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Book Review: A History of the Orthodox Church in America (1917-1934)

Reviewed by Michael Woerl

by Bishop Gregory (Afonsky), former Bishop of Alaska of the OCA, Saint Herman's Theological Seminary Press, Kodiak, Alaska 1994.

The work under consideration here represents the latest effort of "The Orthodox Church in America" to prove that "The Orthodox Church in America" (OCA) is canonical and legitimate, and consequently, that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) is not. This perennial campaign has been characterized by deceitful, exaggerated, and at times irrational claims. This exercise in self-validation on the part of the OCA employs a technique known as "the Big Lie," that is, repeat a lie often enough, and eventually people will begin to accept it as the truth. The present book does not depart from this standard feature of polemical practice of "The Orthodox Church in America," with the result being that the lie (or, rather, lies) is repeated yet again. All the justifications to demonstrate the canonicity of the Orthodox Church in America and the illegitimacy of the Russian Church Abroad have appeared before in one form or another.

Nevertheless, there are several peculiarities in this work which add a novel dimension to it. One of these is found in the title itself: A History of the Orthodox Church in America 1917-1934. Since there was no organization in existence prior to 1970 bearing the sobriquet "The Orthodox Church in America," the title is misleading, as is the author's use of this designation throughout the book. At various times in the study the term, "The Orthodox Church in America," can refer to a) the original Russian Mission in Alaska; b) the pre-revolutionary Russian Diocese; c) the American Metropolia; d) the post-1970 Metropolia—"The Orthodox Church in America"; or, finally, e) the different jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church which are represented in America. The use of the same phrase to describe five distinct ecclesiastical bodies, as well as the deceptiveness of the title, which suggests that this is a history of Orthodoxy in America during the years under consideration, is "madness with a method." The "method" here is that the reader will come to accept the post-1970 American Metropolia—"The Orthodox Church in America," as including in itself all of the other possible meanings of the term, therefore, I use quotation marks around the phrase "The Orthodox Church in America" to emphasize the confusion. The work's main preoccupation is with the American Metropolia during the years 1917-1934, and it also recapitulates all of the most mean-spirited and vulgar polemics against the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, which is continuously referred to as the "Karlovtsy Synod in Exile," and repeatedly denounced as "uncanonical."

Another peculiarity is the cover, which bears a reproduction of an icon entitled Three Saints of North America (Patriarch Tikhon, Father Herman of Alaska, and Metropolitan Innocent of Moscow). Inside the cover, the reader is informed that this icon is "by the hand of Theodore Jurewicz." Father Theodore Jurewicz is a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, serving the parish of the Nativity of the Lord in Erie, Pennsylvania. This fact raises an interesting question: why does a book that devotes a considerable percentage of its pages to denouncing the "uncanonical Karlovtsy Synod in Exile" have on its cover an icon painted by a clergyman of that very same "uncanonical Karlovtsy Synod in Exile"?

More peculiar yet is the distribution of this work. Complimentary copies were mailed to virtually every Orthodox parish, monastery, and publishing house in the United States, an undertaking of considerable expense, especially for a jurisdiction that has made no secret of its present financial difficulties. One cannot help but question the rationale behind mailing free copies of this book all over the country.* As a matter of fact, the only way it makes sense is if it is seen as one aspect of the strategy to legitimize the OCA by constantly proclaiming its legitimacy—if it is the only argument people hear then "it must be true." What is truly lamentable is that with Church budgets severely strained, money is wasted on this transparent attempt to justify oneself with the most base of propaganda techniques. Thirsty souls in this land, afflicted with the famine of the word of God, are sated not with a new, free copy of The Spiritual Counsels of Saint John of Kronstadt or Christ is in our Midst for their Church library, but are only fed lies and distortions of the truth.

As stated above, this work contains nothing new, only a repetition of all the tired half-truths and ill-informed opinions that "The Orthodox Church in America" and its predecessor, the American Metropolia, have felt compelled to disseminate in order to defend their own legitimacy at the expense of the Russian Orthodox Outside of Russia. In doing so, this work includes some blatant contradictions, the most amazing being the treatment accorded the noted Ukase #362, issued by Patriarch Tikhon on November 20,1920. This Ukase gave Russian hierarchs the right to "organize a unit of higher church authority'' [1] in the event that communications with the Patriarch in Moscow were impossible, or if the Patriarchate ceased to function altogether, due to persecution of the Church by the Bolsheviks. When referring to "The Orthodox Church in America," the author informs us that "This decree directly concerned the North American Diocese by allowing the Diocese, which was separated from the central authority in Moscow, to exist as self-governing; it was even permitted to organize itself into a Metropolitan District." [2] With regard to the Russian Orthodox Outside of Russia, however, the author presents a completely different interpretation of Ukase #362, stating that this Ukase cannot be a basis for the existence of the Russian Orthodox Outside of Russia because the Ukase was written solely "for the purpose of being useful to governing bishops in Russia," [3] and again, "Decree #362 made by Patriarch Tikhon together with the Holy Synod and Higher Church Council was directed to diocesan bishops in Russia during the Civil War." [4]

The author also berates the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia as being a "self-proclaimed" entity, bemoaning the "fact" that "the Karlovtsy Synod in exile" had "begun to attribute to themselves authority," [5] was "appropriating for themselves authority," [6] "trying hard to expand its own authority," [7] and had engineered its own "uncanonical self-generation." [8] Yet again, the story is different concerning "The Orthodox Church in America." When explaining the "autonomy (autocephaly)" [9] of this body [and one may rightly ask, just what is "autonomy (autocephaly)" for the author here tries to equate two terms that do not mean the same thing], the author has nothing but praise for the much vaunted "All-American Councils" for "[achieving] complete independence from its Mother Russian Church," [10] by declaring "the right to self-governing existence,'' [11] and pronouncing, solely on its own authority, "the Russian Orthodox Church in America to be a Self-Governing Church," [l2] and further, that "such a Church is in fact a Local Autocephalous Church." [13] Which, of course, leaves the reader with a question: Did "The Orthodox Church in America" become a "local autocephalous Church" by this pronouncement of one of its "All-American Councils," or by the "tomos of autocephaly" received from the KGB-dominated Moscow Patriarchate in 1970?**

By the author's [Bishop Gregory's] logic, what is good for the goose ("The Orthodox Church in America") is not good for the gander (The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia). This work sets out not to ascertain historical truth, but to "prove" that "The Orthodox Church in America" is a legitimate, valid, autocephalous Church. This "proof" is demonstrated by gathering information, true or false, in or out of context, that will conform—even if by force—to the agenda at hand. The contradictions in this work can be summarized briefly: "The Orthodox Church in America" commits acts a, b, and c, and is therefore good; The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia commits the same a, b, and c, and is therefore bad.

Many of the author's most serious allegations have been previously discredited, others are so ridiculous as to merit no response whatsoever but two outright fabrications that appear in this work will be addressed. The first of these is that "The Orthodox Church in America received its foundation from the Russian Church in 1794, when an Orthodox Mission was sent to Alaska.'' [14] If this was intended to mean that the first appearance of Orthodoxy on the North American continent was that of the Russian Mission of 1794, no one would take exception. That is not what is intended, however. What is intended is that the reader accept the notion that the organization now in existence known as "The Orthodox Church in America" is the sole, true heir to the Russian Mission of 1794, and that there is a historical continuity between the two. It has been pointed out that there are "artless attempts in the 'history' of the OCA to establish that the pre-revolutionary Russian missions in America were somehow the precursors of this body," which fail in light of the fact that "the majority of the forebears of the OCA faithful were Greek Catholics (Uniates) who returned to Orthodoxy in the U.S." [15]

A most interesting perspective on this claim of "The Orthodox Church in America" to be the continuation of the original Russian Mission and Diocese can be gained from the remarks of His Grace, Bishop Nicholas of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, of blessed memory (+ 1915). These remarks were part of Bishop Nicholas' Farewell Address, delivered on the occasion of his return to Russia after shepherding the Diocese from 1891 to 1898.

Bishop Nicholas firmly warned his flock against those "carried away by zeal beyond their reason... teachers, who, to please those heterodox confessions, would not only relax the rules and statutes of Holy Church, but even alter the very dogmas of faith by introducing certain opinions never accepted by the Church... there be those who...out of their reticences and careless words, would weave whole systems for the justification of their unorthodox views, striving to impose all this upon our Mother the Church, with the object of lowering her to the level of the heterodox churches and communities, and thus opening free access unto Her vitals to all those who, until now, were debarred from her by their errors... such teachers and teachings are the more dangerous, the more sincere and well-meaning they appear to be and the greater the learning with which they disguise their errors and frivolousness. Therefore, beloved, keep away from such teachers and teachings, that you may not, because of them, forfeit your salvation." [16] With its claim to be "heir" to the original Russian Mission and Diocese, "The Orthodox Church in America" claims Bishop Nicholas as "one of its own." Yet, after reading Bishop Nicholas' Farewell Address, it would not be difficult to surmise that not only would Bishop Nicholas not claim the present day "Orthodox Church in America," with its penchant for modernism, minimalism, ecumenism, and sterile academic "theology" as a continuation of his labors for the Church of Christ; he would see in it the very haven of those "teachers and teachings" whom he warned his flock against! And, no doubt, staunch proponents of "The Orthodox Church in America" could see only "Karlovtsyite fanaticism" in the remarks of Bishop Nicholas!

Another fabrication contained in this work is that "The Metropolia...has never been part of the Karlovtsy Synod in Exile." The author reiterates this falsification of historical fact several times. [17] The author's "creative" approach to history is "proven" by his contention that since "The Orthodox Church in America" dates its beginnings from the 1920's, and since "Orthodoxy in America was not founded by the Synod Abroad," [18] "The Orthodox Church in America" could NEVER have been part of the "latecomer" Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia! Employing such "logic," one could also claim that since Alaska was not "founded" by the USA, and since the native peoples of Alaska predate the founding of the USA, the native peoples of Alaska are not, and could never be, part of the USA! Despite the convoluted logic employed to "prove" this fiction, it is no secret that the American Metropolia was an integral part of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia from 1920 to 1926, and again from 1935 to 1946.

One can better grasp the distinction between what constitutes a mission, a diocese, or the development of an autocephalous Church when we move from the polemics surrounding the history of the Russian Church in North America to the example of Orthodoxy in China. "The Chinese mission [of the Russian Orthodox Church]...had its commencement at the close of the 17th century, and has existed without interruption since 1714 [written in 1904]." [19] To paraphrase the author of the work under consideration, while it is undoubtedly true that "Orthodoxy in China was not founded by the Synod Abroad," nevertheless, this very same Synod Abroad exercised jurisdiction in China from the 1920's until after World War II, when the communists came very near to wiping out Orthodoxy in China. The jurisdiction of the Synod Abroad extended over the Diocese of Peking and Harbin in China, and was unreservedly recognized by Archbishops Methodius of Harbin and Innocent of Peking, and Bishops Meletius of Zabaikal, Nestor of Kamchatka, Simon of Shanghai, Jonas of Tien-Tsien, and Dimitrius of Hailar. [20]

The Church in China, in fact, was probably more mature, more flourishing, more stable, and more fruitful than the Church in America. Founded some 100 years prior to the Mission to Alaska, the Church in China counted more than 225,000 faithful, both Russian emigres and native Chinese. The administrative center was in Harbin, Manchuria—a city which held 20 Orthodox churches in its boundaries,—including the huge Cathedral of the Annunciation, which could hold 3000 worshippers. [21] Several monasteries and convents were located in China, one of which was the Kazan Icon Monastery, which attracted about 10,000 pilgrims on great feast days. [22] The major journal for the Orthodox in China, "Heavenly Bread, was printed with 7500 copies per issue," and "calendars and prayer books were published, in some cases in editions of 100,000 copies." [23] Hierarchs from China attended Synod meetings in Sremski Karlovtsy, and the Synod in Sremski Karlovtsy appointed bishops for China. (Just, of course, as hierarchs from America attended Synod meetings in Sremski Karlovtsy, and the Synod in Sremski Karlovtsy appointed bishops for America). One such was the young Bishop John (Maximovitch), appointed by the Synod Abroad as Bishop of Shanghai in 1934. This is the same Bishop John that was glorified as a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in 1994, and is venerated by Orthodox Christians in all jurisdictions worldwide. Perhaps the very fruitfulness and maturity of the Church in China, and its hierarchs, is the key to understanding why it recognized the authority and jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

Like the Church in China, therefore, the Mission of the Russian Orthodox Church in America never developed into anything more than a diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. All polemics and wishful thinking aside, (and not even considering the issue of the other ethnic jurisdictions greatly increased in number during this century who also make up some of the Orthodox churches in America), simply put, there has never been, and there is not at this present time, a distinct, legitimate Orthodox Church of America. But many are turning to Orthodoxy now, often entering the splintered manifestations of the Russian Church in this country, either the OCA, the ROCOR, or even a few of the existing Moscow Patriarchate churches. So naturally it is important for them to understand who their "mother Church" is, who retains the legacy of the Orthodox faith they seek. The aftermath of the Russian Revolution allowed for three alternatives:

1) Follow the subjugated Moscow Patriarchate.

2) Follow the bishops who originally were part of the Russian church administration until its subjugation by Metropolitan Sergius to the Communists, and who, as a matter of conscience and for the welfare of the Church as a whole, refused to unite themselves to a corrupted body.

3) Place oneself under neither the Moscow Patriarchate nor the ROCOR, but under no one.

Throughout this period of Russian church history (1917 to the present), which certainly has been a turbulent and confusing one, ROCOR hierarchs have followed a consistent path, one first charted by those Russian hierarchs whose fate it was to stay, confess the truth in their native land, and perish as martyrs. The same simply cannot be said for the OCA. Many words have been written by Bishop Gregory (Afonsky) and his fellow apologists in the OCA, but many words said many times to many people do not make them any more true. This reliance on many words serves to hide the inconsistency of their position, for the OCA in all its permutations, has at various times followed all three of the above alternatives. 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. However, this canonical irregularity will continue to be overlooked in practice and deemed unimportant by the other Patriarchates as long as the OCA adheres to what is of greater concern to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in particular, the path of modernism and ecumenical unity.

Ultimately, however, the most damning aspect of Bishop Gregory's study is not what he says to cover up this inconsistency of the OCA, but what he leaves out. He writes, "After the Message of Metropolitan Sergy of 16/29 July 1927, proclaiming loyalty to the Soviet government, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad held on 27 August/9 September 1927, in Sremsky-Karlovtsy, decided to sever administrative ties with the Moscow Church Authority... From here on the Church Abroad was to be independent, recognizing Metropolitan Peter (not Sergy) as the true Head of the Russian Church. All the decisions of Metropolitan Sergy were invalid for the Russian Church Abroad." [Emphasis added] (p.66)

Bishop Gregory tells us precious little else about Metropolitan Peter, nor about all the other bishops in Russia who, just like the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, followed his lead and not Metropolitan Sergius. The story Bishop Gregory does not tell is hardly an insignificant matter. In brief, Sergius was one of four bishops who bowed to Communist authority; Peter was the acknowledged leader of nearly 250 bishops who were imprisoned and for the most part ultimately killed because they would not compromise the integrity of the Russian Church and recognize Metropolitan Sergius as its head. The hierarchs of the ROCOR have from the beginning of the troubles following the Russian Revolution consistently and continuously taken the stand and followed the lead and the spirit of Metropolitan Peter and all the New Hieromartyrs of Russia, the authentic voice of the Russian Church, and have been faithful guardians of its flock of spiritual children in the lands of North America. The ROCOR is one in mind and spirit with those such as Archbishop Seraphim of Uglich (11935), the immediate predecessor of Metropolitan Sergius as locum tenens in 1927, who understood the spiritual essence of the problem facing the Russian Church, and was not concerned so much with the material preservation of the Church, but its spiritual purity, a purity that at some point cannot be defended with legal arguments, claims of canonicity, or brokered deals, but, as he realized, can only be left in the hands of God:

All the predecessors of Archbishop Seraphim in the position of Substitute of Locum Tenens were in prison, and he knew that the same fate was awaiting him as well as the successor he would choose in case of his own arrest. Therefore, when entering into the exercise of the authority of this position in December, 1926, he did not assign any successor. When, at his interrogation by the GPU, he was asked: "Who will be the head of the Church if we do not free you?" he only replied: "The Lord Jesus Christ Himself." At this reply, the astonished interrogator looked at him and said: "All of you Bishops have left substitutes for yourselves, as did Patriarch Tikhon and Metropolitan Peter." "Well, I myself have left the Church to the Lord God," repeated Archbishop Seraphim, "and I have done this on purpose. Let it be known to the whole world how freely Orthodox Christians are living in a free government." (p. 155).

The hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Outside of Russia follow and defend the position of Archbishop Seraphim and all the martyr bishops who trusted not in the wisdom of the world but in God. Those sincerely seeking to "understand" the issues dividing the various jurisdictions will not allow themselves to be cast into doubt by the obfuscations of Bishop Gregory's work, but will immerse themselves in the Lives of these martyr-saints of our century and listen to the voice of those who placed their hope in God, for those who in trust in Him will understand truth (Wis. 3:9).

Endnotes

*Ed. note: The author of this critique, after making several inquiries even at the headquarters of the OCA, was unable to discover who was responsible for the book's distribution.

**Ed. note: The degree to which this comment can in no way be misconstrued as a biased insinuation by Mr. Woerl is clearly proven by no less than the present metropolitan of the OCA, Theodosius. In the June/July 1995 issue of the official newspaper of the OCA, The Orthodox Church, there were a number of articles written celebrating the 25th anniversary of autocephaly. In the article signed by the Metropolitan himself, he candidly admits to the connection between autocephaly, the OCA, and the KGB. Metropolitan Theodosius writes, "Personally, given the political situation of the Soviet Union at that time, I am amazed that the autocephaly was granted at all. How the Russian Church was able to do this, how it negotiated with the Soviet Government's Council on Religious Affairs— these are things I did not ask' (p. 10) [emphasis ours]. A proper discussion of the significance of such an admission is beyond the scope of a short comment by the editor. One can only wonder at the reason for consciously linking a church organization in the free world to international criminals, and then admitting the connection as part of the anniversary celebration of such an obviously shameful event and betrayal.

1) Rodzianko, M. The Truth About the Russian Church Abroad, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York, 1975, p. 8.

2) (Afonsky), Bishop Gregory. A History of the Orthodox Church in America, 1917-1934, Saint Herman's Theological Seminary Press, Kodiak, Alaska, 1994, p. 33.

3) Ibid., p. 63.

4) Ibid., p.64.

5) (Afonsky), Bishop Gregory, op. cit., p. 54.

6) Ibid., p. 63.

7) Ibid., p. 65.

8.) Ibid., p. 72.

9) Ibid., p. 11.

10) Ibid., p. 89.

11) Ibid., p.95.

12) Ibid., p. 95.

13) Ibid., p. 98.

14) Ibid., p. 9.

15) "Questions and Comments from Readers," Orthodox Tradition, Center for Traditionalists Orthodox Studies, Etna, California, Vol. XIII, Number 1 (to appear January 1996), no page number.

16) (Ziorev), Bishop Nicholas, "Farewell Address," Orthodox Life, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York, No. 1, 1994, pages 4-5.

17) (Afonsky), Bishop Gregory, op. cit., pages 49, 50, 79, 82.

18) Ibid., p. 50.

19) Smirnoff, Very Reverend Eugene, Russian Orthodox Missions, Stylite Publishing Ltd., Powys, Great Britain, 1986 (first edition 1903), p. 75.

20) Holy Transfiguration Monastery, A History of the Russian Church Abroad, 1917-1971, Saint Nectarios Press, Seattle, Washington, 1972, pages 2~27.

21) Seide, Georg. Monasteries and Convents of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, Monastery of Saint Job of Pochaev, Munich, Germany, 1990, p. 62.

22) Ibid., p. 63.

23) Ibid., p. 63.

From Orthodox Life, vol. 45, no. 6, Nov.-Dec. 1995, pp. 38-48. In the final paragraph, the author wrote: "Those sincerely seeking to 'understand' the issues dividing the various jurisdictions will not allow themselves to be cast into doubt by the obfuscations of Bishop Gregory's work, but will immerse themselves in the Lives of these martyr-saints of our century and listen to the voice of those who placed their hope in God, for those who in trust in Him will understand truth (Wis. 3:9)." There is no better book to begin this "immersion" than Russia's Catacomb Saints, by Ivan Andreyev and Fr. Seraphim Rose (Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Press, 1982). It is out of print, but a veritable masterpiece that is worthy of much tree-shaking to find. Read the Introduction, or about St. Cyril of Kazan and St. Joseph of Petrograd.

The Orthodox Church in America

I just read a book entitled A History of the Orthodox Church in America 1917-1934, by Bishop Gregory Afonsky. It argues that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia is not valid, that the OCA has been in America since the earliest Russian missions, and that the ROCOR submitted itself to the Nazis and therefore did just what it accuses the Russian Bishops of doing with the communists. (M.A., AK).

Though some of his ecumenical indiscretions and excesses have been the cause of not a little scandal, Bishop Gregory, the former OCA Bishop of Alaska, has never been known for a polemical spirit or for gratuitous attacks on those Russian jurisdictions opposed to the modernistic spirit, impious innovationism, and often irresponsible ecumenism of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). He is generally characterized as an objective, sober, and pious man who is not, in his heart of hearts, part of the ecumenical frenzy that has led to a widespread departure, among modernist Orthodox Bishops, from a confession of Orthodox primacy. The book in question, printed in Kodiak, Alaska, in 1994 by the St. Herman’s Theological Press, does not, however, reflect this characterization; it is not an objective, pious, or sober work.

The book rehashes many of the polemical arguments and distortions of fact put forth for so many years by the late Fathers Alexander Schmemann and John Meyendorff and by various quasi-scholarly OCA sources in a number of articles about the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA): history narrated not according to events and on solid documentation, but by the selection and inclusion of certain facts and documents—those favoring the thesis at hand (that is, that the Orthodox Church in America traces back to the early Russian missions in America)—and the exclusion of others (that is, of anything that compromises this thesis). Moreover, documents from the communist era are presented as though the Moscow Church was at the time free from the influence of the communist insurgents and as though Patriarch Tikhon, for example, acted with full knowledge of the activities of the Bishops outside Russia.

We will set aside a detailed examination of the artless attempts in this "history" of the OCA to establish that the pre-revolutionary Russian missions in America were somehow precursors of that body. We will mention only in passing Bishop Gregory’s failure to note that the majority of the forebears of the present-day OCA Faithful were Greek Catholics who returned to Orthodoxy in the U.S., not displaced Russians. But we cannot pass over the absolutely misleading attempts, throughout this less than precise narration, to argue that the ROCA was rightly disavowed by the Moscow Patriarchate (as though, as we mentioned above, the communist régime played no rôle in such pronouncements) and that the original protection granted to its Bishops under the OEcumenical Patriarchate was subsequently withdrawn. It was precisely the opposition of the Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad to communism, ecumenism, and the calendar change which led to its alienation from Moscow and Constantinople, following the birth of the "Living Church" in Russia and its support by the innovators who had come to power in the Great Church of Constantinople following the Russian Revolution. It was for this very reason, indeed, as Bishop Gregory fully well knows, that the Serbian Church informally took the exiled Russian Bishops under its wing, creating a spiritual tie between the two Churches that exists to this day.

The accusation that the ROCA was a Church of monarchists is one which carries with it the prejudices of modern political thought against this supremely Orthodox form of government. But at the time of the Russian Revolution, the conflict between good and evil was precisely a conflict between communism and monarchy. It could not have been otherwise. In context, then, this accusation is meaningless and plays on unjustified prejudice. Nor would any objective observer condemn the ROCA for having supposedly succumbed to the philosophy of Nazism—another outrageous accusation— simply because one of its Bishops praised Adolph Hitler for his anti-communist stand and his help in establishing a Cathedral under the jurisdiction of the ROCA in Berlin. Citing such evidence to convict the ROCA of capitulation to the Nazis, in the face of wholly reasonable accusations that the Russian Church under Patriarch Sergei placed itself in the hands of atheistic communism (the goal of which was the annihilation of Orthodoxy), is not worthy of a man of Bishop Gregory’s stature. One is embarrassed for him and his jurisdiction.

There is no mention, in this book, of the realities of the Russian diaspora after 1934, when what was to become the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Metropolia actually submitted to the authority of the Bishops then under the guidance of the ROCA. This body, which in the 1940s separated from the ROCA at the famous Cleveland Sobor and which was considered uncanonical by the whole Orthodox Church, later became the Orthodox Church in America by way of negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate when it was still under the communist yoke. These events help to place Bishop Gregory’s imaginative history in perspective and expose the myth of a continuous Russian presence in America, under the omophorion of the OCA, for what it is—just that, a myth, an untrue fabrication.

Certainly we cannot claim that those loyal to the ROCA, in recounting the history of Russian Orthodoxy in America, have not at times oversimplified what is a complex and difficult task. Nor is that Church without its polemicists. In this sense, Bishop Gregory has done nothing novel in adjusting history to suit his own ends—though such adjustments are easier for the ROCA, since the reliable data of history vindicate it and not the OCA. But certainly one would not have expected such a book from him. Nor, we hope, will anyone convict him of a serious misdeed in writing what is not a serious or objective, let alone scholarly, analysis of his subject.

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XIII, No. 1, 1996, pp. 18-19.