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
legitimacyif 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
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''  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."  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,"  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." 
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,"  was "appropriating for themselves
authority,"  "trying hard to expand its own authority," 
and had engineered its own "uncanonical self-generation."  Yet again,
the story is different concerning "The Orthodox Church in America." When
explaining the "autonomy (autocephaly)"  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,"  by declaring "the
right to self-governing existence,''  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."  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 conformeven if
by forceto 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.''  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." 
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."  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.  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," 
"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]."  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
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, Manchuriaa city which held 20 Orthodox churches in its
boundaries,including the huge Cathedral of the Annunciation, which could hold 3000
worshippers.  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.  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."  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 1941see
original article for copy of this page from the calendarPB]. 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
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).
*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.
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. Hermans 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 documentsthose 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 Gregorys 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 Nazismanother
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 Gregorys 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
Gregorys imaginative history in perspective and expose the myth of a continuous
Russian presence in America, under the omophorion of the OCA, for what it
isjust 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 endsthough 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.