NYACK: December 12, 2003



of the All-Diaspora Pastoral Conference

Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia

We, the participants of the All-Diaspora Pastoral Conference, who have gathered from the world over under the protection of the Most Holy Theotokos, must first of all thank God for all His mercy to us. On the Feast of our Protectress, the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, we celebrated the Divine Liturgy together at the Synodal Cathedral. We recalled the words of St. John of Kronstadt that if all the wealth of the world were placed on one side of a scale, and the Divine Liturgy on the other, the side with the Divine Liturgy would outweigh the earthly wealth. We bring thanks to the Lord that He has given us, unworthy as we may be, the gift of the priesthood and participation in the Mystery of mysteries and Miracle of miracles--the Divine Liturgy.

We bring thanks to God that we are members of His Holy Church, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia--a church which has traveled a glorious--and at times thorny--path. We love the Church and cherish the spiritual freedom God has granted her as a part of the great Russian Church which is outside of Russia. The main goal for Christians is the salvation of their souls, thus the goal of the Church is to bring her children to salvation.We also thank God for our archpastors and for the chance to take part in the work of the Church. At our Conference we took part in discussing important Church issues, not on the basis of democratic rights, but in obedience to our Church.

Our Church is outwardly small, but in this seeming weakness is also our strength. The Holy Apostle Paul says the following: "For when I am weak, then I am strong" (II Cor. 12:10). Our Church’s strength has always been in her infirmity. In the past, whenever we acknowledged our feebleness, God would guide and protect us. If we repent of our own sins, pray for the replenishment of the harvest, and labor in Christ’s vineyard, then our Lord, now as before, will not leave His Church. We firmly believe that in weakness God’s strength is fulfilled.

Our archpastors have gathered us together in anticipation of the Council of Bishops to discuss the matter of our relations with the Church in Russia. For over 70 years, in all parishes of our Russian Church Abroad, prayers with a special meaning for the children of the Russian Church have been raised at the Divine Liturgy--the petition at the Great Litany: "For the peace of the whole world, the good estate of the holy churches of God, and the union of all, let us pray to the Lord," and the Prayer for the Salvation of Russia:

"Grant peace and tranquility, love and steadfastness, and swift reconciliation to Thy people, whom Thou hast redeemed by Thy precious Blood. But unto those who have departed from Thee and seek Thee not, be Thou manifest, that not one of them perish, but all of them be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth: that all may glorify the most precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ," These words of prayer expressed our desire, our prayerful hope and at the same time, our pain.

Was there complete oneness of mind at our Conference? Different opinions and different misgivings were indeed expressed. At the beginning of the Conference, we did not really know what to expect. Many of the clergymen already had established opinions, and there was tension in the air. We then began to listen to each other more attentively, and if disagreement was expressed, this was in most part done with suffering and love for the Church of Christ, for the truth.

There was great interest in all the lectures and they were genuinely appreciated. We became aware of many new aspects of the tragic history of the Russian Church in the 20th century. Special attention was given to the Blessed Metropolitan Anthony, the Blessed Metropolitan Anastassy and St. John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, and their views on the divisions in the Russian Church. We tried not only to hear their words, but to feel their spirit. We can say with one mind that the unity of the two parts of the Russian Church, the part in Russia and part that is abroad, is our desire. Discussions and personal contacts between bishops, priests and the faithful already exist to some degree and may and should continue.
At present, do impediments to unity exist? We heard a broad spectrum of opinions on this issue at the Conference. Two main impediments were singled out: "Sergianism" and ecumenism. In regards to the first, great strides have been made by the Church in Russia. The truth of the ecclesiastical path of the Russian Church Abroad and the Catacomb Church has been acknowledged--this is attested to by the fact that in Russia members of the opposition to Metropolitan Sergius’ path have been glorified. The canonization of these saints in the year 2000 signaled a turning point in the ecclesiology of the Church of Russia, although there are people who are resisting this acceptance.

An important document was issued at the Council of the Moscow Patriarchate in 2000. It speaks of the relationship between the Church and the State: the government should not intrude in the life of the Church. If the authorities force the faithful to denounce Christ and His Church, the Church must refuse obedience to the government. This is a return to the traditional patristic understanding of Apostle Paul’s words regarding "authority from God" (Romans 13:1-7), as opposed to any false interpretation of the passage.

In regard to ecumenism, we acknowledge that the Church in Russia, as reflected by a great part of its clergy and faithful, does not approve of it. The fact that the Moscow Patriarchate is a member of the World Council of Churches, and particularly of the Central Committee of this body, which counts among its members--together with a bishop and clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate--8 women priests, is a cause for sorrow. Perhaps a withdrawal from membership in the WCC is not a simple matter, but it is difficult to believe that for the Church in Russia, unity with the Protestant world is more important than unity with its Russian Orthodox brothers and sisters abroad.

Besides these issues, which have yet to be completely resolved, it is not easy for some Conferees to have complete trust in representatives of the Church in Russia. This lack of trust, and at times even fear, can be partly explained by the absence of real contact with the Church in Russia, and in part by some actions by representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate. Nevertheless, this mistrust can be overcome in part by personal contacts as well as by acts of good will on the part of the Moscow Patriarchate.

We, the participants of the All-Diaspora Conference, are aware that our parishioners are not of one mind as to the relationship between the two parts of the Russian Church. Since we are pastors of human souls, we must take this into account, and we are called upon to show both love and patience to the souls entrusted to us. The enemy of man desires to divide us and we must do everything possible to preserve our internal unity.

His Holiness Patriarch Alexy's letter to the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia was read at our Conference. We were encouraged by his words, which express his recognition of the Russian Church Abroad as being a part of the Russian Church, and his words of mutual repentance for all those words and actions which did not promote reconciliation of the two parts of the Russian Church.

We ask the forthcoming Council of Bishops to take into account our views, our parishioners’ feelings and the Resolutions of our Diocesan Conferences regarding the question of relations with the Church in Russia. We understand that this matter is an extremely difficult one and important decisions must be made. As in the past, so now, the patristic royal path is closest to our hearts.

Metropolitan Anastassy, St. John and a series of Epistles of our Councils attest to the fact that the final resolution of the relationship of the two parts of the Russian Church belongs exclusively to an All-Russian Church Council. We feel that we should strive to have such a Council convened and are ready to do our part in preparation for the Council, including participation in a Pre-conciliar Committee. We assure you, our Archpastors, of our support and prayers and beg you to speak in one voice.
Our First Hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, holds a special place among our bishops. He is a disciple of Metropolitan Anastassy and the ever-memorable Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko), and is therefore a living carrier of the traditional spirit of our Russian Church Abroad and the idea of Church unity and service to Russia. We have both great trust and love for our Metropolitan.
We hope in God’s mercy and only wish for His will to be done. It is not a coincidence that our Conference took place when the Feast of the Kursk Icon was celebrated. A new icon, the healing of the child Prokhor before the Kursk-Root Icon, was painted for this year’s celebration. It depicts priests carrying our Protectress, the Kursk-Root Icon--this Icon is with us here. Prokhor, the future great Saint Seraphim of Sarov, is depicted standing before the Icon--his relics are in Russia. When the priests brought the Kursk Icon to the ailing Prokhor, a miracle of healing took place.

Shall we not hope for a miracle of spiritual healing for all the suffering Russian people, both in the Homeland and in the diaspora?

Most Holy Theotokos, save us!
Holy Father Seraphim, pray unto God for us!

The Participants of the All-Diaspora Pastoral Conference

November 29/December 12, 2003

Nyack, USA

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