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

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Analysis of the Statement of the HOCNA Hierarchs

Updated 9/20/12: information added to note 1.  The statement released by the remaining three hierarchs of the Holy Orthodox Church in North America appears below in regular text, followed by analysis of the statement.  The notes in blue italics in the text of the statement have been added to correlate each point with the analysis below.

Statement of the Holy Synod

5/18 September, 2012
Holy Prophet Zacharias

To quote St. Maximus the Confessor "Even if the whole universe were to hold communion with these Churches, I will not hold communion with them." Under no circumstances will we, the undersigned hierarchs, endorse or accept a "Synod" (which was not a Synod at all [1] ) (See note 1) that espouses teachings condemned and anathematized three times by the Holy Council of Constantinople of 1351. (See note 2)

Furthermore, we will not have any relations with hierarchs or church affiliations that consciously and deliberately accept the false teachings of the same Russian Synod of 1913, which teachings are under the anathemas of the aforesaid Council of Constantinople of 1351. (See note 3)

We are not "name-worshippers"; therefore, we reject the false teachings ascribed to them. (See note 4)

We do not believe that:

1. God's Name is His essence; (See note 5)
2. God's Name is to be separated from Him;
3. God's Name is another deity;
4. The letters, sounds and random/accidental thoughts about God are to be deified, or used for magical purposes. (See note 6)

We espouse and embrace the February, 1921 Encyclical of the Holy Confessor Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, as a resolution of the so-called name-worshipping controversy. (See note 7) This is our Confession of the Holy Orthodox Christian faith, so help us God.

+ Ephraim, Metropolitan of Boston

+ Makarios, Metropolitan of Toronto

+ Gregory, Auxiliary Bishop of Concord

Protocol # 2917

1 In fact, the Russian Synod of 1913 was not a Synod or a Council at all in the true sense, but more like a department of religious affairs of the Russian govemment. (See note 1)



Note 1.   The HOCNA hierarchs allege that the Russian Synod of 1913, which condemned name-worshipping, was not a valid synod, and that it was a branch of the civil government rather than a true governing body of the Church.
True or false?  Or simply misleading?
First, the heresy of name-worshipping was condemned not only by the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, but also by two successive patriarchs of Constantinople and by the Sacred Community of Mt. Athos.  So even if critics were able to discard the decision of the Russian Synod of 1913, the condemnation of name-worshipping as a heresy by the Orthodox Church would still remain in force.
Second, it is true that Tsar Peter I, known as "the Great," did away with the position of the patriarch of Moscow and replaced it with a Holy Synod.  A government official with the title "Ober Procurator" was appointed to oversee the work of the synod.  This arrangement did not allow the emperor or civil government to have any say in questions of faith.  It received approval from other Orthodox patriarchs.  The chief result of this change was to ensure that there would be no patriarch to oppose the tsar. (Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, A History of Russia, third edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 1977, p. 257)
In 1913, the synod of bishops had seven members.  They were metropolitans, archbishops and bishops, not government employees.  The head of the synod was the metropolitan of St. Petersburg, Vladimir, who had a long and distinguished career as a bishop and who was to become the first hieromartyr of the communist yoke.  The chief opponent of name-worshipping on the synod was Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky of blessed memory, a theologian and distinguished bishop who went on to become the first of the first hierarchs of the Russian Church Abroad and spiritual father of saints, including St. John Maximovich and St. Justin Popovich.  Ironically, after the HOCNA clergy departed from the Russian Church Abroad, they venerated Metropolitan Anthony as their spiritual forefather and a yet-to-be-glorified saint.

Further, while the HOCNA hierarchs do not recognize this synod as valid, the members of the Russian Orthodox Church in their day did.  The decision of 1913 was accepted by all the bishops of the Church (the vast majority of whom went on to become confessors and martyrs under the communist yoke) and by all the monasteries, including Optina Pustyn and its elders.
Note 2.  The HOCNA hierarchs allege that the Russian Synod of 1913 based its decision on teachings condemned by the Holy Council of Constantinople of 1351.

True or false?

First, let's decode the allegation.  The Holy Council of Constantinople of 1351 was the last in a series of councils that met to decide whether the teachings of St. Gregory Palamas on hesychasm were Orthodox or heretical.  At this council, St. Gregory Palamas was vindicated, and his opponents, Barlaam and Acindynos, were condemned.  So the HOCNA hierarchs are accusing the Russian Synod of 1913 of falling into the heresy of the Barlaamites, and unwittingly opposing the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas.

This charge is false, and it has already been answered by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, by Fr. Maximos of Holy Ascension Monastery, and by other authors whose work appears on this site.  Here is a quote from the HTM fathers' Historical Events and Analysis of the Name Worshipping Controversy:
The natural energy of God’s essence does not differ from God’s essence and is not separate from it. They are not two separate things for God’s natural energy is simple as is His essence. St Gregory Palamas repeated this Patristic truth against the Barlaamites, when he declared, that it was a God-befitting distinction, which in no way violated the divine simplicity. God is not diminished, but he is everywhere present in all his essence, wherever his energy is differentiated and measured out according to His will; He is present in His grace in the measure he determines for every creature. The Nameworshippers call those who do not believe in their new teaching, Barlaamites. However, it is their “dogma” that resembles the Barlaam heresy; for they, like Barlaam, declare that the grace of God is created, since they declare a created name is God Himself.
To quote from Fr. Maximos's essay, Smokescreens:
Recently, a heresy called “name-worshipping” has reared its head. This heresy is so called because its adherents believe that the name of God is God Himself; that is, that His name is a divine energy and hence uncreated. This ridiculous idea was condemned by the Synod of Constantinople in 1913 and again by the Russian Synod the same year. These Synods declared heretical the idea that the name of God is an energy of God or God Himself. This is the central point of the heresy, from which all of their other deviant beliefs follow. The Russian Synod, however, added a few comments of its own on the subject of the divine energies and the divinity, which used a slightly different terminology than the manner of expression used by St. Gregory Palamas (the expositor par excellence on the subject of the divine energies.) The Synod’s terminology was not so much heretical as not as clear and precise as St. Gregory’s exposition; and this was evidently the result of the Russian bishops’ lack of familiarity with the polemical writings of the saint, which had mostly not been translated into Russian at the time. The modern name-worshippers have seized upon this imprecision of terminology and have made it their banner; or rather, their smokescreen, declaring that they cannot accept the Russian council because it opposes the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas. In so doing, they have missed the main point, which is that even if the Russian Synod expressed itself poorly, name-worshipping is still a heresy. The Russian condemnation of name-worshipping is still valid in and of itself, even if the terminology it used in its further explanation of the subject is questionable. Moreover, the heresy was also condemned by the Synod of Constantinople, which used no dubious terminology. Yet the name-worshippers also refuse to recognize this council. Hence, it is clear that their motivation in attacking the language of the Russian Synod is not pious concern over expression, but rather because they simply do not accept the Orthodox teaching on the name of God.
Note 3.  The HOCNA hierarchs write, "we will not have any relations with hierarchs or church affiliations that consciously and deliberately accept the false teachings of the same Russian Synod of 1913...."

Decoded: They will not have any relations with the Church of the Genuine Orthodox Christians of Greece.  This is the Church whose hierarchs have spoken out against the name-worshipping heresy, and to which former HOCNA bishops, clergy and laity continue to flee.  Not only did the entire Metropolis of Portland and the West and the vast majority of the Metropolis of Toronto seek refuge in the GOC in 2011, but now Bishop Demetrius of Carlisle, along with clergy and laity from the Metropolis of Boston, are appealing to be received by the Holy Synod of the GOC at its meeting in Greece this week.

Note 4.  The HOCNA hierarchs write, "We are not 'name-worshippers'; therefore, we reject the false teachings ascribed to them."

If that is true, why this long and carefully worded statement? 

They could simply write, "We join with the rest of the Orthodox Church in condemning the heresy of name-worshipping."

But they did not.

Note 5.  The HOCNA hierarchs write that they do not believe that God's Name is His essence. 

Name-worshippers do not believe this either, according to Tatiana Senina, a prominent defender of name-worshipping and disciple of "Bishop" Gregory Lourie.  In defining what name-glorifiers (as name-worshippers prefer to be called) believe, she is quoted as saying:
He (Hieromonk Anthony Bulatovich) founded his teaching on the Divinity of the Names of God above all on the basis that the Divine Name is, according to the Holy Fathers; His energy or operation, and that God’s energy is God Himself.
Name-worshippers contend that God's Name is His energy, but not His unapproachable essence.

Note 6.  The HOCNA hierarchs write that they do not believe "[t]he letters, sounds and random/accidental thoughts about God are to be deified, or used for magical purposes...."

Again, according to Senina as quoted, neither do name-worshippers:
Indeed, if we were considering a teaching that equated created letters or sounds with God, which it would be enough for anyone to write or pronounce in order to achieve the desired miracle, then such a teaching could be called ‘name-worshipping’ and compared with magic and shamanism....
Note 7.   The HOCNA hierarchs write, "We espouse and embrace the February, 1921 Encyclical of the Holy Confessor Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, as a resolution of the so-called name-worshipping controversy."
Unfortunately, as has been shown elsewhere on this site, the HOCNA hierarchs pick and choose from Patriarch Tikhon's words to make it seem he is sympathetic to name-worshipping, when he is not:
But what did Patriarch Tikhon really say? In addition to these four particular points (repeated by the HOCNA hierarchs in their statement above), he wrote that the synod was extending economia to the repentant name-worshipping monks, condescending to their spiritual mood and disposition. But even in this economia, they were required to testify to:
their exact following of the Orthodox Church, and of their obedience to the God-established hierarchy, believing according to the teaching of the Holy Church, adding nothing and subtracting nothing on their own...
Further, Patriarch Tikhon wrote that while it was manifesting condescension to the repentant monks (extending economia to them in helping them return to Orthodoxy), the Holy Synod did not change its judgment on the heresy of name-worshipping itself. The Holy Synod condemned name-worshipping as a heresy in 1913. That judgment was never modified or overturned by the Holy Pan-Russian Local Council. It stands to this day.
Conclusions:  The statement of the HOCNA hierarchs seems to try to stake out a middle ground, in which they can deny to be name-worshippers without actually condemning name-worshipping as a heresy.  On the one hand, they would like to appease the clergy and laity who are fleeing from under their omophorion.  On the other, they would like to retain the privilege to profess certain name-worshipping beliefs, and to excuse their friendships with "Bishop" Gregory Lurie of St. Petersburg, Russia, and the newly-consecrated "Bishop" Job of Rivne, Ukraine.
Sadly for them, the Orthodox Church has spoken on name-worshipping.  As the HTM fathers wrote,
Indeed, the entire Church has condemned the Name-worshippers, either by words of agreement, or by acquiescing to the formal decrees of the condemnation by the Patriarchates.   When the Church condemns something, it is binding.