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Metropolitan Naum: Sectarian behaviour in the Church


Part One

(Let us stand humbly, let us stand with fear)

Brethren, I plead with you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in one spirit and in one thought.

For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.

Now I say this, because each of you says, “I am of Paul”, or “I am of Apollos”, or “I am of Cephas”, or “I am Christ”.

So, is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Cor. 1: 10–13).


Let us be brief and clear about the sectarian behaviour in the Church.

The spiritual child must not build a special relationship with the spiritual father or confessor, or with the clergyman of any priestly order, separately and opposed to the relationship with the Episcope of the local Church. It is a psychological (of the soul, mental, not spiritual) and a sectarian relationship that separates us from the grace of God.

The spiritual father or confessor, of any order, must not build a special relationship with the spiritual child, separately and opposed to the relationship with the Episcope of the local Church. It is psychological and a sectarian relationship that separates us from the grace of God.

The Episcope of the local Church also does not attract or direct spiritual children to himself, but directs them to the Lord Christ and offers them to Him. The opposite behaviour from the previously described is psychological relationship and sectarian action, based on vanity and pride, which separates us from the grace of God. On the other hand, the Episcope must not decide who will be confessing to whom and with whom one will be spiritually consulting. Antinomian, but true.

Every Episcope of the local Church should have a humble, a sort of attitude of obedience to the first in Honour of the local church; and all Episcopes together should have humility and a kind of obedience to the catholic decisions of the Holy Synod of the local church. The opposite behaviour is sectarian action.

All local churches (Episcopes) should have an appropriate respect for the First in Honour of the Orthodox Church, i.e. the Ecumenical Patriarch. That honorary title is not without spiritual rights and obligations – on both sides. Disrespectful conduct towards the First in Honour is a sectarian act.

Parallel relationships in the church community are also sectarian relationships. With some people, with whom we are together every day, we build a mental, sentimental relationship, and with others (hierarchically placed above us by the Episcope), we build an official relationship (usually based on fear or repulsion – also a mental relationship). Both types of relationships are not right. We are all called, with all our fellow men, through self-transfiguration, to build a spiritual, loving and personal relationship.

I am aware that every relationship is initially mental and physical – at least in one direction, but also those relationships must be gradually transfigured, through the ascetic-hesychastic and sacramental life of the Church, to its full perfection, according to unity and community of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; so that they also may be one in Us (John 17:21).

The guarantor for the proper and true building of personal relations in the Church is the correct personal relationship with your own Episcope, i.e. The Episcope of the local Church. Because the Church is not elder-centric, nor abbot-centric, nor presbyter-centric, nor spiritual father-centric, nor confessional father-centric at all, but it is Episcope-centric, i.e. Christ-centric.

The God-Man Jesus Christ is the only Head of the Church. The Episcope of the local Church is an icon of Christ, sits in the place of Christ and represents His image. He is not Christ Himself, but an icon of Christ; and respect for the icon is transferred to the original.

Obedience is understandable – it is also confirmed by Christ Himself in the Holy Gospel: “He that hears you [that is, the Apostles, or, nowadays, the Episcopes], hears Me; and he who rejects you, rejects Me; and he who rejects Me, rejects the One who sent Me ”(Luke 10:16).

Even from the strong relationship established in this way one can deviate. Let me remind you: Only the joint offering of gifts and the joint communion with different-believers, as well as the apparent deliberate departure from the dogmas of the Orthodox faith, is a justifiable reason for rebellion against the established order of relations with the Episcope and those who follow him – even if we have not reached the second level of spiritual development (enlightenment) yet.

So, nor a patriarch or an archbishop, but even if an angel from heaven falls into heresy – we do not follow him! I have mentioned only these two cases, because the interpretation of the canons of the Church, however, requires at least enlightenment of the mind. So I urge you to be careful that the first two things do not happen, and for the third one – the implementation of the holy canons in practice, there is already someone to take care of – the Holy Spirit and the council of the Episcopes.

We withdraw from our Episcope in the case of heresy only, and in the case where he is legally convicted by a church court which is liable for him and for other maters verified by the holy canons of the Church. Which also does not mean that we should not feel sorry for him and pray for him. Anyone can make a mistake.

Therefore, do not turn away from the uncreated grace of God by having a wrong attitude towards the Episcope of the local Church, that is, by building a wrong relationship with anyone else, to the detriment of the relationship with the Episcope of the local Church, as long as he is officially your liable, orthodox Episcope.

Wrong relations – with anyone else, and to the detriment of the relationship with the Episcope of the local Church, can end tragically. You have enough examples at our own courtyard; and you are smart enough to recognize them yourself, according to the description I gave you.

None of what I wrote would be necessary if every Episcope had an inner spiritual cover for the rank by which he is adorned. But each Episcope will be accountable to God for his work, while you will be accountable to God for your relationship with your Episcope. Clearly, it is easier to follow a Episcope with spiritual authority than someone who lives carelessly.

Our task is only to preserve our unity in Christ, in the Church, and everything else is given to us in advance by Christ’s victory over the devil, death and evil, and everything else will be added and accomplished, both on a personal, ecclesiastical, and on the national level. God is faithful, not unfaithful. Respect for the hierarchical position of the Church is very important in moments of community hesitation. The burden of maintaining unity will fall on all but most of all on the spiritual (strong) people.

What I am saying is, do not panic unnecessarily, with speculations what will happen. Do not incite discord in the church community. Because, nothing you suspect will happen. Our church condition is incomparable to any other, so you can not draw conclusions from other situations. False information and baseless claims are like a virus. In the healthy tissue of the church organism, through them, only immunity is created – which is good. But the nominal Christians get sick(er )of everything, which is very bad; and they are much more. Not to mention the mission of the Church, which is our main task. We simply do not look like anything serious.

Times are complex. A special war is happening to us. A lot of false and confusing information is presented. Let us stand humbly, let us stand with fear, around our Episcope. Let us stand with love around our holy Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric, i.e. Justiniana Prima. And let us guard our souls. That is it…

Most-Holy Bogorodica (Mother of God), save us!

Metropolitan of Strumica Naum


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