THE RUSSIAN IS THE SERB’S FRIEND FOREVER?

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THE RUSSIAN IS THE SERB’S FRIEND FOREVER?

Postby Despotovac » Thu 14 July 2011 6:44 pm

The international activity of the Russian True-Orthodox Churches (TOCs - those who are outside the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate) is usually limited by the existence of Russian parishes in the countries of the diaspora. The activism of mission among the “converts” (in the English-language tradition that is what “Orthodox not by birth”, who have consciously accepted Baptism, are called), which was demonstrated 10 years ago by ROAC, has been begun to freeze up in it for natural reasons. The leadership in this has passed to RTOC, which is the leader among the “offshoots of ROCOR” in the quantity of its foreign parishes.

One could say that success for the external mission of the TOC is possible today only with a distinct ecclesiastical position, a well-defined internal organization and, however sad this may sound, by the stalling of the intra-Russian “inter-offshoot” dialogue. In spite of the fact there is a sufficiently broad recognition of the necessity of the mutual recognition of the “offshoots” of ROCOR with their consequent integration into some single structure of those who ascribe themselves to the TOC of the Russian tradition, real unifying processes have gone forward only in parallel with still more disunity. The position of the episcopate is conservative; each of the Synods prefers to support its own stability, thereby conserving the status quo, while the position of the laity and lower clergy has so far not grown into a serious ecclesiastical movement that would force the episcopate to mutual talks.

By dint of this, each of the Russian “offshoot” Synods is carrying out its strategy of survival. The activism of ROAC has practically completely died out because of the seizure of its property in its centre in Suzdal and the worsening of the health of its first-hierarch, Metropolitan Valentine. ROCOR (V) tormentedly seeks the algorithm for its own internal stability. The episcopate of ROCOR (A), which the other Russian TOCs no longer ascribes to its own circle, is carrying out the strategy of “expansion at all costs”, repeating the situation of ROCOR at the beginning of the 1990s.

The small but stable Hierarchical Council of RTOC has been consistently carrying out its idea of the construction of a local True Orthodox Church on a strict canonical and dogmatic basis, which is oriented on a broad conciliar structure acting with minimal dependence on the personality of the first-hierarch. Thus a long-term strategy of development among Russians outside the ROC MP is demonstrated today only by ROCOR (A) and RTOC.

The former has been trying to survive in the role of “zealot” challenger to the official ecumenical Churches, exploiting, as a basis for its identity, the idea of so-called “Cyprianism”, with its theory of the “sick” (heretical”) and “healthy” (Orthodox) members of the one Church, and also the criticism of Sergianism and the moral failure of the hierarchy of ROC MP that result from that. Also of some importance is the idea of “True Russianness”, which is supposedly preserved only in ROCOR. Thus dogmatic differences with official Orthodoxy have receded into the background, while the Greek Synod of Metropolitan Cyprian has emerged as being of the same mind with it, as well as Patriarch Irenaeus, who has been rejected by the official patriarchate of Jerusalem.

The latter [RTOC], having condemned Cyprianism as a form of hidden Ecumenism that falls under anathema, and Sergianism as a moral sin against the teaching on the Church. has undertaken a broader inter-confessional activity, conducting a process of negotiations on mutual recognition with the strongest “Florinite” Synod of the TOC of Greece – the “Chrysostomites”, who are now under the administration of Archbishop Kallinikos.

These negotiations have already continued for three years, and so far the two sides have not come to an agreement on the establishment of Eucharistic communion. However, something interesting is beginning to take place. The situation of rivalry between Greek and Russian Orthodoxy on the global scale is being repeated in the world of the TOC. And if the place occupied in official Orthodoxy by the Phanar will probably remain vacant in the TOC, because only Greeks can be leaders in the world of the Greek TOCs, the “converts” and the representatives of other national TOCs are willingly orienting themselves, as usual, on the Russians. And RTOC is successfully laying claim to the role of informal leader here.

Now before our eyes the next national TOC is being formed – this time, the Serbian. The official Serbian patriarchate led by the new Patriarch Irenaeus has entered into the first rank of the ecumenical movement and “the partnership of love” with the Vatican. It is very difficult to oppose and criticise this course of the official Church in Serbia. This is tied up with the tragic history of the country, in which for long periods the Church remained the only attribute of State independence. For the authorities and people of Serbia, every criticism of the Church was frequently perceived as a criticism of “Serbness”. Nevertheless, the movement of the TOC in Serbia is steadily expanding.
Up to now, the parishes standing for True Orthodoxy have sought a hierarchy in their nearest neighbours – the Greeks. The more so in that ROCOR, which in Russian conditions opposed the official Moscow Patriarchate, in Serbia was oriented on the official Church, which earlier on was lead by conservative Patriarchs. Thus aside from individual communities and clergy in Serbia belonging to the “Matthewite” Synod of the TOC of Greece, in this country there appeared a whole exarchate subject to the “Chrysostomite” Synod. Before his election to the post of first-hierarch of this Synod, tthe Serbian parishes were administered by Metropolitan Kallinikos (Sarantopoulos) of Achaia. For a long time the Serbs have been trying to obtain from the Greeks the episcopal ordination of Hieromonk Akakije (Stankovich) for the re-establishment of the fullness of the hierarchy of the Serbian Church. However, the Greek Synod regularly gave negative replies, referring to the small numbers [of the Serbian flock] and the absence of State registration for the Serbian TOC. Today the Serbian TOC contains about ten communities in Serbia and the women’s monastery of Novistjenik, whose sisters conduct active missionary work not only inside the country, but also in the Serbian diaspora. We should note that the perspectives for the development of the STOC in the diaspora even exceed its opportunities inside Serbia. Today more Serbs live in the diaspora (10-12 million) than in Serbia itself.
The most recent request for this ordination was sent to the Greeks soon after the election of Metropolitan Kallinikos to the post of first-hierarch. Insofar as the place of the administrator of the Serbian parishes now became vacant, a completely realistic opportunity existed for the filling of this place with a representative of the STOC. The Serbs pointed to the fact that the Serbian Church is autocephalous and should not be ruled by bishops of another Local Church. However, the Synod declined the request, declaring that several parishes did not constitute a Local Church, while there were also parishes from Georgia and Bulgaria in submission to the Chrysostomite Synod that made no claims to autocephaly. The synod laid down the following conditions for the ordination of a Serbian bishop: the opening of a parish in Belgrade, the founding of a men’s monastery, the State registration of STOC and the growth of parishes. If these conditions were fulfilled, the Chrysostomite Synod was ready to review the possibility of the ordination. Moreover, the Greeks were ready to appoint a Serbian bishop only within the TOC of Greece: they would not re-establish a sufficient degree of hierarchy for an independent Serbian Church.
It should be said that the Serbs have unambiguously evaluated this reply as “the cunning of the Greeks”, whom they traditionally accuse of phyletism and lack of love for the Slavic Churches. Having entered the European Union, Greece has a relatively free religious legislation which allows even the Old Calendarist Churches to receive State registration without hindrance. But in Serbia the situation is even worse than in the Russian Federation. The local legislation on religion is most reminiscent of Belarus’, where officially the name “Orthodox” attaches to the Belorussian exarchate of the ROC MP. But the Serbs link the possibility of the expansion of their flock and the expansion of their parishes precisely with the presence of an episcopate in the STOC, which would “give a push” to the wavering priests of the official Church.
The "cunning" of the Synod of Archbishop Kallinikos is obliquely confirmed by the recent passing over into it of two bishops of the Boston Synod of the TOC. For a long time their hierarchy was proclaiming that they were conducting negotiations on mutual recognition, and that the negotiations were proceeding successfully, but in May, 2011 the Chrysostomites simply received two bishops, although earlier they had promised not to do this, and broke off the negotiations.
The Serbs have found support in RTOC. The closeness of the Serbs to RTOC was largely conditioned by the fact that to the latter belongs the Lesna women’s monastery of the Holy Mother of God, which for about 30 years was part of the Serbian Church and became the renewer of women’s monasticism in Serbia after it had become weak during the time of the Turkish yoke. In parallel with the Serbian-Greek negotiations on the renewal of the episcopate and the Russian-Greek negotiations on the establishment of Eucharistic communion between RTOC and the TOC of Greece (the Chrysostomite Synod), Serbian-Russian negotiations were taking place on the possibility of a hierarchical ordination for STOC. Judging from the published materials of the last RTOC Synod, these have concluded successfully.
It was said there in particular "with the falling away of the episcopate of the official Serbian Church from Orthodoxy into Sergianism and Ecumenism, and the loss, as a result of this, of its lawful canonical episcopate, the Local Serbian Church has not lost its autocephaly". The Synod of RTOC goes on to affirm its de facto readiness to conduct a hierarchical ordination of a bishop for STOC and plans to consult with the Greeks on this.
We should note that this readiness of the Russian Synod may have a negative effect on the course of the negotiations with the Greeks, which have gone on now for three years without particular success. Undoubtedly the Greeks will see this readiness as interference in their internal affairs. But, at the same time, RTOC will acquire serious allies in the Serbs. Apparently for the Russian hierarchs Slavic brotherhood is closer and more comprehensible that the capricious and difficult friendship with the Greeks.
Judging from the material published on the site of the Serbian TOC, in which the position and arguments of the Greeks has been subjected to harsh and unambiguous criticism, accusing them of interfering in the affairs of another Local Church, the question of the ordination in RTOC has already been practically decided. Since it will be very difficult to carry out in Serbia, it will probably take place already this year in one of the churches of RTOC. The most convenient place for this is the cathedral of St. John of Kronstadt in Odessa, where the Council and Synods of this jurisdiction regularly take place, or the Lesna monastery in France, where the Serbs are constant guests.
It is worth mentioning an important point in the restoration of a hierarchy for STOC. The bishops of the Russian True Orthodox Church have emphasized from the beginning that this step has the character of the fraternal support of a Local Sister Church and will involve no submission of the Serbian hierarchy, as if presupposed by the Greeks. In this way RTOC is not only acting in a canonical way, but is also protecting itself from the appearance of possible conflicts on an ethnic basis. In RTOC they have more than once declared that they are not striving for greater numbers, but for the preservation of the faith and traditions of TOC and ROCOR. The more so in that in that it has more than enough internal reserves for expansion within itself.

Protopriest Alexei Lebedev.

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Re: THE RUSSIAN IS THE SERB’S FRIEND FOREVER?

Postby joasia » Thu 14 July 2011 11:54 pm

This is a very insightful explanation of the situation. I've had experience with the GOC, in my small corner of the world and now am with RTOC. I can relate to both cultures. I hope that the hierarchy of GOC will have a big enough heart to understand that it is necessary to unite with RTOC and STOC. But, I worry that they are limited in their view because they don't understand the Slavic people. If they're not Greek, then they (GOC) tend to put so many restrictions. In a way, it is a bias. They can't live in a bubble because it's not limited to their country. Our faith is not about nationalism, it's about Orthodoxy which is universal.
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Re: THE RUSSIAN IS THE SERB’S FRIEND FOREVER?

Postby Mark Templet » Fri 15 July 2011 1:39 pm

I have no dog in this fight, however, I would like to pose a few thoughts. While I have no problem with an STOC, here is my issue: The Serbs sought out the GOC to help them and take them under their synod. They could have just as easily gone to the RTOC or ROAC, but for whatever reasons they chose the GOC. They willingly put themselves into the hands of a GOC bishop. You can tell that they acknowledge this by the fact that they asked him for their own bishop. He said no. Now in comes the RTOC, who says that they will give them what they want. This is inconsistency. This will definitely strain the relationship between the GOC and RTOC.

If the mother tells the child no and the father come and says not to listen to the mother and that the answer is yes, what will be the results between the mother and the father? We like to say that we are truly Orthodox, but true Orthodoxy is defined by being obedient when the bishop says no. Whether the Serbs deserve their own bishop or not is beside the point, they placed themselves into the hands of their shepherd and he said no. Now, they can pray and pester him until he gives them their own bishop, but to do otherwise, is it not disobedience?

So, my question is: how is it Orthodox to disobey your synod? How is it Orthodox for the RTOC to intervene in the affairs of a bishop and his flock? I'm not saying that an STOC is a bad idea, I am just saying that its stuff like this that is the basis for all the disunity among the TOCs; from my view I fail to see how this is a basis for furthering unity.
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Re: THE RUSSIAN IS THE SERB’S FRIEND FOREVER?

Postby Despotovac » Fri 15 July 2011 3:19 pm

...However, in September, 2010 Archbishop Chrysostomos of Athens, who had been in favour of union, died, and was succeeded by Metropolitan Kallinikos of Corinth. The Serbs were dismayed, for they had been under the omophorion of Metropolitan Kallinikos already for fifteen years, and were convinced from bitter experience that he was no friend of the Serbian TOC, and that his aim was not the establishment of “one happy family” of Local True Orthodox Churches in full communion with each other, but the re-establishment of Greek ecclesiastical hegemony in the Balkans in the spirit of Greek nationalism. The Russians, too, were not happy – and determined that, while they would continue to strive for union with the Greeks, they would not abandon their brother Serbs, whose position in the Greek TOC was becoming increasingly difficult… In particular, the Greeks were deaf to the pleas of the Serbs to have their own bishop: while they grudgingly and with reservations accepted that the Serbs constituted an Autocephalous Church, they were not prepared to grant the Serbs de facto, as opposed to de jure, autocephaly by consecrating a bishop for them. Forgetting that they themselves had received their own episcopate from the Russian Church in 1969, without any subsequent interference by the Russians in the internal affairs of the Greek Church, they now wished to retain a suffocating and harmful control over the Autocephalous Serbian Church…

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Re: THE RUSSIAN IS THE SERB’S FRIEND FOREVER?

Postby Mark Templet » Fri 15 July 2011 3:32 pm

Again, I am not arguing whether the Greeks were a good fit for the Serbs or not. But each week they chant in their services that their bishop "rightly divides the word of truth." And if he says no, then what else can they do that is obedient to the master they chose?

caveat emptor!
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Re: THE RUSSIAN IS THE SERB’S FRIEND FOREVER?

Postby Despotovac » Fri 15 July 2011 5:06 pm

The revival of the Serbian Church began to 1995-6 when three monks Serbs Hagiorite left the Serbian Patriarchate and joined the monastery of Esphigmenou. Later, one of the three (fr. Akakije) moved to Serbia and there started a small True Orthodox mission. From the beginning, the Serbs wanted to be with ROCOR but then unfortunately ROCOR was already with Cyprian. There was no other choice and believers in Serbia are asked GOC to ordained fr. Acacius. The mission grew. Number of believers, the monks and the clergy are increased. None of the Serbs had not doubted the intentions of GOC. Help in ordination of priests by Greek bishop for the STOC is not considered as a submission Serbian Church under the Greek Church. No, the GOC was considered only like temporary solution in the revival of Serbian TOC. Even this option of the temporary help of the Greek Church has brought great harm to the Serbs because many Serbs from the official Serbian Church refused to cross to the Greek bishops and to the Church of Greece. Under such conditions progress of STOC was stopped. In addition to the above problem, there were also other barriers: language, very big distance between bishops and flock and a very rare visit of bishop to the Serbian flock. Serbs have repeatedly asked for the independence with getting his Serbian bishop for what the Greeks did not have hearing. Until the appearance of the Church of RTOC as canonical and that renounce cyprianism, where Serbs had nowhere to go. With the Greeks for not hearing them and keep them trapped in their hegemony, they were doomed to failure. The situation in the STOC was deteriorating. In this most difficult time its began to fulfilling the long-standing desire of Serbs – Russian canonical TOC who rejected cyprianism and so its began all of this. So, GOC has the right to retain the Serbs, since it will not help them to become independent and in such a way move to further progress.
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Re: THE RUSSIAN IS THE SERB’S FRIEND FOREVER?

Postby Despotovac » Fri 15 July 2011 5:16 pm

Formal Request from the Clergy of the Serbian True Orthodox Church to the Synod of the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece for a Clarification of the Relationship Between Our Two Churches

We, the undersigned clergy of the Serbian True Orthodox Church (STOC), formally request from the Synod of the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece (GOC) a precise and clear statement, in writing, of their understanding of the relationship between our two Churches, so that we can come to an agreement about our future co-existence and cooperation, in accordance with the Canons and the centuries-old tradition of the Orthodox Church.

It is well known that the Serbian Church was, from the beginning of the 13th century, an autocephalous Archdiocese, and later rose to the rank of a Patriarchate. Not one of the Orthodox Churches ever contested its status, with the lone exception of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which, for the first time in the reign of Patriarch Jeremias I in the first half of the 16th century, and again in 1766 in the reign of Patriarch Samuel, tried to submit the Serbian Patriachate to itself during the difficult times of the Turkish yoke.

The canonicity of the Serbian Church was deeply shaken after the Second World War and Communist subversion, so that in the 1960's it finally fell into the pan-heresy of Ecumenism.

In 1995-1996, a group of monks and believers, members of the Serbian Church widowed - that is, deprived of an Orthodox episcopacy - as a result of the heresy of Ecumenism, sought help from the Greek Genuine Orthodox Church and temporary shelter under the Greek hierarchical omophorion. The GOC kindly responded and gave us basic help for the needs of the organization of the life of the Serbian Church as regards the consecration of clergy, and the provision of antimensia and holy chrism, as well as material help. From the very beginning, however, it was stated often and mutually understood by everyone involved, that the consecration and enthronement of a Serbian bishop for the Serbian True Orthodox Church was necessary for the organization of a normal church life and for any possibility for our Church to attain the trust and respect of the Serbian people at large, so as not to be seen as an isolated and foreign “mission” disconnected from the historical and actual Serbian Orthodox Church. The Synod of the GOC, however, has to this day never dealt with this question, always putting it aside and neglecting it, so that now for over a decade and a half the STOC has been under the reign of a Greek exarch.

We are certain that there is no justification for leaving the Serbian Church in the state of widowhood for such a long period, especially in light of the fact that the local administration of the community of the STOC – the Main Governing Council - has been open, clear, and insistent about this matter from the very beginning.

The temporary governance of the Greek exarch, that is, the administrator has gone on indefinitely, making the impression on many people that the widowed Serbian Church is simply to be subsumed into the Greek Church, permanently owned and dominated by her. This years-long administration of the Greek exarch has caused much harm to the Serbian Church in many ways. The effectiveness of the mission of True Orthodoxy to the Serbs has been reduced to a minimum, as the general impression one gets in Serbia is that breaking off communion with the ecumenistic “official” Serbian Church and entering the True Church necessarily entails leaving the Serbian Church, which, for the overwhelming majority of thinking anti-ecumenist Serbs, is and will remain unthinkable.

Due to the stagnation in the growth and mission of the STOC caused by this destructive policy, with no solution in sight to the problem, a hopeless indifference has emerged in many. Everyone is withdrawing into his parish or monastery and is living independently, without any interest in united endeavors for the sake of the higher interests of the entire Serbian Church. The policy of inaction on the part of the Synod of the GOC is, in Serbia, destroying the most fundamental mission of the Church, to save souls.

To summarize: Our intention from the beginning was always to receive necessary but temporary help in the crisis of the widowhood of the Serbian Church. Temporary help has been transformed, if not by design than at least by inertia, into an apparently permanent irregular situation to which no solution has been offered and to which no boundaries have been set, a situation directly contrary to the mission of the Church to save souls. It is urgent that a definite plan be conceived, committed to, and begun now to give the STOC its own episcopacy and its own Church organization.

This urgency is exacerbated by the present activities of Bishop Artemije, who has recently created a schism in the Belgrade Patriarchate. Bishop Artemije is a well-known anti-ecumenist and heir of the traditionalist line in the ranks of the official Serbian Church. At this very moment, on the territory of Serbia, he is founding his new conservative and anti-ecumenist church structure, but not on the principles of True Orthodoxy, which is very dangerous. Almost all anti-ecumenists in Serbia have already joined him or are waiting to see what course he will take. Many suppose that this course will be the path of Metropolitan Cyprian Koutsoumbas and his “resistance ecclesiology.”

Therefore, at this very moment, we have on the one hand a well-known anti-ecumenist who is obviously a bishop of the Serbian Church and not some other national Church, while on the other hand there is our tiny group of True Orthodox clergy who are formally enrolled on the lists of the Greek Church and who commemorate a Greek bishop, by all appearances thus demonstrating that they are in fact agents of a foreign Church unlawfully functioning on the canonical territory of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Precisely in response to this situation, some of our faithful have already left us and joined Bishop Artemije.

In light of all this, it is not only time but past time for the Holy Synod of the GOC to take urgent and decisive action to enable and to confirm the independent organization of the STOC under a Serbian bishop.

Most Reverend Masters, it is your duty in conscience and in honesty to recall that when your widowed Greek Church was in the same situation, you asked for help from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). You asked for – and received! - one thing only: the ordination of Greek bishops for the Greek Church. By not one action, by not even one symbolic gesture, did the Russian Church ever make a single encroachment on your autocephaly, nor did they interfere in your inner life, organization, disagreements, and decisions, nor did they manipulate your consciences and divide you in order to dominate you .

We recognize the fact that because of our small numbers, we are not in the same practical situation as the Greek GOC of 1961, but we are in precisely the same canonical situation. In order for you to be honest, you must recognize and act upon this reality. If there were simply the will on your part to recognize and act upon this canonical reality, and we had our own Serbian bishop and governed our own affairs, our numbers would grow quite rapidly, the number of clergy and monastics would grow as well, and there would, in a short time, be enough suitable candidates for the episcopate to create a small but perfectly canonical and perfectly functioning synod, remaining in communion with your holy Church. Is this what you want for us? Or do you prefer to keep us small, divided, and dependent upon yourselves? Be honest. What are your intentions?

The critical, life-or-death urgency of our situation demands that we request from you, Most Reverend Masters, a timely and clear answer to this question, and a statement on your part that you will cooperate in a concrete plan for the independent functioning of the STOC, with a clear time-line. We know that you cannot answer this question immediately, but we reasonably and firmly ask that you give us a formal answer in writing by the Feast of Pentecost, 30 May OS of this year.

We formally request an answer in writing to these questions from the Holy Synod of the GOC:

1. Does the Synod of the GOC of Greece recognize that it has no canonical right to govern the Serbian Church?

2. Is it the intention of the Synod of the GOC to enable the Serbian True Orthodox Church to have its own episcopate and to govern its own affairs without interference from the hierarchy of the Greek Church?

3. If the answer to both of the foregoing questions is Yes, will the Synod of the GOC of Greece take concrete and swift action, beginning soon after Pentecost of this year, to confirm the authority of the Main Governing Council of the STOC and, without delay, to work with the Main Governing Council to establish and execute a formalized plan with a stated time-line for the episcopal consecration of a Serbian clergyman and the independent governing of the STOC?

Most Reverend Masters, with gratitude for the benevolence shown us in the past and for your expected help in the future, we remain

The Clergy of the Serbian True Orthodox Church

Hieromonk Akakije
Hieromonk Nektarije
Priest Stephan

As well as the monastics and believers who firmly stand in this position.

The Afterfeast of Holy Theophany
January in the Year of Our Salvation 2011
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