Fr.Matthew Raphael Johnson's book is great and provides the "bigger picture" of what was really going on in socio-economic and political areas with regard to the Old Believer/Old Rite Movement. Yet my biggest criticism of this book, though it is great as it does have articles and interviews by Old Rite bishops Met.Andrian, Memory Eternal! and Met.Kornily, is that Fr.Matthew Raphael Johnson dismisses the need for any discussion or argumentation over the actual Ritual reforms of Nikon stating that argument over "two fingers and alleluias" is non-sensical. Talk directly to any Old Believer clergy or serious lay person and they will start with explaining why two fingers NOT three is so important. Believe me I've had more than thirty e-mail exchanges over this and other Liturgical practices altered or abolished by Nikon and later Moscow Council of 1667 and it is still as important and vital an issue as ever to Old Believers! But I personally love Fr.Matthew Raphael Johnson for the work he's done and is doing and I still would say that while Sobornosti
is not directly about Priested Old Believers, for the most part, it is a very good book for finally presenting essays and arguments from the Old Believer point of view and showing why ALL of Old Russia and the pre-modern Orthodox societies with their economic and hierarchical structure was so important and still is important and how this was fundamentally altered so tragically later by Tsar Peter I and Catherine II but beginning with the Reforms of Nikon and Tsar Alexis.
With regard to any dialogue between the Catacomb Russian Orthodox I can't say I know of any going on right now or recently other than what Bishop Daniel of Erie was engaged in as a personal mission when ROCOR was viewed by the mainstream as Non-Canonical Extremists. Within Russia itself I can't say I know of any dialogue other than what I posted from one of Vladimir Moss's books in another discussion but this instance was quite unique and took place back in the era shortly after the October Revolution.
This following selection from Vladimir Moss book New Zion in Babylon The Orthodox Church in the Twentieth Century gives an interesting look into the history of the Old Believers in the early Twentieth Century. It gives what I see as damning testimony against the Novozybkov Hierarchy who are now called the Russian Old-Orthodox Church not to be confused with the Belokrinitskaya who are called the Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church. It is interesting that Archbishop Andrew later joined the Belokrinitskaya Hierarchy while also remaining an Archbishop within the mainstream Russian Orthodox Church. In doing this research I am curious about what the Belokrinitskaya ecclesiology is? It seems very similar to that of the Old Calendarist Synod in Resistance under Met.Cyprian (Cyprianites) in that the mainstream Church is regarded as having ecclesial grace; world Orthodoxy is still regarded as being the Church.
Archbishop Andrew and the Old Ritualists
As we have seen, Archbishop Andrew was a thorn in the side both of
Metropolitan Peter and of Metropolitan Sergius. In 1922 he had made his Ufa
diocese autonomous on the basis of the Patriarch’s ukaz № 362, and by the
end of his life he had consecrated as many as 40 secret bishops, whose
successors, it is claimed, have survived to the present day. Of hardly less
importance were his controversial relations with the Old Ritualists, which, if
successful, would have ended the 250-year-old schism in the Russian Church.
Just after the February revolution, Archbishop Andrew presided over the
All-Russian Congress of Yedinovertsy (that is, converts to Orthodoxy from
the Old Ritualists who were allowed to retain the Old Rite) in Nizhni-
Novgorod. In May, 1917, together with the future hieromartyr-bishop Joseph
(Petrovykh) and the yedinoverets Protopriest (later bishop and hieromartyr)
Simon (Sheev), he visited the Rogozhskoe cemetery in Moscow, the spiritual
centre of the Belokrinitsky Old Ritualist hierarchy, and handed over a letter
from the Congress expressing a desire for union. However, the reply of the
Old Ritualist bishops was negative.
But Vladyka’s sympathy for the Old Ritualists went further than these
early actions would suggest, and further than the opinion, which was
generally accepted in his time, that the anathemas on the Old Rite were unjust
and should be removed. Influenced by one of his teachers at the Academy,
Professor N. Kapterev, he adopted a still more “liberal” attitude towards the
Old Ritualists that has been a subject of controversy to this day. While
continuing to recognize the pre-revolutionary Church, he considered that it
had fallen into caesaropapism, or the “Niconian heresy” as he called it, and
that it was “Niconianism” that had led to the Russian revolution and to the
renovationist and sergianist submission of the Church to Soviet power. He
often referred to the Orthodox as “Niconians”, while calling the Old Ritualists
“Ancient Orthodox”, whose schism was not a schism, but precisely a protest
against this unlawful encroachment on the freedom of the Church. Therefore
Vladyka Andrew's attempted rapprochement with the Old Ritualists must be
seen in the context of the main struggle of the times - the struggle of the
Church against Soviet power and renovationist and sergianist caesaropapism.
Let us turn to Archbishop Andrew’s own account of his dealings with the
Old Believers:- “In September, 1917 the so-called beglopopovtsi [i.e. those Old
Ritualists who accepted runaway priests from the official Russian Church, but
had no hierarchy of their own] approached me with the request that I become
190 Andreev, Is the Grace of God Present in the Soviet Church?, Wildwood, Alberta: Monastery
Press, 2000, p. 54.
their bishop. At this time I was in Moscow at the 1917 Council. I agreed in
principle, but on condition that my flock in Ufa should remain in my
jurisdiction. It was Lev Alexeevich Molekhonov who was conducting
negotiations with me on the side of the beglopopovtsi. He assembled in
Moscow a small convention of representatives of other communities of theirs.
At this convention, after long discussions, they agreed that my union with
this group of Old Ritualists should take place in the following manner: I
would come without vestments to the church of the beglopopovtsi in Moscow
(on M. Andronievskaia street). They would meet me with the question: ‘Who
are you?’ I would reply at first that I was a bishop of the Orthodox, One,
Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and them I would read the Symbol of
Faith and a lengthy confession of faith, which everyone ordained to the
episcopate would read. Then I, at the request of the beglopopovtsi, would
anoint myself with the same chrism which they in 1917 called and considered
to be patriarchal, which remained [to them] from Patriarch Joseph [(1642-
1652), the last Moscow Patriarch recognized by both the Orthodox and the
Old Ritualists]. With this my ‘rite of reception’ would come to an end.
“My spiritual father, Archbishop Anthony of Kharkov, knew about all
these negotiations, and Patriarch Tikhon was informed about everything.
They approved my intentions.
“Thus from both sides everything was measured, calculated, thought out
and humanly speaking worked out in a manner completely acceptable for all.
After this I went to Ufa.
“But then the events of 1918 and 1919 took place. The beglopopovtsi lost
me for a long time. I was in Siberia and then in a difficult incarceration… But
in 1925, when I was in exile in Askhabad [in 1923 Archbishop Andrew had
again been arrested and sentenced to three years exile in Central Asia, first in
Ashkhabad, and then in Tashkent], the beglopopovets Archimandrite
Clement came to me and began to ask me again that I should become bishop
for the beglopopovtsi…
“I agreed to do everything that I had promised to L.A. Molekhonov…
Moreover, I agreed to become bishop for the beglopopovtsi only on condition
that Archimandrite Clement should himself receive consecration to the
episcopate and would become de facto an active bishop, for I myself was
chained to Askhabad or some other place for a long time.
“Clement accepted all my conditions and on August 28, 1925 we for the
first time prayed together with him to God in a truly Orthodox, that is, not
caesaropapist church [!]; I on my side had fulfilled everything that I had been
blessed to do by Patriarch Tikhon. On September 3, 1925 I (together with
Bishop Rufinus) consecrated Clement to the episcopate, giving him the
authority to be my deputy, as it were, as long as I did not enjoy freedom of
“After this we parted on the same day of September 3.
“But soon I received news from Bishop Clement that the beglopopovtsi
recognised neither me nor him as their bishops and that he, Clement, had
been received in his existing rank into the number of the bishops of the
The renovationist Vestnik Sviashchennago Sinoda (Herald of the Holy Synod)
reported: "According to the report of Archimandrite Clement, Bishop Andrew
did not agree to the second rite (i.e. chrismation) for a long time, and agreed
only after sustained discussions with, or demands from Clement, based on
the 95th canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council (which orders that heretics
should be united to Orthodoxy only through chrismation).
"Archbishop Andrew said the following to Clement before the chrismation:
'It is not your hand that is being lain upon me, but the hand of that patriarch
who consecrated your ancient chrism: when you read the proclamation, and
when I recite the heresies and confession of faith before chrismation, then I
immediately become your bishop and can commune with you. But since I am
your bishop, that means that a priest cannot anoint a bishop.'
"After this, Archbishop Andrew anointed himself with the Old Ritualist
chrism [more exactly: the chrism consecrated by the Orthodox Patriarch
Joseph] and read out the following confession of faith: 'I, Bishop Andrew, of
the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, who was consecrated to the
rank of bishop on October 4, 1907 in front of the holy relics of the Kazan
hierarchs Gurias and Barsanuphius and on the day of their commemoration,
and who am now suffering persecution from the ruling hierarchy for the
freedom of the Church of Christ, confess before the Holy Church that
Patriarch Nicon in his wisdom disrupted the life and love of the Catholic
Church, thereby laying the beginnings of the schism in the Russian Church.
On the basis of Patriarch Nicon's mistake was established that caesaropapism
which has, since the time of Patriarch Nicon, undermined all the roots of
Russian Church life and was finally expressed in the formation of the socalled
'Living Church', which is at present the ruling hierarchy and which has
transgressed all the church canons... But I, although I am a sinful and
unworthy bishop, by the mercy of God ascribe myself to no ruling hierarchy
and have always remembered the command of the holy Apostle Peter:
'Pasture the flock of God without lording it over God's inheritance'."
Hearing about the events in Askhabad, Metropolitan Peter, the patriarchal
locum tenens, banned Archbishop Andrew from serving, although a later
search in the Synodal offices revealed no such decree, as witnessed by a
Spravka by the Chancellor of the Patriarchal Synod, Archbishop Pitirim of
Dmitrov on October 27, 1927 (№ 1799).
However, Archbishop Andrew was not inclined to obey such a decree,
whether genuine or not; for he considered Metropolitan Peter to be “an
autocrat in clerical guise” who had ascended the ecclesiastical ladder by
means of an intrigue, and the whole system of the succession of power in the
Church by means of secret wills to be uncanonical. Thus he continued to
“ascribe myself to no ruling hierarchy”, and to rule the Ufa diocese on an
autonomous basis until the convening of a Council of the whole Russian
Church, consecrating no less than 40 bishops for the Catacomb Church –
about 30 already by the beginning of 1927.
As regards the supposed ban on Archbishop Andrew by Metropolitan
Peter, we must conclude either, if we are to believe Metropolitan Sergius, that
"it may have been lost on the road", or, much more likely, that it never
Unfortunately, this supposed ban by Metropolitan Peter caused him to be
distrusted for a time by Archbishop Andrew. Fortunately, however, this
distrust did not last, as we shall see…
Archbishop Andrew returned from exile to Ufa in 1926, and the people
visited their Vladyka in unending streams. However, the Ufa clergy led by
the newly appointed Bishop John met him with hostility and coldness.
One of his parishioners wrote in her diary: "The people search him out and
revere him, and all the parishioners of various churches invite him to them,
while the clergy does not accept him. There are many rumours, and no one
knows what to believe... Bishop Andrew took up his residence in the workers'
quarter on Samara street not far from the Simeonov church. He served in the
Simeonov church, and in such a way, according to another eyewitness, that
"we ascended to heaven and did not want to come down."
In July, 1926, Metropolitan Peter’s deputy, Metropolitan Sergius, renewed
the attack on Archbishop Andrew, and banned him from serving. However,
even if we assume that the charges against him were justified, this ban was
invalid, since it transgressed several canons according to which a bishop must
be first be summoned to trial by bishops, and if he does not obey, he must be
summoned again through two bishops who are sent to bring him, and then a
third time through two bishops, and only when he does not appear the third
time will the Council pronounce its decisions about him. In the case of
Archbishop Andrew, he was not only not invited to a trial, but the sentence
against him was passed, not by a Council, but by a single bishop like himself.
For similar reasons, his bans on Catacomb bishops in later years were also
Archbishop Andrew wrote: “This Sergius, knowing that I was in Ufa,
wrote to my flock a letter, filled with slander against me, as if I had fallen
away from Orthodoxy, as if I by the second rite had united myself to the
beglopopovtsi, etc. I had no difficulty in proving that this was a lie and that
the deputy of the locum tenens was simply a liar!…
“And so Metropolitan Sergius slandered me, travelling along this welltrodden
path of slander and lies. But in Ufa amidst the ‘Niconians’ there were
some thinking people and they did not believe Sergius’ slander, as they did
not believe Peter’s. Moreover, two things took place which served to help me
personally and help the Church in general.
“At that time I had two vicar-bishops with me – Anthony [Milovidov, of
Ust-Katavsky] and Pitirim [of Nizhegorod, later Schema-Bishop Peter
(Ladygin)]. Both of them wanted to check out everything that related to me in
the matter of the reunion with Old Ritualism. Anthony set off to check things
out in Moscow, obtained the trust of people in the chancellery of the
Patriarchal Synod and personally got into the Synodal archive, so as to study
the documents relating to me.
“You can imagine his surprise when in the spring of 1927 he became
convinced that there were absolutely no documents about me in the Synodal
archives, neither about my ‘departure into schism’, nor about my ‘ban’, etc.
He asked in the Synod what this meant, and received the exceptionally
characteristic reply: ‘Metropolitan Peter was probably only wanting to
frighten Bishop Andrew’!…
“Bishop Pitirim, a 70-year-old monk who used to be on Old Athos, a clever
man, although unlettered, went not to the sergianist Synod, which he did not
recognize, but to Yaroslavl to Metropolitan Agathangelus, so as to tell him
everything concerning Church life in Ufa in detail and to hear his opinion.
Metropolitan Agathangel heard Bishop Pitirim out very attentively for several
hours (two days) and told my vicar-bishop Pitirim (whom I had consecrated
to the episcopate during my first exile in Tedzhent in June, 1925), that he
should not be upset, that my ecclesiastical behaviour was irreproachable and
that only in the interests of ecclesiastical peace he, Metropolitan Agathangel,
advised me not to carry out any hierarchical consecrations but in the interests
of the enlightenment of the flock in Ufa and other faithful sons of the Church,
he, Metropolitan Agathangel, advised me to present my whole ‘case’ before
the judgement of the nearest – at least three – bishops.
“’But this is only my advice, and it will be clearer how to act on the spot,”
said Metropolitan Agathangel to Bishop Pitirim.
“Bishop Pitirim, on returning to Ufa, told me about all this, and Bishop
Habbakuk of Old Ufa decided immediately to carry out the advice of
Metropolitan Agathangel and on February 3, 1927 he invited Bishop Pitirim
and Anthony to a convention in Ufa, while he asked me for all the materials
that would explain my ecclesiastical behaviour.
“On February 3, 1927 these three bishops issued under their signatures an
‘Act with regard to the Affair of Archbishop Andrew’, in which they laid out
the circumstances of the affair and came to the conclusion that I had not
‘departed’ anywhere, and that Metropolitan Sergius’ slander was in essence a
light-minded and shameful intrusion into a holy affair.”
From October 3-6, 1927 a diocesan Congress took place in Ufa at which the
“Act” was approved, Archbishop Andrew vindicated “as their true Ufa
archpastor" and Metropolitan Sergius accused of lying. Vladyka Andrew's
own view of his episcopal authority is contained in his reply to the Address of
the clergy-lay assembly of March 26, 1926: "I remain a bishop for those who
recognize me as their bishop, who fed me for the six years I was in prison,
and who need me. I don't impose my episcopate on anyone."
However, Archbishop Andrew’s relations with the Old Ritualists did not
end there. When Vladyka was released from prison in 1931, he began to visit
the Rogozhskoe cemetery again, reasoning “that I am for them not a stranger,
but their own, and I am for them not a hostile and harmful ‘Niconian’, but a
true bishop of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”. It seems that
he then entered into communion with Archbishop Meletius (Kartushin) of
Moscow, the first-hierarch of the Belokrinitsky hierarchy, and together with
him consecrated a secret bishop, Basil Guslinsky.
Then he was again exiled. During this period, on April 1, 1932, priests of
the Belokrinitsky hierarchy sent him the Holy Gifts and an omophorion.
Archbishop Andrew now considered himself to be in full communion with
Archbishop Meletius “in the holy ecclesiastical dogmas, and in prayer, and in
ecclesiastical discipline (that is, in the holy rites)”. At the same time, he
rejected the idea that he had “transferred” to the Belokrinitsky hierarchy, and
insisted on remaining Bishop of Ufa, retaining “full freedom of Church action,
arousing the suspicions of nobody”. Archbishop Meletius appears to have
accepted this condition.
It is difficult to resist the conclusion that the Old Ritualists used the good
intentions of the Orthodox bishop and future hieromartyr to deceive him. He
considered that, as a result of his actions, “the schism, as a schism, has
ideologically speaking come to an end”. But he was tricked by the
beglopopovtsi, who rejected both him and the bishop he had consecrated for
them, Clement. There was not then, and has not been since then, any union
between the Orthodox Church and the Old Ritualists of the Belokrinitsky
hierarchy. Nor can there be without the repentance of the latter, because,
apart from the fact that the Belokrinitsky hierarchy has no apostolic
succession, it, as the “Andrewites” themselves admit, followed the sergianists
in becoming a tool of Soviet propaganda. 191