Monday, March 05, 2007

Tension Grows Between Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal and Bishop Sebastian of Chelyabinsk

(Suzdal Diocesian Herald — Vertograd, Suzdal — Moscow)

The gathering of bishops of Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) headed by Metropolitan Valentine of Suzdal and Vladimir took an unusual decision against Bishop Sebastian of Chelyabinsk: "To deprive him from Holy Communion in the churches of his Diocese and other churches of ROAC for one year". This decision was not reported to anybody in ROAC for three weeks, it was published in Suzdal Diocesian Herald only on February 17, saying that the decision was taken on January 28.

The main reason of the punishment is that in November 2007 Bishop Sebastian concelebrated with Hegumen Gregory (Lourie) who was "defrocked" by Metropolitan Valentine without any trial or any court a year before.

The priests of Chelyabinsk Diocese of ROAC did not support the "punishment" and they count Bishop Sebastian as their ruling bishop, so soon the whole diocese of ROAC may be "punished". A number of other priests of ROAC support Bishop Sebastian as well.

The gathering of the bishops that took the strange decision included four more bishops that mostly live in Suzdal with Metropolitan Valentine: Archbishop Theodore of Borisovskoe and Otradnoe, Archbishop Seraphim of Sukhumi and Abhazia, Bishop Irinarch of Tula and Briansk and retired Bishop Ambrose (who was forced to leave his diocese because of his severe problems with alcohol addiction). The gathering called themselves a "Synod", but this group was never appointed by a church as a Synod: there was no Sobor in ROAC, so the rights and membership of a Synod were never determined. Metropolitan Valentine is the only person in ROAC who decides what bishops will participate this or that "Synod meting" to sign the decisions prepared by him. The membership of bishops differs for every meeting.

Bishop Sebastian of ROAC, Hegumen Gregory and other clergy and people are not planning to leave ROAC. "The Initiative Group of Clergy, Monks and Laypeople" have been formed in ROAC in order to instate the proper canonical order of ROAC.