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How American Orthodox Christians can save Orthodoxy

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As some of our readers already know, there is a crisis in the Eastern Orthodox Church that has not been seen since the Great Schism of 1054. It started in 2018 when the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, did a policy about-face and started a process that legitimized two schismatic church structures in Ukraine, one of which was headed by a schismatic hierarch who was not only excommunicated from the canonical Orthodox Church, but was anathematized, which is the Church’s equivalent of what happens to a sex offender – they are marked for everyone to know to stay away from. The impetus behind Patriarch Bartholomew’s stunning move, which led to restoration of these two bodies to communion with Constantinople, and then their amalgamation into a single (still schismatic) church structure named the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, appears to have been money. American money. Not only that, but also American power in play as some very dark-minded people seek to carry out an old semi-mythical plan to destroy Russia, and the entire Orthodox Church.

However, there is an amazing kernel of truth. Americans are seeking to break and destroy the Orthodox Church, but it may be that it is the American Orthodox community that has the best chance of preventing this, more than anyone else in the world. Before we examine this, let’s look at the stunning thought that many of our readers may not know about – the Dulles Plan.

Myth or Reality? Both.

Wikipedia has a piece on this plan which may be read here. While there is undoubtedly more detail than this site presents, it covers the basics:

  1. CIA Chief Allan Dulles allegedly developed a plan to destroy the Soviet Union by corrupting th cultural heritage and moral values of the Soviet nation. (This because despite an official state policy of atheism, the Soviet citizens were nonetheless called to very high standards of moral behavior, and the theory was that by instilling rebellion to this code, bigger rebellions would follow that would overthrow Communism from within.)
  2. The details of this plan seem to come from Soviet and later Russian sources, but are also included in the writings of Metropolitan John Snychov, as the plan elicits a strategy to destroy the Russian Orthodox Church. The plan employs the same techniques, to “hammer into the people’s consciousness the cult of sex, violence, sadism, and betrayal, in a word, immorality,” with the help of “our accomplices, helpers, and allies in Russia herself.” In this corrupted version of Russia, “Bureaucratic red-tape will be elevated to a virtue. Honesty and orderliness will be ridiculed as being of no use to anyone, an anachronism.” The whole country will be led into moral turpitude: “Rudeness and insolence, lies and deceit, drunkenness and drug-addiction, animal fear of everyone and everything, indecency, betrayal, nationalism, and strife between ethnic groups, and above all hatred for the Russian ethnos: we’ll cultivate all of that, quietly and skillfully.” (Quote reprinted from www.atlasobscura.com)
  3. While the framework of the Dulles Plan arose during the Soviet times, the idea the plan describes has certain relevance to the state of Russia today. As the country recovers from Communism, the Russian Orthodox Church has blossomed with renewed strength and power, and the Church takes an increasingly important role in its influence on policy decisions by the Russian government. The Church is growing and has reached a level of influence that is greater than any other Orthodox Christian body in the world. With some 90 million members in Russia presently, and another 27-34 million in Ukraine, this area of the world has the largest Orthodox Christian population of all the fifteen independent jurisdictions.

Now, we must state that the Dulles Plan itself, at least according to American sources, has never been factually confirmed to be true. It appears to be a conspiracy theory that was dreamed up in the Soviet Union and it is generally not promoted, even suppressed in modern Russia now in official capacities, but a lot of people are nevertheless aware of it and believe it is true.

One of the most interesting statements made about this conspiracy theory comes in the meme shown below, saying the following: “план даллеса: не существует, но действует”—“The Dulles Plan: It does not exist, but it still works.”

The reason this sentiment exists is simple, especially when we observe the kind of treatment Russia and now the Russian Orthodox Church, gets from the West. In just the six years since President Putin spoke at Valdai about the disintegration of Christianity and traditional values in the West, Russia has been under increasing political pressure, accused of “invading” Ukraine (which it hasn’t), interfering in the 2016 American presidential elections (which it didn’t); President Putin has been characterised as some sort of thug controlling the Church (which he isn’t); and in 2018, the Russian Orthodox Church became the scapegoat for agitated Nazi-sympathetic Ukrainian hypernationalists who were quick to blame the country’s awful standard of living and any number of problems on both President Putin and the Moscow Patriarchate for “interfering in Ukrainian affairs” (which they weren’t.)

How Russia and her Church are being isolated

In 2018 the sudden reversal of Patriarch Bartholomew to “rehabilitate” the Ukrainian schismatics by fiat was condemned by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia in very strong terms. By creating a highly dubious and fabricated premise for undermining Moscow’s authority over the Ukrainian See, the Russian Church said, it was restoring to canonical communion bodies of believers whose leaders were absolutely out of obedience to any canonical Church, and in Orthodox canon law, this is wrong. If you celebrate services with schismatics and heretics, goes the premise, you are a schismatic or heretic yourself and you are ex-communicado (out of communion) with the Church. In this, and because Patriarch Bartholomew did his act unilaterally, acting across jurisdictional boundaries as though he were some sort of Pope (who can do this, but no Orthodox bishop, even a Patriarch, can control a see not his own).

For the Moscow Church, Patriarch Bartholomew, by endorsing unrepentant schismatics, is himself in schism and so Moscow stopped commemorating the Patriarchate of Constantinople in its diptychs, which is a list of prayers for all the Orthodox Churches who are in canonical communion with one another.

Russia’s move was refuted by Constantinople, with Patriarch Bartholomew acidly asserting that “all the Churches will accept the new Ukrainian church structure. They have no other choice,” and further asserted that all grace to the Orthodox Church communion flows from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and no other place, which is very much out of line with Orthodox Christian ecclesiology as it has been practiced for two thousand years.

No other jurisdiction followed Russia in breaking communion with Constantinople, but for about one year most of them did not recognize the new Ukrainian church either. However, some monasteries on Mount Athos, an Orthodox monastic “republic” under the Ecumenical Patriarchate but very much independent of his whims, nonetheless began to receive the Ukrainian schismatics. Some of the smaller more culturally Greek groups, like the Church of Greece itself, the second largest Orthodox community in the world, showed signs of wavering in their convictions.

In October and November of this year, the Greek Church decided to commemorate the schismatic group in Ukraine, and was promptly also removed from the Moscow diptychs. On Novermber 8th, Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa unilaterally commemorated the Ukrainian hierarch, Epiphany Dumenko in his services. This earned him outrage from many clergy, but he did not recant this move and did it again in services the next day. Moscow struck Alexandria from the diptychs in short order.

It is in the winds that the Orthodox Church of Georgia, a very traditionally minded group, is now considering whether or not to commemorate Epiphany Dumenko. If they do, they will also be stricken from Moscow’s diptychs.

There is a pattern that appears to be taking shape. The Churches in the Greek world are aligning with Constantinople, partly because of shared culture and tradition, but also because at least in Constantinople’s case, there is money involved. $25 million from the United States went to the Phanar, for example, where Pat. Bartholomew is headquartered. Georgia is closely related to NATO and is an American ally, and the speculation is that American pressure may be involved to push Georgia to recognize Ukraine’s new church structure.

Russia Religion News said the following:

It should be noted that recognition of the PTsU by the patriarchate of Alexandria is a powerful signal for the whole Orthodox world. The point is that many other local churches have already stated that they will decide regarding their attitude toward the Orthodox Church of Ukraine after the old patriarchates, like Alexandria, recognize it.

Such a step may be expected from the patriarchate of Jerusalem. In the foreseeable future the PTsU may be recognized by the Cypriot, Georgian, and Romanian autocephalous churches. The greatest problems with recognition of the PTsU are expected in churches that are oriented toward the Moscow patriarchate. Thus one should not expect recognition from the Polish Orthodox Church, the patriarchate of Antioch in Syria, the Serbian Orthodox Church, and the churches of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.

As we can see, this is a massive split in the oldest Christian communion in the world, and the split runs along lines that are not really ethnic as much as they are political. Consider that Romania, Georgia, Alexandria, Greece and Jerusalem are all states with close ties to the US, where Poland, Syria, Serbia and the Czech Republic and Slovakia have a more Slavic connection and if not warm relations politically with Russia, they nevertheless share many more elements of common understanding.

The Source and Solution of this Problem may both lie in America

The battle lines are being drawn in the Old World. But the place where the best potential for some restoration to sanity lies not in the Old World, but in the New, most particularly in the same exact nation whose authorities appear to be driving this schism in the first place – the United States of America.

This may seem like a surprising assertion, and honestly, it must be stated that the possibility that the American people themselves could right the travesty that is taking place is very low. The United States has a very low number of Orthodox Christians, ranging in estimates as low as merely 770,000, though some other estimates place the number as high as four to five million. At best, the Orthodox Christian population is barely more than one percent of the entire population of the United States. While there is an independent American Church, it is very small, the second largest American jurisdiction, with only about 90,000 members in the United States. The largest single Orthodox jurisdiction in the United States is actually the Ecumenical Patriarchate, with a little over half a million adherents on the books. Antioch is third largest after the American (OCA) church, with some 74,000 members.

But in the United States at least eight different jurisdictions of the canonical 15 (or 16 if Ukraine’s schismatics are counted) are present in the country. This is a situation that does not appear to exist in the Old Orthodox World.

In Russia, for example, there are Representation Churches, which are like embassies for the Orthodox world. By having Representation Churches in each other’s canonical territories, relations can theoretically be maintained with other jurisdictions. However, in practical terms each Orthodox jurisdiction or nation usually has only people who are members of that national jurisdiction. Hence, in Russia it is very difficult to find Greek Orthodox or Antiochian Orthodox people unless they are visiting Russia from somewhere else. From one end of the country to the other, the vast, vast majority of Orthodox parishes will be Russian. The same phenomenon is duplicated in the other ancient jurisdictions.

But in the United States, this is not so. It is quite possible in larger cities like Chicago and San Francisco and New York, to find a Russian Church one or two blocks away from a Greek Church or an Antiochian or Serbian Church. In Chicago is a most stunning example of this, where while driving I found an Orthodox Church almost every block, each one belonging to a different jurisdiction, providing the ability to sample the tradition of one’s choice just by going around the corner.

This occurred because most Orthodox Christianity in the United States was imported from the various “old countries” and the people resettling in America wanted to have their own churches that reflected their unique culture, language and music from their respective homelands. After reaching a peak in the late 19th century, the influx of Orthodox Christians by immigration stopped, and for a time the membership in these churches dropped sharply as people died, married out of the Church or moved away. The “ethnic ghetto” phenomenon caused a lot of strife at times, but with the most recent generation of Orthodox Christians in the United States, this appears to be undergoing some change.

The Antiochian Orthodox Church was the first to throw the doors wide open to welcome the curious who wondered what the Orthodox Church was. I have seen tour groups come to parishes in the US where I served, and the visitors were rendered speechless by the beauty and otherworldliness of our Orthodox temples.

For those Americans who fell in love with the Church and became Orthodox Christians themselves, often the ethnic lines seem interesting at best and frivolous at worst, and it is very common for a member of the Antiochian Church to have friends in Old Calendar Russian and Greek Churches in the same community and across the nation. We know one another, and the Orthodox community, especially that of converts, is one that embraces the lovely traditions of various old countries, but usually takes it no farther than that. We may like Russian music better than Byzantine, or Byzantine better than American, but we know we are all Orthodox, so we are one Church.

But with this schism coming on, that may no longer be so, and many of us are friends and deeply related (some even married across jurisdictions). What happens when we find ourselves obligated to stop going to one another’s churches lest we be rendered schismatic? 

For those readers who are not Orthodox Christians, the interest in such things may seem strange or absurd, especially among those Protestants who freely float around from church to church. But take my word for it – this stuff matters to us a great deal. We may not understand all of it, but many converts will tell the story of how entering the Orthodox Church changed everything in their life, and how they changed everything in their life to enter the Orthodox Church. It is important and precious to a great many of us.

And because of that, the thought of being rendered “out of communion” with one another may well be a rallying cry.

The Orthodox Church as a whole is not a top-down organization. The Bishop or Patriarch does not rule his see except by the assent of the people he is to oversee. Those people, if they disapprove of the choice of person for Deacon or Priest or Bishop, can at any time declare “Anaxios!!” meaning (he is NOT worthy!!) and the ordination or consecration stops dead cold until the matter provoking this reaction is addressed.

To be sure, not many Orthodox people seem to know that. But it is time to become aware of it.

The Ecumenical Patriarch appears to be losing his reason. Admittedly, I write that as an adherent to the Russian Church, but my point of view is not “Russia is always right” but I examine the Patriarch’s actions in light of what his role actually is, and the fact that the higher up one is in the ranks of clergy, the more vital humility is for sanity, let alone survival. The Patriarch’s behavior, being influenced by non-Christian, or at least non-Orthodox interests and powers, is not being true to Christ or the Church. Just ask any Russian who has relatives who were murdered by the Communists for their faith. Christianity is inconvenient, it brings great struggle and rejection to anyone who is serious about practicing it. It demands humility and certainly not aggrandizement of power and authority to one’s own self, yet we see this behavior in Pat. Bartholomew’s actions and speech.

The Patriarch’s biggest support is also the United States, coming from the people who donate money to the Church there.

While it is true that some of the more ethnically oriented people in these different jurisdictions may rib one another or scoff at traditions they don’t themselves have, many of these self-same people are very grateful when they travel to a distant city and find any Orthodox temple at all to pray in.

We have the foundations and blessing for Orthodox Christian Unity in America. A united front of American Orthodox Christians of all jurisdictions, armed with both a voice and with money sent or not sent, could do much to reject the unChristian actions perpetrated by their own government. 

Just as President Trump gets hit with wave after wave of attacks on people who see his nationalist, populist, traditionalist point of view as a threat to globalist secular ideologies in secular life, the Orthodox Church is getting hit with the same kind of attacks against its structure, its hierarchies, and eventually its faith.

What is at stake? Everything.

The Orthodox Christian Church is the last true bastion of Christianity left on earth. We see signs of decay now even in Rome, with the Pope’s recent episode of praying to some pagan idol in South America recently. We see it in decadent Protestant groups that espouse same-sex marriage, despite the fact that God has forbidden homosexual relations ever since the beginning of time, (but now, suddenly, it is okay?), we see it in “Prosperity Gospel” churches that are great motivational centers to be sure, but they cannot help people make sense of suffering because they think suffering should never happen (even though it does).  We have now at least a 20% rate of people who proclaim themselves god-less in the United States, and that number is increasing as many people find the religion they know to be fruitless for them.

The Dulles Plan may not have been conceived in America the way the conspiracy theory tells it, but in practical terms it does appear to be in use. By attacking the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the American powers have created a rift in Christendom that has not been seen in almost a thousand years. The ultimate goal is not just to isolate Russia, it is to destroy the Orthodox Christian Church itself because the Church is the last thing to stand against the forces of secularism and globalism, against everything that has been ripping the US and Europe apart for decades.

And it may well be that the only people who can truly bring this madness to a stop are the Orthodox Christians in the United States who put their Lord, their faith and their Church above everything.

There is not much hope for this, but this is were the best hope for change may be.

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