Church Schisms in Ukraine and Russia: Patriarch Kirill as Comparative Historian

by Maureen Perrie | ελληνικά | Русский

“Renovationist” leader Alexander Vvedensky

On January 8, 2023, the Sunday after Christmas Day, Patriarch Kirill preached a sermon in the ancient Uspenskii (Dormition) Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin. The Patriarch presented a very upbeat view of the current state of the Russian Orthodox Church, which—he said—had not only revived but flourished in the post-Soviet period. He contrasted this with the situation in Ukraine, where the same “madness (besnovanie)” now prevailed as had existed in Russia in the early years after the 1917 revolution, when the Renovationist Church, “artificially created by the Godless authorities,” had seized the church buildings of the true Russian Orthodox Church. In present-day Ukraine, Kirill claimed, a schism (raskol) had arisen that was very reminiscent of the Renovationist schism in post-revolutionary Russia. The two situations were almost identical: in both cases, the power of the state lay behind the schisms; and in both cases the aim was to weaken and destroy the Orthodox Church and to alienate God’s people from it. But just as the Renovationist schism in Russia had vanished without trace, so would the latter-day schismatics in Ukraine, because they were implementing “an evil, diabolical will, destroying Orthodoxy in the Kievan land.” And just as the Soviet leaders who had attacked the Church had perished, so would the present-day authorities in Ukraine.

Why did the Patriarch cite the Renovationist schism as a parallel to the current divisions in Ukrainian Orthodoxy? The term “Renovationist” was applied to the group of modernizing reformers within the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) who created a “synodal” church after 1922 which was favored by the Soviet authorities to the detriment of the patriarchal Church. Kirill does not explicitly identify the Ukrainian schismatics whom he compares to the Renovationists, but he clearly has in mind the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which was granted autocephaly by the Constantinople Patriarchate in January 2019. The rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which had maintained its links with the Moscow Patriarchate, declared its independence from the ROC in May 2022, but this is not recognized by Moscow, and the reality of its autonomy is questioned by some Ukrainian authorities.

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Ethnicity Tears the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church Apart
Prime Minister Ahmed forced to talk to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church

by Habtom Yohannes | ελληνικά | Русский

What initially seemed an internal conflict between the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church (EtOTC) and an Oromo breakaway synod of 28 bishops, has developed into an open clash between the Ethiopian government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the EtOTC. The current struggle is actually a scramble over who has ownership of the nation: the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church or the Ethiopian nation-state? And who owns “the church”: the Amhara, the Tegaru, or the Oromo, or the three of them equally? And what is the language of the church: “Ge’ez, Amharinya, Tigrinya, or Afaan-Oromo? Are we going to have four Orthodox Tewahdo Churches in the Horn of Africa: 1) Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church, 2)Tigray Orthodox Tewahdo Church, 3) Oromia Orthodox Tewahdo Church, and 4) Amhara-Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church?

Despite his open warnings to his cabinet members not to interfere in the current internal crisis within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church some ten days ago, a concerted campaign by the Ethiopian synod at home and abroad has forced the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to invite representatives of the synod to his office. Time will tell whether Ahmed will convince the synod to cancel the nationwide demonstration planned for next Sunday. The synod will put as a condition that the government recognize their synod as the only legitimate synod for the whole Ethiopian church. Accepting that condition openly will bring him in direct conflict with the breakaway synods in Oromia and Tigray. Abiy Ahmed is an active member of the Full-Gospel Pentecostal group with “prosperity church” inclinations. His father is an Oromo-Muslim and his mother an Amhara-Orthodox Tewahdo. Together with his wife, born to an Amhara-Tewahdo parents, they have three girls. His power base is Oromo. So also in this discussion the breakaway Oromo bishops will be invisibly present in the meeting with the Ethiopian Holy Synod. The Holy Synod seems also to have booked a legal success in blocking the breakaway synod from using any church properties of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church. However, passing a verdict is totally different from enforcing it in a country that is structured ethno-linguistically in eleven federal states with their own parliaments and special forces. 

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Why Have You Forgotten the Truth of God?
An open letter to the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church

ελληνικά | Русский

Your Eminences!

My letter is addressed to the Orthodox bishops in Russia. I have intentionally not collected signatures or involved any Church structures or public organizations, because I am addressing not the episcopal body, not the leaders of the Moscow Patriarchy, but each of you personally. My letter’s addressee is an Orthodox Christian who took holy baptismal and monastic vows, was elevated to the dignity of bishop, and who in his heart recognizes that it is impossible to govern the Church without striving to love Christ, seeking His truth, and serving Him and not Caesar.  

Under the circumstances I feel forced to violate Church etiquette by not asking your blessing. This would sound a false note at the very beginning of our conversation. My words may provoke antagonism, vexation, and even wrath on your part. Being conscious of it, I can scarcely hope that you would sincerely bless such conversation, and a ritual blessing just to demonstrate episcopal power means little. If you agree that this conversation is meaningful, simply pray for me and write at least a few lines in response. I pray for you, too, though today this is hard and painful.

But I deeply believe that there is a blessing from above upon such a conversation, that we are called upon to talk about the one thing needful (Lk.10,42, KJV), about our faith, about the love of Christ which is unthinkable without keeping His commandments: If a man love me, he will keep my words (John 14:23, KJV)

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Priestly Ministry in the Person of the Theotokos and the Church

by Grace Hibshman | ελληνικά

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Facebook celebrity Hyperdox Herman has offered ten satirical reasons for banning men from the priesthood, including:

“The physical features of the structure of the male body indicate that the man was created for hard work, and not for serving in the temple, which does not require great physical strength.”

“Men are too prone to emotions – this is easy to see by attending any football match. A priest must be able to control himself, and this is often not given to men.”

 “Caring for spiritual children is akin to caring for children, and such care is a natural ability and prerogative of a woman.”

I used to think that the kinds of reasons for excluding women from the priesthood that Hyperdox Herman cleverly spoofs were different in kind from symbolic reasons for not ordaining women. I have heard many thoughtful Orthodox Christians explain that the significance of Christ’s sex is his saving relationship to the Church, which takes the form of that of a bridegroom and his bride. The priest represents Christ in Liturgy. So, it is only fitting that a male (and not a female) priest represent Christ.

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