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"No one man, or group of men, can himself speak for the Church of Christ. It is nonetheless possible to speak from within the Church, in conformity with Orthodox tradition; and it is this that we shall attempt to do." Fr. Seraphim Rose Orthodox Word #1 Jan-Feb 1965 p. 17
Godson Chooses MP
Christ is Risen,
You had written that your last letter would cause me some discomfort. A bit, but not in the way that you are hoping for. I'm disappointed that you have taken the suspended Bishop Agafangel as a true shepherd. Nothing I have read of his writings gives me cause to agree with you.
First, while he's still part of the ROCOR Synod, he stops commemorating the first hierarch. Next, he writes an epistle entitled, "concerning those who slander me" (Can you imagine St. John M. or Fr. Seraphim Rose writing an epistle with such a title?)
Then, after leaving the Synod he says that one of his first orders of business is to convene a fith All-diaspora council since the fourth one was not legitimate. But, if the fourth one was not legitimate why is he calling this new one the fifth? In the past, if there was a false council convened, we never numbered it. i.e. the first "seventh ecumenical council" that decreed the veneration of icons to be idolatry.
Now he's joined himself to the Synod In Resistance which, in my view, needed to maintain a Russian representation. Several years ago, Archbishop Chrysostomos (abbot of St. Gregory Palamas Monastery in Etna) was questioned concerning the apostolic succession present in the Synod In Resistance. His reply was that they received their succession from ROCOR.
Therefore we legitimized them. The decision to enter communion with them was not a unanimous decision in ROCOR and even (*beep*) said that the monastery in Etna was an embarrassment.
When ROCOR entered dialogue with the MP, this alone was the reason for the Synod In Resistance to drop communion with us. When we suggested to them that they attempt to establish normal relations with their local church, they responded by saying that they had stopped commorating our hierarchs a year ago.
Now they have entered into dialogue with their local church; the very act which caused them to break communion with us. But there are some other inconsistencies with them, the most obvious being their churches in the country of Georgia. Georgia has no representation in the WCC and is on the Old Calendar, so why does the Synod In Resistance have churches there? Given the choice of whether to be in communion with Georgia or SIR, we chose Georgia and I'm glad we did.
Concerning the idea that there are weeping victims of an oppressive ROCOR, most of these situations are property issues. If this monastery decided to join a group outside of ROCOR, we could not expect to take this property with us because it does not belong to s. ROCOR made the same stipulation to the MP; "we keep our property". The relics of St. Edward do not belong to the monastery in England, but they belong to ROCOR. These other legal situations are similar.
If Fr. Ambrose had attempted to take the parish building with him when he left, then I'm sure you would have seen legal action on the part of ROCOR.
The idea that you express that dialogue with MP happened "in the dark by night" and that the process was quick is also not true. Beginning with the conference in Nyack four years ago, the internet has been continuously active not only with lengthy articles by people on both sides of the issue, but also the official synod site would release an overview of what was happening that day as well as (in the case of the 4th diaspora council) the very lectures were published as they were spoken. Incidentally, there is no law that requires a synod of bishops to convene a council of clergy and laity to decide an issue. Also, the synod is not obligated to go along with the decision of the clergy and laity; Orthodoxy is not a democracy.
Nevertheless, the ROCOR bishops went along with what was decided at these councils. Bishop Agafangel's departure from our synod of bishops does not make his group a continuation of ROCOR. Rather, it makes him one more wandering bishop in a long line of wandering bishops (Met. Valentine, Archbishop Tikhon of TOC, and Archbishop Gregory of Denver, just to name a few).
I agree with Fr. Pimen of Erie who says that what we're seeing now, with these splits from ROCOR, is simply a repeat of Old Believer history and that their history will be the same. During the time of the Ecumenical Councils, there were probably little groups who didn't agree with the ruling and tried to carry their own torch as long as they could, but we just don't see them today.
I see no flip-flopping of the bishops. What I see is a ROCOR that has fulfilled it's promise. All the bishops in the synod were voted there by those within the synod. If there is KGB infiltration, they were voted there by our bishops, including St. John M.
The catacomb church did not collapse because of KGB infiltration. The catacomb bishops themselves stopped ordaining new bishops because they did not want this separation to last forever. If Platina's explanation of Eldress Agatha's prophecy is incorrect, then we shouldn't have to wait long before we know * since her prophecies were supposed to happen within the lifetime of her hearers.
Fr. Gregory Williams puts forward the idea that the MP can never be considered canonical since Met. Sergius constitutes a break in apostolic succession. this was discussed in Nyack (where Fr. Gregory was present) and they agreed that Met. Sergius would have to be deposed by a canonical council in order to be considered a break in the chain. They also discovered that if they were going to treat Met. Sergius in this way, then they'd have to re-evaluate all the other times that a similar situation has happened in Orthodox history.
Met. Vitaly himself said that if the MP does not have grace and we enter into communion with them, then they would receive grace from us. Bishop Agafangel has also said that Met. Vitaly was removed because he did not agree with the synod. This is false.
When Bishop Gabriel visited us, he told us the story of how Met. Vitaly had risked his life to save Met. Laurus when he was a boy. Communists were coming into an area and Met. Vitaly and others were on a bus heading out. A little boy (Met. Laurus) ran after the bus and Met. Vitaly stopped the bus, ran out and grabbed the boy and brought him on board. Bishop Gabriel said that Met. Laurus rarely recognized Met. Laurus since his senility was so bad.
After Met. Vitaly was abducted and taken to Canada, a priest visited and saw a stack of blank papers with his signature at the bottom. It seems to me that bishop Agafangel will say anything to strengthen his camp.
Met. Vitaly was determined to die in office and the late Archbishop Anthony saw a problem with this. He said that if Met. Vitaly did not resign that he would cause great harm to the church. Archbishop Anthony had hoped that both of them would resign together, and Archbishop Anthony was writing an address to Met. Vitaly in which he asked him to follow in the footsteps of Met. Anastassy and step down, but Archbishop Anthony reposed before the address was finished.
Not long ago, a group of people tried to abduct Bishop Daniel of Erie in the same manner as Met. Vitaly, but Bishop Daniel was adamant that he did not want to be part of a schism and that, even though he thought that this was not the right time for union with the MP, he would not leave our synod. The group stopped trying to get Bishop Daniel after Bishop Agafangel acquiesed.
I read Bishop Daniel's statement regarding the continuation of an isolated ROCOR after all the stipulations for separation had been met. I did not agree with him, but that is simply my view. At the beginning of ROCOR's history, they wrote up reasons for the separation from Russia and stated that when these were met then communion would be re-established.
I could go on, but I honestly don't have time for this kind of thing. I'm only replying to your letter because if I were silent then you may think that I don't have an answer or that I haven't been paying attention to what's been going on for the past several years. Most of what you've sent I've already seen.
What you've written about Fr. Luke is laughable. It's like saying that Fr. Averky was too shy to say his opinion. Anyone who knows him knows otherwise.
You've made an offer to me that if I find that I disagree with the union that I can go with you and Fr. Gregory. Have you ever read the monastic tonsure service? One of the vows is: "wilt thou abide in this monastery or in that which under holy obedience thou shalt be ordered, and in the ascetic life until thy last breath?"
Even if I were to agree to go with you, I could not go secretly. You have written that my staying with the synod is false obedience since they were not obedient to ROCOR fathers. I disagree. I see Bishop Agafangel as going his own way and I cannot, based on what I currently know, justify changing my life and breaking my vow to God for the sake of one bishop.
The process of reconciliation (I do not call it re-union) was, in my view, done as it should have been done -over several years. What I'm sending with this letter is what I had printed out in 2006 specifically for you. I figured there may come a day when I might need to send it. (*enclosure: Fr. Peter Perkrestov's 25 Questions)
I don't pretend that I can change your mind, never once have I been able to do that, and I don't pretend that you may have never seen this before, but I'm sending it anyway. Respond however you like, but I will not continue this topic - your word will be the last word concerning all this.
One last point, though I'm sure that there are innumerable others, the modern war on ecumenism has become like this crazy war on terrorism. Many of the modern anti-ecumenists have their own definition of what it is and what it is not. So, as a quick reminder, what follows is the concise definition of ecumenism as stated by ROCOR in 1973:
"Those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ's Church is divided into so-called "branches"which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly,but will be formed in the future when all "branches" or sects or denominations and even religions will be united into one body; and do not distinguish the priesthood and mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics,but say that the baptism and eucharist of heretics is effectual for salvation; therefore, to those who knowingly have communion with these aforementioned heretics or who advocate, disseminate, or defend their new heresy of Ecumenism under the pretext of brotherly love or the supposed unification of separated Christians, Anathema!"
The MP condemned the Branch Theory in 2000, when they glorified the New Martyrs, the Royal Family, and condemned the Church's subservience to anti-Christian governments.
You brought up Fr. Seraphim Rose and St. John M. Fr. Seraphim Rose supported Fr. Dimitry Dudko, who left the Catacomb Church for the MP, and Fr.John Calciu who was a member of the New Calendar Romanian Church. St. John M. was believed in his life time, to be too sympathetic to the MP and some thought he was a KGB agent. Met. Vitaly didn't like him then either.
I don't want to be your enemy, but these are my views on this matter.
You mentioned a book that described the process of decomposition. Do you remember the name of the book? And if it's still around, do you think you could find one?
With love in Christ,
P.S. If the fall of communism is a hoax, then it's one of the most expensive of all time. It's also not working. Politically, the West hates Russia now more than ever before. Whatever Gorbachev says doesn't matter. He ran for president several years ago and lost. The Russian people hated Yeltson, too.
I also never said that the internet was all bad.