Traditional Orthodoxy (Canonical) (TradOx for short) is perhaps Facebook’s largest Orthodox group. It has over 15,600 members as of this writing. Being a “public group,” it allows anyone with a Facebook account to view its membership list, posts, and comments. Any information shared in this report is already publicly accessible to all Facebook users.
Superimposed over the group banner—which includes a modern icon of Christ caressing a sword—is the designation, Group by St. Dionysios the Areopagite Monastery. This is a new monastery under the abbacy of Archimandrite Maximos (Weimar) and the omophorion of Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral), First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), located in East Setauket NY. The June 2017 announcement of its founding can be read here.
As all of our readers know, on January 22 we published an open letter to the Assembly of Bishops expressing our concerns about the rise of white supremacy within the Orthodox Church. This letter was signed by almost a dozen priests and deacons with some 150 laypersons.
Without naming names, our letter stated the following:
At least one individual studying for the priesthood in one of our Orthodox seminaries in the US posts white supremacist materials and messages under an alias on Facebook.
On the evening of January 25 Father Maximos posted the following message to his TradOx group (which, incidentally, insists that its members accept Nine Ecumenical Councils as a matter of doctrine):
In the interests of accuracy we have made no corrections in grammar, punctuation, or spelling.
Father Maximos: This statement was sent to me by the “seminarian in question” who is being referred to in the recent article on “Orthodoxy in Dialogue” I suggest interested parties read it closely.
“The seminarian in question”: I believe that man was created in the Image of God, and that all human beings, regardless of sex, age, race, ethnicity, ability, socioeconomic status, or any other such non-essential quality, are equally bearers of that Image, icons of God, worthy of respect, honor, and reverence.
I believe, therefore, in the equal spiritual dignity of all human beings, without regard to sex, age, race, ethnicity, ability, socioeconomic status, etc. I believe that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men” (Acts 17:26); that is to say, that all men, of every race and color, are equally Adam’s sons, members of one human race, one family, sharing one human nature. I believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men, and that his Gospel is a universal Gospel, meant for everyone, and for all nations throughout the whole world. I believe that the Church our Lord founded is likewise for all men everywhere, from every nation. All are called to salvation in the Church, regardless of sex, age, race, ethnicity, ability, socioeconomic status, etc., and all are welcome in the Church.
I believe that all the faithful within the Church are brothers, members of one spiritual family, and that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Being universal by nature, the Church is at the same time one organism, one body (1 Cor. 12:12). She is the community of the children of God, «a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people… which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God» (1 Pet. 2:9-10). The unity of these new people is secured not by its ethnic, cultural or linguistic community, but by their common faith in Christ and Baptism. (The Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church)
I do not believe, and have never believed in ethnic segregation within the Church. Everyone, regardless of where he is from or what he looks like, should be welcome in every Orthodox Church, and, provided he is properly prepared, at the Chalice. With the Synod held in Constantinople in 1872, I “renounce phyletism, that is racial discrimination, ethnic feuds, hatreds and dissensions within the Church of Christ, as contrary to the teaching of the Gospel.” The Church is for all people, and ethnic strife has no place within the Body of Christ. I further reject racial antagonism outside the Church. Our Lord said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). As Christians, we ought to promote peace among peoples, and not conflict.
I believe that there is room in our country for people from all backgrounds, and that our nation’s tradition of equal justice under law ought to be recognized and cherished, especially by Christians, as consonant with our belief in the equal dignity of all men. I regret anything that I, a sinner, have said or done that is inconsistent with the beliefs I have expressed here. I understand how certain statements I have made online, together with the fact that I had a “Confederate symbol” as my Facebook profile picture, have contributed to the impression of some people that I am a “white supremacist.” (In fact, I meant the symbol in question to express at once my Orthodox Faith and my love for the American South, and my desire to see the South become Orthodox.)
I take responsibility for those words and actions, and ask the forgiveness of any brethren I have offended by them.
I do not acknowledge or take responsibility for “post[ing] white supremacist materials and messages under an alias on Facebook.” This accusation is false and malicious slander. I strive to follow the teaching of the Church in all matters; if anything I believe is out of sync with the Church, I always hope to be corrected and healed in my understanding.
Predictably, Father Maximos’ post generated a lively discussion among those who accepted the anonymous confession at face value; those who found it to be full of vague-speak, unanswered questions, and inconsistencies; those who supported Orthodoxy in Dialogue‘s decision to publicize the issue of white supremacy in the Church; and those who demanded that we apologize for what the still unnamed seminarian calls our “false and malicious slander.”
Here at Orthodoxy in Dialogue we have questions of our own:
- Why was the seminarian’s statement sent to Father Maximos for dissemination in a Facebook group, rather than to the authorities at his seminary or, better yet, to his hierarch?
- What is the connection between St. Dionysios Monastery and a seminarian who assumes that an open letter about white supremacy in the Orthodox Church is all about himself?
- Why would this seminarian make such an assumption in the first place?
- Why does the seminarian decline to identify himself if he is innocent of accusations which he assumes were made against him?
- Why should Orthodoxy in Dialogue apologize for “false and malicious slander” when we didn’t name anyone? How should we apologize when we’re unsure of who wrote this confession?
- Why was Orthodoxy in Dialogue not informed of this rebuttal? (We stumbled upon it accidentally this morning while searching for something else.) If it had been sent to us and courageously signed, we would have published it.
The life and witness of the Orthodox Church on American soil and elsewhere are at stake. These questions are far too serious to relegate to endless Orthodoxy in Dialogue articles and Facebook squabbles. We continue to hope and pray that our hierarchs and seminaries will investigate these matters in a forthright, transparent, and public manner.
There is nothing we would love more than to stop publishing on this issue. We are quite as tired of it as our readers must be.
See “White Supremacy and Racism” in our Archives by Author for the full list of articles, letters, and editorials published to date on this topic. See also Letters to the Editors, January 24.
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