On Monday, May 19 (New Style), we took the liberty of calling upon the new priest of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church in America, Fr Serguei Serjanov, who had recently left the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia-“Provisional Church Authority” Synod under Archbishop Agafangel of Odessa. We didn’t have many questions for him, since he was a new priest, but one question had to be answered in the face of previous receptions by Bishop Andrei (Maklakov) of Pavlovskoe, who resides in Elmwood Park, New Jersey.
We wanted to know if Bishop Andrei baptized him.
Or chrismated him.
Or ordained him.
The answer was, as we had guessed, in the negative. “ROCOR’s mysteries are recognized by ROAC,” the priest explained, possibly unnerved and perhaps defensive at a total stranger asking him about his reception. After all, he had been ordained in 2003, well before ROCOR joined with the Moscow Patriarchate. We here at NFTU would be the first to agree with Father Serguei. It would fit in with a general pattern of reception used in Russia since the ROAC’s inception in 1994, and its repeated position since 2000, and this very position of a unique economy applied to memebrs of the ROCOR was the reason for the estrangement of former Archbishop Gregory (Abu-Assaly) from the ROAC Synod in 2004.
The problem is that Father Serguei’s hierarch has chosen to alter this basic pattern arbitrarily for purposes unknown to anyone. We learned that one priest, no longer with the ROAC in America and who has asked us to remain anonymous, was rebaptized, rechrismated and reordained upon joining Bishop Andrei’s jurisdiction. He was baptized as a baby in the New Calendar Church five decades ago. He had been ordained a priest by then-Archbishop Hilarion in 1995–just weeks after the ROAC broke communion with the ROCOR, and years before declarations were even made on the reception of priests, not from the ROCOR, but from the Moscow Patriarchate.
The arguments the Bishop gave for such actions were somewhat strange. Arguing first that the baptism was invalid as it came from New Calendarists, he then took the unique position that somehow the priest in question was ordained in ROCOR without being received, even by confession; and that when he was ordained, he was still unbaptized. Any other position makes less sense. To say he was received before an invalid ordination (due to the late date) still would have made rebaptism superfluous. But the worst of this was that this policy was therefore being applied inconsistently. Ultimately, if one’s ordination was invalid in 1995, it was invalid in 2003.
In 2003, however, the ROAC made a unique decision concerning rebaptism, which led to the departure of Gregory (Abu-Assaly) from the Synod:
It is necessary to point out as especially egregious, aside from the numerous cases involving lay people (several tens of families), the case of Archimandrite Michael and the Orthodox mission which is headed by him on the island of Haiti, who had formerly belonged to the ROCOR. Desiring to unite to the Russian Church, Archimandrite Michael had entered into talks with His Eminence Gregory, but had received from him in answer to his inquiry that he could only receive him through baptism, after which all those who had been baptized by Archimandrite Michael would have to be baptized a second time, i.e. all of his parishioners in Haiti numbering several hundred people (despite the fact that all of these parishioners had been baptized in the ROCOR in strict accordance with Orthodox practices, i.e. by triple immersion). As a result, the case of the Orthodox mission in Haiti being received into the ROAC was postponed, and was only favorably resolved when Metropolitan Valentine was able to visit the USA personally.
From the very beginning that Archimandrite, now His Eminence, Gregory has been in the ROAC, it was pointed out to him more than once that reception of True Orthodox Christians from other Churches into the Russian Church was not to be accompanied by any kind of sacramental rite, let alone baptism, inasmuch as all forms of a sacramental nature (baptism, chrismation, confession) have been established only for receiving those into the Orthodox Church who formerly did not belong to Her at all. However, as time has shown, His Eminence Gregory ignored those instructions. In reality, to take such a position as that held by His Eminence Gregory, would be to completely deny the traditional practice of the Russian Church, and therefore deny that many thousands of Christians who were received into Orthodoxy by the Russian Church in this manner, are complete Christians. … Having all of this in mind, the pre-revolutionary Russian Church, as well as the ROAC today, never claimed that its own practice was the only one possible, but by the same token, also never recognized the practice of any of the other local Churches as the only one possible, reserving for itself the right to make decisions about such issues independently.“
Indeed, no decision was actually taken on the reception of those involved in the heresies of ecumenism and Sergianism– until 2008. To chrismate New Calendarists, and only after the promulgation of the document. The only advisable course for those who came from the ROCOR was confession.
We don’t expect, here at NFTU, for Bp Andrei Maklakov to listen. He has stated repeatedly that he is the Bishop, and he decides how to receive people as he wishes. However, for a Bishop of a
jurisdiction which has dealt so much with the pastoral matter of the reception of converts, this sort of irresponsible behavior from one to whom souls are entrusted is tragic. It is our hope that this new reception which has taken place shall follow the proper canonical forms promulgated at the ROAC Sobor, and that for once in the ROAC’s sad history in America, a Bishop will do what he agrees to do, and not simply what he feels like.