US Ukraine Ambassador Accused of “Neo-Sergianism”

Russian nationalists are unhappy with the religious activities of the US ambassador to Ukraine (link added):

The fact that US ambassador to Ukraine, John Herbst, has been delegated from the diocese of Odessa and Zaporozhie to the All-Diaspora Council, which is to consider the re-unification of the two parts of the Russian Church, is a provocation, stated Constantine Zatulin, State Duma deputy and director of the Institute for the CIS Countries.

‘The ambassador was really baptized according to the Orthodox rite. At the same time, the aim of his efforts as a person at the US State Department service is fairly evident. John Herbst acts in the interests of the USA’.

Zatulin believes that the USA’s plan is “fragmenting Orthodoxy”, in order to lessen the influence of Russia. “TV journalist” (actually a notorious nationalist pundit) Mikhail Leontyev shares his view:

‘Opponents of the unification [with Moscow] who accuse the Moscow Patriarchate of Sergianism, that is submission to the authorities, represent actually fierce neo-Sergianists of American making who have just chosen a different master’.

“Sergianism” was the adaptation by Patriarch Sergius to the atheism of the Russian Revolution.

Zatulin is a long-standing critic of Ukraine’s loosening of ties with Russia:

The people who carried out the Orange Revolution simply jeopardized the process of nation-building. After all, the real goal of the Orange Revolution – as last year showed – is not democracy, but “Ukraine above all” and a final separation from Russia…Russia’s objectives should be clear: To prevent Ukraine’s consolidation as a state that is hostile to Russia, under the influence of forces in opposition to Russia both within and outside Ukraine, thus preventing Ukraine from turning into another Poland and avoiding the return of the Time of Troubles.

Radio Liberty notes that Zatulin has similarly tough views on Georgia, and that he is an ally of the Motherland political bloc, which I discussed here.

Meanwhile, some background to the US ambassador’s involvement with Orthodoxy is provided by Orthodixie, which cites various sources. The ambassador is apparently a member of ROCOR, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, although for a time he was attending worship at a Ukrainian church linked to the Moscow Patriarchate, from which ROCOR split during the Soviet period. When Herbst stopped visiting this church, a Russian newspaper claimed this had been due to an order from the White House:

The President of the United States George Bush forbade the American Ambassador to Ukraine, John Herbst, to attend the Holy Protection Monastery in Kiev…The ambassador told the believers that the American leadership is unhappy with his visits to the monastery, which belongs to the “Moscow Church.”

Commentary follows from ROCOR member Fr Alexander Lebedeff:

[ROCOR] Bishop Agafangel reports that the same John Herbst, Ambassador of the United States to Ukraine, has been elected at the Diocesan Assembly of the Odessa diocese to be the lay representative of the Diocese at the All-Diasporan Council of the Church Abroad in San Francisco next year, as he is a parishioner of our Church in Malin.

…How can we then accuse the [Moscow Patriarchate] of KGB ties and close ties to the government, when we are electing our own high-ranking U.S. government officials with CIA connections to be delegates at our Church Councils?

To which a response is provided by non other than Herbst’s daughter Masha:

To what depths had this journalist sunk in order to get a “scoop?”…whatever you think about the president, he doesn’t give two hoots about where my family attends services.

…As for Pokrovsky Monastir’, my entire family attended Nativity services there in January 2004. But last winter, during the elections, the sermons there became filled with such anti-American bile that my family understandably became uncomfortable. So they stopped going to Pokrovsky, and began attending services at other churches in Kiev during the weeks that they did not make it to Malin.

And regarding the murky “CIA” allegation:

As a priest, you should know better than anyone that the Lord calls people to service not only in our churches and monasteries, but in other capacities as well. We don’t all have the opportunity to shed our secular lives and seek refuge in the Church, but it doesn’t diminish our ability or responsibility to participate in the life of ROCOR.

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