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ROCOR's Anglican Scandal Continues - and it gets worse (Part 2)

ROCOR's Anglican Scandal Continues - and it gets worse (Part 2)

By Simon Dennerly
Special to VIRTUEONLINE
www.virtueonline.org
March 28, 2019

The findings get a lot more concerning since the last article based on an investigation
into the practices of recruitment of Anglican clergy by the Russian Orthodox Church
Outside of Russia's (ROCOR) Western Rite Vicariate (WRV). ROCOR has a fraught
history of recruiting questionable individuals and groups in its efforts to expand, and
now they trying to woo the vagante heavily Anglican Continuum.

Pokrov.org, a website dedicated to reporting abuse in Orthodox churches, reported
the ordination of an individual for ROCOR's WRV, Deacon Gregory Smyrni,
formerly John Smyrni (https://www.pokrov.org/persons/seminarian-john-smyrni/),
for the Saint Thomas Orthodox Church in Mountain Home, Arkansas, a western rite
parish last year. Smyrni was expelled from a Greek Orthodox seminary in 2012 for
reported sexual abuse of a priest's teenage daughter, including providing her with
drugs. An article for The National Herald (https://www.thenationalherald.com/wpcontent/
uploads/2013/11/776.pdf) details the individual has a history of meth use and
when his wife tested positive for drugs after giving birth to their youngest child, the
couples' children were taken into protective care. This individual is currently in
ministry and has been the sole member of the clergy at parish youth retreats according
to the WRV newsletter.

In 2016, after only a "few months" of talks, ROCOR announced with great fanfare
(http://orthochristian.com/90417.html ) they were receiving the vagante "Catholic
Church of the East", a 'Western' church claiming over 60 parishes, with its
Archbishop Ramzi Mussalam having already been ordained a priest for ROCOR.
Mussalam started off as former priest of the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC),
ordained "Bishop" by the former UK head of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church
(and notorious vagante) David Bell/James Atkinson-Wake, and then was apart of the
Assyrian Church of the East. The Catholic Church had put out warnings when they
posed as a Catholic group. The announced union fell apart instantly with Mussalam
and his group, going vagante again. As one individual who has been commenting on
ROCOR's for years stated:
"I understand the PNCC deposed this fellow from the active priesthood. If so, there
goes ROCOR again, scraping the bottom of the vagante barrel in its effort to pretend
to be a universal church (the universality they really believe in is the same "Russian
World" as in Russian politics) and thus spite Rome. Didn't their getting burned by
Blanco and Nathan Monk teach them anything?"

(https://www.pokrov.org/groups/christ-of-the-hills-monastery-blanco-tx/)

Meet Fr Mark Rowe

To understand ROCOR's WRV recent expansion, despite ROCOR's 2013 Synod
decision to disband the Vicariate never being reversed, it is important to understand a
bit about the history of Fr Mark Rowe- the man doing the recruiting.

The last article (https://www.virtueonline.org/rocor-rewrites-history-convert-anglicans)
covered how the clergy of ROCOR's WRV are fostering a 'cult of belief' claiming
after the Great Schism of 1054 England remained in union with the Orthodox East,
and the Norman Conquest of 1066 was a Papal crusade to bring England back under
Rome. A surprising amount of Anglican converts to Orthodoxy cite this 'historic
discovery' in their conversion stories. When asked for evidence of this claim officials
at ROCOR's WRV have provided a book written by a member of Orthodoxy's
schismatic "Old Calendarist" movement Vladimir Moss. Moss has written another
such 'history' about ROCOR, describing the Orthodox church as "Apostate" and "a
graceless pit". Of course promoting the work of excommunicated radials is a no no in
Orthodoxy, and Archpriest Mark Rowe was quick to take to Facebook to deny the
claims in the group "Fellowship of Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican Christians":
"I would love to see my email recommending Vladimir Moss. My email is...."
and
"I would love to know where I have ever recommended any text by Vladimir Moss"
When someone claiming to be an Anglican priest wrote Rowe saying if he could
prove the 1066 Papal Conquest claim they would consider coming over with
their parish, Fr Rowe replied (verified by the editor and attorney for Virtue
Online):
"Hello Father,
Where is your parish located?
Here are some links"

One of the few links was to Moss's book on romanitas.ru, an Old Calendarist website,
with the vast majority of the works available in their English language section
(http://www.romanitas.ru/eng) being written by Moss and his wife (another link was
to Orthodox Wiki which cites the work of Moss). A year before this Rowe's assistant
Vicar-General at the time, and current head of WRV in the UK, when asked about the
1066 Papal conquest claim, provided the same link. So he denied it, but we have the
email. Would Fr Mark Rowe ever act dishonestly?

In his own words

In Fr Rowe's often told conversion story given to "Journey to Orthodoxy"
(https://journeytoorthodoxy.com/2012/12/so-that-god-would-give-you-tous/),
he seemingly admits to some quite questionable behaviour.

He admits to being an ex-Catholic (in other interviews he states he became Anglican
to become a married priest), and while at seminary he started to believe Orthodoxy
was the "True Church", and when ordained:
"One day, a former parishioner of the Church I was serving in at the time in Tampa,
(who had left to become Orthodox some months before my arrival) came by my office
to meet me. He was attending an Orthodox church in Pinellas Park, St. Nicholas. He
invited me to come visit his church some time and remarked that the Antiochian
Archdiocese had a Western Rite, and that we should investigate the possibility of
converting to Orthodoxy while being able to continue in our liturgical heritage and
tradition. He also invited me to meet his parish priest. This seemed like it was too
good to be true at the time, so I made my first visit to St. Nicholas...
...We went for a visit to St Nicholas and met up with my new friend and his parish
priest, Fr. Thomas Joseph. He and his parish were very welcoming to me and my wife
and members of my parish. After several different visits and discussions with Fr.
Thomas, I knew down deep inside that Holy Orthodoxy was where my church and I
needed to be. Over the course of a couple of years, we worked toward that goal...We
invited Fr. Thomas and a couple of other Orthodox Priests over to our parish to give
talks and instruction about different facets of Orthodoxy such as icons, and the Jesus
Prayer. I also took members of my parish over to St. Nicholas for different parish
events as we worked toward the common goal of our parish entering Orthodoxy...
As time went by, I was sure of my purpose, but the parish wasn't ready to submit to
Orthodoxy."

And the parish never did. Fr Thomas Joseph went on to become a bishop and attended
Mark Rowe's Orthodox ordination which was reported on in an article
(http://ww1.antiochian.org/content/bishop-thomas-attends-rocor-western-riteordination)
for the Antiochian Archdiocesan website, which gives some interesting
dates for the man who said he was convinced by Orthodoxy in the seminary:
"Father Mark Rowe was originally ordained an Anglican clergyman in 1997, and in
1998 was assigned as the rector of St. Mary the Virgin in Tampa, FL. Father Mark
originally met Bishop Thomas in about 1998, prior to Bishop Thomas' elevation to
the episcopate, while (then Fr. Thomas) was still serving as a priest at St. Nicholas in
Pinellas Park, Florida. It was in the years following that Fr. Thomas was
instrumental in introducing Fr. Mark and his parishioners to Holy Orthodoxy."

So when only a priest for about a year he accepted an invitation to consider defecting
to the Antiochian WRV (an offer Rowe described as "too good to be true") and then
turned double agent, working a secret agenda for years, colluding with Orthodox
priests to convert his parish to Orthodoxy, while posing as a good and loyal servant to
his Anglican bishop who supported him through seminary. Many things in Rowe's
telling do not add up:

"Due to a new job, I relocated and I then started another mission parish in Sarasota,
Florida.

In 2010, I had been in the third church split since being an Anglican. It was clear to
me that not only did I now have answers to those questions the young Priest-monk
asked me some years ago, but they required me to take action. Anglicanism was a
good learning experience for me, and I am not sorry that I was part of it. I made
many friends and learned a lot about ministry. I had been in ordained ministry as an
Anglican for fifteen (15) years."

He then goes on to detail his application and submitting to ROCOR, talking two other
Continuing Anglican priests to come with him and their resignation letter to their
bishops. The problem is the facts in the text above are out of order: In 2010 was his
third church split, this article
(https://www.heraldtribune.com/article/LK/20110519/News/605198001/SH/) shows
in mid-2011 he founded the missionary Anglican parish, and in late 2012, 15 years
after his Anglican ordination in 1997, he was ordained as an Orthodox priest. So was
the 2011 mission parish founding apart of his action towards Orthodoxy, or in 2012
was Rowe's entering Orthodoxy after his 'fourth church split'?
There are more 'unusual' and outright unbelievable things to do with his conversion
testimony, but it can be said Fr Mark Rowe knows the value of a good story via
rewriting history.

ROCOR's WR Expansion

The secret behind ROCOR's WRV new expansion is taking Anglican clergy, mainly
from the Continuum, giving them quick ordinations and getting them involved in
church planting. From Rowe's account of applying for ROCOR "We then made our
applications to the ROCOR Western Rite Vicariate, which were accepted and blessed
by Metropolitan Hilarion, and ordination dates were set for the three of us to be
received and ordained to the sacred priesthood."
I spoke with one Continuing
Anglican priest who wanted to leave his church but did not know were he would go,
five weeks later he was ordained for ROCOR's WRV and starting a mission parish.
A Facebook post for ROCOR WRV's Holy Cross Parish from 02/010/2018:
"NEW WESTERN RITE ORTHODOX MISSION-PLANTS

Fr Mark Rowe, Vicar General of the Western Rite Communities of the Russian
Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, has just announced that there are now ROCOR
Western Rite Missions in formation in the following cities:
CHATTANOOGA, TN
ATLANTA, GA
SAN FRANCISIO, CA
ORLANDO FL

If any of our readers are near these cities and are interested in joining a forming
Western Rite mission church please contact FR. Mark Rowe by email at: (address
removed-ed)

The ROCOR Western Rite Communities continue to grow and the Western Church
continues to be rebuilt, Church history is being written. You can be the first of
tomorrow (Western Orthodox) rather than the last of yesterday (Anglican or Roman
traditionalists). We love being Orthodox. You will too. Come and see!"

The main issue with this is although the Continuum was formed by and still
contains many good clergy who left the Anglican Communion out of conscience,
it has a well deserved reputation of having attracted or ordained clergy who are
charlatans, and those who 'turn their coats often'- and now Archpriest Mark
Rowe, a former Continuum priest who turned coat many a time is recruiting from
them. Have you been expelled from a seminary on sex abuse and drug
allegations? Not a problem! Or was that a case of "don't ask, don't tell"?
Compared with the Catholic Church's Personal Ordinariates which requires a
background check and psychological test before even being accepted into a two year
priest formation period, while embedded in an Ordinariate community to meet the
requirements to be ordained.

Last year in the Global Western Rite Orthodoxy Facebook page a ROCOR WR priest,
Fr Michael Wood made the following claims against the first Vicar General of
ROCOR's WRV, Bishop Jerome Shaw in a discussion whether there would be a WRO
bishop (screen shot seen by editor of Virtue Online):

"Michael Wood: Mark Atkins We had one, he messed up in a big way and got forcible
retired.
Michael John: Michael Wood: (emoji -- sad)
Dane Garrett: Michael Wood People were ever looking for an excuse to oust him.
Jim Polyzoidis: Mark Atkins it's called Western-phobia
Michael Wood: Dane Garrett No actually they weren't. He forged documents the
synod found out about it and forgery of ordination certificate is a hanging offence no
matter who does it."

This would seemingly explain the 2013 decree of the extraordinary Synod which
effectively sort to shut down the WRV as it stood down the heads of the WRV, "To
halt the ordination of new clergymen for parishes adhering to the Western Rite." and
the examination of those who had been ordained WRV clergy, and transition Western
Rite parishes into the 'mainstream liturgical practice' of ROCOR i.e. the Eastern Rite.
This would suggest ROCOR's WRV has had major issues with integrity, and who they
ordain, from the beginning.

Where some believe WRO is Eastern Orthodoxy with a Western mask, ROCOR's
version could be described as the worst of the Anglican Continuum with an Orthodox
mask. ROCOR has not shown the virtuous behaviour of the "One True Church" they
claim to be apart of, indeed they are acting like the non-virtuous women with a thing
for bad boys. My deep concern is someone, indeed many someones, will get seriously
hurt by ROCOR's lack of standards- but at this stage anyone who gets involved with
their Western Rite Vicariate will only have themselves to blame.

https://www.thenationalherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/776.pdf

https://journeytoorthodoxy.com/2012/12/so-that-god-would-give-you-to-us/

http://ww1.antiochian.org/content/bishop-thomas-attends-rocor-western-rite-ordination

To read Part 1 click here: https://www.virtueonline.org/rocor-rewrites-history-convert-anglicans

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