Receptions of Clergy from Other Canonical Orthodox Local Churches or Dioceses

Reception into the Diocese of already-ordained Orthodox clergy in any rank of Holy Orders (Readers, Subdeacons, Deacons, Priests) is ultimately a question to be considered directly by the Diocesan Bishop in his role as Archpastor; however, the Chancellery regularly receives enquiries about these matters, and so here provides some general information on the reception of clergy from another Diocese or jurisdiction. (Если Вы предпочитаете читать эту информацию на русском языке, нажмите здесь.)

A general note on reception and canonical release

All Orthodox clergymen under the jurisdiction of canonical Orthodox hierarchs in canonically normative situations are received into our Diocese only following the canonical norms enshrined in the Orthodox Church since the earliest centuries. That is to say, clergy under a canonical Orthodox hierarch are received only with the blessing and agreement of that hierarch, formalised in a ‘Canonical Release’ exchanged between him and the Ruling Bishop of our Diocese. This is something arranged between the hierarchs themselves, after initial discussion has been held between the cleric and our Ruling Bishop.

Individuals finding themselves under a non-canonical hierarch or in a canonically-abnormal ecclesiastical situation are received according to the canonical customs of the Orthodox Church that apply specifically to such situations. In each such case, petition must be made directly to the Ruling Bishop, who will consider the specifics of the situation and the manner in which it is to be addressed.

Factors considered in receiving ordained clergymen into the Diocese

Certain factors relating to the needs of ministry within our Diocese are always considered in decisions relating to the reception of an already-ordained clergyman into the Diocese. These include:

  • Evidence of a pious and Godly life, lived in accordance with the teachings of the Orthodox Church, both personally and as relates to the individual’s family (wife, children, etc.); and the individual’s express vow to continue to adhere wholly to the prescriptions and proscriptions of the Holy Canons for the remainder of his life.
  • The absence of any canonical impediments to such reception, which question is determined by the Diocesan Bishop in dialogue with the clergyman as well as his current hierarch.
  • The ability to speak the local language of the parish of intended appointment (English in England, French in France, Italian in Italy, etc.), or assurance that this can be learned to a proficient level within no more than one year of ordination or incardination.
    • The ability to speak Russian is not a requirement, but in practical terms, in our Diocese, is a strong help in ministerial life, since there are generally Russian-speakers in most parishes; and in some parishes (e.g. where there are a majority of Russian speakers) this may be deemed a necessity. Those capable of beginning to learn Russian are strongly encouraged to do so.
  • A knowledge of liturgical service fitting to the practices of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia — or the readiness to undertake training in this as part of their preparation reception into the Diocese. Those being received into the Diocese will always be expected to spend a period of at least 10 days, immediately or very swiftly following reception, at either the Diocesan Cathedral in London or the Cathedral in Geneva, serving daily, so as to be properly instructed in the precise liturgical customs of our Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
    • The majority of our parishes serve the Divine Services in Church Slavonic, either in whole or in part, and thus an ability to serve in this sacred language is a profound pastoral help. In some cases (depending on the specific considerations of a given parish), individuals are received who do not yet know Church Slavonic, but it is always an expectation that study will be undertaken to be able to serve at least portions of the services in this language (and instruction in this can be arranged through the Diocese).
  • Proof of theological education commensurate with the degree of Holy Orders already obtained in the candidate’s current Church. Those who undertook a seminary, academy or other theological degree must make this known to the Bishop as part of the process of consideration for reception; those who have not yet undertaken such studies must make this known, and a suitable programme of study will be determined. The Diocese does not receive as Deacon or Priest those who have not undertaken appropriate theological studies, or who do not begin such studies as part of this process.
  • For those transferring into the Diocese from other territories, evidence of a legal right to reside and, if required, work in the country of appointment (i.e. any necessary visa or work permits, etc.).
    • Together with this, a clear understanding that in our Church Abroad the majority of clergy are not paid a salary by their parishes that is sufficient to cover the full costs of daily life, and therefore clergy must also be prepared to find and hold secular employment sufficient to meet these needs.

Practical step: Examination of Candidates, before reception into the ranks of the clergy of the Diocese

If you wish to be considered for reception into the clergy of our Diocese, and have the blessing of your current hierarch to explore the possibility of such transfer, the first step is to complete the Examination Questionnaire for Candidates for Reception from other Local Churches, Jurisdictions or Dioceses, which gathers essential information about you for the records of the Diocesan Chancellery (e.g. personal details, educational history). There is a space at the beginning of this form to write a letter to the Bishop, stating your reasons for seeking to transfer to the Diocese. This should be completed even if you have spoken to the Bishop previously about these matters, as a written testimony of your desire to explore in a formal manner the possibility of such reception.

The Diocesan Chancellery will provide the above documentation to the Ruling Bishop, who thereafter will be in communication with you directly. Discussion with the Bishop will likely begin via correspondence, but ultimately will involve speaking by telephone. When considering the transfer of Priests, it will almost always be expected that the individual, at a time agreed with the Bishop, will travel to the Diocese to meet in person, prior to any decision being taken.

If it is ultimately determined to be in accordance with God’s will for you to transfer into the Diocese, our Ruling Bishop will write directly to your current hierarch requesting a letter of Canonical Release and associated documentation from your current diocesan chancellery.

Consideration of nagradi (ecclesiastical awards) received by clergymen in other jurisdictions or dioceses, prior to reception into our Diocese

All clergymen from Dioceses outside of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) are advised that the system of clerical ‘awards’ (nagradi) is different in the ROCOR than in other parts of the Russian Church and in other Local Orthodox Churches. It is the practice in our Diocese that clergymen are received with the blessing to serve in such liturgical awards as they would have received had they been ordained within the ROCOR itself (i.e. according to the timeline of such awards used in our Church), and this might mean that you will not be blessed to wear nagradi that you have been awarded in your current jurisdiction which have been awarded sooner than would have been done in our Church, until such time as these nagrada are granted to you by our Bishop according to the ROCOR timeframe and practices. This is a matter that will be addressed by the Diocesan Bishop in his communications with you prior to reception, and is a condition of reception.

A note for clergy who were formerly heterodox clergy (e.g. Roman Catholic, Protestant) and were received into Orthodoxy as clergymen by their previous / current jurisdiction

The Orthodox Church recognises only those ordinations performed within the Orthodox Church, and the Church Abroad does not recognise any practice of receiving ‘in clerical rank’ individuals who were previously ordained in heterodox traditions (e.g. Roman Catholic priests, Protestant pastors). If this situation applies to you, you must make this known to the Ruling Bishop as part of your petition to be received into our Diocese, so that the Bishop may address with you the correct way for such an anomalous situation to be corrected.