Orthodox America

A Pastoral Appeal  

An Appeal of the Pastoral Conference of the Western-American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia

...And whosoever shall tempt one of these little ones that believe in Me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and he were cast into the sea. (Mark 9:42)

We, the archpastors and pastors of the Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, have convened for a Pastoral Conference in the holy enclave of the church of the most righteous Seraphim of Sarov in the city of Monterey. At this conference we jointly prayed, communed, discussed contemporary parish issues and shared our joys and sorrows. Most of our time was spent on, and most of our emotions were evoked by problems of the Orthodox family and the rearing of children. We observe with apprehension the terrifying process of de-Christianization of the society which surrounds us and the corrupting effect this process has on our flock. Each participant of the Conference spoke with pain in his heart about his own children and those of his parishioners, about the difficulty of raising children, about the soul-endangering influences on them. Phenomena, which were unthinkable even ten years ago, now have become the norm and threaten the complete crippling of our children's souls. Neo-paganism (so called "New Age beliefs") is openly taught in many schools. From the youngest age children are taught "sex education" and the sin of sodomy is presented as a normal alternative for them. In some schools of the city of San Francisco homosexuals are even invited to describe their way of life and to justify themselves before children. Instead of being taught abstinence and purity, our children are now being taught how to use contraceptive devices in order to avoid contagion with AIDS. In the past these subject matters were forbidden, but now we are compelled to discuss them. Now in the USA, as once in the godless Soviet Union, children's denunciation of their parents is legalized! One cannot remain silent about the pernicious influence of television as well. Television has replaced familial communion, supplanted the reading of books and the development of intellect. It introduces into our homes and into the hearts of our children that, which we would never wish neither for them, nor for ourselves in real life.

      We are apprehensive and concerned by the direction which modem society is taking and therefore we appeal to all parents to be alert. Be concerned not so much with the external well-being and the external education of your children and their social popularity, but more with their souls. Speak as often as possible with your children, penetrating their world. Spiritual life begins at home---pray with your children. Let them feel God's presence and His care for them. Let children know, that without God nothing good is possible. Children must know what is truth and what is falsehood; what is right and what is wrong; which is God's way, leading to salvation, and which is the false way, externally appealing, but leading to perdition. Modem society and schools cannot give this understanding to our children. Why is there so much despicable crime, so much sin and amorality? Why is the use of drugs so widespread, as well as the aimlessness of one's life and cynicism among the young? Because there is no fear of God, there is no direction and sense to life, there are no spiritual weapons for the struggle with the world. These are, firstly and foremostly, inculcated at home, and not just with words, but above all with the personal example of the parents. Ask your children, what are they being 'taught in school; know who their friends are and who is influencing them; be selective, regarding what your children see on television; study their school programs and take all available measures to provide them with a Christian education, up to and including their transfer to more suitable schools, or – as it is nowadays done by more and more parents – by home schooling. Remember that the responsibility for children’s souls lies with the parents, and those parents who disregard the Christian upbringing of their children are, in the words of St. John Chrysostom, like child-murderers. Fight for the souls of your children. Participate actively in your parishes, and in the parish schools. May children and youth receive the Holy Mysteries of Christ frequently. On great feasts bring your children to church, even when these feasts happen to fall on school days – your children will then understand that God is higher and more important than all. And finally, we appeal to you, good parents, to pray zealously for your children. For much is given to a parent’s prayer, by the mercy of the Lord.

   We are convinced, that fulfilling our pastoral appeal you shall see the good fruit of your labours – your children, your family shall bring you joy and comfort. Your children shall be useful both to Church and to their country. Other people, sensing your faith and familial spirit, shall imitate you and strive toward you and God’s blessing shall be upon you and your offspring.

   We recognize at the same time, that we also must strengthen our prayers and work harder with children and youth in our parishes. We also want you to know, that we are ready to respond to any of your questions, pray with you, share your parental worries, sorrows and concerns. You can – without any hesitation, without fear – appeal to us knowing that all you might say will be taken closely to heart. We appeal to you with love and hope in the mercy of God. May the All-merciful Lord protect you and your children! 

Archbishop Anthony of Western America and San Francisco
Bishop Kyrill of Seattle,
and Participants of the Pastoral Conference

Third week of the Holy and Great Lent 1993