Autocephaly (16 of 20)

The answers in this section on autocephaly were provided by a seminary faculty member in a 1970 OCA publication.


Was it necessary for the Metropolia to enter into communion with the Russian Church because of autocephaly? Do we now have to pray together with citizens of the USSR?


On this point a major clarification is necessary that everyone sees the picture very clearly.

The American Metropolia never in its entire existence condemned the Russian Orthodox Church of Russia or considered it to be a false or invalid church.

All through its history the Metropolia insisted that the Russian Orthodox Church is the Mother Church of the American Orthodox Mission, the church which gave birth to American Orthodoxy and most directly to many of its members who were born from Russian parents.

Even after the terrible Bolshevik Revolution, the American Metropolia considered the Church of Russia as its Mother Church. Even in 1931, when, because of the request of “loyalty,” it was forced for the sake of its own life and mission to break relations with the Moscow Patriarchate and to declare itself as a self-governing Metropolitanate, the American church did not slander the Russian Church or consider it invalid or deprived of the grace of God.

On the contrary, the Metropolia always considered the Russian Church as a suffering Church, it prayed for its bishops and people, it desired to have good relations with it in every way. It could not be a diocese of the Russian Church in Russia. This was for certain. It could not give loyalty to the Soviet government. This also was completely out of the question. But never did it consider itself opposed to the Orthodox Church in Russia, never did it think of itself as its substitute or as its judge.

Thus it is perfectly true to say that the Metropolia never questioned the sacraments of the Russian Church and never decreed a cessation of sacramental communion with it. As a matter of historical fact, it was the Russian Church, undoubtedly under the government pressures, which requested from Metropolitan Platon in 1931, a written statement of loyalty to the Soviet Government. This is what brought the break.

As to the judgment that the Russian Church is not free and is filled with communist agents and false clergy, it has to be said that the Metropolia never made such a conclusion in a general way. There may have been, and there may still be, questions about this or that personage, but generally the Metropolia has been willing to deal with the entire Moscow Patriarchate as a true church.

It is also the Orthodox canonical and dogmatic rule that until priests, bishops or churches are formally judged by official church action to be false or immoral or invalid, they must be dealt with as truly exercising valid canonical and sacramental actions. Any other way would be to invite subjectivism and individualism into the Church, and thus to destroy and to reduce it to another form of Protestantism which acts in this very way.

Until now, absolutely no Orthodox Church in the world has even mentioned any official action which would have the purpose of considering the Moscow Patriarchate in any other way than as a genuine Orthodox Church.