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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

Dispelling a Rumor

3/10/10
To: Exarchate Clergy, Faithful, and Frineds
From: Archbishop Chrysostomos

Evlogia Kyriou.

        As all of you know, when our Sister Church, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA), announced that it was going to open communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, a few of its communities refused to accept this union. Early on, a number of individuals with decidedly moderate ecclesiological views asked Metropolitan Cyprian and our Synod of Bishops to receive them into our jurisdiction, which was done with pleasure.

        In addition to several monastic communities in England, four communities in the U.S. joined us and are now part of the Exarchate of our Church: The Convent of the Protection in Bluffton, Alberta (Canada), the Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Oxnard, CA, the Priest and a portion of the parish of the St. John Kronstadt parish in San Diego, CA (now organized as the parish of St. Seraphim of Sarov and St. John of Kronstadt), and the Annunciation Church in Rochester, NY.

        Much to their credit and my pleasure, the communities in the U.S. and Canada that have joined us, as well as the communities in England (a wonderful monastery and an exemplary convent about which you can read more in the forthcoming issue of "Orthodox Tradition"), have all maintained a firm commitment to our Holy Synod in Resistance and have been the cause of much joy to me, Bishop Auxentios, and our Bishops in general. They have maintained positions of moderation and  charity with regard to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, after it joined with the Moscow Patriarchate, and this in the context of the tragedy that we all consider this union to be and in the face of some of the rather regrettable characterizations of our witness by some in the ROCA after its union with Moscow.

        As an example of the spiritual maturity and exemplary fairness of those in our Synod who came from the ROCA, I am, with his permission, sending out a letter that Archimandrite Alexis, Superior of the St. Edward Brotherhood in England, sent to a ROCA believer in the U.S., in response to rumors that, were it not for their treatment by their former ROCA Bishop, the monastics in this exemplary community and in the Annunciation Convent would return to the ROCA. Father Alexis, in a letter which is a model of Christian writing and thinking, confronts this rumor and sets a standard which all parties in the Church would do well to emulate.

        I suspect that, in receiving communities of conscience, who have sacrificed immensely to maintain their witness and who have done so much to enhance the witness of our Synod of Bishops, we drew, by God's Grace, from the "cream of the crop" of the ROCA. My suspicion is, again, certainly reinforced by this letter. It is well worth taking your time to read it. While many of the disputes to which it refers may be unfamiliar, the tone and spirit of the letter are instructive.

        We extend forgiveness for the "peculiarities" British spelling (the "de-simplification" and de-"bea-ou-tification" of the English language, as Einstein is said to have called it). American English utilitarianism will have to yield!


* * *


I. Archimandrite Alexis' note to me:

Evlogeite!  A letter from a ROCA-MP parishioner in the States, whom we  
have known for years and my reply:

* * *


II. The letter sent to him.

Father Bless!
  Hope you are enduring the fast well enough. I haven't heard from you.
However, in a company of clerics today, I heard that when your name
came up, the general reaction was that you and the nuns were wronged by
DM, whom one person called a Nazi.
Just wanted to let you know.
Now for the rest of the fast I must be more charitable and less
inclined to gossip.
With love in Christ,
XXX

* * *


III. His reply.


Dear-in-Christ, xxx, bless!

        Many thanks for your message with its sad news.  I think that rumours  
such as those clerics were sharing both dishonour Archbishop Mark, and the good intentions of the sisters at the Convent in Willesden and of  ourselves.

        Please, from the very outset let us get one thing perfectly clear:  We  
did not leave ROCOR because of Archbishop Mark or the way he treated us.  It is true that our relationship with him (and I speak for the Brotherhood only now, I cannot speak for the sisters) was somewhat cold.  Any coldness on his part may well be understandable. He became the ruling Bishop of Britain after a period of some turmoil in the diocese here.  He had probably heard things about us which were not in our favour.  Earlier he had been an opponent of the reception of the sacred relics of St Edward: we were the guardians of those relics.  He knew that I and the then Brother Stephen both came from the Boston Monastery, and he probably suspected us of holding Bostonite ideas.  In fact before he arrived here as Bishop, he and I had only met once - he briefly visited the Monastery at Boston when I was there and he was still a layman. It must have been in 1974/5, because I had not long been tonsured a monk.

        Nonetheless, he visited us several times a year and served here each time; he made great efforts (I can think of three things in particular) to calm the ill feeling that had been stirred up in our diocese against the Brotherhood in general and me in particular.  For that we are thankful.  In the beginning he made efforts to address the people who came to church here, and tell them about developments in church life.  Three such talks I remember in particular, perhaps because his position has now changed so radically; one was his very positive impression of the catacomb churches in Russia when he visited there;  a second was his equally positive impressions of Fili when he went there to speak with the then Fr Ioannikios, in investigating the seizure of the St Elias Skete on Athos by agents of Constantinople; and the third was his admiration of what he saw and learned on a visit to the Romanian Old Calendarist churches.  He also supported our use of what we believed to be Greek usage in church.

        It is true that we were always given the impression by him that we  
were very much second-class citizens compared to the Russian parishioners in London, but perhaps this was because they had lost their Cathedral in Emperor's Gate, were very poorly temporarily housed at Baron's Court for a time, and then had the struggle to build their new church at Gunnersbury.  There was much to do, and he was probably taken up with that.  We were saddened that on one occasion when St Edward's day fell on a Sunday, he visited England to serve in London and did not visit us or send a greeting, or  even apologise for seeming  
to slight our people, but this was one small incident.  Although technically, I was the senior priest here for most of his tenure as ruling Bishop in the period we were under him, at some point I realised that I never had one-to-one talks with him, and, after noticing this, the situation continued thus for about eight years.  This might evidence some neglect, but it was not in any way malicious. We were left to work and grow as we could.  He answered letters, only sometimes avoiding matters which he evidently found not to his taste.   Of course in the 21 years (January 1985 to December 2006) that he was our Bishop there were naturally some disagreements, but on only one occasion did I feel that his actions were so worrying that I took the precaution of sending copies of my correspondence to him to the other Bishops, and in that instance this proved to be unnecessary because, in response to my letter, he apologised immediately,"made a prostration" (in writing), and changed his decision, thus showing us an excellent example of monastic humility.

        So it was NOT, emphatically NOT, because of Archbishop Mark or his  
treatment of us that we left ROCOR - it was because the Assembly of the Bishops of ROCOR changed their long held confessional stance, and submitted to the Moscow Patriarchate, and thus became, as events since have sadly  clearly shown, part of "World Orthodoxy."  That was the sole reason for our leaving, and any one who suggests otherwise dishonours our good intentions.  We may prove to have been wrong, but I believe that people should respect our integrity and not try to present our motives as something dishonourable.

        It is also true that when we left, there was some unpleasantness when  
Archbishop Mark met the sisters at Willesden, and his correspondence with me was not altogether sober or judicious; but remember he was probably shocked and hurt and believed that we had betrayed him.  I think he can be forgiven for that.

        Further, there are sad reasons why these rumours are being given currency.  Some months ago a small delegation of parishioners from the Harvard Road Church visited the Sisters at Willesden, urging them to join ROCA-MP "to add weigh" to their campaign to have Archbishop Mark removed as the administrator of the churches in Britain.  A few weeks later, when I went to a funeral at Harvard Road, I was button-holed by campaigners with a like suggestion.  When these attempts to involve us in a plot against the Archbishop failed - for reasons which I hope the above paragraphs will make clear - it seems that the malcontents (and I am assured by a clergyman serving in Britain under Archbishop Mark that they are few in number) seem to have taken another tack - their proposition now is that if Archbishop Mark were removed, we would  
return to their Church.

        This is not the case, and frankly we are perplexed that so much fuss  
and energy is expended on two rather small communities of monastics with small parish followings.   Rightly or wrongly we have followed our consciences;  we do not want to be used as pawns in the internal affairs of the ROCA-MP in this country, and are alarmed that now even abroad this is being spoken of.   Can we not simply be left alone? Especially we suggest this, because it is also manifestly clear that although some parishioners in the London Church would like us to "return", there are others in the ROCA-MP presence in this country who  
manifestly would not! - see for instance:

file:///Users/Father/Desktop/Register/MISC/On%20A%20Tragic%20Fall%20Into%20Old%20Calendarism.html

- a posting which was withdrawn at Archbishop Mark's insistence.  Another thing for which we owe him thanks.
        As for the suggestion that Archbishop Mark is a Nazi - it is completely unworthy of anyone who is a Christian to suggest such a thing, though of course we all make unwise and injudicious comments at times.  Perhaps the clergyman was jesting.   Except for his avowed anti-Communism, I never heard the Archbishop advocate any particular political policy.  Having lived in emigreé circles for over forty yeas, I have, of course, met people who had been Nazi sympathisers, and several more what I would call "poseur Nazis" - the silly sort of people who like dressing up in uniforms that are not theirs and wearing medals they have not won, and replaying political attitudes that are not only extremely abhorrent, but are now out-dated and ridiculous, besides being manifestly unChristian - but the Archbishop was neither of these.  He was even able to joke about the Nazi legacy in his country and was concerned that his appointment here would be hurtful to some because he was German - things which indicate a mature attitude, I would think.  I suspect that the person whom you overheard make this unwarranted comment was simply employing a cheap slur because of the Archbishop's nationality.

        Enough!  Your letter was so short and mine so long that it might seem  
that we have swopped nationalities, and that you have become British and I American!  However, as these rumours and fables are spreading even in the States, I thought that I should set down clearly the facts, to demonstrate that they are totally unfounded.

        If you hear any more such conversations, please tell the people who  
entertain and spread these injurious stories that Archbishop Mark was our ruling hierarch for 21 years; had the Bishops of ROCOR not changed their policy and led their Church into "World Orthodoxy" we would have been content that he should have remained our Bishop for another 21. We always remember him in our prayers, and hope that we are not forgotten in his.

        Please keep us in your prayers also.  God grant to you and to us to  
complete the course of the fast in peace, and at least make a start to making some spiritual progress.

                With love in Christ Jesus,

                        Fr Alexis, sinner