Info

Different attitudes to the homeland made for long-lasting divisions within the diaspora. Equally divisive was another problem: how should emigre church people relate to western Christians in the context of an embryonic ecumenical movement?

Since there was no precedent for such problems, they had to be addressed ad hoc. The patriarchate of Moscow and all Russia re-established in 1917 had no time to discuss them at its wide-ranging council of 1917-18. It was left to the patriarch, his synod and his counsellors to formulate a policy in the emergency conditions which confronted them all. The resulting decree of 1920 urged bishops who were cut off from the Moscow patriarchate to set up independent bodies of their own, preferably in conjunction with their neighouring hier-archs. It was assumed that this would occur within the patriarchate's former bounds.12 In accordance with precedents in canon law, those Russian churchmen who found themselves within the patriarchate of Constantinople sought its blessing for their sojourn there. Their leader had anticipated a rebuff, expecting to be treated in the same way as the Bulgarians of half a century before, but times had changed and in 1920 they were duly granted recognition as associates of the local church, regardless of their language and their ways. As it was, the Russians hardly paused to count their blessings. The Serbian patriarchate seemed to offer prospects of greater independence, and the following year many Russian emigres transferred to the kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which produced another change in their ecclesiastical allegiance.

It was the beginning of the Russian diaspora's various realignments. In the following decade, some of the emigres sought to maintain or re-establish links with their mother-church in Moscow, though this, because of Soviet interference, became more difficult as time went by. Others obeyed the instructions given by their mother-church in 1920 and created an autonomous organisation, which initially called itself the 'temporary higher Russian Orthodox Church administration abroad'. In due course its one-time validation from the Constantinopolitan and Serbian patriarchates ceased to be effective. Nevertheless, it saw no good reason to renew it. By contrast, there were others who believed such validation to be a sine qua non. When in 1931 Metropolitan Evlogii Georgievskii at the head of his diocese of western Europe broke with Moscow, he immediately submitted to Constantinople. By this time the Russian diaspora was hopelessly divided, however irrelevant their differences may now seem.

12 Bishop Gregory Afonsky, A history of the Orthodox Church in America 1917-1982 (Kodiak, AK: St Herman's Theological Seminary Press, 1984), 128-9.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment