From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, November 05, 2007 7:06 PM
To: Fr Spyridon Schneider; Fr John Somers
Subject: Concerning recent posts
Fr Spyridon, Bless.
Fr Dcn John,
It is my Holy Obedience, given by Bp Vladimir, to remove the both of you from participating anymore on the ROCElaity list. Bp Vladimir was concerned that the both of you have been addressing your concerns and beliefs to the ROCElaity group and not to him. He said that there has not been any recent communication from the both of you with these concerns that needed to be addressed by him.
Fr Spyridon. Bp Vladimir told me that upon your receiving into ROCiE last year, he verbally asked you not to write anything about the Church, and that you had agreed to abide with that obedience.
If either of you have any questions, please address them to Bp Vladimir.
Fr Dcn John Kochergin
PS - Mat Nina and Fr Andrew, as co-owner and moderator, respectively, will be made aware of this change.
October 26/November 8, 2007
Dear in Christ, Fr. Deacon John,
May God Bless you! It is very important for you to know that I am not offended or hurt in any way by your participation in this matter.
Instead, my heart goes out to you with deep sympathy and love knowing that you have been unwittingly drawn into efforts to block honest communication between faithful Orthodox Christians who love the Holy Church with all their heart and who also believe that ROCiE has embarked on a dangerous course of canonical anarchy and isolation.
However, what is most disturbing of all, is that you have been unknowingly drawn into blocking my participation on the ROCiE Laity list on the basis of false pretense.
Bishop Vladimir received Father Christopher Johnson and me into ROCiE at the same time without any conditions whatsoever. Bishop Vladimir never asked me to “not to write anything about the Church”, he never gave me an obedience “not to write anything about the Church” and I never agreed to abide by such an obedience. These are facts and Holy Obedience to the bishop cannot cover them.
Because I know your Matushka from her childhood and what a wonderful person she is, I was disappointed by your inability to attend the ROCiE Clergy Conference in Edmonton last February because I wanted to come to know you also. If you had been at the conference you would have observed:
1. That I served at the Holy Altar second in seniority directly after Fr. Konstantin Feodoroff.
2. That I was invited to give a talk on my visits to Esphigmenou Monastery on Mt. Athos freely and with censorship.
3. That I contributed freely and continuously with the dignity of clerical seniority, age and experience in the forums and discussions that followed presentations.
4. In addition, during the months of May and June, while Bishop Vladimir was traveling in Russia he personally asked me to serve at his parish in Nyack, NY. During my three visits I can assure you there here were no prohibitions placed upon my freely preaching and teaching within his parish during his absence.
5. Also, before Bishop Vladimir left for Russian he asked me to travel to Montreal Canada to represent him during a court hearing concerning the St. Job of Pochaev Brotherhood and false claims the Lavrites have made on the property of the Brotherhood.
6. And, in relationship to my function and the bishops representative, Bishop Vladimir gave me legal and documented “Power of Attorney” to review sensitive information and to testify on his behalf.
7. When Bishop Vladimir returned home from Russia at the beginning of July, Bishop Vladimir gave me permission and his blessing to speak with clergy who are loyal to Bishop Agafangel in order to explore the possibility of reconciliation between our two groups.
8. After I spoke with these clergy and reported to Bishop Vladimir, His Grace gave me another blessing to meet with Bishop Agafangel to further explore the possibility of reconciliation.
9. And, when Bishop Vladimir met with Bishop Agafangel, His Grace urged me to accompany him on this visit and encouraged my full participation in discussions which examined the many things we shared in common and our few differences and how they might be resolved.
10. Later in the summer, at the request of Bishop Vladimir, Fr. Andrew Kencis, Fr. Christopher Johnson, Fr. Deacon John Somers and I, traveled to Mansonville for the feast of the Holy Transfiguration where I served as the senior priest.
11. Moreover, in open discussions after the Vigil, I asked Bishop Vladimir some difficult questions and open discussion followed. Even though my questions were public and even though they challenged some things that have happened in our church that were uncanonical, Bishop Vladimir never reminded me, either privately, or, publicly, that I was “out of order” and that I had been banned from expressing my understanding of the events and what they meant.
As you can see, Dear Father, my personal testimony and the facts that I have presented above unequivocally demonstrate that I was received into ROCiE without restrictions with full participation and freedom of expression in all aspects of Church life.
So, let me repeat: “Bishop Vladimir never asked me “not to write anything about the Church”, he never gave me an obedience “not to write anything about the Church” and I never agreed to abide by such an obedience. These are the facts and obedience to the bishop cannot compel either you, or me, to hide the truth and agree to a lie when it concerns the reputation and dignity of a priest of God, or, any person whatsoever even if he be an unbeliever.
In the same email you also say: “Bp Vladimir was concerned that the both of you (Fr. Deacon John Somers and Fr. Spyridon) have been addressing your concerns and beliefs to the ROCE laity group and not to him. He said that there has not been any recent communication from the both of you with these concerns that needed to be addressed by him.”
For the record, let me say that in fact I have “recently” tried to address my concerns to Bishop Vladimir on many occasions, of which four attempts stand out.
1. Immediately when Bishop Vladimir arrived home from his trip to Russia, I went to see him with Fr. Christopher. After the usual greetings, I asked Bishop Vladimir, for the very first time, one compound question: Did you see Bishop Anastasy while you were in Russian and is there any progress toward convening a Sobor? To my embarrassment for him, Bishop Vladimir became very angry, began waving his hands, screwed up his face and loudly said: “Sobor! Sobor! Sobor! All I hear is Sobor! What do you think, I am stupid and you have to ask me all the time about a Sobor? Bishop Vladimir said this and some other angry words that I blocked from memory, however, he communicated clearly that there would be no communication on this topic and that I (and we) should mind our own business.
2. On another occasion I asked to speak to Bishop Vladimir and he agreed. Fr. Christopher and I traveled several hours to New York, picked up Bishop Vladimir in Nyack and traveled into the City, to the apartment of a Russian layperson who is competently bilingual and who had agreed to act as translator. I then began to ask Bishop Vladimir a question about the circumstances surrounding Archbishop Lazarus’ and Bishop Benjamin’s lack of participation in the early decisions of ROCiE. Bishop Vladimir became furious, again twisted up his face and loudly began to attack me saying, who was I to ask questions, this was a matter for the bishops! He said, the whole time he was in Russia, during which he traveled continuously among catacomb communities, only one person asked him such a question.
3. A few weeks later, Bishop Vladimir urged me to come to Mansonville for the Feast of Holy Transfiguration and a memorial for Metropolitan Vitaly of Blessed Memory with as many people as I could bring from my parish. Prior to going to Mansonville for the Feast I spent more than three weeks reading documents in English and Russian about Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin and their alleged schism. My interest in this matter exists because I am very troubled by several facts:
a. The remnants of ROCOR, who were a short time ago our brothers in Christ, are now divided into five different groups which are involved in mutual recriminations and are rapidly becoming sects who do not have communion with one another.
b. This concern is magnified by the fact that none of the other remnants from ROCOR consider ROCiE as an alternative, because of our self inflicted wounds caused by public and humiliating schisms and erratic behavior.
c. I am also troubled by the fact that we do not have a Synod of Bishops to make God inspired decisions in the spirit of Sobornost which confirms the life of the Holy Church.
d. Further, I am troubled because, even after a casual review of the facts in light of the “ROCOR Regulations”, the “Holy Canons” and”Ukase 362” issued by Patriarch Tikhon we can see clearly that Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin were uncanonically and illegally blocked from participating in the Hierarchical Sobor of the Church to which they belonged. And, this created a schism for which the Bishops of ROCiE are responsible.
Therefore, after Trapeza following the Vigil for Holy Transfiguration, and, in the presence of Fr. Andrew Kencis, Fr. Christopher Johnson and Fr. Deacon John Somers, I engaged Bishop Vladimir in a discussion about Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin. At first the discussion seemed encouraging, however, when I began to quote from letters written by Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff, Archbishop Varnava, and, Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Vladimir, His Grace realized that I expected a discussion in which different understandings need to be compared, modified and reconciled.
Seeing that I wasn’t simply asking for his Hierarchical opinion, “ex cathedra”, but that I expected open discussion in which documented facts that conflicted with his assertions would be considered, Bishop Vladimir, being in a public forum, became very dark, momentarily quiet and then loudly stamped both feet on the floor, slammed his fists on the table with and stood up ending the discussion. Bishop Vladimir immediately approached me and angrily said “Lazarus and Benjamin are schismatics and heretics. They were from the MP and they are Red clergy, yes they were in our church, but they are Red”. A short time later, Bishop Vladimir appeared embarrassed by his previous outburst and after a few minutes of social conversation in the Monastery dining room he came to Fr. Andrew Kencis and me and said that tomorrow, after the Feast and Trapeza, we could meet and discuss these things.
1. The next day, after the services and Trapeza, Bishop Vladimir went to the apartment over the Monastery candle shop and about an hour later Fr. Andrew Kencis, Fr. Christopher Johnson, Fr. Deacon John and I were invited to meet with His Grace. However, before any substantive conversation was able to take place Bishop Vladimir became falling-down-drunk. After a short time we asked for Bishop Vladimir’s blessing and began our return to the United States.
In summary, let me simply repeat what I said above: “Bishop Vladimir never asked me “not to write anything about the Church”, he never gave me an obedience “not to write anything about the Church” and I never agreed to abide by such an obedience. Furthermore, contrary to the assertion by Bishop Vladimir that Fr. Deacon John and I “have been” inappropriately “addressing” our “concerns and beliefs to the ROCE laity group and not to him.” is totally false and a gross misrepresentation. As I have demonstrated above, I have driven hundreds of miles in order to have discussions with Bishop Vladimir and every attempt at communication has been blocked by Bishop Vladimir who falsely claims that I have not communicated with him. Moreover, these false statements and misrepresentations which you published on the ROCE Laity list are slanders against my person and my priesthood.
These are the historical and material facts and obedience to the bishop cannot compel either you, or me, to hide the truth and agree to a lie when it concerns the reputation and dignity of a Priest of God, or any person whatsoever, even if he be an unbeliever.
Dear Father, Let me ask you a question: If an angel of light appeared to you and demanded that you consent to a lie – about the censure and pretended disobedience of a Priest of God - would you agree to do this, or, would you immediately discern and know that the angel who spoke to you was a messenger of darkness and the Father of lies? In the end, Dear father, we will not be held accountable to our bishops, but to Christ our God, and, our bishops will be held accountable before God, on the matter of whether or not they have led their clergy and flock into the truth of Christ.
Again, let me pose another question: If a bishop lies about the clergy under him, or about the decisions of the Hierarchical Sobors of the Church, do these lies become “the truth” because they were uttered by a bishop?
When I was a child my father taught me to always tell the truth and to never lie even about “small things”. In time I learned that even lies about seemingly insignificant matters darken and corrupt the soul, while keeping the truth in all things, large or small, secular or holy, attract the Light of Christ and prepare us for the moment of Truth and salvation when our Faith in Christ will be finally tested. From time to time we should all review the Holy Scriptures in the matter of lying and deceitfulness. Let me draw you attention to but two passages:
When speaking about accountability with regard to material things the Holy Apostle Paul said: Acts 5:4-5. “Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Spirit…… why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. 5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
And the Holy Apostle Paul, speaking in the Holy Spirit said: 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12. “And then shall that Wicked (one will) be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
However, the most significant thing is this: Bishop Vladimir is not simply lying to you about me in private. Although this would be significant and troubling because it would raise the question of truthfulness about everything else he says, if the lie were private and personal, we as faithful Orthodox Christians would cover this personal sin. However, Bishop Vladimir’s misrepresentations and lying are much more significant than a lie about an individual person. Bishop Vladimir is the Webmaster of the official ROCiE Website and this Website, for which he is responsible, is filled with lies and fabrications about the historical facts of our church’s existence, its significant events and its decisions. What is significant about this fact is that these lies and fabrications directly impact upon the unity of our church with other confessing Orthodox Jurisdictions, Bishops and Christians, and make it impossible for our church to fulfill the apostolic imperative requiring church unity expressed by the Holy Nicene Creed when we say: “I believe in One Holy Catholic Church”.
A further difficulty we have in resolving the issues of truth, falsehood and accountability with Bishop Vladimir, is that His Grace is a Bishop of the Holy Church and holds, therefore, the highest and most sacred office which innately implies the necessary existence of the seal of Episcopal integrity and honesty which, by their magnitude and weight, overshadow and render suspect the counter-claims of a priest who says that he is being slandered and misrepresented by the bishop. Therefore, because of this lack of moral parity/equality, based solely upon office of the Episcopate and not on personal integrity, and, because these lies and misrepresentations impact upon the integrity and unity of the Confessing Russian Orthodox Church, it is necessary to examine at least a small segment of the history of lies and misrepresentations in the affairs of ROCiE to discern how serious this whole matter is.
Please understand that the full significance of these fabrications will only become clear when we see the whole picture which is made up of several parts.
As a means of transition, I will quote your email of Mon 11/5/2007 where you repeated what Bishop Vladimir told you and said: “Since I am not an authoritative source on Church Canons or on the recent history of the Bps Lazarus/Benjamin schism, the group who left after the declaration against Met Cyprian, or the intricate details of Bp Agafangel and the many priests that have followed him, it was important to get correct answers for these issues”.
Last weekend, during my visit to the Convent of Our Lady of Vladimir, I had the opportunity to speak in person with Bp Vladimir concerning the multitude of statements that were made on this list. I did not address each specific issue that was brought to attention, but focused on the main ideas that were brought up in the discussions.”
Dear Father, in this statement you make three unexamined assertions that are of interest: 1. You refer to Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin as: “the group who left after the declaration against Met Cyprian”, and, 2. Since I am not an authoritative source on Church Canons…. it was important to get correct answers for these issues” by, 3. speaking “in person with Bp Vladimir, whom you would expect to be, without examination, “an authoritative source”.
The first difficulty we have with discussing the matters of misunderstanding and discrepancy in the ROCiE community, particularly the alleged schism of Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin, is rooted in the fact that rational, investigative discussion is prohibited by the purposely false claim of Bishop Vladimir that these bishops went into schism. Let me assure you, with regard to ROCiE’s integrity and with regard to Bishop Vladimir’s integrity, we have long ago moved beyond the point where we can go to Bishop Vladimir as “an authoritative source” “to get correct answers for these issues,” based “on Church Canons”. Arriving at this realization is a painful and disappointing process, however, once a Bishop of the Church makes a false claims and misrepresents the facts, the attempt to discover the truth in this and other matters is obstructed because it involves the misuse of the sacred office of episcopal authority. In short, Bishop Vladimir has resorted to slandering his clergy, blocking open and free discourse and demanding that, as an act of obedience to him, his clergy must accept his lies and false claims as historical facts, because they were made by a bishop.
In reality, historical facts are simply that, historical facts, and the authority of a bishop cannot change them. By his actions Bishop Vladimir is either hiding his shame and the embarrassment that he has because he does not have the research and analytic skills necessary to discover the truth, or, he is consciously fabricating events in order to arrive at false conclusions that lead the church in directions that he believes are superior to the directions dictated by the historical reality God has made know to us. The problems that ROCiE faces are deep and complicated and nothing short of an act by God and a lot of hard work will allow us to get to the root of the matter and enter upon the path of repentance.
Saint John, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco, speaking about the betrayal of Russia and the Royal Family, once said: “The tribulation which has befallen Russia is the direct result of grievous sins, and rebirth can take place only after it has cleansed itself of them. Yet hitherto there has been no genuine repentance; the crimes which have been committed have not been openly condemned; and many active participants maintain that at the time they could not have done otherwise.”
As you undoubtedly know, ROCiE has had at least six schisms in its short life which have been caused by the fraudulent and uncanonical activity of its bishops and senior clergy. As a preview let me simply name these schisms: 1. The schism caused by the uncanonical banning of Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin; 2. The French Schism which occurred as a result of the uncanonical resolution condemning Metropolitan Cyprian of Fili; 3. The so called “Melehov” schism which occurred when Protopresbyter Victor Melehov was literally driven out of ROCiE after a series of violent and false accusations against him by the Syond of Bishops; 4. The Archbishop Varnava and Fr. Anatoly Trepatschko Schism; 5. The Archbishop Antony Orloff and Archbishop Victor Pivovarov Schism; and, 6. The Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff and Bishop Antony of Moldova Schism.
So now, let us continue by examining at least a few of the most important schisms.
I. The so-called Lazarus and Benjamin Schism which was caused by the uncanonical banning of Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin in the life of ROCiE and its Hierarchical Sobor:Reported on the ROCiE English Language Website: (http://www.rocor- v.com/rocor/ roceofficial.html). Most often fraud and misrepresentation and are committed by false statements, misrepresentation of events and intentional misinterpretation of facts. However, fraud and misrepresentation are also perpetrated by the overt suppression of historical events and facts. The suppression of facts is particularly deceptive and pernicious because it denies the God given historical reality of our life as a church. The fraud and misrepresentation concerning the “so-called” Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin Schism was perpetrated by the suppression of facts.
A. The facts: In order to see the matter of fraud committed by the suppression of facts we must make certain self evident assertions and we must consult two authoritative documents which are formative in establishment of the Russian Church Abroad, Patriarch Tikhon’s Ukase #362 issued in 1920 and the Regulations of the Russian Church Abroad adopted by the Hierarchical Sobor in 1956 and again in 1964 which are still in force.
1. Assertion: Certainly, ROCiE under Metropolitan Vitaly claimed to be the continuation of the Russian Church Abroad. If this is true:
a. Then, ROCiE was required to live according the founding principles and Regulations of The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad Confirmed by the Council of Bishops in 1956 and by a decision of the Council dated 5/18 June, 1964.
b. Simply, if you claim to be the continuation of an organization, then you must demonstrate this by the principle of continuity and live according to its founding principles, regulations and the legislative force of its canonical pronouncements and their tradition of application.
1. Founding Principles Ukase #362:
a. According to Ukase #362, proclaimed by Patriarch Tikhon on 20/7 November 1920, paragraph 2, "In the event a diocese…………. finds itself completely out of contact with the Higher Church Administration …… the diocesan bishop immediately enters into relations with the bishops of neighboring dioceses for the purpose of organizing a higher instance of ecclesiastical authority”
b. And, according to paragraph 3 of the same ukase, Care for the organization of a Higher Church Authority …. is the indispensable obligation of the senior bishop of such a group.
1. Regulations of The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad: Confirmed by the Council of Bishops in 1956 and by a decision of the Council dated 5/18 June, 1964 which are still in force for ROCiE if in fact is the continuation of the historical Russian Church Abroad.
a. In accordance with paragraph #7, The Council of Bishops …. is the highest law-making administrative, judicial and controlling body in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
b. In accordance with paragraph #8, The President of the Council of Bishops and the Synod of Bishops is the Metropolitan and First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, and is elected for life by the Council.
c. Also, in accordance with paragraph #8, All bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad are members of the Council.
d. Finally, in accordance with paragraph #9 of the ROCOR Regulations, Members of the Council who for some special valid reason cannot be present at a Council, must give their opinion on questions raised at the Council …... Absent bishops have the right, in matters concerning their diocese or vicariate, to send their proxies (of priestly rank).
1. The statement of Metropolitan Vitaly. Now let us look at the genuine and free will of Metropolitan Vitaly in this matter. On December 29, 2001 during the Mansonville Sobor, Metropolitan Vitaly, with total clarity and freedom of thought, made his definitive pronouncement concerning the Church in Russia and the structure of the Russian Church Abroad in general. His Eminence said: “After many long, hard years of trying to manage The Church in Russia from New York, I have learned:
a. that it is impossible to manage the church in Russia from Abroad.
b. We do not know and understand their problems and we do not know their people and we do not know the possible candidates for the clergy.
c. Without a knowledge of their people and their problems it is impossible for those living Abroad to administer their affairs, and,
d. the best that we can do is give them Apostolic Succession and Grace and allow them to organize while maintaining communion with them and pray that they will be able to do something for themselves.”
e. Metropolitan Vitaly then said: “There must be a separate administration in Russia, another administration in Europe and a third administration in North American.”
1. In summary:
a. Metropolitan Vitaly knew that there were bishops in Russian loyal to him.
b. He knew that they were part of the continuing Russian Church Abroad and ROCiE and,
c. His Eminence, as First Hierarch, Father and Elder of the continuing Russian Church Abroad expressed his definitive will and intention for the bishops and Church in Russia.
d. Conversely, in complete contradiction to the claims of Archbishop Varnava and Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff, Metropolitan Vitaly did not believe that Archbishop had been appointed Archbishop of All Russia (a claim that Bishop Varnava pre-dates to October 23/November 5, 2001), and,
e. Metropolitan Vitaly did not think that the continuing ROCOR should have jurisdiction over Russia.
B. Facts demonstrating that Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin were bishops of ROCiE from the beginning: When Metropolitan Laurus and those who followed him irretrievably committed themselves to reunion with the Moscow Patriarchate and World Ecumenism, Metropolitan Vitaly and his followers separated themselves from the synod of Metropolitan Laurus for the purpose of continuing the course of the Historic Russian Church Abroad.
1. At this moment three canonical bishops in good standing remained loyal to Metropolitan Vitaly and broke communion with Metropolitan Laurus. By seniority these bishops were Archbishop Lazarus of Tambov and Odessa, Bishop Benjamin of the Black Sea and Kuban and Bishop Varnava, Vicar Bishop of Cannes.
2. Because we are examining the status of Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin, it is important to note that immediately, either on October 28th, 29th or 30th, 2001, Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin made their declaration of loyalty to Metropolitan Vitaly by telephone. This phone call was received by Bishop (the Hieromonk) Vladimir in Mansonville in the presence of Protopriest Spyridon Schneider and Priest Andrew Kencis. When Bishop Vladimir finished his phone call with Archbishop Lazarus he enthusiastically proclaimed: “Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin are with us, they are commemorating Metropolitan Vitaly.”
3. In addition, on November 7/20, 2001, Archbishop Lazarus issued an Ukase to is diocese in Russia requiring the clergy to commemorate Metropolitan Vitaly as First Hierarch. “… Hieromonk Polycarp, Bishop Lazarus’ Kelenik writes to you … and reports that His Grace Archbishop Lazarus' has ordered the entire Sacred Diocese entrusted to him, “to Commemorate Our Lord and Father, His Eminence Metropolitan Vitaly, First Hierarch of The Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. November 7/20, 2001”.
4. Again on December 17/30, 2001 Bishop Benjamin reaffirmed his loyalty to Metropolitan Vitaly. “Our First Hierarch, Metropolitan Vitaly was chosen and set above us by the Holy Spirit which acts in The Church. Moreover, he is the worthy continuation of his predecessors: the Metropolitans of Antony, Anastassy and Philaret in the administration of Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and he has now done nothing to step back from the truth. Therefore I, being a member of Christ’s Church never ceased commemorating the name of Metropolitan Vitaly as First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad during the Divine Services and I support his efforts to protect of the flock of Christ from exploitation. Bishop Veniamin of the Black Sea and Kuban. December 17 (30), 2001.
5. Conflicting Evidence: In a letter written by Archbishop Varnava to Bishop Vladimir on March 4/17, 2002, Archbishop Varnava points out that after the retirement of Metropolitan Vitaly, Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin a. continued to participate in the work of the Synod in New York, and, b. based on claims of Bishop Gabriel, Secretary of the Synod, that the mistakes made by the 2000 and 2001 Sobors would be corrected, Archbishop Lazarus urged Archbishop Varnava to return to New York and work for the correction of these errors.
What is the significance of this? While it is true that these events did occur, Archbishop Varnava fails to point out that
a. these actions occurred before Metropolitan Vitaly left the Synod building to return to Mansonville and therefore, before the intentions of Metropolitan Vitaly were announced.
b. And, these contacts occurred before Metropolitan Vitaly issued his Extraordinary Declaration issued on October 23/November 5, 2001.
Conclusion: The only conclusion that can be reached when the facts are weighed in light of the founding principles of Ukase #362 and the ROCOR Regulations, is that Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin were canonical bishops of ROCiE when Metropolitan Vitaly established himself in Mansonville. In addition, they continued under the Omophorion of Metropolitan Vitaly which is confirmed by their pledge of loyalty made by telephone and their Ukase to their clergy.
C. Evidence that Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin were blocked from participation in the life and Hierarchical Synod.
Material Evidence in the form of Omissions.
a. In his letter written to Bishop Vladimir on March 4/17, 2002, Archbishop Varnava makes several statements that demonstrate that he did not accept Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin as Hierarchs of the continuing Russian Church Abroad and that he did everything in his power to block their participation. On October 23/November 5, 2001, Archbishop Varnava claims that he was appointed by Metropolitan Vitaly as “Deputy” to Metropolitan Vitaly and that he received sweeping powers that even the Metropolitan himself could not claim with out the approval of the Hierarchical Sobor.
“One should also recall that Vladyka with Metropoli with the revival of our church, Metropolitan Vitaly appointed me his deputy.
Note: According to the Regulations of ROCOR, a deputy to the Metropolitan would require approval of the Sobor of Bishops.
That the new Hierarchical Hierarchical Sobor, with the participation VladykaVladyka Metropolitan and VladykaVladyka Sergius elevated me to the dignity of Archbishop of Cannes and Europe i.e., with authority over the entirety of European Russia.
Note: In the historical ROCO, the Archbishop of Europe never had authority over Russia and, this could not be granted with out he consent of the ruling bishops in Russia.
And, VladykaMetropolitan blessed me to receive parishes under his Omophorion beyond the boundaries of my designated territory.
Notes: This claim is canonical lawlessness, not even a Synod of bishops can give one bishop authority over another bishop’s territory without first removing the ruling bishop through the proceedins of a spiritual court, or, by obtaining his consent.
In the same letter, Archbishop Varnava writes to Bishop Vladimir: “After your insistent petition for the reception into the bosom of our church of the Right Reverends Lazarus and Benjamin, in the first days January 2002; I agreed to their reception on the condition that specific and limited authorities in the new church organization will be given to them.
In the same letter Archbishop Varnava then says: “It is necessary to stop the consideration of an organization with Lazarus and Veniamin. There is now being conducted a developed action for the take-over and destruction of our church, in which these Right Reverends participate.
“Therefore, they must be held to the most limited rights. In opposition to them, as Metropolitan Vitaly’s Deputy, I should be granted wide care over Russia".
It is a further material fact that Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin were not consulted when Archbishop Serge, Bishop Vladimir and Bishop Bartholomew were nominated and elected bishops.
In addition, Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin were not invited to the December 28-30, 2001 Mansonville Sobor, while Archbishop Varnava, who was not present for the Sobor, was kept in constant contact with the proceedings through continuous phone calls and faxes an accommodation that could have been extended to Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin if it was ever the intent of ROCiE to include them in the proceedings.
While the opinions of Archbishop Varnava were solicited on every issue during the Sobor, the opinions of Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin were never solicited.
A review of the documents on the ROCiE website will reveal that none of the documents have the signatures of Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin.
Conclusion of this sequence: Two things are absolutely clear: 1. Archbishop Varnava, Protopriest Benjamin and those who conspired with them, believed that ROCiE was a “new church organization” (Letter of Archbishop Varnava to Bishop Vladimir). 2. That Archbishop Varnava wrongly believed that his appointment as “deputy” by Metropolitan Vitaly had given him sweeping powers over all Church territories disregarding all previous diocesan structures and canonical protections. 3. That, as Deputy, Archbishop Varnava believed that he outranked and had veto power over the Sobor of Bishops and all of the other Hierarchs. 4. And finally, Archbishop Varnava clearly used his powers to block the participation of Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin even accusing them of conspiring to destroy the Church: “There is now being conducted a developed action for the take-over and destruction of our church, in which these Right Reverends participate.” In short, rchbishop Varnava, Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff and those conspiring with them never intended to allow Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin to assume their canonical rights and duties as ruling bishops and members of the Hierarchical Sobor of the continuing ROCOR under Metropolitan Vitaly.
During a conversation with Mother Isihia in early August 2007, she told Protopriest Spyridon that at the very first meeting in Mansonville on, or about, November 7th, 2001, Archbishop Varnava said that he would not receive Archbishop Lazarus as senior (to himself) hierarch. What is remarkable about this statement is that according to the founding principles and ROCOR Regulations Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin were already members of ROCiE and its Hierarchical Synod. Self evidently the statement that Bishop Varnava “would not receive Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin” means that Bishop Varnava participated in blocking their participation.
In a letter written by Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff to Bishop Vladimir 12/26/06 – 1/8/07, Protopriest Benjamin says: “I had correspondence with you at the end of 2001, or early in 2002, when you tried to bring Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin under the Omophorion of Metropolitan Vitaly, giving them jurisdiction over the whole of Russia. I remember that my hair stood up on end from your line of reasoning: I was talking to you about one thing, and you were responding to me about another...” Once again, this statement by Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff means that he objected to and blocked the participation of Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin in the life of ROCiE and the Hierarchical Synod.
Because this information is in a letter written by Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff to Bishop Vladimir, we know that Bishop Vladimir is fully aware that the participation of Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin in the life of ROCiE and the Hierarchical Synod was blocked. In short, Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin were cut off from communication with Metropolitan Vitaly and the Hierarchical Synod of their Church.
Conclusion: Because ROCiE claimed to be the continuation of ROCOR, Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin were automatically members of the Hierarchical Synod as required by ROCOR Regulations. (paragraph 3.c above) The fact that their presence and opinions were not requested or allowed is a clear violation of the regulations which say: “Members of the Council who for some special valid reason cannot be present at a Council, must give their opinion on questions raised at the Council”. Finally, it is worth noting that Archbishop Lazarus was senior hierarch after Metropolitan Vitaly and Bishop Benjamin was senior to Bishop Varnava because Bishop Varnava was a Suffragan Bishop without a diocese.
The alleged schism of Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin: By their actions Archbishop Varnava and Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff created a schism by denying Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin their canonical rights as bishops of the Russian Church Abroad. While they and Bishop Vladimir would like us to believe the fraud that Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin created this schism, we see that responsibility for this act falls squarely upon the heads of Archbishop Varnava and Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff. Sadly, their actions were schismatic and they accomplished their evil goals by abusing the legacy and authority of Metropolitan Vitaly who completely disagreed with their actions. Remarkably, the genuine and free will of Metropolitan Vitaly in this matter was expressed before the full membership of the Mansonville Sobor on December 15/ 29, 2001. At that time Metropolitan Vitaly spoke to the issue of the Church in Russia with total clarity and freedom of thought and said:
“After many long, hard years of trying to manage the church in Russia from New York, I have learned that it is impossible to manage the church in Russian from Abroad. We do not know and understand their problems and we do not know their people and possible candidates for the clergy. Without a knowledge of their people and their problems the best that we can do is give them Apostolic Succession and Grace and allow them to organize while maintaining communion with them and praying that they will be able to do something for themselves.” The Metropolitan then said: “There must be a separate administration in Russia, another administration in Europe and a third administration in North American..”
In light of this wise and prophetic understanding uttered by Metropolitan Vitaly with regard to Archbishop Lazarus and his concern for the Church in Russia and the clear need for a separate administration, we see that Archbishop Lazarus was in agreement with the mind and will of our Holy Vladyka and Elder Hierarch, Metropolitan Vitaly.
It is known to nearly everyone familiar with the Metropolitan Vitaly, that during his last years Ms. Ludmila Rosniansky was his secretary and that she had an unnatural obsession to be Metropolitan Vitaly’s companion. Because of her obsession, Ms. Rosniansky believed that it was necessary for her to vigorously protect her position and to accomplish this end she slavishly obeyed the directives and instructions given to her by those who had the power to remove her from her position. Moreover, because Metropolitan Vitaly trusted Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff more than any other person, he had the power to keep or remove Ms. Ludmila Rosniansky from the side of Metropolitan Vitaly. Therefore, knowing that her continuing relationship with Metropolitan depended upon her pleasing Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff, Ms. Rosniansky brokered access to Metropolitan Vitaly in accordance with the directions of Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff. This meant that only those people who had been approved by Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff had access to Metropolitan Vitaly. As a result, Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin were denied access to the Metropolitan.
On April 4/17, 2002, recalling the painful reality of being denied access to and communication with Metropolitan Vitaly, Archbishop Lazarus wrote:
“In the USA and Canada we see how the traitors of our First Hierarch harassed him, first by legal prosecutions and then by inventive intrigues that deny him those normal circumstances necessary to fulfill his responsibilities. However, the matter is aggravated by the fact that among the people supporting our First Hierarch, discord rules between different factions, with rivalry and infighting for the influence and the inheritance of (Metropolitan Vitaly).”
“However, the most important condition for normal church life is the direct contact of our First Hierarch with the Russian bishops. The enemies of our church understand this well. From the very beginning, they tried to disrupt the relationship of the parishes in Russia with Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and to create conflict between the First Hierarch and Archbishop Lazarus. Taking into account these lessons of the recent past, direct contact between the Russian bishops and their First Hierarch is vitally necessary.”
During a period of about two months, in early 2002, Ludmila Rosniansky, who was seen as a threat to the wellbeing of Metropolitan Vitaly, was prohibited by court order from attending to his daily needs. As a result, she was no longer able to control contact with Metropolitan Vitaly in obedience to her supporters Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff, Archbishop Varnava and Archbishop Antony Orloff. During this time of freedom for Metropolitan Vitaly, Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin were able to establish direct telephone contact with His Eminence. As a result of their discussions which had the importance of a synodal meeting, Metropolitan Vitaly wrote an Ukase with his own hand, granting Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin the blessing to establish a Synod in Russia which was the exact fulfillment of Metropolitan Vitaly’s prophetic directive pronounced on December 15/29, 2001.
While people argue that Metropolitan Vitaly’s decision to grant a blessing to Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin to establish a Synod of Bishops and a “Higher Church Authority”, exceeded the authority of the Metropolitan and could not be made by the Metropolitan alone, it is self evident that this decision was in fact “not made him alone”. Rather, it was made in Sobornost by the cooperation of Metropolitan Vitaly, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad and two senior Hierarchs of the continuing Russian Church Abroad in Russia. In addition, authority for this extraordinary action was granted in 1920 by Patriarch Tikhon when he issued Ukase #362. And while there are some who disagree, this Ukase remains in effect until the future convening of a Free, All Russian Church Sobor that includes the Free Russian Church in Russia and The Russian Church Abroad. By reading this Ukase with due consideration, it will be seen that the exact conditions addressed by this Ukase were suffered by Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin.
(Par 2.) “In the event a diocese…. finds itself completely out of contact with the Higher Church Administration…. the diocesan bishop must immediately enter into relations with the bishops of neighboring dioceses for the purpose of organizing a higher instance of ecclesiastical authority.” (Par. 3) And, “Care for the organization of a Higher Church Authority …. is the indispensable obligation of the senior bishop of such a group.”
As has been shown above, in extraordinary circumstances of separation due to persecution, Ukase #362 applies. And, it has been demonstrated that:
Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin were denied their canonical rights as member of the continuing Russian Church Abroad.
As a result of this denial, communication with the “Higher Church Authority” of the continuing ROCOR was cut off.
And, Being cut off from the central administration which was controlled by Archbishop Varnava and Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff , Ukase #362 comes into effect and justifies and renders valid Metropolitan Vitaly’s decision to bless the establishment of an Synod of Bishops and a Higher Church Authority in Russia.
In writing his Ukase, Metropolitan Vitaly expressed the unanimous decision of this temporary extraordinary Sobor whose participants included: His Emienence Metropolitan Vitaly, His Eminence Archbishop Lazarus and His Grace Bishop Benjamin.
Metropolitan Vitaly’s Ukase declared:
Your Eminences, Dear Vladykas,
Yes, God will bless to you to complete the consecration of new bishops. It is necessary for you to create your Hierarchical Synod which would be in accordance with our Hierarchical Synod.
At the next Sobor I will report to all our bishops about this decision. We will be at one with Russia and at one with our different church administrations.
Church life itself is that which, most of all, dictates this to us..
Protect us O Christ, yes protect us under the Omophorion of your Most Pure Mother.
Your Sincere intercessor,
+ Metropolitan Vitaly
February 26 /March 11, 2002
II. The second Act of fraud and misrepresentation found on the ROCiE English Language Website involves the invocation of lies and misrepresentations in order to uncanonically replace Fr. Victor Melehov as Secretary of ROCiE and falsely impose Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff in his place: Found at “http://www.rocor- v.com/rocor/ roceofficial.html” under the category of “Official Statements”.
A. The first deviation from the truth in this matter is that the meeting held in Mansonville Canada on December 28-30, 2001 (NS) was originally entitled: “The Mansonville Sobor of the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile.”
Archbishop Varnava of Cannes was in constant communication with the proceedings of this Sobor by telephone and fax and he communicated that this meeting was to be declared a Sobor of the Church and he stated that he would and did sign its resolutions and minutes “with both of my hands”.
Witnesses to this fact who attended the meeting and with whom I have communicated for verification include: Fr. Andrew Kencis, Fr. Spyridon Schneider, Fr. Michael Marcinowski and Mother Isihia.
Witnesses to this fact who did not attend the meeting but viewed the Website when it was first launched and remember that the Mansonville Meeting was designated a Sobor of the Church include: Fr. Deacon Somers and Fr. Christopher Johnson.
The final confirmation of the fact that the December meeting in Mansonville had the status of a Hierarchical Sobor is demonstrated by the reality that this Sobor condemned the ecclesiology of Metropolitan Cyprian of Fili and broke communion with his Synod.
Because communion Metropolitan Cyprian of Fili had been established by an “Hierarchical Sobor” in 1994, the decision could have only been overturned by an Hierarchical Sobor of equal or greater authority, but certainly not by a meeting of the North American Clergy.
Deduction: If the Masonville Sobor had been only a “North American Clergy Conference” it would not have had the authority to overturn a Sobor of the Russian Church Abroad. Certainly such experienced clergy as Metropolitan Vitaly, Bishop Serge, Bishop Vladimir, Bishop Bartholomew and Bishop Antony Orloff it would have known this fact.
III. The third act of fraud and misrepresentation found on the ROCiE English Language Website involves the invocation of lies and misrepresentations in order to uncanonically replace Fr. Victor Melehov as Secretary of ROCiE and falsely impose Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff in his place: Found at “http://www.rocor- v.com/rocor/ roceofficial.html” under the category of “Official Statements”.
The third discrepancy on the website concerns the status of Protopresbyter Victor Melehov. According to the Website in its current revised form, the minutes of the Mansonville Sobor/North American Clergy Conference report that it was resolved: “To appoint Protopresbyter Victor Melehov as Secretary in North America (USA and Canada) of the newly incorporated Russian Orthodox Church in Exile, and Priest Michael Marcinowski as its Treasurer.”
In reality Protopresbyter Victor Melehov was nominated by Fr. Anatoly Trepatschko and unanimously elected by all of the clergy and bishops of the Mansonville Sobor as Secretary of the to be newly incorporated “Russian Orthodox Church in Exile”. The words “in North America (USA and Canada)” were added later as a fraudulent attempt to hide the fact that Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff was retroactively made Secretary of ROCiE, usurping duly elected position which belonged to Protopresbyter Victor Melehov.
In addition, I, Protopriest Spyridon Schneider was present at a meeting between Bishop Vladimir, Protopresbyter Victor Melehov at the Church of St. John The Russian in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
During this meeting Bishop Vladimir asked Fr. Victor Melehov to step aside as Secretary of the Church and to accept in stead, the position of Secretary of the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile in North America.
Bishop Vladimir explained to Protopresbyter Victor Melehov that Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff would not accept Fr. Victor as the Secretary of ROCiE and if he stepped down this would solve this conflict.
Fr. Victor Melehov responded that it would be wrong for him to reject the position to which he had been unanimously elected by a Sobor of the Church and accept a position to which he had not be elected.
Fr. Victor then asked Bishop Vladimir if someone else had been elected Secretary of ROCiE and Bishop Vladimir admitted that no one had been elected to this position.
The fact that Protopresbyter Victor Melehov was elected Secretary of ROCiE was known by all and has been confirmed by Fr. Andrew Kencis, Fr. Spyridon Schneider, Fr. Eugene Santalov, Fr. Deacon John Somers and Mother Isihia.
On the ROCiE English Language Website, we find the retroactive publication of the false and fraudulent claim that Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff was Secretary of ROCiE beginning on October 23/November 5, 2001:
30 December/12 January 2003
In view of the confusion that has arisen in connection with various statements made on the Internet regarding the position of Synodal Secretary in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad under the Omophorion of His Eminence Metropolitan Vitaly, we have determined that it is necessary to remind that, as of 23 October/5 November 2001, the Synodal Secretary is none other than:
Mitred Archpriest Benjamin Joukoff
The Cathedral of All the Saints Who Shone Forth in Russia
19 rue Claude Lorrain, 75016 Paris, France
Tel. (Cathedral): 18.104.22.168.24.82
Tel. (Dean): 33.1.69.04.23.54
How do we know that this is a false statement? Very simply, by the date of the alleged document. This document alleges that Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff became Secretary on “23 October/5 November 2001”, which is considerably earlier that the date of December 29, 2001, when the written record shows that Fr. Victor was unanimously elected Secretary of ROCiE. Obviously, such a mistake could no have been made in the presence of Metropolitan Vitaly and all of the bishops. It appears that the Web Master forgot to expunge this record.
In addition, a thorough search of the notes Fr. Andrew Kencis took during the late December 2001 Mansonville Sobor, reals that Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff is not even mentioned during this Sobor. He is not mentioned as Secretary and he is not mentioned as serving in any capacity whatsoever.
Finally, Bishop Varnava who was Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff’s right-hand-man, accepted and signed the decisions of the December 2001, Mansonville Sobor, and, Bishop Varnava himself insisted that this meeting have the force and authority of a Sobor of the Church. He never mentioned that Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff was Secretary and he never put his Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff’s name forward for consideration for the office of secretary.
In conclusion: Fr. Benjamin Joukoff was simply not the Secretary of ROCiE at the time of the December 28-30 ns, 2001 Sobor and consequently, he was, of logical necessity, not the Secretary of ROCiE on the earlier date of “23 October/5 November 2001”.
IV. The fourth act of fraud perpetrated by the Webmaster of the ROCiE English Language Website: Because Fr. Benjamin Joukoff, Archbishop Varnava, Archbishop Antony Orloff and Fr. Anatoly Trepatschko would not accept Fr. Victor Melehov’s refusal to step down as Secretary of ROCiE, a position to which he had been canonically elected, Archbishop Varnava, Archbishop Serge, Archbishop Antony Orloff, Bishop Bartholomew, Bishop Vladimir, Protopriest Benjamin Joukoff, Protopriest Nicholas Semenoff and Fr. Anatoly Trepatschko conspired to drive Fr. Victor Melehov out of the Church. Toward this end, using evil and vicious means they instigated a confrontation that would have the desired effect and thereby created a schism.
On Monday evening, October 23/ November 5, 2001, Fr. Victor Melehov called Mansonville to ask for an appointment to see Metropolitan Vitaly. Bishop Serge, Bishop Vladimir and Fr. Spyridon were all present in Mansonville when Protopresbyter Victor Melehov called. Ms. Ludmila Rosniansky answered the phone and set an appointment for Friday of that week. When Ms. Ludmila Rosniansky finished her conversation she immediately informed me of the call from Protopresbyter Victor Melehov.
By her words Ms. Ludmila Rosniansky revealed that she knew exactly who Protopresbyter Victor Melehov was, she remembered that he had left the Russian Church Abroad with the HOCNA schism in 1987, she knew that he had been defrocked and she knew that the Russian Church Abroad had sued his parish for their property and that the Synod had lost. Knowing these things Ms. Ludmila Rosniansky was, nevertheless, enthusiastic about Protopresbyter Victor Melehov’s call and expressed her hope that he would join Metropolitan Vitaly.
Immediately after Ludmila told me about Protopresbyter Victor Melehov’s phone call, Bishops Serge and Vladimir were summoned to the living room and they were informed of the call and the appointment that had been made for Protopresbyter Victor Melehov to meet on Friday of that week with Metropolitan Vitaly.
Fr. Spyridon urged both Bishop Vladimir and Bishop Serge to be present for this meeting because it was important and it needed the attention of the bishops.
After a brief conversation between Bishop Serge, Bishop Vladimir and Fr. Spyridon, it was clear that both Bishop Serge and Bishop Vladimir also knew exactly who Protopresbyter Victor Melehov was, that he had been part of the Panteleimonite Schism in 1987 and that he had been defrocked by the Synod of Bishops.
Conversation revealed that Bishop Serge and Bishop Vladimir also knew that I, Fr. Spyridon, had been part of that schism, that I had been defrocked at the same time and that I had repented and been restored to the Holy Priesthood by the Hierarchical Sobor of Bishops in 1991.
In our discussion I explained to Bishop Serge and Bishop Vladimir that the Synod had studied my (Fr. Spyridon’s) case and decided that because I had repented, that he had no moral impediments and that I was not an heretic, I could be restored to the priesthood through confession and concelebration with an Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad. Bishop Hilarion was asked to accomplish my restoration.
Knowing that I (Fr. Spyridon) had been part of the Panteleimonite schism and that I had been restored by the Synod of Russian Church Abroad, Bishop Serge and Bishop Vladimir asked me (Fr. Spyridon) about the circumstances of the schism and the manner of restoration. After more than one hour of conversation about the canonical basis of my restoration and the manner of my restoration, Bishops Serge and Vladimir were satisfied and in agreement, and looked forward to their meeting with Protopresbyter Victor Melehov with the clearly expressed hope that he would come under the Omophorion of Metropolitan Vitaly.
At mid-day on Thursday, October 26/ November 8, 2001, Protopresbyter Victor Melehov arrived in Mansonville and Metropolitan Vitaly, Bishop Serge and Bishop Vladimir spoke for about two hours. The meeting concluded with complete agreement between Protopresbyter Victor Melehov, Metropolitan Vitaly, Bishop Serge and Bishop Vladimir and a time for concelebration was set in conjunction with the upcoming Sobor set for the end of December 2001. During the Sobor, Protopresbyter Victor Melehov and the Bishops and clergy all concelebrated.
Remarkably, at the Mansonville Sobor, Protopresbyter Victor Melehov made such a fine impression on everyone by his expertise in church matters and his skill as a facilitator, he was unanimously elected Secretary of ROCiE. This decision was ratified by Bishop Varnava via fax and became a matter of record. The events that transpired later are remarkable.
Fr. Benjamin Joukoff would not accept Protopresbyter Victor Melehov as Secretary of ROCiE and in order to appease him and his many and powerful allies a coop was set in motion to forcibly remove Protopresbyter Victor Melehov as Secretary of ROCiE. As was explained above Protopresbyter Victor Melehov refused to step down as Secretary arguing that it would be wrong for him to abandon a position to which he had been unanimously elected by a Sobor of the Church and accept a position to which he had not be elected.
When the Bishops of ROCiE decided to forcibly resolve this matter they committed a grave sin. On December30/ January 12, 2003 the bishops of ROCiE, with malice and forethought, produced another fraudulent Ukase that was a total and conscious fabrication and distortion of the truth.
The second false statement of the Synod stated: “From the moment of his adoption into our church in November 2001, Priest Victor Melehov, assumed the characteristic custom of leader and attempted to influence repeatedly the direction of the church and administrative life of our church, appropriating to himself the title of Secretary.” Self evidently this is a false statement because, as we have shown, Fr. Victor was unanimously elected Secretary.
The third false and spiritually criminal statement of the Synod stated: “In view of the aforementioned, Priest Victor Melehov should be regarded as having been mistakenly taken into the bosom of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad in the rank of a clergyman because of our still unsteady control at that time and the absence of archives.
Conclusion: Clearly in the statement above, the mention of the “absence of archives” is a diabolical fabrication.
i. It is simply not true that the bishops of ROCiE did no know the identity and history of Protopresbyter Victor Melehov.
ii. It is simply not true that the bishops of ROCiE did no know where Protopresbyter Victor Melehov came from. and,
iii. And, It is simply not true that the bishops of ROCiE were not fully aware of Protopresbyter Victor Melehov circumstances when he was adopted into ROCiE. As I demonstrated above, Protopresbyter Victor Melehov was well known to Metropolitan Vitaly, his secretary Ludmila Rosniansky, Bishop Serge, Bishop Vladimir and Fr. Spyridon Schneider who participated in facilitating the restoration of Protopresbyter Victor Melehov to the bosom of Russian Church Abroad bears witness to this fact.
iv. Indeed, Protopresbyter Victor Melehov was also known to Fr. Andrew Kencis who can confirm Fr. Spyridon’s account.
Summary: a. It is an incontrovertible fact that Fr. Victor Melehov was received by Metropolitan Vitaly, Bishop Serge and Bishop Vladimir into the bosom of ROCiE.
b. It is an incontrovertible fact that Fr. Victor Melehov was received in the rank of Protopresbyter. c. It is an incontrovertible fact that Fr. Victor Melehov was restored to the fullness of the priesthood through con-celebration with Metropolitan Vitaly and the Bishops and clergy of ROCiE. d. And, It is an incontrovertible fact that Fr. Victor Melehov was unanimously elected Secretary of ROCiE.
IV The spiritual significance of the falsifications contained in the documents of the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile: I pray that God will not condemn me for uncovering the sins of our hierarchs, however, because we have reached a point in the life of ROCiE where clergy and laity alike wonder what has gone wrong with our church and how these wrongs affect our membership in the Holy Church, it is necessary to recognize what has been done. Also, I pray that our Merciful Lord, the Most Holy Mother of God and all of the Saints will cover me because the sins we are discussing and bringing into the light are not personal sins but sins against Christ and unityof the Church which is His Sacred Body.
In the matter of Archbishop Lazarus and Bishop Benjamin: The act of denying them participation in the Hierarchical Sobor of the Holy Church under the Omophorion of their very own Metropolitan, is a sin against unity and Sobornost which are the very essence and foundation of the Catholic Church. Simply, this decision and the actions taken upon this decision caused a schism that persists to this day.
a. For, how can the church have unity when its senior hierarchs are denied their canonical seats in the Hierarchical Sobor of the Church?
b. Or, how can the Church have Sobornost when its bishops are denied the opportunity to participate in the deliberations of the Council of the Bishops? For, these actions are clearly uncanonical actions and sins against the Holy Church.
c. Finally, how can the decisions of a Sobor or Synod be considered valid and effectual when specific hierarchs were denied their “seats”?
d. One might even ask if the election of bishops Serge, Vladimir and Bartholomew were valid if the Synod that elected them was deemed “canonically defective” because half of the canonical hierarchs were denied a seat on the Synod.
In the matter of Fr. Victor Melehov: The act of publicly and falsely declaring Fr. Victor Melehov to be a laymen after he had been received and reconciled to the Holy Church by the conciliar decision of Metropolitan Vitaly, Bishop Serge and Bishop Vladimir and through concelebration with these bishops and all of the clergy at the Mansonville Sobor, was a cold, spiritually violent and incomprehensible act and a sin against love and reconciliation.
a. This violent action led immediately to a schism. While those who left ROCiE as a result of this uncanonical and spiritually criminal act in some technical sense, should not have left ROCiE, it is the actions of Fr. Benjamin Joukoff, Archbishop Varnava, Archbishop Antony Orloff, Archbishop Serge, Bishop Vladimir and Bishop Bartholomew that intentionally and diabolically forced this schism.
b. Finally, let us declare that Metropolitan Vitaly was completely innocent. If he fully understood what was being done in his name, he would not have consented to this evil. Those of us who knew him for more than thirty years know that we would not have consented to the evil and uncanonical deeds done in his name. In fact he would have anathematized each and every conspirator with evil.
The tragic effects: In all, at least three hundred faithful children of the Russian Church Abroad left ROCiE, or, perhaps more accurately, were driven out of the Church and, if ROCiE is correct in its unique claim to be the True Church, the faithful who were driven out and have fallen away from the Church were deprived of the means of salvation.
While there are many more fraudulent and canonical actions leading to multiple schisms that we could review, the time to move beyond this tragedy has come.
In light of the lies and fabrications of our Bishops, the time has now come to ask if ROCiE is the unique continuation of the Russian Church Abroad, or, has ROCiE abandoned the True Church by its uncanonical, schismatic and fraudlent activities?
Protopriest Spyridon Schneider
November 3/16, 2007