August 1st, 2019


A secondary concern

I hesitate to enter into the fray with regard to the future of the former Russian-tradition Exarchate which the Patriarch of Constantinople has disavowed. The more so as I entered Orthodoxy in this Exarchate and did my theological studies at its seminary (Saint Sergius in Paris).

But reading the message of several of its key figures in the latest issue of The Wheel (, I feel queasy. Underlying it is the presupposition that it is God’s will for there to exist an Orthodoxy in western Europe in the mould of the former exarchate, essentially more democratic and less clerically dominated than any national church in the Orthodox homelands, and resourcing itself largely from the university-educated (upper) middle class.

Is it God’s will? I don’t pretend to read the mind of God, but I sort of hesitate. Yes, I see the need for an Orthodoxy in western Europe for temporary residents or first general immigrants from Orthodox countries, in the same way as you will find English, German or Swedish-speaking churches across Europe. And yes, it provides a bolt-hole for misfits like me who seem unable to fit into more ‘natural’ structures (for me either English-speaking Anglicanism or French or Latin-speaking Roman Catholicism). But is it not logical to suggest that perhaps God’s primary concern in each country is the particular confession (or confessions) which have been the primary carriers of His presence down the centuries, and which have shaped the Christian cultures of these countries: whether Roman Catholic in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, Orthodoxy in Russia, Ukraine, Greece and Romania, or Protestantism in Scandinavia, and with more complex situations in the UK and Germany? And that really Orthodoxy in Western Europe - something of a fish out of water - is of rather secondary concern to Him?