Exclusive: MP-ROCOR takes in entire vagante group (Part I of III)

Are the new “ROCOR Western Rite” receptions an official shift in policy towards ecumenism?

On Tuesday, November 9 (NS) it was announced on a number of email lists that the membership of an entire vagante “church” was being received in by Metropolitan Hilarion, following the admittance of a Fr Allyne Lev Smith last month. With these receptions, ROCOR-MP finally has “street credibility” with the ecumenists.

The announcement of the mass reception of the “The Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church of America, part of the Former Exarchate of The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria in the Americas”, appeared online on a Yahoo!group covering Western Rite issues under the auspices of a priestmonk of ROCOR-MP. The full text of the announcement follows this article.

The group, headed by soi-disant Archbishops Anthony Bondi and Bishop Michael Kinsfather is, according to their website, composed “primarily of house churches,” so property was not a motivating factor; yet it appears ROCOR-MP is also not catechizing the new clergy, as they had only been in discussions for a year. Further, until 2008, one of the two Bishops in question being made an “Archimandrite” (per the announcement below) was in fact a happily married “Bishop”!

This author had a horrendous discussion with Archbishop Bondi after a number of his public statements indicated he held ecumenistic beliefs. An essay coming out of those discussions was here.
It was noted on the same email list on Wednesday from a person who speaks regularly with the authorities of ROCOR-MP (and whom another ROCOR-MP priest, Hieromonk Ambrose of New Zealand, identified as a clergyman of same) that “Metropolitan  Hilarion referred to the group of Parishes as “Anglican” – I have the  testimony of one Priest and one Hieromonk who were present. In his email to me Bishop Jerome said that he had been characterising them as “Anglican” for simplicities sake. Congratulations Archbishop Anthony – you know you have been in my prayers and our conversations over the long period have been an encouragement to me.”
 In fact, these two men were ordained by– and remained in communion with at least until 2008– the “Orthodox American Church”, a theosophical vagante group which claimed its succession not from the Anglicans, but none other than the mysterious Archbishop James R. Toombs, who had come to ROCOR from a theosophical-mystical Ofieshite sect run by the infamous Stanislaus DeWitow known as the Societas Rosicruciana Republicae Americae, for which the “Holy Orthodox Church in America” remained effectively as a cover group (membership in Freemasonry having been required for all leaders).  A quick look at the “Orthodox American Church” website should therefore be of no surprise when the writings of Berdayev and references to the “tree of light” are found on it.
Certainly we can’t say that Bishop Jerome is completely ignorant of the spotty history of Archbishop Toombs, having written in 2008 that “When Bishop James (Toombs) of Manhattan was exposed as belonging to a Masonic lodge, it led to his downfall.” (Orthodox-Tradition list, August 28, 2008). Thus, we can understand why Metr Hilarion and Bp Jerome are calling these men “Anglicans” (even though we can assume that one– or likelier, both– of them knows the truth).  If the authorities of ROCOR-MP were simply doing their missionary duty, then why– per the admission of their own clergy– would they, for “simplicity’s sake”, change the religious affiliation of the leaders of same in their public announcements?
Full Text of Announcement

Dear Brothers in Christ,

It is with great pleasure that I announce to you that the Archdiocese of New York of The Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church of America, the Former Exarchate of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria has petitioned The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia to be received into its fold.

It was our intention to do this quietly, without fanfare, until all the clergy were received and ordained. The post made here unfortunately preempted that.

This is the culmination of a long journey, many prayers, and great patience.  It will also require the humility of our bishops, priests and deacons to bow their heads for ordination in the Russian Church which we do with great joy for the sake of the unity of the Church. We have accepted the use of the Julian Calendar as we were already on it for the Paschalion and most of us have been greatly disturbed by the commercialization of Christmas. We will also be able to keep our Liturgy which is based on the Dom Augustine Liturgy. We will also be able to continue our practice of gathering each year in the Fall for a Conference/Retreat and now open it up to other Western Rite Clergy. The 2011 Conference will be held at St Mary’s Villa, Sloatsburg NY, Tuesday October 25th to Friday October 28th.

So that we are clear, the parishes being received were non-canonical Orthodox, not Anglican. Most of us come from the Roman Church though some of us have spent time in the Anglican Church, Episcopal, Continuing, or Charismatic Episcopal. We all became Western Rite Orthodox.

Archbishop Anthony and Bishop Michael will resign the episcopacy and be ordained and elevated to be Archimandrites and His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion has asked former Archbishop Anthony to be Vicar/Dean of his group of Western Rite parishes. The historic significance of this is that the Orthodox Western Rite will have almost ten new parishes and, when all are received about 18 more clergy. We will have an informal group called The Fraternity of St Gregory.

Those clergy who have already been received into the Russian Church have experienced the warm welcome and generous kindness of Metropolitan Hilarion and Vladyka Jerome who have been paragons of patience in doing all of the required ordinations for us. The Russian clergy surrounding them have been most welcoming to their new Orthodox brothers who will be using the Western Rite.

Some have commented on the humility that it has taken for me and Bishop Michael to give up the episcopacy. Anyone who knows our history also knows that we did what we had to do to keep our group together and to offer a place for those who wanted to be Orthodox Western Rite as we awaited the time God would appoint for our entrance into the Russian Church. Conversations were being held with Moscow through Fr Daniil Sosoyev (RIP) who through his martyric death has accomplish what he could not finish in this life.

We wish to thank Father James of Christminster who urged us for years constantly to hope and pray, Fr Ambrose (NZ) who continued to fast and pray for us all and who encouraged us, Fr Michael for his encouragement, Fr David (FL) and Fr Ambrose (GOA) for their prayers. We wish also to acknowledge the ongoing novena to St John of Shanghai and San Francisco for the past 9 years and the maternal graces secured for us by the Holy Mother of God.

Finally, we remember the words of the old Western prayer: “O Lord Jesus Christ, who for the accomplishment of Thy greatest works, has chosen the weak vessel of the world that no flesh may glory in Thy sight….” may we who have been called to the work of bringing the West to Orthodoxy have the strength and grace to perform it by your prayers.

Archbishop Anthony
New York