THE HERESY OF ECCLESIASTICAL ELITISM

Written by Vladimir Moss

THE HERESY OF ECCLESIASTICAL ELITISM

 

     The Cyprianites have published on their website an account of their Hierarchical Council of October 4/17, 2008. It contains interesting and revealing information on their “efforts at union with the Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece” – that is, the GOC headed by Archbishop Chrysostom (Kiousis) of Athens. It reveals that since February five meetings have taken place between the two sides (three Bishops from both sides), which have “now reached a historical turning-point”.

 

     Although still striving for unity with the GOC, the Cyprianites reveal that they cannot accept the ten “non-negotiable points” laid down by the GOC on September 9/22. Since the Cyprianites regard these points as “inappropriate for publication”, and since the GOC have also not published them, we can only guess at what they might be. Nevertheless, from what the Cyprianites write, and from other sources, it is clear what the main stumbling-blocks are the GOC’s insistence that Metropolitan Cyprian created a schism in the 1980s, and that the new calendarists must be anathematized.

 

     Regarding these ten points, the Cyprianite Synod came to the following conclusions “after a very protracted discussion”:

 

     “In principle, it would be possible for us to agree with several of these points, once various improvements and modifications have been made to the wording thereof.

     “However, any final ‘convergence’ of both sides on these points would be rather artificial and superficial, as long as there remain crucial ‘points’ on which there is no possibility of concession on our part – that is, on points non-negotiable in terms of a theology of Orthodox resistance.

     “These crucial ‘points’ (the repetition of Chrismation and Baptism – even when simply improperly performed – and the nominal anathematization of New Calendarists), if adopted and explicitly proclaimed by us, would lead to a different interpretation of the other ‘points’ as well, and to an outright denial of our ecclesiological principles.”

 

     Put in less diplomatic terms, this amounts to a more or less complete rejection of the GOC’s points. Some points relating to their ecclesiological principles are rejected outright; others require “various improvements”. Nothing is accepted unconditionally.

 

     Since the GOC’s points were laid down as “non-negotiable”, this looks like the end of the road for the unity talks. However, the Cyprianites still desperately cling on to the hope of unity through a vague kind of doctrinal compromise: “There arises the question of the extent to which, for the sake of the supreme good of unity, we can without absolute ecclesiological uniformity on both sides – as was the case at least up until 1984 – achieve oneness with the Church of the True Orthodox Christians of Greece on the basis of fundamental points of agreement, leading to a General, Pan-Orthodox, or Oecumenical Synod for decisive adjudication and resolution of those points still in dispute.” In other words: let’s agree to disagree on certain things, and just get together on the basis of what we do agree on - a truly Anglican solution!

 

     In fact, the Cyprianite ecclesiology is reminiscent of the Anglican Church’s “High”, “Middle” and “Low” structure. As is well-known, the Cyprianites believe that the Church is composed of “healthy” members (the Orthodox) and “sick” members (the heretics) until and unless a “Unifying Ecumenical” Council decides to expel the heretics. We might call this the division of the Church into “High” and “Low”. But now, through their suggestion of a compromise union with the GOC, they are also adding a “Middle” layer – the GOC itself. So the Greek Church, in their understanding, is composed of three levels: a “High”, or supremely healthy level, composed of the Cyprianites, who alone hold the true ecclesiology; a “Middle” level, composed of Old Calendarists who reject ecumenism but are unfortunately tainted with the illness of an over-zealous ecclesiology; and a “Low” level, composed of the new calendarists, who are sick with the still worse illness of the pan-heresy of ecumenism.

 

     But this is the broad way of the Broad Church which, as the Lord says, leads so many to destruction! Of course, it is true that differences of opinion have always existed in the One True Church, and there have probably always been hidden heretics within the Church’s single organizational structure. But the Church can never be reconciled with differences on dogmatic questions; it must always seek to eradicate them and remove impenitent heretics; it can never say: “You are a heretic, nevertheless you are a member of the True Church and are permitted to receive the Body of Christ”. The Cyprianites’ elitist, quasi-Anglican model seeks to institutionalize dogmatic differences, making them the norm. It is the dogmatic equivalent of the Tolstoyan moral teaching on the necessity of non-resistance to evil.

 

     It should be remembered that in 1984 Metropolitan Cyprian broke communion with his first-hierarch, Metropolitan Callistus, and with all the other “Florinite” hierarchs, explicitly for reasons of the faith. He regarded the confession of faith of Metropolitan Callistus, which is identical to the confession of faith of today’s GOC, as "without witness, unproven, anti-patristic, and hence un-Orthodox" (Agios Kiprianos, July, 1983, p. 210). In other words, he regarded Metropolitan Callistus’ views to be heretical – even if he did not use the word “heretical” for diplomatic reasons.

 

     Now, believing this, it was quite natural for Metropolitan Cyprian to break communion with Callistus and to refuse to enter into communion with any hierarch who thought like him. But then why are his successors now seeking to re-enter communion with our Church, although our hierarchs have not changed their confession in any way? Either Metropolitan Cyprian was wrong to break communion with Metropolitan Callistus, or the present Cyprianite hierarchs are wrong to seek to enter into communion with the GOC hierarchs who think like Metropolitan Callistus – there is no “third way”.

 

     The present Cyprianite hierarchs are trapped by their loyalty to their founder, by their refusal to admit that he made a serious mistake. How different has been the behaviour of the Tikhonites, who in their recent Odessa Council clearly and unambiguously renounced Cyprianism and admitted that the ROCOR hierarchs’ entrance into communion with the Cyprianites in 1994 was wrong. This is the way forward: to place the True Confession of Faith as the first value, and to admit honestly and honourably that mistakes can and have been made in relation to it even by the most distinguished of hierarchs – there is no place for man-pleasing or man-worship in the Church of Christ.

 

     Nor is there any place for elitism, for a hierarchy of Orthodox, semi-Orthodox and heretics within the One Church. The Body of Christ is composed solely and exclusively of those who confess the True Orthodox Faith in its entirety, and those who publicly reject any part of that Faith cannot be admitted to the Holy Mysteries. If this were not so, then the Church would not be One, but would actually be an aggregate or confederation or alliance of many sub-churches, differing from each other in one or more articles of the Faith, on the model of the Anglicans or the World Council of Churches.

 

     At the First Ecumenical Council St. Nicholas of Myra slapped the face of the heretic Arius. He did not wait for the Council to condemn him officially – and the Lord and the Mother of God approved of his act. If the Cyprianites claim to have the same faith and zeal as St. Nicholas, let them (metaphorically) slap the face of the ecumenist heretics and confess that they are outside the One True Church and deprived of the grace of sacraments. Then there will truly be a sound basis for them to re-enter the True Church, having sincerely repented of the schism they created. But if they do not repent, then the True Church, holding fast to the principles of the true ecclesiology, must refused them entry; for, as the Prophet says, “how can two walk together if they be not agreed?” (Amos 3.3).

 

 

December 6/19, 2008.

St. Nicholas of Myra, the Wonderworker.

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