Dear Brother in Christ,
We have learnt from the mass media that you have decided to refrain from recognizing the Presiding Bishop Elect of the Episcopal Church in the USA, Ms. Cathrine Jefferts-Shori. It follows from the released letter you signed that this step was motivated by your refusal to accept the election of a woman to the post of the head of a Church as a gross violation of the old church Tradition. I would like to assure you that I fully share the stand you have taken.
In due time, the Russian Orthodox Church also took not an easy step by ceasing on December 26, 2003, her contacts with the Episcopal Church in the USA because of the ‘consecration’ of Gene Robinson, an open homosexual, as bishop. Through this act, the sinful way of life strictly condemned by Holy Scriptures has been supported by church leaders - the fact that defies any reasonable explanation.
It is my profound conviction that secular liberal political and philosophical ideas, however we may treat them, cannot and must not adjust the Apostolic Tradition and the understanding of New Testament texts guarded by this Tradition. Any attempt to adjust Christian morality and especially the church order to the political tastes of an external environment is dangerous as it threatens with a loss of Christian identity. There must be no fear in the efforts to keep faithful to Christ. Indeed, the Gospel calls us to take the narrow path that many believed to be impossible even during the earthly life of the Saviour: “When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’” The example of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Soviet period is a vivid proof that Christians can stay faithful to Christ even in the hardest conditions. Despite the severe persecution and pressure from the Soviet power, our Church did not compromise with the spirit of this world.
We continue to follow the situation in the Episcopal Church in the USA because we have always cherished good relations with her faithful. Dialogue between our two Churches was established over one hundred years ago, St. Tikhon the Patriarch of All Russian being one of its initiators. Since that time, our relations have been marked by sincerity, warmth, willingness to cooperate and mutual interest. Now we, regrettably, have been actually deprived of this rich heritage. However, as the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church stressed in its decision to break relations with the Episcopal Church in the USA, we are open to ‘contacts and cooperation with those American Episcopalians who remain faithful to the gospel’s moral teaching’.
In this connection, I would like to inform you that the Russian Orthodox Church supports your act and expresses willingness to restore relations with your diocese. Using this opportunity, I wish you good health, God’s help in your work, peace and prosperity.
With love in the Lord,
Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad,
Chairman Department for External Church Relations