan Platon as head of the American Church, with his abandonment of his diocese being acknowledged equivalent to its destruction. Then there was the introduction of the American Church’s autocephaly in the following formulation: “Temporarily, until the convocation of the All Russian Sobor… to declare the Russian Orthodox Church in America, a self-governed Church so that it be governed by its own elected Archbishop by means of a Sobor of Bishops, a Council composed of those elected from the clergy and the laity, and periodic Sobors of the entire American Church.” And in the third place metropolitan Platon was appointed as the main trustee over the property of the entire diocese, who is included in the number of the property owners of each parish.
At this council 300 parishes were represented by a total of 110 priests and 37 laymen. Some laymen transferred their privileges to the priests, while others weren’t sympathetic to the assembly at all, and still others didn’t realize the importance and significance of the proposed measures and accepted them with indifference.
Metropolitan Platon informed the American president about the resolution of the Detroit Assembly, which proclaimed the Russian Orthodox Church in America to be a self-governing national American religious self-sufficient organism (Pravoslavnoe delo, no, 88, 1924). Thus, an attempt was made to tear the American Diocese away from the Russian Church.
A priest chaired the council. Archbishop Appolinarii, who had been appointed by the Bishops’ Synod to the diocese and came directly to the council from his travels, could not figure out what was going on and took no part in any discussions or elections.
In October 1924 Metropolitan Platon took part in the Bishops’ Council in Sremsky Karlovci, and a special message to the American flock form the entire council spoke of a struggle against various schismatics and supported Metropolitan Platon’s rights.
At the Bishops’ Council of June 12-16, 1926, from which Metropolitan Evlogii walked out, Metropolitan Platon gave a detailed verbal report about the condition of the Church in America and affirmed that he never promoted and was not promoting the autocephaly of the Russian Church in America, and was firmly opposed to his diocese’s autocephaly, and if the Detroit Council had accepted and affirmed his resolutions about this, this was a release for attitudes favoring autocephaly, which were threatening the integrity and calm of the diocese. Testifying to his loyalty to the Council Abroad, he requested a document prepared by his attorney and signed by all Council members confirming his rights and privileges to administer the Orthodox Church in America, which he needed for court proceedings with the Living Church over church property.
After this report he was asked to sign the minutes with the report he made, but he refused to do this, saying his signing these minutes would be evidence that he does not recognize the authority of the Patriarchal Locum Tenens in Russia. However, at that time, before 1927, the Bishops’ Synod recognized both Metropolitans Peter and Sergii as well.
If he spoke the truth, he should have signed and certified the truth of everything he had announced to the Council. But if he didn’t sign it he apparently lied. If following this he left the Council sessions, this could only have been because he was found guilty of lying.
It was clear that at the Detroit Council the clergy and laity weren’t trying to accomplish anything, while Metropolitan Platon wished to be head of the American Church with unlimited privileges and to be principal owner of church property. The accusations against the clergy and laity were unfounded. He was seeking extraordinary privileges and recognition from the Bishops’ Synod and, while announcing that he was an absolute enemy of autocephaly, was trying to obtain it by obtaining a new document to be sent to the heads of all the churches.
The Council acknowledged that it was without question that Metropolitan Platon, despite his statements, was striving toward the organization of autocephalous rule for the North American Church and ruled that the document he had requested not be issued in the indicated version and not to regard him as a member of the Bishops’ Synod until he rejects the rulings of the Detroit Council and submits to the Council and Synod Abroad. And regarding the court matter he turned to the American government.
And so, Metropolitans Evlogii and Platon entered into a close agreement with each other and in June 1926 they both demonstratively left the Bishops’ Council simultaneously, disregarding unity with their brothers for the sake of expanding their personal rights and independence, and they did so with prior intent, for the most insignificant reasons, one of which was the Council’s schedule, and the other being his refusal to sign the minutes with his own verbal report, which he couldn’t even accuse of inaccuracy. They came to the Council with an already preconceived plan to break its session, finding an appropriate time for it.
One way or another, Metropolitan Platon was a member of the Bishops’ Synod until 1926 and called upon his flock to submit to the Bishops’ Council in the press and verbally. (Russko-Amerikanskii Pravoslavnyi Vestnik, no. 6, 1924), as did Evlogii (July 6, 1924, no. 903). In court with Archbishop Adam he tried to prove his rights by the Synod’s decrees. But already at the 1923 Council it was noticed that Metropolitan Platon recognized the Bishops’ Synod when it was to his advantage. The similarity of the methods and aims of the two metropolitans is striking. Metropolitan Platon also petitioned Moscow for his rights through roundabout ways and under the same conditions as those when the patriarch addressed refugee bishops who were ruling the Church abroad. They shared the same aim of autocratic rule along with rejection of the brotherly union of bishops and the overthrow of any personal controls. And there were those same diocesan assemblies behind which the head of the diocese was hiding as the highest level of authority and to which he readily submitted, after organizing their will himself.
Independent existence — The decision of the Bishops’ Council was followed by the response of the bishops of the North American Diocese, which was so insulting toward it, using such rude and impertinent expressions that were inappropriate to the authors’ rank, that Metropolitan Platon found it necessary to send an apology on December 27, 1926 and to renounce it, asking for its return.
On February 1, 1927 Metropolitan Platon summoned Archbishop Apollinarii and demanded that he not submit himself to the Bishops’ Council. He then dismissed Archbishop Appolinaii and prohibited him from serving. Later, referring to February 2, a conference of bishops in this regard was indicated. On March 18/31, 1927 the Bishops’ Synod announced that this decision was uncanonical and void and removed Metropolitan Platon from his position and prohibited him from serving, appointing Archbishop Apollinarii temporary administrator of the diocese.
On February 2, 1927 Metropolitan Platon gathered a “Holy Synod” of bishops, appointing as its chairman the Syro-Arab Euthymius, Bishop of Brooklyn, who was asked to put together a constitution of “The Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church in North America.” Six months later a council of bishops approved it and its complement of Metropolitan Platon and a set of five bishops — Euthymius, Feofil, Amfilokhii, Arsenii, and Aleksii. Then it was approved through civilian means according to the laws of Massachusetts and announced on December 1.
On December 19, 1927 all the heads of the local Churches received from the “Holy Synod of the American Orthodox Catholic Church” an announcement of the establishment in America of the new and youngest member of the family of the Orthodox Catholic Church — the independent, autonomous, and autocephalous American Church.
The organizers of this autocephaly decided to unite all of the national Orthodox groups in America and to organize them under its umbrella. In order to achieve this more easily and quickly the new American Church on one hand, denied all Orthodox Churches it united their national names, and, on the other hand, introduced the English language into services as a powerful means of such unification. For unbiasness and proof of its international character, the new Church became “purely Orthodox,” not Russian. So the last sign was removed.
The declaration about this announced the following:
Keeping in mind that the Russian Church is now incapable of bearing responsibility for Orthodoxy in America and to execute its authority in a proper manner, due to the patriarchal chaos in Russia, which might last indefinitely… this responsibility for Orthodoxy and for the execution of the authority of the Church in America in fact rests upon us, as canonical Russian bishops in America… we command one of our members, Archbishop Euthymius of Brooklyn, to provide for the good order of American Orthodoxy, in the true sense, of the Orthodox Catholic people who were born in America and mostly speak English, and of other American inhabitants and ethnic groups, of whatever nationality, linguistic group, or descent… those who may themselves wish to join the autonomous, independent, American Orthodox Catholic Church… We authorize the founding, organization, establishment, heading, leading control, and support of the specific, independent, and autonomous branch of the Orthodox Catholic Church, and may it be known, legitimately set up and generally recognized as the Holy Eastern Catholic and Apostolic Church in North America.
The primacy and canonical uniqueness of the Russian jurisdiction and hierarchy was recognized, but it was totally autonomous and independent in its organization.
Metropolitan Platon soon put an end to his venture, since it encountered condemnation by all the Churches, while the first chairman of Synod of the Autocephalous American Church, Euthymius (Ofiesh), Archbishop of Brooklyn, married in 1933 and was defrocked.
Metropolitan Platon was counting on obtaining recognition of the autocephaly by the local churches through the temporary mediation of this bishop, and he could soon be elected first patriarch. The plan for an international church poorly concealed its Russian nationalistic essence, since nothing in it couldn’t have been presented in English, other than that same spiritual inheritance of Russian church culture. America does not yet have its “American Orthodoxy,” which those who tried to establish the autocephaly invented, while Orthodoxy belongs to the separate nations that are found in America and all of them are nourished by their native roots. If a special American Orthodoxy has actually appeared, Russian Americans know whether these peculiarities can be recommended to anyone. But the Russian ones can be recommended. Renunciation of the Russian Church was being carried out for the sake of autocephaly.
On March 7, 1928 Metropolitan Platon contacted Metropolitan Sergii with a request to confirm that the supreme church authority over the American Diocese belongs to Metropolitans, Peter, Sergii, and the Patriarchal Synod. This was needed for presentation in court in connection with the litigation over church property. In making it understood that the diocese recognizes this church authority over itself, he was, of course, insincere. But Metropolitan Sergii demanded actual proofs and asked Metropolitan Platon to present a promise to avoid making political statements, who replied (on July 27, 1929) that he would present it later with the other bishops, but he never did.
In a message on July 15/28, 1933 Metropolitan Sergii informed the American Diocese that Metropolitan Platon was dismissed from administering it.
With respect to loyalty to the Soviets, double-faced behavior, which was totally useless, was displayed instead of a direct and honest position.
Metropolitan Platon died on April 7/20, 1935. The hierarch and clergy who had gathered for his funeral chose Bishop Feofil (Archpriest Theodore Pashkovsky) as their head. Subsequently the diocese took on the right of the supreme instance of church authority and elevated Bishop Feofil to the rank of Metropolitan of All America and Canada.
In 1870 the episcopal see was transferred from Alaska to San Francisco and was called an Orthodox Mission. Later the Mission turned into the Diocese of the Aleuts and North America, and from 1927 on was called the American Metropolitan District Now the hierarchs chose their first bishop, while the clergy-laity Council confirmed this choice, and the diocese was acting like an autocephalous church without the sanction of supreme church authority.
But by that time the diocese of the Bishops’ Synod in America had become so strong that Metropolitan Feofil realized that his metropolitan region would not make it on its own (in 1935 the North American and Canadian Dioceses of the jurisdiction of the Bishops’ Council and Synod had 68 parishes). And the hierarchs of the Synod were themselves seeking ways of unification, wishing to build church life upon unity and agreement, sincerely weighed down by the troubles that were taking place in the Church’s internal life.
On August 31/September 13, 1934 the Bishops’ Council lifted the prohibitions imposed on Metropolitan Platon in 1927 and his vicar bishops in the hope that this act of love would ease the return of the Russian Church Abroad to unity, and in 1935 Metropolitan Feofil took part in a conference with Serbian Patriarch Varnava, working out a “Temporary Position” and acknowledged the headship of the Bishops’ Synod over the American Metropolitan District.
Only the Western European Diocese remained outside of this unity. In his telegrams and letters Metropolitan Evlogii took every measure to have Metropolitan Feofil reject the Temporary Position, as he did, and not to submit to the Bishops’ Synod.
During this period of independent existence the American Diocese displayed extraordinary pretensions to power, and similarly to the Western European Diocese the American Diocese likewise found itself under two prohibitions, although it did not submit to Moscow.
Again in union with the Bishops’ Synod — The Pittsburgh Sobor of Hierarchs on May 14-17, 1936 announced that all American archpastors were in the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
On October 8, 1937 The All-American Council, consisting of clergy and laity, accepted the “Temporary Position” and the foundations of the structure of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad according to the Patriarchal decree of 1920, and confessed itself to be part of the Russian Local Church. The Bishops’ Council responded to this on January 3, 1938, welcoming and blessing the autonomy of the North American Metropolitan District in the framework established by this “Position,” and its flock for displaying a firm desire for organic administrative unity of the entire Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. However, in examining the proposal for administering the Metropolia the Council noted that “the diocesan hierarchs are downgraded to the rank of vicar bishops and in this way the basic condition for the existence of the Metropolitan District is destroyed.”
Apparently, the American District was afflicted all the time by the same illnesses as was the Western European one. The absolute power of the metropolitan could not limit itself for the benefit of his fellow brothers. The conciliar form of administration was emphasized for our times and circumstances in the act of November 7/20, 1920 and is blessed by apostolic authority and the canons of the Ecumenical Councils, but the hierarchs didn’t like it. They were for the autocratic form of administration. They don’t wish to understand that one diocese cannot have a council of bishops, for only diocesan bishops can be members of a lawful council. This is why a collection of vicar bishops who have no rights or voice and are subject to the diocesan hierarch cannot be called a District Council of Bishops.
Thus, experience showed that the collaboration was never sincere, even after the adoption of the “Position” which was used as a guide. In the first year the conciliar parishes of America petitioned for the restoration of the diocese and exit out of the district. But the Bishops’ Synod did not wish to take upon itself the initiative of such a departure, preferring instead that its hierarchs and flock would continue their collaboration, even with difficulty. In order to preserve some sort of peace and unity the four bishops of America and Canada had to agree to compromises which clearly went against their customary discipline.
But then came the time of the Soviet temptation. The Germans were almost expelled from Russia, anti-religious propaganda had long ceased, the Russian Church chose a patriarch for itself, there was some kind of religious freedom… Furious agitation to submit immediately to the Soviet patriarch brought turmoil to parishes. Ten Russian Orthodox churches were flying red Soviet flags. The church administration tried in vain to dissuade people from acting too hastily. Archbishop Vitalii, the representative of the previous diocese of the Bishops Synod, would say that just as according to the Soviet practice, a house would be requisitioned from the owner long before and then the only the kitchen would be rented out to the same person. Nothing had any effect.
The Council of Bishops of the North American Metropolia ruled on October 26-27, 1943 that the election of Metropolitan Sergii as Patriarch of Moscow should be considered an accomplished fact and accorded to Metropolitan Feofil the right to commemorate him in services, in addition to the commemoration, accepted earlier, of the Orthodox episcopate and Metropolitan Anastasii. Following that Metropolitan Feofil issued a directive to perform this commemoration in all of the Metropolia churches (Russko-Amerikanskii Pravoslavnyi Vestnik, no. 8),
Without speaking in detail about the extent to which the formula of commemorating forbidden hierarchs along with the head of the Moscow Patriarchate who did the forbidding makes no sense at all, we should note that, with all its difficulties, the Metropolia should not have established new relations with the Moscow Patriarchate, since they had already been established by the Bishops’ Council in 1927. Neither should they have restored communion with it “without the advice and approval of the premier bishop” (Apos. 34), the chairman of the Bishops’ Synod. A part does not have the right to violate the right of the whole, and this involved error and self-will, which required payment later. At the same time, furious badgering of the Bishops’ Synod and its chairman by the press was taking place, with accusations of Germanophilism and demands to break with them. But the administrators had little courage for fighting, and also the idea of obtaining autonomy from the Moscow Patriarchate was emerging again. It seemed that new paths were opening up for that.
Metropolitan Feofil did not receive a direct invitation to the Moscow Council of January 31/February 2, 1945, held to elect Aleksii as the new patriarch, but the Metropolia still commandeered a delegation which was instructed to ask the Council to affirm autonomy for the American Diocese and to declare that the American citizens of the diocese, which had been in existence almost 150 years, cannot promise any loyalty to the Soviet regime. The delegation got there late, after the Council was done, its members were not allowed to serve and were told that the American Diocese was under prohibition since January 4, 1935. They were sent back after being given decree no. 94, dated February 14, 1945, which, incidentally, contained a demand that the American Church issue, through its Council, a directive to all its parishes to refrain from making political statements against the Soviet Union. The May Council of bishops in Chicago announced that it cannot comply with this decree.
Of course, the absolutely incredible slavishness, shamelessness, and lawlessness, of the Sergian Patriarchate is amazing by its imposition of prohibitions for not making promises on behalf of entire huge dioceses with hundreds of thousands of believers who were residents and citizens of other nations. This experience taught the Metropolia’s administration that any contact with the Moscow Patriarchate inevitably produces disappointment and that it is totally unnecessary to initiate it.
On September 16, 1945 the patriarchal delegate, Archbishop Alexii, came to America and stayed there until March 5, 1946, causing much tumult around church matters, since he enjoyed great support by the influential Russian press, controversy in parishes, and worries for the church administration.
The Council of Bishops on December 12-14, 1945 had great significance. At it four bishops out of eleven said it was impossible to recognize the Patriarch of Moscow as head of the American Church and to cease prayerful and administrative relations with the Synod Abroad, which the patriarchal delegate was trying to achieve. The delegate came to one of the sessions and, after a private conversation, presented written conditions, the first of which was the cessation of prayerful and canonical relations with Metropolitan Anastasii. These were only “the preliminary conditions for lifting the prohibitions.” The Council replied that it does not recognize the actual prohibition, and thus refuses to discuss the conditions for lifting the prohibitions (December 14, 1945).
Actually, Metropolitan Feofil had accepted the first condition long before. It is a curious fact that Metropolitan Feofil now came out with claims to all the power abroad, following Metropolitan Evlogii’s example. What remarkable kinship of souls. A convenient moment was found for this, since it seemed to him that due to the war the administration of the Synod Abroad had lost its entire base and had become weakened. He sent a letter to Metropolitan Anastasii, saying that recognition of the Patriarch of Moscow was inevitable for him, in view of the danger of losing parishes, and proposed that he step down as Chairman of the Synod and Council Abroad and transfer all of the Russian parishes in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America to him, Metropolitan Feofil, as head of the more numerous and powerful flock.
The telegram that Metropolitan Anastasii sent in reply was read at the Council. It said, “Joining the Patriarchate, which you propose, has not only a spiritual, but also a canonical character, and obliges you to consequences. It is possible only after intensive discussion of the issue at a general Council. The overwhelming majority of hierarchs, clergy, and believers who have evacuated to Europe are firmly against unity with the Patriarchate, which is not free. The existence of the Synod is necessary to support the unity of Russian Orthodox parishes abroad and to prevent anarchy. The administration of the American Church cannot replace the Bishops’ Synod because of its remoteness or insufficient awareness of life abroad. God’s truth is the source of our strength and our hope.”
It seems that the telegram responded to Metropolitan Feofil using the same expressions. As for Metropoltan Feofil, he refused to submit to anyone due to “the particular conditions of American life” and the long distances which, in his opinion, prevented the Synod Abroad from properly guiding the church matters of the American Metropolia. It was another matter if he would guide all of them — nothing would stand in his way.
Yet another Council of Bishops scheduled on May 22-24, 1946, an All-American Council of clergy and laity for November 1946 in Cleveland, and informed Metropolitan Anastasii that the American District “would continue its brotherly collaboration with the Synod Abroad.”
It is quite interesting and characteristic that the Moscow jurisdiction and the break with the Synod were favored by those intelligent individuals who had migrated to America from Paris, and who had found use for their powers in guiding church matters abroad. Those who had “helped” Metropolitan Evlogii turned to helping Metropolitan Feofil here — an amazing coincidence. With extraordinary knowledge of church issues professors of engineering and other arts declared authoritatively that “the Moscow Patriarchate has not deviated from the dogmas, canons, and customs of Orthodoxy, while the policy being carried out by its leaders, although it is currently being condemned by very many, cannot have a decisive influence upon its canonical position.” As far as the Bishops’ Synod is concerned, it says, along with other arguments that Metropolitan Evlogii had presented in his day, that “It no longer enjoys the blessing and protection of the Serbian Church, and through this has lost its connection with the Universal Church” (Novoe Russkoe Slovo, October 27, 1946).
It should be noted that a certain learned engineer who said signed this message to the American flock displayed his impartiality by reviling Metropolitan Anastasii at meetings with Bolshevik slander, which he had readily accepted on faith.
We can agree with the fact that the Moscow Patriarchate didn’t shy away from rites, and this would be totally in the competence of ordinary parishioners. Others who are better informed will make judgments regarding the rest who might forgive this Patriarchate three quarters of its canonical transgressions, but this will not avoid its excommunication from the Church. As for the Synod Abroad, “It enters into relations with the entire Church not through the Patriarch of Constantinople or Serbia but through its Russian Church, for the Fathers have judged that the grace of the Holy Spirit does not grow scarce for a single region” (Metropolitan Anastasii, Tserkovnyi Zhurnal, no. 1, 1939). And the Russian Church has this true region abroad, only it does not have relations with its faithless leadership.
Of course, the American Church can also have its authorities, its professors, as was I. V. Popov in Russia, a professor of patristic writings and author of the everlasting Solovki letter. True, America is a land of much industry and it may have professors of a different type. However, we can recall without irony what St. Dositheus said of himself when the thought of vainglory would come to him when he was under medical obedience, “You make your bed well, but are you a good monk”? You may be a good engineer, but what kind of church leader are you”? When the blind leads the blind both will fall into a ditch (Mt. 15:14). And blindness was present here. And it was then, when the American Parisians headed there again in 1946, that their fellow brothers in Paris again fled from there. And the ditch for the American Church turned out to be present, since the “bosom” of the Moscow Patriarchate, upon which the Cleveland Council wished to enter under the leadership of its professors, was not the “bosom of Abraham” but a hell of the use of force and of falsehood.
Thus, the Cleveland Council was being prepared only with the formal collaboration with the Synod Abroad and with total deviation from its positions. The undeviating striving of the church figures who were guiding the Metropolia to achieve complete self-sufficiency and a canonical basis for their autonomy at any cost, at least through temporary collaboration with the Soviet Patriarchate. For this the spiritual guides in America would accept any compromises and with whomever. This was always the main reason for divergence with the Bishops’ Synod, with which it associated only for the sake of certain temporary needs.
It issued the following resolution: “Be it resolved that His Holiness, Alexis, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia be requested to unite us in his fold and be our Spiritual Head, conditioned upon the Church in America retaining its present autonomous status and the right of self-government… And whereas the Patriarchal authority is not consistent with the authority of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, the sobor does hereby resolve that any administrative recognition of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad is hereby terminated.”
To the question, what if the patriarch refuses to accept them under the stated conditions, the resolution gives its answer: “The Russian Church of North America shall continue, and does remain, self-governing until such time as the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia finds it possible to accept the conditions herein stated.”
So how will it exist and be governed until then? The resolution responds: “The periodic All-American Sobors of the Russian Orthodox Church of North America shall remain the Supreme Legislative and Administrative body of our Church; at these Sobors the Church shall continue to elect its own Metropolitan, and make and adopt its own laws by which the Church in North America is, in all respects, governed.”
According to this resolution, the Moscow leadership was recognized only under the same condition of “the present autonomous status,” which the diocese has from the Synod Abroad. The diocese rejects its previous leadership for the sake of the new one. Should the Patriarchate not agree to this, the diocese, without any reference to a return to the Synod Abroad, was thinking of existing independently, governing itself, until Moscow “finds it possible to accept the conditions.” Such is that exact sense of the resolution.
Thus, the diocese wishes to exist, it would seem, according to the same conditions of independence as the Bishops’ Council and Synod Abroad, awaiting normal relations with Moscow, at least to achieve its particular aims. But then the bishops of America did not need to refuse the Council of their native Russian brothers abroad, who now number twenty-two, and to step off their moral and principled foundation, resting upon which the Council definitely remains correct to this day. And now this proves the unsuccessful and bitter experience of the American Diocese.
Metropolitan Feofil informed the Moscow Patriarch of the Council’s resolution. The Patriarch sent a telegram accepting the episcopate and clergy to be in prayerful communion with it, and promised to send a delegate for “peace-loving” discussion regarding questions of autonomy (January 2, 1947). In his reply the guide of the diocese expressed the hope for a decree on autonomy to come soon, but stated that he saw no obstacles to receiving the delegate, and that he believed in peace. But after sending the last telegram, he right away issued a resolution saying something else, rejecting the sense of the first one: “It is useless to conduct any kinds of agreements or impose any kinds of conditions — it is useless… there is no sense in personal conversations… beautiful words have little effect” (January 27, 1947). When Metropolitan Grigorii, the Moscow delegate, arrived in America (on July 17, 1947), having already been accepted, the head of the diocese didn’t even want to meet with him and talk.
Why these crooked paths? Where do church figures get such moral indifference toward the means, from whatever church authority in Russia and using whatever paths, only to achieve autonomy?
How sad it is that they didn’t care what church authority was ruling in Russia, what was its own canonical situation in the Russian Church, and what relation it had with the Church of martyrs and confessors, as long as it achieved its aim. If you are no longer Russian, then don’t appeal to the Russian Church. And if you are still Russian, then proceed along the true and honest path of truth, turning neither to the right nor to the left, for that path is abroad.
If you placed patriarchal church leadership under conditions and under doubt, and if you had “full autonomy” while being subject to the Bishops’ Synod, why did you leave it? If the church leadership of the Synod and the Patriarchate are incompatible, that had already been apparent in 1943, when you, taking the path of compromises, started commemorating them at services.
If you assert your self-government and independence in fact right away, why are you asking for it? For if you are asking, you’re apparently doubting your assertion and sense the lawlessness that is being created. You perfectly know that without a release, consent, and recognition by the supreme church authority your autonomy comes without prior arrangement, through disobedience, arbitrariness, self-will.
With the relations that have been created between the part of the Russian Church that is abroad and the unfree Moscow Patriarchate, the Bishops’ Council Abroad is the only canonical supreme instance of church authority, and you, as still belonging to the Russian Church, and seeking from it one or another canonical position, are obliged to enter it, and if it had not existed, to form it. Without participation in such a general Council abroad you cannot exist canonically. You cannot justify your separation from other parts of the Church Abroad, your isolation from them, if you regard yourselves Russian, without violating those basic principles of church rule which were dictated by the 1920 decree, and which obliged you, upon separation from the center, to come into contact with bishops of other dioceses and to develop a supreme body of church authority on a conciliar basis. And that is why it is canonically impossible to for you to exist independently, without reliance on the Bishops’ Council Abroad. Either you depend on the Moscow Patriarchate, whom you have already asked to accept you, or you enter into the general Council on equal terms with the others, as part of the entire whole of the Russian Church Abroad. Why do you not wish to await the normal times of the Mother Russian Church together with it, when the Bishops’ Synod Abroad will give your general conciliar report to the All-Russian Church Authority about your activities? Wouldn’t it be better for you to correct your known to be incorrect situation and responsibility before the Russian Church by entering the correct course of relations with it? Haven’t you already paid for your disobedience and crooked ways, and didn’t come to that path upon which you have stood before and was undoubtedly correct? Why have these zigzags, vacillations, and lies, which have convicted themselves? Why have these bitter experiences?
If the transfer to the Moscow Patriarchate was conditional, so was the departure from the Synod Abroad. As being simultaneously under two jurisdictions and outside them both is equally impossible, and there is no other exit from a state of arbitrariness other than joining the Bishops’ Council of the part of the Russia Church that is abroad and submit to its administrative body, the Bishops’ Synod once and for all, and to exist forever on its terms.
As for the decisions of the Cleveland Council, we need to start thinking without delay about calling a new council in order to put an end to its legacy. That was a council more of Soviet patriots than even American ones. Political groups were organized in parishes, which selected suitable candidates. There were 248 delegates instead of 600 from 300 parishes. The resolution was accepted by 187 votes. The minority which had been preselected locally, which had a combative political interest in carrying out the accepted tasks and means to get to the Council, exploited the disorganized majority, which didn’t have the means to be there. Are those who stayed behind happy with its decisions?
The main thing is that this Council was uncanonical, not Orthodox. It introduced an order which had never been applied in the Orthodox Church. Its decisions were completely unlawful and have no ecclesiastical significance, since they overthrow basic principles of the structure of Christ’s Church and contradict the practice of the entire universal Orthodox Church throughout all its history. (Bishops’ Conference, May 27-26, 1947).
The “Mandate,” which was composed according to the Council’s bylaws as a provincial and district one in relation to the All-Russian Church (Russko-Amerikanskii Pravoskavnyi Vestnik, no. 1, 1946, VII, par. 37), says this: “By the power of God and the holy canons, all of the decisions of the Council’s plenary meeting are subject to confirmation by the Bishops’ Conference and acquire force upon signature by the latter.” This Council resolution was repealed by a simple majority of votes, according to a motion by a certain archpriest, who stated, “Our gathering, as the supreme body, can repeal these bylaws” (Pravoslavnaia Rus’ , 1947:7).
Thus, there was no power behind the word of God and the holy canons, which are mentioned in paragraph 37 of the Mandate, this newly developed “supreme body” in the Church. It does not recognize and simply sweeps away that power. This “body” brings down the church administration from its conciliar and canonical foundation to a purely administrative structure, in which the laity’s votes are equivalent to those of the bishops, and always exceed them in numbers, imposing their wishes upon the bishops (Bishops’ Synod, Decree 221, March 4, 1947).
It grants supreme church authority to the clergy and laity, out of whose great majority the few votes of the bishops lose all significance. Authority in the Church belong to the bishops, successors to the holy apostles, who are responsible before God and the Church. Nothing can take place in the Church without bishops, and nothing not approved by the bishops has any Church significance. Extensive collaboration of clergy and laity is very important, but it has to come with the respect of the authority, competence, guidance and decisive power of the Bishops’ Council. If the Church’s supreme authority does not belong to the bishops, such an organization isn’t the Orthodox Church.
Only unchurched outsiders could have reached the Cleveland decisions. They came to the Council with particular aims, and church canons meant nothing to them. The arrogant assertion from Cleveland, “The periodic All-American Sobors of the Russian Orthodox Church of North America shall remain the Supreme Legislative and Administrative body of our Church; at these Sobors the Church shall continue to elect its own Metropolitan, and make and adopt its own laws by which the Church in North America is, in all respects, governed” was simply naïve. Experience showed clearly whether this diocese could actually guide itself, whether any kind of supreme church authority can grant it independence, whether at least one local church can recognize it and enter into brotherly relations with it, and whether the American Church had matured for autonomy and passed the test for it. These are impossible, extraordinary pretensions.
If such a violation of resolutions by a church authority that is higher than a diocesan assembly had appeared it can be assumed that the duty of protest by the entire episcopate and some portion of the clergy and laity was mandatory at the Cleveland Council. But the sad thing about this meeting is that this duty wasn’t fulfilled even by all the bishops and the head of diocese himself, Metropolitan Feofil. But that’s not enough. On March 28, 1947 Metropolitan Feofil informed Archbishops Vitalii. Tikhon, Ioasaf, and Ieronim that for “refusing to recognize the resolutions of the All-American Council in Cleveland they are dismissed from the American Diocese.”
The canonical evaluation of the American Supreme Church Authority was made at one point in a sermon by the representative of the Bishops’ Synod in America, Archbishop Vitalii, who said, “The self-sufficiency of the Orthodox Church in America has to be earned, but it cannot be stolen, using the current difficult situation of the Russian Orthodox Church.” What this whole history of demands by the American Diocese, starting from 1920, represents, let everyone judge for himself.
The missionary activity of the Orthodox Church among Americans should be welcomed — services and publication of church literature in English, and the rest of it. But foreigners should be given true Orthodoxy and not its distortion.
The North American District is too weak in its church life to be able to take the path of fruitful church independence. Such independence can actually become an exit from the boundaries of the Holy Church.
This latest tendency to lessen the significance of the episcopate and to bring church administration to a majority of votes by laity and clergy according to the Protestant model would mean taking the destructive path of sectarian laicization and losing the hierarchical order of the apostolic Church. Further on, it would subject the Church to a basis foreign to it, abolish ascetic foundations, the strength of Orthodoxy, distort the church rules, destroy fasts and limitations to marriage, continue the confusion with hierarchical consecrations, weaken ethical principles in church life, and so on. This is not the road to autonomy. Life suggests rectifying church order first off by renovating the composition of the leadership as well as the composition of the clergy by the principally firm Russian hierarchy, by becoming more closely involved with Russian church culture and be nourished by its holy objects, the devoutness of its services, the religious family way of life, and church order.
It is imperative to come under the leadership of the Russian Bishops’ Council, decisively rejecting subjection to the Moscow Patriarchate, as having denied church freedom to the American Diocese, and declining a hasty announcement of independence as a distortion of its Orthodox essence. In connection with the addition to the number of American bishops from Metropolitan Evlogii’s jurisdiction, opposition to this might be only traditional, but the current canonical position of the American Diocese absolutely obliges them to do this, and in order not to “steal” autonomy, this will have to be realized sooner or later.
The Moscow Exarchate
In connection with the invasion of the Reds in 1944-45 of the Balkans, Central Europe, and the Far East, the Russian dioceses and parishes abroad in these countries forcefully came under the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate, finding themselves, so to speak, on its territory. Moscow exarchates were formed out of some of these parts. But there are two of that kind in Western Europe and America, consisting of parishes that willingly at various times became subject to the Moscow Patriarchate. Not only Metropolitan Evlogii responded to the call of Metropolitan Sergii in connection with the 1927 declaration. Archbishop Elevferii of Lithuania also responded, with the difference that he went to Moscow in November 1928, spent three weeks there, and had a lengthy discussion with Soviet agents regarding church matters. Maybe at this point Metropolitan Elevferii became a more faithful and reliable servant of Moscow than the first one, and even had to take his place subsequently.
By Metropolitan Sergii’s decree of December 16, 1930 Metropolitan Evlogii’s diocesan administration was abolished and handed over to Metropoltian Elevferii, who came to Paris, tried to prove his rights, and called Metropoltian Evlogii to submission, threatening total prohibition for continuing to administer parishes on his own. Although no one was afraid of him, a year later, in November 1933, Metropolitan Evlogii was obliged to issue a message to the clergy regarding the fact that Metropolitan Elevferii was “not letting down” and “was exhibiting fervor not according to the mind of the Church,” with claims upon his diocese.
Moscow’s instructions with regard to the Bishops’ Synod with the demand to be subjected to it were first followed by Metropolitan Evlogii (June 25, 1928) and then, with the same privileges and diligence, by Metropolitan Elevferii.
In August 1934 Metropolitan Elevferii sent the Moscow prohibitions to Metropolitan Antonii, who replied with an explanation of the whole lawlessness of Metropolitan Sergii’s actions, who was trying to judge the entire Council of Bishops Abroad, using his own judgment. “I acknowledge his actions to be criminal and subject to trial by the future free all-Russian Council,” he wrote to Metropolitan Elevferii, “And you surprise me, that while being in freedom, you are taking part in actions that are destructive to the Church, on an equal footing with captive hierarchs, for whom their actual captivity serves as a kind of excuse (August 7/20, 1934, no.4036).
Another bishop, vicar of the Western European Diocese and dean of the Paris Theological Institute Veniamin, who had headed the clergy of General Vrangel’s army, left Metropolitan Evlogii when he had refused Moscow and settled down at the Church of the Three Saints in Paris.
In May 1933 Archbishop Veniamin moved to America as Exarch of the Moscow Patriarchate and on May 21 was already serving at Metropolitan Platon’s in Holy Protection Cathedral. But this caused indignation among the flock that was not inclined toward any kind of loyalty to Bolsheviks. Under its pressure Metropolitan Platon broke relations with him, although he had already managed to make contact with the Moscow Patriarchate through him and even to request the consecration of Archpriest L. Turkevich to the episcopate. In connection with his refusal of further relations with Moscow and its representative, on July 28 Metropolitan Platon was dismissed from ruling the diocese, to which Archbishop Veniamin was appointed, not obtaining even five parishes in the extensive diocese.
He traveled to Moscow, had occasional negotiations with Metropolitan Feofil, received a Moscow decree in 1933 prohibiting the entire episcopate and clergy of the diocese from serving which he didn’t announce, and received Moscow delegates.
Yet another name should be added to the galaxy of church figures who performed various transmutations in those years (these include Metropolitans Evlogii, Platon, Feofil, Elefverii, and Veniamin, who had been part of the Bishops’ Council, subject to the Synod, and fell away from it). We are speaking of Metropolitan Serafim (Lukianov), and perhaps there is more that is instructive in his downfall than in all the others. It was the most trenchant and quickest one in terms of his own personal contradictions
In January 1927 Metropolitan Evlogii was placed under episcopal trial by the Bishops’ Synod, and Archbishop Serafim was appointed to the Western European Diocese. He brought around forty parishes into the new diocese at the expense of parishes that didn’t wish to follow Metropolitan Evlogii and later through starting new ones.
When Soviet church figures started their invasion of the part of the Russian Church that is abroad Metropolitan Serafim issued a message and a letter to its leader, announcing that the only supreme and authoritative power for all the parts of the Russian Church Abroad is the Bishops’ Council, and that before it is called individual hierarchs rule independently for now, while parishes are temporarily subject to the nearest one. Further on, he wrote to the leader of the Mission: “I am very gratified that you have taken the correct path and are not seduced by sinful interests and are not intimidated by threats (this refers to the fact the Mission leader was offered the rank of metropolitan for his subjection to Moscow, while his refusal would result in the loss of relations with the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Ours is the way of the cross, full of suffering, but correct and truthful. We wish to keep the Church free in Christ. Metropolitan Nikolai will soon be visiting us. Metropolitan Evlogii and the patriarchal parishes have been wanting to see him for a long time. The Evlogians are in total disorder and discord. I am living here as if on an island. There are enemies all around. There is no one wishing to submit to Moscow in my diocese.”
Two weeks after these letters, on August 24, Metropolitan Nikolai arrived in Paris and on the 26th visited Metropolitan Serafim, who told his visitor approximately that he does not have the right to decide such an important question as union with the Patriarchate, while our bishops are in dispersion, so a response would be made when it will be possible to gather them. The Patriarchal delegate then distributed the “Message of Patriarch Aleksii to the Karlovci orientation,” creating an atmosphere of confusion, discord, and arguments in parishes and extreme hostility toward this orientation within pro-Soviet circles. He paid a second visit on the 31st, which lasted about an hour, and the visitor left victorious. On September 2 Metropolitan Serafim served a liturgy, reconciled not only with the Moscow Patriarchate but with Metropolitan Evlogii as well.
No doubt remained in anyone’s mind that Metropolitan Serafim’s turnover of lightning speed took place under the threat of the regrettable consequences of his messages in favor of a German victory over the Bolshevik regime in Russia on the day the German-Soviet war started, June 22, 1941. “It wasn’t strength that broke the strong one, but a straw clipped him,” as the Russian proverb says.”
After Metropolitan Evlogii’s repose in August 1947 Metropolitan Serafim took charge, at Moscow’s decree, of the Western European Exarchate, a new one different from the Constantinople one, which hosting no more than twenty parishes, and no more than half of that remaining now.
False witness. The Moscow orientation, which remained in a few parishes of the Western European Diocese, which had now turned into the Western European Exarchate, had the strength in this way to remain faithful to itself even after Metropolitan Evlogii betrayed it in 1930. No panikhidas for victims of the Revolution on any of its anniversaries or for individual victims of Bolshevik terror, neither participation in protests against the persecution of religion in Russia, nor prayers for the cessation of persecution of the Russian Church, none of these and similar “political statements” were performed by this amazing current of the Church that was abroad. Special figures of the emigration fell away into these parishes.
Their new leader, Metropolitan Serafim, quickly learned to write articles in which, for example, he was able bring out Patriarch Tikhon as a great sufferer, but, as it turned out, by the revisionists, and not by the Bolsheviks, and even exclaimed, “May there be eternal and glorious memory for the confessor bishops” (Russkie novosti, June 14, 1946). Such craftiness, such sleight of hand…
In order to affirm correct belief one needs to make a pilgrimage to Moscow to worship the Bolshevik Chairman of the Council on Religious Matters, and so in February 1947 Metropolitan Serafim, along with other figures, spent some time in Moscow.
Archbishop Fotii, a sometime Moscow delegate, (Russkie novosti, October 4, 1946) testified in Paris that “Those who were frightened (by the Revolution) went into the catacombs, “but Patriarch Sergii “did not wish the carry the cross away into the catacombs”… And now one Paris delegate in Moscow, not having conferred with the other one, stated (in Russkie novosti, May 23, 1947) that “there is no underground, or, as they say in the emigration, catacomb church in Russia. My most optimistic expectations turned out to be surpassed… Here we have no idea how our Russian people are living spiritually, how they are praying, believing, how they love and worship their Church”,,, Big news. No one ever doubted that persecutions and sorrows have intensified and hardened the faith of the remaining faithful.
Now new missionaries are arriving from Russia with unsurpassed optimism. We can still understand those who, like the people of the Old Testament, “shouted with a great shout, praising the Lord for the erection of the house of the Lord,” but then how did it happen that “some of the Levitical priests and heads of fathers’ houses , old men who have seen the former house came to the building of this one with outcries and loud weeping” (1 Esd. 62-63)? Foreign imitators of the Moscow Patriarchate not only do not weep in sympathy with their brothers, but they come from Russia in thrall from unheard of freedoms and the unseen blossoming of church life, which, it seems, cannot be compared to that of the old regime. They didn’t see the sorrows, destitution, poverty, and insignificance, of the freedom that was given. But they did see life on the ruins of the past, on the conflagration, and they heard the outcries, “save us.” However, other delegates didn’t have the boldness to recount this truth abroad (The Times, October 21, 1946). And those who are loyal to the Soviet regime and are knowing participants in its deceptions, of course, could not visit the prison camps and could not even argue that spiritual figures are sitting there.
Having seen plenty in Russia, it was impossible to hear without sorrow in my heart a tale told by an Orthodox priest in the Polish army about his prison encounter, already during the Soviet church freedoms, with a bishop, who turned out to be half insane. In the endless years of his sufferings he had lost his mind and became childlike, and it was impossible to understand what he was saying.
And pastors abroad are excelling in the invention of verbal camouflage for Bolshevik wrongdoings, creating a blackout to conceal this horror.
Thus, after actual displays of loyalty toward the Soviet regime, the Moscow orientation abroad, to the extent that contact with Soviet Russia is being strengthened, has changed to false witness.
We already know that the Moscow Patriarchate fell morally during the persecutions. With its statements in favor of its godless regime it denied its Church the defense by the public opinion of the rest of the world, which this regime was taking into account to a certain degree. It went as far as making political demands that those abroad pledge loyalty to the Bolsheviks and protesting against prayers for the cessation of persecutions of the native Church. Its delegates abroad slandered the martyrs and denied the actual fact of the persecutions. They lied out of fear and totally seriously. To them this wasn’t a time for jokes, since in Russia they get beaten, and are also required to kiss the hand of the beater, otherwise they will get beaten even more.
The delegates from abroad, once they have returned from Russia, imitate the Moscow Patriarchate and perform, just like actors, a comedy of lies and hypocrisy. We understand that Soviet teachers in Russia give their pupils either a slap or a pittance, but why do those who are abroad and free walking before these animal trainers improperly? They’re doing it out of as sacrificial impulse. They have taken upon their shoulders the exploits of Soviet vulgar servility not out of fear but for their conscience (a conscience for lies and hypocrisy) for the preservation and increase of these blessings-pittances for the benefit of the Russian Church.
Such is the new morality that was instituted by the Soviet Patriarchate and had found its followers abroad — all means are good for the Church’s benefit.
“The justification of evil.” Such will be title of a future historical work of our days which will sift through and cite the special literature which we had never seen before. We develop slowly, and it apparently for good reasons that Roman Catholics accuse us, since the casuistic work on morality was completed in the sixteenth century, while we are beginning it only now. This curious philosophy of morality, to the surprise (were he alive) of Soloviev, who wrote The Justification of Good, was invented by certain hierarchs, clergy, converted intellectuals, and even one or two fellow travelers of the Soviet regime and its Church from the professional philosophers abroad of our times.
Of course, Metropolitans Elevferii (Three Days in Moscow) and Veniamin made major contributions to this philosophy, but Metropolitan Evlogii and his circle wrote much during the first period of their relations with the Moscow Patriarchate. Excelling in justifying evil for the Church’s benefit they willingly accepted the Sergian “exploit,”
Having joined Metropolitan Sergii and having imagined themselves for some reason to be true Tikhonites and sufferers, and trying on martyric crowns upon their heads and upon their diocesan leader, they raised their eyes to the heavens and wringed their hands due to the agonizing riddle of Metropolitan Sergii’s statements, which denied, for instance, persecution of the Church. “New anxiety, a new trial for or much suffering Church…” cried out one message abroad on this specific issue (Tserkovnyi vestnik, no. 3, 1930), at the time when it was no longer possible to put up with Sergii’s rule, thanks to the grumbling of his own flock besides. And who is the Church’s tormentor, is it just the Bolsheviks, or the Church’s own guardian, who bring new sufferings to it through slander, lies, and deception instead of comfort and encouragement, which everyone expects from him? They say that now Metropolitan Feofil commemorates Patriarch Aleksii in America only as a martyr.
Now the question arises, who is the martyr? Is it the Church, which has been subjected to so much suffering by not only the Bolsheviks but also by its first hierarchs, who, having accepted the exploit of lies and hypocrisy, are suffering from condemnation by their own conscience and criticism by faithful servers and members of the Church? With such sensual and demonic wisdom “do not boast and lie against the truth“ (Jas. 3:14), “For what credit is it if you are beaten for your faults,” (1 Pet. 2:20).
Co-confession. The part of the Russian Church that is abroad wishes to belong to the suffering Russian Church and take part in its sufferings, to co-suffer with it. But belonging to the Soviet Church leadership does not mean belonging to the suffering Church, since this leadership has abused the Church’s sufferings and has denied them. Belonging to the suffering Russian Church means precisely avoiding subjection to its current Church leadership, confessing its sufferings, and witnessing before the world that the Church in Russia is not free both in its external and internal situation and in its official statements. To assert the opposite is not “being straightforward about the truth of the gospel,” becoming involved in the hypocrisy of the Soviet Patriarchate (Gal. 2:11-15).
“Therefore, putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Eph. 4:25). And it is not we who are preaching the truth, but the sufferers of the Church, who were imitating Metropolitan Filipp of Moscow in truth. Filipp said to the Tsar that innocent human blood was being shed. “Do you wish to test our good will? It is better for you if you are in accord with us,” the Tsar replied. But then our faith will be in vain… all the good deeds which flow from Christian teaching will be pointless,” the martyr retorted. “You are an enemy of our authority. We shall see what your strength is,” the Tsar replied angrily. “I am only a migrant on earth, and for the truth of piety I am ready to suffer the loss of my rank and all kinds of cruelty,” the Metropolitan said.
The last successors to Metropolitan Filipp’s see are not repeating these words and have become in accord with the bloody regime, while the confessors of Solovki and others have followed him. That is why the followers of the Patriarch of Moscow abroad are not with the Russian Church, but with the betrayers of the truth. That is what we must say if we are members of one another and not false brothers and enemies. May the Church be holy and without stain, and whoever tells lies is not of the Church. Let us not try to justify ourselves if the truth accuses us. It would be better if we repent before it of faint-heartedness. We can run from persecution and threats, as did the parents of the Divine Child from Herod, as Jesus Himself avoided being stoned, and how Paul fled from Damascus, as the holy canons allow (Peter of Alexandria, 12:13), but we cannot avoid confessing the truth if that hour has arrived, and even if we prayed, “May this cup pass me by.” This is an unavoidable duty, and its avoidance cannot be justified by any false interpretations.
It would seem that it is so easy to confess gospel truth abroad, in freedom, self-affirming in various ways and affirming in the duty of confessing. “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord” (Pr. 21:31). But faint-heartedness has a place here as well. “What induces you to go under the Soviet Church jusrisdiction? “ you ask. And this kind of answer has been found, “The future belongs to the Soviets.” People sell the truth and wish to hide in advance not under the cross but under the flag of the Church, adapting themselves to conditions and think that “godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:5).
Assistance. Another legitimate wish is to attain maximum freedom for the Church. But you cannot buy the Church’s freedom, as well as your own, by betraying the truth or by compromising with lies, and justifying yourself for this purpose. The Church has no need of freedom that is bought with such a price. The truth supports it, not freedom without the truth (Jn. 8:32). Patriarch Tikhon bought freedom for himself by a compromise for the Church’s sake, but upon seeing the victory of the truth in it without his sacrifice, he was disillusioned by his action, and the Church, aware of his intentions, covered it with love. But a mistake is one thing, while a conscious crime, which is what the Sergian Patriarchate went along with, is another.
The Church has no need of the freedom which is currently being granted to the Church, in those conditions and dimensions, at that price and those sacrifices to the truth, and those final aims of the godless regime. Its representatives should have refused it.
The Bolsheviks need the relative freedom of the Church in order to display it before people for seducing believers of other countries into a united front alongside them. The Moscow Patriarchate and the exarchates abroad are called to participate in this Soviet seduction.
The main thing in Soviet politics is to advance along with believers of all countries toward the internationale. This is the immediate task. And then, along with non-believers of all countries, to go against all believers, despite their majority, as in Russia. “Whoever takes the stick is the corporal.” The main thing is to take hold of the stick.
In this way, along with the peasantry, the Bolsheviks went against tsarism and capitalism in order to destroy the peasantry later, along with the NEP and private trade and manufacture, for the country’s economic restoration, only to destroy it later. They went along with national groups against imperialism only to dissolve them internationally, and with the clergy, first against tsarism in 1905, and now for international unity, but only to put an end to it, as with any religion (Archpriest M. Polsky, Sovremennoe sostoianie tserkvi v SSSR, 5 pgs., 1946)
The Church exists in Russia because the proletariat and peasantry abroad still have “religious prejudices,” and this has to be taken into account on the way to world revolution. It would not have been allowed to exist for the sake of the bourgeoisie. The Church’s freedom in Russia is displayed only for the former, otherwise it would have been ended long ago. Seeing such a danger and such a method, why give aid to this criminal path instead of exposing it? Knowing this method, this truth that has already been gone through and studied, and knowing the enemy’s aims, it is extremely criminal to bring grist to its mill, to participate in its schemes, to provide help.
No essential changes in the principal situation of the Church in Russia have taken place. This regime not only doesn’t confess Christianity or any religion, but is officially hostile to any religion. It has not declared principally and officially its refusal of its anti-religious program and struggle, but has made temporary indulgences, a display of freedom for practical and tactical considerations.
We cannot participate in the Soviet deception. We need to fight for principled and essential changes, for the acknowledgment of religion as a necessary establishment for the entire nation and for the freedom which it enjoys in all countries.
Politics. The most cunning slander and subtle lies, rebelling against the truth in the fight with Bolshevism, consists of cleansing some from politics and accusing others of politicizing. There are no politics in religious anti-Bolshevism, but there is self-defense, struggle for the faith and Christ, and against unbelief and militant atheism. Politics is a struggle for an economic or political system. We are not fighting against the socialist and political system of Bolshevism, but as long as socialism is proclaimed as god, replacing the true God, we are against such deification and declare that this is a false god, and those who confess him are hazardous to themselves and others, not understanding the place which religion has in the human soul.
Those who fight Christianity in the name of socialism are our enemies. For us there is no sense in fighting Bolshevism without a religious foundation. The question that asks what is better, the exploitation of man by man in a bourgeois society or exploitation of a person by the government in a socialist society is for us a question of the freedom of a religious person, who can and must overcome both types of slavery in his development.
Therefore, to refuse to engage in religious struggle against Bolshevism under the guise of “cleansing from politics” or out of fear of being accused of “politicizing” is a betrayal of Christian duty. A Christian in his anti-Bolshevism doesn’t get involved in politics, but defends his faith, which Bolshevism is fighting against. And he must continue the struggle, not allowing to be deceived when the enemy withdraws, only to get a headstart and jump ahead with greater force to the triumph of atheism (Archpriest M. Polsky, Sovremennoe sostoianie tserkvi, 4)
Canonicity. The search for canonical presence is still a task for the part of the Russian Church that is abroad.
A prejudice that the current Supreme Church Authority in the USSR is absolutely canonical has taken root. This conviction demands exposure of its falsehood as a dangerous and lulling ecclesial consciousness. It is a known tolerance of lawlessness, indifference to the truth of the matter, and a superficial attitude toward events in Russia. Willing subjection to the Church authorities in the USSR without question, with offering in sacrifice to its assumed canonicity all of the blessings, rights, and duties of its normal free position abroad shows ignorance in general, and, mildly speaking, the lack of seriousness and firmness of their own principles in various spheres. This orientation is characterized by some kind of simple formal view of the sufficiency of one successive consecration for a bishop’s power, even if this is followed by the usurpation of general episcopal authority, and other crimes, lawlessness, and lies, which take away a bishop’s right to power. The possible triumph of these lies and a feeling of pity for the suffering membership of the Russian Church, which is trampled upon in its service to the canonical and gospel truth, does not worry them. This applies both to the Moscow exarchates in Europe and America, and to the two Metropolitan Districts, whose leaders, Metropolitan Evlogii and Feofil, made attempts to become subject to the Moscow Patriarchate.
The attitude of the narrow-minded membership of these Moscow exarchates is expressed in the heightened feeling of their extraordinary Orthodoxy that comes from an awareness that the Moscow Patriarchate, which they confess, is recognized by the heads of the other local churches. They don’t ask themselves why the renovationist leadership in Russia didn’t become canonical due to recognition by the eastern patriarchs. According to church law and physical impossibility, or rather to the possibility of ignorance or mistakes, you cannot interfere in the internal life of local churches. But the existing relations could take place in the relations between the heads of local churches that didn’t oblige them to anything and with the belief that our local church will work out its own internal dispute. And we, members of this local church, because of our situation, cannot not under any circumstances pause on this fact, seeing in it some kind of ecumenical council expressing a universal Orthodox truth. We cannot refuse our internal struggle for this truth, which we must conduct until a free Russian Local Council takes place, whose decisions will become final for the other members of the Church universal.
Finally, what can be wished for least of all is any kind of spiritual leadership by the Moscow Patriarchate and its influence upon matters in the Church universal, not to mention the part of the Russian Church that is abroad, which has its task, exclusive in its importance, of exposing these attempts. Having fallen during persecutions, and now a pitiful slave of its tyrant, Bolshevism, the Moscow Patriarchate, through its official voice and actions, expresses only its wishes and aims. Working on political matters, under the guise of church matters, by force of that same assignment, it forbids others from working on them, so that the grist would be brought only to its mill.
If, according to the ruling of the Church Council of August 2/15, 1918, no member of the Orthodox Church can be brought to church trial and punished for any political attitudes or corresponding activity, then the Moscow Patriarchate isn’t subject to trial for its political sympathies. But it violated this rule itself when it came down upon the Church Abroad with its prohibitions, and is subject to punishment for this violation. However, in this political activity it commits crimes against the Church and the truth of Christ.
Without listing again all of its actions for the benefit of the Church’s enemies we will only add that it spreads lies and deception regarding its Church’s freedom and denies past persecutions as nonexistent, trying to elicit general trust in the God-fighting regime on the part of believers of all countries. It participates in “strong delusion, that they should believe the lie” (2 Thess. 2:11), and its message spreads like cancer (2 Tim. 2:17) among the simple and gullible.
Constant compromises with a God-fighting, unethical, and an infinitely cruel and thoroughly deceptive regime have influenced the character and behavior of the Moscow Patriarchate. Servile and degraded at home, it was unable to find the words to express loyal feelings before its potentates. Guilty and fallen itself, lawless and unjust, subject to the category of penitents outside the church, it appears before hierarchs abroad using very bold devices with importance and outer authority, with imperiousness and lack of ceremony in manner, approaching rudeness and threats (Metropolitan Grigorii in Paris, Archbishop Aleksii in America). We see before us a church authority that is worthy of its civil one. Submission to it can come only through force of circumstances, with heartfelt sorrow and tears, as in participation with pagans in sacrifices to idols. But they shouldn’t come to it with happy faces and in festive garb, willingly bringing sacrifices to the Soviet gods through lies and deception. This last fall has no excuses, and you cannot make compromises with the Bolsheviks through the Moscow Patriarchate. To commemorate its name at services is to confess that lie and compromise with impiety, not to mention that we are obliged to avoid uncanonical church powers that are subject to court judgment.
The condemnation of the Moscow Patriarchate automatically condemns its followers, who have authentically sold their birthright for lentil stew.
The ways abroad that are described in two parts of this concluding section, can also be characterized and titled as were the first two sections of this canonical essay.
— The canonical path of the Bishops’ Synod.
— The uncanonical path of the Constantinople Exarchate, the American autonomy, and the Moscow Exarchate.
The part of the Russian Church that is abroad has a general canonical position which is axiomatically simple and indisputable, for it belongs to its autocephalic Church. Therefore it cannot change its situation by changing jurisdictions, autonomy, autocephaly, or anything else, and no one can lay claims upon it or try to break away from it, for it is an inheritance of the Russian Church. Autocephalous national churches have a need and right to establish missions, parishes, and dioceses outside their countries at will and under their immediate rule, and on territories of other local churches with their permission.
A part of a Church that had lost contact with its central church authority organized, with bishops present, a conciliar administration for itself, in the expectation of joining its whole. Applying this to the latest Russian circumstances, it must be said that if there never would have been the 1920 decree about the Church’s local conciliar self-rule, it should have arisen on its own according to episcopal duty, as it did in Southwestern Russia. And if the 1920 decree would be pedantically and senselessly questioned for its application abroad, then also, ignoring this decree, its duty before the Russian Church would oblige its members abroad to preserve themselves and its heritage by no other means than by establishing a council of a central supreme episcopal authority and organizing the unity of this part that is abroad, having lost it in the All-Russian Church center.
The duty of all Russian parishes, missions, and dioceses abroad that have lost contact with the Mother Church, until its life returns to normal, is to unite under the only canonical form of church authority, the Russian Council of Bishops Abroad, since such are present, both from those who had been previously abroad, and from those who are newly arrived.
Subjection to the current supreme church authority in Russia, which is enslaved by the Bolsheviks, when it became physically possible, should be rejected by the church emigration, which came about through a struggle for freedom and received it abroad. Having avoided enslavement by the Bolshevitks, the Church’s persecutors, it cannot be enslaved by them again, even through the Moscow Patriarchate. It was not for this that people emigrated.
However, the part of the Russian Church that is abroad must categorically reject the efforts of the Moscow Patriarchate to use any kinds of decrees to exclude hierarchs and clergy abroad from the Russian Orthodox Church and deny them the right to be commemorated by its clergy as uncanonical. It must steadfastly confess itself as being within it, and, since an internal canonical dispute arose in 1927 in the local Russian Autocephalous Church, its part that is abroad participates in it on equal terms with other dioceses, and it can, under the only free conditions as compared to its other parts, express its opinion and defend it for others, who are forced into silence in Russia itself. This is its duty and it is obliged to fulfill it to the end, so as not to be rebuked for betraying it, both by the future free Mother Church and by its whole history. The Council of Bishops Abroad rejected the 1927 threat by the Sergian Synod to exclude it from the Russian Church as uncanonical.
Although none of the other local churches can interfere with this internal dispute in the autocephalous church until it is resolved in that church, it is the duty of the free bishops of its part which is abroad to bear witness before them that the Moscow Patriarchate, established again by Metropolitan Sergii and currently headed by Metropolitan Aleksii, does not represent the Russian Church, which obliges local churches to at least be cautious in relations with it.
The Bishops’ Council rejected the unlawful interference in Russian Church matters and the claims upon its heritage abroad by other patriarchates, condemned the new style abroad, the renovationist schism in Russia, and the unlawful statements by the Sergian Patriarchate, taking the side of the persecuted Church, for its canonical and gospel truth. It protested the unlawful process of electing patriarchs in Russia, unceasingly fought for the preservation of faithfulness of the part of the Mother Russian Church that is abroad from betrayal and deviations and for the internal unity of all parts of the Church Abroad around the Bishops’ Council against schisms, encroachments, and claims upon individual rights of the general authority of bishops.
Therefore, the part of the Russian Church that is abroad, which is headed by this only canonical form of administration, belongs to the Russian Local Autocephalous Church in its very activity and confession. Thus, the existence of this Russian Church region abroad has exclusive significance for the Russian Church, and will be recognized by everyone at some point by its only voice, in response to its virtue at the time.
The Bishops’ Council properly manifests the Russian Church through the purity of its faith and its devotion to the divine canons, serving as a support for their truth and a hope of their triumph. The conditions of freedom are being used for the benefit of the Russian Church in full measure.
Spiritual contact of the Bishops’ Council with the Russian Church, avoiding the Moscow Patriarchate, is fully realizable. The Council Abroad is morally connected with those Russian episcopates which, from 1943, have been replaced by official and legal ones of current composition and which, such as those in the Molotov Region, who have refused disgraceful freedom, with those “philistines” of the Russian Church” who recognize the current Soviet freedoms only as a tactical maneuver, and for whom the Moscow Patriarchate publishes its journal in two issues, in order to conceal the ideas of the Synod Abroad, with whom it polemicizes. Finally, the Synod Abroad has relied upon the huge and numerous national church life that has witnessed abroad through suffering and blood to the severe Egyptian slavery of the Russian Church and has expressed confidence in the Bishops’ Synod, encountering in a foreign land its native genuinely ecclesiastical authority ordering the word of truth, faithful to it from afar, and fighting along with them for the one and same truth. A special chapter in church history will be written about the activity here of the Bishops’ Synod.
The official church authority in Russia is not with its Church and is not with its suffering church people. It is a tolerable forcefulness from necessity. The sphere that is abroad is the only bulwark, hope, comfort, and joy of the Russian catacombs. That’s how it was when the author of these lines was there, and that’s how it remains now as well according to those who have now arrived from there.
Facts, circumstances, history, canons, the word of the Gospels, conscience — bind the Sergian rule in Russia into a single indestructible knot and cast it into prison like an unpaying debtor, where it will remain until it gives up its last pillow, and along with them those who agreed to go with them and started justifying its course. There will be unmerciful judgment for those who didn’t accord mercy to the episcopate, clergy, and laity which cried out, begged, asked to stand in God’s truth and who were answered by cruel reprisals and desecration.
Their relationship to the Russian Church and to the Moscow Patriarchate by the supreme church authority of various Russian church associations is the criterion for assessing their canonical status.
The American autonomous diocese recognized in principle the possibility of the Moscow Patriarchate’s spiritual authority for itself. The Constantinople Exarchate is ready for “brotherly cooperation” with it, and it accepted its decree of May 16, 1947 excluding its hierarchs and clergy from its ranks “without objection.” The Moscow Exarchate enslaved itself unconditionally to Soviet church and international policies and put together a new volunteer army on the side of the Reds and against the irreconcilable Whites, offering the same impure Soviet idolatrous sacrifices and practicing the same lies, slander, and deception as the Soviet Patriarchate. Being subject to it, and submitting to the Bolsheviks through it, they followed it like poor rabbits setting off into the jaws of a snake. Imagining that they had joined their Church. The others left it entirely, juridically and factually, not having found any basis for fighting for it. The first group is indifferent to the means of achieving its aims and abandoned it spiritually, no longer having a sense of being part of it.
Thus, having relations with the Moscow Patriarchate and departing from the Russian Church both, along with “brotherly” relations, demonstrate the false paths and a deep schism with the position of the Bishops’ Synod, which is being within the Russian Church, but not with the Moscow Patriarchate, not with its current leadership.
The same thing happened in the church life of the emigration as it did in its civil life — there was a schism. No one could bring about general emigré unity, establish its center, honored and respected by everyone. There was no demonstration of the awareness of common aims, tasks, strivings, and wishes. But in the Church things turned out to be that much worse, since there is a single basis present here, the Russian Orthodox faith, and the Church is the only organization for Russians in which its duties, not former ranks and offices, are actual, in actual service, with its own law and canons, which they must obey. And there is an indestructible organization, its own leadership which has come abroad, an entire Council of bishops, a supreme authority of the Church. All of this amounts to the only treasures that were taken out of Russia and brought here, and which had to be guarded and preserved with reverence. And so this organization has been dealt the heaviest blows, and they are being dealt to this day, so that the poor regular Church members find it hard to figure out what is going on. The sin against unity is quite obvious and totally unjustified. There was even a conscious and planned fight against general church unity abroad, with a rebuke of the Bishops’ Council regarding its “claims,” There was an open and conscious battle for the schism, for church disunity.
The significance of the church law of the holy canons has weakened to the point of total disregard. Prohibitions were announced, but no one recognized them. Why was that? The canonical supreme church authority no longer has the support of devout sovereigns and governmental oversight which were customary parts of life was and which were feared more than the power of their own church law. One would think that only in government the law relies on the power of force, while free and voluntary obedience reigns in the Church. And this remains true for everyone in the Russian Church, except for certain (sad to admit) hierarchs, apparently servile worshippers of the powerful of this world, whom they had lost, and finding themselves in freedom they could no longer acknowledge any other authority without this external support. Freedom seduced them. The opportunity of life without discipline and oversight, without any control by a higher instance, in self-will and lawlessness overcame the spiritual law of the world, unanimity, and freedom, which, following the example of godly life, is self-limitation in the name of love.
So who violated this love, where love of power and demands were manifest, who didn’t wish to share power with all the bishops and fought for supremacy, unwilling to submit to brotherly decision and generally to submit to no one? Who wanted the letter of the law and not its spirit and sense, and blindly followed it, falling into a hole? Who was acting abroad in the spirit of Metropolitan Sergii and destroyed brotherly unity? What is the source of this heresy of individual church rule and the dictatorship of a single bishop who can bring all kinds of lawlessness into the Church, and councils, synods, diocesan councils and assemblies selected by him only to justify all of his lies? How did those general gatherings of dioceses and metropolitanates turn into the highest instances of church authority and even took on the label of sobors, when their leaders took away the rights of vicar and diocesan hierarchs from their bishops? There is separation, not unity, everywhere, self-will instead of submission, searches for external authority (they did take into consideration the Serbian Church’s patronage) instead of brotherly unity and self-discipline, incorrectness, betrayal, exceeding of authority, excessive claims, arbitrariness, falsehood, compromises, secret actions, and diplomacy of cunning and deceptions, which were praised as wisdom.
The path of the Bishops’ Council and Synod — the path of a conscious, free, and disciplined unity is very difficult.
Its difficulty lies in the fact that it is the path of faith in the final triumph of truth, and thus it is possible to die “in faith, not having received the promises” (Heb. 11:13), for they belong to the future. Confessing to be an inseparable part of the Russian Church, not submitting to its current uncanonical church authority, and awaiting restoration of free and normal life in it and the eventual reuniting with it, are genuinely a feat of faith in it, accompanied by great difficulties. The independence of the part of the Russian Church that is abroad has to be preserved humbly and steadfastly among the autocephalous churches, as a whole district or union of dioceses that are temporarily separated from their central authority, and sanctions from above for all its activities will need to be expected only upon its reunification with the central authority (the 1920 decree).
But this is a good and correct path, for whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). It cannot be said that those who fell away from the Bishops’ Synod acted according to faith. They intended to arrange their own canonicity more firmly and as quickly as possible in the present, disregarding the means for it and lacking faith in the future, and so this canonicity failed. The Bishops’ Council, which in its very essence is a canonical establishment, easily casts off accusations of autocephaly or arbitrariness.
What could have divided bishops who are united in a brotherly union and who have united the entire Church Abroad under its aegis besides the arbitrariness of certain ones, who were seeking individual power? The principle of the Bishops’ Synod is indestructible.
The part of the Russian Church that is abroad is in the Church universal, although it is in a different position, as is one that is free in contrast to one that is not. That is why it inevitably has its special relations with the Church universal, as a petitioner regarding Russian church matters, providing information about its condition, defending its interests, and confessing its truth. The role of the Bishops’ Council of this part of the Russian Church is particularly important and necessary both for the Local Russian Church and for the universal one, and it has always been fulfilled and is being fulfilled, earning the praise and gratitude of these major elements. The image of the Russian Church is preserved in it. It alone speaks from the person of its sufferer. It represents it abroad. The submission of any diocese to other patriarchs or development of autocephaly and autonomy could only have occurred arbitrarily and became a tendency to separate these parts from the Russian Church and a claim upon its inheritance, a disturbance of the order that had existed until now and had been recognized by everyone. And adding to all this was the betrayal of the Russian Church in the year of its trials. This path is also inevitable.
But “the way of the truth will be blasphemed” (2 Pet. 2:2). The difficulties of the Bishops’ Council are growing immensely. “in perils of… countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles,… in perils among false brethren.”
The Bolsheviks have been battling the Church Abroad since the start of the emigration, and when the Moscow Patriarchate, even in its internal matters, acts in concert with its godless regime, the church organization abroad has remained inaccessible to both direct and indirect influence on its part.
The Moscow Patriarchate assists the Bolsheviks in this struggle, despite the fact that they are destroying the Church. The sharpest blow to it is the fact that its part abroad considers itself to be within the Russian Church, not recognizing it as its head. In this way, the truth lives, struggle with lies exists, judgment is ahead, and lawlessness will be exposed.
However, attacks from the Bolshevik side are natural, and are not taken in the same way as those from “kinsfolk” according to their fate abroad. Those who have broken away from the Council are at enmity with it openly and under cover. The “Clevelanders” do not shy away from their “open letters,” while the “Evlogians” continue to be surprised by “such an extensive jurisdiction that the Synod has acquired de jure and de facto” (Tserkovnyi vestnik, no. 7, 1947), appointing bishops to sees in different countries with Russian dioceses. Why not confess outright their new belief that the Patriarch of Constantinople should be doing all that, or even his Western European Russian Exarch? Other bold spirits from this milieu sincerely rejoice over the “devastating blows” that the Karlovcians have received from Evlogian betrayal, the treachery by some (Metropolitan Serafim Lukianov), and from the genuinely suffering devastation of whole dioceses with Soviet occupation. These gentlemen cannot understand that a tiny army of seven thousand remained undefeated after the Saint Gothard Crossing and immense losses. It doesn’t hurt when the Bolshevik hoof kicks the injured spiritual lion of the emigration, but it is disgraceful and bitter when those who threw down their banners and fled the battlefield look out of someone else’s yard “triumphantly” and with a chuckle at those who fought all the battles and preserved their holy objects. Why do you dislike the Synod Abroad? Why are you disturbed by its existence, troubled by signs of its activity, rejoice at its losses, fear its strengthening, and await its disappearance? Because the honest, direct, unbending, unwavering path of serving Christ’s truth, unyielding in nothing and to no one, under our circumstances is a living rebuke to your path, and you are resentful.
Don’t you see that the “Tikhonites” in Russia and the “Karlovcians” abroad were victorious long ago, even if some time is needed to recognize this fact?
You are offended by your mistakes. But for this there are admission and correction. Be courageous and regret that you did not manage to take that path from beginning to end without wavering. Rejoice magnanimously that after the days of general emigré irreconcilability and oaths of loyalty to the Russian struggle to the grave, and the demoralization that occurred subsequently, and to which some of your church leaders gave way, the old Leader has remained, who didn’t bend his knees before Baal, didn’t offer impure sacrifices to him by any compromises and has the more so become worthy of your trust and respect, which can again be offered to him wholeheartedly. This Leader and this path will also be the glory of the Russian Church.
The Bishops’ Synod reacted to all Russian events without interruption, assessed them correctly, understood their meaning, didn’t confuse external formal legalism with its inner truth and could see when this legalism covered up the truth. It didn’t yield to deception and wasn’t naïve or gullible. it always acted competently, responsibly, and seriously, but mainly in the name of the cause, without being indifferent to truth and falsehood, to good and evil, and linking the Church’s benefit to the first options. The dioceses of the Bishops’ Synod acted abroad as belonging to the Russian Church, as its part that was organically linked with it, enduring its issues, occupying a definite position in it, co-suffering with its martyrdom and being of service to the martyrs with truth, not considering taking the side of betrayal, having dealings with the Moscow Patriarchate or departing from the native Church.
What could have been different? What other interests and paths can there be for our Church Abroad? Why must it be divided, lacking unity, a single direction and leadership? The way of truth belongs to the Council of hierarchs abroad who took the correct path of self-rule under the life conditions of the part of the Russian Church that is abroad. This Council turned out to be the only lawful and true body in its administration, consisting of bishops and being temporary until reunification with the central authority, according to the idea of struggling for truth, freedom, and canonical order in Russia itself, to which the duty of a free life obliges the Council itself.
At the present time the only canonical authority in the Russian Orthodox Church, in its entirety, both in its part abroad and for Russia itself sine 1927, is the Bishops’ Council Abroad, which could assert its rights and the Russian church truth without restriction.
Such is the inevitable conclusion that is dictated by a thorough examination of the canonical position of the Supreme Church Authority in Russia and abroad.
No single bishop abroad, who considers himself Russian, can leave anywhere from his own conciliar church authority and the general power of bishops and be in isolation or create a separate group of bishops in dioceses, exarchates, or metropolitanates. There is no external isolation from other Orthodox hierarchs abroad in order to avoid a General Council, at which all must be present without any exception under threat of punishment. Separation from the General Council is a major canonical infraction, which will never remain unpunished in the future.
For the sin of separating from the Russian Church, for not preserving the brotherly unity of bishops abroad, for having union with the Bolsheviks through relations with the Moscow Patriarchate under the conditions of their own freedom, for failing to fulfill their duty to the Mother Church, to which these conditions oblige them, and for refusing to fight for its truth, these bishops will be answerable to the Russian Church, not to mention to God at the Divine Judgment.
To gather again in love, piece, and unity of mind, as children of one country and servers of one Church and single aims, forgetting and mutually forgiving the past, caring sacrificially for durable and indestructible unity, such is the task of the bishops and the closest primary need of the part of the Russian Church that is abroad.
At some point Serbian Patriarch Varnava, with a fervent love for Russia and a flaming thirst for its restoration, and also for order and the uprooting of schisms and divisions in its part that is abroad, said to the Russian people, “Among you there is this great hierarch, Metropolitan Antonii, who is the decoration of the universal Orthodox Church. This is a lofty mind, similar to the first hierarchs of Christ’s Church at the beginning of Christianity. The Church’s truth is contained in it. All of you, not only those living in our Yugoslavia, but also those in America, Asia, and of the world’s countries, must form, headed by your great archpastor, Metropolitan Antonii, a single indestructible entity, unyielding to the attacks and provocations of the Church’s enemies” (Tserkovnye vedomosti, July 15/28, 1930).
The bishops ought to know the first among them.
The bishops of the Council of Carthage, hearkening to the words of Bishop Aurelius, ruled:
It is recommended that none of the brethren dare to prefer himself impertinently over those before him, but that each of them appreciate the station assigned to him by God, and that later workers refer back to the earlier ones, and not dare to do anything in defiance of their opinions. As for those who have the hardihood to scorn anyone among those before them, let them be suitably curbed by the Council.
The senior bishop of the part of the Russian Church that is abroad, Metropolitan Anastasii, is presently the most senior Russian hierarch in the world according to the date of consecration, and is the only living member of the Holy Patriarchal Synod that was elected by the Counci; of 1917-1918. Therefore, he is the closest figure to govern the Church, a remainder of our legitimacy and authority in a canonical sense.
According to his personal spiritual qualities or the principles of his service to the Church af the present time and throughout the entire emigration he bears no reproach.
One supporter of the Cleveland Council still wrote, “A light to the world and its authority, Metropolitan Anastasii… “ And this is undoubtable in this day and age, when so many have been caught in the Soviet nets.
Thus, the Council knows its chairman.
All is good that ends well. We need unity and definitiveness in our positions as we face the future, which will undoubtedly be crucial, if not threatening.
We need vigor and courage for everything, and, first of all, for humility and repentance.
May they pour into us from a prophetic word.
“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, fear not! Behold your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come to save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped” (Is. 35: 3-5).
- Delo Mitropolita Sergiia [The Case of Metropolitan Sergii] Sobranie rukopisei. 124 dokumenta 403 str. [Manuscript collection, 124 documents, 403 pages].
- L., Episkop Damaskin I ego bor’ba za pravoslavie [Bishop Damaskin and his Fight for Orthodoxy] Rukopis’ 84 str. [Manuscript, 84 pages].
- L., Episkopy-ispovedniki I Mitropolit Sergii [Confessor Bishops and Metropolitan Sergii] Rukopis’ 92 str. [Manuscript, 92 pages].
- Tserkovnye Vedomosti [Church News], Tserkovnaia Zhizn’ [Church Life], Tserkovnyi vestnik [Church Messenger’], Vestnik russkogo studencheskogo khristianskogo dvizheniia [Messenger of the Russian Student Christian Movement], Russko-Amerikanskii Pravoslavnyi Vestnik [Russian-American Orthodox Messenger].
- Other books and periodicals are indicated in the text.
|↵1||The situation of this school remained without changes until 1947. Along with the wonderful and useful work entitled Evkharistiia [The Eucharist] there appeared the Vetkhozavetnaia bibleiskaia kritika [Old Testament Biblical Criticism], which no one needs and is contrary to Orthodox teaching.|