Epistle

to all Faithful Members

of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

 

Dear pastors, clerics, monastics and laypeople true to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad!

 

Our Conference of ROCA parish representatives, which took place this year in Astoria, declared that we are continuing the course of ROCA and approve all conciliar and synodal documents issued before May 17, 2007.  Unfortunately, not everything since the end of the 1990’s that was announced on behalf of our Councils and Synods, and even how the joint opinion of the bishops was expressed, correctly related to the conciliar spirit and the overall, traditional course of our Church.  I will give an example.  The Council of Bishops in 1996, the first at which I was privileged to participate, discussed the matter of reviewing the Status of ROCA.  A Commission was formed at this Council, which presented its Opinion at the end of the Council.  This Opinion, which presumed to explain the Status, stated the need to broaden the dialogue with the MP from the level of the German diocese all the way up to the official level of our Church.  Many of the bishops were categorically against this and the matter of this document was left without any determination by the Council.  Nevertheless, when I received the papers containing the Council’s protocols, I saw that this Opinion, which was not approved, had suddenly become a Council action item.  I spoke of my concern with this matter with Metropolitan Vitaliy, but the aging First Hierarch did not give it much thought.  Later, I was even more surprised, when one of our bishops, who had headed the aforementioned Commission, declared in an interview in a Russian newspaper that the ROCA Council had made the decision to broaden its dialogue with the MP and referred to the document inserted in the Protocol as if it was an official decision of the Council.  It is possible, that this was the first occurrence of such an unusual action, which even now, I hesitate to judge (since it is difficult to find a fair assessment of such an action).  The epitome of such contrived statements was the official explanations regarding the work of the Fourth All-Diaspora Council, ascribing to this Council that, which was not approved or decided there.

 

That is why, in light of the forthcoming All-Diaspora Council, we should undertake a serious review to determine the abnormal deviations from the traditional course of the ROCA which occurred at the end of the 1990’s, so that the All-Diaspora Council can evaluate them accordingly and resolve them finally.  Especially, since official statements such as these have disturbed many people and continue to do so.  Similarly, we all need to pay special attention to the fact that a series of schisms have occurred in our Church, because of such adopted positions and their resulting actions.  We are duty bound to determine objectively the reason for each schism (it should be noted that these schisms were necessary and even absolutely essential for those who pushed, year after year, for the merging of our Church into the structure of the MP).

 

One of the policy positions which needs to be examined, in my opinion, is the statement made in the Council epistle in 2000 that the Social Concept approved by the Moscow Patriarchate “essentially negates the 1927 Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius.”  We see that the MP’s opinion in regard to this question has changed little since the approval of the Concept, and that is why our statement definitely does not correspond to the reality of the situation.  On the contrary, the increasing amount of respect paid in the MP to Metropolitan Sergius bespeaks of the further advancement of the work begun by him to change the canonical basis of the Church.

 

There is also a need for a clear and unequivocal declaration of the unassailable fact that the MP is not the “Mother Church” or even the essential part of the Russian Church either for us or for the entire Russian Church, as it is so often declared by the MP.

 

We must also determine our relations with the Serbian Church.  Even in May 19/June 1, 1967, because of its ecumenical activity, the following declaration marked “Top Secret” was approved by our Council of Bishops: “In addition to the decisions of this Council of Bishops regarding our relations to the Serbian Orthodox Church, we unanimously accept and approve the proposal of His Eminence Metropolitan Philaret, the First Hierarch and Chairman of the Council of Bishops, that all Most Reverend Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad should refrain from concelebrating with the episcopate of the Serbian Orthodox Church.  As far as I know, this decision has not been rescinded by any council.

 

I cited but a few of the many distortions of our traditional teachings, which trouble the conscience.

 

Therefore, enough issues have now accumulated in recent years, which require a more precise evaluation (in accordance with the traditions of ROCA), and even deserve to be annulled or determined how they deviate from our tradition.

 

We see that such deviations and departures from the mutual understanding by the entirety of our Church have led to the situation that conciliar and synodal positions traditionally held by ROCA regarding the hope for the rebirth of the Russian Church in true atonement, the desire of thousands of our faithful members  for the rebirth of all of Russia, have been, in time, considered “null and void” to benefit the church hierarchy of the MP and the RF leadership above them.  It must be noted they were annulled not by any Council, but only by a Commission involved in talks with the MP.  Is this the chapter in the life of our Church, which was hoped for and which was anticipated by our Hierarchs of blessed memory and the flock faithful to them?

 

Therefore, with this appeal, I call upon all faithful ROCA members to begin a discussion, before the Council is convened, of our witness of the Orthodox faith and the direction of our future course.  The Preparatory Council Commission formed at the recent PSCA meeting will listen to every thought on this issue so important to our salvation.  The results of this effort will be discussed at the All-Diaspora Council.

 

May God help us!

 

ROCA PSCA Chairman

+Bishop Agafangel

 

Odessa, August 8/21, 2007

St. Emilian the Confessor, Bishop of Cyzicus