A Refutation of the Accusations Instigated by Metropolitan Valentine Against Archbishop Gregory of Denver and Colorado
All of the accusations against Archbishop Gregory are to be found in the documents: Ukase #130 (June 3/16, 2004) of Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal and Vladimir, and Protocols 48 (July 2/15, 2004), and 49 (July 11\24, 2004), which have been published on the internet in Russian.
I. Accusations of Donatism
Accusation #1: In Protocols #48 and #49, it is alleged that Archbishop Gregory insists on baptizing everyone that comes to ROAC, whether they already had a true Baptism in a true Church or not. As examples, it is further alleged that "several tens of families" and Archimandrite Michael (Graves) and 180 people with him, whom the Protocols claim were formerly part of ROCOR before its apostasy, sought to join ROAC but had to refrain from doing so because Archbishop Gregory insisted that they would have to be rebaptized, in spite of their having received true Baptism in canonical, Orthodox style years earlier in ROCOR.
Reply: This is slander and factually untrue.
First of all, Archbishop Gregory has never suggested rebaptism to anyone that already has had a true, canonical Baptism in the true Church.
Secondly, there are no "several tens of families" and the fact that the author of the Protocols leaves them unnamed supports this fact, as well as making this statement worthless as evidence -- an unnamed, invisible set of witnesses carries as much weight in ecclesiastical court as having no witnesses at all.
Finally, 'Fr.' Michael Graves and those with him from Haiti were never in ROCOR, but were first part of the Antiochian Patriarchate (which he joined from Episcopalianism) and then the Ecumenical Patriarchate and, finally, were 'received' from that pseudo-church with no rite of reception by Metropolitan Valentine; moreover, none of them have ever received a canonical, Orthodox-style baptism in any of the 'churches' they have been in, having only been poured upon thrice by a heretical priest. This was confirmed both from telephone conversations and e-mails with 'Fr.' Michael and his spiritual father, Archimandrite John Lewis of Ft. Meyers, FL, and here are some excerpts from the e-mails of 'Fr.' Michael himself to prove all this:
"I am presently "released" into thin air from the Geek [sic] Orthodox Metropolis of Panama, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean by the infamous Metropolitan Athenagoras (George Aneste)...I am an archimandrite... I am 68 years old and have been an Orthodox priest since 1987. (I was an Episcopal clergyman before that...)" [E-mail of 'Archimandrite' Michael to "Father Stephen", Dec. 25, 2002 10:47 AM; forwarded to Dormition Skete by him: Dec. 25, 2002 11:35 AM].
"I ... came here in 1986 to plant Orthodoxy. I was ordained to the priesthood in the Antiochian Jurisdiction, having come from the Episcopal Church as a clergyman. My whole former Episcopal parish in New Jersey entered Orthodoxy with me. I was ordained by Metropolitan Elia who was assisting Metropolitan Philip at the time. (He is now in Syria). All the members of my congregation were Chrismated". At the time, I was told... I would be acceptable to Orthodoxy as a result of my Episcopal-style baptism being "validated" through Chrismation..." [e-mail to Dormition Skete of July 20, 2004 6:31:02 PM]. [Note: Episcopalians do not give baptism by triple-immersion, but give only pouring or other uncanonical innovations]
"I was received into Orthodoxy by Chrismation originally at St. Mary's Antiochian Church, Brooklyn, even though I asked to be baptised. Fr. Paul Schneirla said it was wrong to baptise me "again". I did not know much better!" [E-mail to Dormition Skete of Oct. 27, 2003 9:09 PM]
[E-mail to Dormition Skete of January 3, 2003 7:52 PM]. He wrote:
"My reasons for contacting you are directly related to recent information that Vladika Gregory was visiting with my spiritual father (Archimandrite John of Ft. Myers, Florida), and I wish always to heed the advice of Father John; hence my message for you. I have surely learned what is happening with ROCOR and have eliminated that possibility completely. I do not wish to be associated with someone like Gregory Williams who appears to be nothing other than an ecclesiastical sheep-stealer! I also do not wish to have a bishop who was never a priest and who was merely the chauffer for another bishop."
"I made an initial, but unofficial approach to ROCOR, and thanks be to God, I found that such an approach was a great mistake on my part, and withdrew from further advances."
So they never entered ROCOR at all, let alone before its apostasy, and they certainly were not ever correctly baptized therein.
They were not ever even given the correct baptismal form outside of ROCOR, either. In subsequent telephone conversations and e-mails over the next several months with 'Fr.' Michael Graves and his aforementioned spiritual father, we were informed by them that 'Fr.' Michael was never given a triple immersion baptism and that he consistently gives affusion, not baptism, to those who join his mission. He himself recently wrote to Fr. George of Dormition Skete that "...we Baptized persons by having them stand in a large drum while we poured a bucket of water over their heads three times in the name of the Trinity. This was surely acceptable to God...and to all of the jurisidctions of Orthodoxy I know. [E-mail of July 20, 2004 6:31:02 PM].
According to Canons 80 of Carthage and 84 of the 6th Ecumenical Council, if a person cannot produce witnesses or documents of certification so that there is doubt as to his having been baptized, he must be baptized without fail. The foregoing evidence from 'Fr.' Michael himself gives more than enough reason to doubt that he or his followers ever have received even the form of canonical baptism (he simply states it himself!), and hence Archbishop Gregory was obligated by the Church's order to insist on baptizing them for their entry into the Church. But 'Fr.' Michael refused and remained without a bishop thereafter. Now, over a year later, the Metropolitan has received Fr. Michael and all his supposed 180 "baptized" associates by no rite of reception whatsoever, only serving with 'Fr.' Michael, and writing an ukaz stating that he and his followers, who remained in Haiti, have been received into the ROAC. In fact, this is not a rite of reception but simply concelebration with a heretical priest, another canonical violation and violation of the Faith as well. From the above, we see the complete falsity of the ROAC-Synod's first accusation and the great sin of the Metropolitan.
Accusation #2: In the aforementioned protocols, it is alleged that Archbishop Gregory has violated the [supposed] official Synodal policy on the reception of applicants to ROAC -- namely, that whosoever comes to ROAC stating that he is a true Orthodox Christian from a true Orthodox Church, must be received "without examination" and "without any rite of reception". It is also asserted that Archbishop Gregory's recognition of only the mysteries of the ROAC and those of the GOC of Greece under Archbishop Makarios of Athens is "completely groundless fanaticism."
Reply: Archbishop Gregory has never required any rite of reception of those who are True Orthodox Christians, and not simply heretics or schismatics, and has permitted intercommunion between ROAC and GOC of Greece (under Archbishop Makarios of Athens) members. However, if he is being condemned for his mode of receiving HOCNA, Matthewites, Kiousites, Cyprianites, Jerusalem Patriarchate members, etc. or any other group, then this is an illogical and unjust condemnation as the Synod has never formally, or, to our knowledge, even informally, recognized the ecclesiastical status of these groups. In December of 2001, we were told by the Metropolitan and Archbishop Theodore that the mode of reception of those outside ROAC was left to the discretion of each bishop acting in accordance with the canons. All of this was stated in the presence of many witnesses. Moreover, the Metropolitan himself consented to the ordination of 'Fr.' Paul Kalamaras, a converted 'deacon' from HOCNA, a self-proclaimed "true Orthodox Church" which he now claims to recognize, and he himself ordained 'Fr. Paul' Reader, Subdeacon, and Deacon during his stay in October of 2001 at Dormition Skete. If there was a decision by the episcopate of ROAC to recognize all self-proclaimed "true Orthodox Churches" and their mysteries, then the first violator of that policy would have been Metropolitan Valentine himself. Moreover, when Archbishop Gregory received, baptized, and ordained clerical and lay members of the Bulgarian "Cyprianites", another self-proclaimed "true Orthodox Church" in early 2003, he received written congratulations and laudation from the Bishops of the Synod of ROAC. Suffice it to say, then, there never was and never has been such a policy decision by the Synod or by the Sobor. Any attempt to condemn Archbishop Gregory for his chosen, canonical mode of receiving the aforementioned heretics and schismatics on the basis of supposed insubordination to Synodal policy will be a condemnation for violating a decree only made long after the alleged 'crime'. Any kind of justice will not accept condemnations from violations of laws promulgated ex post facto -- after the act in question. And in fact, even to this day, no such decree or policy has been enacted by the bishops of ROAC, and so we see the baseless and ridiculous character of this accusation.
Moreover, this new policy put forward by the author of the Protocols, in opposition to Archbishop Gregory's alleged "absolutely groundless fanatacism", is a modified version of Ecumenism, since it teaches that the various schisms and heresies among all those myriads of self-proclaimed "true Orthodox Churches", although they have differing doctrines, lack canonical apostolic succession, and do not recognize the validity of each other, are all part of the Church (Branch Theory) and "brother-bishops" and it recognizes the mysteries of all schisms and heresies, provided only that those performing and those receiving them believe that they are "true Orthodox Christians". On the other hand, as we know quite well, St. Philaret the Confessor, the author of the 1983 Anathema Against Ecumenism, and therefore, an authority for its definition, wrote in 1979 that: "... schism is graceless. Christ was not divided, and His grace is one. If one is to believe in the "state of grace" of schism, then one must either admit that we do not have grace, those who broke away having taken it with them; or else admit that there are two graces (and obviously two true Churches, for grace is given only in the true Church)... I consider that the schismatics American and Parisian do not have grace, for otherwise one would have to admit the absurd: the existence of several true Churches, which do not recognize each other, nor have any spiritual communion among themselves. This is already manifestly absurd because the Divine Founder of the Church said: "I will build My Church", and not "My Churches"."
Not accepting such an absurdity, as has, apparently, Metropolitan Valentine, Archbishop Gregory only recognized the validity of those Churches which have neither lost canonical, apostolic succession, nor preached heresy publicly to the Church -- and the ROAC and the GOC of Greece under Archbishop Makarios (known as Kallinikites after Metropolitan Kallinikos, its previous president, or the Lamians after the diocese of Metropolitan Kallinikos) were the only two Churches to his knowledge that fulfilled these standard Orthodox requirements. This is not "absolutely groundless fanaticisms", but simply "Orthodoxy".
Accusation #3: In Protocol #49 it is asserted that Archbishop Gregory does not recognize any other rites of membership into the Church other than the rite of baptism from the true church, other rites meaning, chrismation, confession and laying on of hands, etc., nor does he recognize that one may attain sainthood without baptism nor the sanctity of any martyr who was never baptized in the Church. As an example, it is asserted that, on the internet, he denied the sainthood of St. Elizabeth (Feodorovna), the Russian Royal New-Martyr, when it was asserted that she was never baptized, but received from Lutheranism by chrismation (the veracity of which story the author of the Protocol supports).
Reply: If this were in fact so, then Archbishop Gregory never would have joined ROAC, since it was and is well-known that Metropolitan Valentine, Archbishop Theodore, and not a few other ROAC bishops were received 'in their orders' by ROCOR or ROAC from the MP, which he considers a heretical, graceless organization. Nor would Archbishop Gregory have consented to consecration to the episcopate from the hands of Metropolitan Valentine, Archbishop Theodore of Borisovsk, and Bishop Anthony of Yaransk, since the former two were received into the Church from the MP without baptism and they, supposedly not being members of the Church, consecrated Bishop Anthony, a Catacomb priest, all of whom, according to such a theory, would not be bishops at all. Thus if Archbishop Gregory held the alleged idea, then he would have to admit that he himself is neither a bishop nor in the Church at all, not having joined a valid hierarchy. The falseness of the charge is manifest from its absurdity, and is not worthy of more attention.
On the contrary, following the instructions of the Holy Canons themselves, the authoritative Byzantine interpreters (e.g. Zonaras [cf. his interpretation of Canon 7 of the 2nd Ecumenical Council], Balsamon, etc.), and more recent instructions of another great authority, Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, Archbishop Gregory accepts the validity of reception by the 2nd or 3rd rite, provided that the convert already has the form of Orthodox-style Baptism, and in the case of the 3rd rite, also by the laying on of hands if he had also the form of Chrismation; and if 'in their orders' then by a bishop in the case of a 'clergyman'; and by bishops in the case of a 'bishop'.
As to the case of St. Elizabeth, the Russian New-Martyr, even if she was never baptized in water by the Church, she received a "baptism of blood", martyrdom, and the consistent witness of the Church and the Holy Fathers has always been that Orthodox martyrs are the only exception to the otherwise absolute requirement of the canonical, Orthodox form of Baptism and membership in the true Church for salvation.
Dormition Skete offers icons of the holy Russian Royal New-Martyr, St. Elizabeth (Feodorovna)!
II. Accusations of Attempted Simony and Bribery
Accusation #4: In both the aforementioned Protocols and in Ukaz #130, it is alleged that Archbishop Gregory offered the Metropolitan, through an intermediary (Reader Dr. Jerjis Alajaji), $30,000 if he would officially recognize and enter into communion with the "Kallinikite" Synod of the GOC of Greece under Archbishop Makarios of Athens. It is also alleged that Archbishop Gregory declared that he is the sole Orthodox bishop on earth and he offered the Metropolitan $40,000 if he would make him ruling bishop of "all countries, not only in the U.S.A., but also in Korea, Bulgaria, China, and other countries as well" (Ukaz #130, etc.).
Reply: This is a purely slanderous fabrication, and utterly ridiculous.
Before even delving into the actual facts of what happened, we may already arrive at the conclusion that the Metropolitan is lying, merely by comparing the first and second of these allegations and noticing that each completely contradicts the other and the latter even has internal self-contradictions.
If Archbishop Gregory only recognized himself as an Orthodox Bishop and no one else on earth, then firstly, why would he need to receive recognition from a pseudo-bishop or any pseudo-synod, which is what Metropolitan Valentine and the ROAC Synod would have been in his eyes if the allegation were true; and secondly, if Archbishop Gregory wanted to consider himself the sole bishop on the planet and assert jurisdiction over the whole earth, then why would he [supposedly] offer $40,000 and $30,000 for Metropolitan Valentine to both recognize him as having universal jurisdiction and not having universal jurisdiction? For, if he recognizes the validity of the Synod of the GOC of Greece, then he has lost jurisdiction in Greece, and he has also lost the distinction of being "sole bishop" on earth. The two accusations contradict and negate each other's assertions.
In fact, what happened, out of which the Metropolitan artlessly wove his whole fabrication, is that when he arrived in Colorado he begged for financial aid, $10,000 for a bell tower that was falling into disrepair and threatening to destroy a church if it fell and $30,000 to pay a loan which the Metropolitan took out with high interest from a Moscow Bank. Archbishop Gregory offered to help with the construction project and Reader Dr. Jerjis Alajaji of Pennsylvania pledged to wipe out the $30,000 loan.
Then in the afternoon and evening of Pentecost Sunday, Reader Jerjis along with other witnesses had several conversations with the Metropolitan, in which the Metropolitan began to make unorthodox and ecumenical statements, among which were statements that he recognized all baptisms, he refused to correct the heretical opinions and actions of several ROAC priests (Fr. Gregory Lurye and Fr. Vladimir Shiskoff), and to remove the latter as uncanonically and detrimentally-appointed "Administrator of North America", and rejected the idea of official ecclesiastical communion with the "Kallinikite" Synod of the GOC of Greece under Archbishop Makarios of Athens or with any synod at all, solely for reasons of ecclesiastical politics. Other unorthodox statements, recognizing the Jerusalem Patriarchate, the ROCOR, etc., soon followed over the next several days, and Reader Jerjis, justifiably, decided that he could not support such a hierarch and would not give any money to the Metropolitan, of which decision he informed Archbishop Gregory.
That weekend, because of multiple uncanonical and unorthodox things done since Pentecost, Archbishop Gregory began compiling a report to the Synod and formal charges against the Metropolitan. A few days later, when the Metropolitan asked for the money Reader Jerjis had pledged, Archbishop Gregory related to him the reasons why Reader Jerjis had decided to withdraw his pledge. At this point, the Metropolitan began to denounce Archbishop Gregory as unworthy of the episcopate and told him to "go to the Greeks if they will accept your ordination". The following night, Archbishop Gregory sent his report and accusations to the Synod, and it, in turn, sent a copy to the Metropolitan, at which point the Metropolitan began to imagine the slanders he could make against Archbishop Gregory, and eventually drew up Ukaz #130, falsely accusing the Archbishop of various crimes and uncanonically declaring him suspended, retired, and deprived of his diocese. Such, in short, were the events and the reality behind the accusations made against the Archbishop.
III. Accusations of Transgressing the Limits of His Episcopal Authority
Accusation #5: In the aforementioned documents of accusation, it is asserted that Archbishop Gregory illegally interfered in the administration of clergy not in his diocese and demanded the suspension or removal of clergy not subject to him, but "who are under the Synod: protopresbyter Vladimir Shiskoff, protopresbyter Victor Melekhov, archpriest Spyridon Schneider, archimandrite Michael from Haiti and hieromonk Ilya".
Reply: First, concerning "protopresbyter Vladimir Shiskoff": This charge, in fact, concerns the canonical accusation presented to Metropolitan Valentine for the Synod's investigation against this later-elevated "protopresbyter" by Archbishop Gregory, Priest Dionysi McGowan, and Deacon Fotios Roseboro on the evening of Thomas Sunday, 2004. The charges consisted in the fact that the accused gave communion, in the altar, to a priest of the Ecumenical Patriarchate ('Fr.' Peter LaGruta), and that he is reported by many of his parishioners to routinely commune several other persons who are of that heretical jurisdiction. It was attested to and signed by witnesses: Priest Dionysi and Deacon Fotios. The letter was given to Metropolitan by Archbishop Gregory, translated into Russian.
Now, was this a case of Archbishop Gregory "illegally interfering in the administration of clergy not in his diocese"? According to the decrees of the Church (the Holy Canons), Archbishop Gregory or anyone else, who is Orthodox and not already under canonical punishment or accusation, has the right to bring a canonical accusation against any clergyman or bishop who violates the canons or otherwise sins against the Faith. If there are at least two witnesses to the crime, it is required that an ecclesiastical court of the canonical number of bishops be convoked to try the case, according to Apostolic Canons 74 and 75, Canons 27, 28, and 12 of Carthage, Canon VI of the 2nd Ecumenical Council, etc. According to Canons 10, 45, 46, 47, and 68 of the Holy Apostles, Canon 9 of Carthage, etc., this is a very serious crime and the Church orders the carrying out of serious punishments for it: deposition, excommunication, etc. Furthermore, the 1983 Anathema against Ecumenism anathematizes, not only Ecumenists as heretics, but also anyone who has communion with Ecumenists, recognizes the mysteries of heretics or schismatics, or believes that the Church is or can be divided among Orthodox and heretics or schismatics. Therefore, neither in the case of bringing an accusation nor in the case of his asserting that "protopresbyter Vladimir Shiskoff" should be deposed or otherwise punished was Archbishop Gregory in any way overstepping his canonical rights; indeed, he has the obligation according to the Holy Canons themselves and the Vow of the 3rd Hierarchal Confession of Faith at Ordination to see to it that the Faith and the Canons are strictly kept, not failing in this, even should he be threatened with death for it. Thus, in nowise, did Archbishop Gregory sin in his conduct toward "Protopresbyter Vladimir Shiskoff".
Regarding the charge about "Hieromonk Ilya" of Mississippi, it is necessary to give a sketch of his character and history, attested to by many witnesses, for the reader to understand why Archbishop Gregory was justified in insisting that he not be admitted to ROAC. "Hieromonk Ilya" (Yenovkian or Armstead or various other aliases) is an unbaptized Armenian Monophysite, who afterwards became a Roman Catholic monk. Then, after chrismation (1964), he became a Antiochian priest (1966-67), and in 1967 suddenly was released and began associating himself as a hieromonk-hermit with the ROCOR. He later began associating himself with the Jerusalem Patriarchate (late 1970's-early 1980's), then the ROCOR again, then the Romanian Cyprianites, then ROCOR again, following ROCOR (Vitaly) in the Vitaly-Laurus schism (2001), and finally in 2003 applying to join the ROAC. He has never been baptized, even with just the canonical form, but merely sprinkled; he publicly rejects the 4th Ecumenical Council and publicly preaches the identicalness of Monophysitism and Orthodoxy; he publicly lauds the Islamic terrorist government of the Taliban as purely in accord with the Gospel commandments; he publicly preaches the truth of the theory of evolution and denies the historical veracity of the Old Testament; he publicly teaches that heresy is no impediment even to sainthood and recognizes numerous Monophysites and other heretics as saints; he charges money for catechism; he publicly teaches that communion with the Ecumenist Jerusalem Patriarchate is the criterion of Orthodoxy, that it is incapable of falling away and is Orthodox, etc. He is notorious throughout the South as impious, insane, and a universal scandal to all people whom he comes into contact with, whether Orthodox or heterodox, many of whom think he is associated with the Klu Klux Klan on account of his Monophysite vesture and long, pointed headdress. He was thrown out of ROCOR (Vitaly) on account of the numerous complaints made against him by those whom he had scandalized and those who knew people he caused to apostatize. Without exaggeration, any jurisdiction that takes him in will immediately become a laughing-stock to the world.
In consequence of the above, Archbishop Gregory and all the clergy and faithful with him both in the U.S. and abroad, loudly protested to Metropolitan Valentine when it was announced that Metropolitan Valentine was in the final steps of receiving "Hieromonk Ilya" on the recommendation of "Protopresbyter Vladimir Shiskoff", and that "Hieromonk Ilya" had been permitted to start commemorating the Metropolitan in his services. Learning of this protest, Ilya initiated a massive campaign of slander against Archbishop Gregory by telephone, e-mail, and internet, even contacting many of Archbishop Gregory's clergy, faithful, and catechumens to persuade them to leave the Archbishop as an "extremist" and "non-Orthodox". After rejecting a written admonition from the Metropolitan himself to cease his activities, Metropolitan Valentine made a public announcement denying "Hieromonk Ilya" entry into ROAC, to the universal relief of the faithful. However, we understand that the Metropolitan has been wavering on this decision recently, and if he has now uncanonically accepted "Hieromonk Ilya" under the Synod's jurisdiction, it is to his own severe condemnation. On the other hand, Archbishop Gregory was not and is not guilty of neglecting the canons or illegally overstepping his bounds in this matter.
Regarding "protopresbyter Victor Melehov", "archpriest Spyridon Schneider", and "archimandrite Michael from Haiti":
"Protopresbyter Victor Melehov" was canonically deposed by the ROCOR in 1987, which act, according to the Holy Canons, cannot be "undone", yet he was reinstated by Metropolitan Vitaly, the very one who deposed him. He lately expressed to ROAC faithful that he refused to become a member of ROAC as long as Archbishop Gregory was in ROAC, explaining that the Archbishop was too strict because "one cannot distinguish where grace is and where grace is not, as Archbishop Gregory does."
"Archpriest Spyridon Schneider" was also canonically deposed by ROCOR in 1987, and cannot canonically be "reinstated", yet he was reinstated by Metropolitan Vitaly, the very one who deposed him and has expressed sentiments like that of Melehov about Archbishop Gregory and his views. He has also recently stated that it is uncanonical to baptize a convert from the Ecumenist, heretical, schismatic, Sergianist "Orthodox Church in America", whose primate, 'Metropolitan Herman', just a few months ago served a public prayer service with the Armenian Monophysite Archbishop of New York in the latter's cathedral.
"Archimandrite Michael from Haiti", as was already explained, has never received the canonical form of Baptism, refuses to perform correct baptisms on those who have or do come to him, refuses to keep the Fasts, and was received with no rite of reception whatever. He has also now publicly expressed ecumenical views in regard to Ecumenist "World Orthodoxy" and even Roman Catholicism, lately asserting in his periodical "Au Courant" that the Roman Catholic Bishop Fulton Sheen had the "sparkle" and "charisma" which supposedly marks those "illumined by divine light" and, in converting people to the heresy of Papism, "drew people to Jesus Christ, even if it was an imperfect understanding as far as the Orthodox are concerned" and now, having died, he has "gone on to receive his reward" in heaven.
Upon learning of Metropolitan Valentine's sudden reception of these persons, without previous discussion of their problems with the Archbishop, Archbishop Gregory then appealed to the Synod with the information as to the difficulties in receiving them, asking for the correction of the problems, and for this he is now condemned by Metropolitan Valentine. Needless to say, again, Archbishop Gregory is being condemned for upholding the Canons and not for breaking them. In each and every case, Vladyka Gregory acted within the bounds of his canonical rights and obligations as an Orthodox bishop, and the Metropolitan exceeded them.
Accusation #6: In the aforementioned Protocols, it is alleged that Archbishop Gregory has violated his obligations of obedience to the Synod and Canon 2 of the 2nd Ecumenical Council by his asserting that the Metropolitan cannot take clergy from Archbishop Gregory's diocese without his consent. It is asserted that America is canonically no-man's land and that, therefore, Archbishop Gregory's diocese and authority as ruling Archbishop of Colorado are merely provisional or deputative and the actual direct administration of all American clergy is in the hands of the Metropolitan and Synod.
Reply: This accusation is a fairly complex one but let us answer it as simply and well as we can:
First of all, several times in the presence of many witnesses, the Metropolitan told Archbishop Gregory that he as Metropolitan did not have the right even to award anything to any of Archbishop Gregory's clergy without the Archbishop's permission and blessing. Why would he say this if Archbishop Gregory really lacked the authority of a diocesan bishop over his diocese and its clergy? He told Archbishop Gregory, moreover, many times in the presence of many witnesses, that all who wished to be under Archbishop Gregory are under the Archbishop's authority and must commemorate him in the services. Why would he say this if these clergy really were not under Archbishop Gregory's authority as their diocesan ruling bishop? Also, the Metropolitan many times in writing and verbally before witnesses asked if he could take and ordain Fr. George or, later, Fr. Andrew, further explaining that he needed Archbishop Gregory's blessing to be able to do so, and that was why he wanted him to sign the recommendation that the Metropolitan wrote for Fr. Andrew to be made a bishop. Why would he say all this if he could simply have lawfully taken Fr. George or Fr. Andrew without the Archbishop's consent? Again, the Synod also told Archbishop Gregory, when it made him a ruling bishop, that he was not required to have the consent of the Synod or Metropolitan for any ordination he undertook, whether in Colorado or outside of it, as long as it was not in a Russian diocese. Why would the Synod say this if, as the author of the Protocols claims now, Archbishop Gregory does not have the authority of a diocesan bishop over his clergy and parishes, but is essentially the Synod's authority-less vicar? To all of this, many able witnesses can attest; and these facts convict the author of the Protocols of false witness and slander.
Moreover, concerning the idea that North America is "barbarian", "missionary territory with no established dioceses":
North America is not, canonically-speaking, "no-man's land" or "missionary territory" or "barbarian territory" anymore than post-Soviet Russia is, as a little history lesson will demonstrate. North America has been canonical, diocesan territory of the Russian Church since the latter half of the 1700's, receiving its first Orthodox ruling bishop in 1794, St. Innokenty (Veniaminov), later of Moscow, and by 1905, the Russian Church had elevated North America to the status of an Archdiocese under St. Tikhon (Belivan), later Patriarch of Moscow, also with two vicar-bishops, of the Aleutians and of Brooklyn respectively, as well as episcopal oversight of the missions and churches in South America, and well over 55,000 registered faithful and many more unregistered. In 1922, on the recommendation of St. Patriarch Tikhon, North America was elevated to the rank of a Metropolia with multiple archdioceses and dioceses by the 34 bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, although after 1946 the Metropolitan, Theophilus, fell into schism. However, several of his bishops did not follow him, but remained faithful to the ROCA Sobor, and, for nearly 250 years, there have never ceased to be dioceses and parishes of the Russian Church in this country and until the period 1995-1999 inclusive, there were always a significant number of Orthodox Russian ruling bishops administering those dioceses. Consequently, North America is not and has not been for some time "barbarian territory", "missionary territory with no dioceses", etc. as the erring author of the Protocols claims.
If within the last few years the number of true Orthodox Christians in these widowed dioceses has declined significantly due to the accession of heresy and schism in the Russian Church Abroad, this brief period of widowhood in no wise disestablishes the diocesan status of North American Metropolia or Archdioceses in the Russian Church. Nor does a period of five years of lacking a Russian Bishop to administer the dioceses, negate over 250 years of established Orthodoxy and dioceses. According to the Holy Canons, in a normal situation a bishop must be lacking to a diocese for over 30 years before a bishop of another see can freely claim the area as his own. This has yet to happen in North America. Besides, no Holy Fathers ever acted thus, even with dioceses that had been severely depleted on account of heresy, schism, or persecution, but treated them as temporarily widowed dioceses of other bishops, and not "open-game", only interfering in order to assist their faithful as far as was needed to defend and sustain the Church there. So the five years without a Russian bishop in North America provide no cause for considering North America "barbarian...missionary territory without dioceses" as the Protocols claim. North America is not open missionary territory, but the canonical territory of the Autocephalous Church of Russia. If other national churches have established diaspora parishes on the soil of North America since the time of World War I, and the Russian Church permitted this and held communion with them, this condescension, which has been permitted by the Church in some circumstances in the past (c.f., e.g. Canon 39 of the 6th Ecumenical Council), in no way changed or changes the status of North America as the canonical territory and Archdiocese or Metropolia of the Autocephalous Russian Church -- no more than the ROCOR's 20-year existence on Serbian territory abolished the dioceses of the Patriarchate of Serbia.]
But most importantly of all, the ROAC must take into account and unswervingly submit to the directives of Patriarch St. Tikhon and the Highest Church Authority of the Autocephalous Church of Russia in this matter, as laid out in Ukaz #362; for ROAC acknowledges that she is not the Autocephalous Church of Russia, but only a part of her episcopate, temporarily operating autonomously as a synod (on the basis given by Ukaz #362) because of the cessation of a lawful Patriarch and Highest Church Authority to which they canonically are bound to submit. If they do not submit to the canonical decrees (#362) of the Autocephalous Church of Russia they will be in schismatic rebellion against their lawful Church authority.
Now, what is so important about Ukaz #362? It is the clear, authoritative directive and blueprint for all Russian Church life since communication with the lawful Highest Church Authority and Patriarch ceased to be possible in the 1920's, and it totally overthrows the claims of the Protocols #48 and #49.
Ukaz #362 defines to which bishop the clergy, parishes, faithful, etc. are to be subject to in the given circumstances and there does not exist any of the reasons given by the Patriarch and Council in which the clergyman, parish, or layman may be under a bishop other than Archbishop Gregory. It is needful to note straightway that in Point #7 of Ukaz #362 widowed dioceses are considered still as established dioceses of the Autocephalous Russian Church in spite of their situation (i.e., being widowed or vacant) continuing for a protracted period of time or even almost permanently (cf. Point #5), because ultimately every action taken by them is subject to the review and approval or rejection by a future All-Russian Church Sobor under a lawful Patriarch (cf. Point # 10). And when in 1920, St. Tikhon and the Highest Church Authority of Russia issued Ukaz #362, one of the dioceses to which he was referring in it was beyond dispute that of North America, he himself having but lately been ruling it as its Archbishop. According to the Ukaz, Metropolitan Valentine had the right to assume the administration of the widowed Archdiocese or dioceses of North America (Point #7), to keep intact or to subdivide the widowed diocese(s) and appoint one or more of his vicar-bishops as ruling bishop(s) of one or more of the newly-created dioceses or the whole district, with the full canonical authority and rights of a diocesan bishop(s) (Point #5), and to administer together with him or them the dioceses of the district in accordance with the Canons (Point #6). This he did at first, and he was operating within the authority permitted by the Autocephalous Russian Church in Ukaz #362. He also submitted to Point #7 in acknowledging as subject to Archbishop Gregory's jurisdiction all those parishes and Christians in relation to whom Archbishop Gregory was the nearest diocesan bishop and/or most accessible as regards convenience or relations in their estimation. (Thus, without doubt and beyond all dispute, by virtue of the Ukaz of the Autocephalous Russian Church, Archbishop Gregory has the authority to forbid the Metropolitan of Suzdal and Vladimir from taking or ordaining his clergy and has this full episcopal authority over all those belonging to the Russian Church, whether in Colorado, Eastern or Western America, or even Bulgaria, in relation to whom he is the nearest or most accessible as regards convience or relations.) In fact, making public note of his own limitations, the Metropolitan did not even so much as give an award to any of these clergy or ordain these faithful without Archbishop Gregory's blessing and consent. Again, all was done canonically and in accordance with the established basis for Church Administration in our situation by the Autocephalous Church of Russia and the Holy Canons. However, more recently he has decided to eschew the decrees of the Autocephalous Russian Church made in Ukaz #362 and the Holy Canons and dictate a new ephemeral and unauthorized foundation for Church administration in the ROAC, which he imagines now gives him unlimited jurisdiction in all dioceses, something found only in Papism in the decrees of the 1st and 2nd Vatican Councils, but in no Orthodox authoritative source. Regardless, it is completely unlawful and invalid for the Metropolitan or the Synod of the ROAC to adopt any system of administration contradicting in any point the one decreed by the Autocephalous Church of Russia in 1920 -- Ukaz #362, which declares that the temporary autonomous Synods or individual bishops must govern "in accordance with the Canons". By defying the binding decree of the Autocephalous Russian Church, the Metropolitan is in fact rebelling against his lawful Church Authority, ursurping its rights, and making a schism.
Concerning the allegation that he has violated his Hierarchal Vow:
Anyone may see who reads it that his first obligation, even unto martyrdom, is to unswervingly obey the canons and it is only within this context that he owes loyalty to the Synod and its decisions, who likewise are bound to adhere to the Holy Canons.
The 3rd Confession of the Candidate at a Hierarchal Ordination reads as follows:
"And [when the Bishop-elect has been placed] on the head of the Eagle Rug, the Bishop says to him: Make manifest unto us, also, what you hold concerning the Canons of the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers, and the traditions and statutes of the Church.
The Candidate Vows: "In this my confession of the Holy Faith, I promise to observe the Canons of the Holy Apostles, of the Seven Ecumenical Synods, and of the pious Local Councils, the traditions of the Church, and the decrees, orders, and regulations of the Holy Fathers. And all things whatsoever they have accepted, I also accept; and whatsoever things they have rejected, those will I also reject. I promise...not to devise anything whatsoever which is contrary to the Orthodox Catholic Christian Faith of the East, in all the days of my life...If I violate any of the aforementioned promises or oppose the Divine commandments..., I shall be immediately and entirely deprived of the Heavenly Gift given to me by the Holy Spirit through the act of consecration."
"And hereby I promise also to do nothing through constraint, whether coerced by powerful persons, or by a multitude of the people, even though they should command me, under pain of death, to transgress the divine and sacred canons; nor will I liturgize in a diocese not my own, nor exercise any other priestly function without the permission of the Bishop of that diocese; nor will I ordain either a Priest, or a Deacon, or any other clergy in another's diocese, nor receive such into my diocese without letters of dismissal from their own Bishops."
It is in such context that one also promises: "...and that I will, in all things, follow and always obey the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church; and to be, in all things, of one mind with the Most Blessed Metropolitan, and the Most-reverend Archbishops and Bishops, my brethren, and together with them [be] submissive to the divine laws, and to the sacred Canons of the Holy Apostles and Holy Fathers; and with all fervor to have spiritual love for them, and to respect them as brethren."
Notice how, even here, the obedience to the Synod is to be "...together with them submissive to the divine laws and to the sacred Canons of the Holy Apostles and Fathers...". Consequently, a bishop cannot be keeping his hierarchal vow, which expresses such unyielding submission to the Canons even unto death for them, by consenting with his fellow-hierarchs to disobey the Holy Canons in any matter whatsoever. The obedience and concord with the Synod is made in the context of and on the assumption of their strict adherence to the Canons, not as an isolated vow of blind obedience even if it means disobedience to the voice of the Church speaking from the Holy Spirit -- the Church is the ultimate authority and object of allegiance, not some small number of the temporal, contemporary administrators of her life.
And lastly, concerning the alleged violation of the 2nd Canon of the 2nd Ecumenical Council:
If one is willing to investigate the matter and actually look up the Canon and its authoritative Byzantine interpretations, then one will not be fooled by the pretentious fabrication woven by the Protocols, which gives a few words out of context and twisted to give the appearance of canonical foundation, while being absolutely without it in reality. The Canon says that each bishop, metropolitan, or Patriarch is obligated to confine himself to the administration of his own diocese or jurisdiction only, except in the case of the churches of God among barbarians, where the custom of the Fathers in regard to them is to be maintained. The authoritative Byzantine interpreters, miscited by the Protocols, refer as an example to Canon 28 of the 4th Council, on the question of what this custom was. That canon and interpretation states that it was customary for the dioceses neighboring or nearest to various new converts among the barbarians, in this example of the situation of the 5th century, Pontus, Asia, and Thracia which were then nearest to the 5th century Alan, Russian, and Thracian barbarians, to care for or ordain the bishops among those barbarian nations. Consequently, the custom of the Fathers, referred to in the 2nd Canon of the 2nd Ecumenical Council, which must be followed, is that churches in missionary territories as yet without dioceses are cared for by the episcopate of the neighboring diocese or province, which is basically the same principle as laid down in Ukaz #362 for the temporary administration of widowed dioceses of the Russian Church by the bishop nearest to or most accessible as regards convenience or relations, and, as we have shown, that hierarch is, without dispute, Archbishop Gregory.
Accusation #7: In the aforementioned Ukaz #130 and Protocols #48 and #49, Archbishop Gregory is accused of issuing unlawful suspensions on his unnamed clergy (probably "Archpriest Dionysi McGowan and Hegumen Andrew Maklakov) for their failure to acquiesce to his alleged uncanonical excesses (disobedience).
Reply: The case of each clergyman is as follows:
"Hegumen Andrew" is a Great-Schema Monk of Dormition Skete, whom Metropolitan Valentine promised consecration to the episcopacy in the near future if he would then leave his abbot and bishop, Archbishop Gregory, and become second-priest to "Protopresbyter Vladimir Shishkov" in New Jersey. Archbishop Gregory forbade this, as was his canonical right, and issued an ukaz to Hegumen Andrew forbidding him to remain away from his monastery, once his obedience to translate for the Metropolitan as long as the latter was in Colorado was fulfilled. Hence, according to the Canons, Hegumen Andrew has no right or authority to serve or even to be anywhere other than in Dormition Skete. However, out of ambition, he disobeyed this ukaz, adhering to another completely uncanonical and worthless ukaz of the Metropolitan ordering him to leave Archbishop Gregory and move to New Jersey.
"Archpriest Dionysi" of Colorado Springs, a priest of Archbishop Gregory's diocese, was sent together with Hegumen Andrew and Nicholas Stanosheck, unannounced, to Dormition Skete to seize all of Hegumen Andrew's property which he had renounced and donated to the monastery when he became a Great-Schema Monk. When they came to Dormition Skete, Archbishop Gregory permitted Hegumen Andrew to take only his clothes and his computer, which he was not obligated to do, according to the rules of the Russian Church regarding a monk who has made vows to his monastery. They threatened to bring the police if they were not allowed to take whatever they wanted of Fr. Andrew's former possessions. Archbishop Gregory ordered them to go home and not to go the police, and that the departure of Father Andrew will be settled by the Holy Synod. When they came back with the police, which accomplished nothing for them, Archbishop Gregory told both clergymen that because of their disobedience, they could not serve the Liturgy the next day. According to the canons, a layman that imprisons a bishop on a false charge is anathematized, but Archbishop Gregory exceedingly mildly only forbade "Archpriest Dionysi" and "Hegumen Andrew" to serve the next day on account of their unworthy spiritual state of disobedience, before many witnesses.
Such were the actions of Archbishop Gregory and both of these clergymen, and in every case, Archbishop Gregory acted canonically and the Metropolitan and both these clergymen acted in violation of the canons.
Accusation #8: In the aforementioned Protocols, Archbishop Gregory is denounced as having violated the canons by ordaining a deacon, outside the Colorado diocese, for our churches in Bulgaria without prior special authorization by the Metropolitan and Synod.
Reply: In response to Vladyka Gregory's query as to whether or not he had a blessing from the Synod to ordain clergy in the vicarate, which was defined as everything outside of Russia and Latvia, on April 19, 2002, 7:34 AM, we received the Metropolitan's reply that "...you can ordain any candidate that you think to be worthy. You just need to send to Suzdal documents concerning the candidate...application, biography, confession of faith, picture..." This blanket permission was never revoked. Therefore, to condemn Vladyka Gregory for violating a new directive ex post facto is unjust...[Ukaz #130 did not arrive prior to this ordination but a week or so afterwards, and regardless, he was the vicar of the hierarchal synod, not M.V., and hence the Synod had to revoke it for it to be valid.] Moreover, when Vladyka Gregory was made a ruling bishop with the diocese of Colorado, he was told by the Synod in October, 2002, that in addition to the new rights he obtained as a ruling-bishop, as the Synod's vicar, he could still travel anywhere and receive or ordain people anywhere, except for the dioceses of the ROAC in the former Soviet countries. For this blanket permission to be revoked another Synod meeting would be required. Since that never happened, Vladyka Gregory was completely within his rights in doing so, and, beside this, it was in accord with the authoritative Ukaz #362. Incidentally, the clergy of ROAC in Bulgaria have made a public statement on this allegation -- supporting Vladyka Gregory as the one to whom they were always under obedience, who alone ordained and appointed their clergy, etc., and stating that they have never been informed by the Synod of anything to the contrary, including the assertion that they are under its direct authority and not Archbishop Gregory. They always considered themselves and will continue to consider themselves as under Archbishop Gregory, they said. Thus, both the Synodal record and the Bulgarian clergy themselves attest to the fact that the ROAC churches in Bulgaria have always been under the care and authority of Archbishop Gregory and that it was his until-now undisputed right to ordain clergy for them, as he has been doing repeatedly since he received them into our Church in early 2003.
Accusation #9: In the aforementioned Ukaz #130, it is alleged that Archbishop Gregory was unlawfully using the Metropolitan's official seal on his documents and ukazes and thus usurping the Metropolitan's authority.
Reply: After his ordination, Archbishop, then-Bishop, Gregory was told by the Metropolitan to make an episcopal seal for stamping his ukazes. Archbishop Gregory asked Fr. George to copy the seal from his ordination certificate, assuming that this was the ROAC seal used by all the bishops. They were never told that they must use a seal with only Bishop Gregory's name on it. When this was pointed out to him by Metropolitan Valentine Archbishop Gregory immediately apologized and gave the Metropolitan the seal that he had been using. When the Metropolitan saw that the Monastery could make stamps of such quality, he asked Archbishop Gregory to make him a new stamp in English, with the words "President of the Synod of Bishops". The Metropolitan also designed the stamp which he suggested that Archbishop Gregory use. Subsequently, according to the Metropolitan's suggestion, Archbishop Gregory made another stamp for the Diocesan Chancellery.
So, the Archbishop was not using a copy of the Metropolitan's seal, while signing the Metropolitan's name to any document, as this would be forgery. And, as using this seal was unintentional, it was immediately corrected once it became known. In any event, no canons were violated and no crime was committed, and all was fixed and forgiven, at least, until Metropolitan Valentine came under just accusation and began to cast about for accusations and slanders to throw back at Archbishop Gregory. Such are the facts behind the accusation.
P.O. Box 3177
Buena Vista, CO 81211-3177
Contact: Archbishop Gregory
In a New Window.
All rights reserved.