April 23, 2014

Met. Hilarion of Volokolamsk: Church and State in Russia

met-hilarion-profileMet. Hilarion of Volokolamsk is the Chairman of the of the Department for External Church Relations Moscow Patriarchate.

Key quote:

“We remain strongly convinced that the secular nature of the state does not presuppose the ousting of the Church from the public space or her marginalization and placement in a “ghetto”. The Russian Orthodox Church is not only a social institution that has played a tremendous historical role in the development of Russian statehood and formation of the Russian people’s Christian spirit, but also an important part of the modern civil society. By virtue of this fact the Church has a right to expect that her voice is heard. And now, at a time of relative wellbeing of the Church, relevant are the words of St. Tikhon, the Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, who said not long before his death, “Looking at the future ways of holy Orthodoxy without fear, we call upon you, our beloved children, do God’s cause and may the sons of lawlessness never succeed”.”

Your Eminence, Venerable Cardinal Schönborn,

Distinguished Participants in the Seminar:

We have assembled to discuss such topical issues as relations between Church and State, dialogue of Churches in the context of global migration processes, the place of religion in societal life and social service of the Church.

The subjects proposed by the organizers of the seminar for us to discuss have a direct bearing on the service of the Russian Orthodox Church today. I would like to speak in more detail about church-state relations in Russia since this theme has been heatedly debated in recent times both inside and outside Russia.

For over millennium-long history of the Russian State, relations between the Church and the secular power have developed in different ways. During almost a thousand years beginning from the Baptism of Old Russia in 988 to the 1917 Revolution, the church-state relations in Russia shaped up differently. The form and content of these relations depended to a large extent on the historical context and the personalities of supreme hierarchs and state rulers. For instance, in the period from 988 to the autocephaly gained by the Russian Church in 1488, the state promoted the propagation of Orthodox faith without interfering in internal church affairs. In the subsequent period known as the Moscow Period (from 1448 to 1589), the princely government would often violate the established balance of relations and the principle of mutual non-interference by replacing an annoying head of the Church for a more loyal one. According to the church historian Anton Kartashev, “Russian metropolitans would soon see the overpowering authority of the Moscow Prince who would appropriate the title of tsar and the ensuing Byzantine idea of patronage over all the Orthodox Christians. At the same time, the installation and fate of metropolitans themselves would begin to depend equally strongly on the personal will of Moscow princes, as was the case in ruined Constantinople”. [1]

In 1589, the Moscow Council chaired by Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople installed the first Russian Patriarch Job. The model of relations between the Church and the secular power in the first patriarchal period proved to be a reproduction of church-state relations as were established in the Byzantine Empire in the form of the so-called symphony of church and state power. The introduction of patriarchal office became a logical continuation of the historical development of Eastern Christianity as the Orthodox patriarchates in the East, which were under the authority of Muslims, in the 16th century looked to the Russian Church and Russian monarchs for support and protection. The election of a Patriarch gave a special status not only to the Church but also to the supreme power of the state which finally became aware of itself as the successor of Byzantine baseliuses.

Peter I abolished the patriarchal office and initiated the so-called Synodal Period in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church. The abolishment of patriarchal office and the establishment of a Sacred Governing Synod in 1721 as in fact a ministry in the structure of governmental bodies headed by a secular person, the Chief Procurator, initiated a period of secularization and subjection of the Church to the state. It sometimes happened so that emperors would appoint as Chief Procurators persons, to put it mildly, not quite blameless not only in their morals but also in their religious views. The secularization continued under Catherine II who secularized monastery lands thus undermining their subsistence.

The year 1917 became a turning point for both the Russian Church and the whole Russian Empire as it marked the beginning of the chaos and terror of civil war of all against all. Russia saw the perfect fulfilment of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of Me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved (Mt. 10:21-22).

The Local Council of 1917-1918, which was held against a backdrop of the collapse of the entire state and social order, restored once abolished patriarchal office in the Church. In 1918 the Soviet power issued a Decree on the Freedom of Conscience and the Church and Religious Societies. It asserted the principle of the Church’s separation from the state and school. Religious organizations were deprived of the status of legal entity, the right to own property and to collect donations. The first Soviet Constitution of 1918 defined the clergy and monastics as nonworking elements and denied them electoral rights. The children of the clergy were deprived of the right to enter higher education institutions. The authority in the person of Lenin and later Stalin who replaced him initiated repressions against their own people on an unprecedented scale with the toll of millions victims. The Church was almost completely crushed as bishops and priests were executed without investigation and trial, churches were blown up, monasteries and theological schools closed.

The decrees “On the Separation of the Church from the State and the School from the Church” and “On Religious Associations” adopted in 1929 put the Russian Orthodox Church outside the law. The persecutions against the clergy and faithful sometimes abated and sometimes broke out with a new force as was the case in the pre-war period and the period after World War II. The number of martyrs for faith in the Russian Orthodox Church exceeds many a time the multitude of Christian martyrs who suffered in the first centuries of persecution carried out by the heathen Roman Empire.

The political processes in the late 20th century in the USSR led to the collapse of the Soviet state. In 1990, Russia adopted “The Law on the Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Organizations”, which actually abolished the legal basis for exterminating the Church. The Council for Religious Affairs was liquidated and religious organizations recovered the legal basis for their work and the status of legal entity. The Church was given the right to own property, to engage in economic activity, to establish educational institutions for children and adults and to freely distribute religious books.

The present law “On the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations” was adopted in 1997 to reflect the profound changes which took place in the political and socio-economic domains of society. This law fixes a number of fundamental provisions in the field of cooperation between the state and religious communities. An analysis of the legal novels in this law shows that Russia has chosen for relations between the state and religious organizations a model different from that of “Established Church” prevailing in the world. The law has developed the basic principles of church-state relations fixed in the 1993 Russian Constitution.

In 2000, the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted an important document, “The Russian Orthodox Church’s Basic Social Concept”, which, among other things, contains results of a theological reflection on church-state relations in the past and the present. I will dot down the key statements, which make it possible to come to a better understanding of the Church’s stance on this issue.

First, the Church recognized that the state is a necessary element of life in the world corrupted by sin, where both the individual and society need to be safeguarded against dangerous manifestations of sin. The state, however, is not an end in itself or an independent value but rather an instrument for restricting the domination of sin in the world. The Old and New Testaments call those in power to use the power of the state to restrict evil and to support good as the apparent moral sense of the state’s existance (for instance, Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 13-16). We know from church history that the apostles taught Christians to obey the authorities (cf. Tim. 2:2), although at that time the Church was persecuted by both the local Jewish authorities and the Roman Empire. The Church keeps loyal to the state, but to stand above the requirement of loyalty is God’s commandment to do the work of people’s salvation in any conditions and circumstances.

Secondly, Christians should avoid absolutizing power and understand its limits. They should recognize its earthly and temporal value called forth because of the existence of sin in the world and the need to contain it. The authority that drives God away from its conscience is prone to abuses and even the deification of rulers themselves as numerous historical examples have shown.

Thirdly, the nature of the state and that of the Church differ. The Church is founded directly by God Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ; while the divine institution of state authority is revealed in historical process only indirectly. While the goal of the Church is salvation of people for eternal life, the aim of state is to ensure their welfare on earth here and now. The state is an immanent part of “this world”, while the Kingdom of God where Christ will be “all and in all” (Col. 3:11) has no room for coercion, opposition between the human being and God and, accordingly, no need for the institution of state.

Fourthly, the church consciousness asserts that temporal wellbeing is unthinkable without respect for certain moral norms. For this reason, the tasks and work of the Church and state may coincide in this area. The state is capable of either giving the Church an opportunity for carrying out her mission or restricting this opportunity up to open persecution. The authority thus judges itself in face of the Truth and ultimately foretells its own fate.

Fifthly, from the Church’s perspective, the secular nature of a state does not have to mean the need to expel religions from every sphere of societal life, to remove the Church from participation in solving socially significant problems or to deprive her of the right to give her assessment of actions taken by the authority. The Church is an important institution of the civil society and she has a right to expect that her voice is sounded and heard. In particular, the Church has a right “to point out to the state that it is inadmissible to propagate such convictions or actions which may result in total control over a person’s life, convictions and relations with other people, as well as erosion in personal, family or public morality, insult of religious feelings, damage to the cultural and spiritual identity of the people and threats to the sacred gift of life”.[2] The principle of church-state separation in today’s situation presupposes only the division of terms of reference between the Church and the authorities and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.

Sixthly, the Church should not take upon herself the functions inherent in the state, namely, to oppose sin by violence, to make use of temporal powers and to assume restrictive or coercive functions of the state power. At the same time, the Church can request or appeal to the authority to use these functions of the state in particular cases.

Finally, in carrying out her social, charitable, educational and other socially significant projects, the Church expects assistance and promotion from the state. The areas of cooperation between church and state are vast and include, among other things, support for the institution of family, motherhood and childhood, religious-ethical and patriotic education and formation, social work, service in prisons, humanitarian studies, work in the field of culture and art and peacemaking on international and national levels.

The above provisions enable the Russian Orthodox Church to carry out her service in today’s society and to develop dialogue with the state power.

Today, members of the Russian Church are actively involved in various projects carried out by the Church both on her own and jointly with societal and public structures in various fields. The Church and the governmental institutes constructively work and consider debatable problems together. The Church has an opportunity to bear witness to the Gospel’s truth before both the people and the authorities and to express her position on socially significant issues standing on both Russian and global agenda.

As an example of dialogue between church, society and state in education, I can cite the project for teaching the Basics of Religious Cultures and Secular Ethics discipline in all Russian regions. In our country there is a legal provision for teaching in public schools the disciplines devoted to the study of moral principles and historical and cultural traditions of Orthodoxy and other world religions or, alternatively, for teaching secular ethics. Parents are given the right to chose one of these disciplines within this course.

The first practical steps have been made to revive the army clergy. At present, there are 240 vacancies for staff priests, and 814 non-staff priests serve in the Russian Army Forces. [3]

The Russian Church is actively involved in social service. Orthodox church asylums and orphanages are established; aid to old people, the disabled and homeless is given; assistance is given in the treatment and rehabilitation of those dependent on alcohol and drugs and in restoration of their social relations and work skills.

Almost in all the dioceses of our Church, their ruling bishops have appointed clergy to take pastoral care of inmates of penitentiaries. Today, 905 priests serve in them.

The Russian Church is active in presenting her position on topical issues of today in the UN, Council of Europe, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other international organizations. She attaches a special importance to the strengthening of relations with governmental bodies and the civil society in other countries (including through contacts with the diplomatic corps accredited in Moscow). The aim of these efforts is to inform people in other countries of the Church’s position on burning issues having the ethical dimension. Among them the problems of euthanasia, abortion, legalization of same-sex unions and trafficking of people.

The revival of the Church and the expansion of her work, her growing authority in society and cooperation with the state in diverse areas have provoked displeasure in certain social circles. There are censures in the mass media for the Church’s “interpenetration with the state”, “clericalization of society”, and the like. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, in his address to the Bishops’ Council in 2013, reminded the public once again that “the Church does not interfere in the affairs of state governance, and the state does not interfere in the affairs of the Church but both work together for people’s benefit”. [4]

We remain strongly convinced that the secular nature of the state does not presuppose the ousting of the Church from the public space or her marginalization and placement in a “ghetto”. The Russian Orthodox Church is not only a social institution that has played a tremendous historical role in the development of Russian statehood and formation of the Russian people’s Christian spirit, but also an important part of the modern civil society. By virtue of this fact the Church has a right to expect that her voice is heard. And now, at a time of relative wellbeing of the Church, relevant are the words of St. Tikhon, the Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, who said not long before his death, “Looking at the future ways of holy Orthodoxy without fear, we call upon you, our beloved children, do God’s cause and may the sons of lawlessness never succeed”.

Author’s notes:

[1] Kartashev A. V. Essays on the History of the Russian Church. Sretensky Monastery, 2009, v. 1, p. 394 (Russian)

[2] Bases of Social Concept. https://mospat.ru/en/documents/social-concepts/iii/

[3] Report by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill to the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (2 February, 2013), p. 58. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/2770923.html.

[4] Ibid. p. 47.

Comments

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    Rostislav says:

    As a Russian Orthodox American and member of the OCA, I have to shrug my shoulders when reading statements like this which always seem to be delivered half-heartedly, tongue-in-cheek, with that Bill Clinton lazy eye wink going on.

    This is a political statement and an attempt to present a Potemkin village and then go on to say, “Everything is great”.

    Everything is not great in the Russian church.

    Things are probably more on the verge of collapse today then they were in 1917.

    The Russian church today is an unofficial state church, acting often in foreign lands and abroad as a Russian embassy with all the accompanying sundries that go with that. True, it was in such a position prior to the Revolution, but the government then was at least nominally Orthodox while the Church was an established and supported state institution. That made for a stronger infrastructure in its scope, influence and its role in society, albeit under Pobedonostsev’s fist.

    The church today however promotes people who are politically savvy and yes men, but not necessarily spiritual leaders with evangelical intent. These people live in largesse. They are removed from the general citizenry, which they many times hold in contempt. They are not so concerned with the “rechurching” of Russia, being more than happy to allow secular and political news organs to promote adulterated, “modern sensibilities” and theological and ecclesiological inaccuracies in the name of Orthodoxy. They do build churches and restore some, especially in Moscow, but in the Siberian hinterlands and in the provinces, not so much, where Protestant sectarians bribe local officials so that they then allow them to proselytize nominal Orthodox Christians and convert them with care packets, containing the necessities of life like tooth paste and toilet paper. Sundries the majority of the populace see as luxuries.

    While ranking MP hierarchs ride around in limousines and sell tickets to the “events” which mark their celebration of church services, the common people are left to pornography, vodka and clutching for “European” McCulture, where affording a Big Mac is more of a concern than going to Communion. A generation since the fall of Communism has come of age, and it stands for secularism, godless atheism, sensualism, escapism, nihilism. Yes, there are grandiose cathedrals and splendid ritual and celebration, wonderful, heartfelt prayer…for a fee. Russian Orthodoxy as is now administered within the patriarchate is very often “pay to play”. While the money doesn’t reach the lower clergy or the church administration as much as it funds “celebrities” like Metropolitan Alfeev and promotes the motif of person at the expense of faith. Indeed, instead of converting souls, he tries his best to imitate Bach and write concert pieces for the pope.

    The MP has failed, and the current “evangelical” administration of Patriarch Kirill, Metropolitan Hilarion and Fr. Vsevolod Chaplin has proven to be far worse and more incompetent than stemming this tide than the more sober and spiritually minded era of Patriarch Alexis II, where some slight cultural gains where made and fidelity to Orthodoxy was not under assault.

    Thus, the situation today is a mess in the Russian church.

    Depending on which survey one follows, less than 5% of Russian Orthodox believers attend church every sunday, less than 1% regularly fast, less than 10% attend Nativity and Paschal services. The MP promotes the idea that “apostasy from Orthodoxy is not inherently wrong as other Christians worship CHRIST as well while other non Christians worship the same GOD…” Everything from candles to Confessions are a business for a clergy and church organism which is becoming a sort of spiritual, service industry, sometimes very much parasitic. Systems of “Treby”, stole fees, are often the replacement of pastorship which will only merit one the epithet of “mladostarchestvo”, “young eldership”, if a cleric goes too far in spiritually loving and forming believers. All this while people like Metropolitan Alfeev promote union with Rome, renovationism, every manner of novelty and “cutting corners”, using the backdrop of widespread ignorance of Orthodox teaching and orthopraxia to not so quietly promote an agenda at odds with the Tradition of the Orthodox Church and the historical posture of Russian Orthodoxy. Ever so intrepid in doing so while the common Russian believer is schooled in secular, unreligious schools in a post Christian culture where it is so much easier to spiritually tune out, enjoy the simple fare of potatoes and bacon with a bottle of vodka and enjoy the sensual delights of sex, violence and the hope of McDonald’s for all.

    When I reflect on the Martyrdom of Fr. Daniel Sysoev and how certain elements in the administration (and even in ROCOR) were “lukewarm in their mourning” with a “serves him right for trying to convert Moslems and others” attitude, I allow the bitterness and anti-evangelicalism this groupthink is now promoting to clearly characterize the current state of affairs in the Moscow Patriarchate. This attitude is a travesty and a miscarriage and an affront to the heritage of Russian Orthodoxy. Unfortunately, it so epitomizes the administration of today, which scoffs at elders, interferes with missionaries, is more concerned with promoting white collars among the lower clergy than pure souls which love the People of GOD.

    Disgraceful decadence would not be a harsh characterization of the current administration and what they have made of the post Communist church.

    Although the institution of the Oberprocurator was an abysmal mistake and imposition upon the Russian church, the quiet vestiges of it are still not erased where with a nudge and a nod (and a bank transaction) or even a harshly worded memo, the current state does interfere in the life of the Russian church. It imposes upon clearly incompetent men pursuing their agendas at Orthodoxy’s expense regularly. A return to the Apostolic system of administration would be ideal, but after fifteen centuries of symphonia or a Protestant/secular atheist parody of it, the Orthodox Church lacks both the leadership and the spirituality to make that transition.

    There is a model of symphonia which could work today to aid in the transition, however. In the special case of the Ruthenian church in the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries, lay brotherhoods emerged, made up of all classes and sectors of society, which educated the populace and formed zealous Orthodox believers who emerged to act as a check against the apostasy of Unia, supporting the Ruthenian church of that era in overseeing its livelihood, administration, and acting hand in hand in propagation of zealous Faith. The Cossack Ruthenian state was a much more involved Orthodox land as a result than even Muscovite Russia. Ideally, in our contemporary world, that is the type of symphonia and oversight which must emerge to prevent the very decadence that today’s Patriarchal administration so epitomizes. These ideas were in process of formulation at the All Russian Sobor of 1917 – 1918, but were waylaid by both Soviet persecution along with being coopted by “Living Church” and separatist “Nationalist” politicized cadres.

    The Russian church today needs an emphasis on whole life and holistic evangelization of Russian society, where the resources of the culture along with charity, education, hospitals, the entire make up of Russian society are devoted toward the reChristianization of Orthodox Russia. It needs to be able to do this with a clear purpose which activizes atavized and nominal “patriotic religiousity” and brings to the Russian populace the preaching of CHRIST CRUCIFIED and RESURRECTED IN THEM for the benefit of their lives, painting a picture of a holistic Orthodox life and society which emerges from life centered around prayer, church, community, upkeep, infrastructure, the Eucharist, in full knowledge of the Gospel and the Fathers reflecting the Patristic Mind and life. “Obryad” as it was called in Older Russian, but with a general cultural ontology and affirmation. To be plain, the Russian church does not need a new aristocracy which will live in largesse while the majority of the nation lives in squalor: it needs the Orthodox life.

    The Russian church needs to be more manageable and not administered by a removed center, where more autonomies and, yes, autocephalies emerge to locally attend to the need of the belivers and the mission in Eurasia. The Ukrainian church should become an autocephalous body to reChristianize the Ruthenian and Russian peoples who live on that territory and combat Uniate apostasy and sectarian proselytization. Similar localization is required in Byelorussia, the Baltics, Central Asia, Siberia, Karelia, Southern Russia, the Caucasus, Abroad.

    Yes, vernacular either used in conjunction with or independently of Church Slavonic is long overdue. Church Slavonic can be preserved and given a more hallowed reverence by allowing people to understand in their own thoughts and hearts what is being prayed and celebrated in the vernacular so that in monasteries, in cathedrals, in certain large churches and centers, Church Slavonic maintains a presence, but in the Eurasian mission becomes a project for “further study” where vernacular services are most needed.

    The Russian church is called to missionize Eurasia.

    Finally, the Russian church needs the government’s support as a recognized independent state church (or federation [Patriarchal College] of Russian/local churches), funded with a system of support, not unlike Germany’s, for the upkeep and propagation of churches, charitable institutions, schools, monasteries, hospitals, orphanages, employment centers and work houses, lay brotherhoods, relief agencies, etc. which will allow the Russian church to missionize society.

    Paying off the upper echelons with opulence while neglecting the renewal of the Russian church has been a decadent bargain for the secular state which has cost the Russian Orthodox church. This state, as heir to the brutal Bolshevik regime, owes the Russian church both structural advantage and legislative and monetary reparations.

    Someone does have to keep the church administration honest. That is why the lay brotherhoods should be reformed, funded and allowed to freely act hand-in-hand with the Patriarchal administration to provide oversight to prevent the mistakes and decadence of the current administration from continuing to happen.

    The Russian church needs CHRIST in HIS BODY and BLOOD in Patristic evangelization and socially just administration which reaches out to all sectors of society with love, formative love and discipline, and material love and charity. Sell the Rolexes and the Maybachs and allow the resources of the Church to serve the Church – the assembly of believers united in the Eucharist.

    I am at an advantage in the OCA, while I understand that many would cast aspersions on the North American church, in that I can express loyalty and fidelity to the Patriarchate and the Mother Church as a matter of heritage, appealing to its better history, esteeming offices and not persons, because my church administration is independent of this travesty. While we do have travesties of our own which have transpired, some still not extinguished, Providence has provided us a measure of self correction (albeit with cataclysmic implosion, but at this depth we can only look up). We are free and open and have the full capability to develop our local church.

    The Mother Church, on the other hand, is at a crossroads today where demographic trends of secularization, islamization, and political structure do not favor its mission and survival. In the last ten years, trusting one of the more reliable surveys, the amount of “nominal Orthodox” has declined from 70% to 64% of the population. Things as they now are with the current administration in power can only get worse. We in the OCA waited over twenty years to recognizes a systemic mistake which resulted in corrupt administration impoverishing our local church and plundering our resources to missionize the future. We have suffered and been guilty, at least in microcosm, of the same ills that are assaulting the Mother Church today. So we can look at these things independently and say the course and administration now in charge are a mistake and that immediate and systemic action is necessary to renew its administration and polity.

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      Geo Michalopulos says:

      Rostislav,

      A lot what you say here is probably true and we wise to heed your words –up to a point. You see the glass as half-full. I have never been to Russia but know many people who have, both Russian and non-Russian. From them as well as from RT, Novosti, Mospat.ru, etc., one gets a decidedly different picture, one in which the Church there is very vibrant and evangelical.

      Even if for the sake of argument your picture is closer to the mark, I would still exercise caution when speaking about the glories of Orthodoxy in America. Simply put, jurisdictional Orthodoxy is well on its way to extinction. I’m sorry, but I just can’t get all worked up about singing the praises of the various jurisdictions, who all told, have at most 500,000 people between them. Not in a country of 310 million people. Our numbers are pathetic, our witness non-existent for all practical purposes.

      As for the other Christian confessions things aren’t much better. Mainline Protestantism has completely caved to the spirit of the times and the Roman Catholic Church is fighting a rear-guard action trying to re-catechize a population that is completely desacralized. (That’s one reason that the RCC and Evangelicals are pushing for Amnesty: they’re both hoping that 30 million meso-Americans will swell their dying churches.) As for the black church, it has done a horrible job instilling morality in its people by virtue of the appalling pathology one sees there.

      Our national government is in the midst of an imperialist enterprise trying to “liberate” women by legalizing abortion, dressing down foreign leaders because they don’t allow gay “marriage” and so on.

      This is Christian?

      It would be a cruel joke indeed for your or I to wax eloquent about the wonderfulness of the OCA which presently has five vacant sees. Is this not scandalous to you? This is in violation of the plain verbiage as found in the OCA Statutes by the way. If the present trends continue will be the first of the three major jurisdictions will probably be the first that closes the lights.

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        Rostislav says:

        Whether or not the OCA has 5 vacant sees or 50, it is the North American mission blessed by the Mother Church to missionize North America. I conceded the fact that we have no small amount of egg on our faces, but we have reached rock bottom, and the only way from here is up. So I am not talking about “jurisdictional Orthodoxy” at all, but I would be the last to say that the various diasporan missions will be going anywhere anytime soon. I am talking about the local, North American church.

        500,000 in North America, probably an accurate number, but with a potential of missionizing 20-30% of the continent. Our vocation is mission. Without pious, faithful and traditional, active witness, that number will decline to 50,000. Nominalism and secularism are the problem. Lukewarm faith, poor formation, disorganization have caused this decline. But our emphasis is on renewal and on growth. Whoever missionizes North America will claim it. That is the “jurisdictional reality”. As the Church grows the 4,500,000 lost will return to a certain degree as well. There will be a native, pious and traditional North American Orthodoxy. But you are right-it may sadly be built upon the ashes of the old ethnic enclaves and exarchates.

        I wrote what I wrote about the Russian church to not cast aspersions, but to give a fair assessment of the situation and a better prescription for the future of the world’s primary Orthodox Church. I wrote what I wrote to make recommendations which could make the Russian church stronger, while clearly elucidating the pitfalls of the current circus of Rolexes and paid tickets for Paschal services going on today. I can assure you that there is no real “Orthodox evangelicalism” yet in place in Russia and the Successor states.

        Since I am Russian Orthodox and have been so from the cradle, my perspective is of one who cares about his family.

        Thank you for your kinds words and critical consideration. I will take what you have written to heart.

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          Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

          You second paragraph is very encouraging Rostislav. It is time to start planning it.

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            Rostislav says:

            Thank you, Father, ideas I have daily. Just a matter of resources and the right moment.

            The positive impression I get from this blog and other net and personal resources is that we now have a common undercurrent, a yearning amongst serious Orthodox to differentiate themselves from the zeitgeist and the culture and other Christians (and more nominal Orthodox) in North America.

            I believe that that could be the beginning of a possible cascade of mission which will culminate in North American Orthodox unity.

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              Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

              That common current and yearning certainly exists. I think it drives a lot of the discussion, even debate, about Church and culture that from my perspective is often quite good and has gotten more penetrating and elevated over the years. I agree with your comment that fault lines that developed include differentiating ourselves from the zeitgeist/dominant culture and nominal Orthodoxy.

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          Geo Michalopulos says:

          You must understand Rostislav, that I agree with you as well regarding missionizing this country. There is no essential quarrel. However this will not happen –indeed, cannot happen–with the phronema inherent in the OCA today. The least of which is a defiant spirit of unrepentence in the matter of Jonah.

          And I mean no offence but the vacancy of five sees is indicative of a more serious problem. Trust me, evangelism came to a hard halt two years ago and dried up completely one year ago today.

          The picture otherwise is not rosy in other areas as well. But for Fr Chad Hatfield, SVS is totally on board with East Coast liberal ecumenism. What can we expect from future priests? We know that HC is intellectually vapid so we can expect nothing from that quarter but would putting out intellectually brilliant but Tradition-skeptic priests from SVS be any better?

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            Rostislav says:

            Since I have known Metropolitan Jonah, I can state with confidence that his orientation was neither defiant nor liberal. He was an advocate for a more traditional, native transformation of the OCA, and that is precisely what will turn the tide in North America. The missteps he made in a very personal “neo Traditionalism” are not at all what I am addressing nor indicating here, but his calls for liturgical observance, Eucharistic witness, monasticism, spirituality, canonical mission and unity, rapprochement with warring factions, Orthodox education and formation, OCA-Slavic-Antiochian unity were all visionary and the cure to the disease.

            As far as St. Vladimir’s and the rest of your criticism of some of the OCA machinery, that is another topic to consider. I will simply say that the OCA is the body blessed by the mother church to missionize North America, the body canonically appointed to be the local church. That is what matters, for it has the canonical authority to do so. How this sorts itself out in this period of restructuring and post catastrophe is still very much in flux.

            Rest assured, we will fill our vacant sees and get our house in order. The “liberal East Coast” is not what is growing in the OCA, but, rather the quite “conservative” South and more “traditional” elements in the West, not to mention the “New Russian” diasporan influx which sees the social problems of our times as “degenerate craziness”. Things are a bit different from your perception.

            I thank you for your time and consideration.

Care to comment?

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