Protocol № 48 July 2/15, 2004
The first session of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church began in the graduation hall of the Monastery of the Placing of the Robe after the Divine Liturgy at 12 o’clock with the singing of “O Heavenly King.”
1. Metropolitan Valentine, President of the Synod of Bishops
2. Archbishop Theodore
3. Archbishop Seraphim
4. Bishop Irenarch
5. Bishop Ambrose
During its session, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church considered numerous complaints received from the clergy and laity of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as from other True Orthodox Churches, concerning the actions of His Eminence Gregory (Abu Asaly) of Denver and Colorado:
1. Requiring baptism of True Orthodox Christians coming from other Churches for reception into the ROAC.
2. Not submitting to the lawful decisions of the Synod of Bishops.
3. Interference in ecclesiastical affairs beyond the boundaries of his own diocese and, in particular, performing an ordination of a clergyman there without the agreement or knowledge of the local Church authorities.
4. Tyrannical and unfounded repressions upon the clergy under his authority.
Some of these complaints had been handed to His Eminence Metropolitan Valentine during his stay in the USA while on his pastoral visit, as a result of which, Metropolitan Valentine, in writing and orally, addressed His Eminence Gregory with words of instruction and of brotherly advice. However, his words were to no avail, and to the contrary, His Eminence Gregory himself turned to the Synod of Bishops of the ROAC with accusations against His Eminence Metropolitan Valentine.
Having examined the essence of the matter, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church has come to the following conclusions.
The actions of His Eminence Gregory during the entire time of his tenure within the bosom of the Russian Church has been marked by violations of church discipline, and what is especially intolerable, the Holy Canons. Notwithstanding the numerous promises made by His Eminence Gregory, this situation has not only gone uncorrected, but has become worse and worse, until it has finally reached a point where it is no longer tolerable.
To take just the most important and most intolerable violations of the Holy Canons perpetrated by His Eminence Gregory into consideration, then that would be:
1. The rebaptizing of Orthodox Christians
Many of the complaints against His Eminence Gregory are connected with his insistence upon the necessity of baptizing those who wish to unite with the ROAC, even though these people had earlier been members of other True Orthodox Churches. The results of this are that many Orthodox Christians either were not able to join the Russian Church at all, or were able to do so only after extraordinary efforts were expended to overcome the obstacles that were placed before them by His Eminence Gregory. This is especially true of those Orthodox Christians who had united to the True Church in the person of the ROCOR before its apostasy, and who now find themselves to be without a church roof over their heads.
It is necessary to point out as especially egregious, aside from the numerous cases involving lay people (several tens of families), the case of Archimandrite Michael and the Orthodox mission which is headed by him on the island of Haiti, who had formerly belonged to the ROCOR. Desiring to unite to the Russian Church, Archimandrite Michael had entered into talks with His Eminence Gregory, but had received from him in answer to his inquiry that he could only receive him through baptism, after which all those who had been baptized by Archimandrite Michael would have to be baptized a second time, i.e. all of his parishioners in Haiti numbering several hundred people (despite the fact that all of these parishioners had been baptized in the ROCOR in strict accordance with Orthodox practices, i.e. by triple immersion). As a result, the case of the Orthodox mission in Haiti being received into the ROAC was postponed, and was only favorably resolved when Metropolitan Valentine was able to visit the USA personally.
From the very beginning that Archimandrite, now His Eminence, Gregory has been in the ROAC, it was pointed out to him more than once that reception of True Orthodox Christians from other Churches into the Russian Church was not to be accompanied by any kind of sacramental rite, let alone baptism, inasmuch as all forms of a sacramental nature (baptism, chrismation, confession) have been established only for receiving those into the Orthodox Church who formerly did not belong to Her at all. However, as time has shown, His Eminence Gregory ignored those instructions.
In reality, to take such a position as that held by His Eminence Gregory, would be to completely deny the traditional practice of the Russian Church, and therefore deny that many thousands of Christians who were received into Orthodoxy by the Russian Church in this manner, are complete Christians.
The Russian Church has always realized that in relation to heretics and schismatics who desire to convert to Orthodoxy, there have always been, and are even now, differences in the way that various local churches handle the practice of applying akriveia or œconomeia; and even within the life of the same local church this practice has changed over the course of history. Such a diversity of practices does sometimes inevitably cause confusion, however, on the whole, it is justified, and never in the history of the Universal Church has there ever been a time when there did not exist a similar diversity in applying œconomeia in relation to those communities that had become separated from the Church. Thus, this diversity of practices in relationship to the rites pertaining to the reception of one and the same heretics and schismatics can be seen in the 1st rule of Basil the Great and in the 95th rule of the Sixth Œcumenical Council.
Having all of this in mind, the pre-revolutionary Russian Church, as well as the ROAC today, never claimed that its own practice was the only one possible, but by the same token, also never recognized the practice of any of the other local Churches as the only one possible, reserving for itself the right to make decisions about such issues independently.
Not presuming to pronounce judgments about the correctness of using different amounts of œconomeia or akriveia as applied by other True Orthodox Churches, the Russian Orthodox Church simply receives, without examination, all those True Orthodox Christians who considered themselves to be as such in other True Orthodox Churches. In such cases, the ROAC considers it to be necessary to trust the judgment of its brother hierarchs, who have established in one True Orthodox Church or another their respective disciplinary standards. However, although recognizing the canonical discipline of other True Orthodox Churches, the ROAC cannot be constrained to accept violations of its own disciplinary practices, as His Eminence Gregory is guilty of doing.
To our great consternation, His Eminence Gregory has erred, not only insofar as the predominating practice of the Russian Church and its own internal discipline is concerned, but also as concerns the most fundamental canons concerning Holy Baptism, namely, the 47th Apostolic Rule (repeated in Rule 59 of the Council of Carthage), which commands that “a bishop or priest who repeats the baptism of someone who already has true baptism” shall be deposed “for mocking the Cross and the death of the Lord.” His Eminence Gregory, insisting upon the necessity of baptism, even for those who received proper baptism in the form of three immersions upon entering one of the True Orthodox Churches, has shown himself to be in opposition to the Holy Apostles.
As a justification for his position, he puts forth the opinion, as if on behalf of the entire Russian Church, that only the ROAC and the Kalininite Synod have the grace of the Sacraments, while all the rest of the Churches of the world are fallen away. This completely groundless fanaticism of His Eminence Gregory is in no way the position of the Russian Church, and for His Eminence Gregory himself, it has served as a cause for serious canonical violations, any one of which is grounds for him to be judged at a spiritual court.
2. Disobedience to the lawful directives of the Synod of Bishops and the President of the ROAC.
Obedience to the lawful requirements of the Synod of Bishops of the ROAC is demanded by the hierarchical oath, which was taken by His Eminence Gregory at his consecration to the episcopacy. It is founded upon the Holy Canons which define the rules for governing dioceses.
In the case of dioceses organized by the ROAC on the American continent, it is necessary to keep in mind, that these dioceses are missionary dioceses, or, in the language of the canons, “the lands of the barbarians” (εν βαρβαρικοις εθνεσι, in partibus infidelibus), and for this reason there is a special order of government for them, defined by the 2nd rule of the Second Œcumenical Council, and this order differs from the order of government defined by this canon and by other canons for the dioceses belonging to the local church.
So, if, in relationship to one of the dioceses of a local church, the president of a local church does not have the right to interfere in its internal affairs, and, in particular, to take clergymen from it without the agreement of the local ruling bishop, then in relationship to a missionary diocese this principle does not apply. Instead of this, according to the 2nd rule of the Second Œcumenical Council, “The Churches of God, amongst the barbarian nations (εν τοις βαρβαρικοις εθνεσι), should be governed by the tradition of the Fathers which has been in effect until now”.
As an example “of Episcopal sees amongst the barbarian nations,” Balsamon (12th century) mentions “Alania (Northern Caucausus), Russia and Thrace” (in the interpretation of the 28th rule of the Fourth Œcumenical Council). At the present time, America, in relationship to Russia, is the same kind of missionary territory as Russia herself was vis-à-vis Byzantium in the 12th century, and furthermore, that situation lasted almost until the beginning of the 15th century.
According to the literal sense of the 2nd rule of the Second Œcumenical Council, as confirmed by its own Byzantine interpreters Zonarios, Aristinos, and Balsamon, the determining principle of government in a missionary diocese is established custom, which does not have to be in agreement with the principle of non-interference in its internal affairs by another bishop, especially of the First Hierarch and Synod. As applied to the parishes of the ROAC on the American continent, “the established custom” is for it to be under the Synod of Bishops of the ROAC, and the authority of His Eminence Gregory has the characteristic of being one of an acting authority, without the right to make final decisions, i.e. decisions which would be exempt from reconsideration by the Synod of Bishops of the ROAC outside of a spiritual court proceeding.
For this reason, it is necessary to recognize the actions that Metropolitan Valentine took, approving the petitions of former clergymen of the Denver and Colorado Diocese to transfer them from being under the omophorion of His Eminence Gregory, as lawful, and it is necessary to recognize the complaints of His Eminence Gregory against these actions of Metropolitan Valentine, together with his attempts to apply certain measures of punishment to these clergyman, as unlawful.
The corresponding actions of His Eminence Gregory are a violation of the 2nd rule of the Second Œcumenical Council, and consequentially, are liable to the punishment befitting violators of those Holy Canons which speak of the necessity for hierarchs to be in submission to their council of bishops (Apostles 34; Antioch 9), as well as to the punishment befitting those of the bishops who break their hierarchical oath.
3. Interference in ecclesiastical affairs beyond the boundaries of one’s diocese
Without informing anyone ahead of time, without permission, and almost secretly, His Eminence Gregory flew to Bulgaria, where, accompanied by Archimandrite George, he celebrated the Divine Liturgy and ordained a deacon.
It is necessary to remember, that parishes of the ROAC in Bulgaria are under the direct authority of the Synod of Bishops, and at no time were ever considered to be part of the diocese of His Eminence Gregory. For this reason, by his actions in Bulgaria, His Eminence Gregory introduced confusion into the church life of that country and violated a whole list of holy canons, namely, the following: rule 14 of the Holy Apostles and rule 13 of the Council of Ancyra (forbidding one bishop to go from one diocese to another and perform ordinations without the agreement of the sobor of bishops or of the local bishop), № 20 of the Sixth Œcumenical Council and № 11 of the Council of Sardica (forbidding a bishop to openly preach in another’s diocese), № 16 of the First Œcumenical Council, № 20 of the Fourth Œcumenical Council, №s 65, 91, and 101 of the Council of Carthage, № 15 of the Council of Sardica (forbidding the ordination of clergymen of another’s diocese without the permission of the local bishop), and also Apostolic rules 14 and 35, № 15 of the of the First Œcumenical Council, № 2 of the Second Œcumenical Council, № 5 of the Fourth Œcumenical Council, №s 13, 21, and 22 of the Council of Antioch, №s 1, 2, and 3 of the Council of Sardica, and № 59 of the Council of Carthage (forbidding a bishop to give orders in another’s diocese).
4. Self-will in relationship to the clergy under him
Presenting the clergy under his authority with a whole list of unfounded demands, His Eminence Gregory, finally, without giving any reason, and without issuing any written ukases, tried to suspend some of his clergy from serving. The Synod of Bishops has considered as correct the actions of Metropolitan Valentine who pronounced these suspensions to be invalid. The very actions of His Eminence Gregory in this case were recognized as a violation of rule № 4 of the Seventh Œcumenical Council, which forbids a bishop from prohibiting anyone from serving without grounds and makes him in this case liable to the same punishment which he wished to unfairly inflict upon others.
* * *
It is worth repeating that this present list of canonical infractions committed by His Eminence Gregory is not complete and is only drawn from those materials which were looked at by the Synod of Bishops of the ROAC.
The Russian Orthodox Church must either quickly put an end to this lawlessness, which has been brought about by His Eminence Gregory, or must remove from itself all responsibility for his actions, consigning him to the judgment of God and to his own conscience, and warning all True Orthodox Christians, regardless of the Church they belong to, about having any contact with His Eminence Gregory, in case he should fail to show proper repentance and correction.
For this reason, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church
1. To recommend to His Eminence Gregory of Denver and Colorado to bring justification or repentance for each one of the accusations that have been made against him before the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, and thereafter to have a separate proceeding in order to determine the status of His Eminence Gregory in the Russian Orthodox Church.
2. In case His Eminence Gregory should fail to do this within the course of one week, to consider His Eminence Gregory as no longer belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church, to cut off all communion with him in prayer, and to recommend to all the clergy and laity who have been under his omophorion up to the present time, to place themselves under the direct authority of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church.
The President of the Synod of Bishops
Metropolitan of Suzdal and Vladimir
MEMBERS OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS:
Secretary of the Synod