Traditional vs. Modernist

Orthodoxy in America

First, as an aside, I want to commend the following to the seeker of a true christian spirituality … not to say that I have read it or really have one much, but I have read about theosis and think it is core … Theosis: The True Purpose of Human Life

“This is an important little book that so clearly and beautifully states the purpose of our lives. For those of you who are searching for the Orthodox Christian response to ‘What is  the meaning of life?’, this is the answer.”

And now on the the issue at hand – traditionalist vs. modernist.


Throughout most of the twentieth century there was dispute between two Orthodox churches in America that derived from the Russian. One became OCA and the other mostly disintegrated. Each said that it received its authority from the patriarch of the Russian church. The problem was that following the communist revolution there were two competing patriarchs.

The Prophecy

In the 19th century, before all this began, “elder Ambrose of Optina once wrote that when the Russian Empire fell the world would enter the last period of human history, the period described in symbolic form in the Apocalypse (Revelation) of St. John the Theologian. This was the period when the Church, like the woman clothed in the sun in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse, would flee into the wilderness, away from public view, and when the faithful Christians would pray in caves and dens of the earth, like the Catacomb Christians of Ancient Rome. This picture came true after the (communist) revolution of 1917.” (The Battle for the Russian Orthodox Church, pg. 13)

The Testimony

“Apart from Metropolitan Joseph, other hierarchs, the most outstanding ones, together with their flocks, departed from communion with Metropolitan Sergius. The religious-moral authority of those who protested and separated was so high, and their qualitative superiority was so clear, that for the future historian of the Church there can be no doubt whatever of the correctness of the opponents of Metropolitan Sergius.” (Russia’s Catacomb Saints, Ivan Andryev pg.17)

“When I related what had happened to Vladika Maxim he affirmed again that I should never take a blessing from persistent Sergianists. ‘The Soviet and Catacomb Churches are incompatable,’ said Vladika Maxim with emphasis firmly, with conviction, and after a silence added quietly: ‘The secret Catacomb Church of the wilderness has anathematized the “Sergianists” and those with them.’ (pg.64)

The Anathema

“Thus on January 19, 1918, his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon issued his famous anathema against the Bolsheviks, in which he said: ‘I adjure all of you who are faithful children of the Orthodox Church of Christ not to commune with such outcasts of the human race in any way whatsoever; “cast out the wicked from among you” (I Corinthians 5.13).'” (The Battle for the Russian Orthodox Church, pg. 14)

Then, “in 1927 the Moscow Patriarchate under the leadership of Metropolitan Sergius declared that the joys of the Soviet government are the joys of the Church, and its failures – the failures of the Church, and entered into a pact with the government, (which then went about) condemning and persecuting all those who refused to recognize Sergius and his declaration.” (The Battle for the Russian Orthodox Church, pg.4) In this persecution Sergius was thoroughly complicit, calling his opponents “counter-revolutionaries”. (pg.334)

“The Moscow Patriarchate was now bound by this anathema; for the text of the anathema clearly forbade the children of the Church from having anything to do with the condemned government. It is necessary to emphasise (sic) that this opinion was shared by almost all the leaders of the Russian Church who rejected the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius.” (The Battle for the Russian Orthodox Church, pg.4)

Even in 1923 when patriarch Tikhon declared he was, “no longer an enemy of Soviet power, dissociated himself from the Church Abroad and sought to annul the 1918 anathema against Soviet power …; by contrast with the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius four years later, Patriarch Tikhon’s actions never went beyond the boundary separating membership of the Church from apostasy. Thus he never went so far as to recognize Soviet power as God-established, or to praise communism, or to identify the Church’s joys and sorrows with communism’s joys and sorrows – all of which Metropolitan Sergius and his successors did.

“In any case, there can be no question, as some sergianists have asserted, that this showed that the 1917-18 anathema was ‘invalid’. For Patriarch Tikhon did not have the right to annul the 1918 anathema himself, since it was a decree of the highest organ of the Church, the Church Council, which only a later Church Council of a still higher authority could annul. Actually, there is strong evidence that the patriarch himself recognized this, and only ‘repented’ of the anathema in order to buy space and time from the authorities. As he wrote to Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky): ‘I wrote this for the authorities, but you sit and work.’”(The Battle for the Russian Orthodox Church, pg.333,334)

The Soviet

Describing soviet Russia, “protopresbyter Michael Polsky writes: ‘In essence, a huge majority of the Moscow churches belonged to the secret adherents of Fr. Sergius Mechiev. Among them,… the proclamations of the Soviet government were not followed.’ … Once, being without a bishop, Fr. Sergius followed the advice of one of his spiritual sons and opened his heart to Bishop Manuel Lemeshevsky, and in confidence explained to him his church position, thinking that he shared his views. Bishop Manuel was soon arrested, and betrayed Fr. Sergius. During questioning at his trial, the arrested hierarch said that Fr. Sergius was the main instigator of the opposition to Metropolitan Sergius. He also said that he wished to be a loyal Soviet citizen and wanted no trouble. The prosecutor tapped him on the shoulder and said: ‘Don’t worry and be upset, Vladyka: you will be of some use to us later.’ After this, he was released and was given the diocese of Orenburg by Metropolitan Sergius… So he was of some use to the Soviets… But Fr. Sergius was shot in 1941…” (The Battle for the Russian Orthodox Church, pg.210)

Post-Soviet Russia

In post-soviet Russia, according to Fr. Alexander Lebedev of California, the Moscow Patriarchate has changed. He gives, “a long series of statistics: ‘20,000 new churches! 600 new monasteries! 60 new seminaries and pastoral schools! Thousands of parochial schools! Thousands of religious newspapers, web sites, magazines, radio and television programs!’ … But now, when polls show that fewer people believe in God in Russia than in America or Western Europe, and most of those who believe entertain all sorts of false beliefs and superstitions (especially prevalent is the belief in reincarnation and the idea that abortion is permissible), it is much more likely that it is the following prophecy of Bishop Theophan the Recluse that is being fulfilled: ‘Although the Christian name will be heard everywhere, and everywhere will be visible churches and ecclesiastical ceremonies, all this will be just appearances, and within there will be true apostasy. On this soil the Antichrist will be born…’ And the Antichrist, according to another prophecy of St. Seraphim of Sarov, will be a Jew born in Russia…” (The Battle for the Russian Orthodox Church, pg.205)

Meanwhile, the Moscow Patriarchate, “in 2000 ‘canonised’ a long list of true martyrs and false ones. It canonised the true ones because their holiness in many cases could not be concealed even though they condemned the MP and died outside it. For example, Hieromartyr Victor of Glazov, whose relics are incorrupt and wonderworking, and who said that Metropolitan Sergius’ betrayal was ‘worse than heresy’… And it canonised the false ones because it had to pretend that you could be a Sergianist and a martyr. In this way the MP fulfilled a prophecy made several years ago by the ROCOR priest Fr. Oleg Oreshkin: ‘I think that some of those glorified will be from the sergianists so as to deceive the believers. “Look,” they will say, “he is a saint, a martyr, in the Heavenly Kingdom, and he recognized the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, so you must be reconciled with it and its fruits.” This will be done not in order to glorify martyrdom for Christ’s sake, but in order to confirm the sergianist politics.'” (The Battle for the Russian Orthodox Church, pg.210)

“In his assertion that ‘the false policy [of the MP] belongs to the church authority and the responsibility for it falls [only] on its leaders’, Metropolitan Anastassy was unfortunately contradicting the teaching of the Orthodox Church, which considers that lay Christians are rational sheep who can and must separate from heretical leaders. Similarly, his assertion that ‘only heresy adopted by the whole Church tarnishes the whole Church’ would not have been accepted by the hierarchs of the Ecumenical Councils. If the hierarchy of a Church adopts a heretical or antichristian policy, then it is the responsibility of all the lower ranks to rebuke their leaders, and if the rebukes fail, to separate from them because they are no longer true bishops (15th canon of the First-and-Second Council of Constantinople).” (The Battle for the Russian Orthodox Church, pg.232)


Here is one of the largest and oldest sites on Orthodox Christianity: Orthodox Christian Information Center

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