[From the article in “Orthodox Word” 1970]
A FINAL APPEAL
OF METROPOLITAN PHILARET
To the Sobor of Bishops, Clergy and Laymen of the
American Metropolia, meeting at St. Tikhon’s Monastery,
South Canaan, Pennsylvania, October 19-22, 1970
A year ago the news of the negotiations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the American Metropolia concerning the declaration of the latter’s autocephaly evoked a general consternation. We at that time, out of an obligation of brotherly love, warned the hierarchy of the Metropolia of the serious consequences 6f this act (Letter of Archbishop Nikon to Metropolitan Ireney of Nov. 261 Dec. 9, 1969). We set forth its inevitable consequences in resolutions of the Synod of Bishops (decree of Dec. 181 31, 1969, and the Epistle of the same date), and in a series of statements in the public press. The essence of our statements can be concisely expressed in the words of St. James: Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries, or, a grapevine figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh (James 3: 12).
It is impossible for the Moscow Patriarchate, which is under the complete control of the atheist Soviet regime which has set for itself the goal of destroying religion, to undertake anything for the overall benefit of the Church. It should likewise be remembered that the Moscow Patriarchate cannot do anything abroad without the direct order of this regime.
Moreover, the idea of presenting autocephaly to the American Metropolia in exchange for her recognition of the Moscow Patriarchate originated from no one else but Metropolitan Nikodim, who is known to the entire world as a man who is bound in the closest fashion to the Soviet regime. The testimony of numerous persons who have fled from the USSR clearly establishes the strict control exercised by Moscow in all matters related in one way or another to affairs abroad. The Church in this connection is by no means an exception. Despite this, the leaders’ of the Metropolia have naively accepted the proposal of Metropolitan Nikodim as some kind of benefaction, as a glass of fresh and sweet water coming from the bitter, salty fount of the enslaved Moscow Patriarchate.
It is not our intention to inflict upon you any hurt, but we wish to give you a brotherly warning of the danger now threatening you and of the fact that from the proposed agreement the benefit will accrue only to Moscow.
The Synod of Bishops has never forgotten that until quite recently you acknowledged yourself as belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. This was especially clearly formulated in the Temporary Statute of the Administration of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which was accepted by all of us. We grieved when this unity was disrupted when, under the influence of temporary political attitudes, the All-American Sobor in Cleveland in 1946 decreed the termination of all subordination to the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad. We never accepted this decision as having canonical force, because it had the approval neither of the whole hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, nor even of the majority of the bishops of the North American Metropolitan District. The late Metropolitan Leonty, who was then Archbishop of Chicago, wrote at that time to Metropolitan Anastassy that the decision of the Cleveland Sobor had been evoked by the pro-Moscow attitude which had suddenly seized the majority of its members, an attitude which he himself did not share. By its unjustified action, the Cleveland Sobor introduced once again division into the Orthodox Church in America and left the Metropolia again without any canonical foundation.
With respect to the proposed agreement with the Moscow Patriarchate we would like to point out that it could be reached only after the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate lifted its interdict from the hierarchy of the American Metropolia, testifying that it had until then been regarded as a schismatic society. The Patriarchate removed its interdict first, on April 3, 1970, from the hierarchy of the Japanese Orthodox Church, and only after that, on April 9, from the rest of the hierarchy of the American Metropolia.
The leaders of the Metropolia, by recognizing the present Moscow Patriarchate as the lawful ecclesiastical authority of the Russian Church, and the Metropolia as a part of the latter, and by receiving autocephaly from this authority after the interdict had been removed from the Metropolia’s hierarchy, placed in question the validity of all the sacramental actions of their Church during the period of the interdict, that is, from December 12, 1947, to April 9, 1970.
It is said that the Metropolia did not acknowledge this interdict upon itself, acknowledging it as invalid. However, the validity of an interdict depends upon the canonical capacity of the hierarchy by which the interdict was imposed, and not upon its acceptance by the interdicted hierarchy. Thus the Metropolia, by acknowledging the present Moscow Patriarchate as the lawful supreme authority of the Russian Church, has itself acknowledged the invalidity of its own sacramental actions during the course of 23 years. Such are the logical consequences of the agreement now presented to you.
It appears that the leaders of the Metropolia were lured by the Moscow Patriarchate’s promises of a prompt canonical recognition of your new “autocephalous” Church and by a promised prompt removal of its own parallel jurisdiction, but now it is clearly apparent how naive it was to believe in the fulfillment of such promises.
For what do we see now? Instead of a general recognition of the new autocephalous Church, we have the epistles of the Patriarch of Constantinople of January 8 and June 24, 1970, proclaiming the act of the Moscow Patriarchate unilateral, anti-canonical and invalid. We know the unfavorable opinion of yet another Eastern Patriarch, and the declaration of the Serbian Bishops of February 10, 1970, which calls the autocephaly a “false step.” As early as February they warned the Metropolia that it will be unable to obtain a general recognition, and they called the hope to obtain it “naive.”
We also see that the new Church, which calls itself “autocephalous,” does not possess even the principal characteristic of an autocephalous Church — a territory of its own which is recognized as undisputed and subordinated to its jurisdiction. And how can the Metropolia possess this when the very Church that granted it autocephaly did not, in spite of your hopes, abolish its own organization in America, but on the contrary retained in the same territory a great number of parishes headed by their own bishop and did not even oblige these parishes to commemorate the hierarchy of the new, supposedly “autocephalous,” Church? In Canada the “Tomos” granted by Moscow even allows the number of such parishes to increase. At the same time there also continue to exist parallel parishes of the more numerous Greek Archdiocese as well as the parishes of other Orthodox Churches.
If the members of the Metropolia hope that the autocephaly will protect its inner freedom, they are deeply mistaken, because freedom is often lost not by force of clauses in a treaty, but as a consequence of everyday contact. You have now bound yourselves to the Moscow Patriarchate by the strongest bonds; for what will you be left with if the only Church that recognizes your autocephaly and has undertaken to obtain recognition for you from other Churches, will renounce you? You will inevitably become more and more bound to the Patriarchate, and the influence of Moscow will more and more insinuate itself into your life – the influence not of the authentic Russian Church, but of the atheist regime which stands behind the ecclesiastical facade of the Moscow Patriarchate. It is a secret to no one that the Moscow Patriarchate, in spite of the warning of the Apostle, has been unequally yoked together with unbelievers (II Cor. 6:14). The leaders of the Patriarchate, beginning with Metropolitan, later Patriarch, Sergius in 1927, have ignored this warning and strive by their politics to unite light with darkness, the service of God with submission to Belial. Thus they have made their own hierarchy an instrument of the internal and external politics of the atheist Communist Party, spreading its influence in the religious life of the whole world
Now your leaders are trying to make their closeness to the Moscow Patriarchate as little noticeable as possible, but there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither is anything kept secret, but that it should come abroad (St. Mark 4: 22). If they did not wish it widely known that Metropolitan Nikodim traveled to Alaska as an honored guest of the Metropolia, if Metropolitan Ireney’s Secretary, who accompanied him wrote for Novoye Russkoye Slovo a long article describing this journey without even mentioning the name of the person whom he accompanied, nevertheless this became known to us. If the newspapers were not notified that the Resident in America of the Moscow Patriarchate, Bishop Makary of Umansk, had been invited to the Convention of the Federated Russian Orthodox Clubs, this became known from a letter to the editor of Novoye Russkoye Slovo written by an indignant witness of his serving and of his deceitful sermon on “peace” in the manner customary for Soviet representatives.
Moscow well knows how to draw people into the sphere of its influence by means of a carefully-worked-out tactic of visits, threats, and gifts. The gradual growth of its influence may be largely unseen and many of you will not notice it. You will only wonder how you have unexpectedly become the collaborators of Moscow in its international ecclesiastical politics, and only then will some of you understand why Metropolitan Nikodim so unexpectedly undertook to set straight your canonical position and grant you autocephaly.
In your hearts you must know that the Moscow Patriarchate in its present form is not an authentic representative of the Russian Orthodox Church. The voice of the Patriarchate cannot be the voice of the Russian Church inasmuch as it is bound by its subordination to the atheist Soviet regime. The acts of the Patriarchate will not be binding upon the Russian Church in the future, when God will grant it freedom. As you know, the authentic Russian Orthodox hierarchy today is either in prisons or in the catacombs, and its voice is not heard, except as we speak for it. Thus, as the only free part of the Russian Church, the duty is incumbent upon us to defend the rights of the true Russian Church in Russia and throughout the world. It is in this capacity, as representatives of the interests of the authentic Russian Church throughout the world, that we acknowledge and declare that the autocephaly granted to you by Moscow is unlawful and invalid. And we call upon you to renounce this act which, as indicated above, is not recognized as valid by any other responsible representative of Orthodox Christians.
Therefore we now for the last time address you all, Bishops, Pastors, and Laity: Cast aside every other consideration. Think how important a powerful free voice of the representatives of the authentic Russian Church now is. Return to unity in freedom before it is too late.
Until now the responsibility for everything that has been done with respect to the autocephaly rested on the hierarchy of the American Metropolia. Now the day has come when the whole clergy and laity in casting their votes will have to take upon themselves responsibility before God and before men for the act of autocephaly and the rejection of unity with the free representatives of the true Russian Church.
When we see our neighbor at the edge of a precipice, our duty of love forces us to call him and make an attempt to stop him. And so we now make our last attempt, praying God that He may enlighten your mind and will, so that you might reject the deceit of Moscow and decide to go on the path of truth and goodness.
Chairman of the Synod of Bishops
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
[Editorial comment of the staff of the Orthodox Word written in 1970 below.]
THE RESPONSE OF THE METROPOLIA
On October 20, the day of the opening of the Metropolia’s Sobor, an official delegation from the Russian Church Abroad, consisting of Bishop Laurus (Secretary of the Synod) and Proto presbyter George Grabbe (Director of Foreign and Public Relations) traveled to St. Tikhon’s Monastery for the purpose of presenting Metropolitan Philaret’s Appeal to the delegates of the 14th All American Sobor of the Metropolia. They were able only to catch a glimpse of Metropolitan Ireney from a distance, being met by Archbishop John Shahovskoy, Bishop Dimitry of Washington (formerly Berkeley), and Proto presbyter Alexander Schmemann. The Synodal delegation requested permission to read this document to the assembled delegates, but this request was refused, and the delegation therefore gave the document to the above-mentioned representatives of the Metropolia and requested that it at least be conveyed to the delegates during the course of the Sobor.
The text of the “Final Appeal,” however, was not read to the delegates, and it was not even mentioned until the Sobor’s fnal session. Then, as described in NOVOYE RUSSKOYE SLOVO, The vice-chairman of the Sobor, Proto presbyter Alexander Schmemann, informed the delegates of the visit of Bishop Laurus of Manhattan and Protopresbytef George Grabbe, who expressed the wish to address the Sobor and read the declaration of the Synod concerning the autocephaly. This request was denied on the ground that the Synod does not acknowledge the legality of the Orthodox Church in America and, consequently, there is no reason for the representatives of the Synod to address a Sobor the legality of which they dispute. The report of Protopresbyter Schmemann was noted without debate.”
Actually, according to press reports, the delegates at the Sobor did not vote on the question of autocephaly, this apparently being accepted as a question already decided without the faithful, but only on the question of changing the name of the Metropolia to The Orthodox Church in America.” The vote on this proposal was 301 in favor, 7 against, with 2 abstentions. The Metropolia’s official publication in English, THE ORTHODOX CHURCH (November), hastened to announce that by this vote the delegates had confirmed the autocephaly; but since the autocephaly itself was proclaimed by Metropolitan Ireney at the first session of the Sobor, before the delegates voted on anything, the latter of course did not confirm” anything at all, but merely expressed their passive acceptance of the “coup” Of their leaders.
One can only marvel at the extreme care which has been shown by the leadership of the Metropolia to keep its faithful, and even the delegates of its Sobor, in absolute ignorance of the extremely important and most brotherly appeals of the Synod of Bishops, appeals which contain facts of which the majority of members of the Metropolia are doubtless unaware. The reason for this extreme care is not far to seek: those who become fully aware of the issues involved in the “autocephaly” have no choice, for the sake of conscience, but to leave the Metropolia…