Archive: Fr Victor Melehov: Open Letter to Metropolitan Makarios, Dec 9/22, 2001

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June 24, 2004

Archive: Fr Victor Melehov: Open Letter to Metropolitan Makarios, Dec 9/22, 2001

TO: Metropolitan Makarios December 9/22, 2001
5 Northcliffe Boulevard, Apt. 5,
Toronto, Ontario, M6H 3G9
Canada

Dear Metropolitan Makarios,

I have read your “open letter” dated 5/18 December, 2001. Personal correspondence aside, your letter constitutes the fifth open response to my letter of November 08/21, 2001, which was addressed to you. The first four letters consisted of responses from Fr. George Kochergin, Fr. Seraphim Johnson, and then two letters signed by Bishop Moses. Unfortunately, the common thread in each of these letters is the avoidance of the actual issues and the facts accompanying them.

Therefore, hoping to return you from your path of error, this is the third, and probably final, letter I am writing to you, and to the other clergy and members of the newly formed and uncanonical HOCNA. Toward this end, I will now address each issue which you raise and respond with the facts.

In your first paragraph you state:

“Although you have received an official reply from the Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece to your letter addressed to me, dated 8/21 November, 2001, I also wanted to reply directly to you since the tone of your letter is accusatorial and defensive.”

It is unfortunate that you find the tone of my letter to be “accusatorial and defensive.” However, having made such a claim, you do not provide any evidence for it. Therefore, I can only say that my letter was intended to be factual, explanatory and instructional.

In your second paragraph you state:

“You allege that because the Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece authorized the North American hierarchs to form an eparchial synod, the Sacred Synod is dissolved and an autonomous North American Church has been created. This is a non sequitur and is unequivocally a falsehood.”

Your above statement does not present the facts.

The facts are:

1. Prior to being severed from ecclesiastical communion for his uncanonical actions, Archbishop Maximos protested the existence of HOCNA as a self-proclaimed ecclesiastical organization. He opposed such a church-within-a-church concept.

2. Metropolitan Athanasios resigned both as Locum Tenens and as a member of the Sacred Synod in 1997 because he protested the consecrations of Bishops
Philaret and Moses. His protest was based on the fact that such actions are not canonical without a First Hierarch, which in this case was the Archbishop of Athens.

3. Since 1997, you, Metropolitan Makarios, have been elected as Locum Tenens of the Archdiocese of Athens, and temporary presiding bishop of the Sacred
Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece. Your primary function was to act swiftly to restore the widowed See to which you were assigned. To date, you have failed to accomplish this assignment.

4. During the May, 2000, meeting of the Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece, it was unanimously decided that (a) the Holy Orthodox Church in North America (HOCNA) was a presbyterian-type of organization temporarily established to provide a secular and legal cover for parishes departing from the ROCOR, as well as other jurisdictions, during the late 1980’s, (b) HOCNA had outlived its initial function, and, (c) HOCNA was an uncanonical organization. Furthermore, the members of the Sacred Synod, yourself included, voted unanimously to dissolve HOCNA. At this point, apparently, we were in complete agreement with the former Archbishop Maximos.

5. On May 01-14, 2001, Metropolitan Ephraim stated: “The Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece is a sham. There is nothing there.”

6. On August 10, 2001, Bishop Philaret of France officially left the Sacred Synod and joined the Synod of Metropolitan Kallinikos. Having no representation from Greece remaining, Bishop Philaret did not recognize the remnant of Archbishop Auxentios’ Synod as representing the Church of Greece, and thereby, felt free to seek a canonical synod. This action on the part of Bishop Philaret brought the membership of the Sacred Synod down to four; three hierarchs and one protopresbyter (Metropolitan Makarios of Toronto, Metropolitan Ephraim of Boston, Bishop Moses of Roslindale, Protopresbyter Victor Melehov, Exarch to Russia).

7. During the September 26/October 9, 2001, meeting of the Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece, Bishop Moses made the motion to elect you, the Locum Tenens, as the President of the Sacred Synod. After inquiring regarding the purpose of such a motion, I was informed that the three of you (yourself, Metropolitan Ephraim, and Bishop Moses), had already convened and decided to move and vote for the following four points during this meeting of the Sacred Synod:

1. The election of Bishop Moses as ruling bishop and Metropolitan of Seattle.
2. The establishment of HOCNA as an autonomous, “eparchial” synod composed solely of yourselves (the Dioceses of Boston, Toronto and Seattle).
3. The consecration of Fr. Basil from the Holy Transfiguration Monastery as a suffragan bishop for Toronto.
4.The consecration of an undisclosed candidate as suffragan bishop for Boston.

I was further informed that in order to accomplish the above, and to be technically in “compliance” with the Canons I had previously presented, it was necessary to elect you, Metropolitan Makarios, as the President of the Sacred Synod. At this point, I reminded the members of the Sacred Synod that the term president, presiding bishop, or primate referred to the first hierarch of a synod, which in the case of the True Orthodox Church of Greece is the Archbishop of Athens. I further suggested that if the members of the Sacred Synod wished to technically comply with the Canons, they could elect the Locum Tenens to the position of Archbishop of Athens. I emphasized that to elect the presiding bishop, albeit temporary, as the presiding bishop, would be, at the very least, redundant. As a result of this discussion, the suggestion to elect the Locum Tenens to the position of Archbishop of Athens was rejected, and the motion to elect the Locum Tenens to the position of President was dismissed and not voted on.

After some discussion, the following motions were made, voted upon and passed as indicated:

1. Bishop Moses was elected as Metropolitan of Seattle by a unanimous vote.
2. The Sacred Synod’s previous decision declaring HOCNA to be an uncanonical organization, and demanding that it be dissolved, was rescinded by a margin of 3-1, mine being the only dissenting vote.
3. It was voted to give HOCNA the status of an autonomous, “eparchial” synod consisting of three hierarchs, yourself, Metropolitan Ephraim, and Bishop Moses. This motion passed by a margin of 3-1, mine being the only dissenting vote.

8. The By-Laws of the Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece which Metropolitan Ephraim, along with other hierarchs of the True Orthodox
Church of Greece, confirmed and promised to uphold by their signatures on said document dated October 14, 1988, state the following:

Article 1-1. The Sacred Synod of the Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece is comprised of the Archbishop of Athens as the President, and of
the active hierarchs as members.

Article 3-1.

a. The President of the Sacred Synod is the Archbishop of Athens.
b. He has the authority to convoke meetings of the Sacred Synod.
c. He supervises the order of meetings, schedules, times of speeches, and keeps to the given agenda. He recognizes speakers, and in case of disagreements, defers the matter to private consultation(s), and anything untoward/irrelevant is stricken from the minutes.
d. He upholds canonical order and strictness.

9. Although I have repeatedly requested that they be published, in accordance with Metropolitan Ephraim’s explicit desire, no minutes of any Synod meeting have been published for the past several years.

By stating that “the Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece authorized the North American hierarchs to form an eparchial synod” you are misleading the reader. First of all, you avoid the term “autonomous.” This was a term specifically used in making and discussing the motion at the last ill-fated Synod meeting on September 26/October 9, 2001, to describe the new status of HOCNA (the so-called eparchial synod). Then you state that “the Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece authorized” the formation of HOCNA. You fail to mention that what you refer to as “the Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece” is now solely comprised of the same three “North American hierarchs” (i.e., yourself, Met. Ephraim, and Bishop Moses).

In addition to the Holy Canons quoted in my letter of November 8/21, 2001, and the above mentioned By-Laws of the Sacred Synod, I will present the following Canon as a parallel point of reference, and an indication of the intent and spirit of the Holy Canons.

CANON XII of the 141 Canons of the Council of Carthage

“If any Bishop fall liable to any charges, which is to be deprecated, and an emergency arises due to the fact that not many can convene, lest he be left exposed to such charges, these may be heard, by twelve Bishops; or in the case of a presbyter, by six Bishops besides his own; or in the case of a deacon, by three.”

This Canon clearly states that the three bishops alleging to comprise the Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece are not sufficient to sit in judgment of a single presbyter. The formation of their own autonomous church is clearly far beyond their collective authority.

Nonetheless, three bishops (yourself, Met. Ephraim, and Bishop Moses) voted to establish for themselves their own autonomous synod. Being autonomous implies being responsible to a local church, which you, along with the other two hierarchs insist is still the Church of Greece, and which you three claim to solely represent. Therefore, when you vote on any issue in your “autonomous synod” (HOCNA), you will pretend to submit your decisions to the scrutiny and approval of the “Greek Synod,” which, again, is solely composed of yourselves (i.e., the same three bishops). In this manner, as long as you vote twice each time, the HOCNA Synod essentially becomes autocephalous.

Aside from becoming a mockery and a surrealistic loop, the sad result is that the Synod of Archbishop Auxentios is most certainly abused, and thoroughly dissolved. HOCNA, in fact, stands as a violation of the Holy Canons and the By-Laws of the Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece.

On the other hand, had a sizable Synod (i.e., at least 12 hierarchs – based upon the above Canon) with an Archbishop, and substantial representation in Greece, decided to grant HOCNA an autonomous status, the present day situation would be substantially different.

In your third paragraph you state:

“As we have discussed repeatedly in the past, we, as hierarchs of the Sacred Synod cannot dissolve it since it is from this very Synod and Church of Greece that we received our ordinations and derive our canonicity and legitimacy.”

You are quite correct. This is precisely why your actions during the ill-fated Synod Meeting held on September 26/October 9, 2001, and thereby your novel HOCNA, are uncanonical. In your fourth and fifth paragraphs you state:

“You may recall that in our Synod’s correspondence with the Synod of Metropolitan Kallinikos, we emphasized that our intent was not to form an autonomous North American Synod, nor to sever our ties with the Church of Greece. It was precisely Bishop Makarios’ allegations that this was our intent, that ultimately led to the breakdown in discussions and the cessation of the exchange of letters.”

And, “Since you have been apprised of all the details of our discussions, including the English translations of all correspondence, I am surprised that you should conclude that the direction of our Sacred Synod was or is toward autonomy.”

I “have been apprised of all the details of our discussions.” This is why I am aware that, unfortunately, Metropolitan Makarios, you are once again not
being altogether truthful with the above statement.

The facts are:

1. Metropolitan Ephraim overwhelmingly insisted that our communications with Metropolitan Kallinikos not result in union with his Synod “for even one minute.” He was concerned that the North American hierarchs would be immediately outvoted, and never get what they desired (i.e., a separate North American Church).

2. The communications with the Synod of Metropolitan Kallinikos were approached with the intent to establish a sister-church relationship where the North American hierarchs would be in communion with the Synod of Metropolitan Kallinikos, but administratively independent.

3. The Synod of Metropolitan Kallinikos was suspicious of your intentions and concluded that you were seeking autonomy.

Indeed, in thinking that you desired autonomy, Bishop Makarios misunderstood your intent. The arrangement desired by yourself, Met. Ephraim, and Bishop Moses was, in fact, clearly that of attaining autocephaly.

In your sixth and seventh paragraphs you write:

“Further, we articulated clearly, during our Synod meeting of 25 September/8 October, 2001, before the vote, the expressed reasons for our request to form an eparchial synod. This synod allows the hierarchs of North America to meet and discuss mutual concerns and projects for the parishes and faithful within the eparchy. We indicated such concerns as religious education, publications, youth camps, support and nurturing of monastic communities and preparation and training of candidates for ordination. These objectives and concerns in no way compromise or abrogate the functioning and jurisdiction of the Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece.”

And, “If you refuse to understand these distinctions of function and purpose of the two synods, this is unfortunate and to your detriment, since you have selected for yourself – and unfortunately for others – a precarious and dangerous course of action: separation from the Sacred Synod and the True Orthodox Church of Greece.”

Perhaps under the circumstances this may be a minor point. However, the above discussion in the sixth paragraph occurred only after I inquired, “And what is it that you will do in this second synod that you are not able to accomplish in the first?” Although you have had time to expand on your above articulation, at the time you and Metropolitan Ephraim said that this autonomous synod would “deal with things like youth camps and publications.” When I suggested that these were not synodal issues, but parish or diocesan issues at best, you will recall that you had no substantive reply.

Furthermore, in the sixth paragraph you mention “our request to form an eparchial synod.” Since at that same meeting all three of you had admitted to me that the three of you (yourself, Met. Ephraim, and Bishop Moses) had conspired previously outside of the meeting regarding the outcome of the same, presenting this event to the reader as if you were petitioning someone other than yourselves is misleading.

Regarding your seventh paragraph, it is not an issue of anyone refusing to understand the “distinctions of function and purpose of the two synods.” It is clear to all who care to attend to the issues that you have committed an act which constitutes a conflict of interest. You have placed yourselves into an undesirable, unethical, and uncanonical position. Regardless of your above misstatements, you still fail to explain why the same three bishops need to pretend they serve on two separate synods when they are the only hierarchs left on both of them. Given Metropolitan Ephraim’s May 01-14, 2001, statement (i.e., “The Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece is a sham. There is nothing there.”), one can only assume that your motive here is to attempt to grant legitimacy to HOCNA at the expense of the Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece. In this manner you shrewdly attempt to grow the first American old-calendar jurisdiction (HOCNA), while conveniently keeping Metropolitan Ephraim’s “sham” synod on the shelf, only to be paraded when profitable. While admittedly clever, you, nonetheless, remain uncanonical.

You dedicate paragraphs eight and nine to defending your efforts in Greece. As I stated in my letter of November 8/21, 2001, to you, “Over the past year, at the exhortations of Bishop Moses and myself, you have undertaken a somewhat active role in visiting the widowed archdiocese in Greece. This is commendable. However, your most recent actions as the temporary presiding bishop of the Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece have placed your sincerity regarding your responsibilities as Locum Tenens in serious doubt.”

Please understand, the issue is not what you have or have not done in Greece. The issue at hand is what you did and how you voted at the Synod meeting of September 26/October 9, 2001.

Regarding your efforts in Greece, in paragraph ten, you write:

“Fr. Victor, rest assured, that my conscience is clear in this matter, and as a high priest of the Lord High God, I have held back nothing in order to strengthen and tend the flock in Greece. On this count, my apologia in the Day of Judgment is in tact.”

May this be so. Nonetheless, as a matter of fact, your primary function as Locum Tenens was to act swiftly to restore the widowed See to which you were
assigned. You have had five years in this position. To date, you have failed to accomplish this assignment.

In paragraphs ten and eleven you write:

“Finally, following your separation from our Synod, I visited the faithful in Russia in my capacity as locum tenens of the See of Athens since I am responsible for them – the exarch and his actions not withstanding. Your actions have confused them and caused them much grief and turmoil. They, as we, love and respect you very much. As we trusted you implicitly, so they. Now there is distrust, suspicion and fear. During my visit, I attempted to restore trust and confidence in our Sacred Synod, and to allay their fears. Many are new to True Orthodoxy and are unsure, insecure and fragile in their faith.”

And, “Father Alexei and Father Dimitry have indicated that they will remain in our Synod. We are committed to reorganizing and reestablishing the communities with whomsoever of the faithful shall remain within our Synod.”

The facts are:

1. According to telephone calls I received from both St. Petersburg and Moscow while you were visiting these communities, people were surprised at the urgency of your arrival. Instead of waiting for my visit, your hasty trip was seen as a preemptive attempt to convince people of your cause.

2. According to telephone calls I received from both St. Petersburg and Moscow while you were visiting these communities, people asked issue-specific questions regarding my letter. Apparently, you were not able to answer them in a satisfactory manner.

3. Although several people came to speak with you at Vera and Sergei Jhukov’s apartment, the Sisterhood of St. Seraphim of Sarov refused to receive you at the Podvorie.

4. When you traveled to Kazan, Mother Efrosynia and the mothers of the Holy Dormition Convent refused to receive you.

5. In St. Petersburg, you managed to address a small group of faithful, who later reported to me that your primary interest appeared to be regarding the ownership of the St. Petersburg apartment.

6. Between St. Petersburg and Moscow, you managed to collect a splinter group of several families.

7. Although Fr. Alexei and Fr. Dimitry originally stated that they will remain with me and commemorate Metropolitan Vitaly, apparently you later persuaded them otherwise. Nonetheless, Fr. Alexander and Fr. Dimitry (another) chose not to follow you.

Contrary to your above statement, the faithful who resolved to refuse your visit were not confused at all. There actions spoke loudly for their convictions and clarity of thought. Also, judging by the questions they posed, and the answers you were unable to provide, I would say that the faithful in Russia are quite well informed. Furthermore, your characterization of “many” of them as being “new to True Orthodoxy and…..unsure, insecure and fragile in their faith..,” belittles their firm convictions and understanding of the Orthodox Faith to make excuses for your lack of success.

You state, “Father Alexei and Father Dimitry have indicated that they will remain in our Synod.” It remains unclear whether or not they understand which “Synod” you actually mean. It remains to be seen how these two clergymen will react when they discover Metropolitan Ephraim’s words (i.e., “The Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece is a sham. There is nothing there.”), and that they have been drawn into an uncanonical American Church (HOCNA).

You dedicate paragraphs twelve and thirteen to your concerns regarding property in Russia. According to reports from Moscow and St. Petersburg, this appeared to be a most important issue for you wherever you went. To my knowledge, neither the Sacred Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece, which you no longer represent, nor HOCNA, has any claims to property in Russia. To my knowledge, all of the property within the Exarchate has been donated to, and earned by, the Sisterhood of St. Seraphim of Sarov, the Convent of the Dormition, and the faithful of the parishes within the Exarchate. By itself the Exarchate owns nothing. If you are able to provide documentation contrary to my assertion, please know that I will certainly cooperate to solve any issues in good faith and with goodwill among us.

In your last four paragraphs, you express your desire to reunite, and recall the memories of the times past. I too have fond memories of times gone by. I will remind you of how I told you that you were the Synod’s only hope of being properly and canonically restored. I will remind you of how you privately told me that you disagreed with Metropolitan Ephraim’s position on abandoning the Synod of the True Orthodox Church of Greece. I will remind you of how I warned you, Metropolitan Ephraim, and Bishop Moses openly during Synod meetings of the danger of becoming inbred. In other words, I warned you of the danger of the remaining three bishops being from the same Monastery, thereby, speaking as if they had one power dictating to them from behind their collective thrones. I will remind you of how I warned all three of you of the serious canonical implications concerning your decision during that ill-fated Synod meeting of September  26/October 9, 2001. Although there are many more memories that we can both recount, the truth is that memories of the past do not justify the errors of the present to promulgate the mistakes for the future.

I will close my letter to you by impressing upon you my sincere desire for your salvation. Once again, I call upon you, Metropolitan Makarios, to reflect upon what you have done, acknowledge your error, and realize that your former Synod is dissolved. I humbly ask you to listen to your pastoral conscience, abandon your uncanonical HOCNA, and together with us, unite yourself to a legitimate and canonical Synod.

with love in our Most Merciful Saviour,

Protopresbyter Victor Melehov