The Church of Serbia at the Crossroads

(Reprinted from “Newletter #27”, Nov. – Dec., 1979, published by the Department of Public and Foreign Relations of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia)

Not long ago, in our Newletter #22 (May – June), we noted with sadness that Bishop Christopher of the Serbian Patriarchal Church in America had taken part in the festive celebration of the jubilee of Archbishop Iakovos, Exarch of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and prayed in his Greek church with all sorts of heterodox groups, including even a non-Christian — Rabbi Marc Tannenbaum. Now we have received another, no less sorrowful report.

The Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunication, in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, decided to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the parish — an event held on Wednesday, October 27, of the current year. The pastor of the parish decided to celebrate the jubilee on a large scale and invited many guests and representatives of the press to a special service. Among those who actively participated in the prayer service were: the Rev. Angelo Kasemeotes, pastor of the parish, his assistant, Fr. Joseph Tsourgros, and his colleagues, Frs. Constantine Hallick and Nikiforos Tzendimos; the Serbian Patriarchal Church was represented by Fr. Milan Markovina of the staff of St. Savva’s Serbian Orthodox Cathedral; also participating were Rabbi Francis B. Silberg, Catholic Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, Epicopalian Charles T. Gaskell, Lutheran and Baptist pastors, and even a woman minister from the “United Church of Christ.” The woman minister read Psalm 100, while the rabbi was permitted to read anything he pleased from the Scriptures — he selected the Genesis account of Jacob’s dream of the ladder, reading it in both Hebrew and English. All participants in the scandalous assembly arrayed themselves in vestments peculiar to their own religions.

Photographs reproduced in the -Milwaukee Sentinel- and the -Milwaukee Journal- leave one quite depressed and, due to the presence at such a prayer service of a Serbian priest, cannot but raise sorrowful suspicions that the Serbian Patriarchal Exarchate in America, following the example of Archbishop Iakovos, is standing on the very slippery path of the betrayal of Orthodoxy.

At the same time, -Glasnik-, the official mouthpiece of the Serbian Patriarchate, in the “Throughout the Christian World” column of its July issue, printed a lengthy article on the pentecostal movement among the Orthodox. Unfortunately, based on the words “the Spirit bloweth where it wisheth” (Jn. 3:8), the survey was written in a tone very sympathetic to this movement. While it mentions Archimandrite Eusebius Stephanou, the founder of “Orthodox Pentecostalism” in America, the -Glasnik- does not inform it readers that not very many years ago Stephanou himself printed in his own magazine, -The Logos-, a photostat of an official warning to his flock that he, Archimandrite Eusebius, is a heresiarch and that Orthodox should avoid all contact with him. Not one church in Greece is at his disposal to hold his services in, and the Church of Greece, receiving support from the Greek government, has ‘successfully blocked the organization of his assemblies. Stephanou bitterly complains of all this to his followers.

The author of the survey also does not mention that the “spirit” is blowing on the heterodox to the same degree as on the Orthodox, and it often happens that the “spirit” unexpectedly “descends” upon a Protestant or a Catholic, and an Orthodox person who has become entangled in the movement, sometimes even a priest, will receive the blessing of a “reborn” sectarian. It is quite incomprehensible how Bishop Danilo of Marchana, as the editor-in-chief of the Patriarchate’s publication, could allow such an article to slip past him, failing to distinguish between this “spirit” of falsehood and the Holy Spirit Who remains within the Church.