Sergianism. Hot on the heels of last week's discussion of the old calendarists, let’s talk about one of their favorite claims to level against “world Orthodoxy” in general and ROCOR in particular - Sergianism! So as you might expect, the concept itself derives from someone’s name, Patriarch Sergius I of Moscow, and in this specific case concerns a declaration he issued in 1927. By way of a (very) brief historical approach, ROCOR was established in the early 1920s but a group of Russian emigres to Western Europe and the US (you still hear them referred to a few times in the Divine Liturgy as “those in the diaspora”), in order to maintain the pre-Bolshevik, Tsarist era expression of Russian Orthodoxy. The timing here is a bit interesting historically as the Patriarchate of Moscow had only been reestablished a few years prior in 1917, with St. Tikhon becoming patriarch only days after the Bolsheviks seized power in Petrograd (St. Petersburg). St. Tikhon was enthusiastically anti-Soviet, but fell ill and died in 1925, becoming a martyr and confessor of the Faith; enter Patriarch Sergius, one of the few bishops not in prison or in exile at the time following a locum tenens period. While his motives are contested, the generally accepted notion is that his declaration was intended to stop the campaign of terror and persecution against the Church by issuing a declaration stating the absolute loyalty of the Russian Orthodox Church to the Soviet Union and to its government interests. Obviously this didn’t go over well with many of the faithful, especially those clergy in prison and in exile - to include the nascent ROCOR, a theme of which persisted throughout the Soviet era and past its fall. Now, fast-forward to 2007 and the Act of Canonical Communion with the Moscow Patriarchate is signed by ROCOR (then under Met. Laurus of blessed memory), restoring the canonical link between ROCOR and Moscow. Still with me? Alright, so here’s where things get interesting, as not everyone in ROCOR wanted this reunion, and so a handful of clergy including a few bishops, formed schismatic offshoot groups with deceptively similar names to ROCOR in some instances, but in many cases they were simply absorbed into schismatic old calendarist groups like the previously discussed “genuine” Orthodox Church. So basically, “Sergianism” is a broad-spectrum accusation leveled against members of the Russian Orthodox Church to imply that they’re somehow tacitly entrenched in Soviet ideology, politics, or defunct groups like the KGB (which was dissolved in 1991). It’s a facile argument and a pretty lame attack, usually made by people who still view all Russians (or Americans associated with Russians) as Boris and Natasha Bond villains straight out of the cold war era. Sergianism would be a heresy but it’s not a teaching so much as a mode of behavior, and it’s not one that you’ll see anywhere in ROCOR. In short, it’s a silly and ill-informed attempt to target Russian Orthodoxy, made by those who are wholly ignorant of its history and/or willing to suspend disbelief and logic to attack what they probably don’t truly want to understand in the first place.
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