AN IMPENDING COUP OF THE NAME-WORSHIPPERS IN SUZDAL
While the attention of most True Orthodox Christians has been directed,
quite naturally, at the tragic event of the ROCOR-MP unia, a hardly less
sinister coup has been brewing in the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC)
centred in Suzdal.
On May 9/22, Igumen Gregory (Lourie), who was defrocked for heresy by
the ROAC Synod in September, 2005, and Alexander Soldatov, the editor of the
notoriously pro-Lourieite "Vertograd", calling themselves the "Secretariat of
the Initiative Group of Clergy and Laity of the Russian Orthodox (Autonomous)
Church", issued a "memorandum" entitled "Half a Year without a Synod"
(http://vertograd.blogspot.com/2006/05/blog-post_22.html) ). In it they speak
about a "de facto
cessation of the activity of the Hierarchical Synod of ROAC", its "paralysis",
caused by Metropolitan Valentine's "self-withdrawal from [ecclesiastical]
affairs", and leading to a situation in which "each diocese and many parishes
de facto passed over to autonomous administration".
More seriously, the authors of the memorandum accuse the metropolitan
of uncanonically concentrating all power into his own hands, so that the Synod
has become a mere cipher. And they compare this situation to the situation
of the Synod under Metropolitan Sergius. "Our antisergianist True Orthodox
Church is ruled by an organ similar to the synod of Metropolitan Sergius. The
condemnation by the Russian New Martyrs of the very construction of the
sergianist ecclesiastical authority falls also on the Hierarchical Synod of
Therefore from a canonical point of view there never has existed a genuine ROAC
Synod. None of the decisions of this organ have canonical force..."
The authors go on to say that until the convening of a Sacred Council
to correct this situation, every diocese of ROAC must exist in a situation of
involuntary autonomy. This situation, they say, was blessed by New
Hieromartyr Agathangelus of Yaroslavl. And extensive experience of living in
conditions was amassed by the Catacomb Church, "whose example we must follow".
There are so many ironies in this memorandum that it is difficult to
know where to start. However, I shall not start there, but with a brief
exposition of how ROAC arrived at this impasse.
In the year 2000 ROAC was probably the most canonical jurisdiction of
the Russian Church. In 1996 ROCOR had, without even pretending to follow the
canons, expelled Archbishop Lazarus, Bishop Valentine, Bishop Agathangelus,
Bishop Theodore and the Catacomb Bishop Seraphim, together with hundreds of
parishes and thousands of laypeople in Russia. As was suspected at the time,
real motivation for this coup was Archbishop Mark's drive to rid ROCOR of
all elements that would be opposed to union with the MP - and the five bishops
in question were unanimously opposed to any union with Moscow.
Unjustly expelled in this way, ROAC's position was strengthened by the
fact that it did not participate in ROCOR's false council of October, 2000,
which recognized the MP and officially made an approach to communion with it
via the heretical Patriarch of Serbia.
However, at about this time Reader Vasily Lourie joined the Church, and
was quickly tonsured and ordained to the priesthood - uncanonically, because
he had a wife (and child), whom he had discarded, against her will, for the
sake of "the better part". Almost immediately he started introducing false
teachings into the Church: on marriage, on name-worshipping, on the
pre-revolutionary Synod, on the Orthodox empire, on rock music, on suicide, on
These false teachings elicited a strong wave of opposition from within
ROAC. At first, Metropolitan Valentine was inclined to listen to these
protests. However, he was then accused of pederasty by the secretary of the
and in his desperate struggle to remain out of prison accepted the help of
Lourie and his "childhood friend", the Kremlin "polittechnologist", Gleb
Pavlovsky. The price of this help, of course, was a suppression of the wave of
protest against Lourie's false teachings. And so Lourie survived, and, after
expulsion or silencing of his main opponents by Valentine, gradually
increased his influence within the Church.
But times changed: Metropolitan Valentine was at first convicted of
pederasty, but then managed to have the verdict changed to conditional
discharge. Now he no longer needed Lourie's political connections so much - and
in any case, became less powerful. Moreover, opposition to Lourie's ideas
was again surfacing, led this time by the Catacomb bishops (there are four in
ROAC). Weighing up the balance of forces within his Church, Valentine decided
to reverse course and defrock Lourie in September, 2005.
Unfortunately, he did this in an uncanonical manner, with no trial and
no real theological appraisal and exposure of Lourie's teachings. (Lourie
once called Valentine "undogmatic". I objected at the time, but have to admit
that he was right in this.) Lourie, who knows the canons better than the
bishops, had no difficulty in pointing this out and in using the injustice to
elicit sympathy for himself among his still-numerous supporters in ROAC. He
continued to serve, and on Palm Sunday, according to Olga Mitrenina, there were
communicants in his church in St. Petersburg - not bad for a defrocked priest
serving without the blessing of a bishop. Meanwhile, Valentine's health
deteriorated, he had an amputation, and the "de facto paralysis" of which
and Soldatov speak became evident.
Moreover, disturbing signs of what can only be called paranoia began to
appear in Valentine. Without initiating a church trial, he recently went to
the secular authorities and accused two of his closest associates,
Protopriest Nicholas Novoselov and Deacon Sergius Slonov, of stealing objects
"Museum of the White Warrior". The result was that Fr. Nicholas - a Catacomb
Christian of great talents and unimpeachable honesty, modesty and virtue -
landed up in Vladimir prison, from which he has only just been released. This
behaviour was exploited, of course, by Lourie and Soldatov, and Lourie even
hinted (this was probably only bravado) that he had had a hand in Fr. Nicholas'
And now Lourie has made his move to take control of the Church. The
memorandum is clearly a call to arms, to convene a Sobor at which Valentine
be retired, his successor named, and Lourie reinstated. This successor - the
Kerensky-like figure who will facilitate Lourie-Lenin's eventual revolution
- will almost certainly be Archbishop Theodore, the present number two in the
hierarchy - a very pleasant, hard-working man and a sincere believer, but a
man who appears to sympathise with the name-worshippers. Theodore will be
ideal to effect a smooth transition from Valentine's rule to that of Lourie.
presence at the helm will serve to soothe the consciences of those,
especially the Catacomb Christians, who don't trust Lourie but who don't want
leave the Suzdal jurisdiction if at all possible. Meanwhile, with Theodore as
metropolitan, real power will remain in the hands of Lourie, Soldatov and,
probably, Igumen Theophan (Areskin), a name-worshipping disciple of Lourie whom
Valentine rashly introduced into the centre of his administration like a Trojan
horse (Theophan recently defended Valentine's actions against Fr. Nicholas,
but this was probably only a smokescreen).
How is this potential take-over of one of the last outposts of True
Orthodoxy in Russia by heretical forces to be averted?
The first thing to do is to recognize those elements in Lourie's
critique of Valentine's regime that are true. For to deny this will only
Lourie's case in the long run. But at the same time we must show how
hypocritical his critique is.
And so: it is true that Valentine's Synod has been essentially a
rubber-stamp to his one-man absolutist rule, and that a series of decisions
been made uncanonically. These include both the expulsions and
anathematizations of Lourie's opponents and the defrocking of Lourie himself. Of
Lourie - this is the first irony I spoke of earlier - was quite happy to go
with the earlier series of uncanonical bans on his opponents, and only
begins to cry foul when he falls victim to such a ban. This hypocrisy accords
his real nature as a Church revolutionary who only uses the canons to the
extent that they further his essentially political (by which I mean:
Secondly, it is true that Valentine has displayed sergianist traits -
and not only in his manipulation of a subservient Synod. Deeply suspect, also,
is his appealing to the authorities when it suits him in order to keep
himself out of prison or crush an opponent (or even a friend, such as Fr.
Nicholas). But the irony is that Lourie has been the first to assist him in
Lourie's own attitude to Soviet power, to Putin's neo-Soviet power and to
the prospect of the revival of the Orthodox autocracy is profoundly sergianist.
Hence the irony - and hypocrisy - of his calling Valentine a sergianist.
Thirdly, we can agree with Lourie and Soldatov that the only way to
restore order in the Church is to convene a Sobor that is conducted in a truly
conciliar spirit. It is a sad fact about contemporary Russian Church life -
and not only in the MP, but also in the True Orthodox jurisdictions - that
almost everywhere important decisions are taken in a non-conciliar manner,
contrary to the holy canons, as if Peter the Great's uncanonical "Spiritual
Regulation" were still in force. Perhaps the new Synod that has recently
under Metropolitan Tikhon of Omsk is an exception to this rule - I don't know.
But in any case, the convening of a Sobor in Suzdal would be an opportunity
not only to restore order to the Suzdal jurisdiction, but also to display to
the world that the True Orthodox Christians can still order their affairs in
accordance with the holy canons.
However, it is not only the holy canons that are at stake. It is also
the holy dogmas, the very foundation of the Church, without which the Church
ceases to be the Church. The Sobor must investigate the false teachings of Fr.
Gregory Lourie afresh, in a much more searching and systematic manner than
has been up to now, and condemn unequivocally.
If this is not done - and the preparations for this must start now -
then I fear that the forthcoming Sobor, if it takes place, will only restore
the heretic Fr. Gregory Lourie to power, making his false teachings official
and thereby removing ROAC from the list of True Orthodox jurisdictions...
10/23 May, 2006.
Holy Apostle Simon the Zealot.
St. Simon, Bishop of Vladimir and Suzdal.
не скрою, что есть нечто в этом тексте для меня обидное, -- но это, наверное, так и нужно, чтобы твоих стараний не замечали. а мои старания заключались в том, чтобы никогда и никто из наших противников не изгонялся из РПАЦ неканонично. мы не смогли уследить только за Тером -- который, как только мВ отлучил его от церкви, вспорхнул, как бабочка, и был таков. если бы он сам тогда не ушел, то мы бы его защитили, и тогда бы он ушел позже и без всяких неканоничных прещений ему вслед, а только по собственному желанию. все остальные уходили -- строго канонично, т.е. сами и доброй волей, чему пример -- автор сего письма Владимир Мосс. вышел конфуз с Абу Ассалем, которому, будучи в США, мВ вручил указ о его фактическом запрещении. но тут, в России, мы сразу же убедили мВ, чтобы он вменил сей свой указ, яко не бывший, и я собственноручно и вот на этой же клавиатуре написал совсем другой указ Синода -- получив который, Абу Ассаль уже, наконец, ушел сам, и без всяких санкций ему вслед. поэтому, мне кажется, Владимир тут неправ, когда говорит, что мы стали беспокоиться о каноничности только после того, как неканоничные прещения постигли нас. что же касается неканоничности всего строя управления РПАЦ, то это требовало слишком глобальных реформ. на мой взгляд, к ним следовало приступать, начиная с конца 2003 г., но, несмотря на старания, так и не удалось к ним приступить, сохраняя мВ в неприкосновенности.