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Determination Regarding Bishop Stefan, Formerly of Trenton and North America

For perpetrating a schism, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian True Orthodox Church had decided to retire Bishop Stefan (Sabelnik) without the right to serve. However, instead of repenting, he exacerbated his condition by another uncanonical act. He participated in the performance of a hierarchical consecration with a group of bishops, which split from the synod of Met. Agafangel (Pashkovsky). In this manner, Bishop Stefan added to the continuing destruction of the canonical foundation and the apostolic succession of this group.

By this last act, Bishop Stefan renounced the determination of the Synod of the Russian True Orthodox Church, in which he participated, regarding the departure of this group of bishops from the Church due to their ordination by Bishop Agafangel (Pashkovsky) along with the participation of the bishops of the Synod of Cyprian of Oropos. As it is known, the synod of Met. Cyprian professes the heretical doctrine known as "Cyprianism," by proclaiming the unity of the ecumenical "World Orthodoxy" with the Church of Christ. "Cyprianism" was twice anathematized by the Greek True Orthodox Church – first under the leadership of Archbishop Auxentios and later by Archbishop Chrysostom.

In this manner, through eucharistic communion with bishops who consider "Cyprianism" to be an "acceptable opinion," and who have their ordinations from the bishops of the Synod of Cyprian of Oropós, Bishop Stefan fell under his own public condemnation of this heretical teaching. This is confirmed by his transgressions, both canonically and in terms of his confession of Faith. Specifically, Bishop Stefan acts upon his own condemnation through his reception (under his omophorion) of a group of Omsk clergy which fell into schism from the RTOC. The primary positions of this schismatic group of Omsk clergy was to affirm the presence of saving Grace in the sacraments of the heretical Moscow Patriarchate, and to accuse the Synod of Bishops of the RTOC of wrongfully condemning "Cyprianism" as a heresy.

Ignoring the prohibition imposed on him to not serve without repenting, Bishop Stefan continues to perform divine services and publish his heretical beliefs on his personal website. His heresy was voiced, in particular, in a public sermon given on the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy in 2017. Given this, according to the 15th canon of the First & Second Council, he has made it possible for clergy and faithful to leave him as from a bishop who, publicly from the cathedra, preached heresy.

In order to justify his crime (creating a schism with the Synod of the RTOC), Bishop Stefan attempted to make it appear as a matter concerning the Synod's confession of Faith. Bishop Stefan has accused the first Holy Sobor of the RTOC of adpopting an un-Orthodox document regarding the ecclesiological foundations and confession of Faith of the Russian True Orthodox Church. The Sobor's document states: "... we confess the testimony of the Church Tradition that the Grace of the Holy Spirit operates for salvation only in the True Church of Christ, to which schismatics and heretics do not belong" and "However, we do not exhault in God's judgments, and do not declare boldly that the Lord can not turn to repentance and save a sincere Christian soul who is in the official church, yet we do insist that salvation is possible only by entering the Church of Christ."

In 2008, Bishop Stefan confirmed his agreement with the Sobor's confesion of Faith in writing. Now, he rejects this position. By resorting to purely sophistic methods of human thought, which has no basis in the God-revealed doctrine of the Church regarding the salvation of mankind in Christ, during his homily (a function for which he was appointed as a bishop of the Church of Christ), Bishop Stefan dared to teach from the amvon regarding the possibility of salvation outside the Church of Christ. He did so on the basis of God's omnipotence, and also insisted on the presence of the God's Grace in heretical church communities through God's divine omnipresence. Citing the words of the Scripture that "the Holy Spirit breathes wherever the spirit wishes," Bishop Stefan began to affirm the possibility of saving man in personal communion with God without the mediation of the Church by the Holy Spirit. Such blasphemous "philosophy" is already condemned by the Orthodox Church as the heresy of Protestantism.

However, the statement of Bishop Stefan in his heresy goes even further: there is not even a hint that "those who are saved" must be partakers in that which our Lord Jesus Christ had perfected, the Redemption and Salvation of the human race through His Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. A similar heretical teaching was also proclaimed, as is known, at the Second Vatican Council, where the possibility of salvation, for the sake of the Jews, was declared in all religions.

Bishop Stefan defines the presence of Grace among heretics simply: "We have no right to reject the presence of Grace anywhere. The action of the Holy Spirit is not subject to our determination ... It is also said: "By the Holy Spirit every soul is quickened," and so on. We can not reject the presence of Grace with heretics ... ".

Who are "we" is easy to determine. It is regarding such that the ROCOR's 1983 Anathem against Ecumenism speaks. Bishop Stefan is definitely familiar with this document:

“Those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ's Church is divided into so-called "branches" which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all "branches" or sects or denominations, and even religions will be united into one body; and who do not distinguish the priesthood and mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics, but say that the baptism and eucharist of heretics is effectual for salvation; therefore, to those who knowingly have communion with these aforementioned heretics or who advocate, disseminate, or defend their new heresy of Ecumenism under the pretext of brotherly love or the supposed unification of separated Christians, Anathema!”

The Bishops of RTOC are extremely surprised by all the actions of Bishop Stefan and his unexpected heretical broadcasts. It can only be explained as having been developed on the basis of the passions of self-love and the aspirations of many years toward isolation through spiritual disorder. In the case that Bishop Stefan continues unrepentantly with his entirely inadequate actions as an Orthodox bishop, the Synod of Bishops of the RTOC will be forced to make a decision regarding depriving him of his priestly rank (i.e., to defrock).

 
Church Life. Periodicals of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian True Orthodox Church.
For quoting a link on "Church Life" is obligatory.