Our bishops will most probably be censured at the Council of Bishops in October 2016, in Odessa. Therefore, they and the priests that commemorate them will no longer have the ability to serve with the clergy remaining in the jurisdiction of Metropolitan Agafangel. This will be very painful for us, though such an administrative division cannot be called dividing the Church or separating from the Church.
We believe that the Church is one. Serving the liturgy together is but one of the visible manifestations of the unity of the Church, but it is not that unity in of itself. In some cases, this outward display may be lost, but the oneness of the Church is not damaged by this.
A schism was perpetrated a while back, in 2014 by Met. Agafangel. Due to the unfair punishments at that time, two bishops, Dionisiy and Iriney, and several priests with their flocks stopped commemorating the Metropolitan. It must be noted that they announced that they are not splitting off from the Church, but are compelled to adopt self-administration.
The same situation has now repeated itself; with B. Andronik and B. Sophroniy being punished. In this way the Metropolitan is cutting off one part of the Church after another. Why is this happening? Met. Agafangel is imposing his will on the Church, which inevitably results in the church members resisting. This resistance does not arise from some lust for power or disobedience. Piety is preserved in the Church by its members, and any attempts at violating the spiritual freedom of the Church will be rejected. This is a healthy reaction of the church body.
At a meeting of the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of Syracuse and the Canada it was decided that preparations for an All-Diaspora Council should begin and a Pre-Council Committee, to include bishops, priests and laity, was elected. The Pre-Council Committee will determine the exact date and place of the Council, and will develop an agenda that will include the following key issues:
An assessment of the actions of Met. Agafangel and his Synod.
An examination of the unjust punishments imposed by Met. Agafangel and his Synod against the archpastors, pastors and laypeople of our Church.
An invitation to all parts of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad to begin a dialogue to resolve any misunderstandings and divisions, with the goal of a possible uniting in Eucharistic communion of all the faithful members of the Church.
The restoration of the canonical conciliar order of the Church.
The establishment of a Church Court.
The 14th canon of the First-Second Council of Constantinople states: “If any Bishop, on the basis of charges against his own Metropolitan, shall secede or apostatize from him before a conciliar verdict has been issued, and shall abstain from communion with him, and fail to mention his name, in accordance with established custom, in the course of the liturgical celebration of the Eucharistic mystery, the Holy Council has decreed that he shall be deposed from office…”
This rule thus prohibits bishops from ceasing to commemorate a Metropolitan accused of any sin before he is adjudged by a Council.
The subsequent 15th rule, however, provides us with the single exception: “when he publicly preaches heresy.” In this case, subordinate clerics are required to break communion with the heretic.