Archbishop John (Justin Avksentyevich Kartushin; June 1, 1837 – April 24, 1915) was descended from a Cossack family of the village of Ostrovskaya, Popkova in the Don Host Oblast. He was the cousin of the archbishop of Moscow, Meletius. His family’s house was a place of prayerful gatherings for the village’s Old-believers and in 1868, a prayer house was built in the yard of the Kartushins. The duties of the choir and service leader in the prayer house were helmed by Justin Avksentyevich.
By the age of 30, he had become a very well-known dogmatist and had a lot of discourses with missionaries of the established church, as well as with the Bespopovtsy and the Beglopopovtsy. In discussions with well-known Edinoverie hegumen Paul Prussky, during his trips to the Don, he opposed him in a very worthy manner and managed to gain the upper hand in debates.
At 35 years of age, he was widowed, and left with two young children. Until 1882, he lived with his father and brother, helping them in the management of the household and working on the farm. In 1875, archbishop Anthony began to urge him to take up the episcopal office. In 1885, Justin Avksentyevich held discourses with Baptists who appeared then in the Don oblast, and were headed by a former Old-believer priest of the village of Kazinka, Rostov governorate, V.I. Gamayunov. The outcome of the discussions was the return of the apostates to the bosom of the Church.
In the same year, Kartushin received an invitation from the Caucasian bishop Silvanus to take up the post of secretary of the bishopric. On July 21, 1890, he accepted monasticism and entered the Pyatipskiy monastery.
In April 1895, the Old-believers of the village of Gurov in the Don oblast, invited the monk John to discourse with his brother, the Edinoverie missionary, Kalina Kartushin. Two discussions took place and the results of which the monk John compiled into the book “Analysis of the Answers of the Missionary Kalina Kartushin” (M., 1908).
In August 1898, the Holy Council elected him first as bishop of the Don Diocese and he was ordained August 9 in Nizhniy Novgorod by bishop Arseniy of the Urals. In October of the same year, he was elected by the Holy Council to the Moscow cathedra. On October 16 (according to other sources, August 16) in 1898, he was promoted to the rank of Archbishop of Moscow by the Holy Council, headed by bishop Arseniy of the Urals.
The promotion took place in Moscow, in the Mikhailov house-church. Two years later, the government demanded that he provide a signed statement that he would no longer be referred to as the Archbishop of Moscow and All Rus’. Knowing the church canons and having archbishop Sabbatius as an example, he reasonably wrote that he was not called ‘Archbishop of Moscow and All Russia’, but was simply an Old-believer’s archbishop. The dissatisfied government exiled archbishop John to the Don region, under the supervision of the police. Three years later, at the request of Moscow merchants, the archbishop was released and returned to Moscow. During spring and summer of 1901, Moscow’s Chief of Police, Trepov, tried again to procure a signed statement from archbishop John, with a renunciation of his title. On August 12, archbishop John was summoned by the police and after three hours, was sent to Tula under public police supervision.
In 1903, he was asked to choose a place of residence at his discretion, excluding Moscow and its governorate. In February 1905, he was given permission to live anywhere, including the capitals. Archbishop John settled in Moscow, first in a house belonging to the Old-believers’ community in the Nikolo-Yamskiy cul-de-sac, and then at the Rogozhskoe settlement, in an upper room specially built for him over the Sergei Ivanovich Morozov Hospital. However, the Old-believers were not yet allowed to conduct open divine worship services.
Only on October 22, 1905, six months later, after permission was given by the government to unseal the altars at the Rogozhskoe settlement, was episcopal ministry allowed at the Intercession Church. Archbishop John prayed in the church in co-service with many priests. The Holy Council, held in April 1906, decided to establish a metropolitanate church in Moscow, and at the September council of the same year, it was decided to “promote John, the Moscow Archbishop, to the rank of Metropolitan of the Russian Old-Rite sphere”.
This decision however could not be carried out due to government opposition. It is also known that archbishop John himself persistently refused promotion to this rank. In 1906 – 1907, after the death of bishop Anastasius of Izmail, archbishop John temporarily directed his diocese.
In 1906, the New Orthodox Archbishop of Volyn, Anthony (Khrapovitsky), wrote to archbishop John to persuade him to unite the Old-believers with the established church, to which he responded, clearly expressing the conditions under which such unification is possible:
Unity is highly desirable … Your venture towards the restoration of the unity of Russian Christianity can be realised only by your complete return to pre-Nikonian Orthodoxy, with the abolition of all innovations and the denial of those censures and oaths, with which the established church in Russia has enriched itself for two centuries.
Archbishop John did much to pacify the discord of the non-okruzhniki. In 1912, he repeatedly offered to meet with the non-okruzhniki bishop Joasaph for a discussion, even
on the most unfavourable and unfriendly terms for himself. The meeting did not take place, but not through the fault of archbishop John. With the outbreak of the First World War, archbishop John liberated his chambers for the needs of an infirmary and he himself moved to the Solovyevs’ nearby house at the Rogozhskoe settlement, where he died.
During his primacy, archbishop John consecrated over 100 new churches, ordained 15 bishops, 92 priests and 8 deacons. Under him, the following new dioceses were opened: Yaroslavl, Tomsk, Petrograd, Kiev, Ryazan and Irkutsk.
With the blessing of the Holy Council in 1906, he also established a male monastery near the village Kalach, in the Don Host oblast. Prior to the revolution of 1917, there were more than 40 monks in the monastery. For his reconciliation of the non-okruzhniki, a great reward belongs to archbishop John.
The archbishop was buried at the Rogozhskoe cemetery on April 27, 1915. The portrait of archbishop John (oil on canvas) that was painted during his lifetime, is on the premises of the Metropolitanate of Moscow and All Rus’ of the Russian Orthodox Old-Rite Church.