EPISTLE BY ROCA SYNOD OF BISHOPS ON SERGIANISM
The ROCA Synod of Bishops met in the Theophany Monastery outside of St. Petersburg May 22-24 and issued the following statement on Sergianism.
EPISTLE OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS TO THE GOD-LOVING FLOCK OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ABROAD ON THE SUBJECT OF “SERGIANISM.” Christ is Risen!
Reverend fathers and brethren in Christ! We, the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, having gathered in the Theophany Monastery of the St. Petersburg Diocese, welcome our flock in the name of Christ and address you with the following words of exhortation. These joyful days after Easter are overshadowed by the fifth anniversary of the tragic event of the ratification of the union of the New York Synod with the Moscow Patriarchate. We strongly reject this union and we reaffirm our commitment to the historical path of the Church Abroad, which has always condemned and rejected the concept and ideology of “sergianism.”
Historically, “sergianism” marks a complete system of relations in which the church hierarchy cooperates with a godless or openly atheistic power, not only for their own survival, but also for material, worldly benefits. Such a course of action taken by Met. Sergius, and with him all the episcopate and senior clergy of the MP, was always disguised since the Declaration of 1927 as an attempt to preserve the dogmatic and liturgical heritage of the Church, but was never expressed in clear dogmatic or canonical terms, remaining always a manifestation of “church politics.” However, this policy of making such an agreement affects the Christian way of life at its very foundation. It is in this sense, that the Confessors of Russia and authoritative fathers and teachers of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad understood the phenomenon of “sergianism”. We consider it necessary once again to remind our flock and those Orthodox who are trying to understand the unfortunate divisions in the Russian Church, how we understand the term “sergianism” and that we reject it.
a) We reject the idea that the current Moscow Patriarchia is supposedly
the only legitimate heir of the historic Russian Orthodox Church, “the Mother Church,” because this organizational structure was created in stages from 1927, then in 1943 in close cooperation and collaboration with the openly godless power through the brutal repression of all who disagreed with such an unnatural union of church and state.
b) We reject all the so-called Patriarchs of Moscow: Sergey, Aleksy I, Pimen, Aleksy II and Kirill who are (according to their own statements) the only legitimate heads of the ROC, through which the only way supposedly that the ROC relationship with the Universal Church is maintained.
c) We reject the thesis that, “whoever is not with the Patriarch, is outside the church,” as a vivid manifestation of patriarchal papacy.
d) We reject the very premise of cooperation of Christians and especially priests with any representatives of any godless secular power, when the latter try to impose their political beliefs on the Church, as well as the admissibility of bearing false witness in favor
of such a power and betraying one’s brothers in faith for the sake of pleasing it, no matter how this policy is excused by overblown words about the “special wisdom of Met. Sergius
e) we remind all that the “special wisdom” of historic “sergianism” was etched in history by the blood of the confessors, betrayed in the 1930s, and then after the Second World War, during the so-called repatriation of immigrants at different times. The “white lie” as a principle is rejected by us, not only in itself as a sin, but as the sin of the real betrayal of the victims who met their deaths – new
martyrs, confessors and other innocent victims of communist repression.
The political regimes of the former Soviet Union have mutated since the 1990’s and are no longer openly godless and have begun to seek religious support and
religious cover. The historic “sergianism” of Soviet times cannot manifest itself in the old forms of church policy under such conditions. But “sergianism” itself has mutated. Similarly, we cannot
accept the symphony of church-state relations of the official church and the secular government that has developed over the past 20 years, for the following reasons:
a) Historical “sergianism” of the Soviet era, as exhibited in all of
the foreign and domestic policies of the MP, is being whitewashed and justified fully and unconditionally in the MP’s church school of today and in the publications of the MP, while convicting completely all those who do not agree with “sergianist” policies and with attempts to make well-known historical figures out to be “sergianists”, but who never were. Raised on such historical lessons, the clergy and laity create particular conditions for the formation of church-state relations based on distortions of the Christian viewpoint on this subject that are already built into the foundation. These distortions already constitute a certain sort of “sacred tradition” of the MP and have the authority of the general church behind it, despite its contradiction in regard to the Tradition of the universal Christian Church and the Gospel itself.
b) The consequences of the education of such values, such as the loss of the spiritual freedom of the Church and material independence, are realized by very few in the
Moscow Patriarchia, though another value was generally affirmed, that of “for the good of the Church.” This includes the material well-being and privileged status of the senior clergy, personally and in a corporate sense, and for which the church’s blessing have been sold (on the basis of for everything and for all), as well as the issuing of church awards to just about any powerful political and financial leader, which inflicts great damage to the authority of the Church.
c) The pervasive secularization of the upper echelon of the hierarchy in the “neosergianist tradition” is perceived as a kind of necessity while covering up basic human greed, again, whether personal or corporate. The seizure of ROCOR property abroad has clearly shown the substitution of sinful greed for spiritual values in the MP. In the countries of the CIS, where the distribution of public revenues differs sharply, and social injustice and corruption reach the level of national disaster, a life of luxury is a sin and a heavy temptation for most people.
d) As a result of such an Orthodoxy, the faith is rapidly losing credibility in the community. Anti-Christian forces are increasingly becoming more prominent. This is clearly demonstrated by a series of programs on Russian television, articles in the press and on the Internet.
e) On the other hand there is the introduction of temptation resulting from the constant training
of false pastors by the MP and resistance brought about by the secularization introduced by sectarian beliefs. The low credibility of the secularized hierarchy is usurped by false elders and spiritual fathers with their unauthorized teachings and the suppression of individual followers.
Rejecting the church structure of the neosergianist policy of the MP, we are aware that in terms of personal freedom, this anti-evangelic system has not consumed all the clergy and especially the laity of the MP. Part of this church body, in the best of its ability and understanding, tries to resist this secularization and the shaming of the church, but with limited success. In such circumstances, we aver that our independent church status is justified by God in as much as we need to reveal a fundamentally different type of ministry and relationship with society and the state, an example of which was shown to us by the founding fathers of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, who preserved the evangelic spirit and bore the Orthodox witness before the heterodox world and thus preserved the freedom of their Church.
One of the most authoritative teachers of the Church wrote about the principle of the construction of the Church: “The main thing is unity, then secondly, freedom, and in all things – love.” We the bishops of ROCA are united as one in the categorical condemnation and rejection of “sergianism.” The forms of this judgment may be different, and here there is allowed a certain freedom of opinion. Without such freedom there is no Christian love, and without love there is no True Church. “Sergianism” sinned against Christ’s Truth and against the truth of Christ’s Love as well. Therefore, while rejecting “sergianism,” we must also save brotherly love as a Truth. This royal path which the Church Abroad has always trod is not a slippery slope of compromise, but the narrow path of following Christ and emulating Him. We call upon our God-loving flock to also follow this path.
Chairman of the Synod
Members of the Council:
Bishop Nikolay Bishop Nikon