Written by Vladimir Moss



     On May 20-21 of this year there took place a Council of Bishops, Clergy and Laity of the ROCOR-A jurisdiction, that is, the Russian Church jurisdiction headed by “Metropolitan” Agathangel of New York. If any proof were needed of the chaotic lack of direction and doubtful Orthodoxy of this jurisdiction, one need look no further than this Council. The contrast with the decisive, clear and eminently Orthodox declarations of the November, 2008 Council of the Russian True Orthodox Church under Archbishop Tikhon of Omsk and Siberia is very striking.


     Let us consider two comments made by the Chairman of the Council, Metropolitan Agathangel, as reported in the Council Minutes.


     First: “The Chairman discuses the election of the new Patriarch of the ROC MP and what statement should be issued.  We should express the traditional views of our predecessors and avoid apocryphal extremes, as well as comments infused with zealotry.”


     What a missed opportunity! The recent election of Metropolitan Cyril (Gundyayev) to the patriarchal throne of the Moscow Patriarchate was greeted with dismay by all Orthodox zealots, and also by very many within the MP itself. Cyril is a KGB agent with the nickname “Mikhailov”, a disciple of the notorious KGB general, metropolitan of Leningrad and secret Catholic bishop Nikodim (Rotov), an extreme ecumenist who is working actively for union with Rome by means of a false Eighth Ecumenical Council, and an extremely successful businessman who is reported to be worth $4 billion (billion, not million).[1] He has expressed his determination to deal severely with the True Orthodox Christians, and has already removed a bishop within the MP, Jerome of Orel, who is critical of him. Any credible True Orthodox leader must, as an absolute minimum, express his condemnation of this arch-heretic, the chief enemy of the True Orthodox Christians of Russia. This Metropolitan Agathangel has conspicuously failed to do.


     Moreover, the way in which he has declined to condemn Gundyaev is very strange: “We should express the traditional views of our predecessors and avoid apocryphal extremes”. Actually, Agathangel has no predecessors in the True Russian Church, since in 2007 he separated from all other True Orthodox bishops and founded his own schismatic jurisdiction, whose schismatic status was in no way healed, but in fact deepened, by his entering into communion with the schismatic Greek jurisdiction of the Cyprianite Old Calendarists. As for “apocryphal extremes”, what on earth is he talking about?


     Extremes can be either real or apocryphal. If they are real, they must be avoided; if they are apocryphal, they do not exist and can safely be ignored. Assuming that he is trying to speak about reality, not fiction, we may suppose that Agathangel is trying to say that they should avoid the extremes of, on the one hand, recognizing the MP and joining it, as the now-apostate ROCOR under Metropolitan Hilarion has done, and on the other, refusing to recognize it and condemning and anathematizing it, as was done by the true ROCOR under Metropolitan Philaret, who was recently canonized by Agathangel’s jurisdiction (following the example of several other jurisdictions). In other words, he wishes to occupy an undefined mid-point between truth and falsehood, the True Church and the false. But in this he condemns himself. For, as St. Mark of Ephesus said, there is no mid-point between truth and falsehood.


     Now Agathangel does not say this explicitly – and deliberately so. Like the government of the Russian Federation, which recently passed a law against “extremism”, without defining what “extremism” is, he wishes to threaten people to tow the line without appearing to be intolerant of a diversity of views. For if he defined the extremes he is talking about more explicitly, he would cause a rebellion within his own ranks.


     This becomes clear in the very next sentence: “The Chairman reports requests have been received to define the ecclesiological position of our Church, and to annul certain documents, which were approved in the past and confuse the church members.  Discusses the circumstances of the way in which the unfortunate letter to the Serbian Patriarch Pavle was written. After a spirited discussion, the attendees decided that personal opinions regarding ecclesiological topics (ex. whether sacraments in the ROC MP have grace) should lead to renewed intolerance and a break in relations within our Church.”


     “A break of relations within our Church…” In other words, there is a deep division within the Agathangelite jurisdiction over whether the ROC MP has grace, and Agathangel is determined not to discuss the issue so as to avoid “intolerance” and schism. He wants to duck the issue, even after his “All-Abroad Council” was supposed to have settled all questions of faith. Like the Cyprianites with whom he is in communion, he wishes to have the honour of being a confessor against the heretical sergianists and ecumenists, but without incurring the opprobrium of saying that they are outside the Church, which would lose him support within his Church, and perhaps persecution from without. His attitude to the heretics is like that of the Judaizing Christians towards Judaism, of whom St. Paul said: “As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the Cross of Christ” (Galatians 6.12).


     “The Chairman expresses the opinion that all contentious issues should be decided with the spirit of pastoral wisdom and with the involvement of all sides of the question.”


     How eirenic! How admirably democratic! The problem is: Agathangel’s deeds speak louder than his words. While entering into communion with the schismatic Cyprianites, because they share his lukewarm and heterodox ecclesiology, he has condemned (at the Council in New York in May, 2008) all those Russian jurisdictions that clearly and forthrightly condemn the MP as outside the Church – the Vitalyites, the Suzdalites and the Russian True Orthodox Church under Archbishop Tikhon. This shows definite “intolerance” and that dreaded “infusion with zealotry” which he professes to abhor. For Agathangel does have zeal of a kind, even a zeal “beyond measure” – but not against the MP, which he is trying desperately hard not to condemn too harshly - only against the confessors of the Truth!


Vladimir Moss.

May 16/29, 2009.

[1] Moscow News, 2006, as reported in http://news-nftu.blogspot.com.


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