Bishop Maxim and the American schism in the making


The media reported on the dismissal of Bishop Maxim as a professor at the Faculty of Theology by the Synod. Since then, a flurry of spin started unraveling. The idea, in general, that someone who has a diocese on another continent might be a college lecturer aside, after his dismissal, an orchestrated campaign immediately began, portraying bishop Maxim as a victim of the regime because he disagreed with the policy in regard to Kosovo.
Of course, this story is unfounded because no one remembers the bishop as someone who has ever been interested in solving the Kosovo issue or someone who is opposition-oriented with respect to the Belgrade authorities. If it were Metropolitan Amfilohije or Bishop Gregory, the story would have some grounding in reality, that is, it would be plausible.

Most interestingly, Bishop Maxim did not even meet with President Vučić during the May assembly when sparks between the bishops and the president flew. Maxim is known as a trend-bishop, as one who promotes Darwinism in the Church circles and the influence of the Partiarch of Constantinople in the SOC (even up to point of challenging the SOC’s autocephaly). However, until recently, no one has heard anything from him about the Kosovo issue or any criticisms of the current government.

How did then the pro-Western media, above all Blic and Danas, create out of the apolitical and non-nationalist bishop the “great opposition” and the “Champion for Kosovo” overnight? Well, it was possible because almost no one had heard about the bishop. Even Selaković said that Vučić had not heard of Maxim. As a “tabula rasa” he was used to create what was needed.

This, of course, has to do with the divisions within the SOC in which a circle led by Bishop Gregory wants to become dominant in the SOC (Maxim being a part of that circle) and to conceal the real reasons for the removal of Bishop Maxim from the Faculty of Orthodox Theology.

The primary reason for the dismissal is that Bishop Maxim, without knowledge or consent of the Council and the Synod, had done some things in the USA that some concerned Orthodox Serbs treat as schismatic. Namely, the name of the SOC in the USA was changed and the Episcopal Council for the USA was created – a kind of illegal American mini-synod. Specifically, Bishop Maxim with two other bishops registered the SOC in the US as a religious community and removed the SOC from the name as early as 2017. The following year, they raised the issue of reforming of the organization of the SOC without informing the Council of what they had done. This year, at the US Council they have “passed a constitution” that was allegedly approved by the Synod, although no one was informed about it nor did the Synod or the SOC Council make any decision on the matter. They had the constitution but they were changing it without the knowledge of the Council and the Synod and contrary to the will of their clergy and believers. The laity in the United States objects on the grounds that this “religious community” excludes Canada and South America, marginalizes the clergy and laity, as it introduces the practice of transmitting the content of the confession to the police and investigative authorities. In addition to Bishop Maxim, an important role is played by Bishop of New York Dobrijević (and the third is Bishop Longin). The SOC Synod, of course, overturned this decision of the so-called “American Council”.

The question is what the three bishops from the American Council of Bishops will do. The laity is concerned that the name of the SOC has been lost in registration, but above that, they fear that they may fall under the jurisdiction of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who has long since stopped concealing his aspirations for church diasporas of local churches. Thus, Bishop Maxim positions himself as an exponent of Constantinople’s church policy, which barely conceals at all that it contests the jurisdiction of the Serbian patriarch outside Serbia (he calls him the “Patriarch of Serbia”). It is also not unknown that Constantinople is inclined to support the autonomy of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, which is openly wanted by the Milo Đukanović regime. In the context of the growing schism in Orthodoxy between Moscow and Constantinople (which is openly supported by the US), an important battle is being waged not only in Ukraine but also in America. Therefore, the fear of the Orthodox Serbs that they and their church property will pass into the jurisdiction of Constantinople and that they will not be a part of the SOC in the future is not unfounded.

Branko Radun



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