An Open Letter to Metropolitan Vitaly,
the Clergy and the People of the ROCE

By Bishop Gregory of Denver
Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church

There are ways that seem to be right to a man,
but the end of them looks to the depth of Hades [Proverbs 16:25].

Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ said through the mouth of His holy Prophet: "If thou wilt bring forth the precious from the worthless, thou shalt be as My mouth [Jeremias 15:19]." It is out of pastoral care and love inspired by the above admonition that we address you, who were "precious" members of the Russian Church and yet now are found in a state of uncanonicity, a disastrous condition that "looks to the depth of Hades." We beseech you, as the Prophet Isaias says: "...come, let us reason together...[Is 1:18]." Let us look with discernment and understanding at your present state, and let us examine with the fear of God the path that you are on, according to the exhortation of the holy Apostle Paul: "Be putting yourselves to the test if ye are in the Faith; be examining yourselves [2 Cor. 13:5]."

We have already mentioned in previous statements the canonical violation of the Third Ecumenical Synod that states that a retired bishop can no longer govern the Church or ordain anyone to holy orders. Now your Synod, including its priests, has issued an open declaration correcting serious errors in the past, specifically the union with Cyprian of Fili, but again casts ROCE in an unfavorable canonical light.

On December 29, 2001, you openly proclaimed that the ecclesiology and faith of Cyprian of Fili is heretical and falls under the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad's Anathema of 1983. This has come almost eight years after you had entered into communion with him and been warned by myself (through three open letters and numerous private ones) both before and after that unhappy union of 1994. You had also been warned by the respected canonist of our Synod, Bishop Gregory (Grabbe), in his public epistle entitled The Dubious Orthodoxy of Metropolitan Cyprian's Group, only a few months after you finalized this union. He said in that epistle: "...as frightening as it may be to admit, our Sobor has fallen under its own anathema." Why did he say this? Because, if you enter into communion with heretics and concelebrate the Liturgy with them partaking of the common cup, you become what they are, according to the teaching of our blameless Faith. Here is what Saint Basil the Great wrote:

As for all those who pretend to confess the sound Orthodox Faith, but are in communion with people who hold a different opinion, if they are forewarned and still remain stubborn, you must not only not be in communion with them, but you must not even call them brothers. (Patrologia Orientalis, Vol 17, p. 303)

In the above God-inspired statement, Saint Basil condemns those who profess Orthodoxy while holding communion with people of "a different opinion." What shall we say of the Russian Church Abroad, which openly proclaimed in 1994 that its faith is identical to that of the heretic Cyprian of Fili? [From Orthodox Life, Vol. 44, No. 4 (July-August 1994), pp. 46-50.]

By now proclaiming that Cyprian of Fili, his Synod of Resistors, and his ecclesiology of "Holy Heretics" are heretical, you have admitted that you were outside the Church for those past eight years; moreover, you have justified everyone who fled from you, including Metropolitan Valentine, who had prepared a protest against this union, to be presented only three months after this union occurred, at the Lesna Sobor in 1994.

The reasons why our holy Metropolitan Valentine separated from you in 1995, justifiable as they were, are irrelevant now, since you have acknowledged that you fell away from Orthodoxy through your union with the heretical Cyprian. Again, remembering the words of the Fathers, who said, We shall not escape sharing in that punishment which, in the world to come, awaits heretics, if we defile Orthodoxy and the holy Faith by adulterous communion with heretics [Saint John the Almsgiver, from his Life], you should desire therefore to properly correct your position. In the Second Canonical Epistle of Saint Athanasios the Great to Rufianus (accepted by the Sixth Ecumenical Synod), the saint writes that those who were deceived or coerced through violence into joining into communion with the Arians (heretics) may be pardoned upon their repentance and may be allowed to remain in the clergy. They must anathematize openly their misbelief by naming it as such and must confess the faith confessed by the Fathers.

The canon states that they may be pardoned; but by whom? That they may be allowed to remain in the clergy; but allowed by whom? Upon their repentance; but to whom? They must anathematize their error and profess the Faith; but before whom?

The answer is: they must do this to the Church, which has remained faithful to Christ. Therefore, you cannot emulate the Protestants, who repent to themselves. You cannot emulate the Moscow Patriarchate, which after years of apostasy, now proclaims that it has restored itself to the purity of Orthodoxy and now constitutes the True Church of Russia. Instead of your saying words foreign to Orthodoxy, such as "I have restored to myself the rights of head of the Church", we should hear rather the voice of the penitent saying, "I have sinned and I fall down before the mercy of the Church, through its hierarchy. Forgive me and receive me back."

Therefore, I call upon you all to desire the healing and saving remedies of the Church. The Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church has preserved the Faith of our ancestors. It rightly acknowledges itself as the true Church of Patriarch Tikhon and all the New Martyrs of Russia, and this is indisputable. Why not desire the prayers of the Russian Church, as a seal to your repentance? Why not live and have a foundation on steadfast and canonical ground, instead of on violations of the canons? God knows we do not need another schismatic church created by those who believe that they are justified in breaking the canons.

If this is unacceptable to you, then your severing of communion with Cyprian was deceitful, because you still embrace his heretical belief that one can fall into heresy as you did, and still remain in the Church.

May God enlighten you, that the grace of the Holy Spirit may guide you back to the narrow way of the Gospel and the Canons of the Church.

Bishop Gregory of Denver

Vicar of America, Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church

April 9/22, 2002

Saint Eupsychios of Caesaria



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