The All-Diaspora Councils (Всезарубежные соборы) were councils of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) that consisted of bishops and representatives of the clergy and laity, convened by the First Hierarch and the Synod of Bishops. The resolutions of these councils have the force of church law and became effective upon confirmation by the Synod of Bishops.
The councils were convened as local church councils of the refugee elements of the Church of Russia that formed under the leadership of the refugee Synod of Bishops. This synod was led by Metropolitan Anthony after the administrative structure of the Church of Russia was destroyed by the Bolshevik-led Soviet Union government in the early 1920s. The councils were patterned after the Local Council of 1917-18.
The organization of the Russian Orthodox refugees by the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR was done under authority delegated by Patriarch Tikhon in his Ukaz No. 362 of 1920. Four such councils were convened before reconciliation was achieved between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
I All-Diaspora Council
The first council was convened by Metr. Anthony on September 13, 1921 in Sremsky Karlovtsi, Serbia. The council devoted itself to organization of church life of the many Russian refugees who found themselves exiled around the world following the loss of their homeland and government to the Bolsheviks. A basis was established for an administrative structure of dioceses and parishes among those in diaspora. With the view of early return to a liberated homeland, the council, influenced by Metr. Anthony, also passed a resolution calling for the restoration of the monarchy under the Romanov dynasty.
II All-Diaspora Council
The second council was convened in 1938 by the new First Hierarch, Metr. Anastassy (Gribanovsky), also in Sremsky Karlovtsi, Serbia. The council continued work on organizational issues, including association with the Russian Mission (Metropolia) in the United States. In particular, the council affirmed its objections to and unacceptability of the loyalty provisions of the 1927 declaration of Metr. Sergius, the acting locum tenens of the Church of Russia. The council noted the church in diaspora had not separated itself from the Mother Church and that it considered Metr. Peter as the Patriarchal locum tenens, whose name they would commemorate at divine services.
III All-Diaspora Council
The third council was convened in 1974 at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, the first council held in the United States. It was convened under the First Hierarch Metr. Philaret (Voznesensky). The council addressed ecclesiastical issues relating to unity that affected parts of the diaspora and the Church Abroad. The seventeenth-century ecclesiastical censure of the Old Rite was removed, and the danger of ecumenism and modernism in Church life was noted.
IV All-Diaspora Council
The fourth council was held from May 6, 2006 to May 14, 2006 in San Francisco, California at the Cathedral of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” under the leadership of the First Hierarch Metr. Laurus. The principal question before the council was consideration of establishing normal relations between the Churches in Russia and aboard. With the fall of the Bolshevik regime in Russia, representatives of the Church of Russia and the Church Outside Russia had been meeting to reconcile the break in relations. The council with the blessing of the Synod of Bishop agreed to a reconciliation with the Moscow Patriarchate.
The formal signing of an Act of Canonical Communion that recognized the reconciliation was accomplished on May 17, 2007, in Moscow, Russia. The signing was immediately followed by a Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, at which Patr. Alexei II and Metr. Laurus of ROCOR concelebrated for the first time.