The Relevant Portion of Fr. Nicholas’s Email
From: Father Nicholas
In every instance when the Church has been assailed by one or another heresy, we find that many people are fooled by the heresy without actually understanding what is happening. Heresy is always presented as the truth and in this way many are misled.
-- Metropolitan Ephraim, Holy Orthodox Church in North America, 2001
In his statement of September 16, 2012, Bishop Demetrius, formerly of Carlisle, tries to convince the clergy and the faithful of HOCNA, that he departed from the Communion with his fellow bishops for matters of faith. In his own words:
"Since my responsibility is to protect and defend the purity of our Confession of Faith, I can no longer remain a hierarch on the Synod of Bishops of the Holy Ortbodox Church in North America."
In other words, the synod finds it hard to believe that Bishop Demetrius would believe that name-worshipping is a heresy, yet soft-pedal his position to the bishops he was leaving. Yet in the context of the underlying motive of the leaders of HOCNA, to protect Fr. Panteleimon from investigation, it becomes clear that in choosing Bishop Demetrius to become a bishop, the deciding element was precisely that the HOCNA leaders felt they could count on him not to stand up to them. Hypocritically, they criticize him for exactly the approach they had always counted on him to take -- to not make waves, to not boldly state his position in opposition to theirs, to not become an adversary.We find it extremely difficult to take Bishop Demetrius' statement seriously, because in his correspondence with our Synod (September 11, 2012), he claimed that the reason for his departure were certain "differences", and not only did he not mention any lack of "purity of Confession of Faith" of HOCNA bishops, but in his second letter to us (September 12, 2012), he was even willing to receive a letter of release from the self-same Synod of HOCNA.
By accepting, on four occasions, the breakaway bishops and the clergy from HOCNA, by calling us schismatics (schismatics from whom? we never belonged to the Kiousis group) and now by adding the false accusation of heresy against us, we have come to the sad conclusion that nothing has changed in that group since its uncanonical inception in 1985. The cunning tactics and arrogance that they used against the blessed Archbishop Auxentius, not only have not been abandoned, but are fully implemented even now.The GOC accepted Metropolitan Moses, Bishop Sergios and the clergy and laity with them in April of 2011. It accepted Fr. George Kochergin in May of 2011, and it accepted the clergy and laity of Toronto in June of 2011. In September of 2012, the GOC received Bishop Demetrius and the parishes, clergy and laity with him. The GOC continues to receive those who are fleeing HOCNA. According to the statement of the HOCNA hierarchs, the GOC used cunning tactics and arrogance to bring this about. However, the minutes of the synod meeting in October of 2010 clearly recognize:
...this Synod is the closest Synod to us, since our Church in North America was established by the Church of Greece under the Presidency of His Beatitude, Archbishop Auxentios. The two Synods found themselves separated in 1984, but this separation had nothing to do with matters of Faith and both Synods officially have an identical ecclesiology.The HOCNA hierarchs set their seal of approval on this synod, before backtracking to protect Fr. Panteleimon. This is why those who have separated themselves from HOCNA have asked to be accepted into the GOC. The GOC itself played a passive role: it did not encourage the refugees to leave HOCNA, it simply accepted them.
I. Name-worshippers believe:These four points are borrowed from St. Patriarch Tikhon's Nativity Epistle of 1921. Patriarch Tikhon did not use them to define name-worshipping, but only called on his clergy to be sure that anyone who wished to repent of the name-worshipping heresy and be received back into the Orthodox Church did not hold any of these heretical beliefs. These four points do not encompass all name-worshipping beliefs, some of which the HOCNA hierarchs have snuck into their following definition:
1) That God’s Name is his Essence.
2) That God’s Name is separate from Him.
3) That God’s Name is another deity.
4) That created letters, sounds and random or accidental thoughts about God may be deified, or be used for occult or magical purposes
II. Orthodox Christians believe:The astute reader will note that these are nearly the same four points that the HOCNA hierarchs claim to have distilled from St. Patriarch Tikhon's Navitiy Epistle of 1921. Yet in adding the word "not" to each of Patriarch Tikhon's points to express Orthodox belief, they also have added considerably more to the first point. While they reject that God's Name is His Essence, they declare that it is uncreated, His Energy and His Grace. This is heretical, as the fathers of Holy Transfiguration Monastery showed in their examination of name-worshipping. So the HOCNA hierarchs are insisting that to be Orthodox, a person must hold this heretical belief.
1) That God’s Name is not His Essence, but rather is the revealed truth about Himself, that is, His Uncreated Energy, His Uncreated Grace, His Providence, His Glory. In fact, His Essence is unknowable and has no name.
2) That God’s Name is not separate from Him.
3) That God’s Name is not another deity.
4) That created letters, sounds and random or accidental thoughts about God must not be deified. Further, they believe that these letters or sounds must not be used for occult or magical purposes.
This makes matters perfectly clear, because, as Orthodox Christians, we know and believe that the only Entity that is eternal, holy, supremely-holy, and the source of sanctification by nature is God Himself! This can only mean that His Name is indeed God Himself — again, not in His Essence, but in His Grace.The logic is absurd. The Holy Fathers did use the phrase "the Name of God" to refer to God, in a poetic attempt to express the inexpressible, just as the Psalms refer to "the face of God," "the voice of the Lord," the "right hand" of the Lord and other physical attributes. That does not mean that an actual name or word, however holy, is the uncreated energy and grace of God. Language is created, for it did not exist eternally. As Orthodox Christians we are taught that blessed water and oil are holy, that icons are holy, that the altar, antimension, and consecrated vessels are holy, that the relics of saints are holy, and so on. God's grace may abide in them, but they are not God. In the same way, the names that we use to refer to God are holy, but they are not God. The HOCNA hierarchs quote St. John of Kronstadt as saying,
... when you pronounce to yourself in your heart the Name of God, of the Lord, or that of the most Holy Trinity, or of the Lord of Sabaoth, or of the Lord Jesus Christ, then in that Name you have the Lord’s whole being; in it is His infinite mercy, His boundless wisdom, His inaccessible light, omnipotence, and immutability....In other words, pronouncing in your heart the name of God, you bring Him to mind in the same way as you might upon seeing an icon. The word expresses God to you insofar as you can conceive of Him, but His energies and grace are not inherent in the word, they are a gift God freely bestows in responding to your prayer.