Conciliarity in Orthodoxy and the Independence of the Ukrainian Church:
The Importance of Sobornopravnist in Church Government


Rev. Dr. Gary Widmer

Edited with preface and comments by
Archbishop Michael J. Champion, DD., MA Th.


Contents of Article:


Part I. Conciliar Principles in Orthodox Ecclesiology

a. Introduction

b. Conciliarism in the Early Church

c. The Definition and Function of Ecumenical Councils


Part II. The Apostolic Ukrainian Church, Conciliarism/Sobornopravnist and Church Government

a. The Apostolic Origin of the Ukrainian Church

b. The Distinct Characteristics of the Ukrainian Church

c. Separate and National Identity

d. Canonical Independence


III. Comment on Today's Situation

This section represents a cooperative effort by the Rev. Gary Widmer and Archbishop Michael J. Champion, DD., MA Th.



During these chaotic times in our Ukrainian Orthodox Church it is more important than ever, that our faithful, laity and clergy alike be thoroughly familiar with both the historical and theological background upon which the Ukrainian Church was founded and has operated over the past millennium, especially in the last century, which witnessed the heroic "re-birth" of our church after a long period of domination from the "outside." The principles of theology which our ancestors in the faith used as an inspiration to them in those exciting times of the re-emergence of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church from the dark ages of subjugation to the Patriarch of Moscow and his representatives are as valid today as they were nearly one hundred years ago. They speak with an even more urgent voice, to those who wish to take their faith seriously and honestly and to defend it, rather than follow the "status quo" voiced through the ignorance of so many in Orthodoxy, who chose to be influenced by meaningless and out-sung apologetics and irrelevant repetitions of a theology which represents more the imperialistic and autocratic models of the church. Such ideas come to us from an age in which the community of believers and their hierarchy were indeed an instrument of the state and of monarchs who saw in it, the opportunity to control the masses of their subjects through the cooperation of church leaders of their day. A similar episode of this was witnessed during the decades of communist domination of Ukraine as well.

Those who wish to perpetuate this anachronistic model, possess neither a real understanding of the principles of ecclesiology or a fair judgment of the "signs of the times" which continue to inspire Ukrainian and other Orthodox who have the courage to stand up for the truth and bring about a lasting change in the life of the church. Contrary to the sentiments of far too many ill-informed people who use the Orthodox Church to escape from having to deal with issues effecting their own personal faith and lack of self confidence, the church is not a vacuum in which one can hide from everyday life and in which there can be no change or development of a personal relationship with God or communal interaction with other believers. On the contrary, while holding fast to those articles of faith which form the nucleus of our life in Christ, the church is called to continually respond to the working of the Holy Spirit, the great Comforter and Treasury of Blessings, who is always calling the community of the faithful to new levels of commitment, where God wishes to inspire his people to live anew the mysteries of their salvation.

Just as it was one hundred, fifty and even ten years ago, our church and people must deal with the attacks waged on them from those adhering to the stagnant and self-serving philosophies described above. Therefore, as I began this preface, we must all be ready to defend our faith in the face of adversity and to do this, we must continually learn more, read materials which remind us of the facts, not just speculation or restating of issues, and develop anew in our own hearts and minds, a great love for and dedication to the way of our church.

To help all of you to continue to develop a strong and solid foundation of faith and knowledge, with the encouragement and upon the recommendation of our Primate, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Stephan, I asked one of our very capable and scholarly priests, the Rev. Dr. Gary Widmer of Dallas, Texas, to prepare an article which outlines the principles upon which our Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church is grounded, in order that our faithful could have a deeper appreciation of and familiarity with both the theological and historical perspectives which affect the Ukrainian Church. A professor of Patristic theology in our seminary program, Fr. Widmer possesses a deep understanding of and love for the writings of the Fathers of the Church, upon which the bulk of Orthodox theology has developed. The purpose of the following essay is to demonstrate how the theology of "sobornopravnist" or "conciliarism" is firmly rooted in the doctrines expressed by the Church Fathers and how it is most applicable to an ecclesiology for today, as lived and professed by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. May this article speak to each of us of beauty of the Orthodox understanding of the church and renew our love and appreciation for the great treasure that our ancestors suffered to preserve and have lovingly passed on to us. I wish to thank personally, Father Widmer and his Pani Matka, Mary, for their time and devotion to our Metropolia and for their love of God and his church.

The seed of the faith is planted and sustained by the blood of the martyrs, and indeed, those founding fathers of our Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church had to endure much suffering, even to the sacrifice of their own lives, in order to guarantee a bright future for us, their posterity. We owe it to them, to ourselves and those who will come after us, to continue to fight the good fight, ensuring that there is a future for our Ukrainian Church in which the freedoms of today's world will commingle with the dedication of our faithful, to build a strong church for generations to come.

September 8/21, 2001
The Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God, Protectress of the Ukrainian People.

Archbishop of Cleveland
Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in the USA



I. Conciliar Principles in Orthodox Ecclesiology

a. Introduction

Orthodoxy is based on conciliar principles. Anything of a subordination nature is totally foreign, indeed, completely repugnant, to it. Orthodoxy doesn’t have a pope, a neo-pope, doesn’t recognize a magisterium. Power doesn’t run from the top down in a dictatorial or autocratic mode. There is a hierarchal structure, but it is a framework designed in Christ’s love. All the Christian faithful — hierarchy, clergy, and laity alike — are subject to the revealed truth of the church. None of these is a law unto itself.

The Orthodox Church recognizes:

"neither a pope as its visible head, nor arbitrary personal opinions as authoritative (emphasis supplied) dogmas, but only the Bible and the science which interprets it, and to both these it ascribes absolute validity and authority. It is neither a single human being, nor a multitude of human beings taken together collectively; neither is it any centralization or decentralization; but on the contrary, it is the truth alone that recommends unity, . . . The criterion of saving knowledge is the definitions and dogmas of the seven Ecumenical Councils; accordingly, if anyone keeps in line with this view, he is also within the truth" [see Cummings, D., The Rudder* (Pedalion) of the Holy Orthodox Christians or All the Sacred and Divine Canons, Chicago, The Orthodox Educational Society, 1957 , p. xxxiv].

The fact that the majority of so-called orthodox concur in and practice untruths does not make them Orthodox. In St. Athanasius’ time, only Athanasius the Great and a relatively few others were steadfast against the Arian heresy, but the few were spiritually correct. The majority were false, being drawn in by satanic forces:

If we consider the epoch of the Arians, during which only Athanasius the Great and a few others remained uncontaminated by the Arian cacodoxy, whereas most of the church leaders of that time concurred in the Arian tenet, and if, with these facts in mind, we seek infallibility in accordance with the foregoing false assumption that infallibility resides in the majority of the church, we shall have to adopt the view that it resided among those who were adherents of Arius and who were in the majority, and not, of course, among those who were adherents of Athanasius the Great and who were altogether in the minority. [id., p. xvii.]


b. Conciliarism in the Early Church

Conciliarity is the key to unlocking the wisdom of the New Testament Church and Orthodoxy. The church functions through the exercise of conciliarity and consensus, while seeking, receiving guidance from, and accepting the grace of, the Holy Spirit. Conciliarity was very much in evidence when the Apostolic Council was held in Jerusalem with James the Just presiding, the issue being whether the Gentiles needed to be circumcised after the Law of Moses; otherwise, they could not be saved. After the spiritual ’evidence’ had been presented and considered, James delivered the Apostles’ decision [Acts. 15: 13-21]. Although the decision was rendered by James, it was a collective, conciliar decision.

This emphasis on conciliarity and consensus is carried forward throughout Orthodoxy. No finer or clearer statement can be found than the following from The Rudder:

“Since it is a fact that the dogmas of the faith are not created in the Councils, but are formulated from correlation and logical arrangement and assembly of the divine truths contained in the Holy Scriptures, leading to a consensus of faith and uniform confession as a result of the conciliar definition, it is logically evident therefore that the Ecumenical Councils are to be characterized as authoritative bodies charged with the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures for the purpose of putting an end to emergent dissensions and scandals in the church. Nevertheless, their authoritative interpretation is to be judged by the word of God; for over and above the voice of the Councils there is the word of the Holy Scriptures to serve as the criterion of the truth, in accordance with which are to be judged ever the definitions themselves, and the decisions of the Councils” [The Rudder, p. xix.].

The church is our spiritual home, and Christ is its spiritual Head and will never cease to be:

“I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” [Matt. 28:20].

Christ’s Orthodox Church is conciliar and defined as the:

“community (emphasis supplied) of men in faith founded upon the New Man and His rights, and ruled by the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit according to the most perfect moral Gospel law, through called and chosen instruments, consecrated to the service of the Holy Spirit” [The Rudder, p. xxix.].

A conciliar Ecumenical Council guided by the Holy Spirit is the final judge against popes and patriarchs. The Ecumenical Council is in the same logical relationship to the church as the emperor is to the state. It, not the Holy Bible, is the final judge of ecclesiastical matters as long as the Holy Spirit guides its deliberations. Its vote is not subject to appeal to any other tribunal. [The Rudder, Prolegomena of the First Holy Ecumenical Council, fn 1, p.157 and see c. VI of the 2nd Ecum. C.] Such an infallible council judges everyone without exception and is superior to a patriarch, pope or bishop, because it can depose him, e.g., Pope Honorius of Rome was condemned by the Sixth Ecumenical Council. At the Sixth Ecumenical Council, not only was the Pope of Rome condemned for heresy but so were seven patriarchs, four of Constantinople, one from Alexandria and two from Antioch, plus a host of other metropolitans, archbishops and bishops. [see Father Christopher Birchall (tr.),The Life of our Holy Father Maximus the Confessor, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, Massachusetts, 1982, p.62.]


c. The Definition and Function of Ecumenical Councils

What then is considered a “valid” council?

An Ecumenical Council is considered valid if its ‘actions’ are infallible and God-inspired:

“Hence it is to be concluded that those councils are valid and command respect in the church whose decrees, when judged by the infallible law of the Holy Scriptures and of tradition are found to be consonant and similar and to vary there from neither in the direction of an excess nor by way of a deficiency, in the least manner whatsoever. Their dogmas bear an obligatory character, and are obligatory upon all the church. Accordingly, these councils are called infallible and God-inspired”(emphasis supplied) [The Rudder, p. xvi.].

The Orthodox Church is the church of “true councils inspired by the Holy Spirit which conform to the church’s catholic consciousness” [Father Michael Pomazansky, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Fn 19, p.36.]. However, there are no new Christian truths to be revealed through time [id., pp.41-42].

In the teaching of the faith, it is the thinking of the holy Apostles that was and remains the standard of the fullness and wholeness of the Christian world view. A Christian of the twentieth century cannot develop more completely or go deeper into the truths of the faith than the Apostles. Therefore, any attempt that is made-whether by individuals or in the name of dogmatic theology itself– to reveal new Christian truths, or new aspects of the dogmas handed down to us, or a new understanding of them, is completely out of place. [id.]

Divinely-revealed truth is handed down. It is not to be tampered with by popes, patriarchs, metropolitans, archbishops, bishops, priests, or laity. Ukrainian Orthodox should bear this in mind as they contemplate their future, not only in Ukraine but throughout the worldwide Diaspora. There is not one kind of Orthodoxy for Ukrainians in the ‘old country’ and another for "foreigners" in the United States (for example). There is also no validity to the view propagated by ’slick orthodoxy’ [e.g., SCOBA and its counterparts] that to be orthodox one needs their ’recognition.’ Neither Ukrainians nor any other Orthodox are ‘required’ to be in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in order to be Orthodox. This concept is a subordination principle, an autocratic concept, completely foreign to Orthodoxy and the conciliarism of the Ecumenical Councils. It smacks of papism and is an usurpation of authority.



Part II. The Apostolic Ukrainian Church, Conciliarism/Sobornopravnist and Church Government

a. The Apostolic Origin of the Ukrainian Church

The Ukrainian Church is of Apostolic origin tracing its roots to the preaching of the First-Called St. Andrew on its soil. Exactly where and when St. Andrew finally arrived is not as important as the strong tradition and belief that he did. Metropolitan Ilarion referred to early Greek accounts proving unanimously that St. Andrew preached the Gospel “even in the far barbarian Scythia,” the first being from the father of church history, Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine. [see Metropolitan Ilarion** (prefaced & edited by Fr. Stephan Jarmus; translated by Orysia Ferbey), The Ukrainian Church, Outlines of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (In Two Volumes), Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada Millennium Central Committee, Winnipeg, MN, Canada, 1986, p.9.]. In Book III. 1., Eusebius states:

“Such then was the plight of the Jews. Meanwhile the holy apostles and disciples of our Savior were scattered over the whole world. Thomas, tradition tells us, was chosen for Parthia, Andrew for Scythia (emphasis supplied), John for Asia, where he remained till his death at Ephesus. Peter seems to have preached in Pontus, Galatia and Bithynia, Cappadocia and Asia, to the Jews of the Dispersion. Finally, he came to Rome where he was crucified, head downwards at his own request. What need be said of Paul, who from Jerusalem as far as Illyricum preached in Rome under Nero? This is exactly what Origen tells us in Volume III of his Commentary on Genesis.”

[Eusebius, The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine (tr. G.A. Williamson; revised & edited by Andrew Louth), Penguin Books Classics, 1965, revisions & new editorial matter, 1989, p.65.] Metropolitan Ilarion points to this fourth century recorded evidence as indicating that the account of Andrew’s Ukrainian ‘roots’ (preaching in Scythia) “reaches far back into the earliest of days, perhaps into the apostolic times”. [op. cit., p.9.] The monk Epiphany (end of the eighth and early ninth century) related that the apostle Andrew completed three voyages, the third one covering the eastern and northern Black Sea coasts. Epiphany stated he was writing “on the authority of the ancient church writers.” He had also personally walked the entire Black Sea coast hearing local stories about St. Andrew and “had seen churches, crosses, and images of St. Andrew.”

Metropolitan Ilarion drew several conclusions:

(1) the knowledge of Andrew’s preachings on the northern (Ukrainian) Black Sea shores had already been widespread during Epiphany’s time.

“Therefore, it is an established fact that Apostle Andrew indeed did preach the Gospel on the shores of the Black Sea, the sea, which from the times of antiquity has been called the Rus’ sea. We know, too, that from the end of the first century, Christianity was indeed known in the towns here.”

(2) Andrew preached to the Scythians possibly ascending the Dnieper as far as Kyiv particularly since his goal was to spread Christianity [It is perhaps difficult to be exact regarding how far Andrew traveled north, but this doesn’t change the essential fact that the Saint was there!].

(3) Andrew had his disciples from the northern region of Scythia, who had continued to teach and baptize many Scythians, the martyrs Inna, Ryma and Pinna — these were the first Ukrainian saints and suffered martyrdom tied to tall poles and submerged in water thus freezing to death. [id., pp. 9-11].

It is clear that the Ukrainian Church has a rich history stretching back into apostolic times, thus giving it a rightful independent claim to its own spiritual destiny. Ukrainians have a right to believe in their claim to spiritual autocephaly!


b. Ukrainian Orthodoxy: Distinct Characteristics

All Ukrainian Churches are independent and separate in administrative structure and they are local churches, national churches. Central administration, anything papal or neopapal, is totally foreign, indeed repugnant to the conciliarity of Holy Orthodoxy. Ukrainians are a proud people boasting a rich history of a separate, independent Ukrainian Church.

The following is a brief synopsis of the distinctive features of the Ukrainian Church as delineated by Metropolitan Ilarion in chapter three of his “popular account of the age-old ideology of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, its historical fate, and its characteristics as the Church of the Ukrainian nation – a national and conciliar church” [id., Foreword, p. xi.].


“The most outstanding feature of the ancient church was its conciliarism (emphasis supplied) - none of the hierarchs had absolute rule, none of the clergy came to a community uninvited, because every church office was elective. Conciliarism was nurtured by the Ukrainian Church throughout its entire independent life . . . [id., p.74].

Nowhere in the Ukrainian Church is conciliarism more evident than in church government – at all levels. The Ukrainian Church was governed by the Regional or National Sobor (council), assembled to deal with matters as the need arose. The Chronicles note National Ukrainian Sobors from “the earliest times, from 1147 (the election of a Ukrainian metropolitan, Klym (Clement), rather than a Greek). These Sobors governed the Ukrainian Church until the abolition of its independence in 1686” [id.].

Eparchial affairs were governed by the Eparchial Sobor, usually held on the first Sunday of Lent, or when especially convened [id.]. At these Sobors, the bishops and clergy became better acquainted and the bishops instructed their spiritual agents.

It is very significant that:

"In all (emphasis supplied) Sobors, national and eparchial, a large number of laymen also participated with a right to a divisive vote, as was generally the case in the Old Christian Church" [id.].

All church offices were elective from highest to lowest, the metropolitan was elected by the National Sobor, the bishop by the Sobor of Bishops with representatives of lay people, the parish church administration by the parish — the parish elected the candidate for ordination, but the bishop blessed and ordained him. All church offices were held by people of Ukrainian origin, and the election of church offices brought the church and nation closer. [id., pp. 74-75]. “The lay element in the church created a remarkable and interesting church organization — the church brotherhood, which led a broad church-cultural and educational development and staunchly defended the Ukrainian Church” [id., p.75].

Conciliarism was not just theory in the Ukrainian Church. It permeated every church organ:

“Neither the metropolitan nor the bishops governed the church with absolute power, nor alone — they were constantly associated with the Church Institution, the so-called ‘krylos,’ which was composed of a few members (‘kryloshany’), elder priests of the city and its districts. The ‘krylos,’ under the direction of the bishop, decided all eparchial affairs until the assembly of the Eparchial Sobor” [id.].


c. Separate and National Identity

The Ukrainian Church from its inception has been a separate national church:

“Many of the Ukrainian clergy and church intelligentsia purposely avoid the term ‘Ukrainian Church’ and replace it with the phrase ‘Church of the Ukrainian Nation,’ as if there is no separate Ukrainian Church and cannot be. This view is basically false [emphasis supplied], for all Orthodox Churches are national. Thus, it is my objective in this work to demonstrate that the Ukrainian Church has developed throughout its many centuries of existence, so many of its own peculiar features to mark its separate identity that it is strongly distinguishable (emphasis supplied) from all other Orthodox Churches, including the Russian Church; in other words, it is truly a Ukrainian Church, an independent church” (emphasis supplied) [id., p.70].

Some confuse Ukrainian with Russian Orthodoxy, but they are quite different ‘kettles of fish.’ Ukrainian Orthodoxy is only “dogmatically similar” to the Russian, but different in all other respects:

“The Ukrainian Church has existed for many centuries as a church independent from Russia and it established its own concept of Orthodoxy, which is based on the Holy Scriptures, old dogmas, and true church traditions” [id., p. 70].

This concept of Orthodoxy is consistent with and follows the conciliar truths of Orthodoxy as confirmed by the First Seven Ecumenical Councils and the Holy Fathers and as accepted by the true church through the ages.


d. Canonical Independence

Early Christian tradition maintains that Apostle Andrew “taught near the Rus‘ Sea, sojourned in Korsun, and from here ascended the Dnieper and arrived at a place where Kyiv soon arose. “Do you see those hills?” said the Apostle to his disciples. “On those hills will shine the grace of God, a great city will arise here, and God will build many churches” [id.].

This established the Ukrainian Church as “an Apostolic Church and the First-Called, and established its place beside the first great churches of the world” [id.]. It would seem to this humble writer that there is no need at all for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to seek “recognition” from others when the Lord Jesus Christ sent His Apostle Andrew to establish it.

Christianity spread visibly to Ukrainian cities in the eighth and ninth centuries. Initially, the first Ukrainian Church hierarchy came from the Greeks. However, Metropolitan Ilarion states that the 28th Article of the Ecumenical Council, which had given the Patriarchate of Tsargrad (Constantinople) the right to establish bishops in the new barbarian lands, including Slavic ones, was “doubtful and unclear, and did not become Ecumenical Law, because it was not accepted by all the churches of the time (emphasis supplied). It is because of this, in fact, that the Muscovite Church broke relations with the Constantinople Church in 1589 and became autocephalous, having itself chosen its own patriarch” [id., p. 71]. The cradle of Christianity in the East, Kyiv, became the “center of Ukrainian church life from the tenth century” [id.].

As time passed, canonical dependency on Constantinople lessened, “The Ukrainian Church began to live its own life, particularly from 1458, forming its own individualities” [id., p. 72]. Such dependency was in name only “Usually, Tsargrad only blessed and consecrated the individual that was sent as metropolitan to Ukraine” [id.]. After Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, this dependency was even less [id.].

A distinguishing factor from the very beginning of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was that it established “only the apostolic canonical order for itself and lived independently (emphasis supplied) from the secular power. This, in fact, is what most influenced the establishment of the separateness of the Ukrainian Church and enabled it to foster those good features by which it was distinguished and by which it shone throughout the ages of its independent (emphasis supplied) life” [id.].

Ukrainian Orthodoxy has shone brightly through the ages precisely because of its Sobornopravnist.


III. Comment on Today's Situation

Ukrainians and Ukrainian-Americans in the Diaspora, must compare the true Ukrainian conciliar sobornopravna church with the current state of affairs. There is no room in conciliar sobornopravna Ukrainian Orthodoxy for behavior such as locking out parishioners from Christ’s Church [What would He say?], assigning clergy against the will of the parish and/or without consultation or consideration, “secret ballots,” making “agreements” subjugating the Apostolic Orthodox Church of St. Andrew the First-Called to yet again another foreign power (authority), and filing lawsuits in secular courts to oust parishes from church property.

In the last century, brave and valiant leaders accomplished the re-birth of the true and independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, beginning with the revered Sobor of 1921. It was not without opposition that this was done, and for the brief periods of freedom that Ukraine enjoyed, the church too was allowed to flourish as a free institution, true to its apostolic and conciliar origins. This free church was kept alive and flourished in the Diaspora, in the United States and throughout the Americas, in Western Europe and areas to which Ukrainians migrated to escape the persecution that continually tried to destroy their church in the Ukrainian homeland.

At one time, any and all who call themselves Ukrainian Orthodox would have without question, considered this sobor, the "Sobor of 1921" to be the single, defining moment of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Sadly, today, in the circles of "canonical orthodoxy" one who has such beliefs and reverence for the 1921 Sobor faces persecution and perhaps even the much threatened "excommunication." Those who keep the traditional mentality that permeated from this Sobor are seen as rebels, self-proclaimed "autocephalists" and/or, at very least, they are seen as those who ascribe to a wrong ecclesiology (theology of the church). But nothing could be further from the truth and it is the opposite of this belief that is the historical reality. For those who still see themselves as members of an independent and self-governing, conciliar (sobornopravna) Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Sobor of 1921, which liberated the Ukrainian Church from hundreds of years of foreign domination and set Metropolitan Wasyl Lipkivskyj to lead this re-born church to renewed levels of self-actualization, is not only something to be remembered as important but it is "normative" for the entire existence of Ukrainian Orthodoxy.

Today, this free and self-governing Ukrainian Church faces a high risk of being totally oblivated, in favor of integration into the so-called "world Orthodoxy" a new and alien concept not only to Ukrainians but to all of the Christian faithful who comprise the various local Orthodox Churches. This theory rings of the centralization of church government so highly criticized in the Roman Church and to which Orthodox have continually voiced their fear and opposition, if unity between the churches ever did take place. Along the road to unity, Orthodox may well not need to accept any new "papal" doctrines or forms of government, if they are allowed to permeate Orthodoxy itself before any unity ever occurs. If a great portion of Orthodox churches follow down upon the road that they are currently walking, then a strong and heavy-handed form of "Eastern papacy" will be the result and will take over the church before most of the faithful even realize it. One of the last strongholds of true, active and living conciliar church government rests in the Ukrainian Church, but already, large portions of Ukrainian Orthodox have abandoned this historical characteristic of their church and followed along the band wagon of the Greek or Russian papacies that, (although obviously denied by their perpetrators) have grabbed hold of Ukrainian Orthodoxy in the past decades. Unfortunately, once lost, the historical and theologically true rights and freedoms of the church are most difficult to regain. What will be the result for Ukrainian Orthodox people? Will they act while there may still be time or will they, (as so often is the sad case) sit by and passively allow the minority to bring about changes that they do not agree with?

The "bottom line" lies in these simple statements and the questions they bring up:

Ukrainians have a right to their rich history of conciliar Orthodoxy, to their separate Ukrainian Church. It is fully consistent and consonant with the Orthodoxy of the Holy Fathers of the Church as confirmed by the First Seven Ecumenical Councils. The question is — will Ukrainians resist the devil, the evil one, the call of this world, and follow true conciliar (sobornopravna) Orthodoxy, the Orthodoxy of St. Athanasius the Great and all the Fathers? Will they stand up for the rights of their church and for the preservation of the true and theologically correct ways that had always been kept intact by the Ukrainian Church?

Or, will it be a capitulation to Constantinople and/or the likes of SCOBA? Will the need for power and control on behalf of some hierarchs and members of their clergy and laity that they have been able to convince and control, prevail over the correct and respected course that Ukrainian Orthodoxy had always followed until recently? Will the continued use of "scare tactics" and threats force the Ukrainian Orthodox population, either in Ukraine and/or throughout the "foreign" Diaspora to accept a manner of church government that is contrary to centuries old tradition and to the very core of the Ukrainian spirit? Will the sufferings and martyrdom of those outstanding church leaders, who, since the Sobor of 1921, stood for the apostolic rights and prerogatives of their people, in the face of vicious persecution from outside authorities, be in vain, as we watch an independent and self-governing Ukrainian Orthodox Church fade into the remote recesses of history?

[We must, of course, love these people as our neighbors as Christ commanded us to do, misguided as they are. However, their orthodoxy is not that of the Conciliar Orthodoxy of the early church. That does not change the fact that we must love them and hope they see the error of their ways and repent. Once upon a time, it happened to a man named Saul . . .].


*** The section above ("Comment on Today's Situation") is the work of a collaboration between the author of this article, Father Gary Widmer and Archbishop Michael J. Champion, who is also the editor of the work.

*The Sacred Handbook of the divine and sacred canons called The Rudder was first printed in Leipzig, Germany in 1800 A.D. and embodies the Holy Tradition of the Church, the Sacred Canons of the Apostles, the Seven Ecumenical and Local Councils, the Canons of the Holy Fathers and the commentary of the most holy Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain (Mt. Athos). It was by Agapius, a hieromonach and Nicodemus, a monk. At the instance of the Synod, it was revised and published a second time in Athens in 1841, a third edition was published in Zante in 1864, a fourth edition issued by Anthony St. Georgiou. The fifth edition was published in Athens, Greece in 1908.

**Some chapters were written in 1917-1918, first published in 1925, other chapters were written in the 1930s and 1940s. The entire work was published in two volumes in 1942.


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