When I converted to mainline Orthodoxy over a dozen years ago, there were so many things that I wish I'd known. Things that were glossed over or simply not mentioned, things that were ignored or poo-poo'd, things that were just considered bad taste to mention at all. I've listed a few of those things here.
Things I Wish I'd Known
If you're considering Orthodoxy, or if you're already in a mainline Church and are concerned about the goings-on, I can't recommend enough a talk given in Chicago in 2007 that addresses some of these issues, linked HERE. (the questions and answers at the end are excellent). If you'd rather read a text of the presentation only, it links HERE.
The popularity of Freemasonry amongst the clergy, and even bishops, archbishops and patriarchs was stunning. According to Brill's Handbooks on Contemporary Religion, Vol 8 entitled 'Handbook of Freemasonry' by J.F. Var, chapter 10 entitled 'Freemasonry and the Orthodox Churches,' we find listed amongst the documented names such leading lights of the Church as Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow (declared a saint by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1994), Patriarch Athenagoras of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; Meletius Metaxakis Archbishop of Athens, Patriarch of Constantinople and Patriarch of Alexandria; Basil III Patriarch of Constantinople and Iakovos Koukouzis, Archbishop of what is now the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
World Council of Churches
Every mainline Orthodox Church is a member of this ecumenical organization, and the documents signed by members, as well as the ceremonies and rites organized by this group are truly bizarre. When our leaders participate in this stuff and sign these documents they're doing so on behalf of the Church, on behalf of us since we are the Church. And yet in the mainline Churches nobody seems to have any problem with this, from the bishops on down. How is this possible? Because the leadership, from the Holy Synod to the Holy Priesthood to the Ladies Philoptochos are on board with it, that's why. No one who genuinely believes that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church could possibly be ok with this. Heck, even the Roman Catholic Church only sends observers and does not have full membership in this demonic organization.
Lifting of the Anathemas
In 1965 Patriarch Athenagoras of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in a visit to Milan affirmed his adherence to the so-called branch theory saying, '...The Catholics and the Orthodox do not belong to two different Churches, but to two branches of the same Church.' Later that year he and Pope Paul VI simultaneously “lifted the Anathema of 1054.” The Anathema was placed on the papal heresy to protect the Orthodox from blasphemous doctrines which lead to perdition. By “lifting” the Anathema, Athenagoras officially proclaimed that the Pope and his followers were unjustly excommunicated, that the Church wrongly held the doctrines of papism to be false, and that in truth the Latin Papacy is part of Orthodoxy.
I converted in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and at no point was this little gem mentioned. Kind of important though don't you think?
Inter-Communion with Heretics
This topic is treated more fully in the talk linked above, but to discover that the Church of Antioch has been in complete communion with Monophysites for over three decades now? Totally blew my mind. Now they don't commemorate each other's Patriarchs, true enough, but they share absolutely everything else - Divine Liturgy, Holy Matrimony, burial and education - they have even agreed not to accept converts from each other. The Alexandrian Patriarchate will only marry, bury and provide the Sacraments for mixed couples . So for all that I was told, evidently the Fathers of the Councils don't know as much as a bunch of scholars in Switzerland. Many of the Council Fathers would have known St. Cyril and shared correspondence with him, but these scholars are special, they alone know what the Saint really meant when he condemned the Monophysites and labeled them so - obviously he and the Fathers were wrong. They just didn't understand the subtlety of language the way today's academics do. Wow. Just wow.
The Russian Church
When I converted I was under the impression that the Church is this monolithic structure that has existed intact in all of its parts since each was created. So the Greek Church has always been the Greek Church and the Russian Church the same and so on with all the rest. Well...maybe not. I knew that in 1920 Patriarch Tikon issued his famous ukase #362 basically saying that the Russian Church Abroad is on its own, as the Church had been compromised by the Communists and the Synod could no longer guarantee that any directives received by the ROCA would be genuine. Then followed the persecutions and the Renovationist Church/Living Church and then somehow we end up with the Moscow Patriarchate that we all know today.
What I didn't know was that the current Moscow Patriarchate was created in 1943 by Stalin and placed within a directorate of the KGB. That the present Patriarch Kirill and his predecessor Alexi were both KGB agents, and that this is still the same Church - there has been no repentance whatsoever. Patriarch Kirill in fact has praised Metropolitan Sergius, who was installed as Patriarch by the Soviets in 1927, overseeing the persecution of the Church, and called him a 'Confessor of the faith'. Even I know that Confessor of the faith is a title reserved for saints and the most holy people, and surely Patriarch Kirill wouldn't have thrown that phrase around without knowing how it would be understood. Not to mention the fact that he also erected and dedicated a statue to Sergius in 2017 in what is called Sergius square, near the Transfiguration monastery in Arzamas, Russia.
As one article comments, 'This demonstrates that there has been no retreat on the part of (the) Sergianist MP (Moscow Patriarchate) from the principles of its founder, the pseudo-Patriarch Sergius Stragorodsky, the betrayer of martyrs and saints; he was an heretic, and enemy of Orthodoxy.'
In looking deeper I uncovered Patriarch Kirill's enlargement of a theology called 'Russkiy mir', usually rendered 'Russian world'. The Moscow Patriarchate is still an organ of the Russian state, providing the ideological underpinning and societal cohesion necessary to support the ruling regime. For all of its power and influence, and for all of the Orthodox trappings, the Moscow Patriarchate is a paper tiger, a Church that is no Church.
I wanted to make a note about Philaret of Moscow. I realize that many millions consider him to be a saint, and even the book referenced above mentions the wonderful things he did for the Church, especially in producing and promoting the Scriptures in the Russian language. But it must also be remembered that he persecuted the Old Believers terribly, using the organs of the state to do so, which resulted in many imprisoned, tortured and killed. He also produced a now famous catechism that is even linked to from this website, but that catechism had to be redacted following his death to remove all of the Lutheran theology, which he also promoted.