Although I am a priest of the Genuine Orthodox Church (also sometimes called “True Orthodox” or “Old Calendarist”) I try not to devote much in this blog to the disagreements we have with the “world orthodox”, those jurisdictions which utilize the new calendar or hold communion with new calendarists. The reason I don’t do this is because I think it undermines the witness of the Old Calendar Church. Modifiers in our name, such as “genuine” or “true” belie the fact that is it in “genuine orthodoxy” that the entirety of the faith is preserved. We are orthodoxy: untainted, undespoiled, and untouched by decades of creeping ecumenism that has infested even the most conservative “world orthodox” jurisdictions to the point that their priests and bishops think nothing of communing non-Chalcedonian Christians. If you expect me to apologize for separating from that heresy, you will have a very long wait. The purpose of this blog is not to convince anyone that the True Orthodox are right, or the world orthodox are wandering in error. It is simply to proclaim the True Faith, once delivered to the saints! I dare say there is little I write here (at least that which does not touch on ecumenism) that a world orthodox bishop, priest or layperson would take issue with.
I take this approach online in social media as well. I am here simply to witness the life giving Grace of our Lord. I’m not interested in calling names or getting into canonical arguments with those who twist the canons to justify whatever they wish, so long as it has the stamp of approval from Constantinople. Nor are such discussions good for my repentance. For this reason, I’ve really been treated quite well even by those who adhere to the world orthodox point of view. And, in turn, I like to think I’ve treated others who disagree kindly.
But recently I’ve seen both priests and laity from “world orthodoxy” assail a catechumen regarding his choice to join the Genuine Orthodox Church. He had been attending a GOA parish and saw the communion of non-Chalcedonian Copts by the priest. This surely troubled him, and he made the very difficult choice to leave and seek a True Orthodox church. Perhaps this bothers me more than it should because when I run across catechumens in the world jurisdictions, I always treat them kindly no matter the nature of my disagreement. I don’t attack their priests or their bishops. I pray for them and I know that whatever their journey, the truth will be revealed to them and, if they are open to it, they will respond. I don’t consider it my duty to correct someone who is not under my direction. That seems very much the province of the Holy Spirit, and I am a wretchedly poor substitute for Him.
But others, from seasoned priests to young laypeople, feel the need to interpose their opinions on the GOC faithful. And it seems that these people all work from the same “talking points” memo, because the arguments are all the same. In a nutshell, they claim, quite ahistorically, that canonicity is determined by communion with Constantinople. When simple history shows that in fact both saints and patriarchates were at times out of communion, they then claim that they never schismed. (How you define schism without reference to maintaining communion is beyond me.) When examples like St. Maximos the Confessor, who refused to hold communion with any eastern patriarch are pointed out, the cry “but he never started his own church.” (Well of course he didn’t, he wasn’t a bishop. What he did was separate and refuse to recognize their mysteries.) When confronted with the unequivocal statement of ROCOR that recognized GOC bishops and held full communion with them, they even demean the memory of their former first hierarch and claim that was a different time (yes, 1969, and again in the 1990s – a blink of the eye in the history of the Church). They claim ROCOR, as it neared rapprochement with Moscow no longer saw the GOC as canonical. Inconveniently, they must ignore the fact that both Metropolitan Laurus and Bishop Alypy gave canonical releases to ROCOR priests who opposed union with Moscow, canonically placing them under GOC hierarchs. History simply does not support these talking points. So next they point to separation among the True Orthodox as a sign of illegitimacy (while of course excusing the separations that have happened continually within world orthodoxy). This strikes me as truly the most galling claim. Separation is not good, but is it anything other than the fruits of 100 years of persecution from the state church? Their argument boils down to this:
We are going to persecute you, excommunicate you, steal your property and put your priests in jail. After doing that for almost 100 years, we are going to point to the fact that after this you aren’t “perfectly” organized as proof of your illegitimacy. Meanwhile, two of our patriarchs are breaking communion with one another over geographical tiffs and our “ecumenical patriarch’s” great and holy council is attended by bishops representing less than 20% of the faithful and rejected by many even within the attendees, while the “pope” of Constantinople declares it binding on all and demands bishops in other autocephalous churches defrock those who disagree. But that’s completely different.
Then the name-calling starts, then the condemnations, and so on and so forth. I’ve heard it all. I’ve considered it all. And I reject it. And yes, I know members of the GOC can be just as nasty, and they shame us all. I find them as much a clanging cymbal or resounding gong as I do those in the new calendar church who engage in the behavior I described above, for there is no love. If you think we are wrong, pray for us, as I assure you we pray for you. Nobody sees division in the Church as a positive thing. It is tragic, but in our view, necessary, until the errors of ecumenism are rejected. Be assured, none of us who have been called to the GOC priesthood are in this for glory or money. We are shunned by long time friends who disagree with our decisions. Almost every GOC priest in the diaspora relies upon secular employment to meet their basic needs. We put our own time, talents and treasure into the missions and parishes we oversee just to keep them afloat.
If our existence bothers you that much, I can assure you that you won’t win anyone back with social media tirades. Practice your faith and pray. Pray for your bishops to stand firm against ecumenism. Pray for reunion between those who have departed and those who remain. Pray that we may all see each other as acting in good faith based on sincerely held beliefs. Most of all, though, pray that there be a good witness of Orthodoxy to those who have not yet been called to the faith, and that they know we are Christians by our love. Because I think in this regard, particularly on social media, we all fail time and again. May the Lord have mercy on us sinners.