STOC and ROCANA, an ecclesiology of anarchy

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Jean-Serge
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STOC and ROCANA, an ecclesiology of anarchy

Post by Jean-Serge »

In 2018, following their meting in France, STOC and ROCANA issued a common document available here http://rocana.org/archives/12527

This document led to a very long commentary by RTOC secretary Father Victor Melehov, with the title "the fruit of schism". The original text could be commented on many aspects, which I could do one day. What stroke me most was the following extract, in which both jurisdictions adopt according to me, an ecclesiology of disorder. Here is the paragraph:

Both parties agree that our common canonical basis is Decree No. 362 issued by Patriarch Tikhon. Although the authors of Decree No. 362 intended a territorial principle to be the basis for organizing Church Districts, under our current circumstances and due to the loss of episcopal authority after the union of the majority of the ROCOR episcopate with the MP, Church Districts can be structured on the principle of personal trust in the bishop. Clergy and laity have the right to determine how they should be organized and to which bishop to turn to arrange their church life, and it does not matter on which territory this bishop carries out his ministry.

What the paragraph allows

If we follow this paragraph, it means that a priest and deacon even if it has been appointed and ordained by a specific bishop, can freely leave this bishop and go under another bishop. It seems that he no longer needs the release of his current bishop or that the first bishop is obliged to grant the release.

Regarding laity, they can go also from one bishop to another. Since many parishes are in fact organised as civil association whose member vote to join such or such bishop, it means that the laymen, members of such association are free to vote to join another bishop. So, once again, this change of bishop seems not to require a validation from the first bishop.

Regarding bishops, since they can take parishes and clergy from any place, their territory is in fact without geographical limit.

Actually, this decision simply validates a sad practice common in orthodoxy, both world and true orthodoxy, of vagant priests and parishes navigating from a bishop to another without any authorisation, for reasons that are often not public and often unclear, i.e for very dubious reasons.

This STOC-ROCANA decision contains also much ambiguity because it does not explain if this new ecclesiological model refers to:

  • their past history because before 2018, they accepted priests and parishes from other jurisdictions without a release letter from the original jurisdictions

  • their current communion STOC - ROCANA for their internal affairs: clergy and laity could freely go from one bishop to another , since anyway these bishops are in communion

  • their current communion STOC - ROCANA with regards to other jurisdictions. They mean they will accept all clergy and laity from other jurisdictions without letter of release

Not abiding by traditional ecclesiology

Without going in detail in the list of canons, this paragraph entirely destroys centuries of orthodox ecclesiology.

In orthodox ecclesiology, a priest is not an independent person free to establish links with a bishop of his choice. The priest is a delegate of the bishop for a specific place, where he acts in the name of the bishop. As a delegate submitted to the bishop, if he wants to change bishop, he first needs a release from the original bishop. The STOC - ROCANA statement transforms the priest in an almost independent person, de facto with loose links with the bishop.

Canon law also establishes the protection of a bishop's diocesis. He is protected from other bishops' attempts to steal his parishes. Such action is condemned by the canons. The STOC - ROCANA statement practically validates the stealing of parishes. Moreover, the statement gives any bishop a universal jurisdiction (de facto), just like the pope of Rome.

Real ecclesiological anarchy

As we can see, this statement validated a total ecclesiological disorder authorizing the wandering of priests and stealing of parishes.

Lack of authority to change canons

The disorder is also created by the fact that age century canons validated by ecumenical councils and Fathers are de facto abrogated by a very small group : 2 jurisdictions and only 8 people signed this document

Bishop Akakije
Archbishop Andronik
Archbishop Sofroniy
Bishop Andrei
Priest Romaric
Abbess Efrosynia (Nikolic)
Nun Evfrosinia (Molchanov)
Vitaliy Shumilo
George Lukin

Among them, we have only 4 bishops, one priest, 2 female monks and it seems 2 laymen. These persons do not have the prestige of the authors of the canons that established the ecclesiological rules. Even worse, there are serious doubts about the bishops' canonicity, which is really the opposite of prestige. They do not have an equivalent authority to abolish such rules. They are not an ecumenical council, they cannot even represent without doubt the fullness of a local church even. Even if the principle of economy exists, it seems to me very bold and dangerous in this age and time that a small groups of bishops would decide such changes to major canons. Independently of their jurisdiction, my question would be to any person: "who are you to change such basic things and teachings?" Compared to the Fathers, you are, and we are nobody, so I would recommend being cautious and conservative on this aspect.

As for the faith of this group, we'll not discuss here but refer to the discussions related to cyprianism, half-cyprianism.

Modernism

The ROCANA - STOC decision about ecclesiology is actually shifting the balance of power between bishops, priests, and laity on the side of priests and laity. The bishop is supposed to be the "ruler" of the diocese with priests as delegates. This decision puts the bishop at the mercy of priests and laity who could submit him to a sort of blackmail : if you do not have such attitude, we'll leave. We can easily imagine coalition of priests and/or laity actually running the dioceses instead of the bishop who would be under constant pressure of priests and laity.

This actually favours a modernist ecclesiology very popular in the Russian exarchate in Western Europe (Rue Daru) but that seems to have existed in ROCOR too, with laymen associations who tried to pressure bishops as attested in this article : "It got to the point where some bishops began to see lay organizations as an opposing force that was revolutionary and harmful to them."

Source: https://www.rocorstudies.org/2022/02/02 ... 50s-1970s/

So, actually we have an ecclesiology that goes against the monarchy of the bishop, which is very strange because the members of these churches are generally monarchist in term of political philosophy.

Sincerity ?

The last point is that we can doubt the sincerity of this ecclesiological statement. When we read it, we could think that ROCANA-STOC is fine if one of his priest leaves them without authorisation for another bishop, all the more if they have communion together. Actually they are not. The event happened in February 2023. The independent bishop Irenej Klipenstein (former RTOC bishop) was in fact in communion with ROCANA. He welcomed a priest of Bishop Sofroniy (ROCANA bishop of saint Peterburg) without letter of release. Bishop Sofroniy reacted breaking communion with bishop Irenej Klipenstein : one of the reason was that he accepted his priest without release. What about the statement he signed "Clergy and laity have the right to determine how they should be organized and to which bishop to turn to arrange their church life, and it does not matter on which territory this bishop carries out his ministry."

Source (in Russian) : https://vishegorod.ru/index.php?option= ... ew&id=1387&

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Suaidan
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Re: STOC and ROCANA, an ecclesiology of anarchy

Post by Suaidan »

Couldn't laity always go to another Bishop though?

Fr Joseph Suaidan (Suaiden, same guy)

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SavaBeljovic
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Re: STOC and ROCANA, an ecclesiology of anarchy

Post by SavaBeljovic »

I would say this whole post is an example of "pot calling the kettle black", saying as Fr. Victor Melehov himself left ROAC without a canonical release, and for reasons other than heresy. Instead, to this day he cites the "moral character" of Archbishop Andrei rather than theology, ecclesiology, or canons. The RTOC took in many clerics from ROAC without canonical releases. "Do unto others as you would have done unto you" perhaps?

As for "half-Cyprianism", that's like the term "semi-Pelagianism", you're either a heretic or not. There's no "half" or "semi" anything.

I'm not trying to come off as accusatory or confrontational, I just think finger pointing, and especially questioning of sincerity is a bad practice. I was once told by a sociologist that the three things you never do when trying to make an actual critique of someone or a group of persons is to: never question their intelligence, never question their sincerity, and never question their character. Always address the point and point alone.

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Re: STOC and ROCANA, an ecclesiology of anarchy

Post by Bruder Klaus »

As laity, we should protest more when our bishops receive clergy without canonical release...

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Re: STOC and ROCANA, an ecclesiology of anarchy

Post by Jean-Serge »

I agree that individual laymen leaving a bishop raises less issues. BUt when it is a whole parish, in particular with its building, in which sometimes many people invested time and money because it belonged to a specific jurisdiction, it might be even more painful.

I also agree with the sentence from Klaus :

As laity, we should protest more when our bishops receive clergy without canonical release...

Regarding the term "sincerity", it is not the right word, the right word shoud be "lack of coherence"

Regarding this ecclesiology of anarchy, I see it as a hurdle to unity between TOC. Who would like to enter in commuon with a church that writes that priests can freely wander from bishop to bishop and bishop accept any priest and any parish in the whole word.

An example of anarchy comes from the same statement of STOC and ROCANA

The ROCA delegation asked about the canonical position of the group of priests in Omsk. After the death of Bp. Stefan (Sabelnik), the Omsk priests, with his blessing, began to commemorate Bp. Akakije. Bp. Akakije explained that he agreed to be commemorated by priests in Russia and in Ukraine, because Bp. Stefan had provided his blessing for this. Bp. Akakije does not wish to extend his jurisdiction onto the canonical territory of the Russian Church. He considers the current commemoration to be temporary while the canonical status of the Omsk group is resolved.

Clerics in Russia and Ukraine who commemorate Bp. Akakije are considered to be clerics (as they were previously) of the RTOC, who retain their previous unity with the ROCA. The commemoration of a STOC Bishop is temporary and does not imply the transfer of RTOC parishes and communities to the STOC. In view of these circumstances, the current state of affairs is permissible.

Bishop Akakije still considers the RTOC as a legitimate church even if STOC and RTOC are no longer in communion. This group of priest of Omsk was deposed by the RTOC under charges of cyprianism. So, the RTOC no longer consider these priests as members of the RTOC. Consequently, now, bishop Akakije decides who is member of the RTOC in spite of the RTOC decisions itself!

I suggest to leave the issue of cyprianism because I will have full posts dedicated to the topic with documents never translated to English in some cases.

By the way, I am not a member of RTOC or a a RTOC fan.

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Re: STOC and ROCANA, an ecclesiology of anarchy

Post by SavaBeljovic »

Bruder Klaus wrote: Thu 22 February 2024 12:52 am

As laity, we should protest more when our bishops receive clergy without canonical release...

I agree with this 100%. One of the great things about True Orthodoxy is that (most of the time anway), our Bishops are very accessible, we can send them emails, letters, or just call them most of the time. Just because we're laypersons or clergy under Bishops doesn't mean we can't voice our opinions.

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Davyd97
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Re: STOC and ROCANA, an ecclesiology of anarchy

Post by Davyd97 »

Bishop Andronik is a strange figure. He hasn't formed a synod and is instead an "independent" bishop. Two of his parishes including his cathedral in Ottawa went to the MP and Bishop Andronik has never acknowledged this. I personally think he is doing something with the MP.

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