V. Moss: On the Ecclesiastical Document, Emails With Bp Ambrose of Methone, & A TOC Major Synod?

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July 17, 2014

V. Moss: On the Ecclesiastical Document, Emails With Bp Ambrose of Methone, & A TOC Major Synod?

Contributed by Vladimir Moss with original title “Towards The Major Synod of the True Orthodox Church”. The original, as well as other articles by the author, is available by clicking here.

This month (June, 2014) has seen the appearance of a revised version of the document “The True Orthodox Church and the Heresy of Ecumenism” issued by the True Orthodox Churches of Greece and Romania and Metropolitan Agathangel’s “Russian Church Abroad”.[1] Although the present writer can detect no significant changes from its predecessor issued in March (apart from the unexplained fact that the True Orthodox Church of Bulgaria appears to have withdrawn its approval), it may be worth looking again at the two points that have caused controversy. The first is the lack of an explicit statement that the Churches of World Orthodoxy do not have the Grace of sacraments; and the second is the continued ambiguity surrounding the role to be played by the future “Major Synod” of the True Orthodox Church and its relationship to previous Local Synods of the True Orthodox Church.

 

The Question of Grace
     The dogmatic document in question (we shall call it from now on “the document”) is, on the face of it, very strong against the heresies of ecumenism and sergianism; and if its purpose were not simply to enunciate certain ecclesiological truths, but also to reunite the so-called “Cyprianites” or “Synod in Resistance” with the True Orthodox Church, then it would probably elicit little or no criticism. However, since Cyprianism has arisen, and needs to be repented of by its leading proponents, it needs to be specifically refuted and rejected in each of its main points – and this the document does not do. One of these points is that heretics, before their official condemnation at a Pan-Orthodox or Ecumenical “Unifying” Council, are still inside the True Church and have the Grace of sacraments, and that the present-day World Orthodox in particular still have the Grace of sacraments.

Now section VI, points 1-5 of the document effectively refutes this error in its general form. Thus footnote 36 to point VI.4 reads: “the Orthodox Church has never recognized the ontologically non-existent mysteries of heretics”. This is sufficient to absolve those who have signed this document (although we have never seen any signatures!) of holding the heresy of the Grace-filled nature of the sacraments of heretics in its general form.

      But what about the specific case of the heretics of contemporary World Orthodoxy? Here the document is more ambiguous, stating in point VI.6: “More specifically, with regard to the Mysteries celebrated in the so-called official Orthodox Churches, the True Orthodox Church, within the boundaries of Her pastoral solicitude, does not provide assurance concerning their validity or concerning their salvific efficacy”.
 
   As several people have pointed out, this statement stops short of saying that the World Orthodox do not have the Grace of sacraments. Thus Fr. Roman Yuzhakov writes: “The sharp anti-ecumenist rhetoric of the document should not mislead us: the grace-filled nature of the sacraments of ‘World Orthodoxy’ is, as before, not being denied; it is just that it ‘is not recognized with certainty… especially in relation to those people who are consciously in communion with syncretistic ecumenism and sergianism’. It is evident that this formulation is that invisible difference – invisible, that is, to the naked eye – between ‘Cyprianism’ and ‘the Bulgarian Old Calendarist confession’ which must now become the official doctrine of this union…”[2] Thus the former Cyprianites (if they are now only “former”) have conceded the principle that heretics have no Grace of sacraments, but appear to be continuing to fudge the issue with regard to the specific case of contemporary World Orthodoxy.

Now footnote 39 to point VI.6 declares: “’Provide assurance’: that is, assert as sure and indisputable, assert emphatically and absolutely, certify, guarantee. The meaning of this paragraph should be sought in conjunction with that of the preceding five paragraphs, and not in isolation.” Is this footnote asserting that the general principle asserted in the preceding five paragraphs should be seen as applying also to the specific case of the World Orthodox, so that the World Orthodox, too, must be considered to be deprived of the Grace of sacraments? Perhaps… And yet it is still not quite clear. For the refusal to provide assurance that the World Orthodox have Grace is not equivalent logically to the assurance that the World Orthodox do not have Grace. Clarity here could be provided very simply by stating: “The World Orthodox do not have the Grace of sacraments”. And yet nowhere is this stated, clearly and unambiguously, in any part of the document…

Some will argue that this is carping about minor details.  And again, if the purpose of this document were simply to enunciate certain ecclesiological truths and not to reconcile the Cyprianites with the Church, it would be carping. But since its purpose is precisely to reconcile the Cyprianites, while refuting Cyprianism, clarity on this point is absolutely necessary…

 

The Question of the Authority of Local Councils.
     Point VI.6 in its fullness declares: “More specifically, with regard to the Mysteries celebrated in the so-called official Orthodox Churches, the True Orthodox Church, within the boundaries of Her pastoral solicitude, does not provide assurance concerning their validity or concerning their soteriological efficacy, in particular for those who commune ‘knowingly’ [wittingly] with syncretistic ecumenism and Sergianism, even though She does not in any instance repeat their form for those entering into communion with Her in repentance, in anticipation of the convocation of a Major Synod of True Orthodoxy, in order to place a seal on what has already occurred at a local level.”
     This introduces the theme of the future “Major Synod” of the True Orthodox Church, which is the subject of the whole of the last, seventh section of the document. Evidently this idea of a future “Major Synod” is very important to the composers of this document. And this immediately puts us on our guard; for it is precisely the idea that Local, “Minor” Synods cannot expel heretics from the Church, but only Ecumenical, Pan-Orthodox or “Major” Synods (and, moreover, “unifying” ones that unite the Orthodox with the heretics), that constitutes the critical, central idea of Cyprianism, and the justification of its refusal to condemn the World Orthodox as outside the Church and deprived of Grace.

The seventh section of the document declares: “1. In the preceding twentieth century, True Orthodox Hierarchs, whenever this could be brought to fruition, issued Synodal condemnations, at a local level, both of ecumenism and of Sergianism, and also of Freemasonry.

     “2. By way of example, we cite the condemnations of ecumenism by the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in 1983, and also by the Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece in 1998; as well, the condemnation of Sergianism by the Catacomb Church in Russia, and also by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad at different times; and finally, the condemnation of Freemasonry by the Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece in 1988.

      “3. These Synodal censures, especially of the heresy of ecumenism, are assuredly important steps in the right direction towards the convocation of a General Synod of True Orthodox, which, with expanded authority, will arrive at decisions concerning the calendar innovation and syncretistic ecumenism, which contradicts the Gospel.

4. What is necessary today, on the basis of a common and correct confession of the Faith, is the union in a common Body of all the local Churches of the True Orthodox, for the purpose of creating the antecedent conditions for assembling and convoking a Major General Synod of these Churches, Pan-Orthodox in scope and authority, in order to deal effectively with the heresy of ecumenism, as well as syncretism in its divers forms, and also for the resolution of various problems and issues of a practical and pastoral nature.”

Now while there is nothing wrong with the idea of a “Major General Synod” on these lines – on the contrary: it is eminently desirable, – nevertheless the document’s condescending characterization of the earlier local Councils as “important steps in the right direction” is unacceptable. These Local Councils were much more than just “steps in the right direction”.  They themselves expelled the ecumenist heretics from the external organization of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church through the power of anathema granted to the bishops constituting those Councils as a result of their episcopal consecration.

We say “external organization” of the Church, because a heretic is cut off from the inner, mystical organism of the Church already before any Council is convened, immediately he utters his heresy “publicly and with uncovered head” (15th canon of the First-Second Council). But the fact that he has already been cut off from the Church inwardly, by the hand of the Lord, the Heavenly Bishop, needs to be proclaimed publicly by the earthly hierarchy of the Church, so that the people can break communion with him and take all necessary steps to protect themselves from his destructive influence. That is one of the major purposes of episcopal Councils, both big and small, Minor and Major, Local and Pan-Orthodox.

What the document appears to be insinuating is that these earlier Local Councils (such as the ROCOR anathema against ecumenism in 1983), which expelled heretics from the external organization of the Church, were in fact only “steps in the right direction” towards their expulsion, which will be accomplished only by the future Major Synod. Perhaps the composers of the document will protest that this is not so. But if it is not so, why this extreme emphasis on the future Major Synod and the condescending degrading of past Local Councils as mere “steps in the right direction”?

Let us take the vitally important ROCOR anathema against ecumenism of 1983. This was not a “step in the right direction” to the eventual, later expulsion of heretics from the Church. It proclaimed with quite sufficient authority (we must remember that it was led by Holy Hieroconfessor Philaret, Metropolitan of New York, whose relics are incorrupt) that the ecumenists were already outside the Church. A future “Major Synod” that affirmed that the ecumenists were outside the Church would not be adding anything essential to the earlier decision. It would be confirming it, “putting its seal” on the earlier decision, as the document puts it in VI.6, just as the First Ecumenical Council confirmed the decision of the Local Church of Alexandria expelling Arius from the Church. At most, we could say that the future Major Synod would be adding an extra authority to the 1983 decision (and to earlier anti-ecumenist decisions of Local Councils) insofar as it would be adding the voices of more bishops. As such this future decision would be highly desirable; but it would not add anything in essence to the prior decision.

It will be remembered that, in the years preceding ROCOR’s surrender to the Moscow Patriarchate in 2007, voices were often heard saying that no decision on the validity of the sacraments of the Moscow Patriarchate could be made until a “Major Synod” of all the bishops of the Russian Church in a liberated Russia were convened. This was not true; but it was a powerful tool in the hands of those who wanted to justify the Moscow Patriarchate and prepare the way for union with it. And the ecclesiology of the Cyprianites, with its well-developed theory of the effective impotence of smaller Councils, chimed in well with the idea that only a future Free Sobor of the whole of the Russian Church could finally decide the question of the status of the Moscow Patriarchate.

     In any case, would this future Major Synod have the authority to deal with the problems raised by the existence of the Moscow Patriarchate? No it would not! For the composers of this document speak only in the name of the True Orthodox Churches of Greece and Russia and the “Russian Church Abroad” under Metropolitan Agathangel. But Agathangel is not a member of the True Russian Church! Having first rejected all the bishops of the True Russian Church (of all jurisdictions) and then been rejected by them in turn, he is, strictly speaking, a schismatic from the Russian Church and cannot speak in her name. Indeed, he should rather be called a bishop of the Greek Church insofar as his hierarchy was created with the help of Cyprianite bishops with whom he remains in communion… So this future Major Synod would have to reorganize itself, divest itself of schismatics such as Agathangel, and enter into communion with the faithful bishops of the Russian Church, before its decisions could be seen as having authority for the Russian Church…
The Question of Repentance
     A striking aspect of the March, 2014 union is the absence of any public repentance on the part of the erring Cyprianite bishops. Moreover, two senior Cyprianite bishops – Chrysostomos of Etna and Cyprian of Orope – have issued statements that appear to say that they have nothing to repent of… And yet a group of bishops that has very publicly and ostentatiously broken communion with the True Orthodox Church of Greece, accusing it of having a false ecclesiology over a period of thirty years, and created false hierarchies of bishops both for Greece and for Russia, should surely need to repent publicly.

In order to try and answer this question to his own satisfaction, the present writer recently approached the Cyprianite Bishop Ambrose of Methone, and put to him the following questions:

“1. Do you repent of your participation in the schism created by Metropolitan Cyprian in 1984?

“2. Is it true, as has been reported, that a prayer of absolution for the sin of schism was read over you and your fellow hierarchs?

“3. Do you now renounce the view you once held that heretics remain sick members of the True Church until they have been cast out of the external organization of the Church by an Ecumenical or Pan-Orthodox Unifying Council in which the heretics themselves take part?

     “4. Do you now accept that Local Councils of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church can expel heretics from the external organization of the Church? In particular, do you accept the validity of the anathema against ecumenism of the Russian Church Abroad under St. Philaret of New York in 1983?

“5. Do you now accept that the Greek and Romanian and Bulgarian new calendarists are now, before the convening of any future Large Council, outside the True Church and deprived of the Grace of sacraments?

“6. Do you now accept that the other Local Churches of World Orthodoxy that take part in the ecumenist heresy are also now, before the convening of any future Large Council, outside the Church and deprived of the Grace of sacraments?

“7. What is your attitude to the other True Orthodox Churches that are not in communion with you? (I mean the main ones, including especially RTOC and STOC.)”

To which he received the following reply:-

“To 1 and 2, being of a personal nature, I will reply further down. 3-6 are covered by the latest ecclesiological statement, about which I do not feel that it for me to add or subtract anything; it replaces any statements made on the subject by our former Synod, and more particularly the “Ecclesiological position paper”, which was anyway presented as a thesis for discussion, not a dogmatic statement. I would only add that there are four small adjustments which were requested by our Romanian brothers at our meeting last week, and will be included as notes to the text; in a few days these will be ready for publication.

“As to 1, please forgive me, but I do not feel that it should be required of me to offer my repentance to Dr. Moss, but rather to my confessor!

“As to 2, though I do not know of any specific “prayer of absolution for the sin of schism”, it is true that following our reception at the joint Synod which finalized the union, a prayer of absolution was read by the Archbishop over those bishops of our former synod there present, that is Metropolitan Cyprian, Bishop Klimis and myself. I do not think there is anything secret about that.

“About 7, I cannot really offer any definitive statement. Perhaps Bishop Photios (to whom I send a copy of this letter) could be more helpful, as he was an observer on a personal level both of the contacts with the RTOC and of the separation of the now bishop Akakije.”

This reply tells us much about the real nature of the Kallinikite unia. On the positive side, some repentance appears to have been offered by three of the Cyprianite bishops, and a prayer of absolution read over them. But that leaves several more bishops who have not received absolution, not to mention Agathangel and his Synod. This suggests, first, that repentance for their schism was not presented to the Cyprianites as a condition of their union with the True Orthodox Church, but only as an option which a minority took up. Secondly, this repentance was never meant to be made public…

So is repentance for public schism really just a personal matter, as Bishop Ambrose claims? Of course, the present writer never thought that the bishop was required to offer repentance to himself, or to any other individual in the Church, but to the Church as a whole. For if the Church as a whole has been injured, then the Church as a whole needs to hear the repentance of the injurious person. And this for eminently practical and spiritual reasons. For if we – that is, all the Christians – do not know that a bishop has repented of his false opinions, it is prudent to continue to keep away from him…

But the most revealing part of Bishop Ambrose’s reply is his evasive refusal to give straight answers to the straight questions about whether he still confessed his Cyprianite errors. For what was to prevent him from giving a straight “yes” or “no” to questions 3-6? But instead he writes: “3-6 are covered by the latest ecclesiological statement, about which I do not feel that it for me to add or subtract anything; it replaces any statements made on the subject by our former Synod, and more particularly the ‘Ecclesiological position paper’, which was anyway presented as a thesis for discussion, not a dogmatic statement.”

However, as we have seen “the latest ecclesiological statement” does not answer any questions about the Cyprianite ecclesiology. Neither is any question raised specifically about any part of the Cyprianite ecclesiology, nor is Cyprian himself even mentioned! To one who did not know the recent history of the Church, the document gives no clue as to its purpose; he would not realize that any ecclesiological position, apart from the broader ecumenism of the World Orthodox, is being refuted, nor would he know in what that ecclesiological position consisted. True, it follows from the stricter parts of the document that the Cyprianite ecclesiology must be false. But that conclusion is not drawn explicitly; and, as Fr. Roman Yuzhakov has rightly pointed out, a loophole is provided enabling an unrepentant Cyprianite to sign the statement and yet justify himself in secretly – or, in the case of Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Etna, not so secretly – retaining his old opinions (or “theologoumena”, as the Cyprianites like to call them).

So the present writer suspects that Bishop Ambrose remains a Cyprianite at heart. Of course, Bishop Ambrose could very quickly prove him wrong by saying “yes” to questions 3-6; but he has declined to do that. Moreover, he claims that the original ecclesiological statement, which is more or less the same as the present, revised one, was simply “a thesis for discussion, not a dogmatic statement”! But if this is not a dogmatic statement, what is?! Everything about the statement, and the way it was presented as the basis of a union of Churches, gives it the appearance of an important dogmatic statement – but Bishop Ambrose wants us not to take it that seriously…

Well, if it’s just a thesis for discussion, then indeed we are not obliged to take it seriously as a statement of Bishop Ambrose’s position – which means that we are still in the dark about that position…

Conclusion

     “No compromise is permitted in matters of the faith”, said St. Mark of Ephesus. “For this reason one must flee those who preach compromises since they touch nothing which is certain, definite and fixed, but like the hypocrites, they vacillate between both beliefs and, giving way to one, they cling to another.” Clarity is more essential in dogmatic matters than in any other sphere of life, which is why the devil tries to oppose it by all means. The history of the Ecumenical Councils shows that literally hundreds of years of argument were required before clarity was achieved in Christology; and already many decades have passed in arguments among the True Orthodox about Ecclesiology. It was to be hoped that the document would provide the required clarity to bring to an end this long period of controversy; but it has not done that.

The reason for this is that a political element crept into the motivation behind its composition. It was designed, not simply to “hold fast the pattern of sound words” (II Timothy 1.13), expressing “sound doctrine, in order both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1.9), but as a stratagem for enabling the Cyprianites to be united with the True Orthodox Church without having to repent of their errors. This is not to say that no good can come of the present union. Nevertheless, the remark of Bishop Stefan of the Russian True Orthodox Church remains the most accurate summing up of the situation: “This reminds me of two corporations who have been going through litigation for many months, or even years. Then, through arbitration, they come to a settlement for an undisclosed dollar amount – with neither party admitting any wrongdoing”…[3]

     To repent or not to repent – that is the question. Considerations relating to the good of the Church as a whole may sanction various compromises or condescensions to human weakness. But just as in our personal lives, the sin that is not forgiven is the sin that is not repented of, so in the public life of the Church, there is no substitute for the public repentance of a bishop who has sinned publicly in matters of the faith. Otherwise, the problem will continue to fester and erupt again later in a still more dangerous form. For, as St. Basil the Great said, “[In the Church] one must get to the bottom of the problems, so as to eradicate the sickness from its very root.”[4]

 

June 29 / July 12, 2014.

Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

  • Symeon Reiziger

    Vladimir Moss makes some good points here.

  • Christian Orthodox

    Do the New Calendarists have grace? While the Old Calendarists are
    involved in Byzantine intrigues which even the Jesuits would be jealous of, the New Calendarists and innovationists are making Saints. http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/ (120.000 faithful pilgrims gathered to pray at the grave of Elder Paisios in Souroti)!!!

    Some of the Old Calendar “Synods” are simply cults which have nothing to do with Christ. They believe that they possess a papal infallibility giving them the right to ‘babble’ on with ecclesiastical matters pretending to imitate the Studites, Saint Mark of Ephesus or Saint Maximus the Confessor. They base their theology on dreams, visions and lies. They pride themselves on their ecclesiastical position, which they themselves do not understand. They set themselves up as Elders, Startsy, but are in reality spiritual quacks, charlatans.

    Their arrogance and audacity have no bounds. They do not fear God. Their conscience does not bother them that they separated families for over 30 years and that they continue to feed their ignorant and brainwashed followers that they have made no changes in their ecclesiastical stance. They have no regret that they have filled the Orthodox world with unworthy and schismatic Bishops.

    Where is Christ in all this? Is this the Church that they so hypocritically represent? Perhaps they should listen to the words of The Revelation of Saint John: Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love.
    Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first
    works; or else I will come to you quickly, and will remove your
    candlestick out of his place, except you repent (Revelation 2:4-5).

    Where is Christ? Where is the Church? Perhaps the New Martyrs who at this moment are confessing their faith in Christ especially in the Middle East represent the True Church? The confession of a 27 year old woman Mariam Ibrahim who confessed in an Islamic Court in Sudan: “I am a Christian, and I will remain a Christian” is enough to cover all the nonsensical Mumbo Jumbo of the the document in question?

    Souls are being lost; people are in need of Orthodox Spiritually Enlightened guides and not Jesuit priests. We have enough imposters thinking that the Body of Christ is a business corporation or a Boy Scout organization or a Vatican City.

    Dr Moss covers the facts well and the quote from Saint Basil the Great fits the situation perfectly.

    • Deacon Joseph @ NFTU

      “Dr Moss covers the facts well and the quote from Saint Basil the Great fits the situation perfectly.”

      Dr Moss would also consider you a heretic, as would most of the folks on this blog.

      Last warning. This is a True Orthodox site. Take your Sanidopolous elsewhere.

      P.S. Miriam Ibrahim is a Monophysite, though I daresay I would respect her heroic position more than some guy posting under a pseudonym condemning True Orthodox on the Internets.

    • Deacon Joseph @ NFTU

      I’m restoring your post, lest anyone think it was done out of a desire to control the discussion. I found what you wrote simply noxious.

      This was “Elder” Paisos’ view of the Old Calendarists. He sounds like a typical new calendarist, sorry.
      http://pemptousia.com/2011/11/elder-paisios-of-mount-athos-on-the-%E2%80%9Cold-calendarists%E2%80%9D/

      He also had a few false prophecies, I may add:
      http://www.hotca.org/orthodoxy/orthodox-awareness/331-the-reading-is-from-the-false-prophecy-of-paisios

      Again, I’m not going to point to this or that person and say he’s an elder or not an elder. But maybe we should be more sober in our thinking, particularly among the living.

      There are people in the Greek Archdiocese waiting to “make” Elder Ephrem a “Saint”.

      That’s terrifying. Orthodox properly used to wait until a the generation that knew him had past, 100 years even, before the addition to the calendar.

      This WSJ article, painful to read, sounds like the movement is disturbingly cultist:

      Some of the elder’s reported remarks hint at
      dark conspiracies—among them that the world is ruled secretly by a
      cabal of five people. He also predicted national triumphs for Greece,
      saying that Greeks would defeat Turkey, rule Constantinople and take
      part of Albania.

      “Holy people like Elder Paisios are born once in a thousand years,” said
      Nikolaos Zournatzoglou, who has compiled three books of the elder’s pronouncements. *”He was a gift from God and the Virgin Mary for humanity.”*

      In Souroti, about 20 miles from the northeastern Greek city of
      Thessaloniki, busloads of pilgrims arrived one Saturday recently to see
      the elder’s grave. Young and old, they prayed and took pictures. Some
      plucked a leaf of basil from a plant growing near the simple cross at
      his head.

      Afterward in a gift shop in the basement of the rough-hewn stone church, visitors bought postcards, plaques with images of Elder Paisios and books by and about him, along with icons, crosses and other religious paraphernalia.

      “There’s a lot of uncertainty now. We don’t know what is going to happen,” said Anastasia Constantinou, a waitress visiting the shrine who said her family has had to cut back on meat, on driving their car and on other normal activities as their income has fallen amid the downturn.

      “People find consolation in faith,” Ms. Constantinou, 32, said. “Even though
      everyday life is difficult, *Paisios gives strength to people. He helps
      them hold on.*”

      http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324469304578143271912956476?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424127887324469304578143271912956476.html

      • Jonathan Gress

        I agree that the Ephraimites are a cult and I’m dubious about the whole “new calendar saints” phenomenon. But I’m not sure it is the rule to wait until the saint’s entire generation has passed before canonization. What about St Glicherie, who was canonized just a few years ago even though many who knew him are still around? Or St Philaret the Confessor? Or even St John Maximovich? The last case might support the general idea of waiting longer, since Abp Anthony of Los Angeles, who knew him in life and didn’t care too much for him, by all accounts, refused to accept the Synod’s canonization and forbade his churches from showing icons of St John while he remained bishop.

        • Deacon Joseph @ NFTU

          It’s not a hard and fast rule at all. It’s a practice that the Church doesn’t automatically accept wholesale the private veneration of believers, but performs a complete investigation into the life and sanctity of the reposed in question. People with personal interests try to corrupt the process. That’s why an investigation leading to a judgment of glorification often takes years.

          This process is greatly damaged, actually, by the Internet, where now such parties, rather than humbly and locally venerating saints unofficially in the local Church, are now spreading untested, uninvestigated venerations far and wide.

          • Theophan

            In response to ‘Christian Orthodox’ immediately above, I would think it might be useful to consider the ‘beatifications’ and ‘canonizations’ of the Vatican II faciltator (John 23) and the ‘great’ Vatican II propagator (John Paul II of Assisi fame) in short order (really, just a few years)… the point being that if you need ‘saints’ to bolster your public image and to provide a kind of ‘untouchable’ proof that innovation (parading as reform) and ecumenism (parading as ‘unity’) are good and ‘official’ and all that… well, I guess what’s good for the goose (Rome) is good for the gander (Constantinople and world orthodoxy). The two seem to be in convergence anyway, right? By this I mean, you both seem to be throwing stones from the same quarry.
            I was an adherent of the papal throne for nearly a quarter of a century (of both modernist, and at the end, traditionalist bent)… up close and personal. What I learned during those inexpressibly painful years, has had great application as I have had to dodge the stones, yet again, as I made my way through “world orthodoxy” (a most unfortunate oxymoron), to the true Orthodoxy of those you excoriate as schismatic, who in fact are emboldened and surrounded by numberless Saints, “a cloud of witnesses” (martyrs)… and this makes them, imho, a majority.

            Back to topic, I found and interesting old photo (1979 in Jordanville) I hope it is OK to share (below). (You’ll need a magnifying glass! couldn’t get it to upload larger??)

            At the back left of the group in the photo is then Fr. Chrysostomos of Etna talking to then Fr. Hilarion (Kapral). The photo was taken by then Fr. Auxentios (later Archbishop Auxentios)… and in the front center is St. Filaret the New-Confessor… far right front row, Bishop G. Grabbe of blessed memory; Metropolitan Cyprian to St. Philaret’s right. Bishop Lavr next to Bishop Grabbe.

            The Saint in the middle (Metropolitan Filaret) and the man behind the camera (then) Fr. Auxentios have had much to do, through God’s unfailing grace, with where I have found ‘true’ refuge as of today. There are others in this photo who’s decisions and motives and actions and ‘ecclesiologies’ have caused me and my dear wife, and others, much pain… very much pain, like in my old RCC days… so again, Geese and Ganders and sadness and poorly hurled rocks… and pictures, and thousands of words.

          • Christian Orthodox

            This picture shows only a small part of the story of a glorious past when the words exchanged by the celebrants of the Divine Liturgy, “Christ is in our midst, He is and shall be,” had meaning. It does not show the schisms,divisions and betrayal which took place after.

            Today we, the clergy, are worthy of Saint Symeon the New Theologian’s words:

            They (the bishops) unworthily handle My Body and seek avidly to dominate the masses…They are seen to appear as brilliant and pure, but their souls are worse than mud and dirt, worse even than any kind of deadly poison, these evil and perverse men (Hymn 58)

          • Theophan

            Christian Orthodox wrote: ” It does not show the schisms,divisions and betrayal which took place after.”

            I know… it’s a still shot.

            Christian Orthodox wrote: “Today WE,THE CLERGY, are worthy…”

            I suppose, then, you are entitled to clerical errors, as well…

            Labors call,

            Theophan

          • Christian Orthodox
          • Deacon Joseph @ NFTU

            Our intercessions say “heal the schisms of the Churches”. This is nothing new, so I’d appreciate you not blaming True Orthodox for it, thanks.

          • HmkEnoch

            If you ever read Bp. Gregory’s letters, especially on the matters after the 1983 Anathema they are somewhat revealing. Although it seems he came to a much harsher conclusion (seemingly????) by 1994, it was a little bit different in the years immediately after 1983. In one place he replies to the criticisms of Abp. Anthony of Geneva who, for obvious reason we all know, did NOT like the Anathema, but, interestingly, he had to deal with Abp. Anthony of San Francisco who agreed in substance with the anathema intention, but, believed it was written so generally and vaguely as to condemn the Russian Church Abroad!

          • HmkEnoch

            True!

      • Christian Orthodox

        I am sorry that my reference to Elder Paisios was not clear and thank you for providing additional information which will serve to inform your readers. Neither am I worthy to judge the saintliness of someone, but they have their words and writings which will be their judge. I realize
        that the Patriarch of Constantinople, following the example of his brother “Pope” Francis, is in the process of sanctifying people who supporttheir ecumenical heresy. Most of the so-called elders, who supported and support the actions and ecumenism of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the New Calendar “Church”, mainly of Mount Athos and other parts of world were and are under delusion (πλάνη). It was my hope to instill the seriousness of the situation that while we Traditional Orthodox concern ourselves with Major Synods, documents, translations, divisions, the apostates and innovationists gain strength by proclaiming saints, those elders who supported their heresy and serve their clandestine goal of a One World Religion. Only be aware that there exist True Orthodox Metropolitans who, unfortunately, consider Elder Paisios as a saint and encourage their spiritual children to read his writings as well as those of Elder Ephraim of Arizona.

        I also ask forgiveness if my message seems obnoxious to you, but nothing can be more nauseating than people playing the role of Bishops or spiritual leaders and use their authority to the detriment and humiliation of the Faith and their followers.

        I feel honored if I am considered a heretic for my views, because it is time that we put Christ backinto the Church. The Church is Christ. It is not Russian, Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian, Romanian; it is not Eastern. The Church of Christ is not an official religion blessed by emperors, tsars, prime-ministers. The clergy are not civil servants. It is not a cult founded on guru type spiritual fathers. It is not a Church of
        Ancient Greek Philosophy, Byzantine fairy-tales, or the blood thirsty Tzars of a ‘Holy’ Russia, nor of gold-plated icons. The Church is triumphant in Her martyrs, in the humble Christ-loving people who fulfill His commandments, in a hierarchy that has a Christ-centered conscience, the mind of Christ.

        • Deacon Joseph @ NFTU

          While I’m certainly not going to answer your last paragraph, as it’s a giant straw man and most of us here understand this, one thing you wrote concerns me:

          “Only be aware that there exist True Orthodox Metropolitans who,
          unfortunately, consider Elder Paisios as a saint and encourage their
          spiritual children to read his writings as well as those of Elder
          Ephraim of Arizona.”

          If this is true the who and the what are of paramount importance for the sake of the people. If you are not simply a partisan, rather than keep that information to yourself, you — and we– would be better served telling us who they are

          I am ok with being called anything but a heretic. The rest rubs right off.

          • Christian Orthodox

            I will have to take a blessing from Matushka to answer your question. However, the time will come.

            But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. (2Timothy 2:16)

            For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. (2Timothy 4: 3-5)

            I sincerely ask your forgiveness and thank you for permitting to participate in the NFTU forum.

            http://facingislam.blogspot.com/2014/07/st-nikolai-velimirovitch-lord-bless-my.html

          • Raphael

            Well, who are these True Orthodox Metropolitans who, unfortunately, consider Elder Paisios
            as a saint and encourage their spiritual children to read his writings
            as well as those of Elder Ephraim of Arizona? I think many of us are interested to know. Or you can tell us your Matushka did not give a blessing to reveal this.

        • Jason

          “Most of the so-called elders, who supported and support the actions and ecumenism of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the New Calendar “Church”, mainly of Mount Athos and other parts of world were and are under delusion (πλάνη).”

          None of the Elders that the Patriarchate of Constantinople have glorified or is preparing to glorify supported the ecumenism of the Patriarch of Constantinople. All were critical of this ecumenism but they were also in agreement that to join the various “TOC” or “GOC” groups would be to leave the Church.

  • Fr. Ephrem

    A potential weakness:

    Vladimir Moss writes, “[Bishop Ambrose] claims that the original ecclesiological statement, which is more or less the same as the present, revised one, was simply ‘a thesis for discussion, not a dogmatic statement!'”

    Whereas Bishop Ambrose actually said: “[The new ecclesiological document] replaces any statements made on the subject by our former Synod, and more particularly the ‘Ecclesiological position paper’, which was anyway presented as a thesis for discussion, not a dogmatic statement.”

    Bishop Ambrose is more likely referring to the famous “Ecclesiological Position Paper” penned by the elder Cyrpian, which was the basis of the Cyprianite ideology, and not the new ecclesiological document which is the basis for the new unia. This changes the meaning of his statement considerably.

    The point about the Agafangelites is well put, and it remains, in my opinion, the biggest question of all.

    • Deacon Joseph @ NFTU

      “Bishop Ambrose is more likely referring to the famous “Ecclesiological
      Position Paper” penned by the elder Cyprian, which was the basis of the
      Cyprianite ideology, and not the new ecclesiological document which is
      the basis for the new unia. This changes the meaning of his statement
      considerably.”

      Yes, but that interpretation stretches the borders of reality. That was their central thesis for their separation: their previous Synodal name “Synod in Resistance” begged the question “in resistance to what?” Hence the position paper. For 30 years their position was never “hey, look at this great paper we wrote, let’s have a discussion”– it was “this is what we believe”. So while Moss may be technically wrong on that point, your analysis may have actually revealed something stranger still!

  • Thymoleon

    “…Of course, the present writer never thought that the bishop was required to offer repentance to himself, or to any other individual in the Church, but to the Church as a whole…”

    A Church to which the writer in question does not belong and which he abandoned and betrayed…

    Unfortunately, we can’t even apply to Moss the typology of the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, simply because Moss himself is accusable of sectarianism…

    • Deacon Joseph @ NFTU

      I believe he means a public apology….

      • Thymoleon

        Who represents the Church? Surely it is the hierarchs rather than Moss. Right? And to the extent that they made their confession in Synod, they made it to the Church. To which Church? To the Church of Greece, which is the catholic Church that resides in Greece.

        • Deacon Joseph @ NFTU

          But the point Moss is making is that there was no formal repentance and that he’s convinced based on Bp Ambrose’s writing that he feels there was nothing to repent of.

          I watched a priest come from the Moscow Patriarchate to the ROCOR once before. He was asked to go to the solea and repent to the people of schism. As I understand it, formal repentance for public schism as a hierarch is not the same as a layperson confessing the sin of schism. I could be wrong.

  • Stephanos Karavas

    As much as I appreciate Mr. Moss’s unrelenting vigilance in matters of the faith evident in his writings, I believe he extrapolates more from the ecclesiastical document than is warranted.

    On his first point related to the grace of the pseudo-sacraments of World Orthodoxy, the document plainly states that the True Orthodox Church does not provide assurance of their validity. This isn’t tantamount to anything other than admitting the known reality that God is capable of transcending His own Church’s ecclesiology and imparting grace on an individual basis to certain members of a schismatic or heretical synod who perhaps “in ignorance” participate in the mysteries of a synod outside the True Church. This is divine discretion and economia, which is obviously not made known to man or the Church but is solely at God’s behest. It would seem more likely that VI.6 is accounting for this possibility.

    The aforementioned explanation makes all the more sense given that the rejection of the mysteries of World Orthodoxy that Moss desires in plain writing can be found in said form two paragraphs up in section VI.4: “The Holy Orthodox Church has never recognized—in an absolute sense and, as it were, from a distance—either by exactitude or by œconomy, mysteries performed outside Her, since those who celebrate or who partake of these mysteries remain within the bosom of their heretical or schismatic community.”

    Moss’s second point is relating to the convocation of a Major Synod to place a seal on what has been done on the local level. This is by no means a negation of what has been done on the local level, and it neither necessarily connotes the inferiority of the local councils. As Moss has pointed out in other articles he has authored, this would be tantamount to a softening of the anathemas placed on Roman Catholics and Protestants by local councils, which by no means is the case. This document, if anything, reaffirms in its points the validity of the previously past local anathemas that Moss enumerates and even more, including the GOC’s rejection of the possibility of grace within the New Calendar Church per that synod’s encyclicals of 1935, 1950, 1974, and 1991 in accordance with the First Canon of St. Basil the Great. What ought to be clear is that this ecclesiastical document that has been co-authored and approved by three prominent Traditionalist Orthodox Synods is declaring the collective intention of so many Traditionalists worldwide, which is the convocation of an even more prominent council – “a major synod” – to heap more prominent and reaffirming condemnation upon Ecumenism and Sergianism. Moss has written himself that the anathemas of many Ecumenical Councils were essentially more prominent reaffirmations of previously placed local anathemas on the given heresies. The objective of such a major synod would obviously be the same as the end – dispelling any doubt as to the ecumenical force of these local condemnations. Perhaps even the traditionalist-minded World Orthodox would be edified enough by such a council that it could prompt an exodus from heretical synods into the True Orthodox Church.

    The ultimate point I would like to stress is that I believe Moss is being preemptive, hawkish and perhaps taking too many deductive liberties from the plain writing in the document. Having spoken and corresponded personally with a number of GOC bishops from the U.S. and Greece on this matter, and having raised Moss’s concerns to them personally, I can attest to the fact that there is no hidden Cyprianite agenda here. This union is still very fresh, and there is still much work to be done. The important thing is that this document constitutes a thoroughly and truly Orthodox work and a milestone of sorts given who the collective signatories were and the occasion of union. Mr. Moss should revisit this subject in a few years, or perhaps a decade, and then draw his conclusions. We may be used to 21st century communication, but we mustn’t forget that the Orthodox Church in matters of reconciling heretics and/or schismatics approached these matters with great delicacy, discretion and even gradualism. This document is an important work and contains no errors within it, and unfortunately for Mr. Moss, I believe his extrapolations must remain his own and not truly reflective of any real conspiracies.

    • GOI

      Stephanos – have you spoken with Metropolitan Chrysystom of Etna? How do you explain the interview with B. Ambrose?

      • Stephanos Karavas

        I have not spoken with any of the bishops from the former SiR. I have spoken with Met. Demetrius of America, Met. Chysostomos of Attica and Voiotia, and Met. Gerontios of Piraeus. They all expressed that, both in their deliberations leading up to the union, and at the actual hierarchical concelebration and its appended events, the bishops of the former SiR came in the sincerest repentance for having created a schism. This was evident in their demeanor and in their verbal expression. According to the aforementioned bishops, the consensus among the newly reconciled bishops was that the hierarchs of the former SiR were truly repentant for their ecclesiological innovation and creation of a schism therefrom.

        What V. Moss seems to be seeking is a public spectacle of repentance, perhaps in written form, for his own and other commentators’ digest. The problem is that the Orthodox Church is not a governmental institution that is required to provide transparency to external persons or bodies, akin to what NGO’s would demand of certain governments they investigate. For one reason, or perhaps many, a written confession of schism was not required of the former SiR bishops, and that was a pastoral call made by the GOC of Greece. If they had preached heresy, that would be a different story, but by his own admission in other writings of his, Moss concedes that the SiR’s ecclesiology cannot be considered heretical. The responsible bodies, in their superior knowledge of the “situation on the ground”, deemed it unnecessary for a written open confession to be made according to V. Moss’s liking.

        As for the interview, there is nothing to explain other than the self-evident fact that Bishop Ambrose did not feel compelled to fully address Moss’s line of questioning, which is within the Bishop’s prerogative. Moss doesn’t even venture to draw anything concrete from the interview, he stipulates that it is merely his suspicion that Bp. Ambrose is a closet Cyprianite at heart. I would say that even this suspicion is misplaced and misinformed, for how can he know “the heart” (Moss’s word choice) of a bishop whom he has only maintained a superficial correspondence? Moss has a track record of historically never placing his stamp of approval on any union forged within Traditionalist Orthodoxy, and by his own admission, he confines his convictions to suspicions and extrapolations (tenuous, at best).

        The most cursory glance at the various historical instances in which heretics or schismatics have been reconciled into the Church will yield the reality that such matters are handled very delicately along variable timelines. The histories of the Greek TOC and ROCOR over the past century should be evidence enough that Old Calendarism is rife with personality conflicts and clashes, and all the more sensitivity and caution is due to instances such as the historic union this year. What is evident beyond dispute is that the deliberations and meetings leading up to the union were numerous, rigorous, and transparently announced in a timely manner by the GOC synod. There is every reason to believe that this union is genuinely Orthodox, especially given the testimonies by the three aforementioned bishops and the True Orthodox positions expressed in the ecclesiastical document. The healing process will undoubtedly take time and even experience bumps in the road, but it is driven by True Christian union in Truth and Spirit, and no amount of conspiratorial conjecture can diminish that. Unfortunately, Moss is grasping at straws again while missing the bigger picture and selectively constructing and framing his own.

        • Fr. Ephrem

          Mr. Karavas — Thank you for your informed comments.

          Have you spoken with any of the bishops about the inclusion of the Russian group under Metropolitan Agathangel in the recent union? It is conceivable that the former SiR bishops were actually repentant and simply received by the rite of repentance, but it is difficult for us to see how this logic applies to Agathangel’s group. I am wondering if you have spoken with anyone about this, as you seem well-informed.

          • Thymoleon

            In contrast to former the SiR bishops in Greece, the Synod of Bishops under Metropolitan Agafangel are the hierarchy of an autocephalous Orthodox Church. The Church of Greece has no jurisdiction over them. They are not answerable to Athens. The Greek Synod could not ask anything more of them than to sign on to the Ecclesiological Statement. The Greek Synod recognized them as the canonical successors to the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia established by Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky.

          • Fr. Ephrem

            I think that Mr. Karavas’s opinion that the Greeks and Romanians should look into Metropolitan Agathangel’s past is correct.

            Thymoleon, I do not understand how one can say that Agathangel’s group is the canonical successor of ROCOR, since their entire hierarchy (excepting the Metropolitan himself) was consecrated by the SiR bishops, and this was during the time of the SiR’s now self-acknowledged schism. I hope very much that your opinion does not reflect the position of the GOC-K and her sister churches. Of course, there are other problems with this group, which are broadly acknowledged. These problems were also acknowledged by the GOC-K, it seems, until just recently.

          • Jean-Serge Katembue

            If the synod of Agathangel is the legitimate continuator… It would mean that ROCOR-Lavre was canonical after the strange affair of forced, non-forced resignation of Metropolitan Vitaly (plus abduction included), that during this time, its communion with cyprianists was fine… The strangest thing on the Russian affair is that RTOC and GOC-K had been negotiating for a long time and the thing failed due to the Serbian affair. So, it seems that GOC-K was convinced that RTOC canonical and suddenly, it is ROCOR-A. These are the first questions that would come to my mind.

          • Thymoleon

            In a normal world, regularizing the relations between Orthodox Christians would be considered a joyous event. It this case, however, it is the rivalry between the various ROCOR splinter groups that has caused the most noise and discontent.

            I’m not sure anyone can really sort through all of the irregularities and inconsistencies of each of the ROCOR splinter groups and come to some kind of conclusion that would please everyone.

            In an attempt to establish greater unity among the TOC anti-ecumenist churches world-wide, the Greek Synod approached the topic much in the same way as Alexander did the Gordian knot.

            If one observes carefully, I think he will see that the Greek Bishops applied the same criterion for establishing intercommunion with both RTOC and ROCOR(A): that is, a shared ecclesiological posiiton.

            The dialogue between the Synod and RTOC had the purpose of moving the RTOC toward the ecclesiology of the Greek Church, which is that ecumenists are outside of the Church. If one remembers, RTOC’s line was originally a variation of Cyprianism.

            The dialogue ended before the Serbian Affair. It ended because of an internal crisis in the Greek Church caused by the duplicity of certain RTOC bishops regarding their baptism. The Greek Bishops could not sacrifice the unity of the Greek Church in an attempt to establish unity with the RTOC. The net gain would have been zero. The Serbian Affair put the seal on a fait accompli.

            From my perspective, if one were to apply the principle of “Ockham’s Razor” (the principle that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected), ROCOR(A) has the least complex and fewest of canonical problems among the Russian jurisdictions.

            Agafangel’s communion with Laurus posses no problem really in that he broke communion with Laurus when Laurus established communion with the MP. Recognizing the ordinations of ROCOR(A) bishops (in which the Greek Cyprianites *assisted*) posses no problem after the recognition and reconciliation of the Cyprianites themselves to the Synod. (Chronologically, that’s how it happened: first the Cyprianites were regularized, then communion was established with Agafangel).

            From the Greek perspective, the ball is now in the Russian court to restore the unity of the Russian Church. They will respect whatever economies Metropolitan Agafangel’s Synod wishes to apply.

          • Fr. Ephrem

            To summarize:
            1.) The former SiR bishops were (at least) in schism
            2.) They were received in repentance for schism and their orders were regularized
            3.) The Agafangelites (excluding Agafangel himself) were consecrated by the SiR bishops during their period of schism
            4.) The Agafangelites were NOT received in repentance and their orders were NOT regularized

            What are we to conclude, except that the Agafangelites have expressed and feel no compulsion to express any kind of repentance for their well-known acceptance of the Cyprianite heresy? In which case, how can they be regarded as the true Russian Church?

            There are two possibilities, it seems. Either a) the Agafangelites were accepted into communion prematurely, in which case it was a mistake that needs to be corrected, or b) the GOC-K does not regard Cyprianism as an unacceptable position, in which case all of the critics will have been justified in their fears.

          • Jean-Serge Katembue

            When Metropolitan (then bishop Agathangel) was in communion with Metropolitan Lavre, and member of his synod, he was also in communion with the Serbian patriarchate (hum)… and with the cyprianites at the same time. So much for clearesg canonical position.

            RTOC had already a non cyprianite position before entering in conversation with GOC-K. In fact, when RTOC declared officially they were condemning cyprianism, those with a cyprianite mind moved to ROCOR-Agathangel, like the parish in Lyon (France), because they do not accepted the position there is no sacramental grace in world orthodoxy.

          • Thymoleon

            According to such logic, all of the ROCOR groups have a problem of apostolic succession since Vitaly was in communion with Belgrade in the 1980s and 1990s. If so, this would mean that St. Meletios of Antioch too had invalid orders because he was ordained by Semi-Arians and signed the Homoian formula in Seleucia in 359, and yet was never regularized by cheirothesia by the Nicenes. Your point is untenable.

            So in your opinion, was the Church of Romania in schism and apostasy and their orders invalid simply because they were in communion with the SiR? If yes, this would mean that the Church of Rome too fell into schism and apostasy in the 4th century when they ordained Paulinus in 362, and maintained communion with the anti-Meletian Eustathians. This point, too, is in untenable.

            Also, does the Church have only one method of reconciliation and regularization, or can it employ a variety of methods? Is the Church bound always to do a cheirothesia? What is the purpose of cheirothesia vs. anacheirotonia (reordination)? Can a Synod not decide to receive, to reconcile, or to regularize by confession of faith and concelebration? Is the Church bound to such a narrow and inflexible scholasticism as you suggest?

            The RTOC began their move to the “right” in order to facilitate their dialogue with the Church of Greece … whose recognition they needed to establish their legitimacy ahead of the other Russian jurisdictions.

          • Jean-Serge Katembue

            “Can a Synod not decide to receive, to reconcile, or to regularize by confession of faith and concelebration?” Yes

            “The RTOC began their move to the “right” in order to facilitate their dialogue with the Church of Greece …” Which proofs do you have of this?

            In terms of dubious origin, ROCOR-A is the most dubious one because it is the last one to break clearly with world orthodoxy and after that kept on professing cyprianism. ROAC and RTOC were out of this quagmire long before. ROAC was never really in communion with Cyprianism, RTOC comes from ROCIE that had condemned cyprianism. ROCOR-A is at the opposite cumulating the bad acquantainces in its history (ROCOR-Lavre and his abduction attempt against Vitaly, which indicated things were deeply rotten there, ordination by the Cyprianists, real cyprianist mind within the faithfuls) But Metropolitan Agathangel willing to be the boss preferred to create a new synod with the help of the dubious cyprianists rather than discuss of unity with other Russian bishops, also partly because he was cyprianist.

            As for the Romanians, nobody never knew what they thought.

          • Thymoleon

            Thank you for conceding the point.

            Let me ask this: How many ROAC, RTOC, or ROCiE bishops were ordained after an undisputed, regular election? But let us not begin this discussion…

            My sources are GOC clergy in America that had and have ties to the Tikhonites as well as Greek bishops involved in the dialogues.

            If Agafangel had a “real cyprianist mind”, then his signing the Ecclesiological Statement is progress indeed.

            Romanian pastoral practice was well known.

          • Jean-Serge Katembue

            “Let me ask this: How many ROAC, RTOC, or ROCiE bishops were ordained after an undisputed, regular election? But let us not begin this discussion…” Many. Valentin of Suzdal in the time of ROCOR and the new parishes in Russia, Barnabas of Cannes and Lazar of Odessa the same. These are only examples.

          • Stephanos Karavas

            Father Ephrem, thank you for your kind words. Unfortunately, I know little to nothing about ROCOR-A. I have read a little about Agathangel’s synod and his past history through Vladimir Moss’s writings on ROCOR (specifically, in his book entitled “A History of the Fall of ROCOR 2000-2007”), and Moss does not take kindly to Met. Agathangel, specifically his unilateralism in the episcopate. I haven’t yet assessed Moss’s writings on the subject in relation to other commentators though. That said, I think what Thymoleon says below is completely valid. I believe that perhaps the Greek and Romanian TOC’s need to take a deeper look into Met. Agathangel’s past and his canonical status before “consigning the past to oblivion”. Again, though, I’m not the right person to ask because of my general ignorance on that subject matter.

        • Jean-Serge Katembue

          Do you think Chrysostomos of Etna’s first encyclical reflects a true orthodox position?

          • Stephanos Karavas

            Are you referring to the February 16 (Julian) encyclical?

          • Jean-Serge Katembue

            Yes and the last one too

          • Stephanos Karavas

            I actually haven’t read the last one, could you post the link to it in a response?

            As for the February 16 encyclical, I wouldn’t call it Orthodox at all. In fact, I find it to be disingenuous, hypocritical, and counterproductive in every aspect. Unfortunately for Chrysostomos of Etna, more people than I were capable of reading in between the lines and deriving the self-evident fact that he was speaking from a position of injured pride for having effectively had his own synod repudiate the ecclesiology he has been propounding and “researching” in his academic works for decades now.

            It is hypocritical because, as much as he calls for a higher standard to the public discourse over the union, he himself has been anything but “gentlemanly” in the vicious manner that he has attacked those who have publicly and openly disputed his innovative ecclesiological claims (among whom is included Vladimir Moss).

            It is disingenuous because even his own fellow bishops in the now defunct SiR would not agree with him that the schism Met. Cyprian caused was over a “theologoumenon” – because it wasn’t, and it’s plainly dishonest to assert so.

            It is counterproductive because, as his fellow bishops are in the process of stamping out the innovation of Cyprianism and forging this union with discretion and delicacy, he is unapologetically propounding that he is conceding nothing, not even “principles”, in partaking of the union. This is flatly wrong, and it constitutes a de facto non-repentance of his error and refelcts only his injured pride for now being in the position of having to disavow his numerous polemics and apologies for the ecclesiology of resistance.

            Above all, if the sentiments and points expressed by Chrysostomos in this encyclical are all he can say in light of what should be a joyous occasion, it is demonstrative of the fact that he is not invested in this union and even possibly considers it the least worst option for himself and his metropolis at the moment. When faced with the overwhelming majority of his bishops going to the GOC in repentance for their error, he is left with the choice to either form a vagante synod or go along with the developments. His reluctance to do so permeates all of his writing in this encyclical.

            This is precisely the point though – he is an outlier, the exception. I have heard of certain bishops within the synod whose names I won’t mention out of discretion who have specifically referred to Met. Chrysostomos of Etna as a “loose cannon” that may need to be tolerated. His views are not reflective of the reality on the ground in terms of the genuineness of this union, and unfortunately, his writings are entirely counterproductive, if not disobedient, to the will of his synod of bishops because his open views are fueling conspiracies being advanced by those that would call this union a Cyprianite capitulation. I have had interactions with members of his metropolis who hold him in high esteem that, even after the union (only a month ago), referred to me as being in error for condemning the Cyprianite notion of a “potential schismatic” as being foreign to the mind and theology of the Church. Etna evidently has a major problem with the union, and they are not keeping it private and instead choose to write childish encyclicals like that of Feb. 16 that can only complicate matters.

            Sorry for the long-winded response, but I wanted to flesh out my severe dislike for Met. Chrysostomos’s writings that evidently reflect an unrepentant and prideful attitude towards a union that should be a joyous event. I can only pray that his untenable views will not serve to destabilize the union. If he considers the foundational principles of the SiR to be intact and the ecclesiology of resistance to be a mere theologoumenon, perhaps he should put his money where his mouth is and go find a synod that will endorse his innovative viewpoints.

            Again though, we have to assess Chrysostomos’s writings in the full context of the synodal picture, and not isolate his views and pass them off as an expression of the attitude of the entire synod. This is simply untrue. Etna as a metropolis is an exception, and one that needs to be dealt with in time.

          • Jean-Serge Katembue

            Well, why was this first encyclical never censured? How and when would they intend to deal with the question? Or is the method to turn a blind eye hoping that time will arrange things? Do they regard cyprianism as a hersy or not? From my discussions, it seems no. The second encyclical from Etna was published nowhere. The first one was not suppose to be published according to what I understand, ut to be only directed to the flock and priests of Etna.

          • Stephanos Karavas

            Jean, you don’t know that it wasn’t censured. What you’re asking for is to know the details of the internal workings of inter-episcopal discipline within a synod. Given that the bishops of the GOC are aware that there is a serious problem with the integrity of Etna’s stance on the issue, I would hardly say anyone within the synod is turning a blind eye. You and others of like mind need to have more realistic expectations about what knowledge the laity ought to be privy in these circumstances. Rather than zeroing in on individual bishops and their inconsistencies, you should be focusing on the actions of the synod as a whole – in their proper context and in the totality of the synodal history and its confession. Character assassination is not tantamount to synodal repudiation, unlike what many alarmist and over-zealous Old Calendarists would have us believe. The picture painted above by Moss is lamentably incomplete and selective, and deliberately intends to sensationalize the truth while creating panic over matters that are clearly in the process of being sorted out. You may forget that the union is only four months old, and still needs a lot of work, but there’s every reason to believe developments are going in the right direction. What is written in the above article though is – simply put – divisive and dishonest, and I’m sorry if you believe it to be the complete truth.

          • Jean-Serge Katembue

            When you make a union, you should sort out all the key questions before the union, and in particular, check that everyone is on the same line… and until then, do not unite. Otherwise, it is not a true union… you write a contract and then you sign it not the opposite i.e signing a non finalized contract and then work again on the contract. It is at best a bad methodology and being naive, in a worst case, only being interesting in a political union. You cannot blame people for noticing you are handling things badly.

          • Stephanos Karavas

            As far as the reconciliation of heretics and schismatics goes, historical precedent in the Orthodox Church differs greatly from the view you have just presented. The history of surrounding the Seventh Ecumenical Council suffices to demonstrate that, even in the cases of heresy, the key prerequisite was an identical confession of faith – which all the signatories of the recent union share. There will always be temptations, recalcitrant elements, disturbances, etc. What you’re asking for is not only unrealistic, but there is no historical precedent to support your view.

          • Jean-Serge Katembue

            The former iconoclasts did not issue in parallel an encyclical asserting they were not changing at all

          • GOI

            I’m a little confused. Is there one or 2 encyclycals from the SIR. how recent is the last one??

          • Jean-Serge Katembue

            There were 2 encyclicals from Chrysostomos of Etna, the most recent one dating from the last feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

          • GOI

            Jean-Serge, where can I get the 2nd encyclical written by Chrysystom of Etna?

          • Jean-Serge Katembue

            From someone who has it who will send it directly to your email address.

          • GOI

            Deacon Joseph – do you know anybody who has the 2nd encyclical of Metropolitan Chrysystom of Etna? if so can you post it to NFTU???

          • Dcn Joseph Suaiden

            Hello,

            If the second encyclical is what I think it is, it’s an internal document with a warning at the end. Its intended target was actually injured by it. I’ll need to confer with said party before releasing it in public?

          • GOI

            ok thanks

          • Stephanos Karavas

            Neither did the bishops of the former SiR do so collectively. One bishop’s inconsistency is not tantamount to synodal reneging, never mind the acceptance of innovation as Moss would have it.

          • Jean-Serge Katembue

            They do not indicate however very well their position on some topics.

        • GOI

          Stephanos, don’t fall into the same trap you did with HOCNA. The Bishops of the GOC (HOCNA too) are first interested in there self-preservation and then true orthodoxy, if the latter does not impede the first. There are many examples of GOC bishops that are guilty of double talk in recent times. Just keep in mind that all GOC synods have split up from one another over personal differences and not matters of faith. The history of each GOC synod is tainted and they all think one is better than the other even though they profess the same orthodoxy. If you learned anything from the recent past it should be to trust in our merciful God and not any Bishop or priest. This is a very pessimistic view but we don’t live in times with Hierarchs that put GOD first.

          • Stephanos Karavas

            GOI, I appreciate your rejoinder towards caution and wariness. What my experience with HOCNA has taught me is that the utmost vigilance is required in matters of the faith, as our salvation depends on our correct articulation thereof on the synodal level. That being said, I also do not want to fall into the mentality of HOCNA which is to ditch one synod for another over the smallest perceived disturbance. This is the very reaon why HOCNA has degenerated into an eparchial synod accountable to no higher synod – an eccleioslogical dysfunctionality and innovation of its own. The 15th Canon of the First-Second Council and Apostolic Canons 45 and 46 are clear on the conditions that one way withdraw from the obedience to one’s synod of bishops. The GOC in no way falls under their anathemas. Christ promised that the gates of Hades would not prevail against the Church, and I think a sober assessment of the GOC free from sensationalism will yield the reality that it remains a True Orthodox synod. That being said, we must always be vigilant.

    • Jean-Serge Katembue

      “God is capable of transcending His own Church’s ecclesiology and imparting grace on an individual basis to certain members of a schismatic or heretical synod who perhaps “in ignorance” participate in the mysteries of a synod outside the True Church.”

      Yes, but not mysterial grace conveyed by mysteries; such grace is excluded from mysteries imparted outside the church. ROAC declaration was clear on the topic in 2008 protocols.

      “Instead, our Sobor makes the case that at the present time, neither the Moscow Patriarchate nor ‘world Orthodoxy’ as a whole has any relationship to the Church of Christ. This means that there can be no genuine sacraments of the Church being performed there.

      In these church-like associations, just as among all of mankind in general, there is at work only the general grace of God which calls all men to salvation. This grace first calls them to return to a more sober and God-centered life, and then unavoidably forces them to critically re-evaluate the experience of their artificial church life outside of the Church and return from heresy and schism to the true faith. They are aided in this by those liturgical traditions of the Orthodox Church that they still manage to hold onto in ‘world Orthodoxy’ – the services, venerating icons and relics, and hearing the words of the Gospel.”

      • Stephanos Karavas

        True, thank you for the clarification.

        • Jean-Serge Katembue

          I woud suggest canon 1 of Saint Basil and its commentary in the Pedalion, still in the pedalion canon 56 of this Apostles and its interpretation. With notes and commentary. You can also refer to Saint Cyprian of Carthage.

          • Stephanos Karavas

            Thank you, Jean