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The ROCOR and the OCA have a complicated history of cooperation, rivalry, and sometimes outright hostility. These two jurisdictions, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), both have their origins in the Church of Russia (a.k.a. the Moscow Patriarchate or MP), and their histories as clearly distinct and identifiable entities both stem from the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in the early 20th century.
In examining this history, other names are used for the pre-1970 OCA, the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America (its official name) and the Metropolia (its common name). The ROCOR is also referred to as the Karlovtsy Synod (from its seminal formations in Serbia) or simply the Synod, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, or ROCA.
|ROCOR and OCA Timeline|
|1917||Bolshevik Revolution breaks out in Russia.|
|1919||Southern Church Council meets in Stavropol at which Higher Church Administration was formed in Southern Russia.|
|1920||St. Tikhon of Moscow issues Ukaz No. 362; first session of the Higher Church Administration outside borders of Russia.|
|1921||34 ROCOR bishops meet in synod in Karlovtsy, Serbia, including Metr. Platon and Abp. Alexander, hierarchs of the Metropolia.|
|1924||4th All-American Sobor of the Metropolia votes to establish "temporary self-government," breaking administrative ties with Moscow.|
|1926||Metr. Platon of the Metropolia breaks ties with the ROCOR synod.|
|1927||ROCOR synod sends epistle to American parishes suspending Platon and his clergy.|
|1933||Metr. Platon refuses to pledge loyalty to Moscow, which declares the Metropolia to be in schism and establishes an exarchate on American soil.|
|1934||Death of Metr. Platon; ROCOR lifts ban against Metropolia.|
|1935||"Temporary Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad" signed by Karlovtsy Synod, including Theophilus of the Metropolia, thus renewing relations.|
|1937||6th All-American Sobor of the Metropolia declares itself to report to ROCOR in matters of faith.|
|1946||7th All-American Sobor of the Metropolia breaks all ties with the ROCOR, splitting American Russian Orthodoxy in two.|
|1970||Metropolia reconciles with and receives autocephaly from Moscow, returning Japanese possessions to its control and becoming known as the OCA.|
|1971||ROCOR denounces Moscow's grant of autocephaly; OCA receives rebel ROCOR parish in Australia.|
|1976||Bulgarian Diocese in Exile breaks with ROCOR and joins OCA.|
|1982||Calendar schism in OCA diocese of E. Pennsylvania; ROCOR receives multiple parishes in the area.|
|2001||Election of Metr. Laurus as First Hierarch of ROCOR.|
|2007||Restoration of communion between ROCOR and Moscow.|
|2011||The primates and hierarchs of the OCA and ROCOR concelebrated the Divine Liturgy for the first time in nearly 70 years. (Synodal Cathedral of the Sign, New York, NY)|
- 1 Prologue: Contrasts and Stereotypes
- 2 1917-1946: A Tale of Two Histories
- 3 1946-1970: Open Hostility
- 4 1970: Autocephaly for the OCA
- 5 Early 1980s: The OCA Calendar Schism
- 6 2001-present: Warming of Relations
- 7 Timeline of Parish and Monastery Transfers
- 8 Sources
- 9 External links
Prologue: Contrasts and Stereotypes
Numerous stereotypes exist regarding the ROCOR and the OCA. The ROCOR is monarchist ("white"), while the OCA is associated with Russian Communism ("red"). The OCA is modernist, but the ROCOR is traditionalist. The ROCOR is "Great Russian," while the OCA is "Little Russian." These stereotypes have their origins in the history of Russian Orthodoxy in the West, a history which is, like much of the history of the Russians, complex and often sad.
The beginnings of the OCA and the ROCOR as distinct from the Church of Russia are in the early 20th century Soviet takeover of the Russian state. When the monarchy in Russia fell and the Church of Russia began being persecuted, a group of Russian bishops fled from northern Russia, joining with some in the southern portion of the country and organizing themselves via meetings in Constantinople and Serbia. These came to be known as the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia.
Meanwhile, the Metropolia, the Russian diocese in America, which was becoming increasingly less Russian and more Carpatho-Russian (with the reception of many thousands of former Uniates under the leadership of St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre), began a winding path toward independence from the jurisdiction of Moscow. The increasingly Carpatho-Russian/ex-Uniate character of the Metropolia is seen in its choice to name itself in 1906 as the Russian Orthodox Greek-Catholic Church in North America under the Hierarchy of the Russian Church (emphasis added).
Patriarch St. Tikhon of Moscow, who had previously been a bishop in America, issued an ukaz on November 20, 1920, declaring that the bishops of the Church of Russia were to see to their own organization until such time as communication with the central church administration could be coherently organized again. The Metropolia took this as a cue to declare in 1924 a state of "temporary self-government." From that point until 1970, the Church of Russia considered the Metropolia to be in schism, and many of the other Orthodox churches regarded the Metropolia as uncanonical and avoided contact with it.
The bishops which came to form the ROCOR took St. Tikhon's ukaz as the basis for their own self-administration, organizing themselves in 1920. Throughout the period of Soviet rule in Russia, the ROCOR regarded the Moscow Patriarchate as compromised and refrained from communion with it, still considering itself as an integral part of the Russian Church, notably the "free part."
1917-1946: A Tale of Two Histories
In examining the historical accounts published by both bodies, a notable discrepancy comes to the fore. The OCA's histories describe the OCA as being the direct heir to the original Russian missionary work in Alaska and thus as the heir to Russian jurisdiction in America, especially seeking to dissociate itself from the ROCOR. ROCOR historians, by contrast, consistently maintain that the Metropolia was an integral part of the ROCOR, recognizing its authority and canonicity, and that the OCA thus represents a schism from the ROCOR and subsequent capitulation to the Soviet-dominated Moscow Patriarchate.
It can be extremely difficult for the historian to sort out the truth of the events of the years between the onset of Bolshevism in Russia and the final break between the Metropolia and the ROCOR in 1946, mainly because there are such disparate accounts of those events. Additionally, most accounts are polemical, and those which are less polemical and rely more on primary documents tend to be out of print.
1921-1926: Initial Cooperation
In Bp. Gregory Afonsky's book about the history of the OCA 1917-1934, he says that "The Metropolia... has never been part of the Karlovtsy Synod in Exile". Concerning this time, the first period of the cooperation and then break between the Metropolia and the ROCOR, what is known is that there was some sort of cooperation starting in 1921. Metr. Platon (Rozhdestvensky), who had previously led the Metroplia but had taken up a see in Odessa, Ukraine, succeeded Abp. Alexander (Nemolovsky) as the leader of the North American flock in 1922.
ROCOR historian Fr. Alexey Young, in his history of the ROCOR, writes: "In the early 1920s, the American Church came under the jurisdiction of the Administration Abroad, which took an active administrative role in overseeing its American 'branch'—particularly on disciplinary questions such as divorce and the establishment of a new See in Alaska" (Young, p. 33). Young then writes that Platon was appointed by the Church Abroad as the leader in North America, but unbeknownst to his fellows in the Synod, "was at the same time seeking official appointment directly from Patriarch Tikhon himself. When the Patriarch refused to interfere in the decision of the Church Abroad, saying he 'did not wish to go over their heads,' Platon suddenly produced an ukaz, allegedly from Tikhon, appointing him as sole and independent head of the Church in America" (ibid.). Young continues, writing, that at first the ROCOR synod accepted the decree in good faith, but its authenticity was called severely into question when in 1924 "an actual decree from the Patriarch in Moscow deposed Platon 'for having engaged in public acts of counter-revolution directed against the Soviet government'" (ibid.). An American court also ruled subsequently that the ukaz produced by Platon was a forgery. "To deal with this embarrassment, Platon convoked the Detroit Sobor in April of the same year, with the purpose of declaring the Russian Church in America 'temporarily autonomous'—that is, free of both Moscow and Karlovci" (ibid.). This sobor is listed in the archives of the OCA as the "4th All-American Sobor."
In 1926 in Karlovtsy, the ROCOR bishops met together. Platon was present and asked to renounce the "temporary autonomy" that had been proclaimed by his council in 1924. Upon his refusal, the assembled bishops condemned the Detroit sobor as "extremely dangerous and harmful for the interests of the Russian Church in America" (quoted in Young, p. 34). Platon responded with another sobor in America in January of 1927 which labelled the ROCOR as "uncanonical." One of Platon's bishops, Apollinary (Koshevoi), dissented, proclaiming his loyalty to the ROCOR, and was expelled from the Metropolia.
That the Metropolia was part of the ROCOR during this period is attested to by St. John Maximovitch in his reference to the 1926 split: "Notwithstanding the departure from the Church Abroad — and, one may say, from the Russian Church altogether — of Metropolitans Evlogy and Platon with their followers, the Russian Orthdox [sic] Church Outside of Russia remains the free part of the Russian Church."
1926-1934: The Way Apart
In 1927, the ROCOR synod deposed Platon and appointed Apollinary to lead the American flock, and he had some success in persuading many parishes to accept his authority, including some 62 parishes in the 6 years of his governance until his death in 1933. The Russian church in America was generally "in a state of desolation and chaos, with many parishes closed, and 90 percent of the Russians now 'unchurched'" (Young, p. 35). During Apollinary's administration in America, 3 auxiliary bishops were consecrated to assist him by the ROCOR. It was during this period that the parishes which would come to be distinctly defined as the ROCOR's American representation came to be identified.
In 1929, Platon declared that he would be willing to make peace with the ROCOR synod so long as it recognized his authority and not Apollinary's for the governance of the North American flock. When the synod denied his terms, Platon went on a legal campaign to seize parishes and properties throughout North America from Apollinary's authority. Most of the court cases he brought forward failed. His position worsened when in 1933, Metr. Sergius, locum tenens of the patriarchal throne in Moscow, declared the "temporary self-government" of the Metropolia to be utterly void and schismatic, suspending Platon and establishing the Russian Exarchate of North America.
In 1934, Platon died, being succeeded by Metr. Theophilus (Pashkovsky), who was almost immediately suspended in his turn by Moscow, continuing the period of Moscow's regard of the Metropolia as schismatic. After Platon's death, the ROCOR synod hoped that there could be meaningful reconciliation with the Metropolia, and thus Archimandrite Vitaly (Maximenko) was consecrated in Belgrade as bishop of Detroit and sent to America to make peace. "After much travel and careful study of the Church situation in America, Bishop Vitalii reported that the reason for the American division in the Church was 'Russian stupidity,' and he called for the restoration of 'unity, organization, and discipline'" (Young, p. 36). Because of his efforts, in 1934 the ROCOR synod as a gesture of goodwill lifted its ban against the Metropolia. The patriarch of Serbia then invited all Russian bishops to meet again in Serbia to iron out their differences.
In 1935, Theophilus traveled to Serbia and met there with the ROCOR hierarchs, signing with them the "Temporary Regulations of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad," which divided the ROCOR into four main districts, including North America with Theophilus as its primate. In describing the agreement, Theophilus told his flock in America that "the position of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad has been strengthened by the unity and peace which have been obtained. Now we have only one center of Church administration in the Bishops' Synod in...Karlovci, where the American Metropolitan district [the Metropolia] will be represented by our elected representative" (quoted in Young, p. 36). Thus, from the point of view of the ROCOR, and certainly it would seem from the point of view of Metr. Theophilus, the Metropolia had again been reintegrated as a component part of the ROCOR.
Upon this reintegration, the Metropolia hierarchs made the following declaration to their faithful:
- With great joy, we inform you, beloved, that at our Bishop's Sobor in Pittsburgh, the 'Temporary Statue of the Russian Church Abroad,' worked out in November 1935 by our Hierarchs at the conference held under the presidency of His Holiness Patriarch of Serbia, Kyr Varnava, was unanimously accepted by all of us.... All of our Archpastors [the Metropolia bishops], headed by our Metropolitan [Theophilus], enter into the make-up of the Bishops' Council [in Karlovci] of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which is the highest ecclesiastical organ for our whole Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, and which remains, at the same time, an inseparable part of the All-Russian Church [in the homeland] (quoted in Young, p. 41).
However, on the OCA website in the section regarding the 6th All-American Sobor of 1937 in New York, the claim is made that the ROCOR actually was made part of the Metropolia, confirming a 1935 agreement made in Serbia between the Metropolia's primate and the ROCOR synod:
- Moreover, Metropolitan THEOPHILUS had traveled to Serbia where, under the leadership of the Serbian Patriarch, an agreement was signed by the leading hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) along with other exiled Russian hierarchs throughout the world forging a peaceful coexistence. Under this agreement, the American Church was to retain her administrative autonomy while maintaining close relations with the ROCOR Synod and being accountable to it only in matters of faith. The parallel jurisdictions of the Metropolia and ROCOR were thus eliminated and the four ROCOR hierarchs in North America along with their clergy and parishes were integrated into the Metropolia. The vote of the Sixth Sobor on this loose affiliation with the ROCOR was as follows: 105 for, 9 against, 122 abstentions. The large number of abstentions reveals that there was much apprehension on this issue at the council. However, in approving the matter, the council delegates showed respect and obedience to Metropolitan THEOPHILUS' primatial leadership.
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The website then goes on to describe this "integration" as merely a "loose affiliation," which seems to contradict the notion that the two bodies were truly integrated, eliminating "parallel jurisdictions" and making the Metropolia accountable to the ROCOR in matters of faith. On another portion of the website, regarding the 7th All-American Sobor in 1946, the relationship then being severed with the ROCOR is described as having been a "temporary arrangement".
The nature of the association between the Metropolia and the ROCOR is characterized quite differently by ROCOR writers:
- From 1920-1926 and 1935-1946 they recognized the authority of the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia; that this is so is almost embarrassingly obvious and true [proof of this recognition of authority can be seen in the list of hierarchs in the Russian Desk Calendar Reference for 1941—see original article for copy of this page from the calendar—PB]. From 1946-1970 they were in effect under no one, for five bishops separated themselves from the ROCOR, but would not recognize the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate, and had absolutely no claim to calling themselves an autocephalous Church. Fully aware of the illegitimacy of their position, in 1971 some prominent theologians of the OCA brokered a deal with the Moscow Patriarchate, one that even the other Patriarchates protested was an uncanonical move.
Additionally, there are a number of concrete facts to support this interpretation:
- In 1935 Metr. Theophilus went to Sremsky Karlovits in Yugoslavia at the invitation of the Patriarch of Serbia Barnabas and under his chairmanship an agreement was worked out dividing the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad into four Metropolitan Districts: Eastern European with Metr. Anastassy as the ruling Hierarch, Western European with Metr. Evlogy as ruling Hierarch, North American with Metr. Theophilus as ruling Hierarch, and Far Eastern with Metr. Meletius (in Harbin) as ruling Hierarch... There has long been a debate as to whether Metr. Theophilus subordinated himself and the Metropolia to the Karlovits Synod by this agreement. On the principle that actions speak louder than words, note has to be taken of the fact that Bishops previously under the Exile Synod [in America] accepted the authority of Metr. Theophilus and by the same token Metr. Theophilus was very careful to follow the proper ecclesiastical protocol in asking permission of the Karlovits Synod to give the higher church awards to clergymen as well as in submitting regular reports on the life of the Church in America to Metr. Anastassy and finally in having representation up to World War II in the person of a Hierarch at the regular meetings of the Exile Synod. It is further a matter of fact that at no time did the Exile Synod see fit not to honour any of the requests of Metr. Theophilus (at the same time, in this period, there [was] no acid testing of the arrangement in terms of requesting permission for the consecration of a new bishop) (Surrency, p. 45).
Permission to consecrate a hierarch for the Metropolia was eventually requested from the Synod Abroad, however:
- ...in a letter to Metr. Anastassy dated the 22nd of December 1945, permission was asked to consecrate Archimandrite John (Zlobin) as the new Bishop of Alaska. Permission for the consecration was received and it took place on the 10th of March (Orthodoxy Sunday) and the new Bishop promised obedience both to the Metropolia and to the Synod of Bishops Abroad (ibid., pp. 54-44).
In 1946, a planned All-American Sobor of the Metropolia was planned to be held in Cleveland, and a month prior to its being held, a letter was published in the Russian-American Newspaper Novoye Russkoye Slovo in New York:
- Popularly known as the Letter of the Five Professors, the document analyzed the position of the Metropolia and proposed a course of action. The authors recognized that the difficult position of the Metropolia was determined by two major facts. First, it had broken its ties with the Patriarchate of Moscow in 1933 and was viewed by the mother church as being in schism. Second, the Metropolia had subordinated itself to the Synod Abroad in 1937 (FitzGerald, 66).
The letter went on to encourage a break with the ROCOR, especially because it had allegedly "lost ties with the universal Church" when it moved its headquarters from Serbia to Germany in 1944 (ibid., 67). As such, the Metropolia should part ways with the ROCOR and woo Moscow. The letter goes to on address the question of the nature of the relationship of the Metropolia to the ROCOR:
- Subordinating ourselves to this Synod, our Church (the Metropolia) in substance subordinates itself to a group of bishops who really have no jurisdiction themselves. Because of this, some people are inclined to speak only of our cooperation with the Synod. This term "cooperation," however is not correct because the acts of 1936-1937 definitely subjected our Church under the Synod Abroad (quoted in FitzGerald, p. 67).
The letter turned out to be decisively influential in the coming sobor in Cleveland.
1946-1970: Open Hostility
In November of 1946, at the famous Cleveland Sobor (the "7th All-American"), after a call from Moscow for the Metropolia to renew its loyalty, a vote was held which resulted in the Metropolia's separation from the ROCOR and which declared loyalty to the Patriarchate. The voters, comprised of clergy and laity, voted 187 to 61 to reunite with the Patriarchate in the USSR. The pro-ROCOR faction within the Metropolia was understandably furious, as they regarded the Patriarchate as still compromised by the Soviet power.
The history of St. John's Cathedral in Mayfield, Pennsylvania, describes the 1946 severence of ties between the Metropolia and the ROCOR as a split within one body:
- In 1946, at the Cleveland Sobor, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia indicated that the church headquarters would be moved to New York. A split then occurred in the American Metropolia, and the decision was by approximately half of the bishops to disassociate with the Russian Synod Abroad.
The five bishops which refused to submit to the vote at the council—which had not been ratified by a Bishops' Council as protocol dictated, probably because doing so would have ended up with a vote against ratification, as the Council majority was pro-ROCOR—then received a letter from Theophilus indicating their exclusion from the Metropolia.
Theophilus then made a semblance of entering into negotiations with Moscow's representative (Metr. Gregory of Leningrad), but whenever Gregory thought he might meet with Theophilus, the latter was strangely unavailable. Subsequently, Theophilus preached a sermon in San Francisco on August 7, 1947, saying of Gregory: "You have probably heard and read that a certain Hierarch has come here. I tell you, beloved brethren, from this holy place that this envoy would greet us in order to violate our way of life, to abolish peace, to bring dissension and discord" (Surrency, p. 57). The rumor was further spread that Gregory was carrying with him some sort of heavy trunk, possibly an atomic bomb (ibid.). In October of that year, Theophilus held a council of his bishops declaring a postponing of "forming... canonical ties of the North American Orthodox Church with the Church and Patriarch of Moscow" and to "continue, as before, maintaining full autonomy in [our] church life as stipulated by the 7th All-American Sobor at Cleveland" (ibid., p. 58).
The effect of the events of 1947-48 was to declare autonomy from the ROCOR and to have Moscow believe it was about to receive its North American diocese into its fold again only to be rebuffed without explanation. The Patriarchate subsequently declared the Metropolia again in schism and called the Metropolia bishops to answer before an ecclesiastical court for canonical violations and for declaring an anathema on one of its bishops, Makary (Ilyinsky), who had decided to reunite with the Patriarchate.
By contrast, in the OCA-sponsored book, Orthodox Christians in North America 1794 - 1994, the authors state:
- Canonically, the jurisdictional system of ethnic churches was never stable. New jurisdictions appeared every decade with disturbing regularity, existing jurisdictions separated from their canonical authorities and joined others. The notable exception was the Metropolia. Forced to declare itself temporarily "self-governing" in 1924 to preserve itself from Communist interference, the irregular status of the Metropolia was tacitly accepted by all Orthodox in America and abroad, with the exception of the Communist-controlled Russian Orthodox Church. 
Fr. Andrew Philips, an English ROCOR historian, describes the 1946 split in this way, noting with some irony that the very church which refused the Metropolia recognition was the same one which gave it autocephaly:
- After 1917, they first joined together with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. However, eventually after much hesitation, a small number of Russian bishops in North America cut themselves off from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and formed an independent but uncanonical group, called the Metropolia. In 1970 this group was given autocephaly (independence) by the still enslaved Church in Russia.
The question of the nature of the relationship between the ROCOR and the Metropolia during the period of 1917-1946 has significant bearing on the jurisdictional legitimacy of both the OCA and the ROCOR as they now exist. If they never had much more than a "loose association," then the OCA's argument for Orthodox primacy in America is strengthened, as it would never have been under any jurisdictional authority other than Moscow's or its own. The period from the 1920s until 1970 of tension between it and Moscow are simply a difficult period between a mission diocese and its mother church.
If, however, the Metropolia was indeed part of the ROCOR, then its claims to being the direct heir of Russia's primacy in America are thrown into question, and the legitimacy of Moscow's grant of autocephaly to the OCA in 1970 has significant problems, in that it would be favoring a rogue jurisdiction which had switched allegiances multiple times and could be said to have been in schism from its legitimate canonical authority. Far from being a "notable exception" to the canonical authority-switching of various jurisdictions, the Metropolia had gone into schism from Moscow, joined the ROCOR, gone into schism from the ROCOR, rejoined it, then gone into schism from it again, eventually to receive canonical approval in 1970 from the church in Communist Russia.
In 1963, Prof. Alexander Bogolepov, a teacher of canon law at St. Vladimir's Seminary, published his Toward an American Orthodox Church: The Establishment of an Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which not only dedicated a whole chapter arguing against the legitimacy of the ROCOR but also stated that the 1924 declaration of "temporary self-government" actually "meets all the necessary requirements for the establishment of an independent Autocephalous Church" (Bogolepov, p. 93). The propagation of Bogolepov's book had a major impact on the consciousness of the Metropolia, both in uniting it against the rival ROCOR and in galvanizing it for rapprochement and the grant of autocephaly from Moscow just a few years later.
1970: Autocephaly for the OCA
At the same time that the Church of Russia was about to declare the autocephaly of the Metropolia, it announced that it was going to begin communing Roman Catholics. Vladimir Moss, a former ROCOR layman, writes in his The Orthodox Church in the Twentieth Century:
- ...in October, 1969, Metropolitan Nicodemus gave communion to Catholic students in the Russicum in Rome. This was followed, on December 16, by a decision of the Russian Holy Synod to give permission to Orthodox clergy to administer the sacraments to Old Believers and Catholics... The decision of the Moscow Patriarchate to give communion to Catholics put the other Russian jurisdiction in North America, the Metropolia, into a difficult position; for in the early 1960s the Metropolia (a body in schism from the ROCA since 1946) had been, through Fathers John Meyendorff and Alexander Schmemann, among the most conservative participants in the ecumenical movement.
He further writes that the autocephaly about to be received from Moscow was part of a secret deal between the Metropolia and Moscow, and that the price of the Metropolia's autocephaly was to be the newly revitalized Church of Japan:
- However, this Church had been secretly negotiating with the Moscow Patriarchate for a grant of autocephaly. According to the deal eventually agreed upon, the patriarchate was to declare the Metropolia to be the autocephalous Orthodox Church of America (OCA) in exchange for the Japanese parishes of the Metropolia coming within the jurisdiction of the patriarchate. This deal, which was recognized by none of the other Autocephalous Churches and was to the advantage, in the long run, only of the patriarchate and the KGB, was made public in December, 1969 – just at the moment that the patriarchate announced that it had entered into partial communion with the Catholics. Thus the former Metropolia found that it had been granted autocephaly by a Church that was now in communion with the Catholics.
In October of 1970, the synod of the ROCOR sent the following declaration to the bishops of the Metropolia:
- It is impossible for the Moscow Patriarchate, under the complete control of the Soviet atheistic regime which has set for itself the goal of destroying all religion, to do anything which could be to the overall benefit of the Church and it must be remembered that the Moscow Patriarchate cannot engage in foreign affairs without a direct order of the Soviet government.... It is not our intention to inflict upon you any hurt, but rather to give you again a brotherly warning of the danger now threatening you.... The Synod of Bishops [Abroad] has not forgotten that until very recently we and you were united in one Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.... We grieved when this unity was disrupted.... In your hearts you must all know that the Moscow Patriarchate in its present form is not the true representative of the Russian Orthodox Church.... There we are addressing you all, Bishops, Pastors, and Laity, for the last time. Let all other considerations fall. Return back to the unity of the free [Church] before it is too late (quoted in Young, p. 62).
Young continues: "This appeal, as all the others since the Metropolia's second schism in 1946, went unheeded, although over the next dozen years a few Metropolia parishes returned to the Church Abroad" (ibid.). The negotiations with Moscow had been completed, and the Metropolia returned to communion with the Patriarchate and immediately received a tomos of autocephaly from it.
The ROCOR's 1971 reaction was thus as follows:
- The Council of Bishops, having listened to the report of the Synod of Bishops concerning the so-called Metropolia's having received autocephaly from the Patriarchate of Moscow, approves all the steps taken in due course by the Synod of Bishops to convince Metropolitan Irinei and his colleagues of the perniciousness of a step which deepens the division which was the result of the decision of the Cleveland Council of 1946 which broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
- The American Metropolia has received its autocephaly from the Patriarchate of Moscow, which has not possessed genuine canonical succession from His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon from the time when Metropolitan Sergii, who later called himself Patriarch, violated his oath with regard to Metropolitan Petr, the locum tenens of the patriarchal throne, and set out upon a path which was then condemned by the senior hierarchs of the Church of Russia. Submitting all the more to the commands of the atheistic, anti-Christian regime, the Patriarchate of Moscow has ceased to be that which expresses the voice of the Russian Orthodox Church. For this reason, as the Synod of Bishops has correctly declared, none of its acts, including the bestowal of autocephaly upon the American Metropolia, has legal force. Furthermore, apart from this, this act, which affects the rights of many Churches, has elicited definite protests on the part of a number of Orthodox Churches, who have even severed communion with the American Metropolia.
- Viewing this illicit act with sorrow, and acknowledging it to be null and void, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which has hitherto not abandoned hope for the restoration of ecclesiastical unity in America, sees in the declaration of American autocephaly a step which will lead the American Metropolia yet farther away from the ecclesiastical unity of the Church of Russia. Perceiving therein a great sin against the enslaved and suffering Church of Russia, the Council of Bishops DECIDES: henceforth, neither the clergy nor the laity [of the Russian Church Abroad] are to have communion in prayer or the divine services with the hierarchy or clergy of the American Metropolia.
In the same year (1971) that the ROCOR issued its rejection of the OCA's autocephaly (following similar rejections by all the ancient patriarchates; see Byzantine response to OCA autocephaly), the OCA took under its jurisdiction a former ROCOR parish in Australia, thus creating another parallel jurisdiction in a nation outside the borders of the OCA:
- As a result of a court case between a group of parishioners and the Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA), four of the Clergy and one parish, as well as groups of parishioners, broke away from ROCA. They applied to the Orthodox Church in America -- then known as the Metropolia -- to be taken under its protection. This was granted immediately.
Thus, the rivalry between the ROCOR and the OCA became ever more strident, and the reception of autocephaly from Moscow by the OCA at the same time came to be seen by many Russians in the diaspora as a capitulation to the Soviet domination of the Russian Church, expressed, for instance, in these words by the famous writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (newly exiled in the West) in reaction to this act: "How can this be? Out of compassion for those in bondage, instead of knocking the chains off of them, to put them also upon oneself? Out of compassion for slaves, to bend one's own neck in submission beneath the yoke?"
As the ROCOR protested the action of the Moscow Patriarchate, the OCA began distributing reports regarding the ROCOR denying that the Metropolia had ever been a part of it, that the ROCOR was "uncanonical," and that it should be avoided by OCA faithful. The OCA was joined in this effort by Abp. Iakovos (Coucouzis) of the Greek Archdiocese, whose ecumenical activities in the 1960s and 1970s had seen the departure of some of his scandalized clergy to the Church Abroad, including the whole of Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline, Massachusetts. Up to that point, the Greek Archdiocese had been in full communion with the ROCOR.
Early 1980s: The OCA Calendar Schism
In 1982, Bishop Herman (Swaiko) of Philadelphia, the OCA's bishop for Eastern Pennsylvania, decreed that all of his parishes would begin using the Revised Julian Calendar. Some were already using it, but others had been using the Julian Calendar steadily up to that point.
As a result of this decree, internal schisms occurred in parishes throughout the diocese, particularly in the OCA heartland of the Wyoming Valley (Scranton and Wilkes-Barre area). St. John's Cathedral in Mayfield broke completely from the OCA (having come to it in 1951 from the ROCOR), and two parishes split into two congregations, creating two new parishes in Old Forge (St. Stephen's, splitting from St. Michael's and building a new church) and Simpson (St. Basil's, keeping its building, while those remaining with the OCA found new worship space). In numerous other parishes, migrations occurred of faithful, segregating themselves according to calendar preference—those preferring the Julian Calendar went with ROCOR, while those choosing the revised calendar stayed with the OCA.
This division further intensified hostile feelings between the OCA and the ROCOR, which was then entering into a phase of providing a haven for disaffected parishes and clergy seeking refuge from "modernist" jurisdictions. Much of that sort of behavior ROCOR historian Fr. Alexey Young ascribes to the influence of Holy Transfiguration Monastery's incorporation into the Russian Church Abroad.
2001-present: Warming of Relations
Since the election of Metropolitan Laurus (Skurla) of New York as First Hierarch of the ROCOR and that body's subsequent ongoing rapprochement with Moscow, signs have appeared of better relations between the OCA and ROCOR. Seminarians studying at OCA seminaries have attended retreats at the ROCOR's Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary (Jordanville, New York), and ROCOR seminarians have also participated in OISM events at OCA seminaries. The first member of the OCA to study at Holy Trinity Seminary, Vitaly Efimenkov, graduated in 2002. It is also worth noting that several graduates of Holy Trinity Seminary, upon recieving their Bachelor of Theology, went on to recieve Masters Degrees from St. Vladimir's Seminary. The most recent graduate of both Holy Trinity and St. Vladimir's is Andrei Psarev, instructor of Russian Church History at Holy Trinity.
Warmly worded letters from the OCA hierarchy have also been sent to the ROCOR hierarchy. Further, pilgrims from the ROCOR have visited the OCA metochion in Moscow  and Metropolitan Laurus has received representatives of the OCA for informal discussions. Additionally, the OCA's chancellor and one of its senior priests have attended a banquet at a ROCOR clergy conference.
Perhaps with these signs of greater cooperation, these two daughters of Russian Orthodoxy in the West will come to terms with their mutual history and fully reconcile.
Timeline of Parish and Monastery Transfers
Throughout the mutual history of the ROCOR and the OCA, especially since the split in 1946, numerous communities have changed hands back and forth between the two bodies, usually following a dispute between the community and its bishop. Typically, not all parishioners switched jurisdictions together, and transfers usually were accompanied by a parish split, whether just a few individuals or a major portion of the parish. Below is a chart listing many of these transfers.
|ROCOR & OCA Community Transfers|
|1951||St. John the Baptist Cathedral (Mayfield, PA)||ROCOR||OCA|
|1964||Protection of the Holy Virgin (Ottawa, Canada)||ROCOR||OCA|
|1970||Protection of the Holy Virgin (Ottawa, Canada)||OCA||ROCOR|
|1971||St. Nicholas Church (Bankstown, New South Wales, Australia)||ROCOR||OCA|
|1972||Holy Ghost Church (Bridgeport, CT)||OCA||ROCOR|
|1976|| Bp. Kyrill and the Bulgarian Diocese:
|1977||Holy Ghost Church (Bridgeport, CT)||ROCOR||OCA|
|1982||St. John the Baptist Cathedral (Mayfield, PA)||OCA||ROCOR|
|1982||St. Basil the Great (Simpson, PA)||OCA||ROCOR|
|1982||St. Stephen (Old Forge, PA)||OCA||ROCOR|
|1997||Monastery of the Glorious Ascension (Resaca, GA)||OCA||ROCOR|
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