SAN FRANCISCO: June 29, 2007
The Synod of Bishops Addresses a Letter to Bishop Agafangel of Odessa and Taurida
Your Grace, Dear in the Lord Vladyko!
It is with considerable grief, as we observe what has been occurring with you over recent weeks and months, that we have decided to appeal to you with a brotherly admonition, seeing that this is our absolute duty. Of course, you are free not to heed our words, to reject them, but we hope that the Lord will show you another path and that you at least will not push away the hands extended to you by your brethren.
In a letter to our—and until recently, to your—First Hierarch, you wrote: "If we see the good fruits of unity, or, at the very least, a consistent positive tendency in the life of the new unity between the ROCOR and MP, then I am prepared to bring repentance before our Synod and will accept its will regarding myself."
That was wonderfully said. But Vladyko, how long were you intending to patiently await these good fruits? What timeframes do you feel are sufficient to make a positive tendency apparent enough to you?
It turns out that you did not grant the Russian Church Abroad or the Russian Church in the Fatherland even a single day for you to observe even the possibility of the appearance of good fruit.
For long decades the children of our much-suffering Church desired the reestablishment of unity, patiently and humbly believing, by the words of the Hierarchs and New Martyrs, that one day it will be granted that we can approach such unity, standing together at the one Chalice of our salvation. And their hopes were not for naught. The unity of the Russian Church, which can finally be achieved by an All-Russian Pomestny Sobor, of which you have spoken yourself in your letter, now, by the will of God, has attained real potential. But you have turned away from all of this, Vladyko. Our fathers called upon us to make way for the grace of God, and where matters seem to us doubtful, then we are not to accept, but also we are not to reject. Have you behaved in this way? No. You have refused to trust your Synod, your First Hierarch, your Church. At the same time you have allowed your name to be used to head a list of those who have left us; you have become one of the organizers of some sort of "true and genuine church abroad;" you have taken under your omophorion clergymen of other dioceses; you are establishing an unlawful "Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration." How is this compatible with your care for your diocese, which is mainly how you justify your concerns? If, as you write, you had no confidence in your decision to remain "within the former Regulations of ROCOR," then how, Vladyko, can you decide to organize a new pseudo-church?
You did not seek and are not now seeking a path to reconciliation. Yet you allow irresponsible persons to name you "the true head of the genuine ROCOR," you allow them to spew unfounded slander against your brethren and against the First Hierarch, from whom you ask archpastoral advice on what you should do in this situation, which is so complicated for you.
The ukase on your transfer to the South American cathedra could not have been a complete surprise for you; moreover, the means of regularizing the situation chosen by the Synod, whereby you would appoint a Dean to administer the parishes of the Church Abroad on the territory of the Odessa and Taurida Diocese, was the best possible solution: this way the priests and the souls of the flock could have been preserved. Patience and good will are needed to preserve the wholeness of the Church's legacy. Do you think, Vladyko, that you exhibited these virtues to the necessary degree? If so, then why did you choose to reject the genuine diocese that the Synod entrusted you with, yet you agreed to accept the role of the "head" of a false, non-existent diocese?
You seek counsel, yet you yourself "walketh in the counsel of the ungodly," and even intend to participate in unlawful episcopal consecrations, to deceive at least some of the very same flock of the Church Abroad which you call your own.
We beseech you, Vladyko, come to your senses. Try to hear the humble voice of Christ, calling to you from the depths of your own soul: is the path you choose today the Royal Path?
If you indeed seek advice, here it is before you now.
The Synod of Bishops understands the particularities of your situation, and the situation of your clergymen and flock. We ask you to believe that everything necessary will be done to seek out the best resolution of all problems. But for this, we repeat, patience and good will are necessary. You cannot be ignorant of the fact that problems in the Church are overcome only within the Church herself.
"The path to despair is not for us," St Seraphim of Sarov constantly repeated.
May the Almighty Lord send down upon you the Spirit of meekness and reason.
June 16/29, 2007