Uneasiness About Modernism and Ecumenism in the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate
A Serious Look at Metropolitan Cyprian and His Ecclesiology of Resistance
In a recent book, Ecumenism in the Age of Apostasy (Prizren, Serbia: 1995),
published with the blessing of Bishop Artemije of Rashka and Prizren, Hieromonk Sava
(Janjich), an erudite theologian and clergyman in the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate,
discusses the history of the ecumenical movement with great clarity and with obvious
concern for its violation both of the primacy of the Orthodox Church and the canonical
proscriptions by which Orthodox Christians, in preserving the integrity of their Faith,
are forbidden to pray with the heterodox. He bemoans the participation of the Serbian
Orthodox Church in the ecumenical movement and, in a very chilling rhetorical question,
asks: "Could it be that this fearful Golgotha through which the Serbian people are
passing is the result of their Churchs participation in the World Council of
Churches for the last thirty years, and the heretical ecumenical course which it has
pursued during those thirty years?" (p. 48).
Towards the middle of his book, Father Sava describes the resistance to the panheresy of ecumenism which has surfaced in
various national Orthodox Churches: the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, which was formed
in resistance to Sergianisma Communist precursor of the ecumenism which later
dominated the compromised Russian Patriarchateand an ecclesiastical body with which
the Church of Serbia has had close relations for decades, and the Old Calendar movements
in the Bulgarian, Greek, and Romanian Churches. The recent formation of an anti-ecumenical
coalition of these Churches in 1994 he describes as "a bone caught in the throat of the Orthodox ecumenists," who count
Papists and Protestants as their brothers, but revile these Orthodox confessors (p. 69).
In a very accurate and astute
analysis of the history of the Greek Old Calendarist movement (pp. 68-70), Father Sava
dismisses the extremist factions as having deviated from a correct ecclesiology and a
serious witness. The Synod of Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili alone, he observes,
provides a viable model for resistance in other Orthodox
Churches. He further recounts the support given by Patriarch
Diodoros I of Jerusalem to Metropolitan Cyprian and his Bishops, resulting in the
formers humiliation by an enraged cumenical Patriarch (pp. 65-66), and the retreat
from ecumenism of Elder Adrian of Mt. Sinai into the jurisdiction of the resisters under
Metropolitan Cyprian (p. 88). And he subsequently points out that the Serbian Church can
either maintain relations with the ecumenists, working from "within" the
so-called "official" Churches for a return to correct belief, or follow the
course of Metropolitan Cyprian, realizing that the issue is not one of thirteen days or
the calendar as such, but the innovation and heresy that ushered in the calendar change.
In the final pages of his book (esp.
pp. 100-108), Hieromonk Sava cites historical examples of, and Patristic justifications
for, the same ecclesiology of resistance espoused by Metropolitan Cyprian and his Bishops in resisting the contemporary panheresy
of ecumenism, which has infected the "official" New Calendarist Church of
Greece. He further contends that the "walling off" of True Orthodox Christians
in resistance to various heresies is a matter of canonical necessity for all
right-believing Orthodox. Father Savas keen intellect, his penetrating insight into
the nature and direction of the Greek Old Calendarist movement, and his thorough grasp of
the theology of resistance underlying the witness of Metropolitan Cyprians Synod are
particularly evident in the closing comments of this classic work on ecumenism in our days
of widening apostasy. This offers great hope for the emergence of a traditionalist
movement in the ancient Church of Serbia, which, though it adheres to the traditional
Church Calendar, has been beset for decades by overt participation in the ecumenical
movement and full communion with the Orthodox ecumenists and their Faith-betraying
activities and policies. [We suggest that those interested in purchasing the volume in
question write directly to the author, as follows: Jeromonach Sava, Manastir Visoki
Decani, 383 22 Decani, Serbia (Yugoslavia).]
The Origin of the World Council of Churches
The following report, written at the
request of the Holy Synod, was submitted to the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate on November
17, 1994, by the aforementioned Bishop Artemije, Hieromonk Savas spiritual superior.
His Grace, a spiritual son of the Blessed Archimandrite Justin (Popovich), received his
doctorate in theology at the University of Athens. His view of ecumenism, its source, its
dangers, and its effects on the Serbian Church reflects much of the thinking of our own
Church and occasions further hope for the blossoming of True Orthodoxy in Serbia.
1. Simply the title "World Council of
Churches" (WCC) already expresses the heresy of this pseudo-ecclesiastical
organization. Among the teachings of the Christian Faith, there are those which are true,
which were given, in the dogmatic definitions of the Holy Fathers of the Church in the
cumenical Synods, a precise and final formulation that does not allow for various
interpretations. Thus, the Holy Fathers of the Second cumenical Synod defined the dogma
of faith by the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, not by "many"
churches, from which some sort of "council," or "union," or some kind
of a "super-church" might come forth. The Church is One and Catholic and in it
are gathered together all Truth, all Grace, and all that the Lord brought with Him to the
earth, granted to men, and left them for their salvation. It is One and Catholic, because
it gathers all who want salvation into an internal union, in the Body of the God-Man
Thus the very idea of a "council" or "union" of Churches is
impossible, impermissible, and unacceptable for the conscience of every Orthodox person.
2. The history of the "World Council of Churches" finds its prehistory in the
appearance of the contemporary heresysuper-heresywhich is called ecumenism.
As a phenomenon, ecumenism contains nothing new; it is an old idea that has been
revived. For many years and decades people have been writing and talking about it, such
that we can say that we are speaking of quite an intricate issue.
First, ecumenism is an ecclesiological heresy, for its primary attack is directed
against the very foundation of the Orthodox Faith: against the Holy Church, in an effort
to transform it [the Church] into an ecumenist organization deprived of the Theanthropic
Grace of the Body of Christ, thereby opening the way for the coming of Antichrist.
The foundations of ecumenism were laid already at the end of the last century, in 1897,
at the conference of one hundred ninety-four bishops in Lambeth (England). At this
conference, the principles for the coming ecumenist unia
of "Christian" churches were set forth.
The Lambeth Conference established a dogmatic minimum, which stems from the
idea that unity must be sought in the lowest common denominator of theological beliefs.
This lowest common denominator is to be sought in Holy Writ (and not in Sacred
Tradition), in the Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed, and in two Holy Mysteries: Baptism and
Moreover, the ground was laid for the principle of openness regarding the teachings of
other "churches," in preparation for the introduction of a "compromise of
The third creation of the Lambeth Conference was the well-known "branch
theory," which stems from the idea that the Church of Christ is, supposedly, a tree
with many branches, all of which have equal rights with one another and which represent
the one Church only in their common unity. This evil seed, once it had been sown, grew
Already by 1910, in Edinburgh, a World Mission Conference of Protestant
"churches" was held, where it was decided to organize a worldwide Christian
movement to resolve questions of faith and church order.
At the same time that this movement was being organized, the "Life and Work"
movement was formed, the task of which was the realization of the union of Christians
through their mutual coöperation in matters of daily life (a movement for unity). It was
these two exclusively Protestant movements that founded, at its First General Assembly in
Amsterdam, in 1948, the "World Council of Churches," with its main center in
At this gathering, unfortunately, there were present various representatives of the
Orthodox Churches: from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Archdiocese of Cyprus, the
Archdiocese of Greece, and the Russian Metropolia of North America (now known as the
"Orthodox Church in America").
3. Unfortunately, Orthodoxy did not distance itself from these temptations of modernism
and secularism, and shortly it was infected by them. Among the Orthodox Churches, the
first to surrender to ecumenism was the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This happened as
early as January of 1920, with the encyclical "To All of the Churches of
Christ." This encyclical called not only the local Orthodox Churches
"Churches," but applied this term, for the first time in history, to various
heretical confessions. At the very beginning of this encyclical it is written:
"...[T]he effort of various Christian Churches to approach one another, and their
desire for coöperation, cannot be rejected because of differences in dogma between
The encyclical calls for coöperation and the realization of full unity; various
heretical groups are called "churches," which are not alien to us but are close
and akin to us in Christ, and together with us they are co-inheritors and co-participants
in the promises of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6).
As a first, practical step for attaining mutual trust and love, it is reckoned
necessary for the Orthodox Church to accept the New (Gregorian) Calendar, "so that
all the great Christian feasts can be celebrated by all the Churches at the same
This was quickly done by the Patriarchate of Constantinople (and later, as well, by
sundry other local Orthodox Churches), which paid a high price for this: an internal
schism both in the Church and between the people.
However, other Orthodox Churches for a time resisted this dangerous temptation. In
particular, the Patriarchate of Moscow expressed a well-known caution concerning
ecumenism. The meeting of Bishops of the local Orthodox Churches held in Moscow on July
8-18, 1948, on the occasion of the five-hundredth anniversary of the autocephaly of the
Russian Church, bore witness to this. Representatives of the Churches of Alexandria,
Antioch, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Georgia, Bulgaria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Albania
took part in this meeting.
The representatives of these Churches rejected membership in the worldwide ecumenical
movement and in the World Council of Churches, which had just been formed, and they
condemned the movement as heresy.
But this zeal for the defense of the Divine Truth
of the Church did not continue for long, unfortunately. A mere four years after the
formation of the World Council of Churches, in 1952, Patriarch Athenagoras of
Constantinople issued an encyclical which exhorted all the heads of the local Orthodox
Churches to join the World Council of Churches.
In spite of the fact that such exhortations were banal and non-ecclesial (for example,
they contained such expressions as: "...[B]oth people and nations are working
intensely to come together in confronting the great problems which occupy the whole of
humanity"), certain Orthodox Churches, in that very same year, rushed to enroll in
the World Council of Churches. The cumenical Patriarchate began to send its permanent
representatives to the main center of the World Council of Churches in Geneva.
In 1959, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches met with the
representatives of all the Orthodox Churches for consultations on the island of Rhodes.
Beginning at that moment, we can observe that ecumenism penetrated into Orthodoxy and,
like a cancerous tumor, began to consume it from within.
After the meeting on Rhodes, the Orthodox appear to have begun to compete with one
another, as to who could be the more ecumenical.
Beginning in 1961, Orthodox ecumenists began to convene one conference after another,
for the purpose of bringing into reality their ecumenist agendas and goals. Thus, in 1964,
a Third Conference was summoned on Rhodes, where the decision was made to establish
dialogues with heretics "on equal grounds," and each local Orthodox Church was
obliged to establish, independently, "fraternal relations" with heretics. The
primary leader in all of these ecumenist games was Patriarch Athenagoras, who began
frequent meetings with the Pope, negotiating for the mutual lifting of the Anathemas of
1054, for common prayers, and so forth. Since then, his successors and assistants,
Archbishops Iakovos of North and South America and Stylianos of Australia, Damascene of
Geneva, and many others, have travelled the same path.
Other representatives of various local Orthodox Churches also act according to this
ecumenist plan, even though their actions have not a thing in common with the teaching and
Canons of the Holy Fathers of the Church.
The borders established by our Holy Fathers have been violated, the borders between
truth and falsehood, light and darkness, Christ and Belial.
The primary factor in all of these outpourings of sentiments (which essentially
constitute pure hypocrisy) is the desire for all Orthodox Christians to learn the
"truth" that they are brothers in Christ and members of the one and true Church
together with the non-Orthodox. This is what is discussed at meetings and conferences,
written about in newspapers, journals, and books, and broadcast on radio and television.
These things are necessary in order to lead us up to the "common cup," to
communion between us, which is the basic goal of this so-called "dialogue of
All of this, according to Father Justin (Popovich), amounts to the betrayal of
Judas, a terrible betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ and the entire Church of Christ.
The Relationship of the Serbian Orthodox Church to the World Council of Churches
Following the example of the other local Churches, and likewise citing the Patriarch of
Constantinople, the Serbian Orthodox Church from the very beginning made an effort to
"keep in step" with the times.
In spite of the fact it was not yet formally a member of the World Council of Churches,
it began to establish contacts and connections with this "council of heresy," as
Father Justin would have called it, and began to receive representatives of the WCC,
first as persons who were sending assistance, such as Mr. Tobias, Mr. Maxwell, and Ms.
Meyhoffer, and finally, the General Secretary, Mr. Visser t Hooft.
It is true that the Serbian Church did not have an official representative or observer
at the Second Assembly of the WCC in Evanston, in America, but at the Third Assembly in
New Delhi, in 1961, it had a delegation of three members (with Bishop Bessarion as its
head). At this assembly, the question of the participation of the Orthodox Churches in the
movement was discussed. Apparently, under pressure from the Communist régime, the
Moscow Patriarchate and the Churches of the Soviet satellite countries, along with it,
became members of the WCC. Thus, the Patriarchates of Moscow, Bulgaria, Georgia, and
Romania, as well as the Metropolias of Poland and Czechoslovakia, all became members of
The Serbian Church joined the members of the WCC by the "back door,"
unnoticed, unofficially, in the following way. The General Secretary, Visser t
Hooft, went for a visit and made an offer for the Serbian Church to become a member,
without any need of signing theological documents that might possibly be without dogmatic
or canonical foundation. The Synod, with Patriarch German as its head, decided to join the
WCC. This decision was accepted and ratified at the meeting of the Central Committee of
the WCC, somewhere in Africa, in 1965.
Since then, the Serbian Church, like the other local Orthodox Churches, has been a part
of the WCC.
Through our Bishops and theologians, we began to take part in all conferences,
assemblies, meetings, prayer gatherings, and everything else the WCC concocted, and
agreed to everything without argument.
As a result of this coöperation, the Serbian Orthodox Church from time to time
received material assistance from the WCC, such as medicines, scholarships, trips to
Switzerland, and financial subsidies (e.g., for constructing the new building for the
theological faculty [in Belgrade]). For these crumbs of help, we have lost, in the
spiritual plane, the purity of the Faith, the canonical heritage of the Church, and
faithfulness to the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church.
The presence of representatives of Orthodox Churches at various ecumenist gatherings
has no canonical justification whatsoever. We do not go there in order to confess boldly,
openly, and unwaveringly the eternal and unchangeable Truth of the Orthodox Faith and
Church, but in order to make compromises and, more or less, to agree to all the decisions
and formulations that the non-Orthodox offer us.
It was through such actions that we arrived at Balamand, at Chamblésy, and at Assisi,
all of which together constitute infidelity and a betrayal of the Holy Orthodox Faith.
During this whole period of falls, and indeed of the ruination of the Church of Saint
Sava, only one single voice was heard, the voice of [the Blessed] Archimandrite Justin of
Chelije (1979), who alone remained the unwavering and vigilant conscience of the
Serbian Orthodox Church. It was he, deeply sensing and experiencing liturgically the
Apostolic and Patristic spirit of Truth, who wrote, regarding the ecumenical
"success" of Patriarch Athenagoras: "And the Patriarch of Constantinople?
He, by his neo-Papist behavior, has for decades scandalized, in word and deeds, the
consciences of the Orthodox, denying the unique and wholly salvific Truth of the Orthodox
Church and Faith, recognizing the Roman Supreme Pontiff, with all of his demonic,
These words clearly express a mature, sincere, Patristic view of, and relationship to,
the heretical Patriarch, a well as a precise diagnosis of the basic intentions of
Constantinople, where the successors of Patriarch Athenagoras to this day act in the same
way towards Rome, with the silent approval of the other Orthodox Churches. What would
Father Justin say today? The only good thing that can be found in this whole affair is
that our official representatives and participants in various ecumenist gatherings, when
they return home, do not write anything about them and do not reveal to the Church press
things that could poison the Orthodox people. Frequently, even we Bishops, gathered in
council, leave without being informed by our own Bishops, who represent us, of these
thingssomething that I consider altogether unacceptable.
Bearing in mind what we have already said, on the one hand, and, on the other, the
eternal and unerring words of the Gospel"Every tree shall be known by its
fruits", it is easy to realize what we must do. Even now, at this upcoming
council, we must be resolute: the Serbian Orthodox Church must withdraw from the WCC
and from all similar organizations (such as the European Council of Churches and others)
and put an end to its participation in ecumenical and atheistic gatherings. This must be
done for the following reasons:
1. In obedience to Saint Paul, who counsels and commands: after a first and second
exhortation, turn away from a heretic.
2. These things are not consistent with the Holy Canons of the Orthodox Church, against
which we have grievously sinned.
3. There is not a single one of the Holy Fathers of the Church who would have justified
our joining and remaining in the non-ecclesial organization of the WCC and others like
4. For the salvation of our souls, of the souls of the flock entrusted to us, which we
have severely scandalized and harmed by remaining in ecumenism, and also for the salvation
of those who are still outside the Ark of Salvation, the One, Holy, Catholic, and
Apostolic Orthodox Church, whom our decisive and clear action can assist in their search
for salvation and the Truthsomething not occasioned in the toady and godless company
*Translated from the Russian translation published in Pravoslavnaya Rus, No.
22, 1995. This appeared in Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XIII, No. 2, pp. 50-56.