Synod Epistle October 2000
Orthodox Life magazine 2000 (6)
Council of Bishops
Russian Orthodox Church
Outside of Russia
to the Beloved Children of the Church
in the Homeland and in the Diaspora
14/27 October 2000
In the presence of the wonderworking Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother Of God, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, convening at the Synod Building in New York, addresses itself to its devoted flock, scattered throughout the world and in our homeland, the much-suffering Russian land, wherein we perceive the beginnings of a genuine spiritual awakening.
At no time did we assume that the return of the people of Russia to our common spiritual Orthodox roots would be effortless and triumphant. And so, we fervently welcome the prayer of all the Russian people to all the holy Newmartyrs of Russia, and especially to the martyred Imperial Family, which has now become possible, thanks to the recognition of their sanctity by the Council of Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate. We are likewise encouraged by the adoption of a new social concept by that Council, which strikes out [nullifies??] the 1927 "Declaration" of Metropolitan Sergius by acknowledging the supremacy of God's commandments over the demands of worldly powers which might lead to the violation of religious and moral principles.
We venerate the martyric struggle of the many Russian soldiers who, when captured by infidels during recent wars, refused to renounce the Orthodox faith and convert to another religion, for which they endured torture and death. Confession such as this is evidence that the Russian people has preserved faith in Christ within their hearts to an unexpected degree – despite eight decades of the erosion of the Faith by the godless regime.
Nonetheless, our Council has noted the complete misunderstanding by the Moscow Patriarchate of the position of the Russian Church Abroad, which has carefully preserved the heritage of the Russian Orthodox Church. Especially lamentable are the acts of aggression of the Patriarchate in the forced confiscation of churches and monasteries from the Church Abroad, the preservation at times the very salvation of which has cost the Russian emigration great effort and represented real sacificial service for the Russian holy places beyond the borders of Russia.
In addition to these grievous circumstances is the fact that the Council of the Moscow Patriarchate actually confirmed its broad participation in ecumenism, and took no steps towards protecting its own younger gen- erations from that pan-heresy.
Nor did we see the Council of the Moscow Patriarchate offer an honest assessment of the anti-ecclesial actions of Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky), of his Synod and of their successors; though the present Council did approach historical truth in its Act of Glorification of the New-martyrs, and, both in the aforementioned Act and in its new social concept, obliquely praised the path chosen by the confessors who refused to accept the way of Metropolitan Sergius.
Guided by the spirit of the Gospel, we properly recognize how difficult it is to free oneself from the effects of the Church's enslavement by the Soviet state and its atheistic ideology. This understanding compels us to sympathy and kindness in our dealings with the faithful of the formerly-enslaved Church, and to welcome genuine steps toward the healing of Church life in Russia.
On the other hand, the relationship of these measures to the fundamental points which we have enunciated for many years in our care for the purity of the Church compel us to remain faithful to the course of the Church Abroad. Even now we must fulfill our historic mission of standing for the Truth, until all who have been redeemed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are convinced of it. The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia addresses its flock with a new, urgent call to be loyal to the end. Your archpastors must have confidence in your love and your trust in the Russian Orthodoxy of the Holy Fathers, which is being preserved by our Church, a loyalty which all the members of the Council of Bishops, without exception, confess again and again in unanimity.
The eighty-year history of our exiled Church has borne clear witness before the world that we have not turned into an exclusive, self-enamored society/organization, but remain a genuine Church possessed of the fullness of soul-saving Grace. Those who left us were not able to undermine the authority of our Church, for its glory derives not from earthly power nor great numbers, but from our immutable adherence to the Truth, to the righteousness of God.
We are duty-bound to remind our flock of the paramount importance of each member of the Church preserving personal piety, which is the principal token of our salvation within the Church.
The oft-critical stand we take against social vices, against the departure of today's world from divine and moral laws, begets among us a lassitude toward personal spiritual peace; as a result, the level of personal piety declines. Then, while criticizing apostasy, we ourselves become participants in the universal abandonment of piety.
Conversely, acts of personal piety: of prayer, fasting, abstinence, repentance, brotherly love, patience, humility, and meekness, have been, and remain, the principal weapon against the destruction of the whole world and the salvific means not only of one's personal salvation, but also of the universal establishment of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Yet our proclaimed stand for the Truth to the whole world will be in vain if the members of our Church prefer not the personal life of virtue but rather that of suspicion towards others, of discord, of forming alliances for the condemnation of others, and of other acts that splinter the life of the parish and diocese. This ruination, which draws into everlasting destruction everyone who participates in it, inevitably besmirches the face of our Church and weakens its witness.
With gratitude towards God for belonging to the true Church which is founded on the Rock of Faith, our Lord Jesus Christ, we urge you to remain its faithful members and to bolster its saving work through feats of personal piety, of mutual love, and of the patient bearing of one another's burdens (Gal. 6:2). Be mindful of the words of Christ: By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another (]ohn 13:35). Amen.
+Metropolitan Vitaly President of the Council
Members of the Council:
+Archhbishop Laurus , +Archhbishop Alypy, +ArchhbishopLazar, +ArchhbishopHilarion, +Archhbishop Benjamin, +ArchhbishopEvtikhy, +Archhbishop Agathanel, +Bishop Alexander, +Bishop Ambrose, +Bishop Kyrill, +Bishop Mitrofan, +Bishop Gabriel, +Bishop Michael