This is the first known translation of Blessed Metropolitan Antony's epistle concerning heretics and schismatics into the English Language. Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) (1863–1936) was the founding First-Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. He studied at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, where he was tonsured a monk and later become its rector. He then was rector of Moscow Theological Academy. In 1907 he was consecrated as Bishop of Cheboksary, and later became Metropolitan of Kiev in 1918. Along with other émigré hierarchs, he helped form the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, becoming its First-Hierarch. As a theologian, Metropolitan Anthony is best known for his works The Moral Idea of the Dogma of the Holy Trinity and The Doctrine of Redemption. He also wrote many other works on many other spiritual disciplines such as moral and pastoral theology, apologetics, and canon law. He reposed in 1936 in Sremsky Karlovtsi, Serbia.
Epistle of the Chairman of the Provisional Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, to the Most Holy Eastern Patriarchs, the Heads of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, Orthodox Bishops, all the sacred clergy, and all Orthodox Christians.
The ongoing division of the Church within hapless Russia moves us, those bishops that remain faithful to her and to our Most Holy Patriarch, and who comprise the Holy Russian Synod Outside Russia, as the sole ecclesiastical institution of the Russian people still able to speak at liberty, once again to address all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches and all Orthodox Christians with a reminder and a brotherly plea that all our sisters in Christ who are faithful to the Gospel and the seven Ecumenical Councils show their canonical support for the Russian Orthodox Church and those Orthodox churches subordinate to her: the Russian Church Outside Russia, and also the churches of Poland, Lithuania, Finland, Esthonia [Estonia], America, China, and Japan. We ask that they [do] not acknowledge a single one of those Churches that have once again unlawfully separated themselves from obedience to our Most Holy Patriarch, but that they declare them an unlawful assembly, in accordance with the first canon of St. Basil the Great, and therefore stripped of grace and the succession of grace until they return to unity with the Russian Orthodox Church and her Most Holy Patriarch, who to this day languishes in bondage to those godless men and Jews who have seized power in Russia by force and deception and who call themselves the Soviet Government.
All these are lawless assemblies who have rejected the authority of the Most Holy Patriarch, and who consequently are wholly estranged from the priesthood in the sight of God and in the eyes of the Holy Church, in accordance with the 68th canon of the Council of Carthage; and when they put on a semblance of praying, in reality they thereby incur the greater condemnation, as the Lord Himself said (Mt. 23:14), first in the Holy Gospel, then later by the mouth of the Council of Carthage: “… the one Church, the one spoken of as a dove (Song of Songs, 6:9), and sole mother of Christians, in whom all the sanctifying gifts, soterially everlasting and vital, are received, which, however, inflict upon those persisting in the heresy the great punishment of damnation, in order that what to them in the truth was something brighter that they ought to follow for the purpose of gaining everlasting life, might, in fact, become to those in the error darker and still more damned” (The Pedalion), Council of Carthage, Canon LXVI [Rus. ed. LXVIII], 642).
The full weight of these words descends not only upon outright heretics, but also upon schismatics, for the first canon of St. Basil states: “As for the Cathari, they too are to be classed as schismatics. Nevertheless, it seemed best, to the ancient authorities—those, I mean, who form the party of Cyprian and our own Firmilian—to class them all under one head … because the beginning, true enough, of the separation, resulted through a schism, but those who seceded from the Church had not the grace of the Holy Spirit upon them; for the impartation thereof ceased with the interruption of the service. For although the ones who were the first to depart had been ordained by the Fathers and with the imposition of their hands they had obtained the gracious gift of the Spirit, yet after breaking away they became laymen, and had no authority either to baptize or to ordain anyone, nor could they impart the grace of the Spirit to others, after they themselves had forfeited it. Wherefore they bade that those baptized by them should be regarded as baptized by laymen and that when they came to join the Church they should have to be repurified by the true baptism as prescribed by the Church” (The Pedalion, Canon I of St. Basil the Great, 773–774).
For this reason, we entreat the Most Holy Orthodox Patriarchs and all the most reverend bishops not to acknowledge the validity of the sacraments either of the “Living Church” of Moscow and the diverse manifestations it has spawned, nor of the self-sanctifiers of Kiev, whom the Holy Council of Gangra declared in advance to be foes of God and friends of the demons, as having stolen what was not given to them and declared many married false priests to be bishops, who without episcopal consecration dared to don episcopal vesture and lay hands upon sons of Gehenna like unto themselves, and then impart to the people a false eucharist, which is not the Body and Blood of Christ, but the food of demons, as our holy fathers have said.
All these lawless assemblies send and will continue to send their representatives to the Most Holy Patriarchs and other hierarchs of the East. These by flattery, deceit, and offering their foul presents attempt to seduce the Christian conscience of the servants of Christ, never expounding to them the essence of their ungodly rebellion against the Church and their brazen distortion of her sacred canons and dogmas, but presenting themselves as meek and as lovers of mankind: “And no marvel; for Satan, himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:14–15). “Woe unto them!” we say in the words of another apostle, “for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core” (Jude 1:11).
The schismatic false bishops and false priests of our day are worse than the ancient foes of Moses and the ancient opponents of the holy fathers: for those had their own faith, albeit a false one, but these simply do not believe in God, nor in Christ, but only in money and in their own malice, for which cause they sided with overt and open enemies of Christ, with Judaizing political officers and their cohorts, who during the Nativity festivities sacrilegiously burned images of the Savior, the Mother of God, and all the saints in the squares of Russian cities. In our days the “Living Church” is now openly preparing to merge with heretics: we have in our possession their epistle to the Methodists, inviting them to an impious assembly in Moscow and to merge with other similar Protestant sects.
Know then, O Most Holy Hierarchs, that the mouths of these foes of God are opened only for falsehood, and for God’s sake believe nothing that they say or write to you. And you Orthodox Christians, Russian and those of the other Orthodox nations, accept from them neither prayers nor blessings, for of such the psalm says, “Let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few, and his bishopric let another take” (Ps. 108:7–8). And St. Athanasius the Great instructed his spiritual children concerning bishops and priests who had fallen into heresy or schism: “It is better that we assemble for prayer without them than to be cast into fiery Gehenna with them, as with Annas and Caiaphas.”
May the All-good God preserve us from this, and may He establish you, Most Holy Patriarchs and Most Reverend Bishops, venerable presbyters, deacons, monks, nuns, and all pious Christians, from fellowship with the enemies of the Church of Christ, and may He move you to declare to all the world that you maintain fellowship only with those Russian bishops, clergy, and laity who remain faithful to the All-Russian Patriarch Tikhon and the true teaching of the Orthodox Church .
Chairman of the Synod of Bishops
February 5/18, 1923
Sremski Karlovci, Serbia
. Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitsky), "1923 Epistle Concerning Heretics & Schismatics," Ecclesiastical Journal, No. 3–4, 1923.