About "Sergianism"

Bishop Tikhon

In our times, and with great vigor since the beginning of the unexpected days of "perestroyka" and "glasnost," a new word appears more and more often on the lips and in the writings of our brothers in the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, also popularly known as the Church in Exile, the Church Abroad, or "The Synod." This word is "Sergianism," or, transcribed from Russian, "Sergianstvo." This word refers to a purported doctrine of craven submission to the communist and atheistic government of the former Soviet Union on the part of the Hierarchy of the Orthodox Church of Russia, led by the Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia. The "Sergi" of Sergianism is the late Patriarch Sergi of Moscow who, while deputy locum tenens of the Patriarchal Throne, issued an encyclical letter which announced that henceforward the joys of the Soviet communist homeland would be the joys of the Church and the sorrows of the Soviet communist homeland would he the sorrows of the Church. A large and pious group of hierarchs opposed this philosophy, some from prison and exile. Some were persecuted for not subscribing to Patriarch Sergi's philosophy; though every fair observer must admit, in the light of contemporary and ensuing events, that the soviet government was intent on destroying the church, and subscribing to the philosophy saved no one. If the government used disagreement with this philosophy or letter as an excuse to martyr clergy one could not assert that the same clergy would have been saved had the letter never been written.

I've read a lot of material, especially in Russian, about the history of the Russian Church in our times. I don't recall seeing the word "Sergianstvo" or Sergianism in the writings of the hierarchy of the Church Abroad until, perhaps, though I'm not sure even then, the later years of His Beatitude, the late ever memorable Metropolitan Philaret. However, it NOW seems that "Sergianstvo" is a major heresy, warranting anathematizing of those who hold it and public repentance by any hierarch entering the jurisdiction of Metropolitan Vitaly from the Moscow Patriarchate. One would certainly expect to find this "heresy" cited profusely in such documents as the Encyclical Letters of the Hierarchical Sobors of the Church Abroad which are published in the commemorative book, Russkay Pravoslaynava Tserkov Zagranitsey 1911-1263. Could it be that that Titan of Orthodox teaching and piety, Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky) did not know of this heresy? Had that distinguished and beloved First-Hierarch of the Church Abroad, Metropolitan Anastassy, neglected to teach and preach against this, soul and church destroying heresy? Can the word be found at all in the collected works of Metropolitan Antony?

And then, what is one to make of the conduct of Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko) [+1960], the original editor of "Pravoslavnaya Rus", at the Cathedral of the Protection in New York in late 1939? Here is how this event is reported in the Russian-American Orthodox Messenger:

Vladyka Vitaly expressed great joy and support of that position which has been demonstrated by our Vladyka Metropolitan, introducing into the Divine Service the remembrance of the Most Holy Patriarch Sergi, thus preserving the foundations of church discipline which have governed our Church in America until this day. 'Let them defrock US, let them consider us schismatics, nevertheless we will fulfill our Christian responsibility and pray for our Church in the grave circumstances in which it exists,' said Vladyka Vitaly. (Messenger, Jan. 1944. No. l, New-York)

The "church discipline," to which the ever-memorable Archbishop Vitaly referred is sadly lacking in our time.

Dear brothers and sisters of the Diocese of the West: it pains me to address you on this topic in our diocesan newspaper. Nevertheless, I know it agitates the spirit of many of you that in the time when the Orthodox Church in Russia is given by God's grace and love that freedom for which we and so many of our brethren in the Church Abroad have so long and fervently prayed; when we are given the chance to work hand in hand with all our brethren in the Russian Church, from the Patriarch to the newest convert from atheism; when the Russian homeland is beginning to struggle to its feet in the same God-given freedom: that the leaders of the so-called "free" part of the Russian Church, namely, the Church Abroad, have joined all the enemies of that freedom and of that Church. They have become the chief outlet for the documents of the KGB. They have become the sole supports of the KGB in its mission to destroy the Church. They are involved in a desperate and sclerotic struggle to keep their world from changing, to be "irreconcilable" (but now with freedom). Even good and faithful servants of God among their own presbytery fear for their priesthood if they exercise free speech in this matter. The 'free' part of the Russian Church! What freedom? I write partly on behalf of those priests and faithful children of the Church Abroad who are now muzzled by a couple of helplessly faltering and fearful relics among their hierarchy, bringing to naught in their last days lifetimes spent in ascetic labors.

Beloved, I beg you, pray that the way will be opened for the faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church, whether in Russia or outside Russia, to work together for our Savior and His Church. I feel a terrible fate awaits those who refuse to recognize Christ's Church in the Orthodox Church in Russia whose Patriarch is Alexy II. One admires the monastic faithfulness, the piety of the Church Abroad. One also must consider the Apostle's words in the 13th Chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, remembering that love "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." One must also consider the danger of denying, of blaspheming against, the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life of the whole Orthodox Church, including the Moscow Patriarchate of the Holy Russian Orthodox Church.

The Orthodox West. The Journal of the Diocese of the West, Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America. Summer 1992, p. 1:1

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