Personal Testimony of Seraphim Englehardt

Why I cannot accept the union and what I have done about it

From: Albert Englehardt 
Date: June 4, 2007 8:03:57 PM EDT

Subject: Why I cannot accept the union and what I have done about it

Eight months ago, I sent the following letter to Metropolitan Laurus:


12/25 September 2006
His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus
Holy Trinity Monastery
Jordanville, NY 13361

Bless, Master:

I urge you to call a stop to our church’s headlong plunge towards union with the Moscow Patriarchate.

We have heard many arguments for such a union, citing the present spiritual state of the Moscow Patriarchate and its diminishing involvement with ecumenism and Sergianism. These are encouraging signs, if true.

Likewise, we have heard many emotional appeals on the need for church unity and mutual love, and have been assured that this move is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our jurisdiction has meanwhile turned its back on our traditionalist brethren in Greece , Romania , and Bulgaria , adding to the tragedy of Orthodox disunity.

We should seek unity, but only when it can be achieved in a spirit of truth.

Yes, truth. The partisans of union have instead stooped to sleazy political intrigues worthy more of Brezhnev’s regime than of a free society: monopolizing information, tampering with delegates, moving dissenters out of their posts. . . Are these the actions of people supporting a good and holy cause? Is this how our hierarchs of past years would have acted?

When I came to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad 32 years ago, I came as a refugee fleeing the modernism and the confusion of the Orthodox jurisdiction I had belonged to. For most of these 32 years I saw the Russian Church Abroad as a safe haven where I could carry on my spiritual struggle untroubled by the storms outside. Now I see the lighthouse beacon grown dim and the breakwaters being demolished from within.

Was I mistaken when I came to the the Russian Church Abroad from a jurisdiction we shall soon find ourselves in communion with?

Vladyka, the prospects of infusions of Russian money and of renewed prestige within World Orthodoxy are not worth the souls of the scandalized faithful. If there are hierarchs and other clergy who insist on immediate union with Moscow , let them leave our church now and go where they will. Let the faithful not lose that precious Pearl , the Orthodox Faith as pure as it was handed down to us, and let union come if and when God truly wills it.

Faithfully yours,
Your former student,
Seraphim Englehardt
Holy Trinity Seminary Class of 1977


To this date, there has been no reply to my letter, just as there have been none to many other such letters and appeals sent to Metropolitan Laurus and other hierarchs of our church. The pleas of a large portion of the clergy and faithful have been ignored in the frantic drive for union. Even the early departure of monasteries, convents, and parishes, and the certainty of a refusal of many more to accept the union have been ignored in the drive for union at all costs. Instead, Metropolitan Laurus and most of his bishops have gone ahead with their union with the Moscow Patriarchate.

What of the hierarchy’s professed love of unity? Why have they hurtled towards union with strangers while disdaining the wishes of their own flock?

I find it impossible to follow them into this union.

I should like to touch on a few observations that have influenced my decision:
1. The deciding factor for me has been the credibility, or rather lack of it, of the party pushing the union. Can we trust people who have refused to allow both sides of this difficult question to be debated in full? A free and open debate would allow all sides of the question to be illuminated so that we could all work together to arrive at a generally acceptable decision. What do they have to hide?

The machinations leading up to the All-Diaspora Sobor, which was organized by a uniformly pro-union commission and at which all presentations were scheduled with a pro-union bias and those with an opposing viewpoint were not considered or were canceled, opened my eyes as to the character of the unionists. Over the ensuing year, I have watched the subterfuge continue and intensify, beginning with distortion of the results of the Council itself. Suppression of opposing viewpoints has become more overt and more coercive, climaxing in the Soviet-style firings of our own Fr. Igor, of Fr. Andronik and Mother Agapia of our Jerusalem Mission, of Fr. Nikita Grigoriev of Jordanville, and many others, all for the offense of having different views and expressing them. Do the unionists think we live in Putin’s Russia ?

2. The Orwellian revisionism taking place illustrates further the unionists’ lack of credibility. Having failed to persuade the MP to abandon their ecumenical ties, ROCOR spokesmen have chosen to ignore the MP’s membership in the World Council of Churches. We are now hearing that ROCOR’s strong anti-ecumenical stand under Metropolitans Philaret and Vitaliy is a deviation from the original path of Metropolitans Antony and Anastassy, rather than a reaction to the far more dangerous nature of ecumenism in the past several decades. Meanwhile, a prominent unionist priest has labeled as ignoramuses those who favor the sounder practice of baptizing converts, citing the extreme economy used in the 19th-century Russian church, and further citing the opinion of some 19th-century Russian theologians that the Roman Catholic church possesses valid mysteries.

Further, the hierarchy of ROCOR has broken communion with the Greek, Romanian, and Bulgarian Old Calendarists, and we have been told that they are schismatics and outside of Orthodoxy and that they must now engage in talks with their (modernist) “mother churches,” which in the not-so-distant past have viciously persecuted them. In the mid-1970s, as a seminarian in Jordanville, I attended a liturgy celebrated in the monastery cathedral by the Old-Calendarist Metropolitan Petros at the invitation of Archbishop Averkiy, no slacker when it came to purity of Orthodoxy. And in the mid-1990s, ROCOR established communion with the Greek Synod in Resistance and with the Bulgarian and Romanian Old Calendarists. Communion was only broken--with the flimsiest of excuses--after the unionist juggernaut had gathered momentum. Have the Old Calendarists changed? Or has ROCOR?

3. One argument used in favor of the union is that entering communion with the MP will put us into communion with “World Orthodoxy.” Yes. But why would we want to be?
Like many converts, Nebesna and I both left the “official” jurisdictions many years ago and came to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to escape the compromise, confusion, and lack of standards we found prevalent in those jurisdictions. They in turn labeled ROCOR a sect, schismatic, judgmental, and “holier than thou” for its principled stand.

If we had not believed that this devotion to traditional Orthodoxy made ROCOR and therefore St. John’s something special, we would have been spared the grinding 20-mile drive into the District to St. John’s , as there are four OCA parishes and one Greek Archdiocese parish in the three towns surrounding the town we live in.

Have things gotten better in the “official” jurisdictions in the years since we left? In spite of encouraging grassroots phenomena, such as the spread of monasticism in the Greek Archdiocese and the great influx of converts seeking pure Christianity, we have not seen substantial moves on the part of the hierarchy to change the sorry direction their jurisdictions have taken.

4. Many signs point to the conclusion that Russian President Putin has impelled the union for his political aims. The use of the MP as a tool of Soviet foreign policy has been well known. Can we believe that the MP hierarchs and the Putin regime have abandoned such a mutually beneficial arrangement? The Russian government has doubtless decided that ROCOR and the Russian émigré community in general, in spite of their small size, can function as an effective public relations apparatus, given firm guidance from above. Indeed, according to a 17 May article on, “Nationalism, based on the Orthodox faith, has been emerging as the Putin regime’s major ideological resource. Thursday’s rite sealed the four-year long effort by Putin, beginning in September 2003, to have the Moscow Patriarchate take over its rival American-based cousin and launch a new globalized Church as his state’s main ideological arm and a vital foreign policy instrument.” Does this explain the unionists’ frantic drive for the union, regardless of widespread opposition among the flock?

Meanwhile, several non-Orthodox observers of our acquaintance who often travel to Russia have told us that Putin is “bad news” and that the Russia government has become much more repressive in the past several years. And Lawrence A. Uzzell of International Religious Freedom Watch has written, “The partnership between the Kremlin and the Moscow Patriarchate is not only an unequal one, but one in which the inequality will probably grow even more pronounced in the years ahead . . . it is not likely that [MP leaders] will suddenly begin to defy a president who has tighter control of key institutions than any Russian or Soviet leader since the 1980s.”

Do we really want to find ourselves pawns of a foreign power that has become increasingly hostile to the U. S. ?

Many people have told us that they disagree with the union, “but there’s nowhere to go.” Well, now there is somewhere to go. Those of us in the DC area who intend to continue on the traditional path of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia have formed a parish under the omophorion of Bishop Agafangel of ROCOR’s Diocese of Odessa. Fr. Igor Hrebinka has agreed to be our pastor. We are holding regular services in temporary locations until we find a permanent place of worship, we hope close to the Beltway in Northern Virginia .

I wish you well wherever your conscience may lead you.

In Christ,
Seraphim Englehardt


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