Contemporary Sergianism


Report  to the 5th All Diaspora Council of the ROCA.                                       
 17/4. 11. 08


In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

I was assigned the task of amassing materials on Sergianism in order to present a report to the Sobor in November of this year.  Some of us have a cynical attitude toward this issue and consider this issue to be overly complex to warrant examination; furthermore given that the Church Abroad did not come to a final determination on this matter over the course of eighty years, given the brevity of the Sobor it would be impossible to resolve it now.  Therefore it should not even be raised.

But for many of us this seems erroneous.  Sergianism split the Russian Church, and this schism, to the great tragedy of Russia, persists to this very day.  Sergianism is not merely a false teaching concerning the relations between the Church and the civil regime.  In fact it is multi-tiered.  Contemporary Sergianism in general is an entire system of false notions regarding the Church implying that it is a corporeal and earthly political organization on which an earthly, political and not spiritual church is based.

Sergianism basically began with a false understanding of the relation of the Church to persecution.  Thank God, at this time the fierce persecution against the Church has temporarily ceased, but from prophesies we know that  more persecution is to come, and that it will be even more ferocious than under the Bolsheviks.  If those days are not cut short by God, no one shall be saved. 

Therefore it is imperative while we have this precious opportunity, to confirm in a conciliar manner, what is acceptable according to the teaching of the Church, during times of persecution and condemn those things which are impermissible and unacceptable for the Church and that alienate the individual from Her. 

It is imperative that this be done not to save the Church from annihilation, but to save the souls of its members from perdition, for this is the sole responsibility of the Church;  secondly it must be done so that by having clearly exposed the falsehood of Sergianism, we may help those who remain in it to reject it.  This is the only means by which one may help in abolishing the Sergianist schism in the Russian Church, which greatly impedes the spiritual rebirth and re-establishment of a Russian Orthodox state.

After the revolution in Russia a brutal persecution against the Church was launched.  This persecution was unprecedented in the history of the Church not only in scale and intensity, but mainly because the theomachistic state set its goal as the complete and unconditional annihilation of the Church, and not only the Church, but in general all faith in God.  This objective was pursued relentlessly without regard for even any accords reached with the Church.  This is clearly evident in Lenin’s wording of his letter to “Members of the Politburo - strictly confidential”, March 19, 1922.  “The confiscation of valuables, particularly from the wealthiest lavra’s, monasteries and churches, must be conducted with ruthless resoluteness, unconditionally without hesitation for any reason and within the shortest time possible.  The larger the number of reactionary bourgeoisie  and reactionary clergy we manage to execute in this operation, the better.”  (Kremlin Archives in two books:  Book 1 - The Politburo and the Church 1992-1925, M. Novosibirsk; “The Siberian Chronograph”, 1997, p.143).

Throughout almost Her entire history, beginning with Christ and His Apostles, the Church was subjected to persecutions.  Following the teaching and example of Christ, the Apostles and countless martyrs and confessors, the Church always recognized only two standards of behavior toward the persecutors - either martyrdom or flight from the persecutors.

Christ Himself, starting from the first days of His earthly life, fled from persecution to Egypt.  And so, it would not be the only occasion when He fled from persecutors until finally His time had come for death on the Cross.  Christ taught us also likewise:  “When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another;  for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.“ (Matt. 10:23).  And so, martyrdom for Christ is glorious and valorous, but not all Christians are worthy of it.

The second alternative while facing persecution is to flee from the persecutors into the catacombs or to another city, in other words out of the country and this is completely permissible and acceptable for the Church, according to the guidance of Christ Himself.

But Christ never taught that in time of persecution we must join up with the persecutors in order to save our lives or save the Church from annihilation.  Such “behavior” (as it was termed by a certain Church Abroad bishop at a sobor in Nayack) was always categorically and firmly condemned by the Church as a denial of Christ.  Such “conduct”can be understood and empathized with, but it can not be  justified or even extolled as being wise - this is completely impossible.

Such “conduct” absolutely excommunicates the individual from the Church of Christ and such a person may only be received back into the fold of the Church through a specially instituted order of repentance.  Even after repenting, such a person is only permitted to commune of the Holy Mysteries only on his death bed. 

The Soviet regime consistently demanded that Patriarch Tikhon not only recognize it but declare complete and unconditional loyalty on behalf of the Church.  Having realized the nature of this satanic regime, the Patriarch once stated:  “I have come to the conclusion that the limits of loyalty which the soviet regime demands of me, lie beyond the limits of loyalty to Christ.”  And therefore the Patriarch signed nothing of the sort.  Two hours prior to his blessed repose, Metropolitan Peter brought the Patriarch a declaration composed by Tuchkov for signature.  From the neighboring room in the hospital where the patriarch lay, Patriarch Tikhon’s distraught voice was heard repeating, “I cannot do this, I cannot do this”.  Shortly thereafter the Patriarch reposed.

Metropolitan Peter assumed the position of locum tenens (lit. “place-holder,” a person who temporarily fulfills the duties of another, ed.of the Patriarch immediately after the funeral of Patriarch Tikhon, since the other two locum tenens appointed by Patriarch Tikhon, Metropolitans Agafangel and Kyrill, were in exile at the time.

Metropolitan Peter also demonstrated firmness and refused to sign the declaration.  Fewer than nine months later, Metropolitan Peter was arrested and twelve years later (after eight years in solitary confinement) he was executed.

Soon after the arrest of Metropolitan Peter, the deputy locum tenens, Metropolitan Sergius assumed office.  Shortly afterwards, Metropolitan Kyrill, who was one of the three locum tenensappointed by Patriarch Tikhon himself, returned from exile.  When Metropolitan Kyrill requested that Sergius yield to him his lawful position as head of the Russian Church, MetropolitanSergius refused to do so.  In this fashion, Metropolitan Sergius unlawfully retained power.  But this was to be only the beginning of Metropolitan Sergius’ lawlessness.

In 1927, a schism occurred within the Russian Church.  The cause of this schism was the “Declaration” of Metropolitan Sergius.  In essence this was the same Declaration which PatriarchTikhon and the locum tenens of the Patriarch, Metropolitan Peter had refused to sign, but which Metropolitan Sergius signed in its new and much embellished form.

At this point it must be noted that ten years prior, just after the February Revolution, Metropolitan Sergius spoke favorably in reference to it and expressed his hope that in the near future something similar would occur in the church.  One must also not overlook the fact that Metropolitan Sergius had for an extensive period of time been head of the Renovationist Church which was strongly supported by the Soviet regime if only for the purpose of causing a split in the Church.  It was only after it became obvious that the people did not follow therenovationists, that Metropolitan Sergius returned to the Orthodox Church through public repentance.

In his “Declaration,” Metropolitan Sergius stepped over precisely those limits of loyalty to Christ of which Patriarch Tikhon had spoken not long before.  Met. Sergiusdeclared and announced, on the Church’s behalfcomplete and unconditional loyalty to the Soviet theomachistic regime.

In general, the entire “Declaration” is replete with falsehood and connivance.  Starting with the appeal, “let us express on the part of all the people our gratitude to the Soviet Government for such attention to the spiritual needs of the Orthodox population”, the declaration continues to call everyone “not in words but by deed to demonstrate themselves to be loyal to the Soviet authority, and yet they may remain zealous adherents (of Orthodoxy)  and later completely identifies the interests of the Church with the interests of the Soviet Union, as the homeland.  Near the end, the declaration states “Now, when our patriarchate, in carrying out the will of our reposed Patriarch (a blatant lie), decisively and irreversibly embarks on the path of loyalty, those persons of an indicated mindset will have to either overcome their convictions… or not impede us…”.

Having betrayed the Church, the leadership of which he had usurped, thereby subjecting it to the complete control of the Bolsheviks, Metropolitan Sergius made the Church a tool in the hands of the theomachistic regime, whose goal at the time was the complete extermination of that very Church.  At the time, the Soviet regime did not yet realize that a church under the complete control of Soviet rule could be very useful and began to annihilate the Church with even greater force, with the aid of that same Declaration.

Metropolitan Sergius assembled a small group of bishops (including some former renovationists) and created his Synod which adopted and ratified his Declaration.  The Soviet regime supported this Synod.

The majority of bishops did not support and did not accept the Declaration of Met. Sergius.  Given the circumstances at the time, they had not the ability to convene a Sobor and condemn the Declaration in a conciliar fashion, but each one individually condemned it in personal statements and letters to Met. Sergius.  They called the Declaration of Met. Sergius a betrayal of the Church, a denial of Christ, heresy, and a continuation of the renovationist schism which Patriarch Tikhon had anathematized in 1922.

As an example, I will cite only one excerpt from a letter by Bishop Viktor Ostrovidov of Izhesk, which reflects the typical opinion of many others to the “appeal” of Met. Sergiusie. hisDeclaration.  Bishop Viktor writes:  ..from beginning to end it is filled with egregious lies and it is for the faithful a soul-disturbing mockery of the Holy Orthodox Church and our witness-bearing for the Truth of God.  Furthermore, through the betrayal of the Church of Christ so it can be abused by “outsiders”, it is the most sorrowful renunciation of the Lord Savior Himself.  This sin, to which the word of God attests, is no less than any heresy or schism, but incomparably greater for it casts man  directly into the abyss of perdition…. As much as was within our power we preserved both ourselves and our flock so as not to be participants in this sin, and for this reason we returned the “appeal” (declaration) to you.  For acceptance of the “appeal” (declaration) would have been evidence before God of our indifference and complacency toward the Most Sacred Church of God - the Bride of Christ.”

Almost 90% of all parishes rejected the Declaration and sent it back unsigned.  Metropolitan Peter (to whom Met. Sergius should have been subordinate according to Church canons) forbade Met. Sergius from proclaiming it on behalf of the Church.  Many others (including Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd, Metropolitan Kyrill ofKazan and many others attempted to bring him to his senses by sending him letters begging him to reject it.  But Met. Sergius did not respond to the letters and stubbornly persisted, as a result of which the majority of clerics of the ROC ceased to commemorate him and rejected him from Eucharistic union. 

Based on all this, one may assume that ROC had immediately already condemned the Declaration of Met. Sergius and the “sergianism” as it began to be called at the time, which followed after the Declaration.  conciliar condemnation of the Declaration and Sergianism, given the circumstances at the time was practically impossible in the Soviet Union.  The Declaration and Sergianism in the USSR were condemned by the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, for which they were arrested, exiled, shot and tortured to death. They attested to the falsity and unacceptability of the Declaration and Sergianism by their martyrdom for Christ.  There can not be a stronger or clearer condemnation than this, for it immediately resulted in martyrdom.  We can now adopt this condemnation of the Declaration and Sergianism by the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia on a conciliar level and we must declare it on aconciliar level.

Those who signed the Declaration and joined with Met Sergius temporarily saved their lives, for at the time the Soviet regime strongly supported them.  But I emphasize temporarily because during Stalin’s purges in the late 1930’s, all were systematically killed, “loyal” and “unloyal”, church and secular people, and even almost all the Bolsheviks by whose own hands the revolution and subsequent crimes were carried out.  “He who takes up the sword shall perish by the sword.”  teaches Christ, as well as that which directly relates to those who followed after Met. Sergius:  “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it;  and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”  (Matt. 16:25).  By the beginning of WWII, there remained only four bishops and very few open churches in the USSR.

God will judge Met. Sergius, not we.  But we are responsible to expose and condemn the sin which Met. Sergius committed.  The Declaration is first and foremost the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  This lie before God and before the Church constituted the foundation of the entire construction of the Sergianist church and became the guiding principle in all its future development and in all its future affairs.  Conceived from falsehood, lies and sinister cunning became  absolutely natural for it.  To rid itself of cunning or to separate truth from lies is inexpressibly difficult for it, for it is organically tied with falsehood.

Here is an amazing parallel with the Old Testament Church during the time of Christ.  Having stated at Pilate’s judgment seat that “we have no king save Caesar” the Jewish high-priests renounced Christ and doomed themselves forever to be in service to the prince of this world in the face of a  perpetually foreign, pagan King.  Nevertheless, through this they had achieved finally from the civil authorities a death sentence for Christ and His followers, so that the high-priests could maintain their power over the Church and, hence, over their people.

Likewise, Met. Sergius and his collaborators, the new high-priests, renounced Christ by declaring their complete loyalty to not only a pagan government, but one which was plainlytheomachistic, and thereby achieved a death sentence for the followers of Christ who did not wish to “break” their consciences, as well as to hold on to their newly acquired power over the Church.  By disdaining the Church’s (and therefore God’s) power, the new high-priests of the Russian Church proclaimed  their unconditional loyalty to the Soviet regime and thereby they also doomed themselves and the misfortunate people who followed them to eternal subservience to the prince of this world personified by the Soviet regime and any subsequent reincarnation of this godless authority.

Just like the Jewish people, the Russian nation will not be able to cast off this “yoke of all yokes” and return peace and prosperity to their country until it repents sincerely and strongly “not in word but in deed” for the renunciation of Christ, the murder of the anointed one of God and for the betrayal of Christ’s Church into the hands of the godless authorities.  This means there must be an immediate renunciation of Met. Sergius’ Declaration which specifically and visibly contains all these sins, and clearly and unconditionally condemns it as being unacceptable neither for the Church nor for the Russian people.

Before concluding, it is necessary to touch upon the topic of ecumenism, since it is now inexorably linked with contemporary sergianism.  In order to justify their emergence, contemporary sergianists (resorting to the typical cunning in the spirit of the scribes) offer a purely ecumenical “branch theory”.

First and foremost, they needed to substitute the idea of a “schism” with the notion of “separation”.  According to a prominent contemporary apologeticist of Sergianism, “In order to achieve this substitution, not only was an enormous psychological change required… In essence Church canons have no experience of the practice where two church groups coexist without Eucharistic union, yet are equally bona fide.  This desired substitution not only requires that a definition be found which would satisfy all, but also it requires some boldness in the area of canons and church history.  All previous severances of Eucharistic union had always implied the existence of a correct and incorrect (guilty) side.”  It simply seems unbelievable how renovationism attempts to cover up its tracks with even greater renovationism in order to justify itself.  The text continues:  “We still face the task of finetuning this definition (separation), of comprehending it, and if possible finding a more suitable term.  This was the manner of existence of several parts of the Church which developed along parallel paths without the presence of outwardly expressed Eucharistic union, yet still managing to wholly preserve the inner unity of the Church”.  The previous quotation is precisely an exact exegesis of the “branch theory” on which the contemporary ecumenical movement is based.

This lie, that supposedly inner unity as a whole among those who remained faithful to the Orthodox Church and those who followed Met. Sergius was preserved is clearly refuted by the New Martyrs who had rejected the Declaration and for precisely that reason they went to their death.  But those who signed the Declaration in 1927 were not arrested, but on the contrary, enjoyed the support of the regime even though that support would be short-lived.  As was already stated above, in the late 1930’s during Stalin’s purges, everyone was arrested and executed indiscriminately including even those Sergianists who were “loyal” to the Soviet state.

Even Met. Kyrill who at the outset of the sergianist period (immediately after the release of the Declaration) was more circumspect and mild in his expressions regarding MetSergius. But in March of 1937 he wrote that now it had become clear that Met. Sergius is departing from the Orthodox Church and, therefore, the Orthodox must not have any interaction with him.

The idea of “inner unity in the absence of Eucharistic union” was concocted only recently when the decision was made to unite ROCOR to the MP.  In order to accept such a purely ecumenical idea, “an enormous psychological transformation” was required.  In order to absorb such an enormous transformation in the people’s psychology, it was imperative to somehow erase the difference between the Orthodox and the Sergianists from a historical perspective, that is, the difference between those who did not accept the Declaration and those who did (the followers of Met. Sergius).

The glorification of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia by the MP was an enormously helpful tool in this regard.  Many people were overjoyed by this glorification, perceiving in it a major step in the right direction by the MP, despite the supposed contradictions, or one might say “conflict of interest” between the New Martyrs and sergianism.  But apparently there are no conflicts here.  According to the Sergianist glorification, among the new martyrs are included even those who signed the treacherous and blasphemous Declaration of Met. Sergius. And these are not isolated individual cases, but on the contrary, an overwhelming majority (more than 80%) as stated by the MP protopriest in charge of this matter.

Certain complaints are in vain, that currently within the MP there is almost no reverence for the Holy New Martyrs.  This action (glorification) had been taken not so much to satisfy acorrespondinge level of spiritual demands within their church, but more likely to facilitate this needed “enormous transformation” in the psychology of the Church Abroad toward the MP.  According to the words of the same MP apologeticist quoted above, during the signing of the Declaration “an individual could either accept or not accept the path of compromise proposed by Met. Sergius, but we equally revere the new martyrs and HIS supporters (Met. Sergius), as well as the non-commemorators or followers of Met.Joseph (Petrovikh)”

That says it all.  What is all the preoccupation with schisms?  Apparently those abroad who are the enemies of the people need the idea of schisms.  It is they who do not wish to recognize their own Mother Church.  And thus the ideology was launched and proceeded step by step.  It is not by coincidence that Russians are such chess masters.  Sentimental patriotism played its role, as usual, and suddenly all former obstacles to unification seemed to melt away.  Here one must not forget in connection with this “patriotism for the homeland”, the words of the Savior, Christ God Himself “he who loves mother or father more than me is not worthy of me”. Undoubtedly, one must also remember that “he who loves his fatherland more than me is not worthy of me”.

In conclusion I would like to touch upon what occurred before our very eyes within the Church Abroad.  This  was nothing more, nothing less than an enamoration and fall directly intosergianism.  Great means and effort were applied in order to on one hand entice the “abroadniks” with illusions of the spiritual rebirth of the “mother church”, sentimental patriotism, money where it was required, and even ecumenism specially baked according the “abroadniks” taste:  “we have not nor have we ever had any schism, but simply, you see, a temporary parting of the ways due to historic circumstances.”

But simultaneously, on the other hand, there was pressure and threats of a total obliteration of the Karlovatsky, schismatic, Church Abroad.  Along the lines of this approach there were aggressive seizures of monasteries, endless lawsuits in order to gain possession of Church Abroad parishes,  and the flooding of Abroad parishes and monasteries by employees of the MP.  But the naïve “abroadniks” couldn’t quite realize this somehow.

The episcopate of ROCOR, however, knew everything quite well.  During litigation in court over the property of a certain Abroad parish, an attorney asked Met. Laurus “and what would happen if you did not join the MP?”  to which Met. Laurus responded:  “they would kill us”.

Here you have it - Sergianism not in words but precisely in deed.  In conclusion I repeat  that the basic, perhaps unverbalized idea of sergianism:  “when the Church is threatened by the danger of annihilation, it is permissible and acceptable to submit to any compromise with falsehood, even to the point of joining up with the persecutors for the sake of preserving the Church and saving it from annihilation.”

Dear fathers and brothers, participants of the Sobor, for the sake of the salvation of the souls of the flock entrusted to us for which we will answer to Christ at the coming Judgment, and for the sake of averting the current and coming temptation from our flock, let us adopt and confirm the witnessing to the truth of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia and let us declare from the Sobor that the Declaration of Met. Sergius and sergianism which followed it are a lie and apostasy from Orthodoxy, and therefore is condemned and rejected by theChurch of Christ.

Priest Nikita Grigoriev 

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