Resolutions of the ROCOR Clergy and Laity
(Under the Temporary Omophor of the Synod of Bishops of the RTOC)
The Synod of the Bishops of the Russian True-Orthodox Church, since May 2007, has made several attempts to start dialogue with Bishop Agafangel (Pashkovsky). In hopes of constructive dialogue with Bp. Agafangel and the clergy under him, the consecration of a new ROCOR-RTOC bishop for North-America was postponed, despite repeated petitions after May 17th, 2007 from the ROCOR clergy and laity who had come under the Synod of the RTOC.
Unfortunately, instead of open and fair dialogue, we instead hear insults made against the Russian True-Orthodox Church and its bishops, clergy, and laity, saying that the RTOC is “making false gatherings” and “divisive”, and other such slanders. Despite this, for the sake of preserving unity and peace in the Russian Church, Bp. Agafangel was asked to defer all personal issues with the RTOC and meet with the President of the Synod of Bishops of the RTOC, Archbishop Tikhon, in order to help fulfill the hopes of many in the Church Abroad of unification and reconciliation. The Most Reverend, Bishop Photii, head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Resistance, agreed to help facilitate such dialogue, to which Bp. Agafangel gave his prior consent to participate in such a meeting. The first meeting between Abp. Tikhon and Bp. Agafangel was scheduled to be held in the second-half of November 2007. However, in a letter to The Most Reverend Bp. Photii, dated September 29th, 2007, Bp. Agafangel renounced his participation in such dialogue.
At the same time, in a number of written statements which appeared on the Internet on behalf of Bp. Agafangel and those with him in the “PSEA”, the RTOC was accused of proselytizing “in the canonical ROCOR territory”.
This accusation was made wrongly, as the only reason for the proposed meetings with those under Bp. Agafangel in North America was the desire to discuss all disagreements and find possible common ground to start a dialogue to overcome the existing division, as well as the issues concerning the restoration of a ROCOR Eparchy in the United States.
All parishes in the ROCOR in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Western Europe entered under the Russian True-Orthodox Church long before May 17th, so the charges of the RTOC “proselytizing” in ROCOR territory is false and unfair. Our parishes are under the RTOC temporarily-to restore the canonical and legitimate episcopate of the Russian Church Abroad. The bishops of the Synod of the RTOC always talked about this openly, without hiding their intentions to restore the episcopate and administration of the Church Abroad, which was lost as a result of the union of the majority of the ROCOR bishops with the MP.
In connection with the refusal of Bp. Agafangel to establish dialogue with the RTOC and the position of his “PSEA”, which has expressed, in addition to the refusal of dialogue, the desire to join with the Greek Synod in Resistance in order to receive consecrations of new bishops, the meeting of the North-American clergy and laity of the ROCOR, held on November 16th, 2007, in the city of Trenton (New Jersey, USA), in the Church of the Holy Assumption, decided:
The intervention of a Local Church in the internal life of the Russian Orthodox Church by having Greeks, Romanians, or other Synods perform episcopal ordinations, ignoring the canonical bishops of the Local Russian Church, is a flagrant violation of Church canons. Such ordinations will be uncanonical and will further exacerbate the division of the Russian Church. Resolving the crisis in the Russian Church, which has arisen from the unification of the ROCOR with the MP, is an internal affair of the Local Russian Church. The Russian Church has canonical bishops that can and should help restore the episcopate of the Church Abroad, just as the Church Abroad helped restore the episcopate of the Catacomb Church in 1982.
The clergy and laity of the true ROCOR, after the union of ROCOR (L) with the MP, cannot remain without a bishop for too long, because Church life without episcopal governance leads to a weakening of the Church’s discipline and further aggravation of internal crises. This, in turn, will inevitably lead to the paralysis and collapse of Church life and of the parishes. We see there is an urgent need for the speedy restoration of the legitimate, canonical episcopacy of the ROCOR. The bishops and clergy of the Russian True-Orthodox Church consider themselves as part of the estate of the Russian Church and the sister-Church of the ROCOR, and are ready to assist the Church Abroad in restoring the episcopal office.
Those clergy under Bp. Agafangel, who are against the apostasy of the Synod of Metropolitan Laurus on May 17th, 2007, are not the sole heir to the historic ROCOR. The “PSEA”, which proclaimed itself the sole heir of the ROCOR, was created uncanonically itself, and cannot be the base of the rebuilding of the historic ROCOR. At the same time, we do not reproach the majority of clergy and laity caught in the uncanonical “PSEA” because we understand not everyone was able to understand what was happening after the of the events of May 17th. We believe they and their fellow members in the future can constitute a united Church Abroad, and see no obstacles to mutual eucharistic communion with goodwill on both sides, as long as there is a desire to rectify the situation in a legitimate, canonical way.
Since the dialogue with Bp. Agafangel and the “PSEA” has come to a standstill, not even begun-Bp. Agafangel ignored the RTOC and instead looked to the Greek Synod in Resistance-we can no longer seek to rebuild the ROCOR based on the personal interests of the “PSEA” leadership. Therefore, seeking God’s help, and knowing the responsibility for the fate of the Russian Church, we shall proceed to form the first diocese of the Church Abroad in North America. The first bishop to be consecrated for the true Russian Orthodox Church Abroad is the candidate for the episcopacy Protopresbyter Stefan Sabelnik, the pastor of the Church of the Holy Assumption in Trenton (New Jersey, USA). Fr. Stefan was first nominated for the episcopacy in 1985 by the First-Hierarch, Metropolitan Philaret (Voznezensky), as well as by Archbishop Anthony (Medvedev) of San Francisco, and was approved by the Synod of Bishops of the ROCOR.
After the meeting of the North-American clergy and laity of the ROCOR, the consecration of a new bishop, Fr. Stefan Sabelnik, will not be delayed for the emerging ROCOR, particularly for the North-American diocese, with a view of restoring full and canonical Church life in the ROCOR in North-America.
We welcome the dialogue with Bp. Agafangel, and are hopeful such dialogue will begin soon. If the true objective of Bp. Agafangel is for the rebuilding of the ROCOR, only dialogue between him and the RTOC will help unite the “fragments” of the ROCOR.
We believe that dialogue is necessary and possible. It is necessary, first of all, because in order to overcome the division in the Russian Church, issues concerning canonical violations must be openly and explicitly discussed. This dialogue needs to identify all points of convergence, all that unites and divides us, and with God’s help try to correct any existing canonical violations. We believe that this dialogue is still possible.
We ask our fellow priests and laity who are in the various “fragments” of the ROCOR to treat with understanding and sympathy the cause of rebuilding a united ROCOR. We are open to dialogue with all those who support the true, real, historical, and cherished Russian Church Abroad, when it was under our First-Hierarchs, Metropolitans Anthony, Anastassy, Philaret, and Vitaly. We are ready to have dialogue with all those who want such an open and honest dialogue, and who sincerely wish the unity of the ROCOR