True Orthodoxy in Russia

(ruschurchabroad.com) Summary of the Minutes of the Meeting of the Central Russian Administrative District, August 1, 2008 – St. Seraphim of Sarov

Attendees: Bishop Agafangel, Archpriest Valeriy Kravets, Archpriest Roman Kravets, Archpriest Oleg Mironov, Hieromonk Ignatiy (Krutkov), Fr. Valeriy Leonichev, Deacon Antoniy Gunin, and Reader Aleksandr Khitrov.

Meeting Secretaries: Archpriest Oleg Mironov and Reader Aleksandr Khitrov.
Agenda: Elect delegates to the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor.

1. A decision was made to postpone the elections until the next day, as not all the parish representatives had arrived. A discussion of pending issues was begun.

2. A motion was made to edit the text of the Decision made in New York regarding the Russian True Orthodox Church (RTOC). It was noted that church members are not aware of the discussions that took place between the jurisdictions and do not understand why relations have not been normalized. B. Agafangel added they had been waiting for an answer from the RTOC for almost a year, and when none was received, they decided to let the existing decisions regarding the RTOC stand. A proposal was made to send a letter from the Provisional Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority (PSEA) to the Catacomb Church and let all the parishes in Russia and abroad receive a copy.

3. B. Agafangel pointed out it would be incorrect to allow the RTOC to represent all the catacomb churches. Over the years, due to their need for secrecy, they developed independently of each other and not all agree to have the RTOC represent them.

4. Fr. Valeriy Kravets said the archives showed how the various groups were penetrated by KGB agents, which led to the arrest of many catacomb priests. There was a general air of distrust, including of B. Lazarus. More believers joined him when he was recognized by the ROCOR, but the majority of catacomb believers were skeptical about his canonicity, since he was ordained in the MP and due to gaps in his biography. The Soviet government made great efforts to eradicate them, so they must be approached carefully.

5. B. Agafangel added we cannot declare the RTOC a Sister Church. That decision can only be made at an All-Diaspora Sobor, but they refuse to attend. B. Agafangel added we treat them with respect, but they are small in number, and our appeal must be directed beyond to everyone to join our church. B. Agafangel added he spoke with Bishop Diomid, but he seemed anxious and is wary of speaking with us. Attempts should be made to establish a dialogue. What worries B. Agafangel, is that B. Diomid’s anathema was declared without a sobor decision. B. Agafangel considers the judgment issued at B. Diomid’s diocesan meeting to be of more interest. We should approach the RTOC and B. Diomid, but the form this takes will be very different. Either way, we must concern ourselves more with our flock. Time has passed and an assessment of events after May17, 2007, needs to be made.

Second Session, August 2, 2008 – Holy Prophet Elias

1. B. Agafangel read the decision of the meeting of the Ishim-Siberian deanery, but the election of their candidates has been questioned by others in the deanery. Since there are unresolved questions and no one from the deanery has arrived to clarify the matters, no final decision can be made.

2. Regarding the candidates from the Central Russian Administrative District, B. Agafangel noted that Fr. Valeriy Kravets must be present at the Sobor due to his membership in the PSEA. It was decided to accept Archpriest Oleg Mironov and monk Diodor from Voronezh, and Fr. Valeriy Leonichev and Reader Aleksandr Khitrov from the Moscow parish.

3. It was unanimously agreed that the tradition of sobornost in the ROCA needs to be revived, modeled after the earlier sobors in the church’s history, and to establish a Supreme Church Council as an advisory body to the Synod of Bishops of the ROCA.

4. Proposed agenda for the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor:
1. To restore the church administrative structure by electing a new Synod of Bishops, a Supreme Church Council, and a hierarch.
2. Issue an opinion on the Act of Eucharistic Communion between the ROCOR and the MP in a sobor setting and how the Act relates to the traditional historical course of the ROCA.
3. To review the proposal to canonize Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky), the third hierarch of the ROCA.

An Appeal of the Meeting of the Central Russian Administrative District, August 2, 2008 –Voronezh – Holy Prophet Elias

1. It is with great sorrow that we witness the divisions that occurred after the signing of the Act. The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad is now fragmented, with each group claiming “divine purpose.”

2. We hold to the belief that it is still possible to unite the faithful adherents of the Church Abroad around the legacy of the ROCA, which is characterized by a spirit of sobornost; uniting laypeople, clergy, and the episcopate. The legacy maintains the traditions of the founding hierarchs, a full life within the Church, and the readiness to set aside one’s supposed “truths” for the sake of God’s Truth. The tendency of other “fragments” to treat lightly the decisions of past sobors and Synod of Bishops is quite worrisome and symptomatic of the irreligious idea of “dogmatic progressiveness.” This leads them to reject certain decisions, or consider them not quite Orthodox in spirit. It should be noted that such tendencies are exhibited by bishops who have become ordained only recently or only a few years ago.

3. We wish to point out that the ROCA PSEA remains an open church body, headed not by a Hierarch, not by an Archbishop, but headed temporarily by Bishop Agafangel. We do not share the ambitions of those in newly-formed jurisdictions, and seek only to avoid considering any fragment as the body of the Church. We regret the refusal to maintain sobornost within the fragments of the ROCA, which results in premature ordinations, canonizations, and rejections of past decisions.

4. We are prepared to engage in dialogue with anyone who considers our divisions to be unnatural and ask them only to answer one question in good conscience: who is creating these obstacles and striving to keep things as they are? If we are guilty of rewriting the history of the ROCA, prove it to us. If these divisions are caused by intemperate feelings, let us reject them and return to the conditions that existed before the tragic divisions.

A Resolution of the General Meeting of the Members of the Moscow Parishes of the New Russian Martyr and Confessor Holy Martyr Joseph of Petrograd to the Vth All-Diaspora Sobor of 2008

June 30/July 13, 2008 – Moscow – Synaxis of the Holy Twelve Apostles

1. We completely support the intention of B. Agafangel and the PSEA to issue a judgment on the Act at the sobor, as approval of the Act violated the principle of sobornost in the Church. It contradicted the bishops’ promise not to unite without the agreement of all the church members. It was achieved by manipulating the selection of delegates to the IVth All-Diaspora Sobor. Sobornost was violated also when the opposition to the Act by Bishops Agafangel and Daniel was ignored. Preparations for the approval the Act were done in secret, without the participation of the flock and in opposition to the Resolution of the IVth All-Diaspora Sobor, Clergy Conferences, and diocesan meetings. We also find the premise that “sergianism” and “ecumenism” no longer exist in the MP to be incorrect, along with the notion of a supposed revival of Orthodoxy in Russia and of a Russian sovereign government.

2. The heresy of “sergianism” was purportedly condemned in 2000 by the MP in its so-called “Social Concept,” which theoretically allows the clergy and faithful of the MP to be free of influence from the secular government. In the years since 2000, it is clear this principle is not being upheld. There has not been a single decision of the MP that diverges from the wishes of the secular power. In fact, the MP persecutes priests that oppose the policies of the current government.

3. After 2006, there was no change in the far-ranging ecumenical ties between the MP and other confessions and joint prayer services continued to be held. It is well known, that not only have the MP bishops served with the Catholic hierarchy in Western Europe, but also, for example, participated in official events in the autonomous republics of the Near North and Far East of Russia, where the official religion is paganism. A global religious summit was also held in Moscow with the participation of the MP, and the attendees prayed together to one “god.” The Sobor of MP Bishops which took place on June 24-29, 2008 in Moscow with the participation of representatives of the ROCOR(MP) not only did not reject the sin of ecumenism, but compelled Met. Hilarion (Kapral) to sign a joint sobor resolution which did not condemn the principle espoused by Met. Kirill (Gundyaev) that “it is possible for Orthodox Christians to participate in services of other religions.” At that Sobor, in clear violation of all church legal procedures, B. Diomid was also forbidden from serving for speaking out against ecumenism.

4. We support the decision to canonize Met. Philaret (Voznesensky) to honor his pastoral guidance on life within the church today, especially as expressed in his “Sorrowful Epistle.”

5. The mission of our Church is to preserve truth and loyalty to the historical Russian Orthodox government, overturned by force in 1917. We propose to clarify the text in the “Prayer for the Redemption of Russia” in prayer books and religious services with the words “for the restoration of the throne of the Orthodox czars.”

6. To the decision made during Met. Philaret’s tenure in 1981 to venerate the Faithful Servants of the Holy Royal Martyrs, we propose to add the veneration of all those who suffered for the Faith, the Czar, and the Homeland. We also propose to observe the decision made at the Local Sobor in 1918 to designate a time for their veneration; to serve a memorial service in the evening of the feast day of the New Russian Martyrs and Confessors.

7. The members of the Moscow parishes are living witnesses of the history of the Russian parishes which joined the ROCOR on the basis of a decision approved at the Synod of Bishops in March, 1990. Therefore, the future fate of True Orthodoxy is quite important to us. In the difficult period of 2000-2007, members of the ROCOR parishes in Russia ended up in various church groups and “fragments,” though they remained united in their service to the Church’s Truth and to Russia. These divisions were not caused by differences in the beliefs of the faithful, but by the ambitions of their bishops. We are in agreement with B. Agafangel and hope that an appeal from the Sobor, along with application of broad ekonomia, will serve to unite all brothers and sisters divided by these disagreements.

Twelve pages are attached containing signatures of the parishioners who support this Resolution.

An Appeal of the Meeting of the Central Russian Administrative District
The ROCA PSEA to the members of the RTOC

1. We consider it vitally important to express our opinion that the RTOC hierarchy continues to misinform its flock regarding the ROCA PSEA and the RTOC’s canonical status.

2. We share in the sorrow of all faithful members of the Russian Church who grieve over union with the unrepentant MP. The history of the Church shows that decisions on important church matters can either be made forcefully or in a measured way. For example, the opinion of Met. Joseph (Petrov) about the actions of Met. Sergey (Stragorodsky) was more categorical than that of Met. Kirill (Kazanskiy). Though, with time, both came to the same conclusion. Therefore, if we remain loyal to the Truth of the Church, both of these approaches will merge at some point.

3. Let us consider the events of our Church today. On one hand, the actions of Archbishop Lazarus, Bishop Benjamin, and their followers, are understandable, when they realized in what new direction the ROCOR Synod was heading and decided to split off before the signing of the Act on May 17, 2007. In fact, the Greek Synod of Resistance did the same thing in 2005. B. Agafangel chose another path in these circumstances. It must be remembered that all fervent decisions made initially may lead to extreme positions later. B. Dionysius (Alferov) points this out in his writings. Unfortunately, over time, the actions of some RTOC bishops are beginning to exhibit signs of a gradual deviation from the course of reasonable devotion.

The illegitimacy of the RTOC Synod has been pointed out more than once, as Bishops Lazarus and Benjamin were members of the ROCOR episcopate after being ordained bishops. Based on the framework provided by church law, when bishops exceed their authority by their actions, even in exceptional cases, then the matter must be reviewed at a Sobor of Bishops. They could not decide to act solely based on the supposition that all the ROCOR bishops would support union. Life has shown the error of this premise. It was essential to see how the merging of the MP and the ROCOR would progress and join those bishops who would not sign the Act to keep the Church alive and based on the principles of sobornost and the traditions of the Holy Fathers inherent in the Church Abroad and the Catacomb Church. Metropolitan Vitaliy (Ustinov) of blessed memory called on us to act in ways consistent with Sobor decisions and common agreement.

4. After not signing the unlawful Act, B. Agafangel repeatedly offered to meet with Archbishop Tikhon (Pasechnik) to discuss the matters of the Church. So far, no efforts to meet have been made, and instead, we hear declarations about “B. Agafangel’s newly-formed group.” Is it not time, in the words of St. Basil the Great, to end these mutual accusations? This appeal confirms the good will of the ROCA PSEA to remove the painful divisions. Even if the decisions of Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin in a time critical for the Church were premature, there is nothing that cannot be resolved if approached with Christian love. It is only necessary for both sides to honestly admit to their mistakes. It is crucial to finally stop believing in one’s infallibility.

5. We believe and hope that it is not too late to combine our efforts to further the course of the Church, if only with those who have not gone to the extreme of schism, as by now, as St. Gregory the Theologian said, “you will not convince even those who you may have once been able to convince.”

+Bishop Agafangel
Archpriest Valeriy Kravets
Archpriest Roman Kravets
Archpriest Oleg Mironov
Hieromonk Ignatiy (Krutkov)
Fr. Valeriy Leonichev
Deacon Antoniy Gunin
Monk Diodor (Pashentsev)
Reader Aleksandr Khitrov

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