Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Russian response to an exclusively Hellenic South East Asia

A few weeks ago Met. of Hong Kong spoke of the new missionary efforts of the Russian Church in Taipei, Taiwan as "schismatic" based on a number of factors of which the chief was an exclusive claim over South East Asia under the Patriarchate of Constantinople (see here). Considering the numerous other patriarchates already in existence in that area, this was a surprising statement. The below is a rebuttal from Deacon Georgiy Maksimov (many thanks to a reader for providing a translation from Russian).

Regarding the violation of the Church Canons by Metropolitan Nectarios (Tsilis) in his actions related to the Patriarchal Metochion of the Russian Orthodox Church in Taiwan.

The root of problem, which led to these actions, is the new unorthodox idea about leadership and "primate" of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, as well as the subsequent idea that the whole world is in the possession of this local Church. In the Council of 2008 Russian Orthodox Church officially proclaimed that we don’t recognize this set of ideas. But, inspired by these ideas, bishops of the Patriarchate of Constantinople divided all the countries of Asia, America and West Europe among themselves and proclaim that it is their "canonical territory". This includes countries, were they don’t have even a single believer (for example, in Buthan, Laos, and Myanmar), which is an absurd in terms of the Canons of the Church. Metr. Nectarios thinks that Taiwan is in his possession, while nobody else besides his followers agrees with that.

Practically, for Taiwan he is a foreign bishop, similarly to Russian or any other bishops. Historically Russian Church established the first parish in Taiwan and began its mission on the island in 1901. While Greeks opened another parish in 2003, how can anyone claim that only their parish is canonical there? Why? Only because they think so? Metr. Nectarios in the same way and for the same reasons proclaimed the official mission of Antiochian Church in Philippines as schismatic, and he excommunicated the laypeople, who went to Antiochian parishes, to be "shismatics".

In fact, this is a crime according to the Church Canons. No one has a right to prohibit a member of one domestic Orthodox Church to visit another Orthodox Church, it is a grave sin and an indication of an erroneous ecclesiology vision. The Nomocanon states that, if any bishop or a priest imposes an excommunication on any Christian, who in fact has no guilt with respect to the Church Canons, the excommunicated person is not subject to any prosecution, while the excommunicator himself has to be excommunicated.

- Deacon Georgiy Maksimov


  1. Two points...

    First I think this was in the main, a good response. Secondly I am not sure if it was by design, but from a diplomatic perspective it was wise to have the statement come from a deacon instead of a bishop. This has the effect of putting the wayward Greek bishop on notice that he is being a jerk, without another bishop having to put his signature on that notice and thereby possibly adding fuel to the fire.

  2. Wow, really? So, you guys aren't going to address context at all or mention what the core issues about the Russian "mission" are at all: i.e., Coming into a parish, serving a parish, splitting a parish, and then appealing to a "higher ecclesiastical power" to make it into a jurisdictional spat. Dcn Maksimov's response was posted to my comments on Facebook. It would be fair to at least post what I had to say before this answer was given, but unfortunately, the administrators on both "Sts. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church in HK" and "Orthodox Church of China" deleted my posts that raised the actual canonical issues and reposted the conversation so as to tow a "party line". This proves to me that the parties railing against Metropolitan +Nektarios are less interested in communication and dialogue than they are in trying to use politics to force the Greeks out of their mission and win an argument.

    This split is a serious blow to the integrity of the Church in the Sinosphere, with wide-spread implications. For H.E. +Nektarios to ignore this issue and forego the overseeing and protection of the church that commemorates him would be to abandon his duties as a Bishop. Regardless of what any rhetoric says, there were no parishes that commemorated Russian bishops on the ground until this split. This is equivalent to the sabotage of an already functional and canonical Orthodox community and an effective mission. The question is why?

    May this situation prompt us to pray for the restoration of the meager flock in Taiwan, and a return to the Canonical integrity of the Church: One Bishop, One Diocese, and One Orthodox Faith!

  3. Here are some points that I think need to be made in this debate.

    One essential feature of Orthodox jurisdiction is territorial boundaries. These boundaries have been mentioned in the Canons and also in the titles of the churches. SE Asia is a territory and what needs to be considered is not whether it is barbarian or it has faithful from such and such a place or even if any faithful are there. The issue is whether it comes within a pre-defined Patriarchal jurisdiction.

    We have three Patriarchates vying for jurisdiction in SE Asia: Constantinople, Antioch and Moscow. Considering each ones territorial name, Constantinople with Asia Minor and Thrace, Antioch as the East and Moscow as the North. SE Asia by definition is East so it seems to fall clearly into the jurisdiction of Antioch. Historically we can see that Antioch extended its Patriarchal jurisdiction to the East beyond the boundaries of the Roman Empire to include at least India. Thus, it would be consistent to extend its jurisdiction to China, SE Asia and Oceania. Moscow has the north, which could encompass Japan, Korea, Manchuria, Alaska, and Canada. Where to draw a boundary of conflict may take some debate, such as the west/east divide of the 9th Century missions in eastern Europe of Rome and Constantinople. East could be argued extends to the International Date Line, which is a convenient and well recognised limit. The Americas would be in the west, which conforms to tradition mission of Rome, even if post-Schism, on this continent. North/east and north/west are debatable but the Canada/US border or Russia/Alaska border is useful as well as national borders in Asia putting Japan, Korea in the North and China the East.

    So, looking at established jurisdictional territories, the mission in SE Asia should be under Antioch. While, the recent mission, within the last two-hundred years, has been Moscow led due to historical circumstances, and it was quite appropriate in these circumstances, there is no reason not to pass this mission over to Antioch, although at the present moment Antioch is again not in a position to properly coordinate things due to the problems in Syria. Constantinople has no right to be in SE Asia because Canon 28 only speaks of mission from its own Metropolitan areas, Asia Minor and Thrace, not from any other Patriarchate to any barbarian territory, else it should have controlled St Augustine's mission to England and missions to Scandinavia rather than Rome, which was never even contemplated. Constantinople though can claim jurisdiction in traditional areas of Old Rome since the Schism because it is also Rome, New Rome with the same privileges as Old Rome until Old Rome is restored as an Orthodox Patriarchate.

  4. Typical Russian hegemonistic grandiose blather. If you are interested in reality, please read the linked pdf from Prof. Kachen, an American expat in Taiwan and a member of the Holy Trinity. Parish there.,51882.45.html Her story is linked there.

    All of this back and forth over which Patriarch "owns what " outside of his traditional church territories is disgusting. We need a Great Council and sincere players to attend its sessions This isn't the age of empires and the Church must reconcile itself to the inter cultural mobility of the faithful. If not I fear that the Orthodox Faith will be marginalized more by its own self destructive tendencies rather than by the actions of the secularists.

    I'm old enough to recognize the irony that the Soviets viewed the secular planet through the same glasses used since Tsar Peter by the Russian state and the Russian Church.

  5. Ah yes, the ONE TRUE CHURCH in action. Rome Sweet Rome I'm coming home!