DIOCESE OF GREAT BRITAIN AND SCANDINAVIA
MEETING OF THE CLERGY AND PRESIDENTS OF THE CHURCH PARISHES OF THE VICARAGE FOR GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND PRESIDED OVER BY HIS GRACE DOSITEJ BISHOP FOR BRITAIN AND SCANDINAVIA
We, clergy and presidents of all the Church parishes of the Vicarage for Britain and Ireland of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, under the stewardship of our Hierarch, His Grace Dositej, Bishop of Britain and Scandinavia, following Holy secret Confession and the Holy Service of Presanctified Gifts, gathered in Bishop Nikolaj Hall at St. Sava’s Church in London to consider current issues affecting our Vicarage but also some priority questions which have for years, perhaps decades, administratively bedevilled 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 in their own right, but rather legally recognized through their trustees, that is to say through individuals. This and a lack of defined accountabilities has 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 the 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 churches local to the UK, it has been decided that this parish will strive to set up an appropriate framework for the above and then offer all the assistance it can to enable all our parishes in the Vicarage 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. In regard to two of the church communities in the UK previously established and led by the 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 ‘Akakijevci’, was recently enabled to hold “services” in those churches. This was done at the invitation of individual trustees, effectively “owners” of the place of worship at Ealing, who having themselves previously also fled the 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 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 Jesus Christ Our Lord. 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 regret their attendance on those occasions, though in instances where someone continues along this wrong road we will of course be left no choice but to adopt canonical measures.
London 08.03.2017 + D O S I T E J
And the priests and presidents of the Church parishes of the Vicarage of Great Britain and Ireland