ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF SAINT EDWARD THE MARTYR 
AND SAINT PARASKEVI OF ROME
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland

His Eminence Metropolitan Silouan

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland

United Kingdom

20 December 2023

Glory to the Holy, Consubstantial and Undivided Trinity, always now and ever and unto the ages of ages!

Letter of Apologetics and the Cessation of Commemoration

Your Eminence,

With great sorrow and in all humility, I, the sinner, with pain of heart, address Your Eminence and all the Reverend Fathers of our Archdiocese, that it was never in my mind to hurt and cause any upset to You, by publicly bringing into knowledge the open letter to His Beatitude Patriarch John X and the Holy Synod, dated 6 December 2023, signed by our parish of Saint Edward the Martyr and Saint Paraskevi of Rome in Liverpool[1]. On the contrary, I just expressed the cry of pain from my heart for the sake of the love of God and the zeal for the salvation of our brothers in Christ, and raised questions which came from an Orthodox conscience.

With reference to the letter of Your Eminence to the clergy of our Archdiocese, dated 16 December 2023, it was stated that: “Those who enter the Holy Orthodox Church from heretical or schismatic communions, who are nevertheless baptized in water and in the name of the Holy Trinity, are generally received by Chrismation, since it is forbidden to baptize twice.”[2] In the context of receiving those “baptised” in heresy or schism, the last clause: “since it is forbidden to baptize twice” is contrary to Apostolic Canon 47 which states: “If a bishop or presbyter baptises anew one having had a baptism according to truth or if not baptising one polluted [baptised] by the impious [heretics], let him be deposed as mocking the Cross and the Lord’s death and not discerning presbyters from pseudo-presbyters.“[3]Also according to Canon 1 of the Third Council of Carthage held during the time of Saint Cyprian (258), it is stated that: “we declare that no one can be baptised outside of the [Orthodox] Church, there being but one baptism, and this being existent only in the [Orthodox] Church.”[4] According to Apostolic Canon 47 and Canon 1 of Saint Basil[5], it is indeed forbidden to baptise twice but this only applies to those baptised by Orthodox priests, that is within the Church. Canon 1 of the Third Council of Carthage and the Canons of Saint Basil have been ratified by Canon 2 of the Council of Trullo and elevated to ecumenical authority[6].

Therefore, the claim that Chrismation of heretics is due to the fact that it is forbidden to baptise twice, is in contradiction to the doctrine of the aforementioned canons; there is no baptism outside the Church and so there is no danger of repeating baptism when baptising those “baptised” by heretics. If Your Eminence is right, then we must not “generally receiv[e] by Chrismation”, nor “receive converts by either Baptism and Chrismation, or by Chrismation only”[7], but only by Chrismation, otherwise we would be repeating baptism.

Thus, those who teach other canons or corrupt the Canons are preaching another Gospel and they are under anathema. The statement of Your Eminence is inconsistent with and in contradiction to the Canons, and within itself. This is a false teaching of the Canons and as such a heresy, although the interpretation of Your Eminence may not yet have been officially tested by the Holy Synod.

According to St. Cyprian of Carthage, “[…] to approve the baptism of heretics and schismatics, is to admit that they have truly baptised. A baptism cannot be part invalid and part valid. If someone can baptise, he can also give the Holy Spirit. But if he cannot give the Holy Spirit, because he is outside the Church and does not have the gift of the Holy Spirit, he cannot baptise those who come to him; since both baptism is One and the Holy Spirit is One, and the Church founded by Christ the Lord upon Peter, […] is also One.”[8]

By stating that “it is forbidden to baptize twice”[9], Your Eminence has shown in Your written encyclical to the clergy of our Archdiocese which publicly taught that You accept the “baptism” of the heretics, and Your Eminence also stated that this is the position of the Church of Antioch on this matter. This means the acceptance of the heretical “baptismal theory” that is based on the Toronto Statement (1950) [10], which was adopted by the so-called synod of Crete (2016) [11] and which is the basis for participation of the local Orthodox Churches in the “World Council of Churches” (WCC).[12] The public encyclical of Your Eminence has evidenced that You have preached bareheaded heresy condemned by the Holy Synods and the Holy Fathers (Canon 15 of the 1st-2nd Council of Constantinople).[13]

We would also like to inform Your Eminence that we reject and anathematise the decisions from the 1991 synodal statement of the Church of Antioch on the relations with the ‘Syriac Orthodox Church’ in the time of Patriarch Ignatius IV (12 Nov 1991)[14], which are in contradiction to the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Ecumenical Synods and allow inter-communion and concelebration with the ‘Syriac Orthodox’ who still continue to follow the heresy of Severus and Dioscorus, and they reject the 4th Ecumenical Synod of Chalcedon. We will never commune any Monophysites in our parish.


Based on Canon 3 of the Third Ecumenical Council which states: “not to obey in any way whatever the bishops who have apostatised, or those who remove themselves, or think differently from the Synod” [15], my humbleness will not accept any ecclesiastical punishment from Your Eminence and any forcing of my free will and of my Orthodox conscience, which places a stumbling block to the Gospel of Christ. A bishop at his elevation promises to uphold the teachings of the Church as received from the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers, and he is not above the Holy Gospel and the teachings of the Holy Fathers. By not keeping this promise, Your Eminence has placed Yourself outside the Orthodox Church.

Therefore, based on the dogmatic matters mentioned above, our parish of Saint Edward the Martyr and Saint Paraskevi of Rome in Liverpool has voted on the following decision together with my humbleness as the shepherd of the parish: 

With great pain of heart and love in Christ, we inform Your Eminence that we are forced by our Orthodox conscience to cease Your commemoration at all the holy services of the Church, until the moment when Your Eminence publicly and officially anathematise the heretical “baptismal theory”, the pan-heresy of ecumenism, the participation in the ‘World Council of Churches’ (WCC), and the agreements with the Anti-Chalcedonians[16] [the so-called Chambesy agreements (1989, 1990 and 1993)[17], and 1991 synodal statement of the Church of Antioch on the relations with the ‘Syriac Orthodox Church’ [18], that decided to allow inter-communion and concelebration with heretics that have been condemned by the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Ecumenical Councils]. 

This decision is based on the Holy Gospel and the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church. Not only the Holy Synod of Antioch that made the 1991 synodal statement, “but even if an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be anathema! As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be anathema!”[19]

The Holy Apostle Paul also said to Saint Titus: “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” [20]

The Holy Apostle and Evangelist John, the Apostle of Love said: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither greet him; for he that greets him is partaker of his evil deeds.”[21]

The Holy Apostle Peter said: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them.”[22] We observe that the Fathers of the 1st-2nd Council of Constantinople at the time of Saint Photius the Great have used the term “false teachers” for those bishops who accept heresy.

Our decision is in accordance with Chapter 19 of Book 2 of the Apostolic Constitutions [23] and with Saint Ignatius Theophorus, who taught to “depart from any shepherd who has changed the faith, even if he seems to be an ascetic or miracle worker” [24], and also is in accordance with Saint Basil the Great, Saint Athanasius the Great, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Gregory the Theologian, Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Saint Maximus the Confessor [25], Saint Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, Saint Theodore the Studite, Saint Photius the Great, the Athonite Fathers in the time of Patriarch John Vekkos, Saint Gregory Palamas, Saint Joseph Vryennios and Saint Mark Eugenikos.[26]

Saint Mark Eugenikos synthesised the teaching of the Holy Fathers as follows: “All teachers of the Church, all the Synods and all the divine writings advise to flee from those who have another mindset and distance ourselves from communion with them.”[27]

The Apostolic Canon 31 states with precision that: “If any presbyter, condemning his own bishop, draw people aside, and set up another altar, without finding anything wrong with the bishop in point of piety [Orthodoxy] and righteousness, let him be deposed, on the ground that he is an officeseeker […]”[28] We have grounds for the cessation of commemoration due to heresy because those who separate themselves from their bishop before a synodal decision due to the bishop publicly preaching heresy or implicitly supporting heresy as taught by his synod, are not under the condemnation of the aforementioned canon, but should instead be counted worthy and honoured as the Orthodox, according to Canon 15 of the 1st-2nd Council of Constantinople.[29]

Canon 15 of the 1st-2nd Council of Constantinople states that: “[…] for those persons, on the other hand, who, on account of some heresy condemned by holy Councils, or Fathers, withdrawing themselves from communion with their president, who, that is to say, is preaching the heresy publicly, and teaching it barehead in church, such persons not only are not subject to any canonical penalty on account of their having walled themselves off from any and all communion with the one called a Bishop before any conciliar or synodal verdict has been rendered, but, on the contrary, they shall be deemed worthy to enjoy the honour which befits them among Orthodox Christians. For they have defied, not Bishops, but pseudo-bishops and pseudo-teachers; and they have not sundered the union of the Church with any schism, but, on the contrary, have been sedulous to rescue the Church from schisms and divisions.”[30]

As Your Eminence has not anathematised all the heresies that we have anathematised, as referred to in our previous letter dated 12 December 2023, [31] and imposed the heretical “baptismal theory” in Your encyclical dated 16 December 2023, [32] we fence ourselves from You but not from the Church of Antioch. The words of Saint Paul of Emesa that “those who do not say and do not think and do not recognise these [anathemas], let them be anathema from the Church!” [33], can deeply shake any Orthodox conscience.

Considering that the cessation of commemoration of the bishop is allowed only for dogmatic reasons, this is implemented by our parish exclusively for dogmatic reasons. Our intention is not to cause schism but to remain faithful to the Orthodox Church of Antioch. We will not commemorate any other bishop instead of Your Eminence, and we remain as a parish in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland. For this reason, we await with sorrow and prayer for the moment when Your Eminence and the Holy Synod will publicly and officially reject and anathematise the heresies that are the cause of this cessation of commemoration, which will then allow us to resume the commemoration of Your name at all the holy services of the Church.

We cannot be accused of schism or that we have departed from the Church because of the cessation of commemoration of our own bishop. On the contrary, we reaffirm that we remain faithful to the Church of Antioch, faithful to the Holy Gospel, faithful to the Holy Fathers and the Holy Canons. Therefore, any ecclesiastical action against my humbleness and the parish following our Confession of Faith is not canonical, has no effect and cannot be recognised in the Church. My humbleness will continue to serve the Holy Liturgy and perform priestly ministry, in accordance with Canon 3 of the Third Ecumenical Council.[34] This is because those like us who have fenced themselves from heresy are Orthodox and should be honoured for protecting the Church from schism. [35]

Remaining faithful to the Church of Antioch,

With all my love in Christ,

Protopresbyter Matthew (Ion-Valentin) Vulcanescu

Parish of Saint Edward the Martyr and Saint Paraskevi of Rome

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland

The letter continues with the signatures of the parish members, with endnotes and with bibliography.

Endnotes

[1]  Vulcanescu, Open Letter to Patriarch John X and the Holy Synod of the Church of Antioch

[2]  Metropolitan of the Orthodox Christian British Isles and Ireland, Letter to Clergy December 2023

[3]  Canon 47 of the Apostolic Canons: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, pp. 89-75

[4] Canon 1 of the Third Council of Carthage during the time of Saint Cyprian: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, pp. 485-488 op. cit.

[5] Canon 1 of Saint Basil: Orthodox Ethos, On the Reception of the Heterodox into the Orthodox Church, pp. 83-90.

[6] Canon of the Third Council of Carthage and Canon 1 of St. Basil: Orthodox Ethos, On the Reception of the Heterodox into the Orthodox Church, pp. 80-81 & 83-90; Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, pp. 485-488 and 773-789 op. cit.; Ramsey, The Church: Deifying Relations, footnote 295, p. 73.

[7] “It is the custom of the Patriarchate of Antioch (in common with other patriarchates) to receive converts by either Baptism and Chrismation, or by Chrismation only, on a case-by-case basis.”: Metropolitan of the Orthodox Christian British Isles and Ireland, Letter to Clergy December 2023. op. cit.

[8] Edited reference of Saint Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 69.3: ANF Vol. 5, p. 895. Also, according to Saint Cyprian of Carthage: “For in saying to the one being baptised, ‘Believest thou in an everlasting life, and that thou shall receive a remission of sins?’, we are saying nothing else than that it can be given in the [Orthodox] Church, but that among heretics where there is no Church it is impossible to receive a remission of sins.”: Saint Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 69.2: ANF Vol. 5, p. 894.

[9] Metropolitan of the Orthodox Christian British Isles and Ireland, Letter to Clergy December 2023. op. cit.

[10] Section 4.3: World Council of Churches, Toronto Statement.

[11] Para. 19: “It is their deep conviction that the ecclesiological presuppositions of the 1950 Toronto Statement… are of paramount importance for Orthodox participation in the Council.”: Holy and Great Council, ‘Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World’; World Council of Churches, Toronto Statement

[12] Vulcanescu, Historical Approach To The Context Of The Dialogue With The Non-Orthodox: The Toronto Statement.

[13] Canon 15 of the 1st-2nd Council of Constantinople: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, p. 471. op. cit.

[14] Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Statement of the Orthodox Church of Antioch on the Relations between the Eastern and Syrian ‘Orthodox’ Churches.

[15] Canon 3 of the Third Ecumenical Council: “And if any of the clerics in any city or village were stopped from the priesthood by Nestorius and those with him because they thought rightly, we have entitled them to be restored to their own rank. And in general, we decree that those clerics who think alike with the Orthodox and the Ecumenical Synod are not to obey in any way whatever the bishops who have apostatised, or those who remove themselves (ἀποστατήσασιν ἤ ἀφισταμένοις Ἐπισκοποις), or think differently from the Synod.”; see also: Canon 3 of the Third Ecumenical Council: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, p. 228. op. cit.

[16] The ‘Anti-Chalcedonian’ Miaphysites/Monophysites are: the Syriac-Jacobites, Malankara-Indians, Armenians, Copts, Tewahedo-Ethiopians and Tewahedo-Eritreans. 

[17] Joint Commission, First Agreed Statement; Joint Commission, Second Agreed Statement; Joint Commission, Recommendations On Pastoral Issues; Joint Commission, Communique: Proposals for Lifting Anathemas (1993).

[18] Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Statement of the Orthodox Church of Antioch on the Relations between the Eastern and Syrian ‘Orthodox’ Churches. op. cit.

[19] Galatians 1:8-9

[20] Titus 3:10-11

[21] 2 John 10-11

[22] 2 Peter 2:1

[23] Chapter 19, Book 2 of the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles: ANF. Vol. 7, p. 902.

[24] Saint Ignatius of Antioch: The Epistle of Ignatius to Hero, a Deacon of Antioch, ch. 2, “Every one that teaches anything beyond what is commanded, though he be [deemed] worthy of credit, though he be in the habit of fasting, though he live in continence, though he work miracles, though he have the gift of prophecy, let him be in thy sight as a wolf in sheep’s clothing…”, ANF Vol. 1, p. 308.

[25] Saint Maximus the Confessor: “Let it be remembered that if a hierarch excommunicates against the purpose of God, he is not following the decisions of the Holy Canons, because he (the hierarch) is obliged to carry it out in accordance to the divine judgement, and not according to his will.”

[26] Saint Basil the Great: Letter CCXLII, NPNF Vol. 8, pp. 781-782 and Letter CCXLIII, NPNF Vol. 8, pp. 783-785; Saint Athanasius the Great: PG 35.33; Saint John Chrysostom: PG 63:231, PG 55:461; Saint Gregory the Theologian: PG 36:460A-B; Saint Cyril of Alexandria: PG 77:108A, PG 77:124A, PG 77:81B-C, PG 77:128A, PG 77,137A; Saint Maximus the Confessor: Saint Maximus the Confessor, The Life of Our Holy Father St. Maximus the Confessor; Saint Sophronius Patriarch of Jerusalem: PG 87.C:3369D; Saint Theodore the Studite: PG 99:1021, PG 99:1069, PG 99:1088A, PG 99:1417C,D; Saint Photius the Great: PG 102:839; Saint Gregory Palamas: PG 150:863D, PG 150,880D; Saint Joseph Vryennios: Tomadaki, Sacred Codices of the Works of Joseph Bryennios, Vol. 2; Saint Mark Eugenikos: Petit, Confession of faith displayed in Florence, Documents relatifs au Concile de Florence, II, Oeuvres anticonciliaires de Marc d’Ephèse, Patrologia Orientalis 17, p. 442. (in French and Greek)

[27] Saint Mark Eugenikos: ibidem.

[28] Canon 31 of the Apostolic Canons: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, p. 46.

[29] Refer to: Canon 31 of the Apostolic Canons, Interpretation: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, p. 46-47.

[30] Canon 15 of the 1st-2nd Council of Constantinople: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, p. 471. op. cit.

[31] Vulcanescu, Open Letter to Metropolitan Silouan of the British Isles and Ireland. Refer to: Canon 1 of the Seventh Ecumenical Council: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, pp. 428-429.

[32] Metropolitan of the Orthodox Christian British Isles and Ireland, Letter to Clergy December 2023. op. cit.

[33] Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Theological Meetings, Ecclesiastical interventions. (in Greek)

[34] Refer to: Canon 3 of the Third Ecumenical Council: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, p. 228. op. cit.

[35] Canon 15 of the 1st-2nd Council of Constantinople: Agapios and Nicodemus, The Rudder, p. 471. op. cit.

Bibliography

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