Here is my story of why I left the OCA. In an attempt to make this as brief and concise as possible, I am not going to footnote my statements; for verification of the facts in this paper refer to:
- Russia’s Catacomb Saints, St. Herman’s Press (out of print, but there may be a similar book from Jordanville)
First, I cannot emphasize strongly enough that I have never considered myself wedded to the jurisdiction of the OCA. My sympathies have always been with the Old Calendar traditionalists, particularly ROCOR. I learned about these other jurisdictions fairly soon after I became Orthodox and the only reason I didn’t join a traditional church was because there were none anywhere near me. I did, however, read ROCOR literature, visit two ROCOR parishes as well as a ROCOR monastery, and became entirely persuaded that the Old Calendar traditionalists were the more authentic Orthodox. The OCA always seemed watered-down and modern.
Nonetheless, because there were, as I said, no traditional churches anywhere near me and because the OCA does have a number of traditional elements, I continued in the OCA for twenty years. But never did I consider myself “at home” in the OCA, rather the opposite – I always felt out of place to some extent.
Why then, after twenty years, did I decide to leave? Two things: first, I simply came to a tipping-point after many years of excusing worldliness and over-looking indifference to the traditional disciplines of the Church. I certainly never held resentment against anyone in our church – quite the opposite – I loved our church and took an active part in it. I do not believe that, for the most part, I have been judgmental; nevertheless, there is a difference between being judgmental and making a judgment.
The second reason I left was because I came to the startling realization that I was communing mystically with known heretics, freemasons, communists, and/or homosexuals through their concelebration with the OCA. I was imbibing their spirit and was horrified by the thought of it. At this point, the question of where else to go was no longer of prime importance; I simply could not continue in communion with the above.
St. Basil the Great says that it is better not to have a bishop than to have a false one. Why? Because as St. John Chrysostom says, he who communes with one who has himself been excommunicated from the Church is himslef excommunicated, and as Sts. John of Damascus and Theodore the Studite say, those in communion with heretics are themselves heretics, even though they personally do not agree with their heretical leaders. (Battle for the Russian Orthodox Church, p.8)
I then began to study the origins of the OCA. It had always been easy to assume that because the OCA was accepted and endorsed by the general community of Orthodox Churches it must be canonical. This, however, broke down in light of the facts. To read a brief history of the OCA, go to Orthodox Jurisdictions in America at OrthodoxInfo.com (“one of the largest and oldest sites on Orthodox Christianity … with over 700 articles and 6,000 printed pages – receives over 36,000 visitors per month”).
Basically, the OCA exists with the blessing of the Bolshevik Moscow Patriarchate (MP) and it was the study of how this patriarchate came to be which is crucial to my understanding that the OCA is a watered-down, modernist substitute for true Orthodoxy. The history of the Moscow Patriarchate can be read in much detail in the online book, The Battle for the Russian Orthodox Church. What follows is a brief summary.
Between 1917-1927, as the communist revolution took over Russia, a new, state-controlled Patriarchate replaced the old one. The first official head of this new patriarchate was Metropolitan Sergius. Metr. Sergius betrayed the Russian Church into the hands of the Communists, making the Church an arm of the state. It was…
…an illegally formed organization which has entered into union with God’s enemies and which the best Russian hierarchs, clergy and laymen have refused to recognize … The MP was seen to be in the exact position of the ancient “Libellatici”, Christians who refused to blaspheme openly against Christ and offer sacrifices to idols, (but) nevertheless still received from the pagan priests false documents verifying that they were in complete accord with the adherents of the pagan religion. (The Battle for the Russian Orthodox Church, p.228)
In 1927 Metr. Sergius formally issued his now infamous Declaration, saying that the “joys and sorrows of the State were the joys and sorrows of the Church.” This immediately caused a schism in the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 1927, when Metropolitan Sergius issued his Declaration, after which the church schism occurred, Prof. Zhizhilenko fulfilled the will of Patriarch Tikhon [Moscow Patriarch before Sergius] and became the first secret catacomb bishop, Maxim of Serpukhov.
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. These latter could more correctly be called faithful ‘Tikhonites.’ And the activities of Metropolitan Sergius and those with him must be characterized as a neo-renovationist schism.
All those who protested against the Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius were arrested by the Soviet regime as ‘counter-revolutionaries’; they were shot or sent to concentration camps and exile. At interrogations the jubilant Chekist-interrogators with sarcasm and evil joy would prove the ‘strict canonicity’ of Metropolitan Sergius and his Declaration, which ‘has not altered either canons or dogmas.’ The mass executions, persecutions and tortures which descended upon the faithful of Christ’s Church are beyond description.
For the True Orthodox Church there was left no alternative but to go into the catacombs. (Russia’s Catacomb Saints, p.17)
Here are two brief quotes from two members of the Catacomb Church which demonstrate what kind of people were in the Catacomb Church and their attitude toward the MP:
- This [MP] is not the true church. It has signed a contract to serve the antichrist. Do not go to it. Do not receive any mysteries from its servants. Do not participate in prayer with them. (Catacomb Eldress Agatha of Belorussia, martyred by Soviets at age 119)
- Bishop Sergius of Buzuluk – martyred May 3/16, 1930 by being thrown to hungry rats. He could have avoided this punishment if he had accepted Metropolitan Sergius. He refused to do so and was killed. (Battle for the Russian Orthodox Church)
It was under the Catacomb Church that ROCOR was formed. It was under the Sergius church (MP) that the OCA was formed. The OCA received “autocephaly” from the MP in 1970 (autocephaly is not full independence but remains under the patriachate that grants it). ROCOR considered this, “a great sin against the enslaved and suffering Church of Russia.” Most regrettably, ROCOR joined with the MP in the early 1990s (this is a whole story in itself of politics and betrayal which can be read in much detail in The Battle for the Russian Orthodox Church).
People naively like to believe that now that Communism has “fallen”, the MP has automatically and somehow become a holy and legitimate church. So much evidence points to the contrary, but in an effort to keep this paper brief, I refer you to chatper 13 entitled, “Can a Leopard Change His Spots?” in The Battle for the Russian Orthodox Church, p. 174.
As a consequence of being unable to join with ROCOR, and after much study, prayer and in God’s Divine Providence, I joined the Genuine Orthodox church of America, which is under the leadership of Archbishop Gregory of Denver and Colorado. A study of the history of this church, along with photos of their magnificent cathedral can be found at http://dormitionskete.org/. Archbishop Gregory and Mother Barbara visited with us recently and Allen and I were received as catechumens and are looking forward to visiting the skete this spring and being baptized.
I feel as if I have finally seen what true Orthodoxy is and am greatly renewed and encouraged. My church name is now “Anna”, after the Prophetess Anna whom I have loved and admired for years. Allen’s is “Seraphim”.
Just as a woman gives birth with labor pains, so every man suffers pains who wishes to strip himself of the old man. But after this his eyes will be opened to a new kind of light, and like a man who has been raised from the dead, he will rejoice and be continually astonished. He will see another world, and he will hear another harmony which heretofore his calloused heart did not even suspect (Introduction to Ascetical Homilies, p.49).
Yours in Christ, Anna