Summary Press Release of Synodal Action Against Gregory of Colorado

A Reiteration of the Letter of Metropolitan Valentine and a Response to the Arguments of Fr. John Claypool and the Dormition Skete’s Defenders
July 19, 2004
FROM THE INTERNET CESSPOOL
August 20, 2004

Summary Press Release of Synodal Action Against Gregory of Colorado

This is not an authorized translation. The official text in Russian can be found in Vertograd. NFTU

Translation of the Summary Press Release (“Protocol #48”)
Hierarchical Synod: 215 July 2004.

From the first session of the Hierarchical Synod of the Autonomous Russian Orthodox Church, which began in assembly hall the Monastery of the Deposition of the Robe of the Theotokos after the Divine liturgy at 12 o’clock with the singing of the “O Heavenly King”.

Present were:

1. Metropolitan Valentine, Chairman of the Hierarchical Synod

2. Archbishop Theodore

3. Archbishop Seraphim

4. Bishop Antony

5. Bishop Irinarch

6. Bishop Ambrose

The Hierarchical Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church considered the numerous complaints of clergymen and laymen of the Russian Orthodox Church, and as well as the complaints of members of other True Orthodox Churches, concerning the activities of the Most Reverend Archbishop Gregory (Abu-Assaly) of Denver and Colorado at the session, concerning the following:

1. The requirement of a Baptism for acceptance into the (A)ROC of True Orthodox Christians from other Churches.

2. Insubordination to the lawful orders of the Hierarchical Synod of the (A)ROC.

3. Intervention in church affairs outside his diocese and, in particular, reception of clergymen outside his diocese without the consent and without the knowledge of local church authorities.

4. Erratic and unreasonable reprisals of clergy subordinate to His Eminence.

Part of these complaints had already been transimtted by the Most Reverend Metropolitan Valentine to the Archbishop during his pastoral visit to the USA, due to what Metropolitan Valentine orally and in writing addressed to the Most Reverend Abp. Gregory with words of admonition and brotherly advice. However these words produced no fruit, and on the contrary, the Most Reverend Abp. Gregory responded to the Hierarchical Synod of (A)ROC by levelling charges against the address of the the Most Reverend Metropolitan Valentine.

Having considered the revelant facts, the Hierarchical Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has come to the following conclusions:

The Most Reverend Gregory’s activity during his entire stay in the bosom of the Russian Church has been marked by infringements of church discipline and, most inexcusably, the Holy Canons. Despite promises to the contrary repeatedly given by the the Most Reverend Gregory, this position not only has not been corrected, but as a whole has become progressively worse, until it has finally become intolerable.

If we were to speak only about the main and most insufferable violations of the Holy Canons on the part of the Most Reverend Gregory, they would consist of the following.

1. The Requirement of Obligatory Baptism of Those Accepted in (A)ROC, Including Those Who Were Already True Orthodox Christians

Numerous complaints concerning the Most Reverend Abp. Gregory involved his insistence on obligatory christening of those who joined the (A)ROC through him, even if these people were members of other True Orthodox churches earlier. Therefore, many Orthodox Christians could not join the Russian Church, or could do so only after extreme efforts spent bypassing an obstacle in the person of the Most Reverend Gregory. This especially concerns those Orthodox Christians who joined the True Church under the ROCOR up to her apostasy, and now have remained without the services of the Church.

Without going into the numerous cases of laymen (some tens of families), it is necessary to make note of an especially scandalous case: the case of Archimandrite Michael and the Orthodox Mission headed by him on island of Haiti. Wishing to join the Russian Church, Archimandrite Michael entered into negotiations with the Most Reverend Gregory, but was told in a reply to his overtures that that his parishioners in Haiti (though all these parishioners were baptized in strict conformity with orthodox form, in three immersions) could only be accepted through rebaptism of all those who were baptized by Archimandrite Michael, which numbered a few hundred in total. Similar requirements for the form of reception are infringements of Church discipline acceptable in the Russian Church. As a result, all discussion about the acceptance of the Orthodox Mission to Haiti in (A)ROC had been postponed, and it managed to be solved positively only when Metropolitan Valentine could visit the USA personally.

From the very beginning Archimandrite (now the Most Reverend) Gregory’s stay in (A)ROC, it was repeatedly specified to him that acceptance in the Russian Church of True Orthodox Christians from other Churches cannot be accompanied by any kind of “rite of reception” and certainly not rebaptism, as all kinds of forms (chrismation, repentance) are established only for reception in Orthodox Church of those who did not belong to it earlier. However, as has been shown over time, the Most Reverend Gregory did not heed such admonitions.

Actually, behind the Most Reverend Gregory’s position there is a radical denial of the traditional practice of the Russian Church and, hence, the denial of the fact that many of the thousands of Christians accepted thus in Orthodoxy by the Russian Church became Christians of the highest grade.

The Russian church always realized, that in relation to heretics and schismatics wishing to accept Orthodoxy, in various local churches there existed and still exists a varied practice of the application of strictness and economy, and even in the same local churches the practices historically varied. Such variety of practice can inevitably cause misunderstanding: however, as a whole, it is justified and never in the history of the Universal Church was there an epoch when a similar variety in application of economy in relation to the communities separated from Church did not exist. So, a variety of practices [are manifest] in the attitude of the reception of the same heretics and schismatics are mentioned in the 1st Canonical Epistle of St Basil the Great and 95th Canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council.

Understanding all this, the pre-revolutionary Russian church, as well as (A)ROC today, never asserted its own practice exclusively, but at the same time never counted as normative the practice of other local churches, reserving to itself the right to make independent decisions on such questions.

Not daring to bear judgements about validity of a measure of economy or strictness used in other True Orthodox Churches, the Russian Orthodox church simply accepts without question as True Orthodox Christians all of those who were considered as such in other True Orthodox Churches. In this case (A)ROC considers it necessary to trust judgement of the archpastoral counsel established in this or that True Orthodox church concerning disciplinary norms. However, recognizing the initial ecclesial order inside other True Orthodox Churches, (A)ROC cannot admit cases of infringement in its own house of the type of which the Most Reverend Gregory is guilty.

Regrettably, the Most Reverend Gregory has sinned not only against the developed practice of the Russian church and its internal discipline, but also against the most fundamental canons concerning Holy Baptism, namely, against Apostolic Canon 47 repeated and in canon 59 of Carthage) which rules that a “Bishop or priest, if on true having again baptize a baptized” is to be removed from the priestly dignity, “because of the mockery to the Cross and death of the Lord”. The Most Reverend Gregory, insisting on the necessity of baptism even for those who has received a correct baptism in three immersions in one of True Orthodox churches, has clearly acted as an enemy of the Holy Apostles.

To substantiate this position, the opinion was voiced (ostensibly on behalf of the whole Russian church) that onIy (A)ROC and the Kallinikite synod have the good fortune of the (true) Mysteries, whereas all the other churches of the world have disappeared.

The Most Reverend Gregory’s fanatical and most unjustifed position is not the position of the Russian church, and for the Most Reverend Gregory it served as the motivation for the grave sins heretofore stated, which solely upon their mention, are enough to call for canonical trial.

2. Insubordination to Lawful Orders of the Hierarchical Synod of the (A)ROC and its Chairman

Formal submission to the Hierarchical Synod of (A)ROC was required by the hierarchal oath given by the Most Reverend Gregory at his episcopal consecration. It is mandated by the Holy Canons, and helps determine the correct management of dioceses.

In case of the dioceses formed by (A)ROC on the American continent, it is necessary to mention that these are missionary dioceses, or, in canonical language , “in the barbarian lands”. That is why for such areas there is a special form of management determined in canon II of the Second Ecumenical Council, and this order differs in this and other canons in a number of aspects from the order of management of internal (regular) dioceses of the local churches.

So if, with reference to (internal) dioceses of local churches, the head of a local church has no right to interfere with internal affairs of a diocese and, in particular, to take away therefrom clergymen without the consent of local ruling bishop, concerning a missionary diocese this principle is not applied. Instead, according to canon II of the Second Ecumenical Council, “Churches of God, in the places of the barbarians, are to be ruled by force, as Ottsev hitherto observed”.

As examples of “barbarian episcopacies”, Balsamon (XII century) uses “Alans [Northern Caucasus], Russia and Drugya; for Alans belongs to the district of Pontius, and that of Russia to Thrace” (in the interpretation on Canon 28 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council). Now America is in the same postion as missionary territory relative to Russia, as in the XII century Russia was in relation to Byzantium, and, such a position was kept [in the former case] most likely until the XV century.

According to the literal sense of the canon of the Second Ecumenical Council, confirmed with the Byzantine interpreters Zonaras, Aristenus and Balsamon, the determining principles of management of a missionary diocese are established usages which should not conform with the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of a diocese on the part of other Bishops, and furthermore the First-Hierarch and the Synod. With reference to those who join (A)ROC on the American continent, “the established usage” is their submission to the Hierarchical Synod of (A)ROC, and the Most Reverend Gregory’s authority has the character of operative management, without the right to make final decisions, that is, such decisions which could not be considered as having extra-judicial character outside of the Synod of Bishops of the (A)ROC.

Therefore it is necessary to recognize as lawful the actions of Metropolitan Valentine in accepting the applications of former clergymen of diocese of Denver and Colorado concerning their withdrawal from under the omophor of Most Reverend Gregory, whereas it is no less correct to view the Most Reverend Gregory’s complaints concerning the actions of Metropolitan Valentine and the attempts to punish the clergymen in question as illegal.

The Most Reverend Abp. Gregory’s corresponding actions are in violation of Canon II of Second Ecumenical Council and therefore fall under interdict due to infringement of those Sacred Canons which speak about the necessity of the Bishop to submit to the Synod of Bishops (Ap. Can. XXXIV; Ant. IX); thus his actions fall under additional penalty, due to the infringements by the Bishop commiting the violation as violating his hierarchal oath.
3. Intervention in Church Affairs Outside the Diocese of Colorado

Advising no one [in the Synod], without permission and quite openly, the Most Reverend Gregory has taken off for Bulgaria where, accompanied by Archimandrite George, he has served the Divine liturgy and ordained a deacon.

It is necessary to remind all that those who joined (A)ROC in Bulgaria were in direct subjection to the Synod and never entered into the Most Reverend Gregory’s diocese. Therefore due to such actions in Bulgaria, the Most Reverend Gregory has brought spiritual disorder to church life in this country and has broken a number of sacred Canons, namely the following: Apostolic Canon XIV and Canon XIII of Ancyra (forbidding Bishops to pass from one diocese to another and receive people there without the consent of the Synod of Bishops or local Bishop), Canon XX of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, and Canon XI of Sardica (forbidding Bishops to teach nations in an another’s diocese), Canon XVI of the First Ecumenical Council, Canon XX of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, Canons LXV, IXC, CI of Carthage, Canon XV of Sardica (forbidding the reception of clergymen in another’s diocese without the consent of local Bishop), and also Apostolic Canons XIV and XXXV, Canon XV of the First Ecumenical Council, Canon II of the Second Ecumenical Council, Canon V the Fourth Ecumenical Council, Canons XIII, XXI, XXII of Antioch, Canons I-III of Sardica, and LIX of Carthage (forbidding a Bishop to use his powers in a diocese not belonging to him).
4. Erratic Behavior Towards Subordinate Clergy

Establishing a number of unreasonable requirements for his subordinate clergy, the Most Reverend Gregory tried to forbid some of the clergymen from the exercise of their holy priesthood for long periods of time, without explanation as to his reasons, and without a written decree.

The Hierarchical Synod has recognized as correct the actions of Metropolitan Valentine who has declared these prohibitions void. The Most Reverend Gregory’s actions in this case have been recognized as breaking Canon IV of the Seventh Ecumenical Council which forbids a Bishop to release somebody from the sacred service unreasonably, and in this case subjects the same punishment upon the one who would so unreasonably impose it on others.

It is necessary to repeat, that the present list of initial infringements of the Most Reverend Gregory is incomplete and is only an extraction from those materials which have been considered by the Hierarchical Synod of the (A)ROC.

The Russian Orthodox Church, in desiring to put such lawlessnesses to an end– immediately –on the part of the Most Reverend Gregory, removes from itself any responsibility for his current and future actions, leaving him to the judgment of God and his own conscience, and also warns all True Orthodox Christians in whatever Churches they may be, to refrain from dialogue with Most Reverend Gregory if he and his faction do not repent and correct themselves.
Therefore, the Hierarchical Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has determined:

1. To offer the Most Reverend Gregory of Denver and Colorado the opportunity to present a justification or to repent on each of the charges showed to him before the Hierarchical Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, then to have a separate judgment concerning his status in the Russian Orthodox Church.
2. In the event that the Most Reverend Gregory does not arrive in a week’s term:

To consider the Most Reverend Gregory as no longer part of the Russian Orthodox Church and to have no further dialogue in prayer with him, and to inform all clergymen and the laymen that have until now labored under his omophor to proceed in direct obedience to the Hierarchical Synod of the Russian Church.

CHAIRMAN OF THE HIERARCHICAL SYNOD:

VALENTINE, Metropolitan Suzdal and Vladimir

THE MEMBERS OF THE HIERARCHICAL SYNOD:

Archbishop Theodore

Archbishop Seraphim

Bishop Irinarch

Bishop Ambrose

Secretary for the Synod
Hieromonk Theophan

[Editor’s Notes: Bishop Anthony, while approving the decision later, was not able to sign at the session. Former Archbishop Gregory, although in Eastern Europe at the time in violation of a Protohierarchical interdict, refused to respond, referring to the charges in emails to his “flock” as “hurtful attacks from the Metropolitan”. After a wait of even longer than a week, he was subsequently was removed from the communion of the Church. NFTU]

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