Posted by: Fr. C. | July 15, 2013

A Door Slams In Brooklyn


It seems that a major door has slammed in the face of Anglicans looking for a new ship, and upon the fingers and toes of those who already had embarked on the Western Rite of the Russian Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). On Wednesday, July 10, an extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR fired a series of hull shots into the Western Rite that struck below the waterline. The broadside apparently came without warning, many members of the Vicariate hearing about it from the internet or at Sunday liturgy. At the hem was ROCOR’s First Hierarch and manning the guns were: Mark, Archbishop of Berlin, Germany & Great Britain; Kyrill, Archbishop of San Francisco & Western America; Gabriel, Archbishop of Montreal & Canada, and Peter, Bishop of Cleveland, Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago & Mid-America.

The primary target, it seems, was Bishop Jerome of Manhattan, skipper of the Western Rite Vicariate, as well as his vessel. After “exhaustive deliberation”, the Synod determined to “censure Bishop Jerome for his willfulness in administering the parishes adhering to the Western Rite, and in performing various ecclesial services not approved by the Synod of Bishops, and for criticizing his brethren in letters to clergy and laity.”
Those who know Bp. Jerome might have a certain amount of difficulty accepting that he would criticize brother bishops (or anyone, for that matter) or sail outside of the normal sea lanes, but things do happen out there on the turbulent waters of the church. So be it. Perhaps a few lashes were in order, but it became a full flogging before the mizzenmast when the Synod released “Bishop Jerome from all duties, including those of Vicar of the President in administering Western Rite parishes, designating him as retired without the right to serve in the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York, or to perform ordinations or award clergymen, and designating his place of residence at St. Vladimir Memorial Church of the Millennium of the Baptism of Russia in Jackson, NJ.”

So, the effect is one of stranding the bishop on a desert island without provisions. A pretty draconian go there, me hearties. But, sadly, there is more.

The Synod then decided to kill the Vicariate’s able first officer Monk Anthony (Bondi) by summarily stripping him of “all of his administrative duties and from the spiritual ministry to the Vicariate of Western Rite Parishes.” Fr. Bondi, it should be recalled, had the fortitude and dedication to lay aside his episcopate in a continuing church, build a lifeboat for his brother clergy and for the lay people, and row to what he thought was the safety of ROCOR’s Western Rite. He has done yeoman service in organizing and fostering a body unique certainly to the continuing church: capable, sober, serious and happy Christians. Not good enough, apparently, me bucko!
Having shot away the rigging of the Western Rite, the Synod then went for the hull. It variously: *Halted “the ordination of new clergymen for parishes adhering to the Western Rite.”

*Denied recognition of the ordination of a group of individuals by Bishop Jerome during a single divine service, and to regularize them following a thorough examination of the candidates.
*Began “an epistle to the clergymen and communities of the Western Rite regarding the need for them to adopt the order of divine services of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church, while preserving, when necessary, certain particularities of the Western Rite.”
*Established “a commission to examine the means of integrating clergymen and communities of the Western Rite into the liturgical life of the Russian Orthodox Church.”
*Emphasized our adherence to the rules and traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church in general and of the Russian Orthodox Church in particular.”

In short, “Domine, Domine, Domine (or whatever that is in Russian), you are all Byzantine now.” Except, of course when preserving certain “particularities of the Western Rite” when necessary. Does anyone care to wager how often that will occur?

It will be interesting to learn how all of this plays out. Certainly, it must have been a shock to the 66 Western Rite clergy already in ROCOR and their parishes, not to mention those with petitions pending. One cannot help thinking that facing such a sudden, surprise onslaught can only be devastating to the faithful. Even assuming the veracity of the charges against Bp. Jerome as true, the treatment of those who entered the Western Rite in good faith is un-pastoral and downright uncharitable under any interpretation.

As to the why of all of this, there is no obvious explanation. This was an approved Rite, successful and growing. Indeed, the Western Rites were almost a thousand years old when Christianity was introduced to the people of Kievan Rus, modern day Russia. It is a form of liturgy used with success elsewhere in orthodoxy, notably the Church of Antioch. Could it be resistance to “westernism” amongst the “true orthodox”? Is it a case of Russians and Russophiles wanting to “purify” “their” church”? Or, perhaps there is something darker, such as a move such as an old fashioned Russian-style purge in the Synod?  One can only say that it is all…well…Byzantine.

Whatever the reason for the broadside two results are certain: a loyal and faithful crew has been wounded, and one more good ship had been sent to the bottom. It is a shame and a scandal.

Fare Thee Well Old ROCOR
(With apologies to Huddie Ledbetter)

It was midnight on the sea,
Band playin’ “Nearer My God to Thee”
Cryin’, “Fare thee, Old ROCOR, fare thee well,”

Western Rite when it got its load,
Bishop hollered, “All aboard,”
Cryin’, “Fare thee, Old ROCOR, fare thee well,”

More Western folk want to get on board,
Synod said, “We ain’t hauling yo’ souls,”
Cryin’, “Fare thee, Old ROCOR, fare thee well,”

Western Rite comin ’round the curve,
When she ran in to a big iceberg,
Cryin’, “Fare thee, Old ROCOR, fare thee well,”

Western Rite was sinkin’ down,
No more lifeboats all around
Cryin’, “Fare thee, Old ROCOR, fare thee well,”

Rome it heard the mighty shock
Mighta seen it doin’ the Eagle Rock
Cryin’, “Fare thee, Old ROCOR, fare thee well,”



  1. It always surprises me that Euro-Americans would go to the RWRV or AWRV like bees to polin. My own spiritual journey went from the Roman Church to the OCA, to Greek Archdiocese to ROCOR. But I have seen too many potential converts walk away because they did not wish to convert ethnically too. So where did I find HOME since 1998? >The Traditional Orthodox Metropolitan Church of North & South America and British Isles< They are bi-ritual but the Western Rite is by no means ghettoized into a Vicariate. It is an organic part of the Church as is the Eastern Rite. We have two sources of our origins. From the East we descend from the Old Calendar Church of Greece under Abp Auxentios & from the West we descend from William Henry Francis Brothers who was once Archbishop in the Old Catholic Church then since 1962 Western Rite Orthodoxy. The history is detailed and too long for our purpose here. The major difference between "our" WR and those of ROCOR or Antioch is that "ours" is firmly pre-1054 a.d. that we use to call Sarum but it is more accurately Old Anglo-Roman Rite. To come to us one must want to be Orthodox, liturgically traditional wanting to return to the Church Life of our European Ancestors of 1,000 years ago not 500 yrs! Those who are liturgically sentimental about "the ole days" in the Church of England because these people likely are still in the BCP era will likely go to the RWRV or AWRV. We are Patristic Orthodox not modern Orthodox of innovation, syncretism and ecumenism. Our Lord did not force the Jews, the Apostles did not force the gentiles. Likewise, I say to you "Come and see" but only if you are sincerely searching and genuinely interested in what, who and how we are Orthodox Christian of Western Tradition. frsymeon (at) kellion (dot) org

  2. This seems a bit over the top, maybe this is collateral fall-out from the Monk incident.

  3. The 5 Bishops of ROCOR met in the dark of night to kill the spread of Christ’s Church via the Western Rite. They lied about their agreements to these clergy and only after they were canonically ordained after examination did they spring their cruel and unjust trap. This is America, most Americans find it very difficult to warm up to an eastern based culture. There is no one correct liturgy. Even in the east. The Book of Common Prayer stands as one of the most recognized and beautiful liturgies in the English language. Why are you so afraid of it? With 66 clergy ordained in one service together with their parishes could it be that you think it might deplete your ranks? Is this the council of Jerusalem all over again?

    • Dear Michaela, the Metropolitan’s Decree shows that it is business as usual for our Western Rite community in the Russian Church.

  4. I be sorry to read the posture of this report; I am left wondering if the Western Rites (sic; as in the plural it was described above) have within their litany “For the peace of the whole world and for the good estate of the holy churches of God, and the union of all, let us pray to the Lord, Lord have mercy.”

    I may be ignorant more than I ought to be about these Western Rite Christians who came into the ONE SHIP of ORTHODO CHURCH; contrary to the idea that they had their own ship which became a part of a fleet of ships comprising the One Ark of the Church as the opinion expressed seems to categorize the Western Rites’.

    The posture of the opinion seems to attack the Hierarchs as not being spiritually minded as those in the Western Rite; yet his defense of the Western Rites appears less than honest when he befuddles the truth about the Western Rite by writing: ” the Western Rites were already a thousand years old when Christianity was introduced into the people of kievian Rus, modern day Russia. It is a form of liturgy used successfully everywhere in orthodox, notably the Church of Antioch.”

    Is the author intending to suggest the Western Rite has a tradition within Antioch which stretches back to the Apostles? Is he saying that the Antiochian Church has been the protector of the Western Rites for nearly 2000 years? Is he suggesting that the Western Rites are as old as the Byzantine Rite which Holy Rus chose over the Western Rite of Rome? Is he suggesting there has been no break and historical absence of an active Western Rite however he intends to mean? If so, this seems to me a false apologetic and certainly not one which aims to keep the peace of the holy Churches of God by bearing witness to the truthfulness of “orthodoxy”.

    Did not these Christ loving people come to the One Orthodox Church? Or did they as the article suggest; they come to “orthodoxy”? This latter term is widely used by those who do not recognize the Church as one historical living body of Christ; rather it seems more congruent with a Calvinistic apprehension of the Church that all Rites/sects of Churches are more or less orthodox by the doctrines they adhere to: which is whole summary of Apostolic Succession among the Protestant Churches; If so, the disciple of John the Baptist were more or less their own Church Rite according to their apprehension of the doctrine of Christ; would it not be so?

    As one who was born into “Western Christianity” I am sensitive towards reconciling all those Christ loving people who have not attached themselves to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I am aware of the difficulties for Western Christians, particularly Americans who want to retain their American identity apart from Russian identity; a divide of political proportions which has even caused me to be branded as loving Russia and Russian people more than Americans by those I have conversed about the Church with outside of the Orthodox Church; but who certainly do have some more or less “orthodoxy” within their confessions and experience of the Scriptures and historic Christianity. But we Americans and Western minded people do not have an experience of the Oneness of the Orthodox Church; and is this not why those who went into Western Rites hoped to obtain: the Oneness of the faith in One Church?

    I also am sensitive to what the author suggest is a “purge” to Russophile the Churches under the ROCOR omophorion; once a person has taken into themselves these actions of our God ordained and pious Bishops, who must see past the moment of our present felt circumstances to guide the Church through the waters which are ahead; especially if one or more of the clergy have guided a separate ship (as the author characterizes the Western Rite) into unsafe waters under the Shepherding of those whose responsibility is to Christ first for the good of ALL and not just the ones who have come to the Church who hope to retain a separate identity within their own apparent unseen “Westernophile” “not Russian; and they certainly are not Antiochianophile in their attatchment to Antioch.

    I do not know much about the issues which needed correction; but I do accept that the actions of the Synod are God directed at least until the evidence otherwise is made manifest as other wise.

    The author nowhere calls us to Peace and prayer; not even to union, but rather spats at the actions of the Synod with a bitterness of a child which has remained stubborn even after discipline. Stirring up strife and hostility and nowhere calling those who are hurt or wounded having placed their hope in a Western Rite rather than the Peace and Unity of concord and filial affection. Neither does he see these actions in the broader far sighted realities which the Church is facing; and also a failure to hear the words of our Metropolitan about ROCOR’s mission and witness to America. Being caught in a “Westernophile” myopia is more dangerous than Russophile in my opinion simply because the history of the so called Western Rite does not have a living tradition passed down and protected by God ordained defenders such as Tsar Martyr Nicholas.

    This latter point is significant though we westerners are prone to overlook the fulfillment of the Prophesies of the Old Testament about the kings of the earth bringing their precious gifts to Christ. America has never been a Western Rite nation; so to be chaffed about it as if it has a continuous tradition which stretches back past 988 directly to the Apostles is simply a sophistry. Better it is to prove your self by works as the Apostle Paul did; of whom we note labored more abundantly than all the rest and by such received a rank of being equal to Peter, IMO. Labor to be excellent in what we are given with certain veracity and is everywhere recognized as being proved already worthy of honor. The Russian Church and ROCOR have proved their labors to be accepted for they prayed without ceasing that their homeland would return to Christ; and God has heard that prayer as exampled among their Saints. IMO

  5. What has happened is that the previous middle management of a Vicar Bishop and a Pastoral Vicar has been replaced by a commission.

    Priests and institutions remain as before, stavropegial, exempt from diocesan control and directly under the Metropolitan.

    The 15th July Decree from the Metropilan

    Click to access WRCommunityStatus.pdf

  6. Can we not wait a bit and in the meantime pray for those affected? I doubt that the Synod, or any individual bishops within it want to spiritually damage any of their people! I think more will be revealed if we just hose down the brass cannons and wait, before firing more shots at the ecclesiological ship.

  7. I agree with Rdr. James Morgan. Tattooed across the knuckles of Joe Plaice’s hands were the eight letters, H-O-L-D F-A-S-T. Father Aidan explains that concept in more detail here:

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