For the sake of clarity, and due to the fact that Ukaz 130 has been appearing all over the Internet, as well as Fr. John Claypool’s response to it, there has been rumor going about that Archbishop Gregory is going to create a schism and worse, that he has the right to do so. Too often we are hearing in public forums from the defenders of Dormition Skete about how the canons are being trampled upon in the ROAC. This is a lie, and little more than a demonstration of the Skete’s weak propaganda machine. After all, with the exception of the elevation of Bishop (now Archbishop, for however long) Gregory of Denver, the ROAC was known for representing the sanity and stability of the Traditional Russian Orthodox Church. Indeed, even were this to end in schism, ROAC will still have gained more than She has lost, for the people of the Church are not so easily misled: and the followers of Archbishop Gregory will show the world that they are not interested True Orthodox Christians, but only sectarian followers, and few in number.
It is difficult to write this without running the risk of being accused of attacking a Bishop of our Church. However, I believe that the moral weight of Ukaz 130, and the Metropolitan’s subsequent actions, give us as Orthodox Christians in the ROAC in the Diaspora the right, if not the responsibility, to answer the grevious charges against our Metropolitan, and more importantly, our Church.
We have been suppressed, we have been chased out of our parishes and our homes. We have been attacked and slandered, we have been crushed and driven away from our Mother Church, in some cases to the point of apostasy and loss of faith.
The Metropolitan’s Ukaz was nothing less than a call to arms for the True Orthodox Christians who remain faithful not only to our Synod, but to the defense of True Orthodoxy and hatred of schism.
This Ukaz marks a new beginning for the ROAC in America; and it is our responsibility not to sit back and watch a priest slander the Holy Hierarchs of the Synod, misusing the Holy Canons to his own destruction. We cannot sit back and watch as a “new and pure jurisdiction” is created; we cannot sit back and watch as wolves unmask themselves. The fold of the rational sheep must bleat in unison to the Lord until justice prevails.
If there was at least some canonical justification for the behavior of the dissidents in the ROAC in America (they cannot be called part of the Archdiocese of Colorado, for the Archdiocese’s sole priest has fled to the safety and protection of the Synod) we could afford to be silent. But they have carried on their battle for power with deception and hatred for three years now, and now in their response to Ukaz 130, they show their treacherous faces. Indeed, we allowed ourselves in the ROAC in America to become the pitiable ones of Orthodoxy, a shameful and long day of sorrow. That day is ended.
The Authorship of the Documents in Question
Fr. John Claypool has apparently either appointed himself, or Abp. Gregory and Dormition Skete have appointed him, as the “canonical defender” of Archbishop Gregory on the Internet. This “defense” consists primarily of a long response and a short response to the “controversial” Ukaz 130 (I put this in quotes becaue Orthodox across jurisdictional lines have come out in support of the Metropolitan). The first response will be dealt with here; the second response (what he is responding to in the second missive is unclear, neither the Synod of Bishops nor anyone in public support of the Metropolitan has said anything of any substance to avoid shaming the Archbishop), Fr. John Claypool claimed that his main concern was not to smear the Metropolitan with discussion of an arrest, but to demonstrate the Metropolitan’s canonical errors. Besides not being in a position of judge over a Bishop of the Church, Fr. John’s understanding of the canons is somewhat limited, as will be demonstrated below; and the result is that the only discussion of any value is the accusation of arrest, which is likely why people are focusing on it.
If this is shocking to the primary document’s author (it is ostensibly by Fr. John and there is little reason to doubt the contrary, as he has verbally confirmed that as such), it would not be shocking to anyone who read the first response which, as a canonical synthesis, is unclear. It also brings me great sorrow to inform the documents’ author that by writing such a hostile and at times vicious criticism of the Metropolitan (indeed, the same one whose omophor that Fr. John claimed to be under just days before his release of this document) in such a fashion, regardless of his motivations–“no one was defending poor Archbishop Gregory” or however it’s phrased– he has successfully, according to our beloved canons, earned himself the penalty of his own deposition, and it is almost certain that every priest in the ROAC in America as well as a good number that are not in the ROAC, would support such a move, due to such treacherous behavior. If, in fact, he is not the author of this document, it would serve his best interest to admit it, and repent, before it is too late.
While it is easy to believe that the Metropolitan may have overstepped his bounds in directly admonishing the Archbishop to retire (and it is the opinion of this author that it is not), the reasoning for such a course of action was situational and based on the most applicable canons possible in a hitherto unprecedented situation in the ROAC. Thus there are two texts that are being referenced here: Ukaz 130, and Fr. John’s response. Canons quoted are either from The Rudder, Cummings, or The Seven Ecumenical Councils, Eerdmans, the second being used because of its easy availability online. Since the texts of the canons are almost exactly the same regardless, and Fr. John himself recommends the online texts, I see no reason not to use both interchangeably based on convenience.
The charges in Ukaze 130 are in Bold Italics, and Fr. John’s responses are quoted: my rejoinders, follow.
Simony, Ambition, and Quick Thinking
1) During a conversation, in the presence of three witnesses who are priests, you insisted repeatedly that you should be appointed as ruling bishop over all Churches, not only in the USA, but Korea, Bulgaria, China, and other countries as well, stressing that you are the only Orthodox bishop in the whole world and promising to “help” me in the amount of forty thousand American dollars, completely forgetting about the sin of simony;
To this, Fr John responded with:
“Archbishop Gregory was told many times by the Synod and Metropolitan Valentine that he would be responsible for all the clergy that he personally would convert into ROAC. That includes many clergy of other countries which the Metropolitan named in Ukaz 130. Later Metropolitan Valentine claimed that this was not true, that the Archbishop ruled only over Colorado. This is clearly against the Canons, thus the statement of the Synod rightfully stands and Archbishop Gregory is responsible for all those regions.”
This is a ridiculous statement for a number of reasons. Without proof, and claiming hearsay unbecoming clergy of the Church, Fr John claims that Abp Gregory indeed had jurisdiction over the areas in question. However, witnesses such as the translators at Synod can corroborate that this was exactly the opposite of what was said. The Synod authorized then Bishop Gregory to recieve parishes into the ROAC; but those parishes were then to be under the local Bishops.
Archbishop Gregory’s claim that he was to be placed in charge of parishes throughout the Diaspora is unsubstantiated and actually contradicts what has actually been written in Ukazes issued to Fr. Vladimir Shishkoff, most recently reiterated in January of this year. However, this does not stop Archbishop Gregory from making the claim. Thus, Archbishop Gregory, while pretending to accuse the Metropolitan through his faithful servant, is actually accusing the entire Synod of the ROAC of lying to him. What Archbishop Gregory is claiming is not only unsubstantiated by the Church’s written statements, the claim itself is uncanonical.
As though prophetically circumventing the statements of Archbishop Gregory’s servants and, we must assume based on the Archbishop’s recent behavior and disobedience, the will of Archbishop Gregory himself, the very first Canon of Sardica states: HOSIUS, bishop of the city of Corduba, said: A prevalent evil, or rather most mischievous corruption must be done away with from its very foundations. Let no bishop be allowed to remove from a small city to a different one: as there is an obvious reason for this fault, accounting for such attempts; since no bishop could ever yet be found who endeavoured to be translated from a larger city to a smaller one. It is therefore evident that such persons are inflamed with excessive covetousness and are only serving ambition in order to have the repute of possessing greater authority. Is it then the pleasure of all that so grave an abuse be punished with great severity? For I think that men of this sort should not be admitted even to lay communion.All the bishops said: It is the pleasure of all. (Greek Version)
Archbishop Gregory is not claiming simply a larger city, but is claiming whole countries.
Fr. John also brushes off the charge of simony made by the Metropolitan by discoursing about the massive and substantial donations that were already given him. Indeed, he does not clearly explain why Jerjis Alajaji was going to give Metropolitan Valentine $30,000 American, claiming a “debt” of some sort in #11, which was suddenly “withdrawn” when it was “suddenly discovered” the Metropolitan had “heretical views”. Certainly this sounds less like a denial of the Metropolitan’s charge– and more like a justification of it. The charge of simony is one that goes as far back as the Apostles and has a number of Synodical censures upon it. To simply toss off an accusation of simony from the Primate of our Church as though it were an accusation from a secretary about an extramarital affair is simply a way of avoiding the fact that the Metropolitan was indeed basing his attempted retirement of Archbishop Gregory on the canons.
Canon XXIX of the Holy Apostles states: If any bishop, presbyter, or deacon, shall obtain possession of that dignity by money, let both him and the person who ordained him be deposed, and also altogether cut off from all communion, as Simon Magus was by me Peter.
Indeed, the Biblical proscription on this matter was so strong that St Peter did not call the Council on such a matter, but pronounced Simon anathema. Had the Metropolitan realized Archbishop Gregory’s “donations” were nothing more than precedent setting attempts at power, it is questionable he ever would have been elevated to begin with. Canon II of Chalecdon states: If any Bishop should ordain for money, and put to sale a grace which cannot be sold, and for money ordain a bishop, or chorepiscopus, or presbyters, or deacons, or any other of those who are counted among the clergy; or if through lust of gain he should nominate for money a steward, or advocate, or prosmonarius, or any one whatever who is on the roll of the Church, let him who is convicted of this forfeit his own rank; and let him who is ordained be nothing profited by the purchased ordination or promotion; but let him be removed from the dignity or charge he has obtained for money. And if any one should be found negotiating such shameful and unlawful transactions, let him also, if he is a clergyman, be deposed from his rank, and if he is a layman or monk, let him be anathematized.
The Metropolitan’s only response could have been an attempt to retire the Archbishop, for one bishop cannot depose another, the most proper way to handle the situation, according to the above, would have been to anathematize him altogether, and then ask the Synod to confirm it; however, he had no way of leaving the Skete, save the country, at one point (as the members attempted to hold Fr. Andrew’s possessions, including his car.) However, Ukaz 130 is not simply punitive, it leaves Archbishop Gregory time to repent and reconsider such a satanic action.
Fr. John’s response, a continued call for more power for Archbishop Gregory than what was awarded to him by the Synod, the whole state of Colorado, is telling.
But Fr. John continues, “It is true that Archbishop Gregory made suggestions as to correcting the already growing problem about Father Andrew becoming a Bishop, but, contrary to Metropolitan Valentine’s accusations, that was entirely within his responsibilities as Father Andrew’s Abbot. (This will be addressed in more detail below.)”
This is an interesting point, considering what was actually “said below”. Archbishop Gregory indeed did, per this letter, want the Metropolitan to make Fr Andrei (Maklakov) a Bishop– but a vicar, subject to– of course– Archbishop Gregory. This means that he was requesting to the Synod (through its representative, Metropolitan Valentine) an assistant Bishop in the midst of a Church situation where every single parish was asking to be placed directly under the direct care of the Synod of Bishops– including Fr John Claypool himself!
The spirit of the canons on the reason for making a Bishop is clear– the need of the Church. The Church, as proven by the actions of the North American clergy, including Fr John Claypool himself, had no need of a second Bishop, and the need of the first had become questionable.
One is forced to ask, then, why a second Bishop would be needed to begin with. One need only reference the first Apostolic canon to see one reason: Let a bishop be ordained by two or three bishops.
This is the only possible explanation, since every other need of a Bishop is covered by Ukaze 362 of St. Tikhon, under which one can effectively adminster a diocese like a miniature Synod. The only reason Archbishop Gregory could have need of another Bishop is to make more Bishops, which, as has been shown above, are unneccesary.
“Further conflicts over the correct means of bringing into the Church a large, unbaptized community in Central America just inflamed the struggle.”
The “correct means” was, according to the priest in Haiti, rebaptism of over three hundred people by the hand of Archbishop Gregory, regardless of whether Fr Michael baptized them as Orthodox Christians or not. As a side note Fr Michael was willing to accept an anti-canonical rebaptism for himself, but not for the whole of the Haitian mission, which would have been a pastoral disaster, since he himself baptized the entire community according to the norms of the Orthodox Church.
The first Canonical Epistle of St Basil states: As to the question concerning the Puritans the custom of every country is to be observed, since they who have discussed this point are of various sentiments. The [baptism] of the Pepuzenes I make no account of, and I wonder that Dionysius the canonist was of another mind. The ancients speak of heresies, which entirely break men off, and make them aliens from the faith. Such are the Manichaeans, Valentinians, Marcionites and Pepuzenes, who sin against the Holy Ghost, who baptize into the Father, Son and Montanus, or Priscilla. Schisms are caused by ecclesiastical disputes, and for causes that are not incurable, and for differences concerning penance. The Puritans are such schismatics. The ancients, viz. Cyprian and Fermilian, put these, and the Encratites, and Hydroparastatae, and Apotactites, under the same condemnation; because they have no longer the communication of the Holy Ghost, who have broken the succession. They who first made the departure had the spiritual gift; but by being schismatics, they became laymen; and therefore they ordered those that were baptized by them, and came over to the Church, to be purged by the true baptism, as those that are baptized by laymen. Because some in Asia have otherwise determined, let [their baptism] be allowed: but not that of the Encratites; for they have altered their baptism, to make themselves incapable of being received by the Church. Yet custom and the Fathers, that is bishops, who have the administration, must be followed; for I am afraid of putting an impediment to the saved; while I would raise fears in them concerning their baptism. We are not to allow their baptism, because they allow ours, but strictly to observe the canons. But let none be received without unction. When we received Zois and Saturninus to the Episcopal chair, we made, as it were, a canon to receive those in communion with them.
Thus St. Basil is clear. The decision of how to recieve in communites falls not to one’s individual interpretation of the canons (for this is Protestant), but upon the ruling Synod. In this case, the Synod was–and is–the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church.
It must be clear that the practices of reception of heretics varied between the Greek and the Russian Churches, while the faith was the same. It is also my intent in the following paragraphs to demonstrate that Archbishop Gregory is following neither practice. (See “I Confess One Baptism”, below.)
The Russian Church’s rules of reception are something of which our Archbishop is not ignorant. For the reader, I will quote a simple description on a pamphet on the reception of heretics that sums it up nicely:
Archbishop of Astrakhan Sergius’ book “Rules and Rites for the Reception of Non-Orthodox Christians into the Orthodox Church” (Viatka, 1894) gives the three rites for the reception of non-Orthodox into the Orthodox Church on the same basis and understanding as of the above-noted authors.
To counter the accusations directed against the Orthodox Church by Old Ritualists of all stripes, for not re-baptizing Latins, Lutherans and Calvinists, Metropolitan Gregory published his book “The Truly-Ancient and the True Orthodox Church of Christ,” which presents apologetic explanations for doing so in Part 2, Chapters 33 and 34. Also see Transactions of the Kiev Theological Academy, June-August 1864, “On the Reception of Non-Orthodox Christians into the Orthodox Church: Historical and Canonical Analysis against the Priestless.” See also the article in Khristianskoye Chteniye, June 1865, “Analysis of the Principle Upon Which the Priestless Justify Their Practice for the Re-Baptism of the Orthodox Upon Converting Into Schism.”
The rites, on the basis of which the Orthodox Church performs the conversion to Orthodoxy of Roman Catholics and Protestants, are given in Fr. K. Nikolsky’s “Manual for the Study of the Order [Ustav] of Services.” It also contains a number of instructions and directives from Church authorities on this subject.
The well-known S. V. Bulgakov’s “Reference Book for Sacred Ministers” lists in detail how to perform each of the three rites by which the heterodox and non-Orthodox are received into Orthodoxy. There is also a listing of directives and instructions from Church authorities on these subjects. (“On Reception into the Orthodox Church”, Archimandrite Ambrose Pogodin,Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniya, Nos. 173 (I-1996) and 174 (II-1996/I-1997).
Thus, it was not Metropolitan Valentin who was innovating on the modes of reception– in the best cases, of false Orthodox who had been baptized by Orthodox form, at the least, and in the worst case, of other True Orthodox Christians– but Archbishop Gregory. Yet in the case of Fr. Michael Graves, who was willing to accept baptism at the hands of Archbishop Gregory for the sake of his flock, Archbishop Gregory’s position was disturbing. In Haiti, a country where Orthodoxy is completely unknown, Fr. Michael had baptized hundreds of souls from Roman Catholicism into his flock, and according to the norms above did so in a more than permissible fashion. Many of these people believed themselves to be true zealots for Orthodoxy, moving Fr. Michael to be received into our Church. To tell them all that they were all false Christians from the beginning would have been pastorally irresponsible. To tell them to submit to an identical ceremony for the Archbishop’s satisfaction is strange. To simply apply it across the board in a mass baptism is patently absurd.
Most notable is the fact that in the face of sufferings at the hands of Archbishop Gregory (including the eviction of Fr. Dionysi from his home), both priests have stuck by their stories– and Fr. John Claypool allowed all this alleged “deception” to go on, doing nothing; suddenly changing his understanding of the entire story. Most interesting, he claims he is “reporting” the story, but he was neither a witness to it nor surrounding events. In other words, he is reporting a “version” of the story.
2) You repeatedly and insistently suggested prayerful communion and eucharistic union with a synod of the Greeks, getting those of your people who are close to you to support your idea, for which they also promised to “help” me in the amount of thirty thousand American dollars;
Fr John’s response was as follows: “The Archbishop suggested communion with the Greeks only because they believe as we do, and for no other reason. It is pleasing to God to be in Communion with other confessing Orthodox Christians who follow the Holy Canons and denounce the heresy of ecumenism. In the time that I met with you, Metropolitan Valentine, you have shown me, more than once, your dislike of Greeks.”
This is an amazing statement, considering that it is unclear precisely how long Fr. John Claypool–who does not, to this author’s knowledge–speak Russian (Vl. Valentine does not speak more than a few words of English), was actually in the presence of the Metropolitan. The image of Metropolitan Valentine as anti-Hellenic is patently absurd, for this author, who must have spent at least as much time with the Metropolitan in recent days as Fr. John has, saw precisely the opposite. As well, the Metropolitan has even stated his own wishes for union with other True Orthodox, particularly the Old Calendar Greek Church, in interviews and official statements.
Perhaps some sort of disdain for “Byzantizing” the Russian Church here developed after witnessing that Dormition Skete not only does not follow the Russian Typicon, but considers Russian singing “Western”, Russian Icons “Fallen”, and Russian practices of reception of heretics as itself heretical. This is extremely interesting because for their love of things Hellenic, not a single clergyman of the ROAC in America is Greek, leading one to ask why they are so obsessive. One is forced to ask why, if they truly love the Greek Old Calendarists, why so many different jurisdictions of the Greek Old Calendarists found them so intolerable in the past. The only answer is that Dormition Skete and their followers do not believe as Russians or Greeks– but as their own brand of pseudo-zealot Orthodoxy which involves not simply baptizing heretics, but any giving any True Orthodox who were not baptized by Archbishop the “chance to do it right”, and “do it again”, an anti-Christ mockery of the Holy Oros of 1755. (See “I Confess One Baptism”, below.)
Fr. John continues: “There are witnesses to this. No suggestion was ever made about money in exchange for services. Again, the $30,000 was money promised to you by Reader Jerjis to alleviate the debt which you told him about.”
It is most interesting that Archbishop Gregory makes this claim, considering he considers the Metropolitan to be in flagrant violation of a number of canons, and has for a while, it would seem– this author is quite aware that Archbishop Gregory had a great deal of disdain for the Metropolitan. It is even more interesting that Archbishop Gregory suggests communion with a particular Synod of the Greeks, considering that he considers the vast majority of the Old Calendar Church of Greece to be heretical and/or schismatic. Abp Gregory’s desire was more likely prompted by the hope for a reversal of the position of the Makarian Synod which had declared him outside their Church after he left for our Church in the hope of becoming a Bishop.
This brings us to another problem in the reception of Archbishop Gregory into the ROAC to begin with. When then-Father Gregory left the Synod of the Lamians (now the Makarian Synod), he claimed he had a canonical release, and thus presented himself before the Synod. The reason for this is because according to the canons, a priest cannot leave his Bishop without justification of heresy (which Archbishop Gregory has claimed does not exist repeatedly over the years) or a canonical release (the most relevant central canon is Ap.Can. XXXIX, since nothing is done by priests without the consent of their Bishop). The then-Fr. Gregory had none, but changed his story, of which this author was a witness: he claimed a release which was nothing more than an exhortation of the local Bishop to have nothing further to do with them or the people of the diocese. It was not a release but a restriction.
However, a release is what is requested by Canon 17 of the 5th/6th Synod (in Trullo): Inasmuch as clergymen of various churches have abandoned their own churches, in which they were ordained, and have run over to other bishops, and without the consent of their own bishop have had themselves enrolled in the others’ churches, and as a result of this they came to be insubordinate, we decree that, beginning with the month of January of the last forth indiction, not a single one of all the clergymen, regardless of what rank he happens to be in, has permission, unless furnished by a written dismissory of his own bishop, to be enrolled in a different church. For, whoever fails to abide by this rule hereafter, but, on the contrary, so far as lies in his power disgraces him who performed the ordination on him, let both him and the one who illogically accepted him be deposed from office.
However, then-Fr. Gregory continued to confess to the Synod in Russia that he had a release. It is clear from the public statements of the Makarian Synod, including his own Bishop, Metropolitan Niphon, that such was not the case. Whatever Archbishop Gregory’s logic on attempting to reunite with the Makarian Synod (an endeavor which has apparently failed), he was certainly in no position to negotiate such a thing, regarded as a cleric in disobedience.
3) You repeatedly attempted to interfere in the administration of clergy not belonging to your diocese, demanding the removal of a venerable archpriest and other servants of the altar who were of no less importance, besmirching their honor and dignity, which is a canonical offense;
Fr John’s answer is as follows: “Archbishop Gregory only showed concern for those located in America. According to Canon XXIII, Council of CARTHAGE and Canon II, Second Council: in a province with no other Bishops residing, that Bishop is the ruling Bishop of the whole land and can make decisions without Synodal approval. You, the Metropolitan, in clear violation on the same Canons, placed Father Vladimir as administrator to the Americas.”
Fr Vladimir is actually the adminstrator for North America, and was before Archbishop Gregory was even a Bishop. This author and others can attest to that, because like then-Father Gregory, we were there. But putting this fact aside: the canons that Fr. John cites above do not say this– more below.
Father John than argues: “Many believe that Father Vladimir and you did this to guarantee control of the Americas for yourselves for financial profit.”
This is a slander. Who are the “many”? How would assigning Fr. Vladimir as an administrator guarantee financial profit? What is Fr John claiming?
“This was done despite the fact that Father Vladimir is unfit physically and mentally for the position he was given.”
It is of course, not mentioned that Father Vladimir was, is, and has been the administrator for the past three years, and his condition, given his age, is declining. This is normal for a venerable archpriest of Fr. Vladimir’s age (at the time of this writing, 77). Yet my discussions with Fr. Vladimir indicate that despite his age, his mind still works, or at least still works better than Archbishop Gregory’s.
“You said this more than once, before many witnesses at the Monastery and at Father Dionysi’s home, that Protopresbyter Vladimir is senile, worsening day by day.”
While the Metropolitan can answer for what he said, it naturally follows that to help our venerable administrator, Frs. Victor Melehov and Spyridon Schneider were assigned as Dean and Assistant Dean. Certainly the two priests in question are not also senile. Of course, in his complaint to the Synod, Abp Gregory came up with a number of different excuses as to why the two priests were bad, whereas making the Archbishop the Archbishop of the whole world outside of Russia was good. Enough has been said on the slanders; for if the canons justify them, what can be said in the Metropolitan’s defense?
The Canons in Question
Canon XXIII of Carthage reads: That bishops shall not go beyond seas without consulting the bishop of the primatial see of his own province: so that from him they may be able to receive a formed or commendatory letter.
In other words, this canon does not condemn the Metropolitan at all, who is the primate of Archbishop Gregory’s local Church–the Higher Church Authority of the Russian Autonomous Church. Archbishop Gregory seems to have forgotten that the Russian Church’s territorial jurisdiction in this country claimed (and it is disputed) America before then-Fr. Gregory was received into the Church, and thus Gregory cannot claim a right to himself out of thin air that is not granted by the Synod. (How he forgot is beyond this author, considering that after his elevation to the Episcopate, he specifically asked for clarifications on Russian jurisdiction in America before claiming he was the Archbishop over all of it– which, in my defense, was not what I said.) Needless to say, all lands which have Bishops subject to a Synod include those lands as the Synod’s territory. Archbishop Gregory seems to think that the Church in America is somehow his own independent territory. Such an argument begs agreement with the one making it in opposition to the canons, not in concord with them. More on this will be written below. However, assuming that Fr. John is placing more emphasis on the second canon in question, let us look at it.
Canon II of the Second Council reads: THE bishops are not to go beyond their dioceses to churches lying outside of their bounds, nor bring confusion on the churches; but let the Bishop of Alexandria, according to the canons, alone administer the affairs of Egypt; and let the bishops of the East manage the East alone, the privileges of the Church in Antioch, which are mentioned in the canons of Nice, being preserved; and let the bishops of the Asian Diocese administer the Asian affairs only; and the Pontic bishops only Pontic matters; and the Thracian bishops only Thracian affairs. And let not bishops go beyond their dioceses for ordination or any other ecclesiastical ministrations, unless they be invited. And the aforesaid canon concerning dioceses being observed, it is evident that the synod of every province will administer the affairs of that particular province as was decreed at Nice. But the Churches of God in heathen nations must be governed according to the custom which has prevailed from the times of the Fathers.
And this would indeed be a valid point, if Archbishop Gregory had been given the American territory by the Synod! But, as was discussed above, he had not, and as a matter of fact, himself violated Synodical order and the above canon by ordaining priests for Bulgaria, from which he was further in distance than every other bishop of our Synod, since he was separated on both sides of the country by oceans. The only priest over which Archbishop Gregory could make any claim would be Fr. Dionysi MacGowan. And this is invalid for the second problem with the use of this canon.
The purpose of canon to was to clarify the separation of the local Churches. Thus, in modern terms, the Russian Church could not make Russian Bishops in Greece, and vice versa. Each local Church takes care of its own affairs. However, this is not applicable here, as the “Church in America” is a vision of Archbishop Gregory, the OCA, and few others. There is no “Church in America”; there are only parishes subject to various Synods, some with Bishops, some without. Some have a level of autonomy. But Fr. John’s argument, that due to Archbishop Gregory’s control of 2% of the country given him by the Synod, he can claim the Metropolitan was “interfering with his administration”. And Archbishop Gregory is a member of, and subject to, the Synod of the ROAC. He cannot claim independence that has not been granted him, and he cannot claim administration which the Synod never awarded him.
In other words, Fr. John’s interpretation of the above canons is based on nothing more than fantasy. The Metropolitan was not “interfering in the administration of the Bishop of the whole land”, but was taking care of territory that properly belonged to the Synod of Bishops. In American terminology, what has happened is nothing more than a case of “sour grapes”. The followers of the Archbishop had campaigned publicly that Fr. Vladimir Shishkoff was in charge of Russian Parishes and that then-Bishop Gregory was in charge of all the other ones for three years. The truth, however, was in the Ukazes that Fr. Elia Yenovkian made public in February and March of 2004, texts that demonstrated that Archbishop Gregory NEVER had the canonical right to the American territory, as he falsely claimed. Ukaz 130 is no less than the revelation of one of the biggest cover-ups in the recent history of the Russian Church in the Diaspora, where the plain truth had been supressed for three years.
“I Confess One Baptism”
4) As witnessed by some of the clergy and laity alike, you do not recognize the uniqueness of baptism, and have the practice of rebaptizing and rechrismating those who come to you. In all probability, you have forgotten the Creed where we confess “One Baptism”;
Fr John responds as follows: “You, the Metropolitan, before witnesses, said, “today everyone is Baptized.” Archbishop Gregory does not believe this. He believes that if you were “Baptized” in a church that supported the 1965 lifting of the Anathema against the Roman Catholic Church, that you need to be Baptized and Chrismated into the true Orthodox Church. He also believes that if you were “Baptized” by a heretical Priest you must be Baptized again. Economia may be used if the proper form of baptism was kept. He thought that all of ROAC believes the same, but according to number 4, that is not true. It is very clear what you believe, [the ROAC Synod may believe differently] when reading No. 4, which is a clear expression of heretical beliefs. You also said, before witnesses, that the CHRISM of the Moscow Patriarchate has the Grace of God. During a phone conversation with me while you were in Boston, you instructed me to remove from my church website that “the JERUSALEM PATRIARCHATE, ROCA, ROCE, HOCNA, and the MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE are graceless”. You said to me, “The Synod has not ruled that they are graceless. Do not tell people they are graceless.” In obedience to you, I removed the writing on my website immediately.”
In an incredible and mind-boggling statement, Fr John implies first that Metropolian Valentine accepts the baptism of Roman Catholics by extension, since many ecumenists in official Orthodoxy recognize their mysteries. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Metropolitan does not believe the Moscow Patriarchate is a True Church; how could he believe such things about the Roman Catholics?
But the truth is somewhat more complex. Archbishop Gregory does not limit a need for rebaptism to Roman Catholics (and even ecumenist Orthodox) but requires it from people who confess the identical True Orthodox Faith. This is not a position held even by the strictest of the Greek Old Calendarists, because they know full well you do not rebaptized a properly baptized Orthodox person under another Bishop if the question of an administrative schism is unclear.
Fr. John then goes on to imply from the way his phone call was phrased that the Synod indeed believed that the ROCA, ROCE and HOCNA were graceless, and that Metropolitan Valentine lumped them in together with the JP and MP as grace-filled. This is disingenuous. Fr. John believes that #4 is a heretical statement. I am not sure how.
To believe that is the case violates the tradition of the Church, since rebaptizing a baptized person is considered sacrilege. People coming in from True Orthodox jurisdictions whom the ROAC has not declared in schism have no need to be rebaptized, except in the mind of Archbishop Gregory, which is part of why the Synod condemns his actions. Archbishop Gregory’s attitude on baptism is in violation both of the mind of the Synod and Ap. Canon XLVII, which states that a Bishop who rebaptizes one who receives a true Orthodox baptism is mocking the Cross of Christ.
Archbishop Gregory’s position on rebaptizing True Orthodox is inconsonant with the traditional practice of our faith. This can be demonstrated by looking at the attitudes towards baptism in the Oros of 1755 and contemporary documents.
The position of the Russian Church Abroad on baptism placed forth in 1971 by the Synod of Bishops of the ROCOR under the presidency of St. Philaret of New York, which has been the normative practice in our Church, requires baptism for those coming from patently heretical bodies based upon the dissimilarity of the forms of heretics for baptism, thus making it impossible to apply the rite validly.
Having in mind this circumstance and the growth today of the heresy of ecumenism, which attempts to eradicate completely the distinction between Orthodoxy and all the heresies, so that the Moscow Patriarchate, in violation of the sacred canons, has even issued a resolution permitting Roman Catholics to receive Communion in certain cases, the Council of Bishops recognizes the necessity of introducing a stricter practice, i.e. that baptism be performed on all heretics who come to the Church, excepting only as the necessity arises and with the permission of the bishop, for reasons of economy or pastoral condescension, another practice of reception in the case of certain persons (i.e. the reception into the Church of Roman Catholics and those Protestants who perform their baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity) through the renunciation of their heresy and by chrismation. (p.7)
There was no reference to schismatics.
In a similar vein, the Greek Old Calendarists affirmed the need for chrismating New Calendarists in 1935 and 1950, as their forms were still Orthodox forms, but were considered schismatics.
The general rule that applies is that if it has the appearance of Orthodoxy, economia can be applied.
Even the Oros of 1755, the benchmark of all the cases involving akriveia, states this as well: Just three years ago, the question arose: When heretics come over to us, are their baptisms acceptable, given that these are administered contrary to the tradition of the holy Apostles and divine Fathers, and contrary to the custom and ordinance of the catholic and Apostolic Church? We, who by divine mercy were raised in the Orthodox Church, and who adhere to the canons of the sacred Apostles and divine Fathers, recognize only one Church, our holy, catholic, and Apostolic Church. It is her Mysteries, and consequently her baptism, that we accept. On the other hand, we abhor, by common resolve, all rites not administered as the Holy Spirit commanded the sacred Apostles, and as the Church of Christ performs to this day. For they are the inventions of depraved men, and we regard them as strange and foreign to the whole Apostolic tradition. Therefore, we receive those who come over to us from them as unholy and unbaptized. In this we follow our Lord Jesus Christ who commanded His disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit”;… we follow the sacred and divine Apostles who order us to baptize aspirants with three immersions and emersions, and in each immersion to say one name of the Holy Trinity;”‘ we follow the sacred Dionysios, peer of the Apostles, who tells us “to dip the aspirant, stripped of every garment, three times in a font containing sanctified water and oil, having loudly proclaimed the threefold hypostasis of the divine Blessedness, and straightway to seal the newly baptized with the most divinely potent myron [i.e. chrism], and thereafter to make him a participant in the supersacramental Eucharist” and we follow the Second… and Penthekte holy Ecumenical Councils, which order us to receive as unbaptized those aspirants to Orthodoxy who were not baptized with three immersions and emersions, and in each immersion did not loudly invoke one of the divine hypostases, but were baptized in some other fashion. (Oros of 1755, p.2)
Which custom is Archbishop Gregory following, since this is supposedly the Metropolitan’s “anti-Greek” sentiment prompting his position and not his desire to follow the canons? Is he claiming to follow the traditional practice of the True Orthodox Greek Church, as he has claimed in the past? The answer is no.
I cannot stress enough the cold hard facts in this case. Archbishop Gregory required rebaptism of virtually every entrant into the ROAC, even those from other True Orthodox bodies, including many that are part of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece.
This is not the Metropolitan’s position. It is not ROAC’s position. It’s not the historical Russian Orthodox Church’s position. It’s not the Greek Old Calendarists’ position. It’s not the historical position of the Church– at all.
Archbishop Gregory alone holds this position, and in this demented version of a “baptismal ecclesiology”, there is only one place from where grace can clearly come forth, since the Lamians are valid but have “untrustworthy bishops”, and we in the ROAC are now heretics! That one place is, unsurprisingly, Dormition Skete….
5) You have suspended some of the members of the clergy who served you ufaithfully and truly but had no desire to share in your dubious pretentions, and who dared to stand up against your irrepressible pressure;
Fr. John’s response: “Only Father Dionysi and Father Andrew were suspended, for the next day, Sunday, because they disobeyed an order given by their Bishop. Archbishop Gregory told Father Dionysi to go home and not to go get the police, as he was told to do by Father Andrew. Father Andrew said he was told by you, the Metropolitan, to “get the police if the Archbishop does not give you what you want from the Monastery”. If this is true, and you told Father Andrew and Father Dionysi to get the police, you are in violation of Canon LXVIII, Council of Carthage and Canon CXV, Council of Carthage, “That we should not use the civil authorities [police] against each other.”
While I could refer to the canons, I will only say that there is a commandment in force in our Church against stealing. Abp Gregory and Dormition Skete categorically refused to let Fr Andrei get his own belongings from the Skete, including his car. In the description of Fr John’s, this is violation of canonical order. In the real world, anything less than getting the police would have been authorizing theft. Nor is this concept foreign to the Archbishop, who took many of his possessions from Holy Transfiguration Monastery when he left, and according to the abbot’s letter in 1983, a number of things that did not belong to him. Fr. Andrei had only been a monk at Dormition Skete for a few months, and his reception by chrismation at the hands of Archbishop Gregory, though he had been ordained by a Saint of the Church (which was– along with Archbishop Gregory’s excuse that the Matthewites are schismatic, again not the position of the Synod– considered a sacrilege by the Metropolitan) who immediately made plans to remove Fr. Andrei.
Fr John continues: “Father Dionysi later told me that you had placed him under the authority of the Synod days before the confrontation, but neither he nor you told the Archbishop of this transfer of responsibility. Taking the Archbishop’s Priest is a violation of Canon LXIII, Council of Carthage. You instructed Father Dionysi not to treat Archbishop Gregory as a Bishop. When Archbishop Gregory paid Father Dionysi a visit at his home, he refused to ask for a blessing. Father Dionysi insulted him before others and refused to allow him into his home, the same home the Archbishop bought for him. Father Dionysi told me during a recent phone conversation that the Metropolitan said that when he is done with Archbishop Gregory, he would be ‘nothing’ anymore.”
What is not mentioned in this letter is the current attempt on the part of Archbishop Gregory to have Fr Dionysi and his family evicted from his home, since at least on paper, Archbishop Gregory is the landlord. (However, Fr Dionysi has been paying the mortgage, and promises on the part of Archbishop Gregory to change the title were forthcoming until recently). This has been recently compounded by constant threatening visits and phone calls, which constitute criminal behavior, the last of which required the intervention of the police.
In any case, this has had one unintended effect for the Archbishop of Colorado: he has evicted the only priest who could have legally been considered to be under his jurisdiction. Which brings me to my next point.
The Canons of the First-Second Synod are particularly clear on the right course of action for both Fr. Dionysi and Abp. Gregory to take– because they lead to the same place.
Canon XIII of the First-Second Synod states: … the Holy Council has decreed that henceforth if any Presbyter or Deacon, on the alleged ground that his own bishop has been condemned for certain crimes, before a conciliar or Synodal hearing and investigation has been made, should dare to secede from his communion…. he shall be subject to prompt deposition from office and stripped of every prelatic honor. For anyone who has been established in the rank of presbyter and forestalls the Metropolitan’s judgment, and judging matters before a trial has been held, insofar as lies in his power, condemns his own father and Bishop, he is not even worthy of the honor or name of a presbyter. Those, on the other hand, who go along with him, in case any of them should be among those in Holy Orders, they too shall forfeit their rights to honor.
Canon XIV of the First-Second Synod states: If any Bishop, on the allegation that charges of crime lie against his own Metropolitan, shall secede or apostatize from him before a conciliar or Synodal verdict has been issued against him, and shall abstain from communion with him, and fail to mention his name…. the holy Council has decreed he shall be deposed from office, if merely by seceding from his own Metropolitan he shall create a schism.
Both of these canons of the First-Second Synod make clear that the judgment of the Metropolitan, not Papal as Fr. John falsely claims, carry a weight which is difficult, if not impossible for the attackers of the Metropolitan to ignore.
Fr. Dionysi did not violate the canons precisely because it was the Metropolitan who released him. Ironically, the same canon which protects Fr. Dionysi’s actions condemns none other than the author’s of the response: Fr. John Claypool, and if he received assistance from Dormition Skete, “Archbishop Gregory and those with him”.
6) After being admonished in the presence of three witnesses of priestly rank, instead of repenting of your sinful actions, you wrote a report to the Synod of Bishops of the ROAC, demanding an emergency meeting during the absence of its president. In your report, you, in essence, repeated your claims and personally confirmed your mindlessness and inability to rule over a diocese or lead souls to salvation;
Fr. John’s response is such: “You told Archbishop Gregory to apologize by prostrating before you, asking your forgiveness and giving you his Klobuk with the diamond Cross, thus giving up his Archbishop rank. You told Archbishop Gregory that you might leave him as Bishop if he did as you asked, if he promised to never again disagree with you. Nevertheless, there would be absolutely no future advancement for him [Archbishop Gregory]. You admonished Archbishop Gregory for something that was untrue. In the report to the Synod Archbishop Gregory NEVER once makes any demands of the synod, instead he pleads with them in all humility.”
Besides sounding somewhat fantastic in the demand for a prostration (although anyone approaching a priest or a bishop does a ‘little metania’ before taking a blessing), this statement contains outright lies. Indeed, the letter to the Synod of Bishops was read at the trapeza of Dormition Skete as a “show of power”. It was precisely a series of demands, and it was a series of demands done outside the presence of the Metropolitan.
Such behavior is itself condemned by the canons: it is known as sedition.
Canon VI of the Synod of Gangra states: If any one shall hold private assemblies outside of the Church, and, despising the canons, shall presume to perform ecclesiastical acts, the presbyter with the consent of the bishop refusing his permission, let him be anathema.
Even more importantly, this a attempted spiritual patricide, for Archbishop Gregory does not simply assert his own claims to power from the great and wide expanse of Colorado, but attempts to slander the Metropolitan in the process. This entire line of thinking, indeed, even the response to Ukaze 130, is against and in violation of Canon XXXIV of the Holy Apostles: The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent; but each may do those things only which concern his own parish, and the country places which belong to it. But neither let him (who is the first) do anything without the consent of all; for so there will be unanimity, and God will be glorified through the Lord in the Holy Spirit.
Disobedience upon Disobedience
7) With premeditation, you attempted to lead members of the Synod of Bishops into error, slandering me by saying I was a thief and “stole” a monk away from you (Igumen Fr. Andrei Maklakov), who candidacy for the episcopacy was put forward by none other than you, and whereby you transferred him to the authority of the Synod of Bishops;
Fr. John responds: “It is the truth that you stole a Monk [Fr. Andrew] in violation of Canon LXXXVIII, Council of Carthage, from the Monastery of which Archbishop Gregory is the Abbot.”
Canon LXXVIII reads, in the Rudder: It has pleased the council to decree that if anyone admits or offers a reception to anyone from a strange monastery, and should wish to induct him into the clergy, or should appoint anyone a hegumen of his own monastery, let the Bishop who does so and thereby separates himself from communion with the rest content himself with only communion of the Laity. And let that person be no longer a cleric or Hegumen.
The Interpretation in the Rudder is clear. This canon is referring not to “stealing a monk”, as Fr. John claims, but attempting to ordain a fleeing monastic, which was not the case at all! To verify the correctness of such a position, the Rudder references Canon XXI of the 7th Council, which reads: It is not allowed to a monk or a nun to leave her own house and enter another ; but if he (or she) enters let (him or her) be received as a guest; but let him (or her) not be admitted at all nor given hospitality contrary to the will of the superior.
It is not Fr. Andrei Maklaklov that is guilty of this canonical violation. It is the Archbishop of Colorado, who has freely admitted in the past that he, not receiving a blessing from Fr. Panteleimon, chose to leave the monastery without the blessing of the Abbot.
The reality, which Fr. John seems to ignore, is that Metropolitan Valentine was making pastoral visits to parishes around the country. This was not some scheming bishop looking for wandering monks to cause intrigue. Metropolitans constantly make rounds throughout the Church. All Bishops do. Fr. Andrei had been recommended to the Episcopate by Archbishop Gregory himself and being a Russian speaker, was needed as a translator. This vision of a “backstabbing Metropolitan stealing a disobedient monk” is ridiculous. The real fear, as Fr. John admits, is the possibility that the Bishop-Elect would effectively nail shut the coffin of the Archbishop of Colorado’s weak attempts at taking over the territory of North America.
Fr. John continues: “Archbishop Gregory, for whatever reason, did not want Father Andrew to leave the Monastery. He wanted him to remain at the Monastery out of concern for his mental well-being. Father Andrew has been a Monk only for a few months. You wanted Father Andrew to live on the east coast with Father Vladimir. Archbishop Gregory simply disagreed saying he did not want Father Andrew to leave the Monastery, which according to the Canons, is within the rights of the Archbishop. He needs no reason.”
And this would indeed be true if we were talking about a monk under normal circumstances, except that such a presentation is not altogether honest. Placing forth a candidate for the Episcopate is a serious matter, and this is precisely what Archbishop Gregory in fact did. This is a long, winded, pseudo-ecclesiastical way for Archbishop Gregory to say “I changed my mind”. Unfortunately, by submitting the candidate to the Synod, it was well past the point of no return. Archbishop Gregory’s placing forward of Fr. Andrei for the Episcopacy was more of a canonical release (if the Metropolitan requires one in such a case) than he himself ever received.
Fr. John continues: “You ordered Father Andrew to leave Archbishop Gregory and to move to the east coast, which he did, disobeying his Abbot. You had no right or authority to do that. Furthermore, Archbishop Gregory rescinded the request to have Father Andrew made a Bishop. You, Metropolitan, were able to convince Father Andrew to do what you asked him to do with fear and intimidation by threatening to depose him and by bribing him, by promising Father Andrew with the honor of becoming a Bishop and ruling the United States. Father Andrew told these things to me during a phone call.”
One is forced to ask which worked more effectively, since Fr. Andrei was apparently so terrified that he went to live with Fr. Vladimir and never returned. He was so terrified of the Metropolitan’s iron will that when the Metropolitan said “call the police to get your things if he won’t give them to you” Fr. Andrei called the police, feeling nothing but sorrow at getting his personal belongings back. Fr. Andrei is so terrified of the Metropolitan, for that matter, that it would appear that even now that the Metropolitan is in Russia, Fr. Andrei has not returned to Dormition Skete.
Fr John continues his direct accusation of Metropolitan Valentine (which, using this tone, is tantamount to insulting or speaking ill of a Bishop, a deposable offence– see Ap. Can. LV): “You, Metropolitan, said that Archbishop Gregory transferred Father Andrew to the authority of the Synod of Bishops when you requested that Father Andrew be made a bishop. Either you do not understand how Synodal authority works or you lied. To wit: ONLY the Synod can transfer authority. Not any one Bishop. In addition, Archbishop Gregory never wanted to transfer Father Andrew to the Synod, but has always wanted to propose his candidacy as a Vicar Bishop living at Dormition Skete.”
There is a certain irony in this charge, and it is funny how in this case history does not so much repeat itself as it does accuse and condemn the present. In 1983, Fr. Panteleimon, abbot of Holy Transfiguration Monastery, makes a similar argument concerning then Father Gregory. However, Fr Panteleimon actually wished that the Bishop in question (Bishop Andrew) would allow Fr Gregory would bless him to leave so the abbot wouldn’t have to, and the Bishop refused. The then-Father Gregory left without *any* blessing, despite his empty arguments to the contrary. Twenty-one years, later the disobedience of Fr Gregory has fallen upon the episcopal shoulders of the same man. In this case, however, we have the First-Hierarch of the Synod pulling Fr Andrei out of Dormition Skete against the wishes of the monastery’s abbot. Notable is that in contradiction to Fr. John’s earlier argument, which is mentioned at the opening of the paragraph, that Archbishop Gregory was concerned for Fr Andrei’s mental well-being. However, this did not stop Archbishop Gregory from proposing this mentally unstable man to be a vicar Bishop for his monastery.
Obviously, Fr John is stating that the Metropolitan does not understand how Synodal authority works, since Archbishop Gregory admittedly did request to make him a Bishop. However, the question of whether the Synod placed Fr Andrei in the investigative phase is an altogether different question! After all, the assumption that Fr. Andrei is under the control of the Skete until the moment of his consecration smacks of cheap legalism. A recommendation from the Abbot of a monastery to a Bishop for an episcopal candidte is a recommendation of the highest order. Unfortunately, it would appear again that the person who did not understand the gravity of his actions is the Archbishop of Colorado.
The real question here is: precisely who has the power: the Bishop, or the Abbot of the Monastery subject to the Bishop. In this case, the Abbot is himself a Bishop: however, by offering as a candidate to the Episcopate, it is the Synod that decides what to do with the candidate. Archbishop Gregory cannot simply will that a Bishop is made a Bishop if and only if he is a Bishop for Dormition Skete. The situation, thus, is that an Abbot is claiming he has more authority than a Bishop. I await Fr. John’s canonical defense of such a position. I can’t imagine, considering the dearth of canons on the matter, that it should take him long to write.
…And There are no Canons on Being a Poor Host
The next two charges that the Metropolitan put forth have little to do with the canons, and so instead, Fr John makes insinuations that our Metropolitan was arrested for smuggling, though there was no police report; though the alleged amount was unclear. However, the charges are telling, if not that Archbishop Gregory was violating the canons (the rest of the essay is for that), but that he was a terrible host.
8) In your report, you indicated that you incurred large expenses in connection with my medical treatment, and that you had taken care of all of the bills amounting to over a quarter of a million American dollars, when in actual fact, you didn’t even pay one cent, and, to the contrary, presented me with a bill for my plane ticket for my trip from New York to Denver, and for room and board, in the sum of four thousand dollars;
There are no canons to my knowledge that deal with these matters, however, since we do have the bill in question it means that Archbishop Gregory does not know how to treat guests, and has serious ethical issues. What is also interesting is that there is an admission that $30,000 were going to change hands between Reader Jerjis Alajaji and the Metropolitan, which fell through, and then the Metropolitan was suddenly billed for his hospital stay. The idea that Abp Gregory could not afford to pay for $4,000 seems a little strange, considering that it would seem even Fr. John Claypool is willing to admit that they were willing to offer him $30,000 for other reasons, and then the money vanished.
9) While looking over your documents, I discovered that you had been using my forged seal (which I later took away from you), which is a capital crime punishable by law.
When I first read this, I was not sure precisely what was meant. I was under the impression that Archbishop Gregory had created an identical seal with his name on it, which, given his well-documented tendencies towards ambition and avarice, was wrong, but not anti-canonical. I was not aware until after reading Fr. John’s defense that the seal was indeed the same seal in every way. The implications of this statement are shocking.
Throughout Fr. John’s arguments, he relies on unsubstantiated claims of Archbishop Gregory’s “authority” over the country. As we also know, the Metropolitan had a heart attack in Colorado, or in any case, something close to it.
What if he had died before discovering this fact? Unbeknownst to the world before Ukaz 130, Archbishop Gregory could have created documents in the name of the Synod, awarding him authority over the entire country, and the world would have never known any better: the hierarchal Synod would have been subverted by the creation of a false seal which is the property of the Metropolitan. Had Archbishop Gregory decided upon schism, as he appears to be doing now, he would have had the ability to lie his way through a defense with a number of spurious documents which could take have taken years to resolve.
As would be expected, Fr. John does not appeal to the canons, but to the state law of the United States in this case, which is somewhat understandable except for the fact that copying a seal is not a capital crime, but forgery is, and where the Archbishop to use the seal to create a document giving him authority over the entire country, that is precisely what he would be doing in such a case.
Is Father John Calling for Schism?
Father John’s motivation is clear in points #28, 30, 31, and 35 is clear.
28: “…you, Metropolitan Valentine, BY CANONICAL DECREE are not allowed to create any orders or give any orders involving Archbishop Gregory.”
30: “As part of the True Church of Jesus Christ we follow the Holy Canons…. If the Synod of ROAC fails to follow the Holy Canons we will understand they have separated from the Holy Church. We have ‘no faith’ (emphasis Fr. John’s) in Metropolitan Valentine for this very reason.
31: “This is not open for opinion or debate.”
35: Considering this crime in which he was caught red-handed, serious CANONICAL violations, very grave heretical views concerning Baptism, Chrismation, and Grace… I must not follow the Metropolitan at this time. I am awaiting the ‘fair’ (quotes Fr. John’s) decision by the Synod. Of course, if the decision of the Synod is made in haste, is unfair, and does not follow the CANONS I will separate myself from the Synod.” (Italics mine)
Father John’s second letter to “focus on the canons” ignores the fact that the very argument he presents in #35 is against the canons and is itself grounds for his deposition, and if this letter was prompted by Archbishop Gregory, the Archbishop as well.
As has been noted before, Canon XIII of the First-Second Synod states: … the Holy Council has decreed that henceforth if any Presbyter or Deacon, on the alleged ground that his own bishop has been condemned for certain crimes, before a conciliar or Synodal hearing and investigation has been made, should dare to secede from his communion…. he shall be subject to prompt deposition from office and stripped of every prelatic honor. For anyone who has been established in the rank of presbyter and forestalls the Metropolitan’s judgment, and judging matters before a trial has been held, insofar as lies in his power, condemns his own father and Bishop, he is not even worthy of the honor or name of a presbyter.
Fr. John refers to the Metropolitan with impunity, which makes little sense even if he were under Archbishop Gregory (which, until recently, he believed he was, which makes one question his understanding of the canons he is defending). It makes less sense considering that he is under the Metropolitan, and always has been. He is directly attacking his Bishop, and seems blissfully unaware of it. The canons make clear that Fr. John’s actions in writing this letter are the actions of a schismatic.
While the Metropolitan may have overstepped his boundaries from a very legalistic viewpoint (as Ukaz 130, while a retirement order, was clearly written in the spirit of an exhortation to retire or face canonical sanctions), he certainly did not violate the canons, neither in their spirit nor their letter.
By contrast, the only conclusion any Orthodox Christian who knows the canons, even as we await the Synodal decision, can come to is that Archbishop Gregory, through his actions, has demolished any claims he has to the Episcopate of our Church, and that Fr. John Claypool retains the title of “Father” only formally, and based on his actions in writing this letter, only temporarily.
All the attacks upon the First Hierarch of the Synod by the partisans of Archbishop Gregory and Dormition Skete appear to have the same root; a disdain and hatred for obedience to canonical authority. For even if the legal right of the Metropolitan to remove Archbishop Gregory were limited, he had the fullness of the moral weight of the Church behind him.
Yet to a person who appeals to no authority but his own, such moral weight is worthless. This is why the canons are clear– and it is also why Fr. John Claypool, in his spiritual blindness, could not see the error of placing CXVIII as the first canon of his tome: that a Bishop shall not be his own judge. Yet this exactly is what Archbishop Gregory has opted to do. And though the guilty violate canon upon canon in both their attacks on our Metropolitan’s good-hearted attempt to protect the parishes in America and attempts to expand the power base of their center, they appeal in futility to the canons for their defense, spitting upon the Church which ordained them in place. Yet they forget– it is the Church who is the arbiter of canons. Individual Bishops must obey them, and not sully the good names of the heads of the local Churches. You do not become the Church by condemning Her. You become part of the Church by obedience to Her.
It is this obedience to moral authority, to spiritual authority, that Archbishop Gregory’s followers desperately wish to escape in their attacks– sadly, emulating their leader in his fullness, who feigns silence in public while claiming that the Metropolitan “slanders” him to a private audience: a tiny, shrinking cult.
Fr. Elia Yenovkian wrote a statement in March of 2004 during a brief attempt to enter the ROAC, which was rebuffed by the Archbishop and his followers: “Those who do not obey, or do not know how to be obedient, will never get away with anything.”
Three months later, those words have proven to be prophetic. As the end of Archbishop Gregory’s stay in the ROAC seems certain, the words of one of his most public and recent victims will haunt him through his final days.
New Martyr Elizabeth. 2004.