Depending on which local Church we are talking about, starting in about 1920 (here I choose to use the year that the infamous “Encyclical of 1920 of the Ecumenical Patriarchate” was written), the hierarchs who had the name of being Orthodox were preparing to lead their unfortunate flocks out to graze in strange fields. They were leading them out of the corral of Holy Orthodoxy and into the plains of a watered-down “faith” that wasn’t faith at all, but rather cacodoxy and heterodoxy.
How were they going to accomplish leading their flocks to where they wanted them to be? These hierarchs had already succumbed to the world and its evil turning away from the Patristic Faith, but they didn’t plan on leaving the safe harbor of Orthodoxy by themselves. They needed to take with them their “providers”. The world had promised lots to them, but they would still need also the power and finances that a large number of followers would give them.
St. Anatoly the Younger (+1922) in his “Prophesy of Future Lawlessness” answers this question for us. He says,
And from that, heresies will spread everywhere and deceive many people. The enemy of the human race will act with cunning in order to draw into heresy, if possible, even the elect.
He will not begin by crudely rejecting the dogmas of the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Jesus Christ and the virtue of the Theotokos, but he will begin imperceptibly to distort the teachings and statutes of the Church and their very spirit, handed down to us by the Holy Fathers through the Holy Spirit. Few will notice these wiles of the enemy, only those more experienced in the spiritual life. Heretics will seize power over the Church and will place their servants everywhere; the pious will be regarded with contempt. He (the Lord) said, by their fruits ye shall know them, and so, by their fruits, as well as by the actions of the heretics, strive to distinguish them from the true pastors. These are spiritual thieves, plundering the spiritual flock, and they will enter the sheepfold (the Church), climbing up some other way, using force and trampling upon the divine statutes. The Lord calls them robbers (cf. St. John 10:1). Indeed, their first task will be the persecution of the true pastors, their imprisonment and exile, for without this it will be impossible for them to plunder the sheep.
Does this surprise you that “hierarchs” could lead their flock astray? It didn’t surprise St. Ignatius the Godbearer. Are we able to suffer and “be different” from the many grazing in strange pastures? To remain in the steadfast faith of the Holy Fathers? Let’s see what St. Ignatius in his Epistle to Polycarp (part III) advises:
Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, (different than the Orthodox doctrines of old) (1 Timothy 1:3, 1 Timothy 6:3) fill you with apprehension. Stand firm, as does an anvil which is being pounded. It is the part of a noble athlete to be beaten and yet to be victorious. And especially, we ought to endure all things for the sake of God, that He also may bear with us. Be ever more zealous than what you are. Weigh carefully the times.