Below follows the last sent reply to the recent Synod in Resistance letter in reply to our original letter. It is hoped that this will serve as clarification and qualification. To date, no response has been received.
Holy Synod in Resistance
Holy Monastery of St. Cyprian
P.O. Box 46006
133 10 Ano Liosia
November 8/21 St Philaret of New York
To Your Eminences, Bishop Cyprian of Oreoi, Acting President of the Synod in Resistance, and Bishop Clement of Gardikon, Secretary of the Synod,
We have received your last letter of communication in reply to our first letter and appreciate the time taken in your response. Remembering the words of St. Basil the Great that he addressed to Gregory, from his retirement in Pontus, “One should reflect first what one is going to say, and then give it utterance; be courteous when addressed, amiable in social intercourse, not aiming to be pleasant by facetiousness, but cultivating gentleness in kind admonitions. Harshness is ever to be put aside, even in censuring.” (PG, Vol. 32, Epistolae, II) Therefore, let us come to the matter at hand. As we express gratitude for the reply and kindness taken to write a reply, we will equally bestow such consideration.
It is unclear for us as to whether you wish to pursue a dialogue and are explaining your reasons to consider future discussion at an impasse, or whether that impasse has already been breached and you have no interest in further discussion.
We did not consider the asking of questions itself as a hindrance to the convocation of delegates, because our impression given from your Appeal of April 27, 2012 (Old Style) was that each Synod of Bishops that stands in opposition to the pan-heresy of ecumenism would assign three delegates for that purpose (the letter states they are to be “elected”, but it would be assumed on our part that any such election be ratified by the Metropolitan or Archbishop of the local Church). Putting aside the question of collective misunderstanding, our perspective– if we may be so bold as to suggest– is that few Synods among the True Orthodox have specific departments for external relations, and the single most valuable insight of your letter, long term, is that communications departments created specifically for Orthodox traditionalist Synods not in communion with each other is already a revolutionary step forward.
In point of fact our Sister Churches in Greece and Russia have such departments; our very young Metropolia did not, nor was it a consideration until your Appeal. That said, the establishment of such a commission is quite useful and will probably remain a permanent fixture. So in this, we offer our gratitude for a very practical suggestion which, considering the divisions which have plagued True Orthodox, create a unique service to the Orthodox community in making our respective positions clear to each other and to the Orthodox throughout the world.
That said, it is safe to presume that before we get answers to any of the questions we have proposed– questions, we might add, that are of interest not only to us, but to other True Orthodox all over the world, and therefore useful to clarify in future Inter-Synodal discussions– we must address the objection that we are somehow to be “excluded” from deliberations between the True Orthodox because we are in some way not “valid ecclesiastical bodies”. We only wish to remind Your Eminences that the criteria that you establish will be scrutinized in the context of your appeal not simply by us, but by other True Orthodox who consider approaching you in discussion.
Your first criterion for determining a valid ecclesiastical body is “they have broken communion with their former ecclesiastical Authorities (Synod, local Churches) for reasons of Faith and righteousness, and consequently they are in God-pleasing, lawful and canonical resistance and separation” (c.1). From our perspective, our Metropolia– although we certainly don’t believe it to constitute the basis of our existence– does practically fulfill that requirement. Certainly there is no doubt that the original intent of the former and “self-deposed” (if such a ridiculous thing is even possible) Metropolitan Evloghios of Milan– an intent he had stated the previous year– was to have three Metropolias, in Western Europe, the Americas, and Greece, and thus elevated our American Archdioceses to the status of a Metropolia headed in New York with practically equal rank but beneath Milan in precedence, due to the Apostolic authority of the city. When our Metropolitan Anghelos of Avlonos (who was a Bishop of your Synod) subsequently entered into communion with the True Orthodox of Russia under our Metropolitan Raphael of Moscow, originally there was support from Metropolitan Evloghios at the outset, and there was cause for rejoicing.
Without getting into the specifics of the wrangling that led up to Metropolitan Evloghios’ sudden change in position within days and the Diocesan office’s official demand that everyone in our communion recognize the Moscow Patriarchate, the timing of the grant of our autonomy was providential, since our Metropolitan John simply remained in communion with Metropolitan Anghelos and Metropolitan Raphael, and our own Mother Church literally abandoned all of us for the sake of recognition of– in the hope of union with– the Moscow Patriarchate. Eight months later, Metropolitan Evloghios asked to rejoin our communion, and he went to Greece, signed union documents to that effect, and concelebrated with Metropolitan Anghelos. Not long after, we had discovered through the Internet, that he was being insincere in his intent and after confirming this, we ended our communion with him as did our sister Churches. For a short period, Metropolitan John was the de facto head of what was left of what is commonly referred to as the Milan Synod and regarded as such.
During this period, thanks to the machinations of the ROCOR-Moscow Patriarchate, eight priests left us for them under ridiculous claims of “extremism”(i.e., that is, the position of our Synod that the fallen heretical Patriarchates can no longer be treated as Orthodox, which is not an ‘extreme’ position, but, the only logical one), since we dared to state formally what was assumed to be Synodal policy since our formation by Archbishop Auxentios in 1984! (We realize, of course that in some cases, we have failed to live up to his standards– eternal memory!)
The void left in Western Europe was obviously not something one could envision as permanent, and after some time for deliberation, we issued a statement offering canonical protection to our people in Western Europe who had no intention of uniting with the Moscow Patriarchate. Because of this opening of the doors to those in resistance to union, over a dozen priests and parishes in Italy left Milan and either joined Archbishop Onufrius of Bergamo (now Metropolitan Onufrius) or Metropolitan Anghelos of Avlonos. With the election of two more Bishops in Italy, our Synod restored self-government to Italy with the blessing of our Sister Churches in Greece and Russia.
For this we have been blessed with greater numbers and our Sacred Communion continues to grow. For our people, God-pleasing resistance is inextricably tied with our formation.
As regards the second premise: “the source of their episcopal ordinations is certain beyond any doubt from the standpoint of canonicity, and is also God-pleasing and “beyond reproach” and “unquestionable”, that is free from any other form of impediment and self-interest” (c.2), we’d like to submit a short objection to things you have written, which have bothered us a great deal for a long time.
We would like to politely object to your Synod’s somewhat insulting references to the former Metropolitan Evloghios (which remain in printed documents easily accessible online from 2006 and 2008) as “soi-disant”, “self-called”, “self-proclaimed” and the like. We beg your indulgence in explaining why.
As we understand from your history, the Synod in Resistance was formed first as the restructuring of what was the Kallistos Synod, which according to your book, “was given [Archbishop Auxentios’] tacit approval.” Now we do know in fact that his Synod did not agree, and the elevations caused counter-elevations a year after its formation. It is not our task to go through the entire history of the True Orthodox Church of Greece. It is solely our point to make that unlike the Kallistos Synod– and then the Synod in Resistance– we were actually given formal documentation by the Archbishop for existence as a Western European Synod in 1984– something that was never revoked and at this point would appear disingenuous to revoke 30 years later. Certainly that Tomos has been attacked and assailed, usually due to the actions of its holder— but never the authenticity of the document or the status of the one who issued it, in any serious manner, because this is impossible. But our point is not to point this out from the perspective of arrogance, but simply the fact that if your Bishops are valid based on a generally unverifiable verbal agreement from the Primate of the local Church, then there is no sin in saying ours are valid and canonical based on a formal declaration on actual paper from that same Primate. In fact, saying otherwise would be sin.
And this leads us to simple facts. Bishops of the Milan Synod have concelebrated with your own Bishops, while Metropolitan Cyprian of Fili was still active. It is important to add the reminder that then-Archbishop Evloghios was one of the ordaining Bishops of your own Archbishop Chrysostomos. Finally, our Sister Church in Greece cannot be questioned: After all, her first hierarch was made by your own Synod, with the assistance of none other than Bishop (now Metropolitan) Agafangel of the continuing Russian Church Abroad.
Again, we don’t bring this up with any malicious intent, but to state facts. Then-Archbishop Evloghios was under Metropolitan Gabriel of Lisbon– who was given the original Tomos! In 1990, as you well know, Metropolitan Gabriel departed for the Polish Church, having left the communion of Archbishop Auxentios and the Bishops of Western Europe– but Archbishop Evloghios maintained that communion. Archbishop Evloghios was made head of the Western European Synod in 1990 by the remaining Bishops. These are all well-known and well documented facts! Further, Metropolitan Evloghios remained in communion with Archbishop Auxentios until his passing, and with his successor, Archbishop Maximos of Athens, until the entrance of the notorious Pangratios (Vrionis) into their Synod, at which point relations became considerably strained.
Now, we could say that perhaps that Tomos is worthless, but then what is the value of the word of its author? If our consecrations were considered canonical by Archbishop Auxentios, and further even Metropolitan Cyprian, both authorities we assumed you recognize, on what basis do you claim that our own ordinations are not “God-pleasing and ‘beyond reproach’ and ‘unquestionable’, that is free from any other form of impediment and self-interest”? We regularly see New Calendarists and Sergianists engaged in uncanonical atrocities even during their ordinations, which, may we ask, why do they receive a “free pass”?
And this leads us to finally ask the question: practically, who do you mean by “valid ecclesiastical bodies”? On the one hand you have had an ongoing dialogue with the Bishops of the Synod of Archbishop Kallinikos of Athens, whose official position is that they are the sole and True Church of Greece. Further, officially and repeatedly, they have stated that you are a group of deposed monks. On the other hand, the resistance movement of Bp Artemije in Serbia has been of great interest to your Synod, devoting three sessions to discussing him, even though Bishop Artemije clearly states as early as an interview just this June that he considers himself a Bishop of the Serbian Synod, equivocates New Calendarists and Old Calendarists and ecumenists on the Old Calendar (when in fact the issue is ecumenists and non-ecumenists), does not consider himself in resistance, and, rather notably– stating he has no interest in discussion or joint prayer with yourselves or Metropolitan Agafangel, whom we presume has also reached out to him.
The reason we ask this is because between these two sides, there is no middle from a practical perspective. Realistically, “repentance or judgment”, to use the words of Metropolitan Cyprian in his position paper, are the only realistic option for one side or the other. The problem is, in speaking to both, the question of “where is the Church?” must come up. You could claim that it is in both; but it is unlikely that either side will share that claim with you, so neither dialogue will progress very far. Ultimately, our question is– and this relates precisely to your Appeal and subsequent response to us– exactly who are you in resistance to? If we look to your endeavor to dialogue with Archbishop Kallinikos, are we now to understand that you remain in resistance to a jurisdiction of the Genuine Orthodox which formally rejects the state Churches, and by consequence those with whom they are in communion? By contrast, if we look to your endeavor to dialogue with Bishop Artemije, this would imply you are in resistance to the State Church. Certainly it cannot be both.
For our part, our Holy Synod has decreed that the fallen Patriarchs who teach these heresies are even now receiving their just compensation; and, if, indeed, they for some reason retain the Grace of the Mysteries (let us shudder at the judgment upon the heterodox who take the Mysteries and weep for their souls, if indeed they do retain these Mysteries) their sad reward is “eternal damnation to the fires of hell, as the Blessed and Holy Apostle explains” (Clergy Confession, 4,d). Thus, being under such a deadly condemnation as heretics and fighters against the tradition of the Orthodox Faith of the Catholic Church, we must pray for them, that they will accept the Orthodox Faith before death, for there is no repentance after death. For which reason, those coming to the Church from the fallen Patriarchates are received either through Holy Chrismation (Canon 95, Council in Trullo), or, if the matter calls for it, Holy Baptism (with the issue of greater economy than Chrismation being left to the Hierarchs, all operating within the bounds of the acceptable limits of economy, according to the documented tradition of the Church). For, the fallen Patriarchs, having not the Grace of the Holy Mysteries, but, yet, an outward shell, partake not in the fullness of salvation.
The time has long past for men to protest ignorance; the heresies of ecumenism, Sergianism, and modernism are well-known and deeply embedded in the fallen Patriarchates for many decades. Let it be left to any future speculators to determine at what ‘time’ Grace was cut off from some particular Local Church; as for today, no one can claim in all considered honesty that the so-called Patriarchates can be treated as true Local Churches of Orthodoxy. This is the position of our Metropolia after long consideration and many earnest investigations into this most serious matter (investigations that were carried out with much earnestness and sorrow, leading ultimately to this solemn conclusion as the only possible and logical one). Let all who call themselves True Orthodox affirm this.
Having recalled with much fondness the work produced by many learned members of your Synod in Resistance, we hope we have stated these things without maliciousness. Yet, we are forced, after your response, to remember, the further admonition of St. Basil that “there are however many occasions when we shall do well to employ the kind of rebuke used by the Prophet who did not in his own person utter the sentence of condemnation on David after his sin, but by suggesting an imaginary character made the sinner judge of his own sin, so that, after passing his own sentence, he could not find fault with the seer who had convicted him.”
The True Orthodox world cannot be benefited by the unprofitable wrangling over matters that consist of easily solvable problems and problems that should no longer be contested issues. The propagation to all the world of a general appeal to all anti-ecumenist traditionalist Orthodox (which you say includes those who partake in the mysteries of the fallen Patriarchates), cannot be made in earnest if it intentionally excludes those who make up a noticeable portion of those professing anti-ecumenism, anti-modernism, anti-sergianism, and affirm the traditional Orthodox understanding in theology and praxis; and not only ourselves, but, the many who consist of smaller portions. Let us all avoid falling prey to that old enemy, which puts into the minds of men to wrangle for power and control, for such contentiousness constitutes the sure shame of Orthodox Christians.
We hope this has clarified your concerns and we look forward to your reply.
Committee for Inter-Orthodox and External Church Relations
Deacon Finbarr Brandt-Sorheim
Deacon Joseph Suaiden