Disclaimer: In some of our articles, especially under the Modern Issues section, we present readers with challenging issues to examine, reflect upon and research. The material is neither supported nor rejected by us, and no one is responsible for its content, other than the original source. Therefore readers are requested not to make any complaints, but to take time to reflect on the material from an Orthodox perspective.

053. June 29/July 12, 1970. Sts. Peter and Paul

Dear Father David [Black],

I was glad to receive your reply to my latest rather outspoken letter and welcome the opportunity to continue our “dialogue” — even under the somewhat strained circumstances that now prevail. t It would not be fair on my part to pretend that a tension does not exist between our Churches. From the tone of your letters, and from what I have heard of the words and actions of Bishop Theodosius, I would gather that you would like nothing better than to be in full peace and concord with Moscow and with the Synod. I can tell you frankly: impossible! There are issues at stake which cannot be solved by reference to canons. Above the canons is He Who inspired them: the Holy Spirit, Whose guidance is apprehended by the immediate feeling (not emotion!) of the believing Orthodox heart. On the question of canons there is no better example in the world today of Phariseeism than the Moscow Patriarchate, which insists on the letter of the law where its own worldly interests are concerned, while in everyday practice it is surpassed by none in laxness, as is quite noticeable in the former Exarchate.

But it is not as despisers of canons that our Church will have nothing to do with the Moscow hierarchs; and few in our midst even raise the question of whether there is grace within the Moscow Church — this is not for us to decide under present conditions. It is rather the indissoluble tie of the Moscow Patriarchate with an unquestionably God-hating and Satanic power that makes all contact with her impossible. You will find in our midst great sympathy and pity for all but the leading hierarchs of Moscow — and even for some of them you will find fellow-feeling owing to the inhuman circumstances under which they have been forced to betray Orthodoxy. (Rumor has it that Metr. Sergius was given the alternative in 1927: sign the Declaration, or every church will be destroyed and believers arrested and killed. If so, he signed out of faintheartedness, trusting more in the power of the Soviets to destroy than in the power of God to preserve the Church.) But this fellow-feeling cannot allow us who are free to recognize the Patriarchate and thereby freely place ourselves in the same trap she was forced into! And this the Metropolia has done, thus fixing the gulf between us as absolute. From my contact with our people I can tell you: with every fiber of our body and every feeling of our soul we are repulsed by this free act of betrayal, and the feeling of sympathy which we do have for all but the leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate we do not have for the Metropolia. No, we do not “hate” you, and we recognize that most of you have followed this act out of a lack of awareness of the Church situation today; but thereby the Metropolia has alienated herself from us even more than Moscow, where the Church consciousness is forcibly crushed, but not freely given away!

Do you not yet begin to see the enormous implications of the most important part of your agreement with Moscow — i.e., the unwritten part? Do you not yet see how your supposed “independence” binds you so tightly that you must now begin to do things that you would never have dreamed of before? With all our heart we would like to be one with you at least with those of you who sincerely love the Church and want to serve Her above all but we can be one with you only in the Truth, not in false friendliness. And this uncompromising attitude of ours will only inspire even more bitter feelings in some of you than Fr. Meyendorff has already shown in his slanderous attack, and men like Fr. Meyendorff will echo every last bit of the Moscow propaganda against us — not realizing that this is one of the most important “clauses” of the Autocephaly Agreement: to join in destroying the “Karlovitz Schismatics.”

I will tell you another of the unwritten “clauses” of that agreement, which you yourself are following in your arguments for Moscow: “Every bishop, priest, and layman of the Metropolia agrees to defend the Moscow Patriarchate, not merely as a persecuted organization that cannot be judged by those outside the USSR, not merely as a Church that may yet possess the grace of the Holy Spirit, but as a fully canonical, in no wise dubious Orthodox Church, entided to a role of leadership among the Orthodox Churches of the world.” One can even paraphrase the Declaration of 1927 to read: “Every blow directed against the Patriarchate of Moscow is a blow against the Metropolia, and her joys and sorrows are those of the Metropolia.”

Do you not yet begin to grasp the immensity of your spiritual bondage? Do you not see that the Metropolia can no longer look at the Church situation in the USSR with objective eyes? That it is no longer in the interests of the Metropolia to have a complete exposure of that situation? That the Metropolia cannot welcome the publication of the statements of many hierarchs in 1927 unequivocally condemning the Declaration of Metr. Sergius and the Church organization based on it? That it would not be in the interests of the Metropolia that Boris Talantov be released from prison and allowed to continue his writings on “Sergianism” as the root of the evils of Russian Church life today? That the Metropolia has taken its unequivocal stand on the side of Sergianism and against the Catacomb Church, about whose very existence the Metropolia now would prefer not to hear? Indeed, if any word can describe the Metropolia’s present state, it is surely: “Neo-Sergianism.”

Further, the Metropolia remains her old self, only with an inflated title that is recognized by no one save Moscow. Therefore, her dependence upon Moscow is obvious: without Moscow’s special intercession she will have no chance to sit as a full member of any Pan-Orthodox Conference; in any court cases concerning “jurisdictions” she will have to call upon witnesses from Moscow; etc. As for the Exarchate: the Russian text of the Autocephaly Agreement (but not the English text as printed by Fr. Meyendorff!) specifies that the entire Canadian diocese of the Exarchate is excluded from the “autocephaly,” and a list is given of 43 churches in the U.S. who voted to remain directly under Moscow (this includes all but one of the Exarchate churches in the latest list I have seen). Can anyone argue that the “autocephaly,” for the conceivable future, is anything but an empty tide? And likewise, that the advantages so far are not heavily on the side of Moscow and her undoubted scheme to seize hegemony of world Orthodoxy?

Yes, our statements about Frs Schmemann and Meyendorff will be documented in The Orthodox Word. We have already two long articles waiting for space. Recent complications and delays have put us several months behind, and we have an unwritten rule that contemporary polemical material must never occupy 50% of an issue. But with God’s blessing this and other material will soon see the light in the hope of giving more precision to certain aspects of contemporary Orthodox thought. The small deviations of yesterday are already resulting in great divergences, which we hope some will yet see in time.

I assure you that all I have written here does not in least diminish our love and prayers for you and all of Orthodox Alaska. Through the grace of our Saviour and the prayers of Saint Herman, may we yet come to true unity in the undimmed Orthodox Faith.

With love in Christ our Saviour,

P.s. Yes, we still plan to print the life of St. Theodosius and will welcome the article on his canonization.

Fr. Michael Azkoul, by the way, received canonical release from the Syrian Archdiocese and so was not obliged to show that his Archbishop is a heretic!

Download PDF