Sunday, November 15, 2015

Epistle from the Synod of Bishops


of The Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
to the faithful children in the homeland and in the diaspora

Reverend hierarchs and pastors, monastics and lay people!

Having gathered in these days in the God-preserved city of Odessa, the members of the Synod of Bishops note that in most of our parishes, scattered around the world, spiritual life proceeds steadily and successfully. However, at the same time, in some areas of the territory of the Russian Federation, and partly in other places, a time of particular trial has arrived for our Church. In these few parishes, unfortunately, disturbance and mutual accusations have nearly become norm. “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it” (1 Cor 12:26) - the Apostle writes. Therefore, pain in one area of our Church is passed on to Her entire body.

We all know that the unity of the Church is based on unity of faith and love between Her faithful children. At present we have a unity of faith, as witnessed by the signing of a Statement of Confession together with our sister Churches – the Greek, Bulgarian and Romanian. This is a confirmation of the right path along which our Church is proceeding, together with the representatives of other confessing Orthodox Churches for more than twenty years. This unity is a great value of which we must cherish. We must make every effort so as not to disturb it.

Today it is possible to confidently assert that the unity of confession of the Orthodox Faith unites us. There is no reason to reproach our Bishops of confessing some kind of heresy. Therefore we must speak about the fact that we are faced with a serious test of the strength of our brotherly love. Of course, it must be taken into account that the fratricidal war in the Ukraine largely furthers this. In a few cases it has changed brotherly love into hatred. Among our faithful children there also those who stand on opposite sides of this conflict. Sometimes this conflict sometimes is even directly transferred into the bosom of the Church. Lamentably, this becomes a cause of unjust and uncanonical division. But, “Is Christ divided?” (1 Cor 1:13). Is it possible that there exist values on earth that are worth more than unity in Christ? Physical war should not go transform into “spiritual battle” between Christians the same faith. Some of our brothers unfortunately forget this, being overly enthusiastic about political slogans.

Additionally, we constantly hear reproaches originating from the hurt pride of some of our former brothers. Likewise from those of our children who, while not fully comprehending the essence of the issues, attempt to defend those on whom the hierarchy has imposed fair interdicts. Those who have been rebuked, rather than changing their behaviour, have become hardened. Not only do they not make any effort or attempt to regularise their situation – instead they continue insulting and blaming the Bishops and brethren. In the words of the Apostle: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Eph 4:29). For this reason, the Synod of Bishops urges them to lay aside all their offensive statements with regards to the hierarchs, and to ask for their forgiveness. Otherwise, these statements will remain between us forever, like an insurmountable wall.

Not wanting to expose internal disputes to general spectacle, we have given the ruling Bishops the task to meet with the clergy for more detailed explanations where necessary. The clergy in turn will relate the opinion of the Synod to those parishioners who are interested.

Today we appeal to all the faithful children of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad: Our Lord Jesus Christ constantly repeated: “Peace be with you.” These words are addressed also to all of us. Against the background of a general hostility and apostasy, which now has spread all over the earth, we must witness that we deserve to be called Christians – the disciples of the Divine Teacher. We must remember that we are the children of peace, not war. Remembering this, let us make every effort to maintain our unity.

Chairman of the Synod:
+ Metropolitan Agafangel

The members of the Synod:
+ Archbishop Andronik
+ Archbishop George
+ Bishop Athanasius
+ Bishop Gregory
+ Bishop Kyril
+ Bishop Nikon


Metropolitan Agafangel
First Hierarch of the Russian
Orthodox Church Abroad

Bishop John of Melbourne
Vicar bishop of Australia

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