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102. April 18/May 1, 1972. St. John of Decapolis

CHRIST IS RISEN!
Dear Father Neketas,

Evlogeite! It was good to hear from you again, even if some of the news is bad. But it is all our common sorrow, and only emphasizes how careful we must walk these days, and how close the small flock of Christ must be bound together in mutual love and concern.

My how the Metropolia must be hurting to come out with such an irrational attack! One almost feels sorry for them — the Greeks don’t recognize them, their patron Moscow is being discredited everywhere, and the Synod kidnaps her own people by “fanaticism.” Nonetheless, one cannot forgive them for one thing: they call themselves Orthodox; and so we have to keep speaking the truth! And my, Father George is a real fighter, isn’t he! That’s refreshing, even though we wouldn’t use just the same approach ourselves — but they won’t forgive him for it!

We haven’t heard about Father Lev’s and Vassily’s troubles. But frankly, we’ve been rather concerned about them for some time, seeing in some of their actions and letters many of the symptoms of an all-too-often fatal convert’s disease: overly-critical, “know-better” attitude, somewhat flippant tone, frequent running about, hypersensitivity, etc. When Father Lev was ordained, our concern only increased, because if these symptoms are accurate then ordination might be just the fatal step from which it’s impossible to turn back and be just an “ordinary Christian” again. But all these speculations don’t help the situation; we can only pray for them and ask God’s mercy for us all. Any more news of them?

The April Logos brings yet a stronger dose of Pentecostalism, and some of their defenses against the arguments you and others have been raising; which helps us strengthen our own article. Fr. Eusebius’ “charismatic” experience is not nearly as spectacular as many others’, and in fact seems to belong more to the category of Protestant-revival type emotional release than to some of the darker aspects of the “charismatic” movement. Frankly, I doubt that he’s had the full “Baptism in the spirit,” because in “charismatic” literature it’s unheard of for someone who wants “tongues” not to get it if they’re really “baptized.” Our article will be quite strong, as it becomes increasingly evident that the movement could become widespread — the necessary conditions are all present in the “American” jurisdictions. And who is the Synod priest Emmert mentions as having “advised” him? We fear it sounds like Fr. James Griffiths, about whom we’ve been receiving alarming indications of late. Both Emmert and Monios, by the way, have recently become subscribers to Orth. Word.

We received a good letter recently from Fr. Michael Dudas in Florida (Metropolia), who gets your Witness (and agrees “90 per cent” with it), and sees through Eusebius very well.

The True Vine·. We were waiting for your comments before giving ours, but we’ll go ahead anyway! Laurence Campbell sent us a copy of his letter to Vladika Vitaly — it displays of course his usual lack of tact! Also it pays perhaps undue attention to some small points which in all charity could be overlooked. However — it’s doubtless very disrespectful of us! — we find its bluntness rather refreshing and perhaps even useful for the common task, entering as it does a context where the expected response is “Yes, yes, very good,” etc. (while in the meantime one says what one really thinks behind the scenes where the “official” people don’t hear). And frankly, considering the material which Vlad. Vitaly had to work with, the first issue really is a disgrace. Knowing Vlad. Vitaly and his Russian publications (the article on “Ecumenism” is a rather notable exception) we expected something like this; and in fact I told Fr. Herman sometime before the first issue appeared: “if he puts a Dore on the cover, it’s the last straw! That will crush the Greeks and converts!” Mercifully, he saved his Dore for an inside page! We will make three frank comments:

(1) The editor does not have the feeling for what’s going on: what inspires converts, iconographic taste, the approach to the whole subject of mission. The periodical is not conceived as a missionary publication; it is an immigrant jurisdictional publication, Victorian in taste, the contents of which are entirely incidental and do not point up a single theme or point of view. Its power to inspire is zero.

(2) The “Editorial Staff” cannot possibly be responsible for this! We heard Fr. Panteleimon was to be in charge of art — if so, he should be fired immediately! It would seem that whatever advice the “editorial staff” gave was not listened to very seriously — on the principle, most likely, that the “bishop knows best.” Do you know how Vlad. Vitaly referred to The True Vine in his Diocesan bulletin in Russian? — “under the editorship of Archbp. Vitaly with the cooperation of the most outstanding theologians of true Orthodoxy.” This all sounds to us suspiciously as though advantage is being taken of the “editorial staff” in order to put across something they don’t entirely sympathize with! They don’t claim to be “outstanding theologians” at all; they are zealots of Orthodoxy — but “theologians” sounds more important and official!

Saturday
St. George the Great Martyr
(What a wonderful text to his service — full of Pascha and spring! But too difficult to translate because of all the variations — until we finally have our English Paschal Triodion. So much for us all to do!)

Since beginning this we’ve received your note, which seems to confirm the first two points above. But it’s the next point that’s most disturbing to us.

(3) We’ve known for years that Vlad. Vitaly does not approve of the “Jordanville ideology,” that (at least 10 years ago when Fr. Herman visited him) he purposely does not even receive Orthodox Russia, that at the Synod’s 50th anniversary celebrations he spoke of the need not only for an English publication but also for a Russian one “because there is no satisfactory Orthodox publication in Russian” (approximate quotation). (We also have our complaints about Orth Russia — but nonetheless it’s fully Orthodox, has its definite function in our common Orthodox task, and now that Fr. Constantine is failing in health we dread to think of any conceivable alternative to it; many people are “tired of Antichrist” — but the subject is precisely becoming most relevant right now!) We know also that despite his many words about the need for English publications, Vlad. Vitaly has never even mentioned in his Russian publications or in his small correspondence with us (except to grant us permission to translate and print his article) either Orthodox Life or Orth Word — the reason in our case being apparently, as he once told a friend of ours, that we have “gone overboard” on the subject of Archbishop John, with whom his differences were apparently not merely personal, but seem to involve a whole different orientation to Orthodox life and mission.

And now in The True Vine we find that no other Synodal publication is mentioned (except for the Witness, which is not however identified). Further, the lengths he goes to avoid using the word “Jordanville” are truly astonishing: he lifts a whole article from OL without a word as to source; he reprints “Feofil” and barely manages to say “Holy Trinity Monastery” (but not “Jordanville”); he “steals” the whole translation, word for word (and it is still in print!) of “St. Mary of Egypt” from Jordanville (and he sets it up again himself, while one of his priests tells us that his English-language publications have cost him a great deal of effort), and goes out of his way to say that he “encountered it in the English language”!!! Likewise the “New Martyrs” gives no credit to Jordanville.

All this is quite distressing to us, because it shows a total and evidently deliberate setting aside of the “common task” which the rest of us have been working and sweating over for some years now. It is almost as if, now that the “official” publication has come, all the rest of us “unofficial” laborers in the vineyard can quietly retire, or perhaps pay our dues to the central organization!

Well, we don’t want to upset you, which is also why before The True Vine came out we never mentioned to you or others our fears about VI. V. We have always placed the common missionary and Orthodox cause for which were all working above every kind of personal difference or suspicion, and will continue to do so. But it is essential for all of us for whom this cause is not merely an “official” assignment, but our very life’s blood, to be aware of certain tendencies and dangers. Judging from the first issue we personally doubt that The True Vine will ever amount to much, and very , likely it will more or less die out by the third or fourth (increasingly tardy) issue — unless a real “official” campaign is made for it and it becomes fully subsidized. In any case, the “unofficial” labors of the rest of us become all the more important!

About this whole thing there are other points we would like to mention, but we will save them until we see you personally. The ground is a little dangerous!

Concerning 2nd Sorrowful Epistle: By all means keep the St. Nectarios masthead on, and we won’t need over 100 copies at most. We’ll give your address, but some just might find it easier to order from us.

We haven’t seen the reviews of The True Vine by Dr. Johnstone or Fr. Photios. Where are they?

Good for our confessor Polycarp! But what a sad situation it reveals! We dread to think of how typical it might be. Thank God for you Greeks, who are forcing some of our Russians to take steps they otherwise might not have thought of for some time. (But don’t tell that to Basil — rather Vassillyy!) — who when you mentioned something like that to him before almost accused us of selling out to the Greeks!)

We will be very happy to see you and your parishioners in June. We will be here all the time, God willing, except on July 2.

Monday we start setting up our “charismatic” article — our biggest bombshell to date, and it really contains our whole missionary confession of faith. Please pray for us that we can see it through to completion, and that it will open some eyes to the truth!

With love in Christ our Saviour,
Seraphim, monk

P.s. We’ll write the Governor — “obedience”! What texts did you send him?

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