Bishop Enoch of Apshawa on Metropolitan Seraphim: “But, if … we Share Mutually Contradictory Dogmatic Beliefs….”

NFTU Editors: This is a reply by Bishop Enoch of Apshawa, American Metropolia, to the recent interview found on the website of Metropolitan Seraphim and his Synod, which apparently endorses Imyaslavie.  NFTU has been asked to state that this is the personal view of Bishop Enoch on this matter, and represents his reply [among others] that was given to his Metropolitan [when asked] concerning this question and what should be done; he has given permission to publicly post his thoughts on the matter.

Recently there appeared a purported interview with Metropolitan Seraphim, the First Hierarch of our Sister Russian Synod. In the interview, Met. Seraphim expressed heretical pro-imiaslavist views. As the question of Imiaslavie has already been debated, and we have rejected Imiaslavie, there is no need to go into a detailed analysis of this dogmatic issue once again. But, we can say a few things about the repercussions. What follows are my views, and I am not writing an official Synodal document at this moment on this matter.

For the sake of giving Met. Seraphim the benefit of the doubt, we can say that we are not entirely sure that Metropolitan Seraphim spoke the words in this interview, at least, not how they are reported. We have made inquiries as to the veracity of the statements. But, as this seems to have happened before, it seems entirely possible, nay, likely, that these statements endorsing Imiaslavie do, indeed, reflect the views of Metropolitan Seraphim. It was our firm belief that the ability to re-establish communion with both the Greek and Russian Sister Synods in 2018 was based upon a common understanding of dogmatic issues, including a rejection of the Imiaslavist teaching that the names of God are the same as the Uncreated Operations.

However, assuming this interview accurately reflects Met. Seraphim’s views, then, it seems, either he has changed his position, or, we were not accurately informed of his position. If such is then case, then Met. Seraphim and our Synod hold diametrically opposed views on whether the names of God can be said to be the Uncreated Operations. The one mechanism agreed to in 2018 was that, if there is any serious issue, then the Primate of each Synod can ask for a mediation of the Primates of the other Synods on these matters. If such a matter is convoked, the idea for compromises on any dogmatic issues cannot be entertained. Either Met. Seraphim renounces his view that the names of God are the Uncreated Operations, or we renounce our view that they are not. We have already anathematized the Imiaslavie heresy, so the matter is settled for us. There is only acceptance or rejection; leading either to continued communion or a breach.

Met. Seraphim seems to often speak of the HOCNA in this interview. HOCNA, as we all know, was founded in the late 1980’s, in an effort to protect the sexual depravities of Fr. Panteleimon and his monks at HTM, so that they could continue, unabated, to sexually assault novices with no repercussions. But, where such evil is present, it would only be a matter of time until heresy arises. This in turn led to the majority of the membership of HOCNA, having become aware of the actual reasons for their breach with ROCOR, as well as the promotion of Imiaslavie heresy by HOCNA leadership, repudiating membership in HOCNA, and seeking protection from the GOC-K. Recently, Bishop Makarios of Toronto, in the wake of the Lamian Synod repudiating communion with HOCNA as well, separated from it, and united with the Lamian Synod. If Met. Seraphim prefers communion with the HOCNA, since it holds the same views as he does on these matters, then, it is preferable for this to be made publicly known.

In the past interactions we have had concerning this issue with Met. Seraphim, we were constantly confronted with two completely contradictory pieces of information. One source said that everything Met. Seraphim said and wrote was not by himself, but by others and did not reflect his views. The other said that these did, in fact, reflect his views. After a few months of back on forth on this matter in late 2015, it became evident, when all sources agreed, that Met. Seraphim did, in fact, believe what the letters being sent to us said. Now we are faced with the same things being said to us. The Synod cannot be expected to entertain such doubts for months on end, with the seemingly undoubted conclusion being, “He endorses these views after all.” It seems we are perpetually being taken down this path on this matter; we provide the benefit of the doubt, and our worst fears are only confirmed. If we cannot establish clear lines of communication and confirmation with a Sister Synod on such dogmatic matters of import, then such a communion serves no real purpose. I have no personal ill feelings toward Met. Seraphim or any of his clergy; why would I? But, if, and it seems almost certain, we share mutually contradictory dogmatic beliefs, then, a communion between our Synods makes no sense, and has to be ended.

As for how all this will affect communion with the Sister Synod in Avlona, one can only say that the same path as last time will have to be followed. That is, a suspension in communion with both the Russian and Greek Sister Synod until we have the same dogmatic views on these matters. However, this time, as I have told many others, and my conversations with our Metropolitan have confirmed, any re-establishment of communion must be made after everyone signs explicit statements, signed and sealed, and extensive discussions, not just with the Greek representatives as intermediaries, but direct negotiations with the Russians themselves. These statements will have to explicitly condemn Imiaslavie as an heresy in the clearest possible terms, with no room left in any nook or cranny, or any deviation; with, importantly, the again direction negotiations, absent any intermediaries. Otherwise, any re-establishment of communion will simply result in the same break not long after, which, apparently, we are witnessing now.

I have expressed the views that we should not wait too long, as with each passing day, the possibility that this is all some sort of Imiaslavist hoax seems less and less likely; we should provide some small benefit of the doubt, but not much. But, this time is quickly coming to a close. Thus, I propose that an immediate cessation and suspension of communio in sacris with both the Greek and Russian Synods be enacted, without any hostile mutual recriminations against any of their Primates. If a mediation leads to a mutually acceptable dogmatic announcement against the Imiaslavie heresy, then, all well and good. If it does not, then, we must all simply go our separate ways. Perhaps in 10 or 20 years some improvement will be made. Our Synod has more than enough work to do in its missionary and other ecclesial activities, that it does not need the constant agitation of these issues.

In Christ,

Bishop Enoch