Fr. Andrew Phillips: The problems of the ‘Pan-Orthodox Council’
Interview with Fr. Andrew Phillips, the priest of St John’s Orthodox church in Colchester, Essex, UK (ROCOR)
What is your view of what is called the ‘Pan-Orthodox Council’?
I have been following the stages in the development of this farce for 40 years and there is a spiritual principle about humility which has been ignored from the very beginning. This is: ‘Start big and you will finish small; start small and you may finish big’. So to call a mere meeting a ‘Great and Holy Pan-Orthodox Council’ when it is in fact not a ‘Great Council’ but a fairly small conference, which is not ‘Pan-Orthodox’ and which seems to be linked to politics and not to holiness, is absurd and pretentious. It reeks of pride and hubris. And this refusal to obey this most basic of all spiritual principles explains why it has all become such a disaster.
However, there is worse than this, there is the terminology itself. The word ‘Pan-Orthodox’ is a modern Greek neologism. The Universal and other Councils were never called ‘Pan-Orthodox’, they were called ‘Church Councils’, Councils of the whole Church. The term ‘Pan-Orthodox’ comes from branch-theory ecumenism, the concept that our Councils are on an equal footing to Roman Catholic or any other heterodox ‘Councils’. In reality, there is only one sort of Council: Church Councils. Apart from them there are only meetings. In other words, there are Councils that are inspired by the Holy Spirit and meetings that are not. Meetings that are not Councils include Vatican I and Vatican II, which promulgated heresies, and also Robber Councils, where people who looked like Orthodox bishops and said that they were Orthodox bishops met and then promulgated heresies. The term ‘Pan-Orthodox’ can only be used for meetings and conferences. It is not a Church or Patristic term; it has no spiritual meaning or place in the Tradition.
Then there is the question of the agenda. This agenda was imposed from above and most of the bishops, let alone the clergy and the people, were never consulted about it. In any case, the very concept of an agenda as such is alien to Councils and belongs to the world of secular and corporate meetings. Church Councils discuss issues that all the faithful are talking about, for which there is a pressing and obvious need for discussion; the concept that you have to establish an agenda because you are not sure what you are supposed to talk about is absurd. Councils are welcome; meeting are not and a whole vast section of the Orthodox world never wanted this meeting in Crete.
For example, there are three great issues in Orthodox life that are not even on the agenda of this meeting: firstly, the divisive introduction of the Roman Catholic calendar for the fixed feasts among some Local Churches, which at once caused schisms in them; secondly, the phyletistic, jurisdictional divisions in the Diaspora, with the failure to establish new Local Churches for Orthodox who live and were born outside the canonical territories of the old Local Churches; thirdly, the question of missionary work to the Non-Orthodox world. And, incredibly, these are the very three issues, probably the only important ones, that are not being discussed!
In other words, the very concept of this whole ‘Pan-Orthodox’ farce has been a purely political manipulation from the very start.
How is it reflected in the Orthodox Christian community in the UK?
Is there an Orthodox Christian community in the UK? I have never seen it. We only have ‘jurisdictions’ - of the Constantinople Church, the Russian Church, the Antiochian Church, the Romanian Church, the Serbian Church etc. Everyone lives their lives separately. I wish there was an Orthodox Christian community here and in every country in the Diaspora. There is not; the concept is either a myth or else a dream.
As regards being ‘reflected’, just as in Russia and everywhere else, the vast majority of Orthodox here have never even heard of any ‘Pan-Orthodox Council’. It is not reflected at all. Again we come back to the fundamental problem that the faithful have never been consulted or informed. Until February we had little idea of what specifically was being discussed behind closed doors. When we saw the draft documents, at last published and only at the insistence of the Russian Church, we were in shock.
Besides religion there is a purely geopolitical issue - the status of autocephalous Churches, especially for the Ukraine. So the agenda proposed by Patriarch Bartholomew was difficult for the Russian Orthodox Church. What is the role of politics in this matter in your opinion?
I think this whole affair is a purely political operation, imposed by the US State Department on its minions. This has been made clear by the call on 16 June of the Ukrainian Parliament, the Rada, for Constantinople to grant ‘independence’ to the Ukrainian Church (which one?), despite the uncanonicity of any such move. This has obviously been thought up in the backrooms of Washington.
How do you assess the positions of the Bulgarian, Georgian, Antiochian and, at first, of the Serbian Church, which refused to participate?
Each had its own reasons for not participating, apart from disagreement with the ecumenist agenda. Antioch because of its anger at Jerusalem’s invasion of its canonical territory and the fact that Constantinople foolishly told it to ignore such a question of principle until after the Council, even though the problem has been dragging on for years; the Georgians and the Bulgarians are not participating for being insulted by the US-controlled Patriarchate of Constantinople, which declared last April that the Georgians were fundamentalists and the Bulgarians were thieves, actually creating a diplomatic incident in Bulgaria. As for the Serbs, I think their problem is that of essentially everyone else - that Constantinople simply ignores any criticism, blindly trying to impose its will regardless of others, as if it were an Eastern Papacy. Of course, the Serbian Church, racked by a US-caused schism in Kosovo and under immense pressure from Washington/the EU/NATO and the masonic government in Belgrade, then decided to attend the meeting in Crete conditionally, but that is another story.
In general can you describe the situation in the UK? Is it normal to be an Orthodox Christian there? How does the State influence the Church and personal choice?
The situation in the UK is no different from anywhere else in the Western world. It is not normal to be a Christian in today’s UK, let alone to belong to the tiny minority here that is composed of Orthodox Christians. The State ignores Christians and Christianity. We are totally irrelevant to it and its anti-Christian agenda. As far as they are concerned, we are an anachronism and we should die out and disappear as soon as possible. Having said that, there is no active persecution as such, just indifference and underlying hostility, disguised by the hypocritical politeness typical of the British Establishment.
What is happening to other traditional beliefs there? It seems as if there is serious decline. For example, in Nigeria there are many more followers of Anglicanism than in the UK.
Western forms of Christianity, that is Roman Catholicism and Protestantism (and Anglicanism is only a form of Protestantism with some Roman Catholic decorations), are in terminal decline everywhere in the Western world, though they still survive in countries in Africa, Asia and in Eastern Europe, for example in Poland. In the UK today, there are only really two forms of Christianity that are alive, both immigrant, Eastern European and Black African. The rest is fundamentally on its death-bed: it is far worse than ‘serious decline’. For example, a million immigrant Poles have saved Roman Catholicism here. Quite simply, Western people have lost their faith. Since Western civilization was founded on faith, this means that Western civilization is also on its death-bed. Western civilization is today just a series of historical monuments for tourists to visit: the soul has gone out of it.
What exactly is the image of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church in the UK?
Let us deal with the question of Russia first:
British Imperialism, which began to evolve among the bloodthirsty, 16th century Tudor tyrants, has always seen Russia as a rival. Therefore the British Establishment has always done its best to spread slander and hatred towards Russia from outside and to destroy it from inside, for instance, helping to organize the assassination of the Righteous Emperor Paul I in 1801 through the British ambassador. This was even more obvious in the 19th century, when Britain actually invaded Russia during the Crimean War. At that time British Imperialists invented a policy which they called ‘the Great Game’. This meant surrounding Russia’s borders with British Protectorates, Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet and China. (Was Russia invading Norway, Ireland and France at the same time? Of course, not. This aggression was completely one-sided). Britain (and the US) also financed and armed Japan to the teeth, using it as a proxy to attack Russia without provocation in 1904. Here was no ‘Game’, just a bloodthirsty policy of anti-Russian aggression. And, incidentally, this is exactly what the USA is doing today.
This aggression also happened in the 20th century when Britain betrayed Russia and Tsar Nicholas II in 1917, by helping to organize and enthusiastically welcoming the Masonic February coup d’etat that was called a ‘Revolution’. Then came another British invasion during the Russian Civil War, then the British betrayal of Czechoslovakia to Hitler and the encouragement of Hitler to invade Russia. And that was followed by the Cold War, as announced by the half-American Churchill. The British elite only likes Russian traitors, for example, in history, Kurbsky, Milyukov, Rodzianko, Lenin, Trotsky, Gorbachov, Yeltsin, Litvinenko, Pussy Riot, and it only finances academics who hate Russia. It sidelines people who tell the truth about Russia.
With the new Cold War, launched by the Americans in 2008 with the US-backed Georgian invasion of Russia and followed up by the US coup d’etat in Kiev in 2014, the British elite has once more shown that it is merely Washington’s poodle. The British State-controlled media, like the BBC and the Press, (which are heavily infiltrated by MI5 and MI6 agents) have spread hatred for Russia everywhere today, as we can see in the jealousy caused by the immensely successful Russian staging of the Sochi Olympics, the present anti-Russian doping scandal or recently the accusations of Russian football hooliganism (started by English hooligans in reality).
However, as usual, we have to consider that the Establishment elite is one thing, the people another. There is a minority of people in the UK who can see through the anti-Russian lies and propaganda, just as a minority of Germans could see through the lies and propaganda of Hitler and Goebbels. So all is not lost. Some people actually bother to inform themselves and see the Establishment elite for what it is. Not everybody puts US-manipulated, isolationist UK xenophobia above the Truth.
Now as regards the Russian Orthodox Church:
Given the incredibly poor educational system and the general state of ignorance in the UK (is it deliberate policy to keep people in ignorance?), most people here have never heard of the Russian Orthodox Church, but then many have never heard of Christianity (though all have heard of Islam). Among the thin, educated layer in society, there are various attitudes.
For example, the atheists hate us and see as obscurantists, just like the Bolsheviks did. Then there is the Establishment elite that wants to destroy us because we refuse to put the British State before Christ; these are the people who openly and publicly, in organs like ‘The Times’ and ‘The Daily Telegraph’, encouraged the 2006 Sourozh schism, caused by pro-Establishment and pro-EU modernist Anglicans who had been allowed to infiltrate and take over the Sourozh Diocese of the Patriarchate of Moscow during the previous generation, forcing out and persecuting the real Russian Orthodox. (That persecution that had been ongoing for decades was the real scandal).
For the Establishment only one Orthodox Church exists, that is the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which of course is Western-controlled. For instance, for large parts of the 19th century it was controlled by either the British or French ambassador in Istanbul. In the 1920s the Anglican Church gave the ultra-modernist British freemason Patriarch Meletios Metaksakis £100,000 – a huge sum in those days, say £10,000,000 today, which was essentially a bribe to pass pro-Anglican measures like introducing the heterodox calendar and recognizing the Anglican ‘priesthood’. Since the collapse of the British Empire after the Second World War, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has been taken over by the US, of which it is just a mouthpiece.
Finally, there some Christians in the UK who love the Russian Orthodox Church; but there are very, very few of us. It is a great pity that we, the best friends that Russia will ever have in the UK, are not appreciated or supported by Russia. That will always be very painful for us.