In March 2007, due to the absence of having our own Bishop, we came under the omophorion of the Synod of the Russian True Orthodox Church on a temporary basis, and we thank the Hierarchy of RTOC for their prayers and their care over the past 8 plus years.
Approximately 1 year later, I received an affirmation from all the Bishops of RTOC in which they were in full agreement as to our possible election to function autonomously.
The Affirmation declares: “We, in full unanimity among ourselves and supported by the concordance of the Holy Council, express our agreement with your liberty in selecting the future path of forging the church life in the overseas section of the Local Russian Church. You can remain a member of the ROCA Synod... or immediately choose an autonomous administration and commune with us on amicable principles...” (Full text is available dependant on the need to know basis). This was endorsed with personal signatures: Archbishop Tikhon, Archbishop Veniamin and Bishop Hermogenes, and handed to me personally by Protopriest George Tsap, 5/18 November 2008.
Unfortunately, experience over the past few years has shown that it is impossible to overcome long distances, monetary expenses and arduous and frequent travels for Synodal meetings, while to administer through letters with other hierarchs is also untenable – to maintain ongoing correspondence concerning various deliberations is practically impossible.
Because of this, over the past period there has arisen much misunderstanding and problems; and the problem here is not only caused by the absence of some correspondence – over the past three years, I haven’t received not one copy of the protocols passed by any of the Synodal sessions. This in itself indicates the future steps our Church Abroad is forced to take – especially after the announcement that the RTOC Synod will no longer publish the protocols of their sessions!? – so that you won’t be able to find them on the Internet!
According to my understanding, Archbishop Tikhon is not the First Hierarch of RTOC, but is the President of the RTOC Synod.
From this date of this Declaration, in accordance with the 2008 Affirmation of the RTOC’s Bishops; our North American Diocese has devolved into an autonomous state. Naturally, I am withdrawing my membership of ROCA’s Synod – and as a logical consequence, the President of RTOC’s Synod, Archbishop Tikhon will no longer be commemorated in our churches as a ruling hierarch during Church Services.
However, this certainly doesn’t mean that we are severing our communion with RTOC. Henceforth, we will be commemorating RTOC – our Sister-Church – as “Orthodox Episcopacy of the Persecuted/True Russian Church”.
In this Declaration, I have avoided in every possible manner to inflict offence to anyone. It’s quite possible that some may wish not to remain under my omophorion. Let that person act according to the Church Canons: to request a “Letter of Release” (15th Rule of the Holy Apostles and 17th Rule of the Sixth Ecumenical Council).
I would have nothing against granting the wish of such a person. Likewise: if a person wishes to come under my omophorion, I hope that the Bishop of RTOC will also grant the wish of that person – but naturally, it is the Bishop’s decision.
If there are those who question my motives; those who may attribute this autonomy to my desire to become the embodiment of Christ’s True Church: I would gladly take a back seat to an honest, knowledgeable and dependable hierarch. I am getting old and tired. But since circumstances are such that there are no others with whom to form a Synod Abroad at the present time, I resolve this autonomy to be in line with the statute of the Bishop’s Council of the Russian Church Abroad at their conference in Sremskih Karlovtsah, Yugoslavia (Сремских Карловцах) on August 31, 1934:
“Should unforeseen circumstances arise because of which the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad will be cut off from communications, or will be forced to cease its activities, every hierarch is to govern his faithful via his archpastoral conscience and knowledge until such a time that a Council of Bishops, or Synod, can be convened without outside disruptions and interference. This directive is an internal edict, not for public disclosure.
This Decision was signed by Metropolitan Anthony
My desire is that we surmount all unpleasantness and raise our prayers to our Lord God in peace and love.
With love in Christ
† Bishop Stefan, of Trenton and North America
November 11/24, 2015