We reported two days ago that a new blog called Orthodox Christian Clergy Against Racism published “A Statement Concerning the Sin of Racism.” In our response later the same day—”Orthodox Christian Clergy Against Racism?“—we questioned the initial motive behind the Statement, not its content. The names of at least two signers stand out conspicuously to us for their questionable relationship to known white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and fans of Confederate symbology. It seemed to us that these two, at least, were in full damage control mode.
We were careful to state, in our fifth point, that most of the clergy who signed were probably unaware of the background of these two, and had undoubtedly signed in good faith.
Last night we had an opportunity to chat extensively—and very fraternally—with one of the Statement’s main drafters, Father Cassian Sibley of Bryan TX. (He gave us permission to use his name in the present article.) He shared details on how the Statement came to be, and some of the reasons for its final form. Our conversation assuaged any concerns that we had about the original drafters’ intentions.
The number of signers has grown substantially over the last two days. At the head of the list is Metropolitan Savas (Zembillas), whose run-in with a neo-Nazi hate group we documented last week here. We also see at least one priest who signed our Open Letter to the Assembly of Bishops, Father John Breck.
It is gratifying to see such a response to the concerns that Orthodoxy in Dialogue has raised repeatedly since our Open Letter on January 22. (See White Supremacy and Racism in our Archives by Author for a full list of articles on this issue.) Our persistence has been motivated solely by our desire to secure an answer to one new convert’s question:
Why is a symbol of my faith being used alongside Nazi and White Nationalist symbols, and what is American Orthodoxy going to do about it?
We applaud “A Statement Concerning the Sin of Racism” as an important first step, and wish to express our gratitude to those who conceived it and to most of those who signed it. We encourage priests and deacons who have not signed it to consider doing so. At Orthodoxy in Dialogue we have no other desire on this issue than to work together.
Yet we encourage the Assembly of Bishops, its individual member hierarchs, the individual jurisdictions to which they belong, our seminaries, our theologians, and all faithful Orthodox men and women of good will to regard the clergy Statement as no more than a first step. Much more remains to be said and done about the specific threat that white supremacy and neo-Nazism pose to the life and witness of the Orthodox Church in the United States and beyond.
We continue to trust that a formal, public, transparent response might be forthcoming from our hierarchy and our seminaries.