2006-06-20 12:23:00

Maxim Doronin, Candidate of History.
Sourozh: to divide in order to unite?

The crisis continues in the Sourozh diocese. Bishop Basil Osborn, who broke with the Moscow Patriarchate and has been recently accepted in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, is given the last opportunity to rectify the situation as he has been summoned to the July session of the Russian Orthodox Church Holy Synod for explanations.

What is at stake is not only the property worth of dozens of millions of English pounds, but first of all the fate of the diocese founded and nurtured by Metropolitan Anthony Blum of the eternal memory. All those involved in the conflict claim to be continuers of his cause but interpret his legacy in different ways.

What is his legacy then? Everybody seems to agree that it is the openness of the parish to new challenges, its missionary nature and direct involvement of laity in its life. Could it all be preserved while staying with Moscow? Bishop Basil believes it could not. Explanations he gives are just like ‘peace is war’ in Orwell. Metropolitan Anthony believed the unity of the community to be the highest value: even a division of the flock was possible to preserve the unity. Conciliarity - is it the most reliable way to ensure the life of a Christian community? In order to achieve it one can sacrifice it by moving to another jurisdiction by personal decision, neglecting conciliar procedures sealed in the Statutes of the Sourozh diocese. The openness to missionary challenges turns into refusal to accept dozens of thousands of new Russian-speaking arrivals who constitute a vast field for mission. The faithfulness to the Moscow Patriarchate so much cherished by Metropolitan Anthony turns out to be a rejection of the Russian Church at a time when the persecutions are over.

The commission appointed by His Holiness Alexy to investigate the situation has just completed its second session in London. Dozens of people testified to the facts they knew as essential for the understanding the causes of the crisis. Bishop Basil’s supporters have chosen boycott as a form of cooperation in settling it. The commission is to establish whether it was accidental that the split began just before the opening of a uniting council of the Church Outside Russia, whether it was a mere coincidence that precisely in those days the extremely expensive renewal was completed at the cathedral and the critics of Bishop Basil were removed from the parish council responsible for property and elected with a mere stroke of his pen. And why at a time when the then administrator of the Sourozh diocese wrote letters to His Holiness Alexy, asking for his blessing upon its development, he had actually dissolved it by signing letters of release to all the clergy and only waiting for the moment to sent them out.

A charged rifle has to go off sooner or later. It seems Bishop Basil had his rifle charged long ago.