Posts tagged 1964
The 1964 Council of the Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad (ROCOR) marked a new milestone in its history: on May 27, 1964 Metropolitan Anastasii (Gribanovskii) retired. Bishop Anastasii’s episcopal consecration took place in Moscow in 1906. In 1913 he was appointed to devise rites for the glorification of St. Patriarch Germogen, which was presided by Patriarch Gregory IV of Antioch. In 1915, Anastasii was appointed Bishop of Chisinau and Khotin. He designed the rite of installation of St. Tikhon as Patriarch of Moscow on November 21, 1917. On December 7, 1917, the local council of the Russian Church elected him a member of the Synod of Bishops.
In 1918, after the accession of Bessarabia to Romania, Archbishop Anastasii refused to subordinate to the Romanian Church and was sent out of country by the Romanian military authorities. In 1920 he was appointed by the Supreme Church Administration of the South-East of Russia to Constantinople, which was occupied by the French and British troops, to address ecclesiastical needs of Russian refugees.
Evacuated from the Crimea in November 1920, the Russian Army created their own worldwide network – the Russian All-Military Union – in order to continue the struggle against Bolshevism. The Russian Church Abroad became the Church of this emigration that was traumatized by the civil war. The flock of the Russian Orthodox Church was very anti-communist: one could not expect from them a politically correct attitude toward the Bolsheviks. In 1924, the Ecumenical Patriarchate required Archbishop Anastasii to stop commemorating Patriarch Tikhon in the Divine Liturgy and to abstain from any political rhetoric. Archbishop Anastasii did not fulfill this demand and was suspended.
After his departure from Constantinople in 1924, Archbishop Anastasii was appointed to Jerusalem as an administrator for the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission. There he continued his encounter with Greek Orthodoxy, and he also visited Damascus. In 1927, at the request of Patriarch Damian of Jerusalem, he took part in the consecration of new bishops for the Jerusalem Patriarchate. At that time Palestine was under British mandate. Archbishop Anastasii maintained intensive contacts with the British and took part in joint prayers with the Anglicans. As a result of his labors, the Gethsemane monastic community was founded by former Anglican nuns who had become Orthodox.
In 1936, after the death of Metropolitan Antonii (Khrapovitskii), Anastasii became the second Primate of the Russian Church Abroad. During World War II, he did not escape the illusions prevailing among the flock of the Russian Church Abroad that the Germans, having liberated Russia from Bolshevism, would permit the establishment of an independent Russian state. Metropolitan Anastasii supported Russian Liberation Army of General Andrei Vlasov. Nevertheless, Metropolitan Anastasii’s intuition and caution saved him from calling to the entire flock of the ROCOR to support Drang nach Osten (that is, German expansion into Slavic lands).
In 1950, Metropolitan Anastasii moved to the United States. Here he maintained warm relations with the Greek Archbishop Michael (Konstantinides), whom he had met in Constantinople. In the postwar period, Metropolitan Anastasii had a rigid attitude toward the Moscow Patriarchate. At the ROCOR Council of Bishops in 1959, the decision was made to accept clergymen of the Moscow Patriarchate through repentance. In his so-called last testament, Metropolitan Anastasii called on the faithful to have no public contacts with representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate. Today, those who did not recognize the 2007 reconciliation of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad refer to this document, pulling the words out of historical context.
In exile, Archbishop Anastasii showed a rare ability to step back from the noise of the dominant trends. At the Pan-Diaspora Council of 1921, he was against the adoption by the council of an appeal for the restoration of the Romanov dynasty, supported by Metropolitan Antonii. He was acutely aware that St. Patriarch Tikhon had a very different experience of life than those Russian bishops who left the country. At the Council of Bishops in 1953, Metropolitan Anastasii spoke out against the glorification of St. John of Kronstadt, believing that it was not the business of the refugee Church to glorify the All-Russian miracle worker. Metropolitan Anastasii was against Russian intervention in the internal affairs of the Greek Orthodox Church, and a Bishop’s Council passed a resolution not to participate in the consecration of the Greek Old Calendarists. This resolution was breached in 1962 by Archbishop Leontii of Chile and Peru.
It became very difficult for Metropolitan Anastasii to head the bishops’ “conclave” of the Russian Church Abroad due to his advanced age, and he summoned a Council of Bishops with the purpose of electing a successor. On May 27, 1964 Metropolitan Anastasii confirmed that he had not changed his mind about retirement. Since Byzantine times, conciliarity was maintained in the Orthodox Church by the confrontation between the “diplomats” and “zealots.” At the time of the Council of Bishops in 1964 there was a sharp confrontation between these two episcopal parties. The leader of “zealots” was St. John (Maximovitch) of Shanghai and San Francisco, and the leader of the “diplomats” was Archbishop Nikon (Rklitskii) of Washington and Florida. The election of a First Hierarch from either of these two factions would have made it extremely difficult for the other party to work with this person. To resolve this crisis, St. John offered to withdraw his candidacy, if Archbishop Nikon would follow suit. The result was that Bishop Philaret (Voznesenskii) became the Primate of the Russian Church Abroad. This opened a new period in ROCOR history. Bishop Philaret had been consecrated only a year earlier, and represented a new generation of leaders. On November 1 at the Synodal Cathedral in New York and later in Utica, New York, the glorification of St. John of Kronstadt took place. The Russian Church Abroad was turning into a self-sufficient entity.
On May 22, 1965, Metropolitan Anastasii died and was buried in Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY.
Deacon Andrei Psarev teaches church history at Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville, NY. He also serves on the SOCHA advisory board and runs the ROCOR Studies website (www.rocorstudies.org).
Well, this is interesting. Lately, I’ve been looking at the Supreme Court case Serbian Diocese v. Milivojevich, which pitted the representatives of the Serbian Church against the incumbent American bishop, Dionisije, who had been defrocked by the Serbian Holy Assembly. The big question, which the Court answered in the negative, was whether civil courts in America could review the decisions of a church tribunal.
What none of the justices’ opinions mentioned is the fact that Bishop Dionisije actually did appeal the Holy Assembly decision to another judicial authority — the Patriarch of Constantinople. On June 6, 1964, the Chicago Tribune reported that Patriarch Athenagoras I responded with a letter rejecting the appeal and recognizing Dionisije’s defrocking as valid. The Ecumenical Patriarch also declared Dionisije’s consecration of Bishop Irinej Kovacevich to be “uncanonical and worthless.” (Just before this, SCOBA also rejected Dionisije, announcing that they would not recognize him or his jurisdiction.)
What exactly is the extent of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s right to hear appeals? The key texts are Canons 9 and 17 of Chalcedon. Here is the relevant portion of Canon 9: “And if a bishop or clergyman should have a difference with the metropolitan of the province, let him have recourse to the Exarch of the Diocese, or to the throne of the Imperial City of Constantinople, and there let it be tried.” Similarly, Canon 17 prescribes, “And if any one be wronged by his metropolitan, let the matter be decided by the exarch of the diocese or by the throne of Constantinople, as aforesaid.”
According to Fr. John Erickson in “Chalcedon Canon 28: Its Continuing Significance For Discussion of Primacy in the Church,” these canons provide two paths for a party seeking appeal: he may go to Constantinople, or to his own exarch. This appeal would have applied to the whole Eastern Roman Empire. Early evidence shows appeals to Constantinople from the diocese of the Orient, “whose ‘exarch’ would ultimately bear the title of patriarch of Antioch.” Erickson writes that in Constantinople, “thanks to the continual flow of visiting bishops from all parts of the empire, a convenient court of appeal, in the form of the synodos endemousa, could easily be convoked by the capital’s archbishop.”
Erickson goes on to note that Rome, too, had been given wide-ranging rights of appeal, in its case by the Council of Sardica. He distinguishes these appellate prerogatives from ordination rights, which were much more limited.
If you go to the Orthodox Wiki article on the prerogatives of Constantinople, you’ll see a different view. The authors of that article quote St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain (d. 1809), who argued that Constantinople’s right to hear appeals was limited to its own jurisdiction. According to St. Nikodemos, in this regard, the Ecumenical Patriarch was no different than any other exarch. I asked Fr. John Erickson about this, and he replied, “The system of the imperial church in the fifth century was significantly different from that of more recent times – and with ‘more recent times’ I must include St Nikodemos.”
I’m not a canonist, so why am I venturing into these (at times controversial) waters? My interest, here, is in the potential legal implications of a Constantinopolitan right of appeal. It’s possible, of course, that there are no legal implications. But, at this early stage of my research, I’m not sure, and I want to at least explore the possibility.
Let’s assume, for now, that such a right of appeal exists. This means that the decisions of a given Holy Assembly, Holy Synod, or Patriarch are not necessarily final. If the Ecumenical Patriarch could have heard Dionisije’s appeal and ruled in his favor, doesn’t that mean that the Serbian Holy Assembly is not the highest judicial authority in the Serbian Church (at least, from the standpoint of the American legal system)?
This raises another interesting question: if American courts can’t overrule the decisions of the highest judicial authority in a church, can they still overrule the decisions of lower judicial authorities? For instance: Assume that an American Orthodox jurisdiction has a local or eparchial synod, and that this synod has the authority to make certain decisions. Assume further that members of this jurisdiction can appeal the local/eparchial synod’s decisions to the Holy Synod of their Church. What, then, happens if church members appeal one of these local decisions, not to the Holy Synod, but to a secular US court? I think this wouldn’t matter, because a court applying deference to church decisions would probably tell the church members that they must make use of the appellate process in their own church, rather than bypassing that process and running to a secular court. But… well, I don’t know enough to say for sure.
The more pertienent issue, I think, has to do with Justice Rehnquist’s hypothetical scenario of a pseudo-Holy Assembly purporting to defrock a bishop, but not complying with its own quorum rules (and thus, by its own rules, not constituting an actual Holy Assembly). Justice Rehnquist uses this scenario to argue that secular courts must be able to adjudicate the case, but if a right of appeal to Constantinople exists, I it’s possible that this appeal might have to be made before US courts could get involved. Again, you probably can’t just bypass the church-appointed process in favor of civil litigation.
This seems to be consistent with the spirit of Canon 9. I quoted part of Canon 9 earlier, but here is the beginning of the canon: “If any Clergyman have a matter against another clergyman, he shall not forsake his bishop and run to secular courts; but let him first lay open the matter before his own Bishop, or let the matter be submitted to any person whom each of the parties may, with the Bishop’s consent, select. And if any one shall contravene these decrees, let him be subjected to canonical penalties…”
A clergyman can’t first run to the secular courts, but he could make use of those courts if the church courts gave him an unsatisfactory judgment. As a practical matter, according to Erickson, this wouldn’t have been a commonly-used option in the Eastern Roman Empire (unless the clergyman in question was particularly well-connected). In any case, the idea seems to be that we should try to resolve matters internally, but if that fails, we could then go to a secular judge. Of course, these canons were composed in a totally different era in church history, when the Church and the Roman state were becoming increasingly intertwined, and when Constantinople was (to many) the center of the world. Does the right of appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch really apply today, when Constantinople is no longer a cosmopolitan center for Orthodoxy and the Ecumenical Patriarchate is oppressed by the Turkish government? I don’t know.
But if the right to appeal does exist, what are its implications on American courts? I’d be very interested to hear what the lawyers reading this think.
Anyway, in the case of Bishop Dionisije, he did appeal to Constantinople, and his appeal was denied. The Ecumenical Patriarch in essence affirmed the decision of the Serbian Holy Assembly, and SCOBA followed suit. Bishop Dionisije was thus isolated from much of mainstream Orthodoxy, more than a decade before the Supreme Court heard his case.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.
The longest-serving hierarch in American Orthodox history was Abp. Kyrill Yonchev (1964-2007), until late this past June, when his record tenure of nearly 43 years was exceeded by Metr. Philip Saliba of the Antiochian Archdiocese. Kyrill was well-known and well-loved as the OCA’s diocesan bishop for Western Pennsylvania as well as its Bulgarian diocese. What is perhaps less well-known is how the OCA came to have a Bulgarian diocese.
The OCA’s Bulgarian diocese, like one of its other ethnically defined dioceses (the Romanian), had its origins in a schism within the American jurisdiction of an Orthodox church based in a then-Communist nation. In both cases, there were factions dedicated to remaining within the canonical purview of the mother churches, but there were also factions who felt that such a stance represented capitulation to Communism, which had, to one extent or another, compromised the church authorities in the homeland. Communism split not only the Bulgarians and Romanians in America, but also the Russians and Serbs. (Of these, only the Serbs have subsequently reunited.)
In the case of the Bulgarian diocese, the dissent against Metr. Andrei Petkov, the bishop aligned with the homeland, was led by one of his clergy, an archimandrite named Kyrill Yonchev. During World War II, Andrei broke relations with authorities in Bulgaria, and then in the late 1950s petitioned the Russian Metropolia (itself then on bad terms with its mother church) for admission, but was rebuffed. In 1964, he regularized his relations with the homeland. This latter move stirred significant rancor in the Bulgarian-American ranks, and Kyrill broke relations with the aging Andrei and persuaded several parishes to follow him.
Kyrill was subsequently consecrated by the ROCOR, renowned for its anti-Communist feelings, to serve as the head of the Bulgarian Diocese in Exile. His career as a ROCOR bishop came to an abrupt end, however, when in 1976 he led his diocese of nine parishes into the OCA, where he served until his death in 2007, acquiring a second diocese (Western Pennsylvania) in 1978. At the time of this development, in the wake of the Metropolia’s reconciliation with Moscow and subsequent independence as the OCA, ROCOR/OCA animosity was perhaps at its apex.
In 1976, the energy from the OCA’s newly-proclaimed autocephaly was still flowing freely, and the entry of the Bulgarian Diocese in Exile into its ranks was regarded as another sign of the inevitability of the OCA as a catalyst for American Orthodox unity, particularly at the OCA’s Fifth All-American Council that year, which also elected Theodosius Lazor to be the new OCA primate.
Since Kyrill’s death, the OCA’s Bulgarian diocese has been without an appointed hierarch, and the Bulgarian parishes under the Patriarchate of Bulgaria remain as their own jurisdiction, whose numbers were nearly doubled in 2000 with the reception of a number of parishes of the former Christ the Saviour Brotherhood. While the two Romanian jurisdictions in America have had ongoing talks regarding reunification, there has not been a parallel development in Bulgarian-American Orthodoxy.
Update Dec. 26, 2009: Fr. Alexander Lebedeff writes with some corrections to this post:
Archbishop Antony (Sinkevich) of the ROCOR was consecrated Bishop of Los Angeles in August 1951 and served until he was retired in 1995. He reposed July 31, 1996. He was a bishop for 45 years.
Of course, Metropolitan Vitaly (Oustinoff) of the ROCOR was made bishop in 1951 and retired in 2001 after celebrating 50 years as a bishop (he reposed in 2006). However, he did not come to North America until 1955. Still, 1955-2001 is 46 years. There are those in offshoots of the ROCOR who consider him to have continued being First Hierarch of the ROCOR up to the point of his repose. In any case he was a bishop for 55 years and a bishop in North America for 51.