This page details some of the problems I had and some of the conclusions I came to while struggling with the idea of becoming Genuine Orthodox, also called True/Traditional or Old Calendar Orthodox. It is my sincere hope that this page will answer questions from friends and former co-parishioners, and perhaps others also.
I am not trained in theology nor am I a monastic, and I certainly don't pretend to any special knowledge or training in ecclesial affairs. I'm just an average person praying, studying and following Christ as He gives me the grace to do so. Please pray for me, a sinner.
Questions and Thoughts about True Orthodoxy
1. They don't have Apostolic Succession.
Actually, they do. Genuine Orthodox Christians received Episcopal ordinations from ROCOR in 1960, 1961 and 1962. These ordinations were validated in 1969 by the ROCOR Holy Synod under the presidency of St. Metropolitan Philaret.
2. The fact that they lost Apostolic Succession proves that God was not with them.
Churches have lost their bishops before and have had to be re-established, the Church in North Africa for example. That doesn't mean the Lord wasn't with the Church, it just demonstrates the seriousness with which they hold to the canons and the requirements of proper ecclesiastical polity; testing is not abandonment.
3. But the consecrations weren't done properly, which makes them invalid.
You're partly correct. For political reasons the ordinations were done in secret and were kept quiet for some time, which makes them irregular. There's a world of difference however, between irregular and invalid. Had they indeed been invalid, the ROCOR synod would never have recognized them and entered into full Communion with the Genuine Orthodox Church.
4. They're not canonical because they're not in communion with any of the other historical Orthodox Churches.
What is the meaning of the word 'canonical'? Wouldn't it have something to do with the canons, and not who's in communion with whom? A canonical Church has Apostolic Succession and piously follows the canons, i.e., the teachings of the Scriptures, the Fathers, the Councils. The situation in Ukraine (as of 2023) is a perfect example of this.
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine is in communion with no less than four of the historical Patriarchates (The Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as the Churches of Greece, Alexandria and Cyprus). And yet their hierarchs and many of their clergy are not ordained in Apostolic Succession, and are unrepentant in heresy. Their Metropolitan Epiphany has publicly supported gay pride parades, vowed to unite with the Roman Catholic Uniate Church, promised to change the calendar to accommodate this move, and openly advocated violence against parishioners and Churches belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the historical Church in that region that last year (2022) split from the Russian Orthodox Church, is in communion with exactly no one. And yet in this Church Apostolic Succession and the teachings of the Fathers are upheld and venerated. So which one is canonical?
5. There have been many splits among the True Orthodox, and that proves it is not of God.
As for the Greeks, there were two groups of us in the early days, those who were very strict and those who were less so. These groups are long since reconciled, and the vast majority of True Orthodox all over the world are in full Eucharistic Communion with each other. I could respectfully point out that mainline Orthodoxy has as many or more splits, both past and current, than the Traditional Orthodox ever did.
6. You're just taking the easy way out by leaving and not staying to 'fight the good fight.'
Really? I want to get up at 4:30am to make Matins and Liturgy in another state? And I want to do without the sacramentals of the Church because there is no priest nearby? And of course I want to be excluded from my peer group, derided as a schismatic, a fanatic and a fundamentalist? This is the easy way?!
7. You believe the other Orthodox Churches are without grace; You believe that God just flipped a switch and bam! all are without grace besides you.
I know of no Traditionalist Orthodox Christian who holds this view.
Tell me something. If you're an Orthodox Christian, you believe that the Roman Catholic Church is without sanctifying grace (the grace of the Sacraments) yes? When did that happen? When did God 'flip the switch'?
According to Wikipedia, quoting John Binns, "At the time of the excommunications (1054 AD), many contemporary historians, including Byzantine chroniclers, did not consider the event significant." Was it in 1054 and nobody knew it? - does that make sense? Was it when the Latin Christian Crusaders sacked Jerusalem in 1099 then? Or perhaps it was when they sacked Constantinople in 1204? So on what day, and in what hour, in what year do you say the Latin Church lost grace?
You don't. All you can say is that at some point, having begun in, and persisted in heresy, the Latin Church lost the grace of the Sacraments. The degree to which she moved away from the Truth is the degree to which grace left her. Since there can be only One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, all others who don't follow Apostolic Succession and the Traditions of the Church are devoid of sanctifying grace. That's all that can be said, full stop. Anything more is just speculation.
8. The original True Orthodox only split because of the calendar, not because of ecumenism as you claim.
As a popular online teacher often says, 'Presuppositions, everything has presuppositions!' So lets get some background for this one.
In 1920 the Patriarch of Constantinople, Germanus V, issued a letter addressed to 'The Churches of Christ Everywhere.' The idea being that there were other 'Churches' besides the Orthodox Church. In it he outlined an eleven point plan for collaboration between 'the Churches,' including the founding of a League of Churches (which became the World Council of Churches according to its first secretary, Willem Vissert Hooft), recognizing Anglican clerical orders, priests shaving their beards and ceasing to wear the rassa, the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, married bishops, and priests being allowed to remarry if widowed, among other things.
In 1922 The Patriarch of Constantinople issued a statement recognizing the validity of Anglican clerical orders, and in 1924 the Archbishop of Athens, Chrysostomos Papadopoulos ordered the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in the Church of Greece.
Now we're down to the meat of it. Saying the Genuine Orthodox separated from the state Church of Greece over the calendar alone is a little like saying the Americans staged a revolution against England because of tea. That was certainly the catalyst, but a catalyst is not a cause.
Orthodox had always used the word ecumenical to mean communion and cooperation between other Orthodox Church bodies, and if you're looking to find people discussing 'ecumenism' as a thing during this first couple of decades you simply won't find it. The word itself entered the lexicon in Scotland in 1910, and wasn't currency in Greece in the early 1920's.
Although the Orthodox rank and file may not have seen the wider implications, they understood that the traditions of the Church were being abrogated, the canons violated and the directives of the Fathers were being ignored. Those in clerical orders and informed laymen absolutely knew what was at stake, as evidenced by written correspondence between such men as Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos and Archbishop Meletios Metaxakis, the fact that the Abbots of Holy Mount Athos ordained and sent dozens of priest-monks to shepherd and care for the Old Calendarists, and more than 400 of these same learned, holy Fathers signed a public petition condemning the move and calling for its repeal.
And for those who argue that changing the calendar (the Menologion) is fine, so long as you don't change the date of Pascha (the Paschalion), that doesn't make any sense in light of the councils. The first ecumenical council set the date of Pascha in 325 AD. Later on after the Latins changed their calendar, three councils were held which outlined Papal errors, the first of which was held in 1583 AD. According to my copy of The Rudder (published 1957, translated from the 1908 Greek Edition), the seventh article of this council declared:
"That whoever does not follow the customs of the Church as the Seven Holy Ecumenical Councils decreed, and Holy Easter, and the Menologion with which they did well in making it a law that we should follow it, and wishes to follow the newly-invented Paschalion and the New Menologion of the atheist astronomers of the Pope, and opposes all those things and wishes to overthrow and destroy the dogmas and customs of the Church which have been handed down by our fathers, let him suffer anathema and be put out of the Church of Christ and out of the Congregation of the Faithful."
9. Either way, you shouldn't split the Church over the calendar.
First of all the Church can't be split, as though the body of Christ can be divided. And secondarily you're right. So come home! Lay aside the calendar innovation and all that it's led to: Lay aside membership in the World Council of Churches, being in full communion with Monophysites, celebrating Pascha on the Gregorian calendar, giving Holy Communion to Roman Catholics, praying bareheaded in Church with heretics, gay baptisms, marching with known terrorists, advocating for a genocidal war in service to the state, creating heretical Churches for political gain. Give all that up and return to your first love.
Additionally, in what way do you think that the Traditional Orthodox 'split the Church'?
Let's return to the famous 'Church split' that happened in 1054 for an illustration.
According to Roman Catholic teaching, the Orthodox left the Church when they refused to accept Latin innovations. How is this any different? The Genuine Orthodox are the ones doing everything the same way as before, keeping the Traditions and the canons and the teachings of the Fathers according to the ancient ecclesiology. Who left whom, and who split what?
10. Well, you can't do anything without a council, so until one is called you should just stay under whatever bishop is closest to you.
There are too many examples and statements of Church Fathers and Saints saying exactly the opposite of this to even try to find and list here.
The consensus seems (to me) to be that if your bishop and even Church Synod is teaching heretical and wrong things, then you must separate yourself from them.
That's great. And go where?
Go where there are faithful bishops and a Holy Synod that doesn't involve itself in heresy. Go and find Genuine Orthodoxy.
11. No, you may only separate yourself so as to recall those who are in error, not found your own Church.
Please see number nine above. The Traditional Orthodox didn't found anything, they simply continued doing what they had been trained and ordained to do, preach the gospel and administer the Sacraments according to the rites and traditions of the Orthodox Church.
And as an aside to that assertion, what is the alternative? Separate yourself and then... do, nothing? Do not go and preach the gospel to all nations, do not receive converts to the faith, do not administer the Sacraments to the faithful - just leave them without, it'll be fine. (?)
That's not how it works. A priest separated from a bishop can do nothing, and a layman without access to a priest is bereft. Separation without activity is pointless: The work of the Church continues because the Church must always be the Church, she can't be anything else.
12. If you separate you've made yourself irrelevant because you're no longer part of the discussion.
The first time I heard this I couldn't help but think, 'That's exactly what the LGBT people say. 'You've got to stay and be part of the discussion,' and 'We need more discussion.' My second thought was, 'I don't think the Genuine Orthodox are interested in our discussion, I think they're interested in our repentance.'
St. Catherine of Attica, pray for us!