Tag Archives: Nicholas Denysenko

Filaret’s Final Act and the Future of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine

by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko

In the four months that have elapsed since the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP) granted autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), the process of adjusting to the new situation has been challenging for both the OCU and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP). The OCU has been enduring the growing pains of stabilizing Church life after the unification council, while the UOC-MP has sought to sustain its inner unity and keep parishes from migrating to the new church.

Recently, a new wrinkle has emerged in the Ukrainian Church situation. In a series of interviews with the Ukrainian media, Filaret, the former patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), insists that he remains patriarch and that he is governing the OCU together with Metropolitan Epifaniy, primate of the OCU. Filaret has also suggested that the OCU can immediately elevate its status from a metropolia to a patriarchate by convoking an All-Ukrainian council and revising the Church’s statute.

Filaret’s public position on the situation of the Ukrainian Church compromised the situation when he invited numerous bishops of the OCU to St. Volodymyr cathedral in Kyiv for the commemoration of St. Macarius, Metropolitan of Kyiv on May 14. Metropolitan Epifaniy was not initially invited to the celebration. Continue reading

Healing the Ukrainian Schism A Proposal for the Next Step

by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko

Among the sister Churches that are now called upon to either recognize or refuse recognition of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), a common refrain is intoned: a conciliar and synodal process needs to take place to resolve this issue. Some would like a synaxis of primates, and others have called for a council. The central idea is for all of the Churches to contribute to a resolution of the Ukrainian schism.

The spirit of this proposal is sound, and it should be applied to the Ukrainian case (and perhaps to other related contentions on autocephaly). But a synod convoked to resolve the Ukrainian case would be doomed to failure. A synod convoked to recognize both Orthodox Churches in Ukraine as canonical and encourage them to restore communion without forcing administrative union would be welcome and potentially effective.

Here is why. Continue reading

The Ukrainian Church: A Multigenerational Divorce

by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko

In the last few days, a number of announcements appeared about the Ukrainian Church controversy. After President Poroshenko announced that the unification council will take place at St. Sophia Cathedral on December 15, a spurious text that appeared to be some version of the statute for the Church drafted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP) circulated on the Internet, copies of the letters of invitation to participate in the council were posted on social media by multiple bishops, and a copy of the letter from Patriarch Bartholomew to Metropolitan Onufry dated October 12 also appeared. Those who are interested in this issue, especially Orthodox clergy and laity throughout the world, watched spellbound as the news appeared and then reacted. In other words, the responses are no different than quick analyses ordinary people post on political news flashes. On the theme of the Ukrainian Church issue, a handful of responses have become clichés. Observers favor either the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) or the EP in the canonical clash; people call for the Ukrainian schismatics to return to the canonical church; critics denounce Russian aggression and the complicity of the MP in the war in Eastern Ukraine; and people offer the now stereotypical “thoughts and prayers.”

Observers strain Google’s capacity to lead us to the truth by searching for quick, neat profiles on all of the leaders and land on any number of web sites claiming to possess the absolute truth. We might find what we want to find: another layer of incriminating evidence exposing the faults of Metropolitan Filaret, a photo of a grotesque icon demeaning Russia (or Ukraine), a headline announcing the seizure of a church, and through it all, we select the sources that support a viewpoint we have chosen to adopt.

Amidst all of this, the most important fact of all is lost, and it is the fact that we all need to confront as soon as possible: the Ukrainian Church crisis is a messy, nasty divorce, and the stories that assign blame to the parties involved have been handed down from one generation to the next. Continue reading

The Church in Modern Ukraine: Information Literacy and the Narrative

by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko

“A Tomos of autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarchate would legitimize the schism in Ukraine. We must support the canonical church.”

“Autocephalists are not ‘church people’. They are nationalists who seek to exploit the Church, and autocephaly will sever communion with the Orthodox Church.”

“The schism in Ukraine began in 1992 when Metropolitan Filaret violated the canons and inaugurated the autocephalous movement.”

“The Americans are the architects of the present project for Ukrainian autocephaly even though the vast majority of Orthodox in Ukraine are opposed to it.”

I constructed these four sentences as a synthesis capturing the most popularly circulated clichés about the history and contemporary situation of the Church in Ukraine. These ideas are not essentially distillations taken from translations published on websites about Orthodoxy, and not necessarily official Church websites, but media services—we do not always know who administers these services—that browse the Web for “Orthonews” and then republish it.

For the general public, the Ukrainian Church issue entered the spotlight with the Euromaidan phenomenon in 2013, which evolved into Russia’s forceful annexation of Crimea and then the catastrophic war in Donbas. Experts such as Antoine Arjakovsky and Cyril Hovorun referred to Church ministry among the people on the Maidan as the beginnings of a new and hopeful ecumenical movement in Ukraine. When St. Michael’s cathedral became a temporary hospital for the wounded, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP) was re-introduced to a general audience as the Church to which the monastery and cathedral belong. When Ukraine’s Parliament formally requested that the Holy and Great Council in Crete grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine in 2016, the UOC-KP was no longer merely an outcast Church that happened to open its doors to the wounded during the Maidan.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate’s (EP) commitment to establishing one canonical autocephalous Church in Ukraine that would include Orthodox outside of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) became obvious in the events that have occurred since President Poroshenko publicly announced the imminence of a canonical Tomos during this past Bright Week. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has declared its determination to complete the implementation of the process of granting autocephaly to the Church in Ukraine following the meeting with Moscow Patriarch Kirill on August 31.

In principle, one would assume that this action of the Ecumenical Patriarchate would be a source of joy and relief to the Orthodox world as it would signal the end to a schism that began in 1921—not in 1992, as is erroneously reported and circulated on a daily basis. My own sampling of support for Ukrainian autocephaly among Anglophone Orthodox indicates disinterest, opposition, and most of all, ignorance about the facts. Continue Reading…