The Renovationist "Orthodox" (The Birth of a New Religion, Part 3)

Part 1
Part 2

Alexander Vvedensky, the last leader of the "Living Church" Alexander Vvedensky, the last leader of the "Living Church"     

Renovationists are people who see that the Church is out of sync with the modern world, and rather than conclude that the world needs to repent and come into line with the teachings of the Church, instead assume that the Church is what needs to be fixed. To them, the solution to this problem is to make the Church more like the world, rather than to make the world more like the Church.

In any given time or place, one can certainly find problems within the Church, and see a need to do something about those problems. And so a desire to see things change within the Church is not necessarily a bad thing. One could point to the example of the Kollyvades Fathers, or even to St. John Chrysostom, as people who saw spiritual deficiencies within the Church, and spent their lives trying to raise the general spiritual level of those around them. But the big difference between people like the Kollyvades Fathers, St. John Chrysostom, and the Renovationists is where they look for answers to problems and where they want to take things. The Kollyvades and St. John Chrysostom embraced the authentic Traditions of the Church and the teachings of the Scriptures and Holy Fathers who came before them. Renovationists look outside the Church for answers.

When Renovationists see that the Church is out of sync with the mindset of the modern world, they are embarrassed that the Church is "backward," or "old fashioned," or "stuck in the past." They do not approach things by seeking to better understand the Orthodox Tradition, or to come closer to the mind of the Fathers. They have a worldly mindset, and their solutions are worldly. They do not have a belief in what the Church teaches, but perhaps have a sentimental attachment to the Church, or they may simply see using the Church to promote worldly agendas as advantageous.

Renovationism first began to appear in the Orthodox Church in the early 20th century. It was most obviously embodied in the "Living Church" in Russia, but it was also behind the agenda of Patriarch Meletios Metaxakis as seen in his 1923 "Pan Orthodox Congress," and this also explains why he later recognized the "Living Church" schismatics as the legitimate Church in Russia, and threw the authentic persecuted Russian Church under the bus. What was their agenda? They wanted to switch to the New Calendar. They wanted to shorten the fasts, shorten the services, allow bishops and monks to marry, and priest to remarry, and to marry widows. They also wished to introduce liturgical innovations. The Living Church died off in Russia, because the faithful in Russia rejected it, but Renovationism has continued to exist elsewhere, and while all of the aforementioned issues are still on the table for them, they have added quite a few since then.

Renovationism is closely related to Protestant liberalism and its "Social Gospel." Advocates of the Social Gospel, having lost faith in anything like the actual Gospel, seek to hitch their wagons to anything current in the culture that might make them relevant. Unfortunately, they usually are about 10 years behind the culture, and so by the time they hitch their wagon to an issue, the culture in general has moved on to the new "current thing."

Some more current examples of renovationism are the push for the acceptance of homosexuality and transgenderism in the Church, the push for ecumenism and religious syncretism, the acceptance of abortion as an acceptable option for Orthodox Christian, the ordination of women, and pretty much any other "current thing" that is being pushed. The Ecumenical Patriarchate's acceptance of the schismatics in Ukraine is in many ways similar to the Ecumenical Patriarchate's entering into communion with the Living Church in Russia. The Schismatics in Ukraine are concelebrating with Uniates, and are open to the acceptance of homosexuality -- which makes the Living Church look like conservative traditionalists by comparison.

Just to cite a few recent examples of renovationism at work, we have Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Ecumenical Patriarchate baptizing the children of a homosexual couple (produced with surrogate mothers) and using the occasion to celebrate the acceptance of both homosexuality and using poor women to produce surrogate children for homosexual men. Archbishop Elpidophoros also felt the need to align himself with Black Lives Matters and to march with them in a protest, despite the fact that the organization is headed by self-described Marxists who want to destroy the family, and even while he had essentially shut down Church services in his Archdiocese due to concerns about the COVID virus.


And then you have Metropolitan Nathaniel of Chicago ordaining a gaggle of women readers, and challenging them to press forward and demand that they be allowed to fill even more roles in the Church. (You can view the video here.)

And if you have ever seen a proper ordination of a reader, you will note that what happens here bears very little resemblance to what is found in the service books of the Church. Many more examples could be cited, but the point is, it is not a question of what the "current thing" happens to be, the issue with renovationism is the felt need to keep up with the "current thing."

The problem for renovationists, however, is that people don't get up early on Sunday morning, to go to stand in a service for a couple of hours, just so they can be like the world. They can stay home, and drink their coffee, and be like the world. What motivates people to actually go to Church is their hunger for something that the world can't provide them, and that is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). The world can only point to the wrong way, promotes lies, and lead to death.

Qwerty11/10/2023 5:18 am
I'm joining the Orthodox Church to join the greater Body of Christ. I will not tolerate the same nastiness of the protestantism I am leaving to pollute the Church with its low-effort Christianity.
Joseph Lipper11/16/2022 1:15 pm
The Soviet "Living Church", otherwise known as the Renovationists, was a puppet of the Soviet regime that existed from 1922 until 1943. Homosexuality was made a criminal offense by the Soviets in 1934, with prison sentences of three to five years. There's no doubt that the Renovationist "Church" was used as a tool by the Soviets to find and arrest those who allegedly engaged in homosexual behavior. In 1936, abortion was also made illegal by the Soviets, and those who allegedly performed abortions were given prison sentences of up to three years. There's no doubt that the Soviet "Living Church" was completely supportive of the Soviet regime's anti-homosexuality and anti-abortion platform.
Panagiotis11/16/2022 3:31 am
Thank you Father John for an excellent article. Notice in the picture of that so-called "Metropolitan" clown Vvedensky that he does not have a beard. I have never seen an Orthodox Bishop without a beard. That tells me everything I need to know about that clown. He was a no good liberal, heretic, and a traitor. His real surname was not Vvedensky as his paternal grandfather was ethnic Ashkenazi Jewish and changed his surname. I am not sure of his mother's ethnicity, but since he was born in a city in Belarus with large non ethnic Russian population at that time, then it is highly plausible that he may be of largely NON-ethnic Russian descent. He was friends and political ally with monster communist Grigory Zinoviev (born Hirsch Afpelbaum in Ukraine), or should I rather say he was a complete puppet of the demonic communists. He accepted the 30 pieces of silver with a smile on his ugly face. May his memory be erased forever...... In my opinion, women (who are not Nuns or Priests wives) have absolutely no business being readers or chanters in Orthodox Churches, and I don't care what others say. This is just a stepping stone for liberals to try to get women into the altar, and in Orthodox Churches women are not permitted in the altar. (I know there are exceptions for Nuns at Monasteries to be in altar, and I have absolutely no problem with this, since I have great respect and love for our Orthodox Nuns. We need more ladies to become Orthodox Nuns as they are doing God's Work. I also know there are exceptions for Pious women to go into the altar to clean it and this is perfectly fine and acceptable.) If the no good liberals ever succeed in letting girls become so-called "altar girls" (like the weak Catholics now have), then this will lead to "women deacons", and then "women priests", and this will lead to a monumental schism in the Church, and we will become like the weak protestant churches. Everywhere the no good liberals go they destroy, everywhere. The no good liberals are the opposite of King Midas, I.E. whatever the liberals touch turns into garbage. Also women should be covered in the Church, by wearing a long dress. In my opinion, it is disgusting to me for a woman to wear pants or short dress in the House of God. Do they Fear God? Take a look at the pictures of women of the Old Believers and see how these women dress appropriately and are pious and God Fearing women. That is why I respect the Old Believers. Orthodox People have to reject no good liberalism, and we must return to our conservative traditional Orthodox roots. So wake up, straighten up, and be a strong conservative Orthodox Christian. Glory be to our God and Fear Him. Just my humble opinion.
m. Cornelia11/15/2022 11:53 am
Afanassy: Fr. John is talking about more weighty things than short hair or medical masks. Please be serious. Or are you suggesting that we should strain at gnats but swallow camels? And Fr. John's use of the work "gaggle" is literary, not anti-female. (Although, depending on their age, it could well have been something like a gaggle). Please don't take offense.
Afanassy11/15/2022 8:34 am
Steve - - - I recommend you read: Young, Fr Alexey, "The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia - A History and Chronology", The Borgo Press, San Bernadino, CA,1993, ISBN = 0-8095-3300-6. I'm sure Fr John intends no splintering. But, to give you a quick and over-simplified explanation: After the Russian Revolution, as the Bolsheviks were threatening to destroy Orthodoxy in the newly forming Soviet Union, many Bishops and their flocks fled to relocate initially in Serbia, and then to NYC to form a Synod here. When it was revealed that the leadership of what remained of the ROC had knuckled under to the Communist State, the now developing "ROCOR" here considered itself the Faithful Remnant, the true ROC, awaiting the fall of Communism in the homeland. After many decades, after Communism did fall in 1991, the ROCOR and the ROC sought reunification in 2007, with the caveat that ROCOR maintain some independence; its own Synod; its NYC location, -- all while affiliating with ROC in Moscow and commemorating the Patriarch there. So, a certain "splintering" had already been built into the documents, as a compromise, in order the get the "reunification" to work. Fr John Whiteford had nothing to do with it. [I'm sure that many historians would criticize my rendition, and I can almost here their "Yes, buts.." ringing my ears...(^_^)..] ======================
Dimitri11/14/2022 10:33 pm
Sorry, Steve, please do genuine research re ROCOR, What are you suggesting? Are the actions of the GOA not renovations, or the political dealing of the EP less than renovations, but certainly anti Orthodox?
Fr. John Whiteford11/14/2022 9:51 pm
Steve, perhaps you could point me to the canons that say that ROCOR cannot have parishes in America.
Jesse Dominick11/14/2022 9:39 pm
Steve, your critique makes no sense if aimed only at ROCOR. You could ask the same question about any of the diaspora jurisdictions. The OCA is the only jurisdiction in America that isn't representing a foreign Local Church.
Afanassy11/14/2022 8:05 pm
Fr John - - - Good article. But we must note that there are many "renovations" already in our Orthodox Temples that are valuable and have nothing to do with a divergence in Theology or Liturgical practice. Examples are use of electric lights and central heating / air-conditioning systems. In the petition for travelers during the Great Litany, some jurisdictions add "by air" to "land and sea" to recognize a form of travel not available during the early centuries. During the COVID pandemic, parishioners came with modern high-filtration masks to cover their faces. Some women come to worship with short hair, uncovered heads, and pantsuits instead of long dresses, -- but no one disparages their spirituality. So, I think you had best provide a clear definition of what an inappropriate "renovation" is. Also, you mentioned that (His Eminence) Metropolitan Nathaniel was "ordaining a gaggle of women readers". A "gaggle"? I watched the video and all I saw was a "group". Gaggle (via Google): "1. a flock of geese. 2. INFORMAL -- a disorderly or noisy group of people." =================
Steve11/14/2022 5:55 pm
I realize that Fr. John Whiteford believes that he is standing up for traditional Orthodoxy, yet it is ROCOR itself that functions outside of traditional Orthodox ecclesiastical norms. Why is there a Russian Church so prevalently "outside of Russia" with its headquarters in New York City no less? This itself appears to be a blatant renovationist ecclesiology. It is the elephant in the room. Rather than building up a traditional Orthodox ecclesiology in America, Father John seems bent on further splintering it.
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