In this Wall Street Journal op ed, historian Nadia Kizenko analyzes the reunion between the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and its parent church in Russia. As Kizenko notes, the Church Abroad broke with the Russian church in 1920 because the latter had fallen under the control of the brutal Communist government that, among other things, suppressed religious freedom. Now, the Church Abroad has again accepted the authority of the Patriarch of Moscow, the chief prelate of the Russian Orthodox Church, including giving the Russian church the right to appoint bishops and control church property.
Not being Russian Orthodox, it isn't my place to comment on the purely religious aspects of the reunion. However, like Kizenko, I am disappointed by the Church Abroad's willingness to accept the deal despite the fact that the Russian church hierarchy continues to embrace its long history of collaboration with the Russia's communist rulers, and is now supporting the increasingly authoritarian government of President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB colonel who claims that the collapse of communism was "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century." While some individual Orthodox priests and laypeople bravely resisted the communists, the church hierarchy soon came to be controlled by communist collaborators, as Kizenko explains in her article.
Russian Orthodox believers in the US and elsewhere in the West will have to decide for themselves whether they will accept the merger. Perhaps, as in 1920, the time has come to once again establish a new church unsullied by collaboration with communists and authoritarians.