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The American Metropolia and the Los Angeles Trial

The American Metropolia and the Los Angeles Trial

This pamphlet is part of an extensive discussion, reproduced here in the Canon Law section. Fr. Michael Polsky’s book The Canonical Position of the Supreme Church Authority in the USSR and abroad sparked this discussion. This discussion remains valuable because it helps us to understand better the proper canonical administrative organization of the Russian ecclesiastical diaspora.

A general assessment of the Metropolia’s position and a response to the article Po povodu resheniiq Vysshago Suda Shtata Kalifornii [Regarding the Decision of the California Supreme Court in the Los Angeles case] in Russko-Amerkanskii Pravoslavnyi Vestnik [Russian-American Orthodox Messenger] for June 1949.

  1. THE DECISION OF THE LOS ANGELES COURT. Its bases: The First Council Abroad of 1921, The 1920 Decree 362, “The Temporary Situation of 1935, General conclusions in the Court’s decision.
  2. THE ASSESSMENT OF THE TRIAL AND THE COURT’S DECISION. Is it allowable to turn to a secular court? Who determined the canonicity of the Synod Abroad? Certain details of the trial and decisions.
  3. “THE ESTABLISHED FACTS.” Regarding the rights of church migrants. The Synod Abroad and Autocephalous Churches. Conclusion.
  4. RESPONSE TO BISHOP JOHN OF BROOKLYN’S BROCHURE Puti Amerikanskoi Mitropolii [The Paths of the American Metropolia].

The General Council of All Russian bishops abroad is, first of all, a moral necessity of brotherly friendship and love, as well as of mutual help in providing care and spiritual service for the numerous Russian Orthodox people in our entire diaspora.

The episcopate is called to close unity by its common fate, the same conditions of isolation from the Mother Church of Russia, and by the general expectation of the restoration of Russia in the freedom of its spirit, of its Church, i. e. by its common sorrows, thoughts, and wishes.

The voice of the Savior Himself, which is aimed directly at us, calls us to brotherly unity: “By this you will know that you are My disciples, that you have love for one another.” (Jn. 13:35) The bishops, those “rejected apostles,” will not renounce the calling of Christ’s disciples.

The Nicene Creed gives us the teaching of the One Church of Christ, and necessarily assumes inner church unity as well. Christ has one body, one Church, and we are all members of one body.

And finally, the Bishops’ Council implements the law, rule, or canon of church structure.

The Bishops’ Council isn’t just a council of some metropolitan district or of a group of bishops, but is actually a general council of the bishops of all regions and dioceses without exception that belong to a particular country and are able to gather together with its Church’s supreme authority.

In this way love becomes clothed in the form of the Church’s legitimate structure through the canons. In it the conciliar assent of the first bishop with everyone and everyone with him is likened to the unity of the Holy Trinity (34th Apostolic Canon). The canons are holy not only by virtue of the authority of the source from which they came (the apostles, councils, holy fathers), but also because they embody Gospel ethics and the Church’s dogmas.

Can one fight against unity? Who among us preaches against whomever opposes the truth? Isn’t it the primary axiom, or the most indisputable position of our life, that the uniform adherence by all to the Russian Church unites us? And where has this principle of Church unity been realized from the beginning? Hasn’t it been in the General All-Diaspora Councils of the Russian Bishops?

For the sin of schism is a later phenomenon for us. And the awareness of Christian duty and the common Church needs abroad was experienced by the entire Russian episcopate as a whole from the first days of the emigration in 1920 and 1921, when our bishops started organizing their councils, without separating into groups.

The schismatics will give an answer at God’s Final Judgement for their sin against Church and Gospel truth. But do those who choose schism and inflame hatred for its sake believe in God’s Judgement, and do they fear it?


The Decision of the Court in Los Angeles

But human judgement was carried out over the schism prior to the Divine Judgment. If people do not fear one type of judgment they might perhaps fear another. This came about not without Divine Providence.

The Transfiguration Parish in Los Angeles belonged since its founding to the Bishops’ Council and Synod Abroad, to which the American Metropolia belonged as well. When the Metropolia split off from the Synod at the 1946 Cleveland Council, the majority of the parish did not wish to follow suit. Disregarding this, the Metropolia administration held on to the church, and the parishioners had to file suit in civil court. The court was obliged willy-nilly to resolve the issue in principle — which jurisdiction has the right to have possession of the church, can the Cleveland decision be followed in general, and who is in schism?

We will cite the decisions of the court in abbreviated form and, as much as possible, in the court’s literal language.

At the beginning of its decision the Court agreed that “for the sake of brevity” it would refer to the institutions of the part of the Russian Church that is abroad — the Bishops’ Council and the Holy Synod — as simply “The Church Abroad.”

The Court established a few facts as a basis for its decision, three of which it describes in detail and can be regarded as the most important ones. These are the 1921 First Council Abroad, Decree no. 362 of November 20, 1920, and the “Provisional Statute” of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in 1935.

1. The first Sobor Abroad. “In 1921 twelve bishops, thirty to forty priests, and about one hundred members of the laity, held a sobor in Sremski Karlovski [sic.], Serbia. This was done with the approval of the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which was another of the autocephalous churches. This sobor created the Church Abroad as the Temporary Supreme Church Administration for all the faithful outside Russia. It is upon the canonicity of this administration as it existed from that time forward, and as it exists today, that the plaintiffs, in large measure, depend. The executive organ of this church has at all times been its ruling bishop and his synod.”

“All the bishops throughout the whole world outside of Russia have from time to time either taken an active part in this synod or have had some connection therewith. There have been some defections from its ranks but it is still recognized as the Supreme Church Administration by many of the parishes in various countries of the world. “(p. 7) Since the “duty of ruling the Church belongs to the bishops,” “When the Church in Russia was completely disorganized and the supreme administration was destroyed, under the canons it became the duty of the surviving bishops who were not imprisoned to gather together and create a supreme church administration. This was an absolute necessity if order was to prevail. This is what the bishops who gathered together in  Karlovski  in 1921, did”.

“A supreme church administration having been created, it was necessary for all bishops, clergy and laity to recognize its authority until the conditions which made its creation necessary ceased to exist.” “Since it appears from all pleadings, the evidence and the admissions and contentions of all parties that free church life has not yet been returned to Russia, the court must find that The Church Abroad is still the supreme church administration outside of Russia.” (pp. 13-14)

2. Decree no. 362 regarding the organization of the highest instance of church administration on a conciliar basis in the event of the isolation of dioceses from the supreme church administration in Russia.

The court established the facts that had to be connected to this decree.

“Outside of Russia The Church has for scores of years had parishes in the various countries of Europe and in parts of the Near East, North Africa, China, Japan, Australia, and North and South America. Some of these were well-organized in Dioceses and others consisted largely of missions. But all of them have at all times considered themselves to be an integral part of The Church and were governed prior to 1920 by its executive organs in Moscow.”

“Many bishops, hundreds of priests and millions of the laity were driven out of the territory of Russia and established themselves in various parts of the world.” (pp. 7-8, 48)

“This ukaz reads in part as follows: In case a diocese, as a result of the shift of a front, the alteration of the state frontier, etc., should find itself cut off from all communications with the Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration, or should the latter itself, headed by the Holy Patriarch, for some reason, cease to function, the diocesan bishop shall forthwith communicate with the bishops of the adjoining dioceses for the purpose of organizing a supreme organ of ecclesiastical authority for several dioceses finding themselves in the same condition.” (p. 14)

“All parties agree that the issuance of this ukaz was in accordance with the canons and that it was valid.”

“A fair reading of the ukaz , in the light of the canons, the necessity that there be but one church with one head and the emergency which existed, has caused the court to conclude that the ukaz was designed for the purpose of causing to be created a supreme church administration for the whole Church throughout the world, outside of the boundaries controlled by the Bolsheviks. It is therefore additional support for the creation and existence of the Supreme Church Administration of The Church Abroad.” (p. 15)

”The Church is a composite and integral unit or body, headed by a supreme administration which has final authority and power in all matters legislative, judicial, executive, and administrative, subject to the power and authority of bishops acting in a sobor or general council.” (p.37)

“When the Church in Russia was completely disorganized and the supreme church administration in Russia was destroyed, as aforesaid, under the canons and law of the Church the bishops who were outside Russia, in keeping with the canons and law of the Church and entirely aside from the effect and requirements of said Ukaz No. 362 as above found, it became and was their absolute duty to gather together and to assemble into a provisional church administration by all bishops of the Church outside Russia, and to establish a supreme church administration for all of the Church outside Russia until such time as normal church life returned inside Russia and until there was re-established within Russia a supreme church administration by all bishops of the Church acting freely and without control or domination from the state.  Such a provisional organization of the Church outside Russia was then and ever since then has been and still is an absolute necessity in order to preserve and maintain the existence, unity, discipline, doctrine and liturgy of the Church and in order to guard against the creation of schisms and heresies in the Church outside Russia, and it was, and still is, particularly necessary in order to preserve the very existence of the Church itself, which is the motherland, Russia, was then and at all times since the Bolshevik revolution has been and still is, under attack from the Communists.” (p. 40-41)

(In the court’s opinion, whether there was an Ukaz or if had not existed at all, the unification of the parts of the Russian Church under their authority was the duty of the bishops, so that the Ukaz is interpreted only from the viewpoint of this principle).

“Ukaz No. 362,… interpreted in the light of the canons and laws of the Church, authorized and required all dioceses, bishops and parts of the Church outside the territory of Russia to organize a provisional supreme church administration abroad (or outside Russia) for the purpose of maintaining and preserving the unity of the Church outside of Russia and for the purpose of exercising, with respect to all parts of the Church outside Russia, all the powers, authority and functions therefore exercised by the supreme administration within Russia, until such time as there should be restored within Russia normal church life and true religious freedom and there should be re-established within Russia the supreme church administration of the Church with freedom unhampered by the state to manage its affairs in a normal manner. Said Ukaz No. 362 was and is canonical and lawful, and did require then and always has required all bishops, priests and laymen, and all parts, dioceses, missions, parishes and congregations of the Church situated outside of Russia, to be united together, to organize, establish and maintain a supreme church administration and organization for the government of their affairs and to be integral and component members and parts of such provisional church organizations until such time as normal church life returned inside Russia.”

3. “The Provisional Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church,” which was adopted in 1935 by the heads and representatives of four metropolitan districts and was signed by them and the Patriarch of Serbia.  This document declares that “the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, consisting of dioceses, ecclesiastical missions and churches located outside of Russia, is an indissoluble part of the Russian Orthodox Church, temporarily constituted upon an autonomous basis,” and that “The supreme legislative, judicial and administrative organ of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad shall be the Bishops’ Sobor, annually convened, and its executive organ shall be the Holy Bishops’ Synod. “

“…this statute was signed by the defendant Metropolitan Theophilus… The evidence discloses that between 1936 and 1946 the defendant Metropolitan Theophilus, his synod and council, and his bishops did all the things required by the statute. Counsel for the plaintiffs have submitted to the court a list, under twenty-three general heads, setting forth matters submitted to the executive organs of the Church Abroad by Metropolitan [1]We will take at least one of these documents, an original version written by Metropolitan Theophilus himself: “The Sobor of Hierarchs of our Orthodox Church in North America, which took place … Continue reading Theophilus, his synod and council, and his bishops. In addition, the evidence discloses many acts and statements by Metropolitan Theophilus and his bishops which can only be interpreted as acknowledgments of the supremacy of the executive organs of The Church Abroad.” (p. 7)

“No right of termination is provided by the Provisional Statute. From the evidence it is clear that the only termination time contemplated was upon the restoration of normal, free church life in Russia. The defendants have cited to the court no canon which can be construed as giving to Metropolitan Theophilus or his bishops, clergy or laity the right to separate themselves from a temporary supreme church administration, such as the Church Abroad, after that administration had been canonically created and the North American Church had become a part thereof.” (p. 7)

“In November 1946 at an All-American Sobor held in Cleveland, a resolution was adopted which purported to terminate the 1935 Provisional Agreement and to sever all relationship with The Church Abroad.” (p. 9)

“When a person enters a society such as a church which is under supreme supervision and control by the highest courts, he thereby agrees to abide by the rules of the directorate and the lawfully enacted decisions of its courts.” (The court refers to various court decisions).

“Acknowledging that these courts exist lawfully and that they have resolved the issue which is the object of the matter under consideration, this court is obliged to apply their decisions to the discovered facts and to announce that these decisions are mandatory for those who are subject to this trial (the parties in this case).”

In 1947 the bishops who were loyal to the Synod and the Bishops’ Synod announced that the resolutions of the Cleveland Sobor and the actions of Metropolitan Theophilus and all persons allied with him were contrary to Church law.

“The named ukazes were lawfully rendered by the designated bishops and the Holy Bishops’ Synod. These tribunals were and continue to be the judicial tribunals of the Church Abroad, and the designated Holy Bishops’ Synod was then, and continues to be, the supreme judicial tribunal of the Church Abroad, whose ukazes and definitions were then and continue to be mandatory for all parts of the Church Abroad. “

“Based on the aforesaid Provisional Statute and the indicated merger the church organization headed by Metropolitan Theophilus became an inseparable part of the Church Abroad, subject to its jurisdiction, administration and laws. Each statute and ruling of the aforesaid Provisional Statute was, and continues to be, valid and effective, and the Provisional Statute was itself composed, accepted and confirmed by all parts of the Church Abroad and the defendant Metropolitan Theophilus and the named church organization in accordance with Church laws. The aforesaid Provisional Statute was, and continues to be, canonical and lawful, and was confirmed and accepted, as mentioned above, on the basis of the aforementioned Ukaz No, 362 and in accordance with the laws and canons of the Church.”

In addition, the Cleveland Sobor is uncanonical because it handed over the control over the Church, entrusted to the bishops, to the power of the majority of the laity, rejecting its own nakaz regarding an episcopal conference confirming the sobor’s decisions.

4. We encounter the following conclusions in the court’s decision:

A) (We can assume that the court takes into account the All-Diaspora Council of 1921, Ukaz No. 362, and the “Provisional Statute,” and regards the dioceses, missions, and churches outside Russia as an indissoluble part of the Russian Orthodox Church and for that reason renders the following decision):

“The court finds that the Church Abroad did not ever withdraw from the Russian Orthodox Church or set itself up as an entity or organization independent of the governing organs of the Church, but, on the contrary, always was and is an indissoluble part of the Church; also that the North American Diocese or North American Metropolitan District at all times herein mentioned has been an indissoluble part of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Court finds that the church organization headed by Metropolitan Platon and Metropolitan Theophilus, in the period from in or about 1926 to the time of the aforesaid merger in or about 1935, and the church organization headed by Metropolitan Theophilus at all times herein mentioned since the said Cleveland Sobor of 1946, were not and are not part of the Russian Orthodox Church but withdrew from said Church and were set up, existed and functioned unlawfully as separate entities or organizations separately from the Russian Orthodox Church.” (p. 63)

B) “Upon the adoption of the said Cleveland Sobor referred to in Paragraph XXVIII of the Findings of Fact herein, defendant Metropolitan Theophilus and all bishops, priests and laymen, including all defendants herein (except defendant bank and defendant building and loan association) and all parishes and congregations, who were and which were in league with him and who severed all ties with the Church Abroad and its governing organs and refused to recognize the authority of the Church Abroad, became, and at all times since then have been, a schismatic and unlawful faction or group and thereafter had no right to the control, use or occupation of any property of the Church Abroad, and had no right to the administration of any of its affairs or the affairs of any parish, congregation or diocese thereof.” (pp. 71-72)

The following statement by the court serves as an explanation and footnote for this:

“Under the laws of the Church, no part of the Church, whether a parish, congregation, diocese or district, and no member or group of members of the Church, whether of the clergy or laity, may lawfully withdraw from the Church and set itself or set themselves up as a separate entity or an organization independent of the governing instance of the Church. If that is done, the separated part or group becomes and is schismatic and has no useful ecclesiastical existence and loses all power and authority held or exercised with respect to the property or affairs of the Church or any part thereof.” (pp. 62-63)

(The court’s decision in this case is an illustration of these words).

“Defendant Metropolitan Theophilus is not now and at no time since in or about the month of November, 1946 has been the lawful diocesan bishop of over plaintiff Transfiguration Church.” (72)

C) ”While there is some satisfaction in knowing that a majority of the members of Transfiguration Parish will have control of the parish and its property, the plaintiffs would still be entitled to judgment if they were in the minority. The courts have consistently held that whenever there is a minority of a church membership, no matter how small, who acknowledge the authority of the supreme church administration, of which that parish is a part, that minority is entitled to the control, use and benefit of the trust property of the parish.” (pp. 19-20)

D) “The Bishops’ Sobor and the Holy Synod of the Church Abroad constitute the supreme judicial tribunals of the church organization upon matters of faith, discipline, general policy and tenets of the church. Its decisions are binding on the civil courts, except when it is clear beyond doubt that the fundamental principles of the church have been destroyed.” (15)

(In this last case it is assumed that the Synod would have gone back on its principles, which it had maintain


An Assessment of the Trial and the Court’s Decision

If law is a system of norms, regulating relationships, then the highest American court has defined the rights and relationships of the Synod Abroad and the American Metropolia of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The former American Metropolia of the Russian Orthodox Church is currently, in the viewpoint of America’s civil law, a “schismatic faction or group” headed by Metropolitan Theophilus.

We need to open our eyes to what took place, understand it, evaluate it, if you wish, first of all, in a practical sense — before a lengthy theoretical argument, which comes in a certain sense too late, although it is still not useless.  We need to determine the further ways of existence for that church organization which received this blow.

The court rendered a general ruling of principle regarding the mutual situation of the parties. The official voice of the Supreme Court takes effect as a law which grants the right to make use of it in the future.  This is “a test case for determining the status of all the parishes, their property and their members, located in the United States.”  (p. 1)  This court has created a precedent for resolving many Russian church issues in the future in America. What was said about one church can be applied to any church of the former Metropolia, should it be involved in a court case.

The law took the side of the Russian Church in the person of its free representative and figure abroad — the Synod Abroad, which has always been awaiting Russia’s freedom and foreign to compromises with its enslavers in any form.

Archbishop Vitaly alone is the legitimate representative of Russian Orthodox authority in America.

The Synod Abroad and its representatives in America can preserve the Russian church inheritance here according to the law, should this be necessary.

These same rights of legitimate Russian Church authority allow them to protest any initiative of the illegal church group, any attack upon them, their right to use their former name, etc.

Everything depends on whether or not they will want this, what they will want and when, and, finally, on how the group leadership will behave.

The incorrect path of the Metropolia authorities received its just retribution, and its parishes are fully justified to be dissatisfied with its leadership, which has led them into such a sad situation in the country of which they are citizens and whose law they cannot fail to respect.

When the moment for a church trial comes for the Metropolia, and it will come sooner or later, logical deductions of ironclad necessity will be taken into account that were made from our church statutes by this civil court in that very America where this Russian diocese is located, and the stain of disgrace, already from am ecclesiastical condemnation will lie upon the leadership of this diocese in history. The civil court’s just condemnation is a timely warning and a kind offer to correct this false path.

This issue needs to be reexamined anew and from all aspects, and we will attempt to do this, at least with the help of the ongoing polemics that bring it up.

Can One Turn to the Secular Courts?

Those in favor of continuing the schism at any price are simply making a weak attempt to reject the court’s decision, as if to say, “Though I do not fear God nor regard man.” (Lk. 18:4), and they sharply rebuke the defendants’ suit to the court itself (“and a heterodox one at that”) as being uncanonical.  A canon (Carthage 15) is invoked, which says “If any one fall into a criminal business and refused to be tried by the ecclesiastical court, he ought to be in danger therefore”.

But who refused an ecclesiastical court? The question is where to find it. Where can a court be found over the head of the Metropolia, upon whose decision the inception of this case depended? Where does that highest instance of church authority exist to which it would be possible to complain about, after he rejected this instance in the person of the General Council of all bishops abroad?

The Council of the Metropolia bishops is insufficient for this.  And it must be admitted, is it really a council? Do the bishops have this fulness of the rights of diocesan hierarchs, or are they all simply vicar bishops? All diocesan bishops are equal in power among themselves, and a metropolitan of a region is simply the first and senior among them. If one bishop orders the others and does what he wants in their “dioceses” that is not a diocese, and the bishops here are vicars. Why did the Bishops’ Council Abroad observe in 1938 that in the American Metropolia “the diocesan hierarchs are lowered to the position of vicars, and in this way the basic condition for the existence of a metropolitan district is destroyed”? (Act of January 3) It is no secret that to this day they are vicars, while a single metropolitan rules over all the matters in all the parts of the Metropolia.

Thus, there is no Metropolia as a union of independent dioceses, there is only the North American Diocese, which the All-Russian Council of 1917-18 developed out of missions. Then there are also no Bishops’ Councils, either large or small, but there are conferences of the metropolitan with his vicars that are not mandatory for him at all. Then there are no “All-American Councils,” but there are and were only usual diocesan assemblies.

The entire structure of the Metropolia and the matter of its administration require revision and a judicial investigation of church authority. But how can this take place now with regard to the Metropolitan, who irresponsible and willful, rejecting the Supreme Church Authority of the General Council of Bishops? No patriarch of the Orthodox Universal Church has such an uncontrolled and extrajudicial position as does the head of this Russian diocese abroad. This is not an autonomous metropolitan district, which according to the “Provisional Statute” of 1935 was subject to the General Council of all bishops abroad, nor is it an autocephalous church, which is self-evident, but a special one, acephalous, without any oversight.

As we know, dictatorship does not acknowledge any law over it. And it was only for the sake of this dictatorship that the diocesan bishops of one or two Russian dioceses abroad disavowed the General Bishops’ Council. It turns out that the time of dictatorships did not bypass the Church as well.

That is who “refused an ecclesiastical court,” using the language of the aforementioned canon, and against whom the civil court turned out to be lawful and necessary. The court itself, being Christian, expressed a feeling of “regret, that it [the controversy] reached the civil courts” and that “means have not been found to bring about an amicable adjustment of the disputes.” (pp. 4-5) What amity can there be?

The Metropolia administration did not recognize the right of a parish to remain in the jurisdiction in which it had been and whose administration itself had now betrayed.  This administration resorted to absurd forceful actions and burst into a church that didn’t belong to it, while according to Carthage 104 it needed to turn to the civil authorities to be defended from such forcefulness. The parish could in no way avoid a trial while maintaining its lawful right, while the administration was obliged to avoid it, having returned a church that did not belong to it.

Finally, why is a canon forbidding recourse to secular courts being cited with respect to the Synod Abroad but not to the Metropolia, which on June 9 of this year again brought suit to retrieve a church that the Soviet Patriarchate had taken away from it? Canons cannot be cited with a contradictory morality — what is canonical for us is uncanonical for you. And once you recognize Moscow’s spiritual leadership” you cannot sue it. The suit would be rejected, since any acknowledgment brings about an obligation. If for anyone, even a member of the clergy, any agreement is simply a scrap of paper, for a civil court it is always a document, an honorable agreement, promise, and responsibility.

Thus, when ecclesiastical tribunals are not involved, as in the case of a self-willed “schismatic faction,” no other weapon remains, except for civil courts which are not to be avoided, since there will be no end to unseemliness. If a faction is opposed to a court, this means that it wishes its arbitrariness to remain unpunished.

Who Established the Canonicity of the Synod Abroad?

Those favoring the schism say that “the canonicity of ecclesiastical establishments should in no way and never be determined by secular courts but only by the appropriate competence of determinations by establishments and figures of God’s Church.” Therefore, the court’s decision “has no canonical power and significance and cannot have them. The opinions of secular courts remain their opinions.”

We have already seen in the court decision cited here that the canonicity of the Synod Abroad was determined by the “establishments and figures of God’s Church” — the 1921 Council, the Moscow Patriarch’s Decree No. 362, and the 1935 “Provisional Statute,” that all parts of the Church Abroad without exception took part in creating the Council, that the “Provisional Statute,” that the Council had the Serbian Patriarch’s permission, and that the Statute was signed by him. The canonicity of these Church establishments and figures was never denied my anyone on our sides.

The court simply determined what we ourselves established and acknowledged to be canonical, and judged us by our own words. It determined which of us today regards as uncanonical that which was previously regarded as canonical, or the opposite. Which one of us regards as a lie that which was true yesterday? Was the American Metropolia during the ten years before 1948 in schism and arbitrariness, or did it become schismatic now? The court based itself upon our opinions and did not create its own, and only determined which side was correct in this dispute. And this correctness of one side is perfectly obvious if one has eyes to see.

We need to note the following in our “secular” court.

In the first place, we had over us a genuinely Christian court by virtue of its fairness. While “heterodox” in its makeup, it did not appear heterodox for us in the trial, it judged us from the viewpoint of our own  Orthodox law,  and became Orthodox for our sake during the trial. It established our rights on the basis of our own norms, our general rules, uniformly acknowledged by us. This was an unbiased arbitration tribunal in our dispute abroad.

In the second place, we cannot deny the competence of educated attorneys in ecclesiastical and canonical law, not to mention their ability to make sense of its issues. Thanks to their profession they are more familiar with it than even enlightened pastors and, perhaps, certain bishops. It is easy to be convinced of this in the court’s decision, whose ideas we accepted before the actual decision and without it. Civil law simply agreed with church law, affirmed it, and enjoined compliance with it. All of the hierarchs held to this law. They organized the Supreme Church Authority, were in ecclesiastical unity, and the American bishops were in it until 1946. And they paid for disloyalty toward it, for reneging on the lawful agreements they had made. For all of this is true and obvious. Why be blind and deny this consciously?

In the third place, finally, the high level of this court is obvious because it was obliged to defend our canons from encroachments upon them on the part of us who are Orthodox. Since no canons could justify the behavior of the Metropolia, its defense insisted upon applying the principle of economy. The times and conditions, in its view, have changed to such an extent that the Metropolia’s administrative actions, due to practical considerations of benefiting the Church, departure from the strict letter of the canons can be proclaimed as legitimate. The court did not buy this.

The court’s decision says, “In order to do so the court would be forced to find that the canons upon which the Church was founded and under which it has been maintained can be changed by force of circumstances instead of by action of an ecumenical council. With this the court cannot agree. To do so would open the door to the destruction of the very foundations of the Church. The application of such a doctrine should be left to the ecclesiastical courts, especially when there is [sic] involved such vital problems as those before this court.” (pp. 21-22)

Thus, was it not a “secular tribunal” that acted to preserve the canonical order of the Orthodox Church, and weren’t such “establishments and figures of God’s Church” as the leadership of the Metropolia and the Cleveland Council “the destruction of the very foundations of the Church”?

The truth and lawfulness of this statement cannot fail to arouse in all of us Orthodox a feeling of the most touching gratitude.

The court’s decision is testimony to the fact that, considering our church law and the actual conditions of our Church in Russia, we are not allowed to separate from the Russian Church, but it is suggested that we await liberation from Bolshevism, and only then receive one or the other as the final organization of Church life abroad. In vain did the Metropolia’s defense rely on its Americanism and on the aspiration for independence from the Russian Church, which could not have been to the American court’s liking. No, petty chauvinism was foreign to the court, and so was greed for increasing at least new organizations and powers for America through illegitimate means. It was not frightened by the dependence of its American part on the Russian Church, if it is under the temporary rule of the Synod Abroad.

So this is how the civil court treated our Orthodox Church. But those favoring the schism say that by its decisions the court, through the power of its governmental might, can give extra-factual power and significance to one or another church organization, and that “this would be yet another incursion of the governmental element and power into the life of the Church, but there would not be any kind of canonicity in this.”

We assume that governmental power must rein in the arbitrariness of a certain church organization that encroaches upon another church organization, since it has the duty of definitely favoring the side where truth and law are found.

As is known, the coercive power of the police and armed forces exist in a country to preserve the law. But the Church is an establishment where church law is freely obeyed by those who voluntarily accepted it. And so it turns out that while governmental power stood behind Russian Church law it was obeyed, but being in freedom outside Russia without the oversight of coercive power, some hierarchs were even found who went the way of arbitrariness. So the essence of church schisms abroad is in the absence of governmental oversight. And it was totally by happenstance that the voice of the government was heard abroad for the first time, where the arbitrariness in our quarrels reached its apogee. Apparently, there is no way we can live without coercion.

The facts regarding the Metropolia’s arbitrariness and the principled and straight path of the Synod Abroad were apparent to the court, in order to grant “extra-factual power and significance” to the latter’s church organization.

The trial demonstrated what zigzags the Metropolia administration made following our separation from Russia’s central administration.

Until 1926 the Metropolia was under the Synod Abroad.

From that year and until 1935 it was acephalous, without any oversight.

From 1935 to 1946 it was again with the Synod.

From 1946 to 1947 it was with the Soviet Patriarchate.

Finally, in its fifth position, it is again acephalous.

This way our contemporaries cannot boast of the 150-year existence of the diocese, if for the past 25-30 years they did not exhibit the least bit of church training and discipline.

Having expressed regret at the disagreement between members of a religious community the court expressed the hope that “the principles of justice, when applied to the situation cannot fail to be of some benefit to those involved in pointing the way out of the present difficulties.” (p. 5) “The Bishops’ Sobor and the Holy Synod of The Church Abroad constitute the supreme judicial tribunals of the church organization in matters of faith, discipline, general policy and tenets of the church.” (p. 15)

But such a decision brings the schismatics to extreme irritation. Many insults and much ridicule pour out toward the court, and against the Synod all means are useful, even slander and lies. Fr. Lomako writes in Pravoslavnyi Vestnik (pp. 97, 100) that “During the last war the canonicity of Karlovcian establishments in Central Europe was being determined by Hitler’s authorities. And now they are being determined by the State of California.” These courts, it turns out, are synonymous, be they American or Hitler’s. This is, of course, a malicious insinuation.

Actually, during the German occupation of Serbia Metropolitan Anastassy was searched twice by the Germans with seizure of documents. He never made any written statement praising Hitler throughout the entire war, and such a statement does not exist anywhere, in spite of the fact that this was required of him. His clergy was not allowed to go into the camps of Russian war prisoners, and Patriarch Gabriel of Serbia, whom the Germans had imprisoned, testified after the war that Metropolitan Anastassy was irreproachable in his loyalty toward Serbia and the allies, and in his entire political conduct. (See Russko-Amerikanskii Pravoslavnyi Vestnik, 1, 1946,)

The only one who was “canonical” in Germany was Archimandrite John Shakhovskoy, currently Bishop of Brooklyn in America, who had access to camps for Russian war prisoners and who made statements praising Hitler and against the allies. In his article “Blizok Chas” [The Hour Approaches] (Novoe Russkoe Slovo, 27-356, June 29, 1941) he wrote: “The bloody operation of toppling the Third International is being entrusted to a skillful German surgeon with experience in his science. It is impossible to wait any longer for the so-called “Christian” governments to take on this task. What was needed was the ironclad arm of the German army, which has been tried in the most responsible battles with its military professionalism. This army, having gone over all of Europe with its victories is now powerful not only in the might of its arms and principles, but also in its obedience to a higher call by Providence which has been laid upon it on top of any political, economic, and human considerations.”

We can assume that. once he rushed into the American Metropolia, Fr. Shakhovoskoy, by virtue of his “contemplations” and prophetic insight, once again guessed where the “might of principles” and “obedience to a higher call” are now to be found.

Fr. Lomako came from the Western European Russian Diocese, whose “canonicity” of conduct likewise arrests attention. It was with the Synod Abroad before 1926 and then acephalous without any oversight for one year. From 1927 to 1930 it was with the Soviet Patriarchate and after that in the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. In 1945 it was again with the Soviet Patriarchate and since 1947 with Constantinople. This is its sixth position — plenty to brag about.

However, Fr. L. is unhappy with the situation of the American Metropolia. He should be accorded a debt of fairness, for when an attorney presented a canon to him at the trial, he said in bewilderment, “This canon refers to an autocephalous church, but what sort of autocephaly does this Metropolia have? It is simply an unorganized diocese.” The judge immediately made a record of such a frank confession by a Metropolia expert, although everything is recorded by a stenographer. When the judge asked if there was any mention in the canons of the rights of laity in governing the Church Fr. L. responded firmly, “none at all.” Thus, the “canonicity” of the Cleveland Council, which accorded power over the Church to the majority vote of the laity, collapsed.

The head of the Metropolia defended the Metropolia’s canonicity and his actions in the same manner. The attorney defending the Cleveland Council affirmed the canonicity of the Moscow Patriarchate, while the Metropolitan categorically denied it. Of course, if its authority was recognized, at least in a spiritually nominal sense, it was still undeniably canonical.  And if it was uncanonical, how could it be recognized? The judge indicated the contradictions in vain. The attorney insisted on having his own way and requested that the testimony of his principal witness be ignored. The Metropolitan regarded the closure of the Synod by Moscow to be canonical, but the dismissal of Metropolitan Platon from his see uncanonical. Why was that? Because one what is, in his viewpoint, beneficial, and the other was not beneficial… The “Provisional Statute,” under which the Metropolia became subject to the Synod Abroad, is recognized by him as a canonical act, while he departed from the Synod’s subjection only at the wish of the Cleveland Council. In other words, he apparently acted along with it uncanonically, and so on.

So who established the canonicity of the Synod Abroad before the American court? The answer is clear — it was those church establishments and laws which established it in 1920, the history of its single position, a straight path without any wavering, and, along with it, the history of the path of its opponents and the actual testimony of its representatives.

Certain Details of the Trial and of the Decision

The court was not seduced by the outward advantages of the American Metropolia as compared to the Synod Abroad, although they were strongly emphasized during the trial. These included the long-standing presence of the diocese, the number of parishes, Americanism, and its possible independence. Two attorneys and three principal witnesses, Metropolitan Theophilus, Protopresbyter G. Lomako, Archpriest A. Kukulevsky, as well as two additional ones (Fr. Harris, an Episcopalian scholarly priest and Mr. Vysheslavtseff) defended the Metropolia’s interests.

The Synod Abroad, with its mostly new and old refugee emigration and a currently small diocese in American and Canada defended its interests in a local court case with only one attorney (a diocesan clerk gave testimony before the start of the trial) and one witness, Archpriest M. Polsky. Archbishop Tikhon was also interrogated at the start of the trial, but for half an hour, while Metropolitan Theophilus was interrogated for five days.

But the point was not the number of witnesses, but the number and importance of the questions. They were all the same and were intended to shed light on the viewpoints of the two contending parties. This is why out of twenty court days used just to interrogate witnesses regarding the matters of principle in the case, one of the witnesses for the plaintiffs was interrogated for the same duration, as were all the witnesses for the defendants.

The court gave each party equal conditions for its defense. Everyone had the “Book of Rules” in English. The attorney for the Metropolia had up to thirty books in English, French, and Russian, and gave them and their translations to the judge to read. Reference was made to the Greek text of the canons and to dictionaries. Expert witnesses were dismissed only when the attorneys and the judge had no more questions for them. For the two months of the trial the court allowed each party to exhaust all of its possibilities, use up all opportunities to defend its interests, present all arguments, materials, and documents, and in this way — those who were at the trial could see for themselves — totally eliminated any opportunity to say after the trial, “If only the court had known…”, “If the court had been correctly informed…”,   “We find it hard to say what kept the court from finding out…”, and so on, as Fr. L. keeps saying. (pp. 93, 96)

We inevitably wish to ask, “You were at the trial, why didn’t you say that? If you didn’t say that, why are you now reproaching the court and reviling it in every way? Only you are to blame. The presentation of any material they wished to offer depended fully on each attorney and his witness, since they could arrange everything in advance. Finally, a time period was given, a whole three months, to file an appeal, in order to challenge the ruling as being unjust, but this was not done. And now, when all deadlines for legal defense have transpired, you are casting stones at the court. Shouldn’t have public attention been aroused by the Metropolia toward the unjust court in a timely manner, especially since this was fully affordable for a large and wealthy diocese? But an appeal wasn’t filed only because it was totally impossible to win this appeal, and no attorney could advise this. Of course, “a Russian is wise after the event,” and you are waving your arms after the battle only to soften the blow and destroy the impression that this court made upon the Orthodox community. We are not trying to convince this community that the court “was aware“ of everything that Fr. L. is now recalling after spending so little time at the trial and hurrying to get it out of the way.

In order to become convinced how weak was the Metropolia’s defense it suffices to take note of the course in which it was conducted. From the beginning to the end of the trial its attorney tried to establish the fact from all witnesses that the canons are frequently not observed in church life. Such a formulation of the defense spoke for itself — don’t look for the fulfillment of canons in our Church, but only the practical calculations of economy. [2]At the first cross-examination of the Council’s diocese an attorney asked, “Can a Christian eat kosher food?” He had read its prohibition and spoke about the violation of this rule. And running … Continue reading The weakness of such a position is obvious not only to the court. For the Metropolia what is convenient is lawful and canonical, when any philistine knows that not everything that is convenient is lawful. The court was correct in its understanding of the lawful arrangement of the Orthodox Church, and so the petty fault-finding directed toward it on the part of Fr. L. are totally useless.

Fr. L.’s impression “of the merging, the identification of the Russian Church, or rather the Karlovcian establishments with the Ecumenical Church” is merely his impression with no basis, since at the very beginning (p. 6) the court mentioned that “each of these branches is completely autocephalous.”

The mention that “The Patriarch’s own assistant was imprisoned and executed” (p. 71) might cause puzzlement only because the translators were referring to the Patriarch’s housekeeper, Archimandrite Anempodist, a great priest-martyr of the Church, who was mentioned in the trial.

The justification of the court decision contains one or two inaccurate chronological dates that have no essential import for the decision. What does it matter that the Roman Church dropped out of the Universal Orthodox Church in the eleventh century instead of the tenth, when this process began even earlier? But while “dotting every iota” with the goal of denigrating the American court one cannot correct it and allow one’s own errors that undermine trust in our common bodies of knowledge. Fr. L. is puzzled that the court declared “that the Orthodox Faith spread in Russia in the Middle Ages, when the Baptism of Rus’ was in 988.” But everyone knows that the Middle Ages are regarded as the period between the fourth and fifteenth centuries. These are all trivialities, of course, but we will see further on the major “errors” of such “criticism” of the court’s decision.

This trial transpired in a highly magnanimous, unbiased, and thoroughly researched manner, and the court rendered its decision with incontrovertible logical necessity, which nothing can shake.


“The Established Facts”

There are facts that the court has established, and we affirm that there are no facts which we would establish anew, going over the issues of our dispute in polemics. All facts were known to the court.

1. Regarding the Rights of Church Migrants

The bishops who departed from Russia, according to Fr. L., demonstrated “both a not entirely clear understanding of their service and duty, and the regrettable identification of the ecclesiastical with the governmental to an indissoluble extent in their activity and life,” and that they apparently “went, simply fleeing danger,” leaving their dioceses and sees to God’s will, forgetting in the process that the dioceses, that is, hundreds and thousands of churches, hundreds, thousands, and millions of believers were not evacuating, and apparently forgetting at that moment that they were “diocesan hierarchs.”(pp. 94, 99)

We are obliged to make the following reply to this. First of all, each person’s conscience and motives for departing can only be judged by God and no one else. Being a refugee out of fear of death is justified by history and the canons, and they condemn only falling and betraying Christ and His truth under fear of death. It is better to flee death than to fall into the worse trouble of faintheartedness and spiritual downfall, which is what happened with the loyal Soviet hierarchs who went along with lies, slander, and betrayal. We can also mention those outside Russia who made compromises with these fallen ones, even not out of fear of death, but only due to their lack of principle.

Secondly, our judge of pastoral conscience, without batting an eyelid, groundlessly reviles the memory of reposed hierarchs by such judgments, including his own Metropolitan Evlogy and local Metropolitan Platon, who were genuine refugees from Russia, not to mention the fact that the accusation concerns the living Metropolitan Theophilus as well, who, of course, can only explain his departure from Russia in 1922 while still a priest as a flight from danger. If the dioceses did not evacuate, neither did the parishes. However, Fr. L. himself, in the hope of a quick return (as did everyone then) “evacuated” from the Soviet “governmental element.”

In the third place, finally, when “thousands, hundreds of thousands, and millions of believers” are making their way outside Russia, it would be sad if there were no bishops among them who did not share their fate, abandoning them “to God’s will,” as Fr. L. has it. It was the Russian Church’s great fortune that it was the hierarchs who turned out to be in freedom, being of service to it and defending its interests, as they stood up for its inheritance abroad, aiding it by the word of truth when this voice was extinguished there. In fact, it happens too often that whatever is worthy of glory and honor is reviled among contemporaries.

A favorite point in the trial for the Metropolia defenders was the revilement of the Synod Abroad as a refugee establishment. After the attorney’s onslaughts to this effect a clerical witness uttered a classic remark against the Synod, which is a stock phrase in the Metropolia: “Metropolitan Anastassy was in Serbia, then in Munich, then in Switzerland, and again in Germany… What kind of church administration is this, which moves from place to place?” The judge himself replied to this: “Your words surprise me… If these are honest individuals acting lawfully, why does it matter if they change their residence? … Didn’t Christ, the head of your Church, move from place to place when he was being persecuted?…” These words made a deep impression on everyone present.

One cannot be puzzled as to where this absurd and unbrotherly disdain toward the new migrants abroad of 1920 comes from on the part of the earlier church migrants to America, who consider themselves to be descendants of the founders of the 1792 Russian Mission. Why is the earlier migration more honorable than the new one, in a time of religious persecution? It is as if it took place for loftier motives and out of greater need than now. This whole sin has happened since 1924 on the part of those same refugee hierarchs who dreamt of autocephaly and self-aggrandizement and wished to take advantage, so to speak, of the absence of Russia, in other words, of Russian law and authority.

Decree no. 8094, issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on December 2, 1920 (which Fr. L. cites and which he mentioned at the trial) grants Russian hierarchs the right to establish a “temporary church committee” or a guardianship epitrope on the Patriarchate’s territory, and not only to service the needs of Russian Orthodox parishes within its boundaries, but in other Orthodox countries as well. It sufficed that permission was given in principle for such extensive servicing on the Patriarchate’s territory. But separate permission from patriarchs was required in other Orthodox countries, since the Patriarch of Constantinople could not extend his power there. And in non-Orthodox countries there were at an  earlier time always Russian colonies or missions without his permission under their own Russian administration.  The Patriarchate allowed the existence of this commission under its supreme authority, granting Russian hierarchs all rights expect for handling matters of divorce, which would have sounded strange, if we had not made note of the high duties which the Patriarchate imposed upon these matters. Although these demands were very modest, they could be fulfilled only in the territory of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and this, as we have said, was totally sufficient.

In the Serbian Patriarchate the Serbian Bishops’ Council of August 18/31, 1921 ruled that “Refugee hierarchs are to be welcomed in every way, there should be an expression of the readiness to accept the Supreme Church Authority under its protection under whose competence is the jurisdiction over the Russian clergy in our nation.” And on December 6, 1927 another Council ruled that “According to the canons of the Orthodox Church, when the Orthodoxy hierarchy along with its flock will resort to flight to the territory of another church due to persecution, it has the right to have an independent organization and administration, Therefore it is necessary to acknowledge this right for the Russian church hierarchy as well on the territory of the Serbian Church, of course under the protection and oversight of the Serbian Church.” And finally, on November 2/15, 1935 the Serbian Church recognized the rights of Russian refugee hierarchs not only on its own territory, where its oversight and defense was necessary, but it recognized the Russian Bishops’ Council and Synod as having the whole fulness of central ecclesiastical authority abroad and extended this authority to all countries where there were Russian parishes, with its Patriarch signing the “Provisional Statue.”

As we can see, the Constantinople Patriarchate indicated the possibility of joint authority of Russian hierarchs of Russian parishes, and left for itself just one function of supreme authority — divorce matters — while the Serbian Patriarchate recognized the fulness of authority of the Russian hierarchs, being totally aware that that no one else can impose its authority upon the dioceses, missions, and churches that are beyond the boundaries of Russia and are inseparable parts of the Russian Orthodox Church.

On what basis did the abovementioned patriarchates give the Russian hierarchs the possibility of realizing their national rights upon their territories right after they arrived? This was on the basis of the canons cited by the Serbian Bishops’ Council, namely canons 37 and 39 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, that command regarding bishops who cannot get into their dioceses due to “unlawful enslavement” the following: “May any authoritative action originating from them be acknowledged as firm and lawful,” and regarding a bishop who along with his people, in order to be freed of pagan enslavement, had moved into another region of a Christian nation, the Council ruled the following: “May the privileges granted his throne remain unchanged, may he rule over all the bishops and be installed from among his bishops.” In other words, he is accorded all the rights of organizing ecclesiastical authority on the territory of another country. This is how the Orthodox patriarchs understood the situation, confronted as they were by a mass of Russian refugees along with their bishops.

Thus, turning now to Fr. L.’s assertions, we see that he is claiming in vain that “within each local church people of all nationalities but confessing the faith of the one Holy Church enter a given local church and become subject to its leadership.” (p. 89) It happens that way, but it also happens differently. They have the right to avoid losing their national ecclesiastical self-rule and independence.

Fr. L. cites in vain those canons which say that ”one can function as a bishop only in his own diocese, and outside its boundaries his episcopal authority cannot be exercised without the consent of the bishop of the diocese where he happens to be.” (p. 97) Our bishops did have the consent to exercise their authority within other dioceses.  And the main thing is that the national sign played a large role here. Russian bishops here took care of their own Russians without getting involved with Greeks or Serbs, I. e. the local national church. In this way the rule about noninterference was naturally being observed. This was well understood by the local churches, which did not see an independent Russian Church on their territory as a detriment to themselves.

If the patriarchs had shared Fr. L.’s reasoning, then, of course, they would never have granted any kind of self-rule or administration to the Russian hierarchs. [3]It is totally beyond comprehension where Fr. L. got that “Father Polsky asserted at the trial that a hierarch who comes into another diocese is not obliged to request the consent of the local … Continue reading

The opponent of any Russian supreme church authority abroad puts special stress on the fact that the refugee hierarchs were not diocesan hierarchs but those who had abandoned their dioceses, and so Decree no, 362 does not apply to them, since it applies only to dioceses and to hierarchs ruling these dioceses. “This ruling is a valid and indisputable basis of the autonomous of the North American Metropolia… Decree no. 362 presently directly applies only to the North American Metropolia, as an indisputable part of the Russian Church.” Carping at the court’s ruling that “This decree, understood in the light of the canons and laws, allowed and ordered all dioceses and parts of the Church outside Russia’s territory to develop a temporary church administration abroad,”Fr. L. asks, “What canons? What laws? What Church? Where does this decree have the word ‘abroad’ or ‘outside Russia’? There is no mention either of Russia (this word doesn’t even appear) nor of its territory, nor or any church administration abroad.” (pp. 94, 99, 101)

Now we can ask, if the decree does not have in mind anything abroad and applies only to dioceses in Russia that were not cut off by the Civil War from the Church’s center, then it, of course, bears no “direct relationship” to the North American Diocese, either, as Fr. L. had just asserted. However, the decree, in saying “in case a diocese, due to a frontal movement, a change in national borders, etc.,.” undoubtedly refers to those who find themselves outside Russia’s borders, and the “etc.” has in mind all instances without any exception, when dioceses, wherever they may be, find themselves in such a situation of disconnection from Russia’s Church center.

And examples abound. Harbin and other parishes in Manchuria, which number over fifty, belonging to the Vladivostok Diocese, found themselves outside Russia due to the change in the national border, and the Synod Abroad formed the Harbin Diocese out of them, and later, along with the Chinese Mission, the Far Eastern Metropolitan District. A massive number of refugees streamed into Harbin.

Similar dioceses developed anew in the Balkans.  Many refugees settled in Western Europe, and the newly developed refugee diocese at one point had over eighty parishes. Wasn’t this a Russian diocese? Why does Decree no. 362 apply only to the American Diocese and not to any other? Why can’t the Western European and refugee Church be called a diocese and its hierarch be a diocesan hierarch the same way as in other places? Are two million of the first migrants from Russia, not to mention the latest ones, different from the earlier settlers in America and Manchuria? Why, this is all a part of the Russian Church that is abroad. And all this turned out to be out without any contact with the Supreme Church Authority in Russia. Why were dioceses previously able to be established outside Russia, but not now? By what whim can logic and truth be cast off the consideration of two million refugees and leave them without any rule for existence and church organization?

The patriarchates did not allow this to happen, and the Supreme Church Authority Abroad was developed in them and was recognized by His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon until he was forced into seclusion. Metropolitan Evlogy’s appointment to Europe was accepted by him “by virtue of a ruling by the Supreme Church Authority Abroad.” (Decree of March 26, 1921, in his own words)

As for canons and laws, the judge, attorneys, and expert witnesses at the trial read everything from the Book of Rules that applies to conciliar episcopal direction not only of the entire Church, but also of its parts, so that it was obvious to the court and the parties that the decree proposing the Supreme Church Authority for the part of the Church that had lost contact with the Church center is canonical, and represents “additional support” for the literacy of the bishops, forcing them to develop such an administration for the part of the Russian Church that is abroad.

The court only maintained the view that this decree applies directly to the American Diocese. When Fr. L. declared this at the trial, he was trying to force an open door. The court felt that the fact that the diocese had been under the supreme organ of ecclesiastical authority abroad, the Council and Synod of Bishops Outside Russia before 1926 and between 1935 and 1946 was complying with Decree no. 362, while its departure from that authority was unlawful.

This decree states that in case a diocese should find itself cut off from all communications with the Patriarchal Administration, “the diocesan bishop shall forthwith communicate with the bishops of the adjoining dioceses for the purpose of organizing a supreme organ of ecclesiastical authority for several dioceses finding themselves in the same condition.” (p. 14) Thus, “for the autonomous existence of the North American Metropolia” in its present state, or for its actual aspiration, after 28 years, to subject others to itself, now making itself out to be this supreme organ, not only is there no legal basis, but it is a direct unmasking of its unlawful existence. This is completely obvious.

Thus, the rights of the part of the Russian Church that is abroad and its administration have a firm basis.

  1. It is based, first of all, on the practice of creating in Russia itself, at the moment of the loss of communications with the Church center in Moscow, a District Council in Stavropol, and a Supreme Church Authority in Russia’s South and in Crimea.
  2. Upon the arrival of the Russian hierarchs in Constantinople and Serbia canons 37 and 39 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council were accepted and applied to the migrating Church by these two autocephalous local Churches, where the Supreme Church Administration Abroad began its existence.
  3. The First All-Diaspora Council of 1921, containing bishops, clergy, and laity and modeled after the Stavropol Council in Russia, organized a Supreme Church Authority anew and granted it its privileges.
  4. Decree no. 362 of November 20, 1920 was applied in 1922 as basis for organizing the Bishops’ Synod Abroad by virtue of the restrictions on the Patriarch’s freedom in Russia.
  5. The “Provisional Statute” of 1935 completes the organization of the part of the Russian Church that is abroad.
  6. The Second All-Diaspora Council of 1936 affirms the previous and further existence of the Church Abroad.
  7. The Bishops’ General Councils from all dioceses of the Church Abroad represent its canonical and legal authority.

It must be added that the American Diocese took part in almost all of these acts. Metropolitan Platon, the future initiator of its schism, took part in the delegation to the Constantinople Patriarchate in December 1920 and was a member of that first “Church Commission” which is called the Supreme Church Authority Abroad. He can be found in the rosters of the members of the 1921 Council, although he was absent, having been sent to America by the Supreme Church Authority. He was a Council member and recognized the Synod Abroad after its reorganization in 1922 until 1926. The ”Provisional Statute,” as we have seen, was put together and signed by Metropolitan Theophilus. At the Second All-Diaspora Council in 1938 Metropolia delegate Bishop (now Archbishop) Veniamin of Pittsburgh greeted the Council with the following speech: “Our Vladyko Metropolitan Theophilus asked me to wish this Council success in its work and the establishment of unity in our entire Church Abroad. And I personally have from our Vladyko a directive to strive by all means to strengthen the unity of the entire Russian Church Abroad and in America.” (Acts of the Second All-Diaspora Council, p. 31, 1939) The Metropolia was represented at all of the General Councils of Bishops.

All of these bases of the Church Abroad and the participation of the American Diocese in its structuring were established factually at the trial and were documented. [4]Turning to Fr. L.’s assertions we see that in the part about the Supreme Church Authority in Russia and abroad these assertions lack objectivity.  Denying the legitimacy of this authority in the … Continue reading

Regarding the presence of the Supreme Church Authority on Constantinople Patriarchate territory Fr. L. writes the following:

“While being in such a capacity and situation (of refugees without rights), on the territory of another local Church in the very capital of the Ecumenical Patriarch, without any consent on his part, but, contrary to definite instructions by the Ecumenical Patriarch regarding their way of life and activity, they opened up a certain ecclesiastical establishment completely on their own, and therefore uncanonically and in a totally criminal way, naming it from the start the Supreme Church Authority Abroad.” (p. 95)

But it was already said earlier that with the Patriarch’s consent an Ecclesiastical Commission could exist which was accorded all functions (besides divorce matters) that provided care to Russian parishes in all countries, and no name for this commission (what it was and for what) was given, so that nothing prevented the Russian hierarchs from keeping the name that this collegial establishment bore previously in Russia.

In the second place, the secretary of this “totally criminal” establishment” was Fr. L. himself, who at the time was still a devoted son of Metropolitan Antony and an obedient collaborator with the other members of the Supreme Church Authority — Archbishop Anastassy, Archbishop Theophan, and Bishop Veniamin.

In this way, the harsh judgments by Fr. L. regarding what is criminal and not criminal cannot be given serious consideration. This is no longer the “inspiration” of Fr. Polsky, which accompanies him at the trial, in his book, and in the present article, but it is hysteria after the trial, at which Fr. L. was a witness for the Metropolia.

Further on, Fr. L. has another problem with this authority. He writes, “In the established fact 13 the court declares that in 1921 the Temporary Supreme Church Authority was in Constantinople. (p. 99)  However, there is not a single word about Constantinople matters in fact 13, which speaks of the First Council Abroad in Karlovci , which recognized the existence of such an authority. And Fr. L. was present at that constituent Karlovci Council of 1921, and now he is attacking what he himself instituted, mixing up, by the way, Constantinople and Karlovci. But, perhaps, he didn’t mix it up, but wished to avoid the painful memory regarding this most important “established fact” of the First Council Abroad, at which he was present and about which he did not say a word, as was also the case with the ‘Provisional Statute” of 1935. It was as if these never occurred.

Thus, we do not find that the rights of ecclesiastical migrants (the word “migrated” refers to a refugee bishop according to canon 39 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council) were put into question by any criticism. There remains a final point in the polemics, a very important one.

2. The Synod Abroad and Autocephalous Churches

“The recently elected Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras,” writes Fr. L. (p. 97) “as he journeyed from the United States, visiting all Orthodox churches, did not go into churches of the Karlovci jurisdiction, and this was no accident.”

It was no accident because he didn’t visit anyone without an invitation, and the representatives of the conciliar jurisdiction addressed only congratulations to him. In Constantinople itself, in the territory of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the parish of the Synod Abroad jurisdiction, not only congratulated the new Patriarch (on Saturday, January 30 of this year), but also had him as a guest, and on Thursday, February 25, Archimandrite Seraphim, the parish rector, welcomed him here with a speech “on behalf of the Russian Church Abroad and its wise head, His Preeminence Metropolitan Anastassy.” To this the Patriarch replied with a word of love toward the Russian people and a request to convey his welcome to Metropolitan Anastassy. He accepted a solemn moleben and treats there, as he did everywhere.

It is an important fact that the Constantinople Patriarchate, having once consented to the servicing of Russian hierarchs on their territory in 1921, has not taken that right away from Russians to this day. And to this day there is a parish of the Synod Abroad on its territory which has never been denied spiritual and liturgical relations with the head of the local Church without being subject to it at the same time. This fact was established at the trial as well.

Besides, when a Metropolia attorney tried to prove at the trial the canonicity of the current Moscow Patriarchate by referring to the Ecumenical Patriarch’s recognition of Patriarch Alexis, the Synod witness pointed out that in 1924 this patriarch recognized the renovationists as well with no less authority and urged that Patriarch Tikhon resign. Thus, the court was “aware” of what was happening in 1924. Fr. L. included (on p, 102) two documents dated April 30 and May 8, 1924 from the Patriarchate, issued to Archbishop Anastassy, administrator of the Russian parishes in Constantinople, forbidding him to serve there any more, and he also told of a book that the Patriarchate had published that year entitled “The Demands of the Russian Hierarchs” and of its demand that the Serbian Church abolish the Synod Abroad. (p. 93) But he didn’t say a word about what we had mentioned. On those same dates, April 17 and 30 and May 6, 1924, Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory VII along with his synod ruled that an investigative commission be sent to Russia and urged that the Russian Patriarch “immediately remove himself from ruling the Church” and that he abolish the Patriarchate. Patriarch Tikhon replied with a special message (Tserk. Ved. No. 7-8, April 15-28, 1929) that categorically rejected such incompetent and unlawful interference.

To be unbiased Fr. L. should have told us why Patriarch Tikhon was being commemorated here for four years along with the Ecumenical Patriarch, the godless Bolshevik regime was being condemned in sermons, and there was contact with the Synod Abroad, and suddenly all this is forbidden.

He should have mentioned that at that time a law came out in Turkey expelling all top Christian hierarchs, and so, seeking the support of all governments, the Patriarchate established contact with the Soviet embassy in Istanbul and sacrificed not only the Russian hierarchs in Constantinople and the Russian hierarchs in Serbia, but also the Russian Patriarch and canonicity and Orthodoxy in Russia, having recognized the renovationists.

The Constantinople Patriarchate was acting simultaneously against all enemies of the godless regime, no matter where they were, in Russia or abroad. Such is the full picture which Fr. L. should have presented. But why have the truth here? All means work against the Synod Abroad.

In order to be convinced of the Bolshevik source of these “complaints,” which are cited in Fr. L.’s “Documents,” (Constantinople, 1924) this complaint should have been published as well. It came from “Russian Orthodox refugees “ in Constantinople and told how these hierarchs headed “the troops of the white rebels,” “made a series of statements of international import,” that “at this time, when the Russian government has provided the opportunity for repatriation, they make every effort to prevent the return of refugees, openly disgracing those wishing to return home and spreading what are known to be lies about the fate of returnees,” and that “their sermons are full of political attacks against the Russian government.” Fr. L. should cite this complaint as well, since he stated at the beginning of his article “An unbiased and thorough investigation is necessary, without ignoring a single aspect of the matter.” (p. 89)

Perhaps Fr. L. will understand how mistaken he is in his assertion that “If the court were aware” of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s judgments regarding the Karlovci Synod, “the court would never have issued its decision in the form, spirit, and content as it did.” (p. 93) No, the court did know about the pact between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the renovationists and Bolsheviks in 1924, and this fact wouldn’t have helped you in your struggle with the Synod Abroad at the present time.

At any rate, we need to thank Fr. L. for raising this issue in our polemics, since he is very instructive for the American Metropolia, which certain circles are trying to pull into subjection to the Constantinople Patriarchate. We do not know to what additional vacillations the senior Orthodox Patriarch will be subjected, but he has already placed his Russian Exarchate into ecclesiastical neutrality toward our native Russian Church.

If Metropolitan Antony was actually an authority for Fr. L. in response to the emphasized words of this prelate regarding the significance of the Ecumenical Patriarch we offer another statement from him, in which he defended the heritage of the Russian Church from illegal takeovers. It is addressed (on February 4-17, 1925) to Ecumenical Patriarch Constantine VI.

“Until now, from the days of my youth, I raised my voice only for the Orthodoxy of the Eastern, and especially the Ecumenical, Patriarchs, verbally and in print, of which, of course, Your Holiness, is well aware, as well as of the fact that in deed, word, and print I have always claimed that I was pro-Greek and an admirer of the Great Idea. However, I am not a papist and remember well that besides the great bishops of the Church such as Paul the Confessor, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Proclus, Flavian, Germanos, Tarasius, and Photius, there were many others and internal enemies of the Church, heretics, and even heresiarchs, such as Macedonius, Nestorius, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Peter, Paul, and many iconoclasts. They are dealt a bitter truth in canon 1 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, which proclaimed to the universe that they are condemned and excommunicated along with Honorius, Pope of Rome and other heretics. And the two last predecessors of Your Holiness (Kyrios Meletios and Kyrios Gregory VII) have leaned toward this same path of disobedience toward the Holy Church.

Finally, Fr. L.’s repeated and categorical assertion that “The Karlovcian Russian Synod has not been recognized by a single patriarch (pp. 85, 90) exceeds all expectations by its wholehearted boldness. Of course, this could not be said at the trial, since the “Provisional Statute” was frequently cited there, which affirmed the all-diaspora rights of the Bishops’ Council and Synod and was signed by the Serbian Patriarch. But in his verbal testimony Fr. L. spoke about not only the one permitted epitrope in Constantinople, but also about the negative attitude of the Romanian and Greek Churches toward the Synod. This was everything that could be brought against the Synod. We have already said how the relationship with the Constantinople Patriarchate was ruined starting in 1924. As far as Romanian chauvinism is concerned, it went as far as forbidding Orthodox Russians to give Russian names at baptism, and there was the modernism of the Greek Archbishop Chrysostom, who introduced the new calendar into Greece by way of bloody violence and prisons, all of which adds little to the opponents of the Synod Abroad. The dean of Russian churches in Greece complained (on November 17-30, 1923) to the Synod Abroad that the Greek clergy conducts weddings for Russians without observing the established precautions, and about divorces proclaimed in the Greek Metropolitanate. Apparently, the issue of “duties” played a significant role in excluding the jurisdiction of the Synod Abroad there. However, in corresponding with the Synod’s chairman both the Greek and Romanian Patriarchs addressed him as “Chairman of the Bishops’ Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad,” which only the Patriarch of Constantinople avoided. And Patriarch Nicodemus of Romania, in a letter to Metropolitan Anastassy on December 15, 1940 expressed his love “and to the entire Church that is under your pastorate.”

The Antiochian, Serbian, and Bulgarian Churches have always, definitely and indisputably, and without any official misunderstandings, recognized the Synod Abroad and took it into consideration as such. All of their territories, as well as the territories of the Patriarchates of Alexandria and Jerusalem, contained and still contain parishes or missions of the Synod Abroad, and there is full respect toward the heads of these churches. It was only in 1945 that the Patriarch of Jerusalem demanded that the head of the Russian Mission become subject to the Soviet Patriarch and broke relations with him due to his refusal. And so be it. Furthermore, we are not mentioning the Churches of Cyprus, Sinai, and Albania, who exhaust the roster of autocephalous churches, and who often were the first to express all signs of respect for the leadership of the Russian Church Abroad.

We have no basis to say that we have definite and categorical non-recognition of the Russian Synod Abroad by at least one of the local Orthodox Churches, because even with the sharp temporary misunderstanding with the Patriarchate of Constantinople it actually is considerate of those in it and of its flock.

Returning to our polemics we encounter an indication of the example of how the Russian Synod of Peter I was recognized by all patriarchs as a “beloved brother in Christ,” while our Synod Abroad “did not request a declaration of its recognition from any autocephalous church.” (p. 95)

The position of the part of the Russian Church that is abroad is the following: we are only a part of the Russian Church, and we are neither equal nor subject to the patriarchs. We are part of the Russian Church. The Council Abroad and the Synod (or the Lesser Council) of hierarchs serves the dioceses and parishes that were torn off from Russia, and is doing so temporarily, until it is united with it. Only the Russian Autocephalous Church can arrange its boundaries as it finds necessary, and this will be legitimate. “Interference” by other hierarchs into Russian matters abroad can only be in one sense — in order to leave the Russian heritage in the care of the Russian Church instead of appropriating it and managing it according to personal wishes, taking advantage of its lamentable state. In other words, the Eastern Patriarchs should assist the tasks of the Synod Abroad in every way, according to their love for the Russian Church, their sister. Therefore, the Synod Abroad is seeking nothing else from the local Churches, other than the right to serve its Russian parishes in its territories, which it had and has almost everywhere. In other territories it serves these parishes without asking for anyone’s consent. It was not yet the right time to seek such understanding of the role of the Synod Abroad and such love for the Russian Church as the Serbian Church has demonstrated among other — one or two — local churches. But this can be and must be anticipated.  And this will inevitably happen sooner or later, because the role of the free part of the Russian Church with respect to its whole — the Church in Russia— is such that in the interests of the entire Church Catholic it must not be submitted to other local churches and can freely fulfill its duty of preserving and defending its interests.

The heads of certain local churches must be appreciated for strictly maintaining the principle of non-interference in the matters of another Church, and for always expressing attention and friendship to all Russian hierarchs abroad, ignoring our internal squabbles. Thus, there is nothing amazing in that “in the greetings on the feast of the Nativity of Christ” (p. 95) they tried to emphasize their equal interaction with all our disputing parties, assuming, of course, that we will work things out ourselves and wil attain unity.


Polemics can help us if we strive for truth and mutual understanding without fanatical blindness and persistence. These polemics have presented doubts and objections, gave answers to them, and brought in clarity. In now remains for us to make practical deductions.

Reality itself dictates these deductions.

First of all, it is totally unacceptable for the ruling of the American court to have any long term regrettable consequences, since these rulings are matters of principle, and we have seen that they touched upon the Metropolia as a whole and condemned it in the details.

We need to make an honorable exit out of the situation that the court has created and get rid of this situation completely and without residue, so that a schismatic group or faction would absolutely never exist and would not be counted as existing in the world, as having occurred temporarily in the past and eliminated totally and forever. All of the trial’s consequences need to be eliminated.

The civil court, on the basis of our own church laws established that the Cleveland Council represents the moment of the schism.  Thus, the Cleveland Council needs to be over and done with as illegitimate. All of its decisions should be condemned and repealed.

In the first place, in the administration the episcopate should be placed in its primary position of control. There cannot be a Protestant form of organization in the Orthodox Church. Local autocephalous churches can be made experts regarding the decisions of the Cleveland Council. What will they say regarding the diocesan gathering which proclaimed its assemblies to be the supreme authority, the final instance over the majority vote of the bishops they are under? This alone could warrant the label of a sect and schism from the Orthodox Catholic Church.

In the second place, if leaving the Synod was motivated by a transfer to the Soviet Patriarchate, and if this transfer did not take place, it would then be natural to return to the Synod. This is both logically correct, and a new council should decide accordingly.

Subjection to the Synod is what is needed here. The senior bishop, Metropolitan Antony, who is next in line after the Patriarch in Russia, was its founder. His successor, Metropolitan Anastassy, former member of the Holy Synod under the Patriarch following his election at the All-Russian Council in 1917, is now the senior hierarch according to episcopal consecration, the first bishop for the entire Russian episcopate abroad and their head in the General Council. It is legitimate and canonical to stand behind the General Council of bishops, while standing behind the one American group is schismatic. There can be no other teaching.

In the third place, the condition of the Metropolia needs to be revised. It should be set in order, subjected in a pious and holy manner to this order and be disciplined. Ecclesiastical discipline should be truly wished for and readily cooperated with.

Administrative arbitrariness should be eliminated, and life should be directed according to a legitimate course. The combination of the extreme democratism of the Cleveland Council with the leadership’s dictatorship created chaos, and it should be cast aside.

What justifies the break with such conciliar and general episcopal authority needs to be figured out. Each bishop who is subject to it is at the same time its participant. What motives can explain such opposition? Where does the root lie in the denial of such supreme authority? Is it not motivated by willfulness, lack of control, and self-aggrandizement? Who has unique significance in this schism, who favors lack of brotherhood between all Russian bishops abroad, and who rejects peace between them and hinders it?

Why did the church administration become infected with the methods of worldly politics and is changing the concepts of good and evil, truth and lies, and white and black, making zigzags, when at the same time there is one principled and straightforward course, that of the Synod Abroad? The established facts, both by the civil court and by ourselves, leads us irresistibly to the awareness that things are not well in the American Metropolia. The issue of the administration’s ability to rule should be raised. Questionable actions lacking tactfulness and worldly wisdom are apparent, beginning with, at a minimum, the circumstances which led to the examination by the last civil court trial. The self-justifying formal replies will help no longer. Getting off with phrases and switching the blame from an ailing head to a healthy one is naïve, at the very least. Attacks will not help here and ruses are useless.

The perpetrators of this muddle must be removed from church administration for the sake of general orderliness and for a guarantee that there will be no new changes. It would be good for them to go into retirement in a timely manner.

The American parishes need to demand that their affairs be put in order and to call upon the Synod Abroad for this.

Their church administration led to the court, which issued general decisions of principle, and were difficult for the old Russian diocese in America. For it to find itself in a situation of a schismatic faction (group) before an American court must not be, that is totally unacceptable. This disgraceful stain must be removed as soon as possible, and any delay in this direction is either negligence on the part of the leadership or a crime. Such a situation cannot be delayed, for it is unbearable.

There is no other solution than to follow the American state system. The recent period, beginning with the Cleveland Council, must be erased from the face of the earth without a trace. Order must be restored through submission to the law. Mistakes need to be corrected. The current vacillations between American councils can be considered unimportant, not decisive. This is a time for searches. The American court aided these searches by indicating the correct path for the Metropolia. All obstacles must be overcome and the matter must be resolved wisely.

Along with the Synod Abroad the liberation of Russia should be awaited. Only the authoritative voice of the free Russian Church will give everything that the American Church deserves.


The Paths of the American Metropolia

A Response to Bishop John of Brooklyn and His Brochure
“The Paths of the American Metropolia”

Striving as much as possible not to repeat what has already been said, we turn our attention to the brochure’s basic assertions.

1. Bishop John justifies the decision of the Cleveland Council to leave the oversight of the Synod Abroad as a coordinating center. “Shifts and changes have taken place in that center itself which did not enhance the strengthening of its authority,” he says. What took place was the “falling apart of the previous composition of this church unity abroad,” in view of the fact that Far Eastern, Balkan, and certain European archpastors and their flocks joined the Moscow Patriarchate and a series of hierarchs reposed.”

Our answer is that the canonical principle of unification in the General Council of all bishops who are able to gather cannot tolerate any vacillations or any disadvantage from changes in its composition in general, and especially after part of the bishops was lost due to Bolshevik invasion of their dioceses. The duty of all bishops to gather again and close the ranks tightly around their senior, whom they, according to church law, should know, has remained an absolute and irreplaceable duty, if they are literate, as such, and disciplined. And they fulfilled their duty and demonstrated their discipline at the Council in May of 1946, which united 26 bishops, with the personal presence of 16. If anyone cannot assimilate such principles, it will be impossible to find a greater authority for them than the General Council anywhere or at any time. Each bishop, as a member of the General Council, obeys that authority in which he takes part himself.

2. Bishop Johns writes that “No special mystique of the Synod Abroad has existed in America. America never accepted the myth that the entire holiness of the Russian Local Church went over to the Synod Abroad, where it remains untainted. This mystique is also foreign to the Western European Exarchate of Metropolitan Vladimir as well. And it is foreign, of course, to all local Orthodox Churches and their American branches.”

In Russia the Church is silent, while its representatives have donned the mask of lies.  Abroad some church leaders think up a “total autonomy” and are ready to do anything for it, to the point of recognizing the Soviet Patriarch, the bearer of this mask, as their “spiritual father, while others go off entirely out of the Russian Church into the Greek one and hold to its neutrality in church matters, and the third group (in the Soviet exarchate) don the same masks themselves. At the same time the parishes and dioceses of the Council and Synod Abroad, considering themselves unchangeably within the Russian Church, avoid all of these compromises and false routes and witnesses to the truth regarding the situation of the Russian Church. In this way, the voice of this truth, in response to the dignity of the Russian Church and originating from its free part that is abroad, has always resounded in the Church Catholic and could not be silenced. And the local Orthodox Churches have frequently heard from the Synod Abroad regarding the persecutions in Russia, the appearance of renovationism, and the actual situation of the Church authorities in Russia, and finally, in defense of the Russian heritage abroad from encroachments upon it, and readily reacted to all this. Sooner or later the significance of the Synod Abroad with be appreciated properly.

As far as our own Russians in America and Western Europe are concerned, who have made many zizgazs along their path and have repeatedly betrayed their Russian Church by Ukrainian separatism, compromises, and neutrality in the year of its sorrowful trials, they are characterized by mockery, similar to what was just cited, coming from the lips of certain archpastors and pastors, who are not at all numerous. Those searching for “mystique” and “myths” will actually not find them in the history of the Synod Abroad. There has only been truth and faithfulness here for thirty years, which is something that these archpastors and pastors, guides of dioceses and parishes, cannot brag about.

3. “Not a single pre-revolutionary diocese in Europe,” writes Bishop John, “recognized such authority of the Russian Center Abroad, and, seeking canonical support, preferred to turn to Constantinople… This is what the former Western European former vicariate of the St. Petersburg Diocese did, which developed out of the majority of the Russian émigré parishes in Europe, and is now the autonomous exarchate, to this day existing outside the jurisdiction of the Synod Abroad.”

The Russian hierarchs of Latvia, Estpnia, Finland, and Poland, due to the independence which had occurred in their countries, were forced to disassociate themselves from Russia and everything Russian purely officially, but Bishops John, Eusebius, Seraphim, and Dionysius established, at the first opportunity, the closest contact with the Synod Abroad. The Western European Diocese was in the jurisdiction of the Synod Abroad from 1920, as was the American Diocese. Silence about all this is conscious untruth. You cannot touch up and re-paint facts in this way.

4. Bishop John’s main arguments for “total autonomy” of the American Metropolia and its separation from the Synod Abroad are, first, its age, the “150 years” of its existence as compared to the parishes of the new emigration, then the number of parishes and American parishioners compared with those here of the Conciliar Diocese, and, finally, the “conciliarity” of the Metropolia, uniting certain nationalities here and striving to “include at this time in its autonomous unit any church development abroad that might express its wish for this to happen,” and in this way to establish a second church abroad.  It is also asserted here that Decree no. 362 applies only to the Metropolia, although, as is known, it does not presuppose the “inclusion” of any diocese into any “autonomous unit.”

First of all, may God preserve the Russian people of the diaspora from a second church abroad, and especially from the leadership of “spiritual fathers” of that “autonomous unit,” who for the sake of self-rule and lack of control have been living for the last few years “without a rudder and without sails,” acephalically, headlessly, and arbitrarily. All these years of betrayal of the Mother Russian Church must be struck out of the Metropolia’s long history.

If we speak of the number of members in the Church Abroad, it has five times as many as the “autonomous unit,” which claims this title. We have already spoken of the fact that the new or old emigration that had established themselves abroad one way or another, are both worthy of equal honor and equality. It makes no more sense to measure the importance of the Conciliar Diocese in America by the low number of its parishes than to compare the entire American “Metropolia” to any single diocese in Russia, where this entire “Metropolia” would make up merely a sixth of such a small diocese (with a population of two million, for example). The Patriarch of Jerusalem had, before the latest events, only 35,000 under him, but his importance, we must assume, is greater than that of the largest dioceses in the world.

The importance of the Conciliar Diocese in America lies in the fact that it is true to legitimacy in that Russian Church to which the Metropolia has belonged for so long and from which there is no right to depart self-willingly without being released by it. Secondly, the Diocese of the Council and Synod Abroad reminds the Metropolia that only by being subject to it and entering the General Council does it possess actual autonomy rather than by being in self-proclaimed autocephaly, as it is now. Finally, we recall that the heads of the Metropolia, Archbishop Alexander and Metropolitan Platon, were subject (along with their diocese, it stands to reason) to the Synod Abroad from the start of its existence, that Metropolitan Platon participated in its creation, that in November 1920 he was in the delegation to the Constantinople Patriarchate with a request to allow the existence of the Supreme Church Authority, and was then dispatched by this Authority to America, receiving his appointment there before receiving it from Patriarch Tikhon (if that actually happened). And he was a member of the Bishops’ Synod himself. So the existence of such a conciliar diocese as the American Metropolia was from the early twenties, and then for the second time and very recently, natural, inevitable, and legitimate.

If Metropolitans Platon and Theophilus recognized the Synod at first and later separated from it this does not mean that there cannot be those who are faithful to the accepted principle here, even if there had been less of them than those who had betrayed it. This does not shake the importance and meaning of their presence among those who split off.

Next, Bishop John has phrase after phrase that are like a camouflage for all kinds of mistakes and violations on the part of the Metropolia leadership. Keeping silent regarding the repeal of the episcopal conference for the Cleveland Council, he speaks only of the sufficiency of the affirmation of its decisions by the metropolitan alone. As we know, only rulings by diocesan assemblies are affirmed this way. An episcopal conference could not have been excluded by a “mandate” or by the condition under which the Council was called, while the control of the Bishops’ Council and Synod over the decision of Metropolitan Theophilus and his bishops was not excluded according to the “Temporary Provision” of 1935, which Metropolitan Theophilus signed. But something incredible took place — the metropolitan personally affirmed the actual swallowing up of the rights of the episcopate by the rights of his diocesan assembly or the majority of the clergy and laity. It is impossible to go further in the excesses of the pastorate and its flock.

Even more curious is the assertion that “the spiritual acknowledgment of this canonical existence of the Russian Church was distinctively spiritual — unconditionally, but conditionally only in the sense of relations with this Church.” This was “extraordinary canonical boldness, concealed in the artlessness of the form.” And the author goes on with even more boldness; “There are no contradictions in the paths of the American Metropolia… but only humanly understandable vacillations in its activity.” This is the way everything is being said, “to the face,” transforming by “mystique” and “myths” the black into white and the white into black. [5]It is fully natural that the book by Archpriest M. Polsky, “The Canonical Position of the Supreme Church Authority in USSR and Abroad,” seemed abstract and impracticable,” producing “a … Continue reading

On the other hand, such phraseology does not spare the Synod Abroad. Of special interest is the expression referring to it as “the Munich church group,” which was invented by the Council of American Bishops back in 1947. However, is it really incomprehensible that where the principle of what is common and whole, such as the General Council of all bishops abroad, is present, which is the principle of the Synod Abroad, any group is excluded and a struggle with groups is conducted. But whoever separates from this Council and becomes opposed to its principle, as have the bishops of the American Metropolia, has manifestly set himself apart into a group. The history of our quarrel shows who separated from whom. Therefore, this verbal trick of polemics, which was devised to conceal their own group situation, is naïve to such a degree and is not in keeping with the dignity of the writers, but is intended to be deprecating and insulting in their official address, so that it is shameful and sorrowful to expatiate about it. Let them continue in the same spirit, if they do not realize to what degree this is not serious for them and demonstrates the weakness of their principles and ideals.

Yet another interesting expression has newly appeared and been placed in quotation marks, as if taken from someplace. This is an ironic label for the Conciliar Diocese, calling it “a Russian metochion abroad.” Bishop John took this from his own experience. In 1931 the Synod inquired of Hieromonk John (Shakhovskoy), “With whose permission and on what basis are you calling your private book publishing organization a ‘Russian Orthodox Missionary Metochion Abroad,’ and who gave you the right to be in charge of this branch of the Church’s mission?” Fr. Hieromonk insisted that he received the right to be called a “missionary metochion” personally from M Antony.  However, we do not know what he added to this and how he extended his rights, which provoked a protest from the Synod. At any rate, advertising the metochion as specifically ”abroad” was his own doing. After that he made his second encampment from Metropolitan Antony to Metropolitan Evlogy, while the first time he had done this the other way around. Finally, his third encampment followed after his unsuccessful attempt to get set up in Paris and make the acquaintance of the Soviet Metropolitan Nikolai of Krutitsa, who for some reason rejected this acquaintance. He has now become an inveterate American, a local seeker of ecclesiastical independence, zealously defending the numerous local encampments, which are so ”humanly understandable” to him.

Finally, Bishop John notes that the followers of the conciliar jurisdiction “extolled themselves extraordinarily.” It must be assumed that they always note that there are no contradictions in the paths of the Synod Abroad. We are totally unaware of a Synod Abroad that “extols itself.” It always confessed a known direction and called others to it without phrases of self-adulation. As far as we, who are guided by it, are concerned, besides fear of compromises and a loss of faithfulness toward the honorable and firm way of the Church, we have nothing to brag about.

And here is a 1931 written document, whose author speaks of himself as the only agent of the word of God, loving human souls, which is something Metropolitan Antony doesn’t have, and about his disinterestedness — “for I have no material interest at all.” He has not grown obsolete to this day and is actually “extremely naive by extolling himself.” (See Hieromonk John, “Pochemu ia ushol iz iurizdiktsii Mitropolita Antoniia” [Why I Left the Jursisdiction of Metropolitan Antony] (Paris, 1931). [6]We are not seriously contemplating to judge anyone. There are people who love the truth but find it badly. They love to pose even great problems but solve them poorly and superficially. These are … Continue reading

Bishop John is seriously certain of the full maturity of the Orthodox American Church, a “free daughter of the Russian Church whose period of diapering and carrying around has ended.” It is seen not as being subject to the Russian Church but as a party that is on an equal footing with it and “holding negotiations with it,” judging from the Cleveland Council. Its importance grows due to its Americanism, its development “into an apostolic super-national direction,” and the theological academy that was founded in 1948. It is simply called the Local American Church, in other words, with all the rights of autocephaly, only without mentioning that actual word.

According to “The World Almanac and Book of Facts” (p. 291) the Orthodox Church in America has 1,325,000 members, with 300,000 Russians, 275,000 Greeks, and a smaller amount of everyone else. Thus, in addition to Russians, there are still a million members of other Orthodox nationalities.

Russians have the indisputable advantage of seniority in America, but competition from the Greeks is expressed not only in their growing numbers here, but also in the claim of the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople to be the head over all the diaspora parishes of other Orthodox nationalities that are outside the territory of their local Churches.

The future Orthodox Autocephalous Church in America should be thought of as one that is specifically nationally American, and not as some kind of “super-national” church.  And such a church will naturally exist when the entire migratory element of various nationalities loses its national traits and becomes totally Americanized. This issue has to do with not only Russians, but with everyone. Then there will no longer be an issue of any kind of national leadership over the Church. Not a Greek or a Russian will become the first bishop among the bishops of this Church.

We need to envision now to what extent at least only Russians have approached this moment.

Out of all the current Russian bishops in America only Archbishop Benjamin (Basalyga) is a local native, while all of the others are migrants and of refugee background. The theological academy has barely begun its existence, and there is no telling when, perhaps in another generation, it will bring out a sufficient number of learned American Orthodox monks, who would make available enough mature, well brought up, and worthy bishops, capable of replacing the arriving Russian ones. Of course, what more can this theological academy provide is a separate question.

The Russian Church in Japan and China has already provided the whole cycle of church services in native languages, while this does not yet exist in English, the most cultural language of the world. The Russian Church in America served mostly its own and had no great need of them. Its concern for Americans was totally different. Bishop John asserts that “The territory of Alaska belongs inseparably to the American Metropolia.” He probably does not know that the All=Russian Council of 1917 singled it out as an independent Aleut Diocese, and only thanks to the Metropolia’s oversight it has been neglected until now and suffers from a general insufficiency of mission and priests, who should be local residents and not be sent in from the outside.

The Russian Church on its own territory, with its own culture and services in its own language from its very beginning, did not have autocephaly for 400 years and was under the Greek Church of Constantinople. And yet, here in America these same Russians, whose migration goes back to the not so distant past, mostly not to their great-grandparents but their grandparents and whose younger generation has hardly become unaccustomed to Russian and needs English perhaps only for sermons, seem to have brought up autocephaly already.

Why are the most ancient churches, for example Spanish Catholic Churches ones in America, to this day being nourished by their national roots and obtain their clergy from Spain, without becoming Americanized to the point of forgetting about it? And the old Russian settlers are seemingly already foreign to Russia while preserving Russian holy objects and worshipping Russian saints and the characteristic Russian services.

Is this true? Aren’t certain seekers of self-aggrandizement and lack of control instilling and spreading this idea artificially?

It is already obvious to us that the entire path of the American Metropolia, or, rather, Diocese, as the All-Russian Council changed its name in 1919, has been demonstrating for over thirty years to what extent this Metropolia is not capable of living independently, of walking on its own two feet, but is still requiring both “diapering” and “being carried around.” It is still a parting of the ways. Why should we conceal the truth with such serious issues, imposing a blackout when it comes to certain issues, and daubing rose colors of flattery upon popular masses when it comes to others! [7] Bishop John’s brochure is such a flattery.

The American Metropolia requires for its guidance in general and spiritual life not only common sense, meekness, and humility, but also control, revision, and bringing its matters in order, as well as its ideas, feelings, and its entire spirit.  And if all this is absent from its depths, then those who can teach this and do this need to be summoned.

Wouldn’t it be better to think about living with the Russian Church as much as possible and in the present situation of alienation from it preserving with it principled unity in the person of the General Bishops’ Council, which is constantly guarding its interests, awaiting liberation from the godless forceful Bolshevik regime. This path is correct and the only canonical one, the path of our brotherhood, faithfulness, and law.


1 We will take at least one of these documents, an original version written by Metropolitan Theophilus himself: “The Sobor of Hierarchs of our Orthodox Church in North America, which took place December 13-19, 1945 in Chicago, elected Archimandrite John Zlobin, the Adminstrator of the Alaskan Diocese, as Bishop of Alaska and Sitka, whose election by the Bishops’ Synod Abroad was confirmed by Metropolitan Anastassy in a radiogram.” (Feb. 15, 1946)  Metropolitan Theophilus goes on to invite Archbishop Tikhon to the consecration.
2 At the first cross-examination of the Council’s diocese an attorney asked, “Can a Christian eat kosher food?” He had read its prohibition and spoke about the violation of this rule. And running the same theme (the non-observance of canons) through the entire interrogation at the end of what was now a two-month trial allowed his witness, a priest, to indicate a canon forbidding an unmarried priest, so as to avoid censure, to have a female servant. The judge asked, “Why is this law not applied now?” The priest said, “This is natural.” “What is natural?” asked the judge. “For a young priest to have a woman,” the priest replied. The courtroom resounded with loud laughter, and the judge and the priest blushed. During the break between sessions a sheriff and the court secretary said that they would no longer look at the canons and would get themselves female housekeepers. This remark by the priest was directed even toward the American Metropolia, for it also has suspended and deposed priests who have violated such rules.
3 It is totally beyond comprehension where Fr. L. got that “Father Polsky asserted at the trial that a hierarch who comes into another diocese is not obliged to request the consent of the local hierarch to perform sacerdotal functions.” (p. 97) Why did he need to assert this and what canon would he have cited? For Fr. L. knows from his own experience that nothing can be said at a trial without basis, and there were occasions when he was stopped. There was a discussion that Orthodox national dioceses were founded in non-Orthodox countries in a parallel manner, at times without the consent of another Orthodox diocese that had seniority there, and independently of each other. And we see that, for instance in America, at least currently, they really do coexist independently of each other, being subject to their own national and autocephalous churches. Perhaps Fr. L. is recalling this discussion? This is a dubious question, and if important, it is not to the advantage of Greeks and other Orthodox nationalities. Then everyone should enter the Russian Diocese as the one with seniority in that territory. And if they do not do this, they would be following the example of the Russians, wishing to maintain their national heritage abroad instead of handing it over to others without any basis. And for this reason they have no right to lay claim upon our heritage as well, and the American Diocese is in no way obliged to become subject, for instance, to the Constantinople Patriarchate, although it seems that Fr. L. is leaning toward that without speaking about that clearly and definitely. Clarifying the local church concept, which is limited by its boundaries and location, and “does not exist outside its boundaries,” (pp. 89, 96) Fr. L. rejects the concept of a “Church Abroad,” which the court had adopted for brevity and the “Provisional Statute” regarding the “part of the Russian Church that is abroad.” He does not say to where he is leading, but we can guess that everything that is “abroad” must be destroyed by being handed over to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
4 Turning to Fr. L.’s assertions we see that in the part about the Supreme Church Authority in Russia and abroad these assertions lack objectivity.  Denying the legitimacy of this authority in the Crimea, he cites its very ruling which was affirmed and accepted by His Holiness the Patriarch (the Lubny Diocese with Bishop Seraphim). He attributes the creation of the Supreme Church Administration to Bishop Veniamin alone, but Metropolitan Evlogy states that he also sent a letter to Metropolitan Antony and “gave him the idea of the necessity of organizing the émigré Russian Church that had been severed from Russia.” (“My Life’s Journey” [English edition], p. 428)

Fr. L. categorically denies Archpriest M. Polsky’s assertion in his book “The Canonical Situation of the Supreme Church Authority” that in Constantinople in November 1920 Russian hierarchs made up their first Council, saying that didn’t happen. However, anyone who read that book knows that it was written not “by inspiration” but by documents. In this case the document is a letter of Metropolitan Antony to Metropolitan Evlogy no. 1001, dated August 17/30, 1926, which states the following: “The Bishops’ Council arose abroad for the first time in November 1920 in Constantinople, and from then on it was called annually by me.” (“Tserkovnye Vedomosti,” 8, 15-16, 1926, p.13). At the trial Fr. L. announced that the hierarchs gathered, spoke, of course, of church matters and “drank tea.” Apparently, he didn’t notice a Council there at all, although he does write that “by some means” they convinced Metropolitan Antony to head the delegation to the Patriarchate in order to obtain permission to establish the Supreme Church Authority. (p. 92) Eight bishops took part in this Council.

5 It is fully natural that the book by Archpriest M. Polsky, “The Canonical Position of the Supreme Church Authority in USSR and Abroad,” seemed abstract and impracticable,” producing “a ponderous impression” upon, of course, those practical activists of our schisms in America and Europe, who have often given way to “vacillations that are humanly understandable.”  Contemplating a certain “mystery of the Church” and their general mode of operation, they are devoid of the “juridical inclination,” (which is, of course, always “Roman Catholic) and “canonical casuistry” of this book, being guided only by “canonical boldness, concealed under a simple-hearted form” — doing everything that they wish, without any church laws.
6 We are not seriously contemplating to judge anyone. There are people who love the truth but find it badly. They love to pose even great problems but solve them poorly and superficially. These are people with obsessions who are always sincere. Whether he is writing a message today for a false political leader, whether he is going from one jurisdiction to another or back, or finds a new one, he acts with the power of conviction, sparing no means, and changing truth into lies and lies into truth. With time he sometimes spiritually recovers and corrects himself, but in the meantime, he causes much trouble. They say that the leader of the renovationists, Alexander Vvedensky, who was called in Russia the Metropolitan of Sodom and Gommorah, regretted on his deathbed the path he had taken. This was an educated man with a great artistic imagination. He spoke engagingly, took poses, and gesticulated. This writer recalls him saying, “Chirst is such an agonizing riddle!”
7 Bishop John’s brochure is such a flattery.

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