SYNOD OF BISHOPS: May 25, 2005

Epistle of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

Beloved in the Lord Flock!

The Synod of Bishops, having gathered under the protection of the host of Holy New Martyrs of Russia and of St Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra, in Munich, Germany, greets you all, the faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, with the joyful Paschal words: Christ is Risen!

Over the 85-year history of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, we have experienced various periods: times of joy and times of sorrow, times of growth and times when our numbers decreased; times of ecclesiastical peace and times of difficult forbearance in the face of forces hostile to the Church; times of division and times of coming together. During all these times, our Church not only survived and continued her existence, but actively reacted to events, to challenges, to the changes surrounding her, always remembering the main task of the Church of Christ: to save human souls.

At the present time, the Lord has placed the following goals before us: over the last 15 years, enormous changes have taken place in Russia; the process of globalization in the world is rapidly moving forward; the age of information is not only changing the way that people interact with each other, but it is changing the very character of communication; the rejection of Divine moral law is gaining strength—the very concept of the Christian family is now threatened. At the same time, the ranks of parishioners have shifted in our church life and in the lives of the Local (National) Churches; changing also are intra-church dynamics. Under these circumstances we are obligated not only to evaluate life that surrounds us, but to determine what we should do, how we are to live and how we seek salvation. In light of the abundance of positive changes in church life in Russia, we are faced with the acute question of the relationship between the part of the Russian Church abroad and the Church in Russia. This question was always of vital importance for the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, but today it is necessary to comprehend and resolve this question.

The Synod of Bishops feels that the time has come to convene the IV All-Diaspora Council (Sobor) of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, with the participation of the clergy and laity, the time of special conciliar cooperation and constructiveness has come. The IV All-Diaspora is scheduled for May 6-14, 2006, on the significant 85th anniversary of the First All-Diaspora Council, to be held at the Cathedral of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in San Francisco, a city illuminated by the spiritual labors (podvigi) of Bishop Tikhon, who later became Patriarch Tikhon of All-Russia the Confessor, and St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, whose incorruptible relics reside at the Cathedral.

A Pre-Council Committee has been established by the Synod of Bishops to prepare the IV All-Diaspora Council, under the chairmanship of His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney and the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand.

The main questions to be considered by the All-Diaspora Council are:

1. The matter of establishing normal relations between the Churches in Russia and abroad, and

2. The missions and service of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in the contemporary world.

In the near future, all diocesan bishops will receive an official Ukase on the Convening of the Council and on the process of the election of delegates. During the preparations for the Council, the ecclesiastical press (electronic and printed) will publish materials relating to this important and crucial church event.

The Synod of Bishops calls upon the clergymen and flock of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to participate in the pre-Council process, first and foremost by praying fervently for the success of the forthcoming ecclesiastical Council, that all its decisions would be pleasing to God, towards the salvation of human souls and to the benefit of the Russian Church.

Christ is Risen!

May 12/25, 2005