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257. Jan. 14/27, 1979 St. Nina of Georgia

Your Grace, dear Vladika Laurus,

Blagoslovite!

I hope you and the brethren spent the feast days peacefully and joyfully. For us these days went very well, both in the monastery and in our missions in Redding and Etna. Despite the troubles of the times and our sorrows over many “converts,” there are still some people left, both Russians and converts, who are willing to give their hearts and sacrifice themselves for the Orthodox Faith, for which we thank God.

I am writing this letter in hope of receiving from you some advice (your personal opinion, and not any decision of the Synod) regarding one particular problem which has been presented to us: the reception of converts from the “non-canonical” Orthodox jurisdictions.

Last November we were visited by a priest from one of these jurisdictions. He is in his early 30 s, is married and has several children, and lives on a farm in Tennessee, where he has a very small flock. He is very poor and has deliberately chosen a path of “struggle.”

After studying at an Anglican seminary, he became Orthodox in a “non-canonical” jurisdiction about 10 years ago and was ordained priest about five years ago, I believe, by a “Bishop Christopher” in Pennsylvania (who has since died). He is now under a “Bishop Trevor” in Pennsylvania, who is head of a very small jurisdiction of probably no more than six priests; this jurisdiction is one of many that trace their ancestry back to the Metropolia’s “autocephaly” of 1927 (Bishop Eftimios).

The priest who visited us left on the whole a good impression on us (unlike some other “non- canonical” priests we have encountered); he seems not very different from many of the serious convert-priests in our own Synod. He realizes that he has much to learn about Orthodoxy, and that he really started learning only after becoming Orthodox and becoming a priest. He came to visit us because he is very much attracted to the kind of Orthodoxy he finds presented in The Orthodox Word (as opposed to the “Boston” emphasis on “zealotry” and “strictness” and “correctness,” which he does not like). While he was with us (for nearly a week) he asked us if we could find out how he might be received into the Synod, and we told him we would inquire. We asked our Archbishop Anthony, but he seemed to indicate this was not his sphere, and so we are writing to you.

With all this in mind, could you give us your opinion on the following questions?

1. What is his present status in Orthodoxy, in the eyes of our Russian Church Abroad, and how might he be received into our Church? Is he simply without grace and should be baptized and start over again as Orthodox? I know our “Bostonites” would say this, and according to “strictness” perhaps they are correct. But is a more “pastoral” approach not possible? I ask this for two reasons:

a. He himself sees his coming to the Synod as the culmination of a process of growth in Orthodoxy, and he would have a very difficult time totally denying his past Orthodox experience, as he would seem to be doing if he were to be baptized now. (And then would he not have to “rebaptize” those he has already baptized as a priest?) We tried to give him as his example the Orthodox Church of Eastern Africa, which began in a “non-canonical” jurisdiction but persevered until finding true Orthodoxy; but even there, I wonder how those first priests were received by the Patriarch of Alexandria—were they baptized and ordained, or received br cynzemr caht?

b. Our experience with converts of the “strict” school (the “Bostonites”) has made us a little afraid of total “strictness,” which sometimes seems to produce something like a “sectarian” mentality.

Therefore, our question is: if he could be a priest in our Synod, could he be accepted ________, in the manner that Roman Catholic priests are sometimes accepted? (As a matter of fact, he knows one Old-Catholic priest who was accepted by Vladika Nikon in this way—Fr. Augustine in Florida).

2. He is married to a widow, who has children from her first husband. I already told him that this would probably be the biggest obstacle to his being a priest in our Church. I realize .that he probably could not be ordained in our Church with such a canonical impediment; but is it at all possible for him to be received

3. Under what diocese does Tennessee come?—Chicago is by far the nearest diocesan see.

We ourselves would very much like to see him received into our Church, first because he seems to be a “normal American” (unlike some of our converts) who would be able to give Orthodoxy to some ordinary people who would never think of going to a “Russian” Church, and second because he is hungry for a deeper kind of Orthodoxy than the “OCA” and other jurisdictions are giving today. It grieves us to see so much of the American “missionary territory” occupied by the “OCA,” which is becoming more and more spiritually empty (as we hear from people who are there), when there is the possibility for at least a few “strugglers” to give something deeper.

If it would be possible for him to be received into our Church, I am sure he would be willing to go to Jordanville for some time in order to increase his knowledge of Divine services, customs of our Church, general Orthodoxy, etc. He clearly indicated to us his desires to learn and be corrected.

I hope this letter has not burdened you too much, and it will not be too difficult for you to give at least a brief reply. Please pray for us.

With love and respect in Christ,
Unworthy Hieromonk Seraphim

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