ROCOR-MP Dissent Hits ‘the Big Time’

Greetings! I’m not quite ‘back’ yet: heat waves, errands, drives in the country, etc etc, have kept me off the computer for a couple months now. In fact, if anyone emailed me between mid-June and mid-July, it appears AOL did not retain it, so please write me again, as I’m trying to be better now(!). But I dropped in and felt I’d add this:

A little while ago, a court fight involving a southern New Jersey parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) made it “front page, above the fold” in the Wall Street Journal of all places. I only saw it in a newsstand in rural Pennsylvania, didn’t open it up, didn’t buy it, so I don’t know all the particulars (and very little of the WSJ seems available online; that’s Wall St. for ya!), but it involves a priest’s widow who resists the reconciliation with the Moscow Patriarchate (MP), and is holding Reader’s Services in the parish, which currently lacks a priest, and most of whose parishioners are said to be attending nearby parishes.

There *is* disagreement within ROCOR to the reconciliation. In fact a small number of clergy, parishes, and monastics have bolted in protest. ISTM they don’t think the MP has reformed enough from the Soviet Era. I have no independent information, but it seems the overwhelming majority of the jurisdiction accept the MP, and their ‘autonomy’ within it, and their participation with it, after 80-some years without (and vice-versa). At least one active ROCOR Bishop has voiced strong opposition, but also his continuing commitment to the jurisdiction, in a statement published on their own website… which also seems to indicate continuing dissenting activity even within ROCOR.

As for Orthodoxy as a whole, we hold that it is possible even for councils and synods of Bishops to err, but not the Orthodox Church as a whole, in the whole of which dwells the All-Holy Spirit of God as Christ’s Body, here and now as in Palestine 2,000 years ago (and indeed, in Christ’s Resurrected, Glorified Body in Heaven today also). And so, frustrating and unclear as it may seem, it is good for things like this to work themselves out as God wills, not we, over some amount of time. Nearly all Christendom, or at least its leadership, was Arian at one point, and Monothelite at another, but for the “dissenting” Truth defended by St. Athanasius the Great and St. Maximos the Confessor (with others) respectively. Are the dissenters disobedient, recalcitrant, sectarian, heretical, schismatic, extremists? Are the Synod and the Patriarchate without Grace or Apostolic Succession, heretical or schismatic, truth-denying ecumenists, compromisers with Antichrist? Time will tell. Although the rest of Orthodoxy maintains Communion with the MP, and now also with ROCOR. It’s a weighty thing to stand against so many Orthodox, but Saints and God-See-ers have felt they must in the past, and we have seen they were right. (OTOH others have also done so, and we have seen they were not right.) I certainly am not in a position to judge about today; in God’s Mercy I have yet to see Uncreated Light (lest I be burned forever), and must hold myself to be the worst of sinners. To paraphrase – or rather to better-focus – the bumpersticker: Orthodox aren’t perfect, just repentant.

What does one who finds himself or herself actually in the midst of this conflict do in the meantime? Follow a good, true spiritual parent, as always, and think lightly of his/her own fallen human reason. Humility, as always, is the path of salvation, whether one is a Bishop, a cleric, a monastic, or a layperson. God’s Spirit in the Whole Church will prevail, because the Gates of Hades will not. He has before, and He shall again, unto ages of ages, Amen.

I admit this is very different from Catholic and Protestant churches and movements in which one must always ‘know,’ and firm lines must always be drawn, and objective ‘reality’ be available to every “inquiring mind” on every “disputed question.” I’m sure this problem has been better-treated in Orthodox writing, I just haven’t come across it yet. How about this?: ‘Our pope is God, and He doesn’t “throw the book” at us.’

Actually, it reminds me of the question of why God entrusts the world’s salvation to a Church, rather than make a plainly audible announcement Himself from the sky (or wherever). One of the reasons is that salvation isn’t just intellect, but relationship; not just status, but a Way, a process; Faith is a person learning and changing. Even the Apostles only slowly came to see Christ as the Truth; this is said to be a major subtheme of the Gospel of St. John the Theologian. ‘Yet’ their salvation was provided for by the Lord (except for Judas who rejected it). As Orthodox, too, our Hope is in Him, not ourselves. So just like we don’t rule out the salvation of people who haven’t yet heard or embraced the Truth, ISTM we must believe God knew what He was doing when He decided all this would take place in time rather than all at once… even Orthodox Church conflicts. The Orthodox Church, Christ’s Body, is a Mystery; Christ-in-time is a Mystery; Salvation is a Mystery; Conciliarity is a Mystery.

Let us pray that in this as in all Orthodox Church conflicts, God will “calm the dissensions of the Churches,… root out the risings of heresy, and frustrate them by the power of the Holy Spirit,… [i]llumine with the light of grace all apostates from the Orthodox Faith, and those blinded by pernicious heresies” – whoever they (we) may be – “and draw them to Thyself, and unite them to Thy Holy Apostolic Catholic Church,” leading all to and along the Way of Salvation to the Truth and the Life, forever and ever. Amen.

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