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ROCOR Rewrites History to Convert Anglicans

ROCOR Rewrites History to Convert Anglicans

By Simon Dennerly
March 28, 2019

An investigation into the practices of recruitment of Anglican clergy by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia's (ROCOR) Western Rite Vicariate (WRV) has uncovered findings that might be a surprise to their own bishops.

"Western Rite Orthodoxy" refers to a project to convert Western Christians, by several different Eastern Orthodox churches, through offering them a "Western Liturgy" to use in worship, while adhering to Eastern Doctrines. Western Orthodoxy has seen rapid growth in recent years, fuelled mainly by Anglican converts, although its history and status is controversial, with a number of Orthodox faithful believing
Western Riters are not true Orthodox.

In 2013 an extraordinary session of the Synod of ROCOR removed the heads of their WRV, and passed a decree that Western Rite communities should be assimilated into their mainstream Eastern Liturgical practices. Although this decision has never been officially reversed, ROCOR's WRV under the leadership of it's latest Vicar General, former Anglican clergyman Archpriest Mark Rowe, continues to expand- while employing some very unorthodox methods.

Rewriting History

Alongside the steady "Orthodox Diaspora" to Western countries, especially those in the Anglosphere where there are increasing numbers of converts to Orthodoxy, a new cult of belief has emerged to legitimise Anglicans entering the Eastern Churches. It is claimed that England remained in union with the East after the Great Schism in 1054, and did so until the Norman Conquests which brought it back under Rome-usually expressed in the phrase "England was Orthodox before 1066!".

What proponents of the position fail to address is why in the 12 year gap between 1054 and 1066 that no Eastern Orthodox sources at the time either record such a notable satellite as the English Church remaining in union with them, or the lack of lamentation of the loss of England to Orthodoxy via Papal conquest. They also fail to address the absence of Western Catholic records that such a notable part of the Western Church was not in communion for over a decade.

A surprising number of Anglican converts cite 'Orthodox England' in their conversion stories while they were exploring the Orthodox faith - believing they have come home to the Church of their ancestors, despite having to adhere to the Eastern school of Christian doctrine. What betrays this position as a modern belief is the lack of a body of work extolling this position. There is no historic paper trail, nor academic work in regard to this claim of Church History.

Nowhere is this lack of a body of work seen more than when ROCOR's WRV is asked for evidence of their claims England was Orthodox before 1066. Enquiries about this claim to ROCOR's WRV Vicar-General Archpriest Mark Rowe-and his recent former assistant Vicar-General, only unearths one book "THE FALL OF ORTHODOX ENGLAND: The Spiritual Roots of the Norman Conquest, 1043-1087" by Dr
Vladimir Moss. The authour, born Anthony Moss, is an English convert to Orthodoxy and whose PhD is in Psychology. Moss used to be a member of ROCOR, but left to join Orthodoxy's schismatic Old Calendarist movement. Moss is renowned for writing alternative church histories, including his work THE LESSONS OF ROCOR'S FALL which contains the following introduction:

"There is no more tragic or traumatic event in recent Church history than the fall of the Russian Church Abroad (ROCOR) into the hands of the apostate Moscow Patriarchate (MP) in May, 2007. Apart from the horror of the loss of so many souls into the graceless pit of World Orthodoxy, the draining and debilitating effect of the fall on those Churches that continued to remain faithful was immediately felt and continues to be felt to this day. But more surprising -- and still more alarming -- is the lack of analysis of why this spiritual catastrophe took place."

In Moss's book he praises and promotes Old Calandarist churches not in union with mainstream Orthodoxy, as well as attacking Anglicanism and accusing the Catholic Church of genocide against Orthodox Christians.

Various ROCOR WRV media have mentioned this position, one example being the website for Holy Cross Orthodox Church Omaha, Nebraska: "Even after the Great Schism of AD 1054, England remained Orthodox until the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Norman Invasion was seen as a crusade to restore
the English Church to Rome."

A source in ROCOR's WRV has alleged although there are Western Rite liturgies based on the Anglican patrimony and the Sarum Use- Archpriest Mark Rowe has a preference for new foundations to use the form of the Roman Georgian liturgy celebrated in England pre-Great Schism, which has been translated into English. This preference would be in line with the "Orthodox England" position.

A number of ROCOR's bishops that were contacted stating an unnamed ROCOR priest was recommending the works of Vladimir Moss- A quarter of the Hierarchy replied condemning this action, with one stating "Yes, that is a mistake on the part of the priest. We definitely should not distribute anything that Vladimir Moss has written.", and another "Vladimir Moss has not been with ROCOR for many years now. He is in schism, so I wouldn't be accepting any materials from him to read...".
It is unknown whether ROCOR's bishops support the position that England was Orthodox before 1066 and the Catholic Church waged a war against Orthodox Christians to win it back, and that the Church of England is ignorant of its own history. If they do hold this position, what this means for the Ecumenical relations between the three communions is unclear.

Not the Only Ones

Yet ROCOR's WRV is not the only one promoting the book and this claim. A search online finds a number of Orthodox priests from a number of canonical Orthodox churches promoting it. The website Orthodox Wiki, which claims to be within the bounds of canonical Orthodoxy, under the page "Timeline of Orthodoxy in the British Isles" lists 1066 as the beginning of the "Roman Catholic Period", citing a link to
Moss's book in the reference section.

The head of the Antiochian Orthodox Church's WRV, the Very Rev Edward Hughes, was contacted asking for information regarding the claim England was Orthodox before 1066. He replied "The only scholar I am aware of that makes this a claim Vladimir Moss. Fortunately, one of his books about this subject is available online.". He then provided a link to the book.

Although different churches have different versions of historic events, the question is raised about ethics in Evangelisation. Is it moral to use such novel and unhistorical narratives to promote your church? When accusing one side of a war of aggression and genocide, should you not have the evidence to back it up? These questions are not rhetorical.

During the jurisdictional dispute concerning the Ukraine, over which the two great Orthodox Sees broke communion, Moscow accused Constantinople of rewriting Church History to further their agenda and indicating that was a very bad thing to do. Perhaps Moscow should have a word with the Bishops of ROCOR about the grave matter of bearing False Witness.

Simon Dennerly is a freelance writer, researcher, and ministry consultant, based in Australia.

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