Testimony by a Delegate to the Goings on At the IVth All-Diaspora ROCOR Sobor
One Man’s Remembrance
Met Lavr understood the importance of the councils in the Orthodox Church, that is why he wanted the Sobor.
Archbishop Mark, already fully “patriarchized” by the time of the Sobor, argued for the one canonical principle that the MP has dutifully practiced: the requirement for priests and laity to obey their bishops. So why risk a Sobor?
The SF Sobor was called in May of 2006 to consider the most important question in the history of ROCOR: whether or not to join with the MP. That calling of the sobor, was consistent with Orthodox practice.
The agenda was stacked in favor of union — all of the prepared presentations had a pro-union cast. The presence for the start of the Sobor of a Serbian Metropolitan close to the MP was one clear indicator.
But the Sobor allowed for discussion after each presentation with an open microphone.
The first days of the Sobor were very contentious, with proponents and opponents of union making their arguments. We did not have an exact count, but at the very least a large minority was against union at that time. The number may have been a majority. Those opposed to union took the position that the MP still practiced Sergianism and ecumenism.
An effort was made by the pro-union forces to pass a concluding resolution that called for immediate Eucharistic and administrative or canonical union with the MP. A large number of delegates voted against that.
The pro-union forces withdrew — and the conference organizers confiscated — that resolution, and advanced a revised resolution that called for union with the MP at an appropriate time [clarification: i.e. and only if the MP first instituted deep reforms, rejected Sergianism, and left ecumenism]. That second resolution also noted the unease in our church with the MP’s participation in the ecumenical movement. That resolution passed overwhelmingly. It was a compromise document.
So while calling for eventual union, [of some degree], ***the sobor explicitly rejected union in May of 2006.
The Council of Bishops that met right after the Sobor came to the same conclusion.
There were no developments in the MP following the SF Sobor that addressed ROCOR concerns regarding ecumenism.
Despite that, Met Lavr convened a small Synod of Bishops in September that decided to proceed with union. This decision was inconsistent with the Orthodox principal of Sobornost’, which makes the council the highest church authority.
This decision was also taken by a small majority of Synod bishops. Then-Arch.Bishop Hilarion did not attend it, but he did write a letter to that Synod saying that to move to union at that time would be a mistake.
As Synod Secretary, Bishop Gabriel signed the meeting notes recording the decision, but hand wrote on the document his own opposition to it. (This was followed by the amusing appearance on the Synod web site of different versions of the notes, first with Bishop Gabriel’s personal observation, then without it. The Synod was learning the Soviet practice of photo-shopping inconvenient documents.)
And of course, then-Bishop Agafangel and Old Believer Bishop Daniel were known to oppose union.
So, this critical decision was taken, against the deliberations of the San Francisco Sobor and with the opposition of four bishops.
The decision was consistent with the MP principle of rule from above.