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DOCUMENT: Appeal of the Provisional Ecclesiastical Council of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC)


The Provisional Ecclesiastical Council of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (PEC ROAC), under the auspices of Bishop Sebastian of Chelyabinsk, was formed at the church confer­ence which took place from May 11-13, 2007, in the town of Bezhetsk, Tver Province, at which gathered clergy, monastics, and laymen from the Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tver, Chelyab­insk, Berlin, and Vienna dioceses of the ROAC.

The Provisional Council of the ROAC is headed by Hegumen Gregory (Lourie), rector of the Church of the Righteous New Martyr Elizabeth Feodorovna, in St. Petersburg. Boris Redkin was elected his deputy; Alexander Soldatov was made acting director, and Mother Xenia (Mitrenina) was appointed secretary.

Appeal of the Provisional Ecclesiastical Council of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church
To All the True Orthodox Christians of the Russian Tradition
In Connection with the Falling Away of the ROCOR Under Metropolitan Laurus

The historical event which the True Orthodox Christians throughout the entire world awaitedwith alarm and indignation has taken place. On May 17, the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, the president of the official part of the ROCOR, Metropolitan Laurus, signed an act of uncondi­tional capitulation before the Sergianist-Ecumenistic Moscow Patriarchate. Although the Church Abroad and the numerous ecclesiastical jurisdictions which have sprung from her had by that time already parted ways, everyone still felt the event to be a catastrophe, the final ruin of that order of Russian church life which had taken form in the twentieth century.

An historical cycle had come to a close. One perhaps of short duration by the standards of history, but exceptionally rich in historical events. The ROCOR ceased its existence on the very eve of the eightieth anniversary of Metropolitan Sergius’ "Declaration", of sorry memory, which divided the Russian Church.

This event signifies that the distribution of forces in our Local Church has been radically altered. The ROCOR, which most, from habit, still considered to be the chief counterweight to the Mos­cow Patriarchate, departs the stage. Who will succeed to her traditions; who will inherit the un­blemished Orthodox Faith after the collapse of the historical ROCOR?

Attempts to avoid the approaching catastrophe, to preserve the unblemished faith and canonical succession were taken by True Orthodox Christians in Russia from the very beginning of the 1990s. One such attempt was the formation of a Lesser Sobor of Bishops, which in 1995 gathered around their group’s senior hierarch according to consecration, Bishop Valentin (Rusantsov). The True Orthodox Christians in various lands placed great hopes on the Russian Orthodox Autono­mous Church. However, the Synod formed by Bishop (subsequently, Metropolitan) Valentin demonstrated its ignorance of, and disdain for, the holy canons, having brought chaos and ruin to the church administration. Contrary to its own ecclesiastical Typicon, which until lately had been kept a secret and not published, the Suzdal Synod arrogated the rights of the hierarchs of the ROAC, inasmuch as it acted in their name, but had not been lawfully established by them at a lawful Sobor. For the ROAC, the Synod is the executive organ of the Sobor, which in actuality was never convoked. Thus, the status of the Suzdal Synod proved to be even more questionable than the status of Metropolitan Sergius’ Synod, which declared itself to be, not the organ of the Sobor, but a conference of hierarchs attached to the Deputy Locum Tenens.

The canonical violations and the problem of the legitimacy of the Suzdal Synod’s authority gradually led to the point that this Synod ceased to cope with the church administration and was unable to adequately react to the new challenges of the times connected with the shipwreck of the ROCOR. Its contradictory decisions not only created canonical and administrative disorder within the ROAC, but likewise made impossible a normal dialogue between our Church and the other "fragments" of the ROCOR which wished to preserve True Orthodoxy.

However, the Suzdal Synod (and likewise the other remaining True Orthodox Synods of the Rus­sian tradition) does not represent the full Plentitude of the Local Russian Orthodox Church, but rather, it is a temporarily self-governing part of her, headed by a Lesser Sobor of hierarchs. This organ, the Lesser Sobor, in the language of canon law, may be called a temporary assembly of bishops (ayroisma — according to the eighty-seventh canon of the Council of Carthage[1]). The participation of each bishop in such assemblies, according to the canon of the Council of Car­thage cited above, is purely voluntary and is motivated by the practical circumstances and the personal responsibility of the bishop for the fate of his own Church. In the event that such a tem­porary assembly permits gross errors or canonical violations (such, for example, as those com­mitted by Metropolitan Sergius’ Synod, which put under ban and transferred hierarchs), then each bishop is free to determine independently whether or not to remain subordinate to such an assem­bly of bishops. Almost all of the Russian New Martyrs and Confessors revered by our Church, acted thus — for example, the New Hieromartyr Joseph, Metropolitan of Petrograd, who sepa­rated himself from Sergius’ Synod precisely after he had been unlawfully transferred from the see of Petrograd.

Similar examples are also known in the earlier history of the Church, such as the epoch of the temporary disintegration of the Byzantine Empire after the capture of Constantinople by the Cru­saders in the thirteenth century. In the various self-governing parts of the empire several Lesser Sobors of bishops were formed, which became the temporary Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority for each of those parts of the empire. Yet the hierarchs freely passed from one Lesser Sobor to another without suffering any canonical sanctions for having done so, since a single Supreme Ec­clesiastical Authority, recognized by all parts of the empire, did not then exist.

A similar situation arose in our Russian Church after the liquidation of all the lawful organs of higher ecclesiastical administration. After the disappearance of all the canonical Catacomb hier­archs in Russia, many of the True Orthodox Christians in our land began to consider the Synod of Bishops of the ROCA to be the sole organ of higher ecclesiastical authority within our whole Church, and to commemorate the name of the First Hierarch of the ROCA as the head of the Church. But this was a recognition of his primacy of honor, not a primacy of authority. For the ROCA itself always confessed itself to be only "a temporarily self-governing part" of the Russian Church, but by no means the Russian Church in its totality.

The crisis connected with the Suzdal Synod is not the sole example among those True Orthodox Churches of the Russian tradition whose ecclesiastical succession is derived from the ROCA and the Catacomb Church. However, within many of these Churches (Lesser Sobors or temporary assemblies of hierarchs) there are bishops who do not participate in the canonical violations of their Synods, and who are open to a dialogue with the other "fragments" of the ROCA. The be­ginning of this process is the liturgical commemoration by our bishops of the names of those bishops of one mind with them in the faith, who mutually recognize each others episcopal dig­nity.

The union of such bishops would become the basis for the re-establishment of a hierarchy of the one Local Russian Church, and for the restoration of a Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority within her. Within the framework of our own Lesser Sobor, the basis for such a union is His Grace, Sebastian, Bishop of Chelyabinsk. Our first contacts with the representatives of the other "frag­ments" of the ROCOR demonstrate that a dialogue with them on this basis gives us serious hope for a subsequent union. The culmination of that process would be a Pan-Russian Local Sobor consisting of a series of Lesser Sobors, such as the [proposed] Pan-Diaspora Sobor, in which many of the present "fragments" of the ROCOR will participate.

Division is always the result of sin, therefore, without repentance it is not possible to overcome this division or to unite. As the representatives of the various "fragments" of the ROCOR now recognize, they all, to one degree or another, contributed to this division. We feel the need, before beginning the process of gathering our Churches together, to bring forth repentance for our high-mindedness, our disdain for our brothers, our having degraded them, and for our complicity in the mistakes of individual bishops and groups. We sincerely apologize to our brethren in the one faith, who belong to the True Orthodox Russian tradition.

There is no other choice than union. With the shipwreck of the historical ROCOR, our Churches remain one on one with the world-wide apostasy, with the triumphing heresy of ecumenism. We must no longer oppose the process of union, because history may not give us another chance. And it is through history that God Himself speaks to His people.

The Provisional Ecclesiastical Council of the ROAC

Chairman: Hegumen Gregory
Deputy Chairman: Boris Redkin
Acting Director: Alexander Soldatov
Secretary: Nun Xenia
The Members of the Council

May 17, 2007
Ascension of the Lord


 

[1] That is, No. 87 in the Slavonic/Russian editions of the Rudder, which corresponds to No. 79 in the Greek enumera­tion, and to No.76 in the Latin and English. (Trans.)


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