Testimonies on the 2006 San Francisco IVth All-Diaspora ROCOR Sobor Part 1

Note: This is reaching back a bit, 6 years to be exact, but, this is still as valid a testimony today, as it was 6 years ago. It is important that the unpopular, but, truthful witness of the days in the past be listened to regarding the IVth All-Diaspora ROCOR Sobor of San Francisco. It was this Sobor that could arguably be that which sealed the death knell for many of the ROCOR bishops who went and joined the Unia with Patriarch Kirill.

Some Thoughts on the Resolution of the IVth All-Diaspora Council of the ROCOR

The Resolution of the IVth All-Diaspora Council of the ROCOR regarding its submission to the Moscow Patriarchate reads as a true Soviet document, filled with double-speak and outright untruths. The first paragraph, which begins as a typical boilerplate ecclesiastical statement, quickly betrays its Soviet basis when it confesses “complete trust” in the First Hierarch, Metropolitan Laurus. Those in the ROCOR who oppose submission to the soviet church must have qualms when they recall, among other things, how he and his delegation remained obediently respectful and silent as Patriarch Alexey served a panyhida for Met. Sergius and launched into a panegyric about the heroic struggle Met. Sergius gave to “save” the Russian Church. The ROCOR apologists of soviet submission claim the delegation’s physical absence from the service excuses their silence, but how do they excuse their failure to at least repeat the classic objections of their forebears, particularly to how he “saved” the Russian Church? The soviet patriarch certainly knew that by timing this panyhida, he forced them to betray the truth by their silence.
Worse yet, the first paragraph slyly compels all delegates to “attest that as loyal children of the Holy Church, we shall submit to Divine will and obey the decisions of the forthcoming Council of Bishops.” Any delegate who subsequently leaves the ROCOR, finding the Council of Bishops submits to the soviet church, forswears himself as an oath-breaker, which is a grievous sin, for the meaning of “attest” is “to certify by oath or signature” (Webster’s New World Dictionary). And further, he will proclaim himself opposed to the “Divine will.”
In typical soviet fashion, the Resolution in the second paragraph redefines the word “unanimous” to mean 129 votes for, 6 against (Day 4 of the IV All-Diaspora Council, http://russianorthodoxchurch.ws/synod/eng2006/5ensoborday6.html). While a subsequent posting of the Vote Tallying Committee makes clear that the voting took place paragraph by paragraph and the first two paragraphs passed without dissent, nevertheless the Resolution itself insinuates that the whole resolution passed unanimously (without dissent). The customary procedure for indicating unanimous consent to a resolution is to state this after the text of the resolution. Quite simply, until the vote is taken, no one except a soviet, can know that the outcome will be unanimous—and then it is too late to change the voted text to include this fact.
The second paragraph continues in what has become standard soviet-speak for the ROCOR when it expresses “resoluteness to heal the wounds of division within the Russian Church—between her parts in the Fatherland and abroad,” referring to the MP as the part in the Fatherland. Had they left the clause after the hyphen out, it would have reflected the traditional stand of the ROCOR through the first seventy years of Her existence. But beginning in the 1990’s and especially after the October, 2000 Sobor, the conscious attempt to redefine Stalin’s creation of the Moscow Patriarchate as the Russian Church in Russia became ubiquitous. The opponents to soviet submission place great hope on the next sentence, “Our Paschal joy is joined by the great hope that in the appropriate time, the unity of the Russian Church will be restored upon the foundation of the Truth of Christ, opening for us the possibility to serve together and to commune from one Chalice.” Unfortunately, the pro-soviet bishops and leaders of the ROCOR have defined “in the appropriate time” to be now. Furthermore, the IV Council members just agreed unconditionally to establish “communion from one Chalice” with the soviet church. Long gone are the historical conditions and requirements made by previous Councils of Bishops of the ROCOR.
The opponents of soviet submission also appear quite pleased that the Resolution states, “it is necessary to confirm the canonical status of the Russian Church Abroad for the future as a self-governing part of the Local Russian Church, in accordance with the Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia currently in force.” Unfortunately, they appear not to have read the Regulations of the ROCOR currently in force. These state in the first paragraph, “The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad is an indissoluble part of the Russian Orthodox Church, and for the time until the extermination in Russia of the atheist government, is self-governing on conciliar principles in accordance with the Resolution of the Patriarch, the Most Holy Synod, and the Highest Church Council of the Russian Church dated 7/20 November, 1920, No. 362.” Not only have the pro-soviet leaders of the ROCOR redefined the meaning in this paragraph of the Russian Orthodox Church to mean the Moscow Patriarchate, but they have already declared for many years now the “extermination in Russia of the atheist government.” Thus, the Regulations currently in force not only permit, but now require the submission of the ROCOR to the MP.
The fourth paragraph restates once again the redefinition of the Russian Orthodox Church as the “Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate,” thereby further reinforcing the meaning in paragraph two of “her parts in the Fatherland and abroad,” and indeed throughout the whole document. Then, the paragraph contains the classic soviet and ecumenispeak phrase, “it is apparent that the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in the World Council of Churches evokes confusion among our clergy and flock.” There is no confusion evoked among the Orthodox about participation in the World Council of Churches. There is only confusion among those who attempt to justify it as being Orthodox. The plea following this statement, “With heartfelt pain we ask the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate to heed the plea of our flock to expediently remove this temptation” is unworthy of an Orthodox declaration. It is the plea of the slave begging the master to stop his abuse, and it already has received from the soviet church the contempt it deserves. The proposed union yokes unequal parties. It is a well known axiom of world power politics that the greater and stronger devour the smaller and weaker. The ROCOR in its pell-mell drive to submit to the soviets has embraced this worldly spirit. It can expect the soviets now to concede nothing, since the ROCOR’s committee on union already conceded every historical condition to the MP.
The fifth paragraph proclaims total submission to the soviet church and desire for union. It states, “We hope that the forthcoming Local Council of One Russian Church will settle remaining unresolved church problems.” Aside from admitting the negotiations over the last six years yielded little for the ROCOR, this astounding paragraph yearns for precisely what the objectors claim cannot be. The only way there can be a “Local Council of One Russian Church” is for the ROCOR to cease to exist. No doubt, the authors of this statement remember that the ROCOR traditionally called for the judgment of a future All-Russian Council to sort out the mess of the soviet era and justify the righteous and condemn the unrighteous. But the Council called for in this statement will be different, for there will be no condemnation of the soviets, and since the ROCOR has already submitted, what is there left to sort out? Except perhaps how to dismember the rump ROCOR, which the soviet masters promised them? Perhaps the ROCOR would have done well to look at the experience of the OCA, which the MP promised to give the patriarchal churches at autocephaly. The MP now has more churches in North America, organized into a diocese, than it did in 1970. As for those who think this Council is far in the future, “forthcoming” should tell them it is already upon them.
The sixth paragraph contains one of the most flagrant falsehoods in the document. It states the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia were “glorified both by the Russian Church Abroad and by the Russian Church in the Fatherland,” which is untrue. Certainly, the MP – now explicitly identified as “the Russian Church in the Fatherland” – glorified selected New Martyrs, but they rejected glorifying those who fought sergianism (particularly St. Joseph of Petersburg) and insisted on glorifying sergianist martyrs as if they were exactly the same as those who opposed the soviets. To equate these glorifications is to deny the ROCOR’s glorification in 1981, which of course the soviet church rejects, if they mention it at all. This statement also, finally and completely, sweeps away any memory of the Catacomb Church in Russia, before whose struggles the ROCOR as late as the time of Metropolitan Vitaly proclaimed to bow down. Nor does it acknowledge the existence of the other Russian Orthodox hierarchies opposed to the MP undergoing persecution to this day. If indeed there is an “abyss of the lethal division in the Russian Church,” this Resolution and the submission of the ROCOR to the soviets will do little to heal it.
The last paragraph concludes in typical soviet fashion, for we now learn of the “renascent Homeland” in Russia. First, what of the non-Russians for whom the ROCOR has provided a spiritual home? Russia is not their Homeland, any more than it is for third and fourth generation descendants of the Russians who fled the communists. This is reminiscent of Patriarch Alexey I demanding an oath of allegiance to the Soviet State from the clergy of the North American Metropolia in 1947, which they refused. Will the ROCOR be so bold? Or perhaps, Russianness is now more important than Orthodoxy, as Patriarch Alexey II warned when he stated that the ROCOR is losing its Russianness and its opportunity to submit. Furthermore, if there was any question about the intent to remove the condition in the Regulations of the ROCOR for self-governance until “the extermination in Russia of the atheist government,” this phrase can leave no doubt that the time is now. Indeed, having proclaimed the rebirth (renascence) of [Holy] Russia, the ROCOR has abrogated its own basis. To remain separate now, under this thinking, is to be schismatic from the Mother Church. And in fact, this is precisely what the MP has said of the ROCOR all along. Following this line of reasoning, one must ask why the ROCOR didn’t unite after World War II? That is when it became possible to resume contact with the MP in Moscow. This is the underlying condition of Ukaz No. 362. Even the most ardent pro-soviet adherents of the ROCOR can’t agree with this thought. To do so, they must proclaim themselves graceless schismatics. Which of course, they proclaim those who disagree with and break from them.
Anyone hoping that the ROCOR will remain true to Her historic mission must lament the IVth All-Diaspora Council buried even the memory of that mission. This Resolution points the new face of the ROCOR forward into the maw of the soviet church against which She stood for decades.
Archpriest Joseph Sunderland
Sunday of the Paralytic

1/14 May 2006

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