Ch.  III. Synergism or bureaucratism?
Peter (Polyansky), Metropolitan of Krutitsky,
Patriarchal Locum Tenens
E.A.Tuchkov. The chief of  VI secret Department of  KGB

  If, as the Church teachers, sobornost comes from God, the path to it lies in the combination of human will with Divine will, in the transformation of human nature under the influence of Divine Energies, i.e. in synergism. The great dispute over church power which flared up in the Russian Church during the post-Council period about the notion "locum tenens", was connected with the same problem of synergism.

   Just as in 14th-century Byzantium in the persons of Barlaam and Palamas there was a clash between synergism and self-sufficient humanism, a dispute over ways of development of the human personality, ways of coordinating human and Divine will, so there was here also, in connection with the concrete question of the nature of church power. On the one hand, there was the "bureaucratic" interpretation of church   governance, as administrative coercion, subjection to which was compulsory, irrespective of the demands of faith and conscience. On the other hand, there was the interpretation of church power as the realization of the will of God. In Russia many believers even interpreted tsarist power in this way too, so it seemed all the more indisputable in the case of Church power.

The synergetic interpretation of church power was represented by a majority of the Local Council, then by Patriarch Tikhon and his successors,  metropolitans  Peter and  Cyril. The administrative-bureaucratic interpretation was represented by the Renovationists, and then by Metropolitan Sergius, who became the head of the church administration. The great dispute demanded immense efforts of church intellect, and its outcome proved decisive for the fate of the Russian Church, determining its present state also. The outcome of the dispute was that synergism again suffered a defeat in Russia, as it always has since the defeat of the "Non-Possessors". But the alignment of forces was different now; this time church synergism manifested itself so powerfully and authoritatively that only blatant force on the part of state power could crush it. Church bureaucratism paid dearly for its victory: the price of state support was also "synergism", not with the Spirit of God, but with the spirit of the Revolution. The "bureaucratic" trend in the Church was also destroyed later, but its root survived and nearly all the present day spirituality and also the hierarchical structure of the Russian Church has grown from this root. The inevitable struggle for church synergism is again on the agenda... There is no other hope for Christianity.
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The ecclesiological principles outlined by the All-Russian Local Church Council and later deepened by Patriarch Tikhon and his close associates were not and could not immediately have been understood and implemented fully in church life. Apart from the unaccustomed "novelty" of the principles themselves, the position was complicated by the fact that by the time of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon's death shooting, exile and emigration had removed the most eminent hierarchs and major church figures, who by their authority could have introduced these hold revelations into the general church consciousness. The centuries-old customs and traditions had done their job, resulting in what was sometimes an involuntary distortion of the Council's and the Patriarch's plan to create truly Orthodox forms of church life.

In spite of all its effective innovations, Renovationism was already a profoundly reactionary trend in its spiritual roots. It was returning to forms of existence which the Church had just overcome. But whereas before these forms had led to the repression of church life, the return to them in the face of militant anti-Christianity led to an inevitable spiritual collapse.

However, even those members of the Russian Church who remained faithful to the patriarchal system were for the most part not fully aware of what the essence of this system really was. The aim of the Council resolution was that the Church should manifest itself visibly as a synergetic Theocracy, the realization of which required an extreme exertion of free human activity. But. in the mind of many members of the Church this image of a Theocracy was replaced by the idea of state autarchy with its system of inheriting power, bureaucratic machine and patriarchal principle of unquestioning and irresponsible obedience to one's "superiors".

This partial retreat from the positions won by the Council seemed to many the only way of defending the Church from the onslaught of the Renovationists and other schismatics. Moreover there was an almost total rejection of the main way of preserving Orthodox church life in disastrous conditions, which was indicated by Patriarch Tikhon in the spirit of the Council resolutions, namely, to turn the Local Church of each Bishop into an independent and unshakeable foundation of Orthodoxy. As had often happened in the history of the Church, the attempt to adhere to a conservative position in the struggle against anti-Orthodox trends, "which seems devout, but in fact means a refusal to respond to a Divine Summons, on this occasion also led to the loss of everything they "wanted to preserve. The attempt to substitute autarchy for Divine rule, the attempt to replace the difficult path of establishing the ecclesiological merit of each Bishop as an independent foundation of the Church by pseudo-humble obedience to church-administrative "bosses" led to the destruction of the whole patriarchal system in the Russian church. As a result the Russian Church was plunged into the disasters which Renovationism carried with it - partial restoration of the church-state pseudo-symphony and replacement of the soborny - patriarchal system of the Church by the administrative-bureaucratic system.

      On 30 March/ 12 April, 1925, after the  solemn  burial of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon in the Donskoy monastery, in the presence of 60 arch-hierarchs Patriarch Tikhon's instruction on the office of locum tenons, drawn up by him n 25 December, 1924/7 January, 1925 for the event of Ins death, was read out:

  "In the event of Our demise and until the lawful election of a new Patriarch, we grant Our Patriarchal rights and duties temporarily to His Eminence Metropolitan Cyril (Smirnov). In the event of his being unable for any reason to assume the said rights and duties, they shall pass to His Eminence Metropolitan Agathangel {Preobrazensky). Should this metropolitan also be unable to undertake this, Our Patriarchal rights and duties shall pass to His Eminence Peter (Polyansky), Metropolitan of Krutitsky.
  In bringing the present instruction to the general knowledge of all archpastors, pastors and believers of the Russian Church, We consider it Our duty to explain that this instruction supersedes Our similar instruction issued in the month of November, 1923.
Tikhon. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia."

Thus, Patriarch Tikhon revealed to the Church the names of the three chosen ones, whom he, at the request of the Council, had noted in 1918 and whom the Council had granted extraordinary powers, all the "Patriarchal rights and duties". However, most arch-hierarchs assembled there regarded this instruction as a "Will" (Metropolitan Peter himself calls it this in his first Message. In this unclear understanding of the soborny origin of the power of the Extraordinary Locums Tenentes lurked the danger of similar mistakes in the future. But at that time no one could have imagined that these, at first glance "niceties" would in fact determine the fate of the Russian Church. Everything was obscured by devotion to the will of the deceased Patriarch and an awareness of the need to have a single and undisputed leader of the Church. In the minds of the arch-hierarchs, in their understanding of the nature of church power the idea of "blessing for service" came to the forefront, which had played such an important role in Russian church and, particularly, monastic life. Hence too the ideas of the "succession of power" and of "obedience in carrying out the will of the deceased Patriarch" which were expressed in the text of the resolution signed by the arch-hierarchs. In itself the idea of "blessing" expressed the spirit of synergism. It was an effort to ensure that every human act was sanctified by the participation of Divine grace. Obedience to elders expressed a rejection of personal self-will, a readiness to submit to the will of God. But at the same time it was not sufficiently realized that Patriarchal service is not ordinary monastic "service", that the charisma of First-Hierarchal power is given on condition of election by the Council and cannot be transferred by bequest or blessing.

The text of the resolution signed by the arch-hierarchs present is as follows:

"Convinced of the authenticity of the document and taking into account
1) the fact that the deceased Patriarch had no other way of preserving the succession of power in Russian Church and 2) that neither Metropolitan Cyril (Smirnov) nor Metropolitan Agathangel (Preobrazhensky), who are not in Moscow at present, can take upon themselves the duties placed upon them by the above-mentioned document. We the Archpastors, recognize that His Eminence Metropolitan Peter (Polyansky) cannot avoid the service given to him and in accordance with the will of the deceased Patriarch, should assume the duties of the Patriarchal Locum Tenens."

The first signature on the document is that of Metropolitan Sergius of  Nizhny Novgorod. He was once again the most authoritative hierarch and, possibly, one of the main compilers of the text of the resolution... Apart from the idea of "service" in this short text another very dubious idea is expressed: the bishops agree with the Patriarch's instructions on the basis that he "had no other way of preserving the succession of power in the Russian Church"! But there is not a word in the resolution to say whether this "way" is essentially correct. This silence could suggest that "preserving the succession of power" is an aim which justifies even a not entirely correct means. But if the way of bequeathing is canonically incorrect, and "the Patriarch had no other way", this would mean simply that the Lord was temporarily depriving the Russian Church of "succession of power", i.e. leaving Her without a central administration. If this was the case, they should have reconciled themselves lo the fact, testified to it before the whole Church and been guided by the church regulations foreseeing such a situation. And this is not a question of canonical "pedantry", but of readiness to submit to the Will of God, even when we do not fully understand it or when it goes contrary to our plans and considerations. The sacred canons, or church rules, exist so as to limit our independence, even when we are guided by the best of intentions, and to open the door for the will of God to manifest itself. This is also part of the practice of synergism.

The formulations which formed the basis of the text of the "Resolution" already opened the way to the search for not entirely strict and not entirely canonical ways of preserving the "succession of power" in the Church. To what confusion and calamities this led, we shall now see. It took about eight years of painful intra-church struggle before some of the outstanding hierarchs of the Russian Church could realize and express clearly the essence of the Council's design and the true nature of Metropolitan Peter's First-Hierarchal power. Although they reached tins understanding only when their voice was heard by very few, it is important that this voice managed to ring out..
Metropolitan Peter was not to stand at the helm of the church administration for long. It soon became clear that he was not the sort of Church leader that the enemies of the Church wanted. In the office of First Hierarch Metropolitan Peter, like Patriarch Tikhon before him, was the stone against which the hopes of the Renovationists and their protectors were dashed. Although Metropolitan Peter went even further than Patriarch Tikhon in his assurances and appeals to observe civic loyalty (suffice it to recall the text of the Message, which Metropolitan Peter gave the Patriarch to sign in the last hours of his life), none of these declarations contained the note of spiritual-moral solidarity with the Party's policy that was characteristic of the Renovatiomsts. Not by any threats or ruses did the authorities manage to impose this solidarity on either the Patriarch or his loyal Locum Tenens. Attempts to make Metropolitan Peter agree to organizational union with the Renovationists were also unsuccessful. Eight months after the Patriarch's death, on 27 November/ 10 December, 1925, the Patriarchal Locum Tenens and a group of bishops close to him were arrested. A few days before the arrest lie drew up the following instruction on the administration of the Church:

"In the event of my being unable for any reason to perform the duties of the Patriarchal Locum Tenens, I entrust the exercise of these duties temporarily to His Eminence Sergius (Stragorodsky), Metropolitan of Nizhny Novgorod. If the metropolitan is unable to carry this out, His Eminence Michael (Ermakov), Exarch of the Ukraine, will take over the performance of these duties temporarily, or his Eminence Joseph (Petrovykh), Archbishop of Rostov, should Metropolitan Michael (Ermakov) be unable to carry out this instruction of mine.

The offering up during Divine service of My name, as Patriarch Locum  Tenens, remains compulsory.
I entrust the temporary administration of the Moscow diocese to the Council of Most Reverend Moscow Vicars, namely: under the chairmanship of bishop Seraphim (Zvezdinsky) of Dmitrov, Bishop Alexis (Gotovtsev) of Serpukhov, Bishop Gabriel (Krasnovsky) of Klin and Bishop John (Vasilevsky) of Bronnitsy.
The Patriarchal Locum Tenens, Metropolitan of Krutitsky, the humble Peter (Polyansky)."

And so Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) became "Deputy Locum Tenens"... It was hard to imagine then what an exceptional role this instruction of Metropolitan Peter's was to play in the subsequent history of the Russian Church.

Comparing this document with the analogous instruction given by Patriarch Tikhon before his arrest in 1922, we can see some substantial differences. Patriarch Tikhon transferred to Metropolitan Agathangel the whole fullness of First-Hierarchal power, without any reservation about the offering up of his name, on the basis of the extraordinary resolutions of the Council. Evidently it was envisaged that, in the event of Metropolitan Agathangel assuming the duties of Patriarch his name would be offered up during divine service. But in the difficult period of 1922-23, when Patriarch Tikhon was under arrest, Metropolitan Agathangel could not   assume administration of the Church and the Renovationist onslaught was rapid and successful, for many Orthodox "autocephalists" the main symbol of unity became the offering up of Patriarch Tikhon's name in the Great Entrance of the Liturgy. This liturgical symbol, introduced by the Local Council three months after the Patriarch's election, was a most striking and intimate expression for church people of their spiritual allegiance to Patriarch Tikhon.

Theoretically it is hard to object to this symbolical expression of loyalty to a Patriarch in exile or under arrest, but herein lay a danger. The division of the liturgical remembrance of the Patriarch from the real administration of the Church, in which the essence of the First-Hierarchal office lies, could give rise in the minds of believers to the illusion that the office of First Hierarch was connected, first and foremost, with the liturgical action itself, to the point that remembrance of it is necessary for the performance of the sacrament. The fundamental principle of church canons, namely, that the offering up of the name of the ruling bishop is sufficient for the performance of the sacrament, was forgotten. Even worse, the view could have arisen that the charismatic nature of the First-Hierarchal office lies exclusively in this liturgical manifestation, whereas the actual administration of the Church is an ordinary human matter - accompanied or not accompanied by Divine grace, depending of the personal spirituality of the First Hierarch, as is the case in all other human affairs. Subsequently this mistake made itself felt most strongly in church practice, and its seed is already planted in the instruction of Metropolitan Peter, which divides the mystical aspect of the First-Hierarchal office from the actual administration of the Church.

In stipulating the need to offer up his name, Metropolitan Peter does not stipulate the extent of the Deputy's powers, so that from the actual text of the document it might have been assumed that the full power of the Locum Tenens was being handed over, which, according to the Council's Extraordinary Resolution, is equal to the power of the Patriarch. Yet Metropolitan Peter did not have the authority to transfer power in this way, and if he had even tried to do so, such an act would have been canonically invalid, and no resolutions by Metropolitan Peter could have made anyone in the Church Patriarch, except those persons named in Patriarch Tikhon's instruction.

Although Metropolitan Peter explained later that he had in mind only the very limited powers of his deputies to conduct everyday affairs, even such deputyship was an innovation not envisaged by any previous church resolutions. In strict accordance with the principles established by the Council and the Patriarch, on Metropolitan Peter's arrest the Decree of 7/20 November, 1920 on the self-administration of dioceses came into effect; the question of offering up the name of Metropolitan Peter or only of the diocesan arch-hierarch in question was not significant. The only form of organization envisaged by this Decree is the voluntary uniting of dioceses around a provisional church administration.

This capacity of a voluntarily acknowledged center could be assumed by a Deputy appointed (or rather, recommended) by Metropolitan Peter. Yet there was no mention in Metropolitan Peter's instruction of any "voluntary element in subjection to a Deputy. The subsequent course of church life showed that the uncanonical practice of "deputyship" introduced by Metropolitan Peter gave rise to many disasters, temptations and misunderstandings. In introducing this mistaken practice, Metropolitan Peter himself was guided only by the interests of the Church, of course, and whenever he had the slightest opportunity tried to mitigate the negative consequences of this practice. But now this mistake could be exploited by people of quite a different spirit from Metropolitan Peter! The self-same habit, engendered and established in the Synodal period, of regarding church administration as a purely human,  administrative-bureaucratic function,  connected primarily with state policy, created the danger of the emergence of new uncanonical and, consequently, uncharismatic centers of church government.

The second such false center, after the Renovationist Supreme Church Administration, was the Gregorian Provisional Supreme Church Council, and the third -  Metropolitan Sergius, who as the deputy of the Patriarchal Locum Tenens took over full First-Hierarchal powers.

With respect to Metropolitan Peter, the Gregorians, under the leadership of the self-same E.A.Tuchkov, repeated almost the same manoeuvre as the Renovationists with Patriarch Tikhon, but correcting some of the Renovationists crudest errors. On 9/22 December, 1925 ten bishops assembled in the Donskoy Monastery, proclaiming themselves as the Provisional Supreme Church Council, which was to become "the provisional body of church administration of the Russian Orthodox Church," while remaining "in canonical and prayerful communion with the Patriarchal Locum Tenens."

Thus, unlike the Renovationists, it was a provisional body, which retained a spiritual link with the imprisoned Head of the Church, and had no "married episcopate" or other Renovationist innovations. Moreover, according to the above-mentioned Decree of 1920 it would have been canonically impossible to object to ten Gregorian bishops administering their ten dioceses together under the guidance of the most authoritative of the hierarchs from their number.

However, the Gregorians created a new Supreme Church Administration of the whole Russian Church (although a "temporary" one), instead of the real leadership, which could be carried out only by one of the Locum Tenentes named by Patriarch Tikhon. This action of the Gregorians cannot be seen as anything but the usurpation of First-Hierarchal power, whereas one of the main aims of the Decree of 1920 was to prevent such an usurpation. In their position the Gregorians made effective use of the ecclesiological mistake already noted in Metropolitan Peter's instruction, namely the separation of the mystical and factual aspects of First-Hierarchal power.

The mystical aspect, to which ordinary believers attached so much importance, was of little concern to the Gregorians and particularly to A.E.Tuchkov. They were prepared to administer even in the name of Metropolitan Peter, so long as Metropolitan Peter himself did not have the real possibility of interfering in church affairs. Such a substitution would have been impossible given a clear awareness of the union of the two aspects of First-Hierarchal power: he who possesses First-Hierarchal charisma, also has the power of governing the Church - and no one else!

The usurpatory aims of the Provisional Supreme Church Council became evident after its members had managed to obtain from Metropolitan Peter by trickery (during a meeting in a GPU prison) a resolution on the transfer of provisional administration to a collegium of three arch-hierarchs, one of whom was the above-mentioned Bishop Gregory (Yatskovsky), the head of the Provisional Supreme Church Council. Continuing to develop the idea of deputyship, Metropolitan Peter though it of no consequence whether the temporary conduct of everyday business were entrusted to an individual deputy or a collegium of arch-hierarchs. But tins time Metropolitan Peter formulated his instructions more precisely stipulating that the collegium should:

     "Express Our, as Patriarchal Locum Tenens, powers on all questions, except questions of principle and those concerning the whole church, the implementation of which is allowed only with Our blessing”.
     And even these powers were transferred only "temporarily, until Our case is settled".   Whatever considerations guided Metropolitan Peter, it is perfectly clear that after such a resolution the powers of the former deputy, Metropolitan Sergius (already limited, as can be seen from Metropolitan Peter's explanations referring to all deputizing) lost all formal justification.

However as it immediately became clear, Metropolitan Sergius had no intention of giving up his power. He did not accept Metropolitan Peter's resolution and advanced three objections:
1)    the Gregorians had obtained it by trickery;
2)    apart from arch-hierarch Gregory, the other members of the
collegium appointed by Metropolitan Peter were not able to govern; and
3)    Metropolitan Peter had no right to replace individual by collegial administration.

In this argument the specific features of Metropolitan Sergius's view of the nature of church power begin to emerge. If Metropolitan Sergius was right in accusing the Gregorians of obtaining the resolution by trickery and thereby casting doubt on the legality of attempts to administer church affairs from a place of imprisonment, his arguments concerning the "collegiality" of administration belong to an entirely different range of ideas.

In point of fact, Metropolitan Peter did not abolish individual administration (perhaps mistakenly), but left it for himself; as for the structure of the "provisional deputyship" there were no church definitions of it, because this form of management had not been envisaged. Metropolitan Sergius, however, was already beginning to develop the idea that deputyship presupposed the transfer of all "real" power, for indeed on the basis of which principle could one "divide" First-Hierarchal power into parts, and church affairs into "essential"  and  "inessential"?  Given  such an approach  even Metropolitan Sergius's accusation that Metropolitan Peter "was replacing "individual" leadership by "collegial" would have been justified. However, Metropolitan Sergius's idea, which replaced the question of the ontology of Patriarchal power, which is determined by its origin (soborny election), by the question of its outward form ("individual" or "collegia]") was false itself. It divorced the form of power from its essence, turning it in a mere formal principle.

We shall not examine here the complex course of the struggle between Metropolitan Sergius and the Gregorian Provisional Supreme Church Council. One tiling alone is clear - in this struggle both the Council and Metropolitan Sergius greatly exceeded their powers. In the final analysis Metropolitan Sergius succeeded in practically neutralizing the influence of the Council on the Russian episcopate and strongly enhancing his personal authority as a result. One could only have welcomed this success, if Metropolitan Sergius had limited himself to explaining Metropolitan Peter's mistakes and the illegal nature of the Georgians claims; however, he himself began to introduce into church life principles which had disastrous consequences. These principles may be summarized as follows:

1. The application of the canonical concept of "First Bishop" to a hierarch who, in some way or other, has concentrated in his hands the actual administration of church affairs (for example, by "succession" of power).
2. The assumption by this hierarch of the rights to transfer and ban other arch-hierarchs.
It was precisely this ideology, which made the Church resemble a bureaucratic department or military sub-unit, that Metropolitan Sergius continued to develop, with the support of a considerable section of the episcopate, which was still largely in the grip of Synodal traditions.Unfortunately, many Russian bishops, seeing the errors of the Gregorians, approved Metropolitan Sergius's action of personally banning members of the Provisional Supreme Church Council, without understanding that such actions, on the one hand, undermined the very principle of the First Hierarch and, on the other, resurrected the shameful practice of the Synod era, when a bishop was regarded as a state official totally in the power of his Synodal superiors. A striking example of this shameful practice were the church-administrative repressions against Bishop Hermogen who, in 1912, accused the Synod of Servility to the Ober-procuror and, through the latter, to Rasputin. Hermogen had pointed out a number of canonical errors in church administration and refused to obey a Synodal instruction to leave Petersburg. The Synodal ideology was most clearly expressed in the interpretations of these events by the official church organ (arch-hierarch Sergius was a member of the Synod and probably one of the authors of the following text):

"A refusal to obey is contrary to the very essence of the church governmental hierarchy. A diocesan bishop undoubtedly holds a certain position in the ladder of ruling bodies, of which some are higher and other lower then he is. To the higher ones he is obliged to show both respect and obedience, while the lower ones, in their turn, have a similar obligation to him... The manifestation of arbitrariness in this sphere verges on obstruction and anarchy, and is therefore quite inexcusable... Consequently, as a general rule, disobedience is completely unthinkable in the order of management, and there is nothing a superior can do, but to deprive the disobedient person of the office entrusted to him and, consequently, dismiss him from the post which he holds. There can be no choice here: either obey or leave".  Pribavl. k Tserk. Ved.  1912. No. 1, pp. 322-323. 

Meanwhile the Council of 1917-18 had taken some most important steps towards restoring the independence and "immunity" of the Bishop. Let us recall that, according to the Council's definition, only in "exceptional and extraordinary cases, for the good of the church, may bishops be appointed and moved by the supreme church authority." In the normal order of things "a bishop remains in his diocese for life and leaves it only in accordance with a church sentence or a resolution by the supreme church authority in the cases indicated above" (i.e. in extraordinary ones - L.R.). If the rights of Patriarchal power together with the Holy Synod and Supreme Church Council elected by the Local Council in relation to the diocesan bishop have these reservations, how cold a provisional deputy with limited powers dare to decide on his own the fates of a whole group of Bishops?! In the Russian Episcopate at that time the idea had not yet matured that of all the "questions of principle affecting the whole church" the most fundamental and important one for the fate of the Church was precisely that of the transfer, banning and replacement of Bishops, for whoever was recognized as having this right would be able to determine as he liked the composition of the hierarch and consequently all the trends in church life.

The ease with winch the Bishops agreed to the right of "provisional deputies" to impose bans meant that Metropolitan Sergius was able in future to exercise church-administrative coercion on the Episcopate through the main instrument for establishing his authority and his spirit in the Russian Church. That instrument, which Metropolitan Sergius had tried out on the Gregorians, when he was essentially right, he was soon to use against Metropolitan Agathangel in a situation in which his position was essentially wrong.

On 5/18 April, 1926, after completing Ins next term of exile, Metropolitan Agathangel wrote a letter from Perm announcing his assumption of the duties of Patriarchal Locum Tenens, on the basis of the Council resolution laying down the procedure for the Patriarchal administration of the Russian Church; Patriarch Tikhon's message of 2/15 July,  1923 explaining the appointment of Metropolitan Agathangel in 1922 with a reference to tins resolution and finally the Patriarch's instructions of 25 December/7 January, 1925, It seemed that lack of authority in the Church was over and she would now get a new, canonically irreproachable First Hierarch, endowed with full Patriarchal rights. Who, if not Metropolitan Sergius, should have been the first to welcome the new First Hierarch and testify before the whole Church to the irreproachable legality of his powers!

But nothing of the sort!