Priest mark Tyson on the care of the Patriarchate of Constantinople: I am not a “legal defector”

The rector of the Dormition Church in Bluefield (USA, WV), priest mark Tyson left Constantinople Patriarchate and joined the Russian Orthodox Church abroad (ROCOR) in solidarity with the canonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
The priest notes that “immoral and non-canonical actions of Patriarch Bartholomew in the Ukraine has contributed to violence against the canonical Church”, and the violence will increase. In an interview with “Pravmiru” the priest told about his service in the United States, reasons for leaving and future plans.

Father Mark. Photo: pstgu.ru

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– You many years he served in the Carpatho-Russian diocese. Why her? How did you become a priest?

My history of the American Carpatho Orthodox Diocese (further: AKE) starts in 1990. That summer I spent six weeks in Moscow studying Russian language at the Moscow Institute of steel and alloys “MISIS”. It was a program with ACTR or “ACTR” American Council of teachers of Russian language and literature. I was there with a large group of students from all over the USA, and our student body lived in a hostel in the area Belyaevo.

At that time I considered myself a former Catholic. I was more interested in playing the guitar with my friends in the Soviet champagne than in religion. Tourist trip – that’s what led me to Orthodoxy.

With new friends, I visited the Novodevichy convent. Walking around, we went to the Church of the assumption, where the time to serve the divine Liturgy.

I was impressed by the solemnity of the service and reverence of the people around us. I could understand only one sentence – “Lord, have mercy!”.

However, as we all know, we cannot experience God’s grace through human reason or logic; the Divine Presence is felt in our soul.

Filled with a sense of prayer around me, I went to buy a candle in a stall where grandma working there refused to take the money. She cordially gave me a candle with the words “stop, son!”. I will never forget this moment.

Later, when I returned to USA, my fiancee (now wife, we been together for 27 years) and I became active members of the Roman Catholic Church. During our visit to the monastery in Washington, D.C., the nuns told us that across the street there is an Orthodox monastery! It turned out that this monastery was under the omophorion of Metropolitan Nicholas, ruling Hierarch of the American Carpatho Russian Orthodox Diocese. I often went there for service, and a few months later, in 1991, I seriously began to think about a priest.

We visited the diocesan center in johnstown, Pennsylvania, and after one year of graduate in Illinois I entered the Seminary of Christ the Savior in ACPE. After that, my journey to the priests was laid – me and my wife was taken to the parish of Three saints of the American Archdiocese of Pentecost 1992. After Seminary I was ordained to the diaconate on 24th December 1993, and a priest 10 September 1995.

Father mark and his family. Photo: stmarysbluefield.org

I was thinking not too fast it all happened? Perhaps it would be better if I was left to ‘ripen’ in my new faith for several years as a parishioner, but on all was the will of his Eminence, Metropolitan Nicholas. I thank God that He let me stay at his altar all these years, and love has kept me in the priesthood.

– Tell us about the Church of the assumption and the parish.

– The parish in which I served almost seventeen years, called the Church of the Dormition in Bluefield, West Virginia. Historically the Church was founded the old Russian Metropolia in the coal fields, then, in 1964 year, the parish moved to ACPE. The original Church was erected in 1912 on site of the Elkhorn; the new parish was built in Bluefield in 2000 year, the 6th of may, when was chaired by Metropolitan Nicholas.

In this parish I was appointed in late November 2001. Three of the six of our children were born here; when we moved, our older son was six years old. You can say a big part of our family’s history took place in the warm embrace of this unique community.

The congregation first moved to Bluefield; behind them followed parish. Attendance in Elkhorn was low – then people decided that the chances of survival of the Church above. As our righteous benefactor Eustace Frederick: “We were hoping to give a chance to the Orthodoxy in southern West Virginia (hold) for another 100 years.”

The parish, in my opinion, is one of the best in the diocese. This “world” Orthodox Church (Pan-Orthodox), where there are people from Georgia, Ukraine, Romania, Lebanon and Greece, along with the descendants of Carpatho pervasively. Also in the parish there are converts who came to Orthodoxy as adults.

It is with a heavy heart said goodbye to these wonderful and generous people. I was hoping to be buried in the parish we call [the parish of] St. Mary’s. In 2005 my family bought a farm in nearby Virginia. My wife and I have plots at the cemetery of Holy cross monastery in Wayne, West Virginia. I never planned to leave, neither the parish nor the diocese. Unfortunately, my decision was taken by the hierarchs and politicians many miles away from me.

Photo: stmarysbluefield.org

In your letter, feel the pain and experience for Ukraine. How long and how closely you follow events in Ukraine? Do you have a relationship with Ukraine? If you are familiar with Metropolitan Onufry?

– The situation in Ukraine is very disturbing to any Orthodox Christian who follows the news in the Church world. Although some may disagree with me, I believe that this is a big mistake for all of us to think that what is happening in Kiev or Istanbul, not for local communities. The Church is supranational, it exists above all Nations. We are all part of a greater whole, and we should “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”

Personally, I’ve never met Metropolitan Onufry, but I know priests who were acquainted with him, and I believe that his attitude to the current Church and the issue of his country not only as a heroic. I watched the news about the violent seizures of canonical parishes dissenters, and I noticed a few reactions from the clergy of the Ukrainian Church. The answer is peace, prayer and unwavering.

Knowing what was happening, I had regret, but with firmness to refuse a young Ukrainian student in the admission to the Holy Communion, when last spring he asked what he must do in order to participate in the Sacraments in our parish. He told me that was “Filaret”, I explained to him that his “Church” is in schism and is not recognized by the Orthodox Patriarchate. Remarkably, with the decision to give the young man in ‘dealing’ with our Church agreed and my Bishop in johnstown.

I’m much more aware of this situation after the meeting of Patriarch Kirill with Patriarch Bartholomew in Constantinople on 31 August 2018. Shortly after this event it became clear to me that I can no longer remain part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, while the unrepentant schismatics bestow autocephaly. I was hoping and praying that Patriarch Bartholomew will realize how reckless it was to communicate with such people, but it went in a different direction. When he promised the autocephaly of the nationalists and their subsequent recovery in the ‘canonical status’, he left an open wound in the Body of the Church, that does not heal for a long time.

Those who accuse me of hasty expressions and in the fact that I acted “rashly”, I would like to ask: how many of the canonical churches need to withdraw the power to understand that Patriarch Bartholomew has made a grave error?

As you need broken bones? How many priests should be ridiculed and thrown out on the street? How many murders, that we finally opened my eyes to this new and horrible reality? All of the above has already happened. About fifty parishes of the canonical Church were trampled and destroyed its dissenters. The dissenters, along with representatives of the state, threatened to confiscate all the canonical property in the near future. This situation can easily turn into a civil war.

We must carefully examine the fifth paragraph of the statement issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the 11th of October. Fanar is clearly concerned about the problem of violence against parishes of the canonical Church. The Patriarchate claims to be a unifying force and peacekeeping pursues the goal to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, but recent acts of aggression undermine these statements. I believe that they not only did not stop, but and multiply.

– You joined ROCOR, and your parish? Left? Followed if any of your parishioners behind you?

– I left the Patriarchate and the diocese on 15 October, the day when Moscow broke Eucharistic communion with Constantinople. I tried to avoid commemorating the Patriarch at any cost. The one who sparked the split, invading the canonical territory of another Bishop. Whoever “restored” in San excommunicated the clergy without any remorse on their part, with their main way to glory in the form of rampant nationalism and hatred of the canonical Church, a hatred commensurate with idolatry.

They worship the Holy Trinity, and the Ukrainian state that are diametrically opposed to everything Russian. The canonical Church of Ukraine is an absolute and natural (here: “organic”) part of the Moscow Patriarchate and nationalists hope for its complete destruction.

I was hoping if you can convincingly demonstrate the actual situation of his congregation, then they will vote to leave the Patriarchy with me. Unfortunately, after numerous legal consultations, I came to the conclusion that my actions will lead to legal action from the diocese, and the current Metropolitan will ultimately return the parish back to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

I didn’t have goals to give rise to mutiny, with all the negative spiritual and material consequences that will undoubtedly arise in the process. I understand that my care will be the best decision for all of us.

A small group of parishioners have expressed their desire to leave the parish of St. Mary. Most people in the parish remained loyal to the diocese. I respect that decision. They want to hold on to and preserve their community, to give hope for the future of the parish with the diocese in which they are already fifty-four years.

They are not to blame for the attention to internal and local Affairs, as well as for the fact that they are less concerned about the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew in the Ukraine than I am. I believe that lay people bear less responsibility for the reaction to such decisions than a priest.

I love them all, and I am very sorry that my decision hurt them. However, the actions of the Patriarchate failed my soul to the point where I couldn’t cross.

Photo: stmarysbluefield.org

In comments to the news about your transition blog Protodeacon Andrei Kuraev, one of the users suggested that your transfer to ROCOR could be caused by a more economical material conditions of service. What would you say to that?

Portal of deacon Kuraev was one of the first Internet resources that informed my decision to leave the Ecumenical Patriarchate. For me it was very painful to read some of the comments which claimed that my care is associated with financial benefits. In my previous parish I had a very comfortable salary, which I refused. My household income dropped by 75%. Copayment the insurance policy is now our responsibility.

At the moment I am attached to the parish of the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia in one and a half hour drive from my house. There are the second servant I’m a priest and I refuse to accept the priestly salary, I think it is right to apply for it only after several years of Ministry, I now refuse to ask the rector to share with me his income. At the moment my new parish helps me with the bills – I have recently allocated a substantial amount of money from the charity Fund. I am very thankful for such a generous gesture, but I know that I need to find a job that will cover all the expenses of my family.

Recently, a moderator of a well-known Orthodox blog wondered whether to create I your own crowdfunding website. He wanted to make a donation, and encourage others to do the same. And while I’m very grateful to him for his kindness, I never considered this option. The creation of such a site would confirm the cynical suggestion by some users of the blog father Kuraev, my decision was made out of selfish motives, and those people who agree with this opinion.

In summary, I have not received any material benefit from his decision to withdraw from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, on the contrary, I’m finding work to provide for his family.

It should be noted that Metropolitan Hilarion and the Eastern American Diocese have given me something more meaningful than monetary compensation – they gave me the opportunity to serve with a clear conscience.

– What the reaction was to your decision on the part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople? From acquaintances, friends, parishioners?

– The predominant reactions of my friends and brothers in the diocese was a shock, surprise and even anger. I was accused of “failure” from your parish and diocese. Now some people describe me as ungrateful fanatic who renounced his diocese, which did everything for him. All of this distorts the true essence of my departure. I never wanted to leave his parish and diocese – while Patriarchy did not commit unprecedented acts of aggression against canonical Church in Ukraine. My decision was due to the actions of Constantinople, but in any case not Jonestown or Bluefield.

In the former diocese, I spent twenty-six years, with the arrival of seventeen years, it was painful and hard to leave them. That was not my voluntary choice – the Patriarchy made me do it.

Thank God that there are those (including my former parishioners) who reacted with understanding and support to me and my family for all these shocks and changes. Metropolitan Hilarion was unfailingly kind and attentive to my requests and needs.

The clergy of the Eastern American Diocese received me with open arms when I visited the General Assembly in Howell, new Jersey. My current rector is a model of kindness and generosity. I even received several emails with words of encouragement from the priests with whom I’ve never met. All I sincerely thank you for your support.

Photo: pstgu.ru

– If all the decisions of Constantinople in Ukraine will be canceled, and Eucharistic communion with the Russian Church will be restored, whether you are considering the possibility of returning to the Carpatho-Russian diocese of the CP?

– If the Patriarchates of Moscow and Constantinople was restored to Eucharistic communion (which seems unlikely), I would not hurry to return. I’m not “legal defector”. I dedicated half of my life, my former diocese, the other half I give to the Ministry of the Church that took me in and provided shelter. I hope that time and common sense will help to recover all victims of serious violations of Patriarch Bartholomew.

I expect that there will be better times, and I would be happy to visit and conduct the service with his old friends from ACPE. But I feel the truth in the adage “you can’t go home again.” (The same river can not enter twice)

I ask all my former parishioners, brothers and sisters of the diocese not to judge me harshly, but try to understand that my care, my “retreat” was as painful for them as for me and my family. Bless us Lord, and help us all!

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