Bishop James of Whithorn: “It Seems Hasty to Cease Communion Until we Have Some Official Clarification of these Matters”

Editors: The following is a letter of Bishop James of Whithorn of the Autonomous Metropolia of the matter of Metropolitan Seraphim of Moscow’s recent apparent website posting condoning Imyaslavie. Again, this is not the position of the Synod (no such position yet exists) but of Bishop James himself to the Synod, and His Grace has been kind enough to bless the printing of this letter.

James, Bishop of Whithorn, Dumfries, and the Marches

Episcopal Palace of Buittle Castle

Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland

14th of December, 2019 AD

To: The Holy Synod of The Autonomous Orthodox Metropolia of N.&S. America and the British Isles

By email

My dear Brother Bishops and members of the Holy Synod, Christ is in our midst. I greet you all in the spirit of love, but also of concern and loving care for the Holy Church which I am sure we all share with Bishop Enoch over the developments in Russia, and I thank Bishop Enoch for bringing this matter before us for discussion and observation. Since I spoke with Bishop Enoch last night, as well as had the email which was sent to us all this morning I have had some time to reflect on this matter, in consultation with others. I will here outline my initial opinions regarding the possible return of our Russian Sister Synod to the heresy of Imyaslavie.

It goes without saying that, as far as our Synod is concerned, as well as the clear dogmatic definition of the rest of the Holy Church, and, of course, my personal conviction is that the so-called teaching of Name-worshiping, which, as far as I can tell, attempts to attribute worship (Latria) to the Name of God, and establish this as a sound teaching of the Church is hateful to God, and does damage to the Body of Christ, the Holy Church.

This insidious incursion into the proper veneration of the Holy Name, through what seems to be an esotericist or crypto-gnostic influence, is obviously not something to be tolerated within the Holy Church. We are faced with a situation in which it seems possible that the First Hierarch Met. Seraphim condones this heresy. However, we are unsure of the source of this material, the correctness of the translation we have available to us, and so forth. On those grounds, it seems hasty to cease communion until we have some official clarification of these matters.

As far as the facts go, to my knowledge we know only a few things. Firstly, as I understand it, Met. Seraphim repudiated, only a short time ago, any adherence to this heresy, and confirmed his Orthodox Faith in this matter. Moreover, he, as I understand it, claimed that this had never been a dogmatic position, but rather a personal opinion which he had previously held, but had now abandoned. Secondly, that his synod has made no further dogmatic definition on this matter than that made by their predecessor in Moscow in 1913. Therefore, from a strictly procedural point, we must believe that they stand by the official condemnation made by Moscow in 1913, as there has been no statement since. It seems that there may be those erring from this amongst them, which is problematic and should prompt us to encourage our Sister Synod to correct those people, but as they, as a church are neither officially condoning or teaching this heresy a break in communion not only with them, but also with our Brethren in Avlona seems to me rash, and counterproductive. I laud, however, Bishop Enoch’s motive of safeguarding the Sacramental Grace and doctrinal purity of our own Synod.

This last observation: “a break in communion at this stage being counterproductive” requires one last bit of explanation. I say this because, were we certain that heresy was being taught or proclaimed then it would, of course, be prudent to break. At this point we do not know, and need to find out. We have, within our International Union, a mechanism for doing this, in the form of a meeting of the First Hierarchs. I believe that before any ecclesiological action is taken, this tool should be used. Were we to break off not only with Russia, but also with Greece in the process, we would lose the ability to do this, and lose the ability to fraternally correct Met. Seraphim and others if, God forbid, this heresy is, indeed, being given credence.

I look forward to the further observations of you all, as well as welcome any correction on points on which I may be ill-informed or under-informed. Please pray for me.

In Christ, ✠ James