An Open Letter from the Parish Council of the Holy Ascension Russian Orthodox Church to the God-loving Flock of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
At the IVth All-Diaspora Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) held in San Francisco, USA, in 2006, a large number of the assembled delegates, which included three of our parishioners, expressed the opinion that the issues of ecumenism and sergianism, which had hindered union with the Moscow Patriarchia (MP), had not been resolved and that unification of the two churches was premature. The first draft of the Council’s Resolution proposed immediate Eucharistic and administrative union with the Moscow Patriarchia. That Resolution was voted down (and all copies of the draft were confiscated by the Council leadership). The concluding Resolution approved by all the delegates, did call for union, but clearly state that it will occur at ‘the appropriate time, [and] the unity of the Russian Church will be restored upon the foundation of the Truth of Christ.” That Resolution also said that the MP should be informed of our concerns about its participation in the ecumenical movement.
Let than four months after the Council decision, a small group in the Synod of Bishops of the Church Abroad headed by Metropolitan Laurus decided not to heed the voice of the delegates, who represented the entire spectrum of opinion within the diaspora, and began the process which concluded on May 17, 2007, with the signing of the Act of Eucharistic Communion between the Russian Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchia. The fifth anniversary of the signing of the Act is upon us, and to our great sorrow, the preceding years have demonstrated that the concerns of the delegates were completely justified.
The Moscow Patriarchia has in no way curtailed its participation in the ecumenical movement in the past five years and not only continues to be a member of the World Council of Churches, but plays a leading role in that organization. Representatives of the MP and the ROCOR (MP) along with other churches regularly participate in joint prayer services with the heterodox, including serving, for example, in Roman Catholic churches. Representatives of ROCOR (MP) now play an active role in the ecumenical movement and have become members of various ecumenical organizations and are normalizing relations not with churches that uphold traditional Orthodoxy, but with churches that are deeply involved in the ecumenical movement. Recently, ROCOR (MP) announced that all differences between it and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) have been resolved and allowed its clergy to begin serving with OCA clergy, without any mention of the most important different that the OCA adopted the New Calendar many years ago or the many other modernist innovations and divergences between them. It is unimaginable to think that the founding First Hierarchs of the Church Abroad would agree to such deviations from traditional Orthodoxy. This gives credence to the claim that instead of defending Orthodoxy as the true faith, given to us by the Holy Fathers, ROCOR (MP) is infected with the spirit of modernism and is leading its flock on a new and risky path.
The Moscow Patriarchia not only remains committed to the basic principles of sergianism, but under the leadership of Patriarch Kirill has become a de facto governmental body of the Russian Federation and is involved deeply in the domestic and foreign policies of the regime. The words spoken by Metropolitan Sergey (Stragorodsky), “your joys are our joys” remain the guiding principle of the Moscow Patriarchia. Instead of devoting itself to the healing of the Russian people and creating a normal, decent life in the country, the Russian government and the MP assist each other in the plundering of the country’s treasures and imposing their control over the population. The MP is similarly engaged in the looting of sacred possessions of other jurisdictions.
At the many meetings with the heterodox the MP speaks of the Christian command to love one another and of mutual understanding, while at home it employs severe measures against all religious groups which do not submit to them. These measures remind one of the darkest hours of the Soviet Union. With the help of local authorities, MP representatives persecute our parishes in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) through legal actions, threats of physical violence, setting fire to churches or confiscating them and threatening to have clergy and laypeople who do not give into this pressure lose their jobs. The MP also persecutes and punishes its own bishops and priests who voice their opinion and call upon the MP administration to atone for the past and to return to a traditional Orthodoxy. Sadly, when the MP decided to censure Bishop Diomid of Chukotka for criticizing the Patriarch’s sergianist and ecumenist practices, several ROCOR (MP) bishops voted for censure and Metropolitan Hilarion abstained. No one ROCOR (MP) bishop stood up for the principles that defined the Church Abroad. By such actions, ROCOR (MP) condones these decisions and measures by its silence. Throughout its entire history, the Church Abroad defended the rights of true believers in Russia. Much to our dismay, having become members of the ruling elite, the episcopate of ROCOR (MP) has forgotten its sacred duty.
We turn with love in our hearts and hope to our dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, the clergy and laypeople of ROCOR (MP), to take stock and stop disregarding our spiritual inheritance, the instruction of our dear First Hierarchs and the concerns of the IVth Council delegates. The divergences that have occurred in the past five years are only the beginning. Judging by what has already taken place the words of representatives of the MP and the ROCOR (MP), there will be even more profound changes in the near future. Things will look the same on the outside, but the ecclesiology will change so profoundly that soon we will not recognize the Church Abroad in the church of Metropolitan Hilarion. Please return to the church that is based on and lives by the principles and values set down by our founding hierarchs. Let us continue together on the Royal Path that was charted by them and the sacrifices made by so many that came before us. Please hear our anguished cry and together let us heal the divisions that have come between us.
Holy Ascension Russian Orthodox Church
May 27, 2012