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The Current Situation of The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia Regarding The Moscow Patriarchate and the other Orthodox Churches

In recent times much disinformation and misinformation has been published on past and present relations between the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia (ROCOR) and the Moscow Patriarchate and other local Orthodox Churches. As a parish priest of the Church outside Russia, I wish to correct a number of misleading prejudices.
The Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia or ROCOR (sometimes inaccurately called the Russian Church Abroad - ROCA) came into being in November 1920. At that time all thirty-four Russian Orthodox bishops and their flocks outside Russia received temporary autocephaly (independence) from the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia by decree No 362 of Patriarch Tikhon. Independence was granted for as long as the Church inside Russia was persecuted. St Tikhon founded the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia because he knew that Russian Orthodox living in freedom would never accept the authority of a Church whose administration was being subverted from within. The Bishops abroad would therefore have to manage their own affairs, organising themselves into a united Synod.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of atheist Communism in Russia and elsewhere, all direct persecutions have gradually ceased. In the secular world we can even see the remarkable co-operation, even alliance, between the former Cold War enemies, Washington and Moscow, against the threat of Islam. Indeed, in the last ten years, albeit painfully slowly, Moscow Patriarchate bishops inside Russia have begun to free themselves from their Communist heritage. Facing pressure from the grassroots, whose faith is identical with that of the Church outside Russia, some bishops have finally begun to abandon their former ways. Sadly, however, there has never been any direct personal repentance and many bishops are still tainted with their KGB agent code-names and now stand accused of money-laundering and other criminal activities.
Nevertheless, in the Year 2000, eight years after Yeltsin came to power, those bishops finally gained the courage to recognize some of the already canonized New Martyrs, including the Royal Martyrs, and indirectly reject the historic collaboration of the Church authorities with the atheist Soviet State. The Church Outside Russia has viewed these changes with joy, noting how the episcopate of the Church inside Russia, though still calling itself 'the Moscow Patriarchate', is at last repenting. Despite its obvious chauvinist erastianism, its recent persecutions of the Church outside Russia and its attempts to steal its property, it is drawing nearer to the Orthodox Tradition, so faithfully kept for eighty years by the Church outside Russia and so valued by all the faithful.
We look forward to the day when the whole episcopate of the Moscow Patriarchate will de facto abolish itself and return to the Orthodox Christianity of the faithful. Although there is still much to do, that day is much nearer than it was ten years ago.
We are still waiting for the profound divisions and disagreements about Sergianism, ecumenism and other issues among the episcopate of the Moscow Patriarchate to be overcome. The episcopate of the Moscow Patriarchate needs to establish unanimity within itself on such basic questions. Let it heed the traditional faith of its own people, the guardians of the Orthodox Faith.
We still pray that the old guard of bishops of the Patriarchate, disciples mainly of the old-fashioned heretic Nikodim of Leningrad, will get out of their limousines and finally begin to listen to grassroots Russian Orthodoxy on issues like modernism.
Then the two-decade old canonization of all the New Martyrs by the Church outside Russia can at last be recognized in Russia.
Then Sergianism can be condemned by name and those who so valiantly resisted it be duly honoured.
Then the theological and liturgical illiteracy of new calendar renovationism and ecumenism, 'general confession' and no confession at all, secret prayers read aloud, and the Protestantizing and Catholicizing philosophies of the Schmemanns, Meyendorffs and Mens et al, can be put aside.
If, God willing, the day of outward unity between the two parts of the Russian Church comes, it is clear that the Church inside Russia will return to concelebration and communion with the Church outside Russia. Our Church has been praying for this day for over eighty years together with all the faithful Russian Orthodox inside Russia, with whom we have always confessed our spiritual unity.
In such a case those Orthodox Churches, which in the 1960s under pressure from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union officially cut themselves off from communion and concelebration with the Church outside Russia, will also fall into line again. The slanders against the Church outside Russia, which almost alone from the decadent sixties on, faithfully followed the path of confession of the Orthodox Tradition, will be repented for. Of course we shall always feel a particular debt to the Church of Serbia which never bowed to that Communist pressure and always remained in communion and concelebrated with the Church outside Russia.
That day has not come yet. Indeed, we do not even know if that day will ever come. If by the grace of God, it does come, it will be positive for all faithful Orthodox Christians.
Should that day come, we do not know what will follow it, in organizational terms. The present Patriarch of Moscow suggested that the temporary autocephaly of the Church outside Russia, granted in 1920, be made permanent. This, after all is the solution adopted for Russian and Non-Russian Orthodox in other lands outside Russia, like Japan, the Ukraine, Belorussia and perhaps soon in Estonia. Thus there is no reason why the autocephalous and politically free administration of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia should not continue to be centred in New York, with autonomous Exarchates in the Americas, Western Europe and Australasia, more or less as now. Such Exarchates, established for all who have remained faithful to the Russian Orthodox Tradition, could become the missionary foundation-stones of new local Orthodox Churches.
Obviously, here in Felixstowe we shall follow the decisions of the renewed episcopate of our Synod of Bishops under Metropolitan Laurus. The Church is an episcopal Church and our Bishops must be followed. As regards what difference future changes could make in Felixstowe, I suspect none at all. As before, we shall continue, unperturbed by enemies from all sides who over the years have hated us and attempted to hijack and disfigure the Orthodox Christian Tradition that we have inherited and to which we are faithful. As before we shall continue to tread the royal path, the middle way, resisting the extremes of narrow-minded fanaticism, be it the intolerant liberal variety or the sectarian isolationist variety. The Church will go on, and the gates of hell will not prevail.

Priest Andrew Phillips, Seekings House
26 October/8 November 2001
Great-Martyr Demetrius of Salonica

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