February 6/19, 2012
Sunday of the Last Judgment
His Eminence Metropolitan Ephraim of Boston, His Eminence Metropolitan Makarios of Toronto, His Grace Bishop Demetrius of Carlisle:
Holy Masters, bless!
In his second epistle, St. Peter wrote, "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness." (2 Peter 3:17) Dear Despotas, I am writing to you because I believe you have fallen into such an error. In your statement of November 19/December 2, 2011, you characterized imyaslavie (name-worshiping) as an open theological debate which has raged in the Russian Church for some one hundred years. This is false. Imyaslavie is a heresy condemned one hundred years ago by both the Church of Constantinople and the Church of Russia. And since then there has been no debate within the True Orthodox Church. Based on this false view, you have made and continue to make grave errors. The most serious of these is your insistence on consecrating Priestmonk Gregory (Babunashvili).
As you surely know, imyaslavie is the teaching that the name of God is God Himself. It arose in early twentieth century Russia through the teachings and writings of Schema-monk Ilarion and especially Hieromonk Fr. Anthony Bulatovich, and spread to the Russian monasteries on Mt. Athos. Imyaslavie was condemned as a heresy by:
+ Patriarch Joachim III of Constantinople (September 1912)
+ The Holy Kinot of the Holy Mountain (February 2, 1913)
+ Patriarch Germanos V of Constantinople and the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (April 5, 1913)
+ Holy Synod of Russia (May 18, 1913; August 27, 1913; March 1916)
+ His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon (October 21, 1918)
Somehow, Despotas, you have been led to believe that serious debate took place in the Russian Orthodox Church after the Holy Synod's decision, and continues to take place today. This is untrue. You have also circulated a letter by Priestmonk Gregory, in which he echoes the argument that the history of imyaslavie was a dispute between hierarchs and monastic ascetics in which the hierarchs prevailed not by truth, but by political maneuvering and force. This characterization is also false. In truth:
- All 200+ bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church accepted the decision of the Holy Synod. The elders of Optina Pustyn, Valaam Monastery and of all other monasteries throughout Russia also received the decision of the Holy Synod without question.
- Among 4,800 Russian monks on Mt. Athos, about 800 professed this heresy, but many of them later repented.
- The seven members of the Holy Synod of Russia which condemned this heresy included Metr. Anthony Khrapovitsky and Proto New Martyr Vladimir, at that time Metropolitan of St. Petersburg. You could hardly characterize them as bureaucratic hierarchs with "shaky theology" or little knowledge of the Je-sus Prayer. Attached, please find the 1913 report of Metr. Anthony on imyaslavie. It is patristic and sound.
- The Holy Synod of Russia never repealed its decision.
- Our venerable hierarchs and fathers in faith, Metropolitans Anthony, Anastassy and St. Philaret of the free Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, never treated imyaslavie as an open question.
- The only figures to defend the teaching of imyaslavie or to question its condemnation as a heresy were the original teachers and disciples of this heresy; followers of heretical philosopher Vladimir Soloviev such as Sergey Bulga-kov, Nikolay Berdyaev, Alexey Losev, and Pavel Florensky, who laid the foundation of the corrupt Paris theological school; "Bishop" Ilarion Alfeyev, a Moscow Patriarchate "theologian", whose background, education, and experience are all suspect; and Gregory Lourie, a self-described purveyor of punk Orthodoxy and self-proclaimed bishop.
You have admitted that you erred in allowing Lourie to be communed at Holy Transfiguration Monastery in October of last year. An academic who philosophizes over details while failing to grasp fundamental truths, Lourie has published sermons on such topics as why St. Nicholas should be worthy of veneration when the few hard facts reveal him as an ordinary provincial bishop and when the miracles attributed to him seem mythological. Far from traditional Orthodoxy, to say the least.
Lourie was ordained to the priesthood in 1999 by the Synod of Metropolitan Valentin of Suzdal to be pastor of the parish of St. Elizabeth the New Martyr in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was suspended by the same synod in July of 2005, and then defrocked in September of 2005, precisely for promoting imyaslavie. In the letter notifying him of his suspension, Metr. Valentin wrote:
Over the course of many years, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox (Autonomous) Church has received several complaints from bish-ops, priests, monks, and lay persons, concerning intolerable and extremely scandalous remarks made by you, together with your spreading of the heresy of "name worshipping," and, despite the fact that you were warned several times to cease and desist from disseminating heresy via the internet, and you promised to abandon your waywardness and return to the true path, which leads to salvation, you continued, and even until now continue, to spread the heresy of "name worshipping," publishing the false teaching of hieromonk An-thony Bulatovich on the web page Portal-Credo.ru.
True to his nature, Lourie disputed the details of the procedure by which he was defrocked. He failed to accept the essence of the matter: because of his militant belief in imyaslavie, the synod considered him no longer worthy of the priesthood, and later even excommunicated him and his followers. Lourie continued to serve in rebellion. In November of 2008, he dared to accept consecration as bishop by two bishops suspended by Metr. Valentin, taking for himself the title last rightly held by the New Martyr Metr. Joseph, "Bishop of Petro grad and Gdov." Further, despite claims of persecution, Lourie's parish of St. Elizabeth the New Martyr is the only nonMoscow Patriarchate parish that has been allowed to function openly in St. Petersburg in a traditional church building open to the public. In Putin's Russia, this can only mean Lourie has powerful governmental protection. In other words, he is not only pseudo-Orthodox and even heretical in his beliefs, a pseudo-bishop in his canonicity, but he is also clearly perceived as useful in some way by the government.
Your failure to grasp both the heretical nature of imyaslavie and the utter unworthiness of Gregory Lourie are why Priestmonk Gregory is still a candidate for bishop. In his letter of November 25, 2011, Fr. Gregory openly supported both the heresy of imyaslavie and the canonicity of Lourie, whom he has also described as a renowned theologian. (!!!) God allowed him to reveal both his heretical beliefs and his poor judgment before his consecration. Yet all you have asked him to do is to promise to keep these opinions to himself. Despotas , how can you think this is satisfactory? Since when is it acceptable for a bishop to believe in heresy but keep it to himself? Since when is a man who believes in heresy a valid candidate for consecration? You continue to look to St. Metr. Philaret as an example; how can you imagine that Fr. Gregory would have been acceptable to him?
The consecration of a bishop is an extremely serious matter for the whole Church. In a small synod like ours, the man who is chosen will influence decisions for years to come. Candidates should be men whose Orthodox faith and judgment are unimpeachable. With more than thirty monks at Holy Transfiguration Monastery, it is simply impossible that the best qualified candidate is this relatively unknown man who came to this country less than five years ago, was tonsured barely two years ago, and who now has revealed these serious errors in faith and in judgment. If you do not wish to "fall from your own steadfastness," you should not consecrate him. If you are truly seeking the best candidates and desire the unity of the Church, I respectfully urge you to tum to the whole Church to nominate new candidates. Let men be chosen who are supported not just by a majority of the Holy Synod, but by the laity, clergy and bishops. Let there be several candidates, and let the one to be consecrated be chosen from among them by lot. In this way, setting aside our own will in this matter, we would allow God's will be revealed.
Fr. Deacon Yakov Tseitlin