As webmaster, I had the painful task today of removing from my parish's website the links to, and details of, three communities which until recently were part of our diocese: The St Edward Brotherhood at the Brookwood monastery, the Annunciation Convent in Willesden, and the Mission Parish of St Boniface, on the Isle of Wight.

While my parish was celebrating the Nativity of Our Lord with much feasting after last Sunday's Liturgy, the regular worshippers at the aforementioned communities were being informed that their churches were to leave the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCOR) to join the Holy Synod in Resistance in protest against the canonical restoration of full communion between ROCOR and the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), now scheduled for the 17th of May, 2007.

I have mixed feelings about this. I have a great deal of sympathy with many of the Greek Old Calendarists (which have different origins from the Russian old Calendarists), especially having read of the situation in which they came about and why they felt the need to separate from the New Calendarist Church of Greece. Reports of the Oecumenical Patriarchate's activity since the 1920s and up to the present day have really not served to further the idea that the Old Calendarists are purely reactionary. Many of them have been very ill treated indeed, and while I do not think that they're stance is ideal, I do sympathise with them. Unlike most of them which seem to use most of their webspace to condemn the New Calendarist churches, the Synod in Resistance seems to put a lot of effort into spreading Orthodoxy through its articles and various publications. I can respect this.

On the other hand, I know that many within ROCOR (and I include myself) are staunchly opposed to Branch Theory Ecumenism. Indeed, in 1983, our Sobor of Bishops condemned this as a heresy and drafted a formula to be added to the list of anathemas on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The concept that a church can adopt heresy as its belief and still remain part of the Church is not in keeping with the Church's self-understanding. The Holy Synod in Resistance takes a similar line - or so it seems at first glance. A closer look at their ecclesiology reveals that, for all of their condemnation of Ecumenism, they have an ecclesiology that allows for churches that are traditionally Orthodox but which they consider to have embraced certain heresies to be, not thereby severed from the Church, but rather, "ailing" parts of the Church - but parts of the Church nonetheless. How this is different from Branch Theory Ecumenism is entirely beyond me! Nor do I stand alone, for this group is rejected by the canonical churches (which it considers to be Ecumenist) for being in schism, and by the Old Calendarists for being Ecumenist. The result is that it stands largely alone, except for relations with small groups of Old Calendarists in Romania and Bulgaria. A greater irony is that their first-hierarch is Metropolitan Cyprian of Opropos and Fili, whose namesake, St Cyprian of Carthage, was adamantly opposed to precisely the sort of ecclesiology now being forwarded by this group.

I really wish that these communities had stuck it out and worked with us. Many people have been hurt by their actions and many more will, no doubt, be unchurched over the next few weeks. Please pray for them.

On the plus side, while our diocese has lost two priests, it has gained one, whom my parish is blessed to have serving with us. Who knows what shape our increasingly small diocese will take in the future?

O Master all-good, watch over Thy flock and all the children of the Russian Church Abroad, that we may bring about the structuring of our Church in a manner well-pleasing to Thee. Grant us the spirit of wisdom and understanding; instill in our hearts the spirit of the fear of God, the spirit of piety and zeal for the glory of Thy holy name. Guard us against all temptations, stumbling-blocks and divisions, that, bound together, one to another, by the bond of love for Thee, our Master, we may without hindrance perform the work of our ministry for the edification of the Holy Church as the one Body of Christ. We pray Thee, O greatly Merciful One: hearken and have mercy!

O good Shepherd, Who hast promised to gather Thy scattered sheep into a single flock, put down scandal and division within the Church; all who have strayed from Thy path do Thou lead to repentance and a knowledge of the Truth, and return them to Thy fold; and confirm us all in the Orthodox Faith and the doing of Thy commandments. We pray Thee: hearken and have mercy!

5 responses:

Ian said...


My continued prayers.

Michael said...

Thank you, Ian.

Those petitions have been formulated by the Synod of Bishops to be used in our parishes as part of the Augmented Litany at the Liturgy.

It really is an awful business. There may well be a phoenix rising from the ashes yet and I can see light at the end of this tunnel already because of certain issues but I am not caught up in the thick of it. My worry is for those souls in far outlying places who now have no church to which to go.

Mark said...

Sounds like a bummer.

I'm not sure if you read my inane twitterings on schism over a year ago, but I really do wish there were no schisms. It's one of the things I keep praying about.

Margi said...

I am so sorry about this, I hoped so much it wouldn't happen.

Benjamin of Wight said...

Kyrie Eleison

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