Below is a letter from Nov. 18 from Bp Gabriel of the ROCOR to Fr Igor, and Fr Igor’s response.
Nov 18, 2008
Dear in the Lord Fr Igor:
After our long conversations over recent weeks, I have felt it my archpastoral duty, and responsibility as a friend, to address you in the form of a missive, and have decided to make it an open letter. I do this because the situation in which you find yourself is the result of errors committed, unfortunately, not only by you.
I will not repeat here how saddened I was when I heard of what happened. Without warning to either Vladyka Metropolitan, whom, by the way, you have known personally for many years, nor me, a bishop who, as instructed by our Synod, has ministered to your parish for many years (not to mention our own friendship of many years), you arbitrarily convened a meeting of the parishioners, where a decision was adopted which completely violates the Holy Canons to which you constantly refer in your articles, and the Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, the paragraphs of which you often cite. You did not await my arrival in Florida, you did not give me an opportunity to address the parish, knowing that then, the false, hasty decision that was made that day probably would not have occurred.
Dear Fr Igor, let us call things by their proper name. Under the influence of feelings of aggravation and insult which have gripped you, you abandoned the confines of the Church and you now lead a portion of the flock entrusted to you into the abyss of schism. Having brought down upon yourself suspension by your lawful Bishop, you continue to conduct services; this is a fatal action both for you and for the flock you have deceived, for it directly harms your salvation. You commemorate the name of a suspended bishop, who dared to head an unlawful, sinful assemblage, the so-called VVTsU [Temporary Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration—transl.], which even calls itself the “traditional” or “genuine” Church Abroad, which is an intentional deception of the flock. No matter how you try to justify your actions by saying that you were treated unfairly, you remain a violator of basic church rules on the relationship of a presbyter to his Bishop. For you know these laws well: the presbyter shall not condemn his own Bishop (1st & 2nd Council, 14), he must do nothing without the will of his Bishop (Apostolic 39, Laodicea 57) and if any presbyter, despising his own bishop, shall collect a separate congregation, and erect another altar, not having any grounds for condemning the bishop with regard to religion or justice, let him be deposed for his ambition (Apostolic Canon 31). May the Lord protect us from such consequences for your actions. You cannot be ignorant of the fact that to stand for ecclesiastical truth while at the same time being outside of the lawful Church is a temptation and error. No political, administrative, managerial, property or other quarrel arising between servants of God, members of the Church Militant, that is, as human beings on earth, who are subject to sin and death, none of the above diminishes or abrogates the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
References to “tradition” and “authenticity” is always wickedness. For instance, over the course of many centuries, the Church established the list of books which comprise the Holy Gospel. What would you now sayto those who, under the banner of “tradition,” would include in the list of books of the Gospel something that the Church already declined or rejected in the 1st or 2nd centuries?
The Russian Church Abroad could not at one time be in communion with the Russian Church in the Fatherland due to various forms of persecution on the part of the state, which hindered the Church’s freedom. Today, the Russian Orthodox Church in the Fatherland is free in Her holy service to the benefit of our much-suffering people. You cannot deny this obvious fact. Can we reject communion with Her with the excuse that She, in Her human composition, has not yet thrown off all the consequences of this brutal persecution? Is it acceptable on this basis to think and act like the Pharisee from the Lord’s parable in the Gospel?
Again and again I earnestly beseech you to reconsider. In the name of your salvation, for the sake of holy obedience, submit to the suspension laid upon you, no matter how unfair it would seem to you. Break all ties with the schismatic groups. Then your right to appeal to the Hierarchy with a request to reexamine your case will be restored, when you can provide additional arguments, if you have any.
For the faithful flock, pastors and archpastors of the Church of Christ, there is no other way.
I pray the Lord that He give you wisdom.
You are ever in my prayers and I wish you well.
+ Bishop Gabriel
Nov 24, 2008
Dear in the Lord Bishop Gabriel!
I received your “accusatory” letter. I thought long and hard, what to write back. Finally, I put pen to paper and followed your example.
I’ll begin by reminding you how, in April of 1992, the Most Reverend Mark, Archbishop of Berlin and Germany, accepted me into the ranks of the clergy of the England diocese of the Church Abroad without a so-called “release.” At that time, he demonstrably explained to me that I was leaving a SCHISM and joining the TRUE CHURCH.
Along with that, I was required to repent that I was part of the “sergianist schism.” Fifteen years went by and it turns out that what we called a schism is now called the true church. Our bishops suddenly understood something or another which they did not understand in 1992. While those distinguished diaspora priests, who cried out louder than everyone else about the disgraceful actions of the Moscow Patriarchate, and wrote books, and made accusations in the pages of newspapers and magazines, and spoke on the radio, and staged demonstrations in the 1970’s against the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of America, now convince their flock of just the opposite. That the Moscow Patriarchate is not a schism, but our Mother Church, and that the diaspora never considered it to be in schism. Forgive me, dear Bishop, I did not know that the term “sergianism” was thought up in the MP and not in ROCA. Is it possible that for over 50 years, in our seminary in Jordanville, no one ever heard of the “sergianist schism,” though the so-called “karlovtsy schism” was well known to all in the MP? Your parents and teachers were a part of this schism. You were born, baptized, tonsured and ordained in this SCHISM.
In my opinion, the Moscow Patriarchate made a heroic act in accepting the “karlovtsy schismatics” WITHOUT THEIR REPENTING. It knowingly committed a violation of the Canons, and not those, which you use against me. (Those dutiful citations which the bishops always use, though they did not prevent them from remaining in schism.) The MP trampled the basic principle of territorial sovereignty of the local churches, and also violated the Tomos of 1970 it had with the American church. This was all done for the sake of love and unity within the One Orthodox Family.
I do not judge you or Metropolitan Hilarion. Who am I? A simple Russian priest. I do not have the right to denounce or judge all of you bishops. You certainly have your reasons for which you deserted the Church Abroad. Apparently, you think you are right. My relationship to both of you has not changed because of it. I continue to love both of you and continue to consider you my friend.
But you made your choice. Why do not you let others make their choice? Even if they are wrong from your point of view. But it is their choice. The choice of our brothers is not to be under the omofor of the Moscow Patriarchate. What are we going to do, punish them all, so that it “does not happen again”? Where did our bishops get the idea that they are always right? They thought they were right while in the “karlovtsy schism,” and now they are right while in the “sergianist schism.” Or perhaps a bishop’s ordination imparts wisdom? Though, as we know, “even in the emptiest of heads, love often begets extreme fabrications.” (Cosima Prutkov)
You never considered why out of all the priests of our diocese who did not want to leave ROCA for the MP, I was the only one who was censured. Why, right after I received your letter, did I receive the grave order from Metropolitan Hilarion announcing the dismissal of the parish council, and making claims on our parish property, parish accounts, etc.? Is it possible that Metropolitan Hilarion is interested only in our property? He is after all one of God’s Bishops, and not a synodal clerk. Why “engage in this farce” of censure and “threaten” the priest?
Is it possible that you still do not understand that there is no place for me in your new system? And that is not because the Metropolitan wants it that way. It is because his “lackeys” (excuse me for calling them that) want it that way. They are the true administrators of ROCOR(MP) and receive their orders from their real bosses in the Moscow Patriarchate. I watched this farce for a whole year. Forgive me, dear Bishop, I cannot do it any more. You can continue putting up with it alone. Maybe with time, you will understand me and forgive me. I do not believe it is possible to have a serious conversation with your superiors. They have already made up their minds about me.
I deeply appreciate your letter.