Unbaptized spouses: welcome to the Church! –Abp. Elpidophoros

Unbaptized spouses: welcome to the Church! –Abp. Elpidophoros

Since the publication on February 21st of the article about Archbishop Elpidophoros’s (AbpE) remarks on mixed marriages, the webpage of Orthodox Christianity1 was inundated with comments. Relying on multiple anonymous testimonies, it reported that AbpE “declared that anyone who was married in the Orthodox Church can receive holy Communion, regardless of whether they are Orthodox or not.” His words, however, were not part of a prepared statement, but were made in answering a question.2 Certain commentators objected to reporting what they call unsubstantiated statements, but there is no need, because His Eminence went on record on the same subject in a prepared Keynote Address3 to the Archdiocesan Council Meeting back on Oct. 17, 2019. After reading these accounts, including the comments made, I would like to address this subject and share with you my reflections.

In his October address, AbpE called the marriages of Orthodox with non-Orthodox Christians “miracle marriages,” because, he stated, “these marriages are the main road that ushers converts to the Faith.” To support his claim he appealed to the words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, “How do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (I Cor. 7:16).” However, in order to make his point, he quoted this verse out of context, clearly misinterpreting the Apostle’s message. We bring verses 12 and 13 that precede it:

12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.

About whom is the Apostle talking? Surely not about Christians marrying non-Christians. Far from it! He talks about “non-Christian couples”, one of whom converted to Christianity. What was the Christian member supposed to do? Divorce? The Apostle says, no, because the good example of the Christian might induce the non-Christian to also convert. St. John Chrysostom offers the following comments on this passage:

Tell me, what harm is there when the duties of piety remain unimpaired and there are good hopes about the unbeliever, that those already joined should abide and not bring in occasions of unnecessary warfare? For the question now is not about those who have never yet come together, but about those who are already joined. He did not say, If any one wish to take an unbelieving wife, but, “if any one has an unbelieving wife.” Which means, If any after marrying or being married have received the word of godliness, and then the other party which had continued in unbelief still yearn for them to dwell together, let not the marriage be broken off. “For,” he said, “the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife.” So great is the superabundance of thy purity.4

But does the Apostle say anything about Christians marrying non-Christians? Yes, he does! In his second letter to the Corinthians he has this to say:

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? “For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (2 Cor. 6:14-16)

Based on these scriptural passages, the holy Fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Synod in their 72nd Canon prescribed the following:

Let no Orthodox man be allowed to contract a marriage with a heretical woman, nor moreover let an Orthodox woman be married to a heretical man. But if it should be discovered that any such thing is done by any one of the Christians, no matter who, let the marriage be deemed void, and let the lawless marriage tie be dissolved... If, therefore, anyone violates the rules we have made let him be excommunicated.5

The learned AbpE certainly knows all these things, yet knowingly he sets them aside, “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). Think of it: instead of encouraging our young people to marry in the Faith or to be good examples, he expects Church growth to come from spouses who refuse to embrace the Faith!” But there is more. He further adds the following in his Keynote Address:

Whether or not the spouse joins the Church in a formal way through Chrismation, they are still 100% part of our community, and should be embraced as such.

It is this last sentence that is the most troublesome, in which we already see that what was reported to have said in Palm Beach, Florida on February 21st is unfortunately and tragically true. Please follow his words. In the first place, he says that the non-Orthodox spouses not always join the Church the “formal way.” What is the way he calls “formal”?: The reception of non-Orthodox to the Church through Chrismation. Yes, we have reached such level of apostasy that we do not even see what is wrong with being admitted to the Church through Chrismation (which should be the rare exception), and not through baptism (which should be the norm). But isn’t this the way almost every convert is being received by the Church today? Unfortunately, yes – with ROCOR, correct me if I’m wrong, being the only exception. But what is wrong with receiving converts through Chrismation? It’s wrong because it violates the holy Canons of the Church!

Canon 46 of the Holy Apostles (confirmed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council in Trullo) states:

“We order any Bishop, or Presbyter, that has accepted any heretics’ Baptism, or sacrifice, to be deposed; for “what consonancy hath Christ with Beliar? or what part hath the believer with an infidel?”6

This canon is strengthened by the one that follows it (No. 47):

“If a Bishop or Presbyter baptize anew anyone that has had a true baptism, or fail to baptize anyone that has been polluted by the impious, let him be deposed, on the ground that he is mocking the Cross and death of the Lord and failing, to distinguish priests, from pseudo-priests.”7

Here we see that the primate of the largest Orthodox jurisdiction in America, in full knowledge, and following faithfully the directives of his superior hierarch, “Ecumenical” Patriarch Bartholomew (EPB), violating these two Canons of the Church. Of course AbpE, along with EPB and all the ecumenists, would retort that they don’t re-baptize those who are already baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, because they have received the “true baptism,” and if they were to re-baptize such people they would violate the Canon. Yes, this is what they say, but they don’t follow what the Church says. True baptism is administered only in the true Church, because the Church, being the Body of Christ, is the source of all the Mysteries (Sacraments).8

So-called “Trinitarian baptisms” have opened the doors of the Orthodox Church to non-Orthodox. The names of our Trinitarian God may be called, but this is not enough. Triple baptism (immersion) by an authorized priest is also required.9 “Mixed marriages” was the first illegitimate child of this concession; the second child, holy Communion for non-Orthodox spouses is already taking place. Preparations are being made for the third child: open doors to all Christians. The final child, open doors to all human beings is fast approaching. Here in America, and elsewhere, ROCOR is the only bastion of the Orthodox Faith and practice today, even after its re-establishment of communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. All Orthodox are invited to this oasis.

AbpE, an avid ecumenist, not only violates the first Canon, by accepting the baptism administered by heretics, as long as the name of the triune God is invoked, and receives such people through Chrismation, but he is ready to allow, and already allows, following the practice of Constantinople, those non-Orthodox who entered into matrimony with an Orthodox to have access to the holy Eucharist! Why not, he will say to us. He is right… If someone is admitted to one sacrament (marriage) what is the justification for denying him or her access to another sacrament (divine Eucharist)? Thus we see the slippery slope of how one deviation leads to another, bigger one.

The Orthodox Church, following faithfully her holy Canons, does not recognize, nor does she approve of mixed marriages. How can she, when she does not even allow heretics to step their foot into an Orthodox church,10 according to one of her Canons that is seldom followed, kept only by the schismatic Old Calendarists. The Church has always “economized,” that is, exercised indulgence and compassion, making exceptions wisely to the rule for the good of the Church and for the salvation of the people of God. But these exceptions, in our days, have become the rule, while the rules are ignored. In fact we are at a stage where baptizing heterodox is prohibited. There are cases in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America where even written petitions by candidates to be received through baptism have been denied by the ruling bishops, and the priests who dear to disobey their orders are severely disciplined.

One last word about the statement of AbpE’s, which contains an even more ominous turning of direction of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese towards complete apostasy. Following his incredible statement quoted above, somewhat cryptic but still clear, which in so many words assures the non-Orthodox spouses that they are “100% part of our community, and should be embraced as such”, he goes on to unload the ultimate goal of the ecumenists:

“we must… embrace all the members of our community and our Country.”

To decode the statement: As the non-Orthodox spouses are 100% part of our community and should be embraced as such, so also our ultimate goal is to invite the entire country: “come as you are” and join in the Orthodox Church, and partake of whatever we have to offer. We are not there yet, but we – they, that is – are already turning the corner. The plan of the ecumenists is well-orchestrated: to slooowly boil us to death, like the proverbial frog.

What is the plan of us, Orthodox clergy and laity? We should wake up from our lethargy and in a robust voice tell our religious leaders when they enter our churches, and in writing, that we can no longer tolerate their betrayal of our Faith and if they don’t change course we will stop funding our ecumenist bishops, and priest. The corruption is so great, and this will hurt them the most; that’s the only language they understand.

We humbly suggest that all of us, Orthodox clergy and laity, should have a different plan for increasing our membership, and we invite the “Hope-Bearer” (that’s what his name, Elpidophoros means) to reflect upon it. How wonderful it would be, truly miraculous, if 100% of our children, our young adults, boys and girls contemplating marriage, with their strong faith and Christian life would inspire their future spouses to join the Church that saves. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Mt. 5:16)

  1. http://orthochristian.com/128712.html. The speech was delivered at the opening of the 29th Annual Leadership 100 Conference at the Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
  2. Actually, they were confirmed by another more accurate account in an article posted by the Pappas Post that also appeared on the next morning of the event (Feb. 22), https://www.pappaspost.com/archbishop-elpidophoros-of-america-ok-for-non-orthodox-christian-spouses-to-receive-communion/.
  3. https://www.goarch.org/-/keynote-address-of-his-eminence-archbishop-elpidophoros-at-the-archdiocesan-council-meeting.
  4. hom. xix.
  5. Rudder, p. 376. Two Canons of the Synod of Laodicea (10th and 31st, pp. 555 and 565 of the Rudder) explicitly prohibit intermarriages. A few additional comments on this subject were addressed in our series on, “Marriage ‘in Christ,’” Parts I, II, III and IV.
  6. Rudder, p. 68. Quoting exactly the passage AbpE left out (2 Corinthians 6:15), here in a different translation. Belial, which means demon, a name of Satan, is rendered Beliar in Greek.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Please see a few pertinent comments made on the subject in our post, “My desire was to be received through Baptism,” particularly the authoritative words of St. Cyprian of Carthage.
  9. Canon 50 of the Holy Apostles, Rudder, p. 81.
  10. Laodicea vi, Rudder, p. 553.

16 thoughts on “Unbaptized spouses: welcome to the Church! –Abp. Elpidophoros”

  1. Father Emmanuel, while I generally agree with the points you raise here, I think that you are remiss in two areas.

    First, you neglected to explain why the canons of the Ecumenical Synods make provisions or receiving some heretics but not others by means other than Baptism. Here, I’m referring specifically to Canon 19 of the First Ecumenical Synod (Nikaia A.D. 325), Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Synod (Constantinople, A.D. 381), and Canon 95 of the Sixth (or Fifth-Sixth) Ecumenical Synod (in the Troullos Hall at Constantinople, A.D. 680-681). In any event, there are some exceptions, even if all of them are no longer in effect, and that must be acknowledged.

    Second, and perhaps more importantly, there is no direct quotation from Abp Elpidophors anywhere to be found in which he specifically says that the heterodox spouses of Orthodox Christians may receive Holy Communion in he Orthodox Church. There are many interpretations of his other words all over the Internet, but nothing which asserts this directly, and it would be prudent to wait for a clarification from him before reacting.

    May his holy fast be a blessing to you and yours.

    Monk James

    • Dear Monk James,

      Concerning the Canons you site:

      Canon 19 of the First Ecumenical Synod clearly states that Paulinians, who were not Trinitarians, need to be baptized.

      Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Synod allows heretics from certain groups, including Arians, to be received through Chrismation, because they had received the form of the true baptism, i.e. triple baptism, calling the name of each divine Person each time. Throughout the history of the Church, to this day, the Church received such converts by economia through Chrismation, unless they desired to be received through baptism, following the akrivia. No Christian group in the West administers such baptism, therefore economia should not be allowed, as dictates the very Canon you refer to.

      Canon 95 of the Sixth (or Fifth-Sixth) Ecumenical Synod repeats verbatim the previous two Canons you cited.

      Concerning drawing conclusions without specific evidence:

      You are correct. Nowhere does he specifically say that the heterodox spouses may receive Holy Communion, that’s why I made it clear what he meant to say. Ever so slooowly he attempts to drive us towards the new heresy of lovism, union of all, based not on the same faith but on a humane love, proclaimed by ecumenism. Much more can be said, but there is no time for now.

      A blessed Lenten season and a glorious Resurrection.

      Fr. E.

  2. We received the comment below via e-mail and the reply from Fr. Emmanuel follows:

    Orthodox Witness,

    I am writing you in response to the article posted by Fr. Emmanuel today, Feb. 29, 2020. I am writing a brief response out of brotherly love.

    While I appreciate his zeal for the Orthodox Christian faith. There are some serious theological failures in this document. And misrepresentations of Orthodox Christian practice. Especially as it relates to the reception of converts by Chrismation only. The reason for this isn’t because of “ecumenism”, but rather an attempt to avoid sacrilege. The article by Fr. Emmanuel seems to suggest that all non-Orthodox Christians are “heretics”. Doesn’t St. Basil the Great point out three distinct non-Orthodox Christian groups in his letters? I. Heretics II. Schismatics. III. Illegal congregations. Thus, three different approaches to receiving them into the Orthodox Church. I Baptism II. Chrismation III. Confession of faith.

    Moreover, to suggestions that “Here in America, and elsewhere, ROCOR is the only bastion of the Orthodox Faith and practice today, even after its re-establishment of communion with the Moscow Patriarchate. All Orthodox are invited to this oasis”.

    Is that not a heretical statement in itself? Which violates Canon Law? Was ROCOR not an illegal congregation at one time? Isn’t there still today a ROCOR that exists as an illegal congregation? The group that didn’t come back into communion with the Moscow Patriarchate.

    I don’t write this in an attempt to provoke an argument. But rather, out of hope for better understanding of where some of the brethren our coming from.

    As we begin Great Lent, I ask your forgiveness.

    In Christ,
    Fr. M

    Dear Father M,

    A blessed and spiritually-rewarding Lenten season.

    This is in regard to your email to Orthodox Witness. I thank you for your comments, and please accept mine.

    I invite you, I urge you, to read carefully all the Canons pertaining to baptism and the comments by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite. Here they are:

    46th, 47th, 49th, 50th and 68th of the Apostles (Rudder 68-76, 80-84, 119-122), 19th of the 1st EC (192-196), 7th of the 2nd EC (217-220), 84th and 95th of the 6th EC (388-390, 401-402), 1st of Carthage (485-488), 7th and 8th of Laodicea (554-555), 66th of Carthage (642-644) and St. Basil’s 1st (773-777) and especially his 47th (823-824). You will find out that economy (that is reception in some form other than baptism) may be applied only for those who have received the baptism of the Church (triple immersion, with the invocation of each divine name at each immersion). In effect this means that no exception should be made for anyone coming from a Christian group in the Western hemisphere.

    Unfortunately, the exception has become the rule, and the rule has been tossed away. As I have stated in my book The Heavenly Banquet (p. 253), “The Church Canons should be strictly adhered to, in administering the true baptism by triple immersion, practiced only in the Orthodox Church, to those who have not received it.” Bishops and priests bear a grave responsibility and will give an account of their actions before a Synod or before Christ’s Judgment Seat.

    Also I invite you to watch a video interview with Fr. John Whiteford here, which should convince you that ROCOR’s position is mandatory in our ecumenist times. Also, please check our other posts on the subject of baptism.

    Please, tell me why in the world would anyone want to join the Church, but then refuse to enter as her Canons prescribe? It would only indicate that someone is not adequately catechized, and is not yet ready to receive the laver of regeneration.

    There is a big confusion, and I see it in the terminology employed even by Orthodox. There are no “valid” baptisms outside the Church. Even when the Church recognizes the form of her baptism (which, as we said, is almost never the case in the West) it only means that she takes this symbol of the real thing, and fills it with the fullness of the grace she alone dispenses.

    Forgive me, Father, but you don’t seem to be informed about the other subject you addressed, of ROCOR’s canonicity. ROCOR was and is a semi-autonomous Church, a canonical ecclesiastical body. Calling it “congregation” and “illegal” is incorrect and truthfully inconsiderate. You may want to read a statement made by one the most beloved Elders of our time, reposed less than three months ago, Elder Ephraim of Philotheou and Arizona here. You may also review the documentation of ROCOR’s canonicity on its website. The Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) has produced three saints. They are St Jonah of Hancow (+ 1925), St John of Shanghai and San Francisco (+ 1966) and St Seraphim of Sofia (+ 1950). The onus of proving what you said about ROCOR rests with you.

    I’ll be glad to address any other issues you may have, but you need to be informed and considerate.

    Pace, Father,
    Fr. Emmanuel

    • We received the reply below via e-mail and the reply from Fr. Emmanuel follows:
      Orthodox Witness,

      I am writing you in response to the article posted by Fr. Emmanuel, Feb. 29, 2020. And in response to his comments on my post.

      Glory to Jesus Christ!

      I do not question the canonical standing of ROCOR. Certainly not. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. That being said, was there not a time, until 2007, when ROCOR was not within the canonical boundaries of the Orthodox Church? Perhaps this was because of the tragic situation going on in Russia during the 20th century. Thus, calling them an “illegal congregation” or an unlawful assembly during that time might have been a little harsh, please forgive me for that. It was not my intention to offend anyone. But isn’t that what St. Basil was pointing out in his letters? That “illegal congregations”, those outside the canonical boundaries of the Orthodox Church are still Orthodox in that they are practicing the Orthodox faith. But because of “disobedient” clergy they have fallen outside the canonical standing of the Church. Thus, we receive their baptisms as being legitimate, when they are received into the Church, even though they took place outside the canonical boundaries of the Church. Was this not the case in which ROCOR found itself in 2007?

      With the understanding that we don’t control the Holy Spirit. Thus, explaining how ROCOR did indeed have Saints within their community even before 2007. The biblical example of this being the Gentile Pentecost as found in Acts 10.44-48. And those Gentiles who received the Holy Spirit even before baptism. Thus, baptisms which take place outside the canonical boundaries of the Orthodox Church can be received as valid providing that they were done by faithful Christians who believe in God as Trinity and baptize (immersion in water) in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

      Perhaps we do need to take a closer look, in a Pan-Orthodox setting, at the baptisms of Christians in the west. And this needs to be done by our Bishops, not individual clergy, to determine what is valid and what is not valid.

      As for the other issue. I suspect the GOA Archbishop may have had his comments taken out of context. I was not there, so I can’t say for sure what he said and what he didn’t say. As far as all of us are concerned marriage in the Orthodox Church does not mean you have been received into the Eucharist community of the Orthodox faithful. The only way to be received into the Orthodox Church is to formally be received by baptism and or chrismation and a confession of faith.

      Thanks for taking the time to hear me out. I hope this helps us provide a better understanding of where are brethren are coming from theologically.

      Many blessings!

      Fr. M

      Reply by Fr. Emmanuel:

      Dear Father M,

      You ask, “was there not a time, until 2007, when ROCOR was not within the canonical boundaries of the Orthodox Church?” Pardon me, Father, but let me ask you: do you think this was the understanding of the only “interested party,” the Patriarchate of Moscow? Because the MP is the only party that can address your question. If ROCOR was uncanonical it would have been received under conditions. No such conditions were placed for their official “return” to their mother Church. After all, their declared independence was granted by Moscow itself (!), so how can you say ROCOR was “outside the canonical boundaries of the Church”?

      I invite you to read the historical account of the events and the actions that have taken place, and then tell me who was uncanonical, ROCOR or those who signed an oath of loyalty to the Soviet state, as the “official” Church in Moscow did at the time. ROCOR remained faithful to God, and to the suffering Orthodox Russian people, both within Russia and abroad. ROCOR was more canonical than the Bishops in Russia, who capitulated to the Bolsheviks. Read the document below, which quotes St. Gregory the Theologian who said, “There is evil peace and good discord…” and then tell me if ROCOR was uncanonical. After reading this history please tell me what you would have done, if you were in charge of ROCOR. Also please tell me if you accept St. John of Shangai and San Francisco as a saint, and explain to me how come the Patriarch of Moscow accepted his sainthood.
      (The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, by Archbishop Nathaniel, (https://www.russianorthodoxchurch.ws/english/pages/legacy/nathnielrocor.html)

      I also invite you to read this article, “There Was No ‘Legalization of Schism’ in the Reestablishment of Unity Within the Russian Orthodox Church, but Mutual Forgiveness and Reconciliation,” by Archpriest Seraphim Gan, Nov. 19, 2018. Here are a few excerpts:

      “…the two parts of the once-united Russian Orthodox Church, temporarily divided for political reasons into the part in the Fatherland and the part abroad, reunite in the early 21st century in the hands of His Holiness Patriarch Alexei II and Metropolitan Laurus of blessed memory.”

      “In our time, some have the audacity to compare the Russian Church Abroad to the so-called “Philaretites” and “self-sanctifiers.” Unlike Philaret Denisenko, the founders of the Russian Church Abroad had not been condemned by an ecclesiastical tribunal, deprived of their clerical ranks or anathematized. On the contrary, the Act of Canonical Communion, confirmed by both Synods of the united Russian Church and signed by the aforementioned Primates, states: ‘That the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, conducting its salvific service in the dioceses, parishes, monasteries, brotherhoods, and other ecclesiastical bodies that were formed through history, remains an indissoluble, self-governing part of the Local Russian Orthodox Church’ which demonstrates the recognition by the Church in the Fatherland of the historical path and canonicity of the Russian Church Abroad, established on the basis of Ukase No. 362 of 1920 of Holy Patriarch Tikhon the Confessor. This decision by the Holy Synod, headed by Patriarch Tikhon, served as a categorical requirement of the conciliar rule of those dioceses and parts of the Church which found themselves torn from their central administrative organ.”

      “…the reestablishment of unity within the Russian Orthodox Church in 2007 was in no fashion a “legalization of schism,” but in fact mutual acceptance, reconciliation within the Russian Orthodox Church and the renewal of the fullness of fraternal communion.”

      “…AV Kartashev wrote about in his article “The Unification of Churches in the Light of History”: ‘Two parts of the Church in living grace are once again united externally and apparently, obviously during their quarrels never having ceased to be invisibly united within the bosom of the Holy Spirit, the Life-Creating Church.’”

      I invite you to read the historical account of the events and the actions that have taken place, and then tell me who was uncanonical, ROCOR or those who signed an oath of loyalty to the Soviet state, as the “official” Church in Moscow did at the time. ROCOR remained faithful to God, and to the suffering Orthodox Russian people, both within Russia and abroad. ROCOR was more canonical than the Bishops in Russia, who capitulated to the Bolsheviks. Read the document below, which quotes St. Gregory the Theologian who said, “There is evil peace and good discord…” and then tell me if ROCOR was uncanonical. After reading this history please tell me what you would have done, if you were in charge of ROCOR. Also please tell me if you accept St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco as a saint, and explain to me how come the Patriarch of Moscow accepted his sainthood.

      Please also read carefully the article posted recently (Feb. 4, 2020) by the Saint’s biographer, Bernard LeCaro, “Was St. John (Maximovitch) a Schismatic?” and then come back to tell me that you are not convinced St. John was not a schismatic. Although the aim of the author is to show the enormous difference between ROCOR and the schismatic Ukrainian group to which the Ecumenical Patriarch uncanonically gave the autocephaly, it answers your question. His conclusion was:

      “From the above, it is clear that the Moscow Patriarchate entered into communion with the hierarchs of ROCOR in 2007 with the consciousness that the latter were canonically consecrated and were not schismatics, and not “with a simple signature,” as, unfortunately, Constantinople acted in regard to the self-consecrated—that is, without Apostolic Succession—and canonically defrocked “hierarchs” in Ukraine.”

      Finally, please take the time to read this informative article uploaded this very day, March 16, 2020: “Metropolitan Laurus—the Rusyn who reunited the Russian Church” by Matfey Shaheen.

      I’ll be glad to receive your reply.


  3. Father, bless!

    It was good (well, sort of) to read that this cleric didn’t actually invite the unbaptized spouses to the chalice. The thing is he presents parish community as not derived from Holy Communion. This is wrong, because the church is not an apartment building where you can say that all the people inside the building make a community. Even in this example, guests or intruders who happen to be inside the building at a particular time are not part of the community. Of course, once the meaning and importance of Holy Communion are diminished, the next step is just distributing the chalice to everybody. Thankfully, the wolves in shepherds’ clothing can’t get away with that, at least for now.

  4. Father, bless!

    I’m writing a separate comment on a separate issue. First of all, I’m glad that there is a bastion of Orthodoxy in North America and this is the ROCOR. Concerning the canonicity of ROCOR, of course now (after 2007) I have no doubts. I also trust the judgment of the reposed Elder Ephraim, but I don’t consider it infallible.

    However, there was a time when ROCOR was in communion with at least one Old Calendarist schismatic group. I agree that since 2007 this is no longer relevant, because the people who shared this mindset split up from ROCOR in order to refuse communion with Moscow and to maintain communion with Old Calendarist schismatics. Also, the moderate Old Calendarists who used to be in communion with ROCOR became more radical.

    So, in my opinion, nowadays things are clear and the mainstream ROCOR who entered in communion with Moscow inherits just the positive aspects of ROCOR history. The ROCOR response to the proposed Crete documents proves this, I think. However, there are some murky aspects in the past of ROCOR that I would like to know more about and the current official narrative just glosses over. Unfortunately, a few years ago when I tried to read online about that time period, nearly all the documents I could find had the remnant ROCOR / true catacomb church / radical Old Calendarist bias. The schismatics claim the ROCOR saints as their own and oppose the reunion with Moscow as a betrayal of the original ROCOR values.

    In my opinion, serious historical and canon law research of the murky aspects of ROCOR history are highly necessary and would be more useful than just looking the other way. The results of this research could silence the bold claims of schismatics more effectively than the current approach (or rather lack thereof).

  5. P.s. The ROCOR entry on OrthodoxWiki claims the sectarian leaning of ROCOR I was referring to before was caused by the exceedingly strong influence of a monastery in Brookline, Massachusetts. However, the reference link does not work.

  6. Father, bless!

    I would like to comment on something I have on my mind, somewhat off topic, but connected to your invitation into the Orthodox bastion and oasis of ROCOR. When reading that, I thought it would be nice to be able to do that. However, the closest ROCOR parishes are in Western Europe.

    Here in Romania, the climate in the church is such that people cannot freely voice contrary opinions. The very few who voiced strong objections to the official Romanian position in Crete were abusively defrocked. The others are either completely uninterested or fear even looking into the problems of Crete and Ukraine because of the possible consequences (losing their parish, teaching position etc.) Most laypeople are the same, they either don’t care (as long as they can go to church and experience the traditional rituals, in an almost superstitious or magical mindset), they feel that they are better off not knowing the details of any controversy (because it can be spiritually damaging!) or they are fully brainwashed into believing that the Patriarch is always right (like a smaller, local, bearded Pope).

    So, we have a very small, but very determined opposition to the Patriarch in Bucharest. These people make me uneasy, but I couldn’t say why until recently. But now I think I do. They have a conspiracy theory mindset. They think ecumenism is a conspiracy, vaccines are a conspiracy, rfid chips are a conspiracy, chemtrails are a conspiracy. This is wrong on so many levels.

    First, the disregard for truth is troubling. Orthodox Christians should have more respect for truth and less gullibility. Then, there’s the disregard for what a heresy is and why it is dangerous. Ecumenism is dangerous as a subtle, difficult to understand heresy, and not because it is a conspiracy of some dark forces who want to destroy Orthodoxy. Presenting it like that does not help, perhaps it is even damaging.

    Why ecumenism is a heresy is difficult to understand because many people are not familiar enough with their own Orthodox faith and also because ecumenism permeates the mainstream worldview. So, instead of looking more in depth at how ecumenism and other heresies undermine Orthodoxy, and why this is actually dangerous, which would probably be boring and unappealing, they build a whole conspiracy narrative, with villains and everything.

    So no, it doesn’t help that one rejects ecumenism if the reason is because freemasons or illuminati are behind it.

    • Dear Anna,

      Thank you for your well-thought and well-expressed comments. You are way ahead of me. I had to look up what rfid and chemtrails are. The “climate” you describe is everywhere the same… Here in America included… I speak out of personal experience…

      A severe critique of us, Orthodox Christians (obscurantists, fundamentalists, etc.) is found in the Orthodox Handbook on Ecumenism (2014), but, not surprisingly – the book is copyrighted by the World Council of Churches… It consists of a (sad) parade of studies by an impressive number of well-known ecumenists (check Contents) following the arch-ecumenist Bartholomew of Constantinople. Among them you’ll find the noted Romanian ecumenist priest, Fr. Daniel Buda. He is aware of the conspiracies, but all he says about them is that he is going to ignore them (p. 122). Please do the same. Other presenters are also aware of them (Pantelis Kalaitzidis (pp. 145-146), and Vladimir Fedorov (155-158)). You will do well to avoid such people.

      Perhaps there are a few among the group you can reason with. If you find others who share your views, you can form a mission church. All you need is an Orthodox priest. If there is no priest do a Reader’s Service, and if there is no one else to share your convictions do it by yourself. I found this service online.

      And pray.

      May the Lord strengthen you, through the intercessions of the most holy Theotokos and all the saints.

      A blessed Lenten season and a glorious resurrection.

      In the eternally risen Christ,

      Fr. Emmanuel

  7. I would like to bring some clarifications to my previous comment. The claim that ecumenism has its origins in freemasonry is sometimes made by respectable people such as his eminence Seraphim of Piraeus, however without proper proof. Perhaps it is taken as a well-established fact that doesn’t need to be proven. This doesn’t make it true, but it doesn’t make it false, either.

    However, the conspiracy-minded place the same value of well-established truth on this claim (which is definitely worth some historical research) and some outlandish, refuted claims. In my opinion, one cannot be a theologian who discerns the truth from heresy and at the same time watch the sky for “chemtrails”. One cannot take both of these two things seriously at the same time and, moreover, the manner of thinking about (or approach to) to one will influence the other.

  8. Father, bless!

    Thank you for your advice. It is always good advice to pray. Also, it’s good to keep one’s distance from conspiracy theorists!

    This book you have linked has creeped me out, to say the least. These people seem well organized and seem very dedicated to the study of the Orthodox believers and their opposition to ecumenist interests. It is not so surprising when one also considers that our true enemy also studies us and takes comparative notes, so to speak, in order to devise personalized temptations for every one of us. I don’t mean (God forbid!) that these people are conscious tools of the enemy. Most likely, they have the best intentions and believe sincerely that they serve Christ better than the “fundamentalists”. My conclusion is that one must fight heresy and the trespassing of holy canons (such as praying and serving together with heretics) with the arms of the saints, the ones also mentioned by St. Paul in one of his epistles.

    Concerning praying by myself in order to separate myself from heresy, like St. Maximos the Confessor, I have already tried it out and found it detrimental.

    Concerning joining a deposed priest, Fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos notes that even if he is deposed abusively and is innocent, according to the canons he should wait to be rehabilitated. I urge you to read or re-read his work with the title “The Two Extremes – Ecumenism and Zealotism”, published in Greece in 1986. I don’t know if any English version exists. An excerpt in English is available here:


    • Dear Anna,

      I don’t follow what you mean by “joining a deposed priest” and why you urge me to read Fr. Epiphanios. Please be clearer.

      How else can I be of help to you?

  9. Father, bless!

    The few priests who are „walled off” in Romania, as you say about fr. Ioan Ungureanu in an article from March 20, 2019, a translation from a Greek article, have all been defrocked — I’m unsure about using the right word. Yet, they continue to serve and the faithful come to the services. According to the canons (Church Law), and fr. Epiphanios pointed this out, this should not happen. In the case of Old Calendarists, this eventually lead to a schism. The main point of fr. Epiphanios’ book is that one must not escape heresy by running towards schism.

    Father, you have provided some encouragement for me along the way, in difficult moments, which I appreciate. I’m not asking for any specific help now, except of course your prayers.

    • Dear Anna,

      Please tell these few priests who were defrocked to apply to ROCOR. If their anti-ecumenist stance was the cause of their being defrocked they would most certainly be received by ROCOR with open arms.

      A blessed Holy Week and a glorious Resurrection to you and all Orthodox Christians in your country.


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