The Shepherd, February 2007

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MOVE TO FILI, 1

An Augmented Version of the Earlier News Release
By Father Alexis

THE DECISION of three communities formerly of the Russian Church Abroad in England to place themselves under the omophorion of Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili, of the Synod in Resistance in Greece, has already received wide coverage in internet lists.

The three former ROCA communities that have joined the Synod in Resistance are:

a) the Convent of the Annunciation in London, which was founded by St John of Shanghai in 1954, and until 1999 was under the spiritual guidance of the Ever-Memorable Abbess Elisabeth (Ampenoff);

b) Saint Edward Brotherhood founded in 1982 with the blessing of the Blessed and Ever-Memorable Metropolitan Philaret of New York and Eastern America, then First Hierarch of the ROCA;

c) the nascent Mission of St Boniface at Ryde on the Isle of Wight.

The reasons for our leaving the Church Abroad were summarised in a letter which I wrote on 13th December (n.s.) last year, namely: “In all conscience, members of the Brotherhood do not feel that we can accept the present rapprochement. The question of Sergianism does not seem to have been adequately addressed, and the Moscow Patriarchate’s involvement in ecumenism seems to be growing, although they have made some concessions on paper. More fundamentally, our acceptance of this mode of rapprochement requires us to accept that the Patriarchate is, and has been for decades, the Mother Church of Russia - this is not something that we have ever been taught. One may claim that the MP is the de facto Church in Russia, that she is established, even flourishing, - but, for a number of reasons, her canonical basis is not as firm as ROCA’s was until, in the last few years, she has decided to allow that to be questioned.”

Having thought and prayed about our dilemma and written to ruling ROCA hierarchs without receiving substantial replies, on our own initiative we opened a correspondence with Bishop Ambrose of Methoni of the Fili Synod. On 23rd December / 5th January, I wrote to Archbishop Mark, asking for letters of dismissal so that we might join the Synod in Resistance. His Eminence replied on 9th January that he could not issue such letters, saying: “I cannot grant such letters of dismissal by which I would agree to you placing yourself outside the Orthodox Church.” As the Synod in Resistance had for many years been a Sister Church of ROCA, and there was no evidence that she had changed her confessional course, this response appeared to us to lack foundation and spiritual sobriety.

I wrote to Archbishop Mark explaining why in all conscience we felt compelled to make this move: “Thank you very much indeed for your letter December 2, 2006 / January 9, 2007 (sic). We appreciate that you did not feel able to give our communities a blessing to seek spiritual protection under the omophorion of Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili, but thank you for at least leaving the door open for us to leave, and not forbidding us to do so [His Grace wrote to us subsequently explaining that we had misinterpreted his letter and that he did not intend this kindness.].

"Personally, I could not understand your objection, that by placing ourselves under the Synod in Resistance we would be placing ourselves outside the Church. One of the decisive factors in our joining Fili was that until recently they were a Sister Church of the Church Abroad, that in 1994 the Council of Bishops of ROCOR published minutes of a meeting held on 28th June / 11th July, in which they stated that the ‘Synod of Metropolitan Cyprian adheres wholly to the exact same ecclesiological and dogmatic principles as our Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia,’ and you yourself praised the witness of the Synod in Resistance when you visited Brookwood, shortly after going to Fili in your efforts to sort out the troubles which ensued when the Prophet Elias Skete on Athos was snatched from us.…

“Again I would like to thank you for your care in the past, and express our sorrow that in all conscience we feel unable to follow Your Grace and those with you into union with the present administration of the Moscow Patriarchate. We feel no sense of triumphalism over this move, but a sadness that the Church which we have tried faithfully to serve for years has changed her course to one which we do not recognise.”

At the end of the Liturgy on Christmas Day, so that I would be able to reach the greatest number of parishioners, I announced the fact that we had applied to Archbishop Mark for letters of dismissal and our intention to seek the spiritual protection of the Synod in Resistance.

It may be of interest to our readers to know why we left ROCA at this time - many others are contemplating leaving in May, when the Patriarch and Metropolitan Lavr sign the Act of Canonical Communion and concelebrate. However, the hierarchs’ decision has been made, and ROCA’s path ahead is clearly determined. Further, on a very practical point, Archbishop Mark’s decision to hold a Diocesan Conference in London in mid-January presented us with a problem: should we attend and risk throwing the whole meeting off course by announcing our decision, or remain silent and allow the participants to make plans which we knew would be jeopardised. It seemed best that we should leave, and allow the conference participants to plan their future course untrammelled.

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