DIOCESE OF GREAT BRITAIN AND SCANDINAVIA
MEETING OF THE CLERGY AND PRESIDENTS OF THE CHURCH PARISHES OF THE EPISCOPAL DEANERY FOR GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND PRESIDED BY HIS GRACE DOSITEJ, BISHOP OF GREAT BRITAIN AND SCANDINAVIA
We, clergy and presidents of all Church parishes of the Deanery for Gret Britain and Ireland, under the presidency of His Grace Dositej, Bishop of Great Britain and Scandinavia, following the Confession and the Holy Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts, gathered in Bishop Nikolaj Hall at St. Sava’s Church in London to consider current issues affecting our Deanery. Primarily questions which we have had for years, perhaps decades, concerning administrative problems preventing the better functioning of our parishes in the evangelical mission of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom. Two points in particular, taken from our discussion, were singled out as worthy of mention, on the basis of which and with the approval of all, we make the following:
1. It is a simple fact that our parishes in the United Kingdom are not legally registered entities (as ecclesiastical bodies) in their own right, but are legally recognized through their trustees, that is to say through individuals. This and a lack of defined accountabilities have often led to disagreement and uncertainty about the scope of responsibilities between trustees and parish councils, sometimes ending in painful discord. Bishop Dositej has given his blessing and all parties present have unanimously accepted that this situation be resolved as soon as is practicable, and that a legal method be found, for example by parishes registering as associations of believers, by which parish property ultimately be responsibility of a legally-constituted parish body instead of being held in the names of individuals; that is to say that ultimate responsibility be placed in a body which would hold the property and associated revenue for the benefit of its parish, to the benefit of the Serbian Orthodox Church. As the London parish has been most engaged with these matters, assembling relevant initial details and also taking into account the experience of other Orthodox parishes in the UK, it has been decided that this parish will strive to set up an appropriate framework for the above and then offer all assistance it can to enable all our parishes in the Deanery of Great Britain and Ireland to adopt such a model within an optimal time frame. It is our belief that overcoming this legal issue will beneficially influence the evangelical mission of our Church, which our Lord has called upon us to fulfil.
2. Regarding two parishes in the UK previously established and led by the former Free Serbian Orthodox Church, namely the parishes of St. Sava in Ealing in London and St. Peter and Paul in Leicester, it has been noted with sadness that a sect from Serbia, the ‘Akaki’ sect, “served” in those churches. They came by invitation from individual trustees, effectively “owners” of the place of worship at Ealing, who, having themselves previously also fled the former Free Serbian Orthodox Church, used the Holy Christmas period to perform “services” together with the sect at the above locations. The activities of the ‘Akaki’ sect are well known in Serbia, but in England it has exploited the lack of information about itself amongst Serbian Orthodox churchgoers, many of whom mistakenly believed that the sect’s representatives were priests of the former Free Serbian Orthodox church, and therefore went to those “church services” in Ealing and Leicester. We would therefore like to warn all our well-intentioned Serbian Orthodox believers to understand that this is a case of a self-proclaimed sect masquerading as a “church”; a sect manufactured by schismatic Greek ‘Old Calendarists’ who had themselves already been excommunicated by all the Orthodox Churches. We therefore appeal to sincere believers not to fall into the trap laid by such vain and fake “zealots” whose sermons amount to reviling the Holy Church and constantly accusing it of a so-called “Ecumenism”. At the same time and in a spirit of fatherly love we have to caution and indeed warn believers that any person knowingly joining this separatist sect does thereby exclude himself or herself from the One Holy Apostolic Church and thereby from the source of the living water of life which is Our Lord Jesus Christ. We call upon all organizers of gatherings, above all trustees, to stop such practices and upon all believers to properly evaluate their own lives and spiritual good and as a result to remain faithful to, and in unity with, the Serbian Mother Church. As responsible members of the Serbian Orthodox Church we also express our love towards those who did not know the true state of affairs and who show penance for their attendance on those occasions, though in instances where someone continues along this wrong path we will of course be left no choice but to adopt canonical measures.
London 08.03.2017 + D O S I T E J
аnd the clergy and presidents of parishes of the Episcopal Deanery of Great Britain and Ireland