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Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

Jn. 12, 24


Twentieth century Orthodox history was shaped by the tragic captivity of the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia after 1917. The Church of the ‘Third Rome’, by far the largest, most prosperous and influential Orthodox Church, had been the de facto leader of all the Orthodox Churches before the events of 1917. During Her captivity, all the other Local Orthodox Churches, once largely politically and financially dependent on Her, suffered and their history was defigured.

With the liberation of Russia in 1991 and the restoration of Orthodoxy, came the possibility of the transfiguration of their history. After the glorification in Moscow of the New Martyrs and Confessors in the Year 2000 at the dawn of a new millennium, a new beginning came for Orthodoxy everywhere, not only inside Russia. Now at last, Orthodoxy could be built up worldwide, not on the shifting sands of compromise and modernism, imposed by Communist, Turkish or Western politics, but on the rock of the Orthodox Faith and Tradition.


We in the Diaspora, outside the homelands of the Local Orthodox Churches, are therefore also concerned. For example, until 1917 on the territory of North America all Orthodox were united under one senior Russian bishop. However, after the fall of Russia in 1917, Orthodox there were split up by political interests into different ‘jurisdictions’. In other words, Orthodox were divided into dioceses of Local Churches, based in other countries, uncanonically superimposed one on top of the other. Instead of one bishop in the largest American cities, there were now several, each representing a different ‘jurisdiction’. Thus, secular, ethnic division was enforced at the expense of administrative and territorial unity.

In Western Europe, there had been a Russian Orthodox presence since the seventeenth century and many Russian churches had been built in the nineteenth century in the large European capitals and cities. This also gave the possibility of Orthodox unity under the Russian Church. However, after 1917 the same process of ethnic and jurisdictional fragmentation occurred as in North America. Exactly the same was true of South America and Australia. Both had had a Russian presence for many decades and Orthodox churches, serving different nationalities, had already been built. However, after 1917, there too the fragmentation of Orthodoxy into ‘jurisdictions’ took place.

Worse still, during the Bolshevik captivity of the Russian Church between 1917 and 1991, everything official that came from the Patriarchal Church in Russia was spiritually compromised. We recall the trite and hackneyed articles published in the ‘Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate’ in the 1970s, especially the nonsensical ‘Ecumenica’ section and the Soviet propaganda of the ‘Peace Movement’, breathing spiritual death. At that time, it was forbidden to publish the spiritually living, which appeared only in samizdat, some of which we managed to bring out of Russia for publication in the West. The fact is that there is nothing so boring as spiritual compromise, because there is nothing so boring as secularism, because there is nothing so boring as sin.


Given this captivity, from 1917 onwards many began to look to the only other Patriarchate which could be a possible source of unity in the Orthodox Church. This was the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the remnant of the ‘Second Rome’. However, as a prisoner of Muslim Istanbul, with its clergy not even free to walk the streets of the City in cassocks, it was not free either. Having lost the support of Orthodox Russia, soon after the Revolution it began to curry favour with various different players on the world scene, London (later Washington and Brussels), Bolshevik Moscow (Constantinople actually condemned the holy Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and supported the Communist-sponsored, modernist ‘Living Church’ against him), the Turkish secularist government (backed by successive US administrations) and freemasonry.

In recent decades, it has toyed with both the Vatican and the Protestant World Council of Churches in Geneva. It has often seemed as if no spiritual compromise were enough for it. Thus, during the twentieth century, as today, the Patriarchate of Constantinople continued to be a prisoner of the Turkish government. Facing persecution, it too spoke with a compromised voice. Like the voice of Cold War Moscow, its voice of weakness was not a voice that could give unity either. Fearing both the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Muslim fanaticism, the Patriarchate of Constantinople sided with anyone who would support it. And the only political players who would support it were in the secular West. Thus, it came about that, during the Bolshevik captivity of the Russian Church, the Patriarchate of Constantinople gave birth to a pro-Western, ‘secular Orthodoxy’.

This was symbolized by its violent and divisive introduction of the ‘new’ (= secular Western) calendar and the inroads of modernism, liberalism and ecumenism which followed. Furthermore, Constantinople had its representatives and followers in other secularised jurisdictions of Local Churches all over the Western world, from Los Angeles to London, Pittsburgh to Paris, Munich to Melbourne. These were captives of their cultures, with all the inferiority complexes of the first generation of immigrants, with their conformist desires. We do not judge this older, shaven, clerical-collared generation with their compromises and platitudes, but we are only too keenly aware that the spectre of freemasonry looms behind it.


In the Diaspora during this period, there were those in the jurisdictions of Local Churches who wished to retain their links with their Eastern European or Middle Eastern homelands. These were after all the sources of their languages and spiritual and cultural traditions. However, such loyalty to a tradition from lands enslaved by Communism often meant distancing their Church organizations from the Communist usurpers in power in those homelands. This led to political, that is, secular, temptations. For where there is politics, there the Church is not. Conversely, there were those who wanted to become fully independent of their homelands. This feeling became stronger with the passing of generations. The original generation of immigrants soon found that their children could not speak their native language as well as themselves and their children’s children often lost their grandparents’ language altogether. Why remain linked to a distant country, whose language you do not even speak, whose culture you only superficially share?

A further factor came with Western people who had joined the various dioceses of Local Orthodox Churches. For them, any attachment to someone else’s homeland was at most secondary. The latter joined with later generations of immigrants’ children in seeking autocephaly for the dioceses of their Churches, that is independence from Mother-Churches. This movement became all the stronger, when those homelands were compromised by Communist politics. Nevertheless, the ‘autocephalist’ advocates of independence were opposed by the former group who wished to remain attached to their Churches and homelands of origin. Thus, there grew up frustration on both sides of the Diaspora in this twentieth century blockage.

However, in 1970 in the USA the Moscow Patriarchate granted autocephaly to a hitherto uncanonical Slav immigrant group, called the ‘Metropolia’. This originated mainly from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and dated back to the nineteenth century. Moscow gave this group the title of the ‘Orthodox Church in America’, or the OCA. Carried out at the height of the Cold War, virtually without consultation with other dioceses in the USA, this act was not recognized by those Local Orthodox Churches which were not in Communist captivity. These included especially the Patriarchate of Constantinople and its Greek allies. However, even those mainly Slav jurisdictions which on paper recognized Moscow’s act, in reality ignored it, maintaining their own separate jurisdictions. Even Moscow itself retained its own jurisdiction, ignoring its own new-born infant, the OCA.


Thus, the OCA proved to be still-born, a miscarriage, a premature birth. The greater part of American Orthodox, who had been received into various Local Orthodox Churches, ignored the OCA, continuing to remain outside it. In fact, the mainly Parisian intellectuals who had urged this autocephaly had not been thinking in spiritual terms, but in cultural and secular terms. They had been trying to be more American than the Americans, for example, brutally enforcing the ‘new’ calendar on the faithful. The failure of the OCA experiment came about because those who had wanted it had put American secular culture first, before the Faith. This is not to say that those who, on the contrary, placed such ethnic emphasis on cultural and linguistic links with homelands thousand of miles away were in the right. They too were in the wrong, because they too had put secular culture first, before the Faith.

Thus, both sides made exactly the same mistake, but in different ways. The lesson that all those blinded by secular, political and cultural attachments should have learned is this: That for a new Local Orthodox Church to be born, those concerned must pass beyond mere secular human culture and put the Orthodox Faith and Tradition first. It is this lesson that Orthodox in the Diaspora in Western Europe still have to learn. Sadly, for example, this is the case in the Paris-based Rue Daru Exarchate of Western Europe, under the Patriarchate of Constantinople. At the present time, those who manipulate the leadership of the sixty or so small communities of the Rue Daru Exarchate, numbering perhaps 5,000, are still putting their secular culture first. In attempting to set up a Local Church in Western Europe, it is in fact repeating the same mistakes of the OCA, which was founded largely under its influence and which it so much admires.

It is our belief that, if ever it is born, the Local Church in Western Europe which they dream of will also be still-born, just as the OCA was in its time. A Church cannot be built on secular Western culture, but must be founded on the Orthodox Faith and Tradition. And, sadly, the Rue Daru Exarchate, noted for its modernism, liberalism and ecumenism, is largely culturally captive to the worldly, secular culture of Western Europe. In any case, their dream is unreal, because Constantinople will never grant them the autocephaly they need in order to form their Local Church. Constantinople never has done. Other Churches have only ever been able to take their autocephaly at moments of weakness in Constantinople, or after a long struggle. This is confirmed by the histories of the Serbian, Russian, Greek, Romanian and Bulgarian autocephalies.


As is known, the Rue Daru Exarchate has recently been joined by (at present) twelve small communities under the Amphipolis Vicariate in England, numbering perhaps 250 people. This is a group which, with an American bishop who identifies himself with the OCA, has uncanonically left the Russian Orthodox Church to join the Exarchate. Those who manipulate it are also putting their modernist, secular culture first, repeating the mistakes of Rue Daru and the OCA. So far, the Amphipolis group has been recognized only by Constantinople and its Greek allies, the tiny Patriarchates of Alexandria and Jerusalem and the Church of Cyprus. With the Amphipolis bishop suspended by the Russian Orthodox Church, no-one else will concelebrate with it. Thus, in an Orthodox world of 200-250 million, Amphipolis is recognized by representatives of only 5 million Orthodox, some two or three per cent of the total. It looks like a dissident in the concert of the Orthodox Churches.

The fact is that in today’s Orthodox world, Constantinople no longer counts for very much. Its attempt to reign over the Diaspora, which it took up as soon as the Russian Church had been enslaved by atheist Communism after 1917, has long been over. In fact, it is, as it always has been, essentially an ethnic grouping, a prisoner of Turkish and Western politics. For example, the Patriarchate has recently shocked the Greek nation and certain other members of the European Union by calling for Turkish admission to it. This does not represent the Orthodox view; it represents only the view of the Turkish and American governments. The Patriarchate is clearly simply currying favour with the Turkish government and those who support it in the USA (and the present Blair government in the UK), but it is not speaking for Orthodoxy.

The leadership of the Patriarchate thus mouths the desires of the secular Turkish government and its Western backers. These are not the views of Greek, or other, Orthodox. For the same reason, the Patriarchate is a prisoner of the European Union and, above all, the Pax Americana, which are its only hope of survival in Istanbul. The Patriarchate of Constantinople is not free, no more so than the Patriarchate of Moscow during the period of its Soviet captivity. And, therefore, sadly, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has no more credibility in the Orthodox world today than Moscow in times past.


In the months and years to come, indeed already today, the Diaspora of the Orthodox world will face a choice: freedom and Holy Orthodoxy or captivity and compromised Orthodoxy. Thus, the tragedy of the Amphipolis group which has joined the Rue Daru Exarchate, for it has rejected Holy Russia for the political and secularist intrigues of the Pax Americana and political captivity. The Cold War is over, there is no longer any need to fear Moscow, as before. Then, ironically, most of the present members of Amphipolis remained loyal to Moscow, refusing to speak openly of the persecution of the Church inside Russia and defend the persecuted.

Today, there is no need for Orthodox to be cultural captives, subordinating ‘the one thing needful’ to a set of mere cultural values. Today, Moscow is putting its parishes outside Russia in order after its Cold War paralysis. In Vienna, Paris, London and elsewhere, its parishes are beginning to follow the norms of the rest of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, putting an end to the decades of past scandals, whether moral or political, in those cities. The series canonical problems which accumulated under the Moscow jurisdiction during the Cold War are being solved.

Those who thought that a Local Church had already been born in North America under the Cold War Moscow Patriarchate, and a Local Church is about to be born in Western Europe under the present Patriarchate of Constantinople, were and are both mistaken. For authentic and canonical Local Churches to be born in any part of the world, the pregnancies are long and difficult and, as we have already said, birth cannot take place if secular cultural values are put first. Moreover, it should be known that any sort of political, in other words, secular, interference causes complications and even miscarriages, as we have seen with the case of the OCA.


After the recent departure of modernists from the Sourozh Diocese and the self-imposed isolation of the Rue Daru Exarchate from the Russian Church, the waters of Orthodoxy in Western Europe are breaking. The birth contractions of a Self-Governing Russian Orthodox Metropolia in Western Europe, the basis of a future canonical Local Orthodox Church in Western Europe, are beginning. Quietly and prudently we rejoice, for we see the possibility of the restoration of the Orthodox heritage of a thousand years ago in our ‘Western Rus’, after the compromises of the tragic Heterodox millennium.

We see the possibility that the spiritual purity of Holy Orthodoxy will triumph, for a time at least, against the powers of secularism. God has allowed an older generation of worldly Orthodox representatives, who often fell into compromise with Heterodoxy and so thwarted the growth of authentic Orthodoxy, to leave the scene. The waters are now breaking. Contractions are beginning. The time for birth is now not so far away. Let us prepare ourselves.


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