Pre-Council Committee’s reply to Metropolitan Agafangel on his charge of heresy

Your Eminence,

In Your article “The New Schismatics are also Heretics” on the Internet-Sobor website, you accuse us of promoting the heresy of the “Ecumenism of True Orthodoxy.” (?!!)

Calling us schismatics can be left to You and Your conscience, but the charge of heresy is so serious, that we must provide an answer.

You find the following statement discovered by You in one of the articles on the website to be heretical: “In our time, that which we consider to be the universal Church appears as divided “fragments,” which do not maintain relations with each other.”

The existence of “fragments,” i.e. microscopic church jurisdictions with no relation to each other, is an obvious fact known to all. The question is how to understand this fact from the perspective of the Holy Canons. Most “fragments” hold to the view that only that one “fragment” belongs to the universal Church and is the ROCA, while the other “fragments” are schismatics that have fallen away from it. A curious picture emerges; each one of the almost twenty “fragments” considers itself to be the true one and not the others.

This approach is impractical as the “fragments” also continue to divide, and with each division, the advocate of the theory of being the only true “fragment” must decide: which of the two newly-created “fragments” is the true Church. If this process of division continues, it may lead the person to the absurd conclusion (and this has happened in the past), that the Church itself has ceased to exist.

We consider such a view to be an unfortunate presumption arising firstly from the vanity of humankind (it feels good to consider yourself to be the only one that is true and look down at others), and secondly, from the fact that the canons are interpreted too literally and applied erroneously. It is because of this presumption (and also, of course, from human pride) that it is not possible to start the process of uniting the “fragments.”

If we understand You correctly, it is precisely this view of the “fragments” that You present in your article, when you stated that Your Odessa Synod is the only one belonging to the universal Church. Therefore, when You accepted Bishops Dionisiy, Iriney and Anastasiy in their existing office, you explained it as them coming from out of the schismatic groups found outside of the Church.

Yet another view exists, and it is the one we hold. It maintains that the barriers between the “fragments” do not reach heaven. Therefore, if two jurisdictions do not concelebrate together, it does not mean that the two of them cannot belong to the one, universal Church, since concelebrating is but one of the visible manifestations of the spiritual unity of the Church, but is not itself that unity. The Lord said of the Church, that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. The Church is not such a delicate thing, that it can be so easily destroyed.

It would be odd for us now, having been saved from the shipwreck of the ROCA, to accuse each other and try to determine, who jumped from the drowning ship first and who did later. If the “fragments” profess Orthodox teachings and have a correctly consecrated episcopate, it can serve as the foundation for the restoration of church relations between them, without going into the historical circumstances.

If we remember correctly, You yourself held previously to this point of view. You held a conference in Odessa in the summer of 2010 called “The Paths of the Church Abroad in Today’s World,” to which You invited representatives of the various “fragments.” After the conference, You noted in Your blog, “The conference has ended. For me personally, it is now obviously unnatural for there to be a “divided” ROCA. We are not divided by dogma and not even by any kind of “mentality,” but some sort of fatal misunderstanding. On one hand it is sad, on the other it inspires hope.”

One of the participants asked what You meant by a “misunderstanding,” to which you answered, “The misunderstanding is simply that the only thing separating the ROCA “fragments” is the ambitions of its leaders.”

So it is possible that accusing us of heresy may also be some sort of misunderstanding.

The Pre-Council Committee