An Explanation of History & Canonicity in the Orthodox Church
When we speak of the word canonicity we mean nothing other than that which is according to the rules (canons) of the Church. These commandments are binding on all Christians, especially the bishops who are sworn to uphold the canons and teachings of Christ. When a bishop or a Synod does not obey the canons they are considered renegades and lawless and this lawlessness will inevitably lead to heresy.
We say a church is canonical if it keeps or maintains two essential requirements.
+++ First a bishop must maintain at all times and continuously the teachings and traditions of the Orthodox Church. In other words, he must preach the Orthodox Faith which was once handed down to us by the holy Apostles, our predecessors in the Church.
+++ Secondly a bishop must have the continuous apostolic succession in his ordination. In other words, he must be part of the unbroken line of ordinations which can be traced back to the holy Apostles, and which have occurred only in the Church.
When a bishop does not keep the first requirement and teaches a heresy even though he is in the Church, if he is not corrected, he loses his Orthodox Faith, and he loses his canonicity. He is rightly labeled uncanonical or heretical. All heretics of course are by their very meaning, uncanonical. When this happens the Church puts an ‘Anathema’ on that teaching or on that preacher of heresy, (anathema means a complete cutting off from God and separation from the Church and consignment to the devil).
For example, the iconoclasts refused to accept the holy icons. The Church put an Anathema on these heretics by saying, “To those who accept Christ’s saving works but refuse to view those acts depicted in holy icons or to venerate them: Anathema.” Therefore, if any bishop is an iconoclast or any church is iconoclastic, it is uncanonical, and to unite oneself to them is spiritual suicide.
Another example is when the Church anathematized the Bogomils by saying, “To those who deny that the Logos and Son was begotten before time, and became incarnate of the Virgin Mary for our salvation: and those who believe the Eucharist to be only bread and wine and not truly the flesh and blood of the Savior: Anathema.” Again, therefore, if any bishop or church teaches that the Son of God was not begotten before time and did not become incarnate of the Virgin Mary or who does not believe that the Eucharist is the very body and blood of Christ, they are Anathema, and any person who is a member of this so called church, will find his membership to be spiritual suicide.
Now we come to the present time when the holy Church issued its Anathema against Ecumenism. In 1983 the Russian Church Abroad declared “To those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ’s Church is divided into so-called “branches” which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all “branches” or sects or denominations, and even religions will be united into one body; and who do not distinguish the priesthood and mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics, but say that the baptism and eucharist of heretics is effectual for salvation; therefore, to those who knowingly have communion with these aforementioned heretics or who advocate, disseminate, or defend their new heresy of Ecumenism under the pretext of brotherly love or the supposed unification of separated Christians, Anathema!”
This heresy of Ecumenism infected the Orthodox Church. The first official action of apostasy occurred in 1965, when Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople lifted the Anathema placed on the Roman Catholic Church in1054. From that time onwards, all the other local Orthodox Churches were forced to either reject this path by breaking communion with this false church, or accept this new direction by remaining in communion with it. We anathematized the Papal church for their heresy of the infallibility of the pope and his changing of the Creed and they anathematized us, the Orthodox, for not accepting their heresy. With the mutual lifting of these Anathemas the conclusion is that the two churches are again one church.
Is it difficult to understand why any Orthodox Christian who remains under allegiance to these newly appeared heretical hierarchs is committing spiritual suicide? These “hierarchs” are the ones who have become uncanonical and heretical. Does it matter if these hierarchs number two or three, or does it matter if these hierarchs number two or three hundred? It does not matter how many hierarchs espouse heresy. They are all under condemnation.
Archbishop Gregory is the only hierarch in the United States who has remained free of any communion or union with this heresy of Ecumenism who has valid apostolic succession. Therefore, he is considered to be truly canonical.
He was baptized at infancy in the Antiochian Church which was a canonical and grace filled Church at that time.
He left the Antiochian Church, 21 years later, because of their acceptance of Ecumenism in 1965 and joined the Russian Church Abroad which was a canonical and grace filled Church at that time.
He left the Russian Church Abroad, 30 years later, in 1995 because of their acceptance of Ecumenism through their union with the heretic Cyprian of Fili and joined the Greek Old Calendar Church which was a canonical and grace filled Church.
In the year 2000 he was released from the Greek Old Calendar Church to enter the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church which was led by bishops in Russia, ordained by the Russian Church Abroad, but who did not accept their Ecumenism and who separated from them because of it. These bishops remained faithful and were canonical and grace filled.
In 2001 he was made a bishop by these hierarchs. This establishes the line of canonicity for Archbishop Gregory. Ever since his consecration, Archbishop Gregory has been an upholder of the canons in all his dealings with the remaining true hierarchs of the Orthodox Church.
As far as maintaining the Orthodox Faith in America, again, Archbishop Gregory is the only hierarch in this country who has not succumbed to the heresy of Ecumenism either by espousing it or by being in communion with anyone who espouses it. It is because of his continuous desire to preserve his canonicity, that he had to, at times, abandon churches that had fallen prey to this, the greatest heresy of all times, Ecumenism.
The Archbishop has also been outspoken against schismatics who according to St. John Chrysostom are worse than heretics since they emulate the truth so closely and are therefore more deceptive. As may be expected, the schismatics have been even more vicious than the heretics of World Orthodoxy, in slandering the reputation of Archbishop Gregory. It is because of this that a comprehensive biography of the Archbishop’s life has shown itself to be necessary. The Life Story of Archbishop Gregory may be found at www.ArchbishopGregory.Info.
Although Archbishop Gregory has the reputation of being the strictest bishop in Orthodoxy, yet in reality he is just a normal Orthodox bishop, applying strictness when applicable and economia when necessary. His confession of Faith can be seen on the web sites, www.TrueOrthodoxy.org and www.TrueOrthodoxy.info. He is also known for his missionary activity. May God help and protect him for many years!