DECLARATION OF THE ST. SERGIUS THEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE
1. As the Institute commemorates its ninety years of existence, the time has come when, more than ever, it is a question of giving “a reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Driven out by totalitarianism, our founding fathers made a providence of their exile. They agreed to live fully in the West, Europe, France, to go voluntarily to meet other Christian confessions, other religions, philosophical movements, to consciously take upon themselves the university discipline of teaching and research, of dialogue and debate. They courageously went beyond the divisions of the Orthodox world to welcome the whole body of Orthodox churches and bear witness to the universality of the Orthodox Church. They patiently built up the only school of Orthodox theology which, on the Old Continent, could pride itself on having gone through the dark twentieth century in constant freedom. As Olivier Clément wrote twenty years ago now, on the occasion of the Institute’s seventieth anniversary: “It is here that Orthodoxy today can try to know modernity without cursing it, and also without being dissolved in it, but so as to surpass it from within, in faithfulness to the true Tradition which is, in the Body of Christ, the ever renewed newness of the Spirit.”
2. It is this inheritance that we must uphold, the very loftiness of which invites us to know ourselves to be modest and to show ourselves to be resolute. It is this inheritance which is being subjected today to an attempt at demolition leading to its destruction. Since his controversial election in November 2013 to head the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox churches in Western Europe, Mgr. Job of Telmessos has incessantly denigrated, destabilized, and undermined the activity of the Institute, denying it the autonomy guaranteed it by French and European law. His constant aim has been to transform the honorific office of Rector of the Institute accorded him by custom and regulation into a total takeover of the life of the Institute. Thus, for example:
— From the end of 2013 to the end of the first semester of 2014, Mgr. Job of Telmessos intervened, unsuccessfully, with the services of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Higher Education and Research to have the authorities of the republic establish rights which, with regard to the law and the statutes of the Institute, as he was reminded at the time, cannot belong to him – an act which, besides, would go against the regime of laicism.
– On June 19, 2014, during the closing session, at the end of the liturgy, Mgr. Job of Telmessos denounced from the ambo “malfunctions, problems of ecclesial, administrative, and academic order,” “bad management, a bad level,” “a generalized incompetence,” “a lamentable, grotesque situation, a shame,” the cause of which was the “appropriation” of the Institute by a “laicizing tendency” which had supposedly unleashed “a coup d’État, the start of a war” against himself, whereas the Institute should have towards him “the relation of a child to its Mother,” that is, should grant him all power.
– On Monday, September 29, 2014, Mgr. Job of Telmessos reiterated his attacks during the first meeting of an “Independent ad hoc Committee,” actually self-created, in order to “audit” the Institute, once Mgr. Job had its principle and existence legitimized by the Holy Synod of Constantinople on the basis of a unilateral report of his own making, which has since remained confidential and is most likely biased with a view to the result obtained. We can only regret that the honorable personalities required to sit on this committee thought they were participating in an objective body, which in reality had been formed, harnessed, and exploited by an all too subjective ambition.
– On December 25, 2014, Mgr. Job of Telmessos launched the traditional Christmas collection, which is taken each year in the parishes of his diocese for the benefit of the Institute, by demanding that the donations be henceforth addressed to the “Colline Saint-Serge,” a parallel association, founded by his efforts, and with an equivocal title allowing for a clever confusion.
– On February 8, 2015, during the solemn session of the Institute, Mgr. Job of Telmessos had read a declaration in response to the fact that the Institute had found itself duty bound to point out, by means of a letter from a qualified legal expert, dated February 2, 2015, to the “ad hoc Committee,” that the latter had placed itself objectively in a situation of breach of law. The Institute’s intention was clearly to protect the authorities and personalities involved, beginning with the Holy Synod, from the illegitimate action to which Mgr. Job exposed them in pursuing his own disguised ends. In his declaration, Mgr. Job nevertheless incriminated “the members of the Administrative Council of the Institute,” accusing them of “placing themselves outside the Church,” while insisting, in the name of a counter-truth, on “recalling that the canons forbid the bringing of ecclesiastical affairs before the civil authorities,” that is to say, implicitly threatening the clerics working at the Institute and belonging to his jurisdiction with being dragged before the ecclesiastical tribunal.
– On May 18, 2015, during a court session opposing the Institute as private party to Monsieur Patrick Brispot, former treasurer of the AMEITO (Association pour le Maintien et l’Entretien de l’Institut de Théologie Orthodoxe à Paris ), accused of misappropriation of funds, Mgr. Job of Telmessos intervened, without having consulted or informed the Institute, so that the Archdiocese could present itself in parallel and strangely as a private party, not without declaring through his lawyer that, by reason of its supposed negligence, the Institute should in part be held morally responsible for the grave harm of which he is in fact the victim. Which came down to weakening the position and the capacity of the Institute to recover its funds.
– On May 26, 2015, to the delegation of the Institute, which had requested an audience with him in order to seek terms for a renewed collaboration, Mgr. Job of Telmessos declared that he demanded: a) that the Institute present its apologies to the “ad hoc Committee,” turn over to it the documents demanded, including financial statements and the university curricula of the teachers; b) that the Institute grant him all the following powers, concentrated ex officio in his person: presidency of the Administrative Council of the Institute; presidency of the Ameito; the right of veto over the person of the Dean elected by the Council; the right of invalidation of teachers on a periodic basis. In conclusion, he repeated his refusal to countersign the traditional printed diplomas for the closure of 2015, as had been the case in 2014, on the pretext of a question of wording which had meanwhile been resolved, and thus continuing to keep the students in a situation comparable to that of hostages.
– On May 29, 2015, Mgr. Job of Telmessos received students of the Institute to explain to them that he declined all responsibility in the present impasse, which was the fault of the Institute, that he had a personal plan, new teachers, and the funds necessary to carry out a radical overhaul of the Institute, that he would then have no trouble signing their diplomas, and that he advised them, for the year 2015-2016, out of “prudence,” to make a double inscription or to inscribe themselves elsewhere than in the Institute.
– On June 15, 2015, in its verdict handed down in the Brispot case, the Court, which had notably judged in favor of the Institute and acknowledged that it was fully within its rights to recover the misappropriated funds, also ruled out Mgr. Job’s demand to constitute a private party, which it judged inadmissible, the tribunal thus confirming incidentally the independence of the Institute as a legal body.
3. Before any other consideration, we must unfortunately admit that we have learned nothing new about the frame of mind of our former student and then teacher Job Getcha, from his entry into the Institute in 1996 up to our collective refusal to renew his election as Dean in 2007, an event which we consider to be the source of his present maneuvers to recover an absolute power which he believes he holds from God, on the pretext of a false conception of the episcopacy, which we recognize as indirectly weighing upon our talents as pedagogues.
4. All the same, throughout this year of open and concealed hostilities stirred up by the man who had meanwhile become Archbishop Job, we have preferred to keep silent in hopes that the scandal would end, that it would not go beyond the interior of the Church, for which both reason and communion are essential. We beg the pardon of anyone who, not having understood the motives for this delay, has drawn from it the bitter idea that the Institute is renouncing its vocation and its mission.
5. In fact, we are not the only ones to suffer the assaults of Mgr. Job of Telmessos in his frantic quest for power and recognition. It is with a sorry heart that we turn our brotherly thoughts to the diocesan Council, the parishes, the priests and the faithful of the Archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Churches in western Europe, who have likewise suffered from his vindictive and persecutory arbitrariness, as witness the numerous official accounts and complaints, sent by mail or related on the Internet.
Therefore, to all those who find themselves attacked, wounded, or shocked by the acts of Mgr. Job of Telmessos, we affirm, humbly but with certainty, following the Fathers and Doctors: “That is not the Church of Christ. That is not Orthodoxy.”
6. With the Apostle, we have thus “clothed ourselves with patience” (1 Colossians 3:12) up to this extreme point when we must “let our word yes mean yes, and our no, no” (Matthew 5:37; James 5:12). For as Maximus the Confessor demanded, finding himself alone in upholding Orthodoxy against his time: “Before all and for all, let us be sober and vigilant [. . .]; let us keep above all the great and first remedy of our salvation, I mean the excellent inheritance of the faith, confessing it openly in body and soul, as the Fathers taught us” (Letter 12).
7. That is why, considering the increasing difficulty of our circumstances, but before all as a sign of resistance to the freedom-destroying will of Mgr. Job Getcha, to his conception of the episcopacy as autocracy, to his disdain of the laws of the French Republic and the European Union, we members of the Council of Teachers, after having prayed, exchanged views, and agreed on the same inspiration, have decided, by an overwhelming majority, with the unanimous approval of the Administrative Council, to suspend regular instruction in place at the Institute for the entire academic year 2015-2016.
8. That is the inviolable right of the Institute of Saint Sergius, a private establishment of higher education recognized by the State and governed by a free association under the law of 1901, which, de facto, cannot be legally ignored by the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe, which is a diocesan union of religious associations under the law of 1905. That is also the imperative duty of the Institute of Saint Sergius, considering the pan-Orthodox mission it has fulfilled for ninety years in service to all, to the Committee then the Assembly of Orthodox bishops of France, to all Orthodox Churches throughout the world, and in the first place to the Ecumenical Throne, which up to this day has always guaranteed the freedom of the Institute as an expression of its own influence.
9. This period of suspension of regular instruction in place will be adjusted with respect to the students concerned and the proper pursuit of their degrees, made possible by our various agreements of cooperation with sister institutions as well as by the maintaining of theological formation by correspondence. But above all this period must serve, ninety years after our founding, for thinking out our re-founding for the next ninety years, adapting the spirit of our origins to the present challenges. Throughout the 2015-2016 school year, the Institute, escaping the harmful paralysis into which Mgr. Job of Telmessos has set about plunging it, will remain nonetheless a living place, open to all and preparing its future. Let all those who have never ceased to accompany it and help it be fully assured of our irreversible commitment to perpetuating our vocation. We invite them, moreover, to participate in our reflections on the future of the Institute.
10. This decision amounts, then, not to a retreat of the Church, but to a defense of the Church. It involves, of course, a risk of marginalization, even of disappearance, which all the same has seemed to us a lesser evil compared to the attempt at canonical asphyxiation and ideological misappropriation undertaken by Mgr. Job Getcha. For we are not fighting for ourselves, but for the witness of the faith. Thus, it would be better for the Institute no longer to exist than for it to abandon itself to a spiritual death expressed by the continuation of its name when it has lost its identity.
11. Because we want Saint Sergius to live, we make so bold as to appeal, with deference but confidence, to His All-Holiness the Patriarch Bartholomew and His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, knowing how profound their attachment to the Institute is, that they may grant us the spiritual and canonical support that will allow us to continue our mission in an authentic climate of ecclesial communion, juridical conformity, and human dignity. And so that, for our part and in their name, we may communicate the “water of life” of Orthodox theology to all women and men “who are athirst” (Revelation 22:17).
12. Subscribing to the definition of Father Sergei Bulgakov, who, at the very moment of the creation of the Institute, of which he was the first Dean, declared that “Orthodoxy, to be itself, cannot be only the richness of the faith and life in faith, but must also be prophecy,” we make ours in conclusion the word of our father among the saints John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, and say with him: “Thanks be unto God for all things.”
The Institute of Saint Sergius
Paris, June 16, 2015