(The Independent Opinion of Bishop Gregory (Grabbe))


The conciliar decrees on the matter of the Russian bishops that have come to me cannot fail to elicit perplexity in all those who have any acquaintance at all with the canons of the Russian Orthodox Church.


The very fact that Bishops Theodore and Agathangelus were summoned, without the slightest qualifications, to a session of the Synod witnesses to the recognition of their hierarchical consecrations. This is especially obvious if we remember the joyful declarations of the President of the Council [in Lesna, in December, 1994] concerning the decrees that had previously been accepted opening the way to a peaceful resolution of all the problems of the Church Administration in Russia. Bishops Theodore and Agathangelus came to the session of the Synod on the basis of precisely this understanding of their status. However, completely unexpectedly for us, the Synod raised the question, not even of whether their episcopate should be doubted, but of banning them from serving with the threat of defrocking five out of the seven Russian Bishops, which, if the Bishops from Russia had entered the ranks of the Church Abroad should have been carried out in the definite legal procedure laid out in the Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. But we should not forget that one of the especially important legal principles of the above-mentioned Statute was that all its rules had in mind only the affairs of the Church Abroad, but by no means the affairs of the Church in Russia. In the whole Statute there is not one word about entrusting the Hierarchical Synod or its President with authority over the Church in Russia. Of course, this does not exclude help for the Church in Russia. However, there is a great difference between help and jurisdiction.


If we turn to the decree of his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon of November 7/20, 1920, there hierarchs are allowed to render help in the forming of a temporary Administration in Russia, but not to assume for themselves ecclesiastical authority over the whole of Russia. It was this kind of help that the Church Abroad rendered when she consecrated Bishops for Russia, because of the communists annihilation of the whole lawful Russian hierarchy. That was enough for a beginning.


When local parishes began to appear, together with local legislation concerning them, a series of completely new questions arose. With the growth in the number of parishes in the conditions of competition with the Moscow Patriarchate that had betrayed the truth, problems began to arise that were not always comprehensible for the [bishops] abroad. The administration abroad, not being sufficiently acquainted with all the aspects of Church life in Russia, as often as not was silent, but from time to time took upon itself the labour of issuing decrees for the Church in Russia. Besides this, the Synod Abroad, submitting to the promptings of conscious provocateurs, burned with distrust for the Russian Bishops, while at the same time having no other candidates for archpastoral service. Hence a series of mistakes, and as a result, with the aid of the enemies of the Church, the relations between the Russian hierarchy and the Hierarchical Synod became extremely complicated.


Finally, we see the Resolution of the Synod dated February 9.22 of this year, which simply abolishes the missionary gains in Russia, handing over all the open.. parishes that have not taken part in the missionary work to the hierarchy, and even to Vladyka Metropolitan, who has not once been in Russia.


Glory to God, our Russian Bishops remain faithful to the principles of the preservation of Orthodoxy that have guided them in their missionary work. If our Bishops abroad also preserve faithfulness to these principles, then the two parts of the Russian Church can again be united. The erroneous bans on Archbishops Lazarus and Valentine and their vicars cannot be carried out, for they were issued in violation of all the canons of the Holy Orthodox Church and her holy Canons, including the Statute on the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.


No hierarch who understands his responsibility can take part in the dissolution of the Church discipline that has been formed in the course of past years, substituting anarchy for the order ordained for the regeneration of the Russian Church by the Holy Patriarch Tikhon.


February 20 / March 4, 1995.

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