Of What Unity Do You Speak?

The executive committee for what is called the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America (that’s a mouth full!) met recently and issued a statement which reaffirmed their commitment to Orthodox unity in the U.S. –

The Executive Committee of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America met today, under the chairmanship of Archbishop Elpidophoros, to discuss the state of Orthodox Christian unity in the USA. Recognizing the challenges in global Orthodoxy, the jurisdictional representatives reiterated their commitment to the local faithful of America and rededicated themselves to fulfilling the call for canonical normalcy and pastoral unity on contemporary issues.

No one would deny that this is a desirable thing. YET, what unity can be had under the chairmanship of a Bishop who is supporting the division of the Church in other lands? How can one who is supporting schismatics and heretics speak authoritatively on Orthodox unity? As my readers will know by now, I’m referring to the ongoing events in Ukraine where the Ecumenical Patriarchate, under whose authority the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA) exists and whose head is Archbp. Elipidophoros, actively supports schism and division in the Orthodox Church.

How, pray tell, can I take seriously the words of active dividers of the Church regarding unity?

How can one who is preparing to give a “Human Rights” award to the illicit and unchristian leader of the schismatics in Ukraine, Mr. Epiphany, be trusted when he speaks on Church Unity?

How can one who actively supports those who use violence and hatred against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church even be given credence?

The main challenge to “Global Orthodoxy” is the extreme arrogance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP) and its divisive work in the Orthodox world. “With friends like these who needs enemies?” As the saying goes.

Let Archbp. Elipidophoros show forth his commitment to unity by first renouncing the uncanonical works of the EP in Ukraine. Let him condemn the evil work being done in Ukraine.

Also, why would I want to be united to one who has united himself to heretics and schismatics? This is not a desirable unity; nor is it true unity around the Truth of Christ the Lord in His Church. The canons clearly state that if one communes with schismatics, one becomes a schismatic.

How can we have true unity with those who are in unity with schismatics?

Would that the other bishops on the Assembly had the courage to fearlessly speak up for our persecuted brethren in Ukraine. Do they think that such a toxic work will have no eventual effect on Orthodoxy in America? Unity preserved through turning a blind eye is but false unity. The evil seed of the EP planted in Ukraine will bring corrupt fruit to America too. Why are we sticking our heads in the sand?

Would not a humble and loving rebuke from the other Bishops be a true act which shows a true desire for real unity? And yet the Assembly is chaired uncontested by the most active dividers of the Orthodox Church in our times.

What account will we give before the Judgment Seat of Christ when we are unwilling to speak humbly and yet boldly on behalf of our true brothers and sisters who are persecuted? And in this case, the persecution is taking place at the hands of those who pose as Christians. And it is being supported by the EP and GOA. Is it possible that Archbp. Elipidophoros is unaware that the Frankenstein creation of the EP in Ukraine is carrying out very unchristian actions? I think not.

If you support the schismatics in Ukraine you are a participator in their deeds and you will share in their reward.

With their mouth they say “Unity, Unity!” and with their hands, they actively divide the Church?! Let the EP and its leadership repent and heal the schism they are promoting and then we will be able to listen to a call for unity.

And let us remember that unity for the sake of unity is never a Christian call. Unity is found only around the unchangeable Truth of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. When a man or a group actively violates the true integrity of the Church, then we are never called to have unity with such ones. Let them repent, and then we will rejoice in unity.

5 thoughts on “Of What Unity Do You Speak?

  1. Curtis Campbell

    Their desire is for Orthodox unity under the EP…with Elpidophoros ‘bringing the flock home’.

    I truly wish our Bishops would take a stand against this evil….

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Francis Frost

    Dear Fr. Lynch:

    I appreciate your discussion of Orthodox unity. However, nearly all such discussions these days are infected with selective memories, defective history and clearly double standards.

    For example, we have been told that schismatics can only be reconciled to the church by repentance, and by reconciliation to those against whom they have transgressed. The moscow Patriarchate’s own actions clearly show that this is not so!

    ROCOR spent over eight decades in schism from some or all of the Orthodox Patriarchates, with a shifting list of those they were in communion with (the Serbian Patriarchate) and those they were not in communion with (the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate). Never mind that the Serbian Patriarch was in communion with both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate. What is more, the ROCOR bishops created schismatic Old Calendarist daughter jurisdictions in Greece, Bulgaria and in Russia itself. In 1996, ROCOR’s “daughters” tried to foment an ecclesiastical coup against Patriarch Ilya II in Georgia, by consecrating as bishops three clergymen associated with Gamsakhurdia’s government in exile. Their goal was to take control of the Georgian Patriarchate and use it to create an alternative “Traditionalist” religion in opposition to what they derisively called “World Orthodoxy”. Now that the ROCOR is back in communion with Moscow, ROCOR is no longer in communion with its own “daughter” jurisdictions. Well, if the daughters are illegitimate, then what is the mother?

    It is clear from the “Act of Reconciliation”, that the ROCOR was NOT required to repent of its schismatic activities nor its canonical aggressions. What is more, by “consigning all outstanding controversies to oblivion”, the MP unilaterally absolved the ROCOR of its canonical violations against the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Church of Greece, The Bulgarian Patriarchate and the Georgian Patriarchate. If the MP can issues pardons for sins against the other Patriarchates, why is it forbidden for the Ecumenical Patriarchate to do so in its reception of the Ukrainian schismatic group?

    The truth is that ‘canonicity’ is far more of popularity contest than an actual and logical application of the Sacred Canons.

    The Moscow Patriarchate unilaterally proclaimed its autocephaly in 1448. That autocephaly was only recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1589 – after the payment of a substantial emolument, of course.

    The Moscow Patriarchate’s territory did not include the Orthodox churches in what is now Ukraine until after the conquest of Ukraine in the time of Catherine the Great. So yes, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has a prior claim to be the “mother church” for the Ukrainians to the MP’s claims. Indeed the MP’s claim to “ownership” of the Church Ukraine is based solely upon the “right of conquest” Never mind that the is no such “right” in the Orthodox tradition. On the contrary Canon 30 of the Apostolic Canons clearly states: “If any bishop obtain possession of a church by the aid of the temporal powers, let him be deposed and excommunicated, and all who communicate with him.”

    The Moscow Patriarchate would like to invoke the Sacred Canons to protect its interests in Ukraine. Unfortunately, the Moscow Patriarchate has, itself, been in constant and flagrant violation of these same Canons for the past 25 years.

    The Moscow Patriarchate has uncanonically invaded and occupied 2 entire dioceses of the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate. Muscovite clergy literally participated in the invasions of Georgian territory and publicly “blessed” the violence against civilian populations. The Moscow Patriarchate created, funded and provided clergy for the schismatic eparchy created on the ruins of the legitimate Orthodox churches.

    After the 1992-93 invasion of Abkhazia, the Russian Orthodox Church created a schismatic “Abkhaz Orthodox Eparchy” on the ruins of the legitimate Orthodox Diocese of Tskhumi and all Abkhazia. The “leader” of this schismatic church is the renegade Archimandrite Vissarion Apliaa, whom the Russians received into their clergy without any canonical transfer from Metropolitan Daniel nor from the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate.

    The 2008 documentary “Orthodox Occupancy” describes the participation of the Moscow Patriarchate and its clergy in the history of the aggression against the Georgian nation and the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate. 

     In the “Orthodox Occupancy” television documentary, the Russian Bishop Panteleimon of Karabadino-Adyghe is shown con-celebrating with the schismatic Vissarion Apliaa, and officially awarding him the Order of St Seraphim of Sarov on behalf of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate.  The Orthodox Occupancy video with English voice over can be found on You Tube.
     
    Following the 2008 invasion of Georgia, this same Vissarion Apliaa led the forces that expelled the last legitimate Orthodox clergy from the newly occupied Gali and Kodori districts in eastern Abkhazia in April 2009.  Vissarion Apliaa was received into the ranks of the clergy by the Moscow Patriarchate without a canonical release; and Patriarch Kirill personally con-celebrated with this renegade monk in violation of the Sacred Canons of the Orthodox Church.

    During the genocidal campaign of 1992, Hieromonk Andrea Kurashvili and the Subdeacon Giorgi Adua ,who were restorers and guardians of the Shrine of the Repose of St John Chrysostom, were brutally tortured and martyred. You may read the their Life and Martyrdom on the Mystagogy web-site. Reports of the persecution of the legitimate Georgian Orthodox church by the schismatic “Abkhaz Eparchy” and its sponsors may be read at the Forum 18 Religious Freedom web-site.

    In August 2008, the Russian bishops, Panteleimon of Kabardino-Adyghe and Feofan of Saratov accompanied the invasion forces and publicly “blessed” the weapons used to attack civilian populations. These “blessings” were televised first in Russia and then in Georgia. You may watch the video with your own eyes as it is included in the “Orthodox Occupancy” video on You Tube. These infernal “blessings” are also included in Andrei Nekrasov’s documentary “Uroki Russkogo” (Russian Lessons), which debunks the Russian government’s propaganda campaign of justification for its invasion of Georgia. Mr. Nekrasov’s documentary is also available on You Tube in 12 segments.

    On August 8, 2008, the missiles “blessed” by Bishop Feofan were used attack the ancient Ghvrtaeba Cathedral and the Shrine of the Protomartyr Razhden in Nikozi. On August 9th, the Russian military and their Ossetian allies looted, desecrated and burned this ancient House of God. These weapons were used in bombing raids and missile attacks on civilian populations throughout Georgia.

    Despite the enormity of these crimes, His Holiness, Patriarch Ilya II and the Holy Synod of the Georgian Patriarchate have followed the apostolic example of long-suffering and conciliation. “When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate.”  I Corinthians 4:9.  The Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate twice sent a delegation headed by Metropolitan Gerasime of Zugdidi to Moscow to conciliate. The Georgian Patriarchate offered to grant the status of a metochion to the Russian clergy operating in the occupied territories. The Russians refused that offer and demanded the right of conquest.  
     
    The Muscovites now want to invoke the Sacred Canons: those same Canons that they have wantonly violated with impunity. Indeed, the Muscovite claims to ownership of the Orthodox churches in the former Soviet Union are all predicated on a presumed “right of conquest” Of course there is no such “right” in the Orthodox canonical tradition. Quite the opposite:

    Fom the Apostolic Canons:
    Canon XII. And XIII (XIII.)
    If any one of the clergy or laity who is excommunicated, or not to be received, shall go away, and be received in another city without commendatory letters, let both the receiver and the received be excommunicated. But if he be excommunicated already, let the time of his excommunication be lengthened.

    Canon XIV.
    A bishop is not to be allowed to leave his own parish, and pass over into another, although he may be pressed by many to do so, unless there be some proper cause constraining him. as if he can confer some greater benefit upon the persons of that place in the word of godliness. And this must be done not of his own accord, but by the judgment of many bishops, and at their earnest exhortation.

    Canon XXX. (XXXI.)
    If any bishop obtain possession of a church by the aid of the temporal powers, let him be deposed and excommunicated, and all who communicate with him.

    Canon XXXIII. (XXXIV.)
    No foreign bishop, presbyter, or deacon, may be received without commendatory letters; and when they are produced let the persons be examined; and if they be preachers of godliness, let them be received. Otherwise, although you supply them with what they need, you must not receive them into communion, for many things are done surreptitiously.

    Canon XXXV. (XXXVI.)
    Let not a bishop dare to ordain beyond his own limits, in cities and places not subject to him. But if he be convicted of doing so, without the consent of those persons who have authority over such cities and places, let him be deposed, and those also whom he has ordained.

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    1. Hello, Mr. Frost,
      Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Please understand that this post is not a defense of the MP and its actions, past or present. I do not think that the actions of the MP that you mention above justify the current ones of EP. One wrong does not justify another. Such logic is inadmissible. I have immense respect for the Orthodox Church in Georgia. I would think that the church there could and should be the first to defend the church in Ukraine. This post is a condemnation of the current actions of the EP.

      I believe your parallel to ROCOR and the current situation in Ukraine is flawed. The current group in Ukraine was founded by an excommunicated bishop; ROCOR was not (the situations revolving around Communist Russia and Orthodoxy in the 20th century are complex and varied and do not parallel to the current situation for multiple reasons. Inevitably certain effects are still being played out).

      Almost all the clergy of the current EP supported group in Ukraine have illicit “ordinations,” they are in no way valid on any level. One may plausibly say that they are but “laymen” dressing up as “clergy.” No one in the Orthodox world has a history, as with ROCOR, of communion with, or recognization of, the Ukrainian group. All universally recognized them as not simply “schismatics” but as completely illicit. ROCOR was in schism with the MP originally, thus it could heal the schism within that house. The group in Ukraine did not go into schism with the EP but with the UOC, thus the EP has no authority to heal the schism. The group in Ukraine must repent and heal the schism it began with the local church – the UOC. (I’m using your ROCOR parallel not because I believe it to be valid but because you brought it up. Also, oddly enough ROCOR was the greatest voice against certain corruptions in the MP under Communism and voiced similar – not identical – critiques as you do.)

      In the 1400s the Rus’yn Church rightly declared independence because the EP entered into false union with Rome, and thus apostatized itself until it repented.

      Historically, many lands belonged to various Patriarchs/Churches. These territories shifted not only in what is generally Rus, but elsewhere. Many of them following the expanse of the Empire to which they were connected, the EP not exempt. Thus, if following your logic to its end, we must now condemn a great majority of Orthodox expansion. For it did, many times, expand together with the boarders of Empires and Kingdoms. (How about the EP under the Turks and its use of state power against the Bulgarians and Serbs?)

      If we follow the train of thought that in the 1600s what is currently Ukraine was – some portions of it – under the EP, and this justifies the current actions, then other Churches should be able to take lands that have historically belonged to them and now may belong to other Orthodox churches. An honest review reveals that the current Ukrainian borders are the constructs of the Soviet Union and the original 1600’s territory in that geographical region, which was under the EP, does not line up with the modern borders. Should we divide Ukraine now? To be consistent this is what your argument demands. The EP in 1600 was not over the current boundaries of Ukraine. It thus should only have its original 1600s territory.

      Or better yet, all of us trace our Christian roots back to Jerusalem, which is the only true “Mother Church,” not Constantinople.

      Also, in Ukraine, there has been a long-standing and universally recognized autonomous local Church, which is currently headed by Met. Onuphry. The EP has not so much violated MP territory as it has the autonomous Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Do not conflate the UOC with the MP. The UOC is self-ruling, it elects its own bishops, its finances stay in Ukraine, and so forth. It retains a strong relationship, and is in communion, with the MP, which makes sense in light of the fact that they are of the same lineage both ethnically and spiritually.

      Furthermore, The EP supported group, with inevitable knowledge on the part of the EP, is using violence and state support to persecute the true Church in Ukraine. Thus, the canons you posted (thank you for that!) undergird the fact that everyone should condemn the EP’s work in Ukraine. These canons also support the basic premise of this blog post.

      I have made a few trips to Ukraine and have spoken with Bishops, clergy, and laypeople there. I have a first-hand impression of what is transpiring there and am not simply speaking based on articles that I have read.

      It would be wonderful if we could act like Christians. Sadly, worldly power and influence do operate in the institutional side of the Church. I will not try to excuse it.

      As the faithful Ukrainians must forgive and pray for the EP, so must the faithful Georgians forgive and pray for the MP. Yet, everyone must be held to the Gospel standard.

      Liked by 1 person

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