It is best to get right to the point when it comes to the issue of schism and unity. These are matters of grave importance in determining one’s salvation.
The most common charge against True Orthodox by partisans of “official Orthodoxy” (indeed, the only one that seems to have some semblance of reality to it) is their division. This essay determines to answer the question “how divided are the True Orthodox?”
If we look at this from a standpoint of competing jurisdictions, the numbers can indeed get confusing. There are no less than six such jurisdictions in Greece and at least seven in Russia. That alone can terrify an outsider to True Orthodoxy. Especially if he has people telling that outsider that all sorts of bad things will happen to him once he joins.
Looked at from this negative perspective, based on those in communion with those in the Map of True Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States we developed in 2010, there are currently about 21 different True Orthodox jurisdictions which are commonly known. A number of choices to find the True Church! Rather daunting, the ecumenist partisan might say. Not what Christ intended, he might follow up with.
However, this is far from an accurate picture of it once we start looking at the situation as a whole.
Despite the best arguments of the various apologists for different True Orthodox communities, let us use Greece and Russia for an example of how this is a problem that already had a solution.
In Greece, the majority of True Orthodox are in the Synod of Archbishop Kallinikos of Athens. In Russia, the majority of True Orthodox are in the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church. Thus, one could argue that jurisdictional divisions in these countries don’t really matter. If you look for a True Orthodox Church in Greece or Russia, the majority of the well-known Churches to which you will go will belong to one of these two jurisdictions.
Now, one could argue that I am applying size versus right. I am not, or I would destroy any justification to remain in my own jurisdiction. I would say that size alone is not a criterion, but that most True Orthodox Christians are as practical as anyone else.
The next question we must ask is whether or not any of these bodies are in communion. And of course, as much as the ecumenists would like to pretend they are not, the simple reality is that there is far more intercommunion than is usually assumed.
Thus it becomes imperative to answer whether, at the level of the flock, can people receive communion in different True Orthodox jurisdictions. While, again, this depends on where you are (areas with a larger number of jurisdictions present generally have a more lax policy than the reverse) we can be assured that in most major localities of the Orthodox world there is someplace for someone to go to Church, confess and commune.
Let us start answering, then, by demonstrating where there was sufficient formal agreement to allow full communion between flocks. The Synod of Archbishop Kallinikos has a formal dialogue in place with the Synod of the Russian True Orthodox Church under Archbishop Tikhon of Omsk. Its members engage officially in common prayer and work wherever possible. Thus, a member of either jurisdiction in Russia, Greece, the Baltics, Western Europe, or North America has at least some parochial representation. Furthermore, both they and the rival Synod of Archbishop Makarios of Athens usually have no issues with individual members– up to the level of priests– of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church. Furthermore, the ROAC has the vast majority of parishes throughout the African continent. There are open discussions with the HOCNA and the Synod of Archbishop Makarios, and recently two of the Bishops of the former were received by the latter. One assumes that soon the others must follow or take steps in another direction to preserve themselves.
Let us assume, then, that in at least four jurisdictions, there is sufficient goodwill and formal dialogue for your average True Orthodox Christian in any of these jurisdictions to commune at the hands of a priest of another’s. But there is no need to stop there.
If we look now at the situation of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia under Metropolitan Agafangel, their Church is in communion with the Greek Synod in Resistance, as well as the Old Calendar Church of Bulgaria and Romania. This is a communion with – once again– hundreds of parishes around the world, as well as an (apparent) representation in Jerusalem. Another four jurisdictions, excepte that these are in full communion.
If we now look at the situation with the former Milan Synod’s American Metropolia, it reveals an even broader scope of unity, although with considerably fewer parishes (Approximately 200-250 in total worldwide). The American parishes, which have remained in communion with the Greek Synod of Metropolitan Anghelos of Avlonos, are currently now in communion with the True Orthodox Synod of Metropolitan Gervasios of Bulgaria and Metropolitan Raphael of Moscow, as well as two Bishops in Georgia ordained by the Greek Synod. This communion therefore again extends through the Baltics, Greece, Russia, some parts of Europe, as well as North and South America.
This would be another five or so jurisdictions. Furthermore, the American Metropolia has an open policy of receiving in True Orthodox “as is” from other True Orthodox jurisdictions. Similar flexibility is practiced by Her sister Churches when dealing with baptized True Orthodox Christians.
This means that numerically, the overwhelming majority, and organizationally, a sizeable majority of True Orthodox Christians are in communion with True Orthodox in other jurisdictions. We can further note that in fact the majority of True Orthodox Christians can in fact find someplace to commune in good conscience in almost any continent except Antarctica (which is held by the Moscow Patriarchate for the salvation of the polar bears).
This leaves, however, organizationally, a sizeable minority (a number of ROCOR groups not in communion with anyone else, and some in the Matthewite jurisdictions.) Yet these people do not live in a bubble either– they have made a choice to avoid communion, usually until all the issues dividing the Church are resolved– and have explanations worth listening to about their particular choice. They are usually quite knowledgeable about the various jurisdictional divisions, and have their own reasons to be where they are, which they are happy to explain.
The myth that True Orthodox Christians hide alone in their closet-chapels and don’t talk to anyone is pretty old, and needs to be put to bed as soon as possible. If we do not, innocent and deceived people will remain trapped in a “canonical communion” where they can be exposed to the hodgepodge, ecumenist, anti-Patristic “faith” known as “official Orthodoxy”, where fewer and fewer people even know what they believe, and can lose their faith. As the current situation in True Orthodoxy is one where the Churches and their daughter jurisdictions are finally reorganizing for the sake of the True Faith, it is imperative we reach out to the lost, lest they go from bad (official Orthodoxy) to worse (heresy, atheism). The True Orthodox have a responsibility, now more than ever, to reach out to the lost.