On November 28, 2020, Orthodoxy in Dialogue reported on the petition addressed to the Assembly of Bishops by Gab and Parler user, Michael Sisco. In it, he threatens our bishops in the United States with a financial boycott of their jurisdictions, dioceses, and parishes which refuse to bow to his demand to break the law. While many of our readers and supporters registered their dissatisfaction with the inflammatory title of our report—an opinion with which we agree, in hindsight—we stand by our unequivocal praise for the bishops’ united voice in mandating compliance with federal, state, and local directives to contain Covid-19. Many Christians from other ecclesial and denominational affiliations looked to our Orthodox bishops as a model of prudent, ecclesiastical collaboration with public health officials in safeguarding the well-being of all citizens.
On February 2, 2021, we published Dr. Lydia Bringerud’s cautionary tale, Michael Sisco, White Supremacy, and Loyalty in the Orthodox Church.
On the morning of February 16, 2021, Mr. Sisco sent an email to his mailing list soliciting signatures for his latest petition to the Assembly of Bishops, We Request that Our Bishops Denounce the Website Orthodoxy in Dialogue.
(“Our bishops,” two and a half months after he laughably demanded that they bend to his Covid denialism or have their funding dried up.)
The present petition can be summarized as follows:
- Orthodoxy in Dialogue is a “blasphemous site that makes a mockery of Orthodoxy.”
- The Assembly of Bishops should “publicly denounce this vile website, and consider excommunication of those who assist them in subverting our faith” and “further actions, such as excommunication, for those who write for and promote their subversive and blasphemous materials.”
The irony seems lost on Mr. Sisco that many of the hundreds who have written for us since August 2017 are themselves metropolitans, archbishops, bishops, priests, and deacons of the Orthodox Church. Some of them—whether publicly or anonymously—have provided generous financial support for Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s work. One of the most celebrated Orthodox hierarchs in the world has praised editor Giacomo Sanfilippo’s doctoral project. The Ecumenical Patriarch has sent a note of encouragement and blessing on Patriarchate letterhead. Mr. Sisco’s petition would require the comedy of at least some of the bishops therein addressed having to self-defrock and self-excommunicate.
Even without the hierarchy and clergy who have written for us, the roster of writers in our Archives 2017-19, Archives 2020-21, and Letters to the Editors would result in a boatload of excommunications.
Predictably, Mr. Sisco’s petition was quickly promoted on the website of Father Joseph Gleason (of YouTube fame, praying in his underpants), Russian Faith. Some of our readers may recall that Father Gleason, from his cozy Russian hideaway (with apparently no canonical release from the Antiochian Archdiocese and no pastoral assignment under the Moscow Patriarchate)—in addition to his misogynist screeds which we have profiled on these pages—issued an excommunication of all hapless BLM members who make a pilgrimage to Rostov-on-Don in the futile hope of receiving the Holy Mysteries from his hands.
The irony in Mr. Sisco’s call for the mass excommunication of everyone who has ever written for Orthodoxy in Dialogue doesn’t end with hierarchs and clergy. In an exchange of emails on September 25-26, 2018, and again on October 10, 2018—both times initiated by Mr. Sisco himself—he made a sustained effort to collaborate with Orthodoxy in Dialogue. This included, in the end, his request to write for us. The exchange took place just over a year after our launch in August 2017. Note in the following transcript that he was fully aware of our editorial direction at the time.
September 25, 2018
To Whom it may concern,
My company would like to establish dialogue, and potentially do some collaboration with the editors of this publication. Who are the editors by name, and how do we contact them?
Usually when one asks for a full name, one gives a full name. 😊
You can communicate with me at this address.
Giacomo Sanfilippo, Editor
Orthodoxy in Dialogue
Forgive me. The last name is Sisco. I have a livestream show on YouTube, and I suspect that we have wildly differing positions. My show is generally political theory, and social commentary. However, I am myself Orthodox Christian and I’ve noticed that your work with this blog has started quite a stir to say the least. I’d like to have you on, either live via call in, or in a produced not live setting to discuss and your clarify your positions. Is this something that you’d be interested in?
September 26, 2018
After a brief perusal of your YouTube channel and Facebook timeline, I’m not sure what you think we possibly have to say to each other.
Thank you for thinking of us, though.
I appreciate dialogue with those who disagree, and who are willing to have civil discussions. My show is fairly new as you can see, and I’d like to set a positive precedent of presenting opposing viewpoints on my show, in a respectful manner. Would you like further clarification as to what I’d like to discuss with you on the show? I assumed that given the name of your publication, and the fact that we are both presumably Orthodox, that this would be something that you would be eager to do. I look forward to working with you.
For context, I am working on an article entitled “Man to Man: What Too Many Men Don’t Get about Male vs. Female Sexual Assault.” You, on the other hand, reduce the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh to, “You know what that means. He asked her to the prom and now she regrets it.”
You also have a video entitled something along the lines of “LGBT Insanity.”
So no, I will not implicate myself in bringing new viewers to your show.
Kindly do not write again.
I understand your trepidation. I’m sure that you can also understand, how people who disagree with you, may also find the headlines and titles of your content offensive as well. Respectful dialogue is something that we’re interested in, in an attempt to understand people that we find offensive. The same courtesy from you would be accepted with graciousness. You’re always welcome to write, and reach out to us. God Bless.
October 10, 2018
“Orthodoxy in Dialogue launched as an independent publication in August 2017 to provide a space for the open exchange of ideas relevant to Orthodox Christianity. Reflective of our commitment to Orthodox, ecumenical, and interfaith dialogue, we publish writers who represent a wide spectrum of interests and perspectives both within and outside the Orthodox Church.” [Quoted from our About page, which has been slightly reworded since then.]
Does that mean you’d allow me to publish a piece on your site?
No need for formalities.
We consider submissions from anyone. This does not constitute a promise to publish, but to give each submission careful consideration.
Check our Submission Guidelines for general requirements.
Mr. Sisco never responded to our invitation to submit an article. We next heard from him in his mass email soliciting signatures for his current petition.
February 16, 2021
I just signed the petition “Canonical Bishops of The Orthodox Church: We Request That Our Bishops Denounce The Website Orthodoxy In Dialogue.” and wanted to see if you could help by adding your name.
Our goal is to reach 1,000 signatures and we need more support. You can read more and sign the petition here:
As Exhibit A in litigating the excommunication of literally everyone involved with Orthodoxy in Dialogue—one wonders if that includes the hundreds of thousands of readers worldwide who are responsible for our nearly three-quarters of a million views—Mr. Sisco submits Giacomo Sanfilippo’s The Power of the Holy Spirit: On Chastity, Asceticism, and Sexual Liberation to his outraged followers and fellow signatories and to the Assembly of Bishops. He intends his cherrypicked, truncated quote to lead those too lazy to read the article for themselves to the conclusion that Sanfilippo promotes promiscuity and sexual liberation. This, in turn, betrays either Mr. Sisco’s intellectual incapacitation to read a text for comprehension or his undisguised willingness to misrepresent and defame. He quotes:
The sexual revolution was bound to happen… Sexual revolutionaries want to live, to experience life at its most direct, to eschew the hypocritical veneer of bourgeois respectability.
Surely their (they being the aforementioned sexually liberated) sincere openness to these questions reveals the gentle power of the Holy Spirit wafting as a life-giving breath through this world that He helped bring into being. This is the world that God loved so much that He sent His only-begotten Son—as St. Maximus and St. Symeon the New Theologian tell it—to take her into His marriage bed and make love to her. He has no interest in finding a bride among the self-righteous.
In fact, Sanfilippo’s article is all about St. Seraphim of Sarov, St. Maximus the Confessor, St. Symeon the New Theologian, Father Dumitru Stăniloae, humility before God and man, repentance, asceticism, human perfection according to the image and likeness of God, and the proper, Orthodox understanding of chastity—subsuming, but most certainly not limited to, sexual restraint. The sincere openness of “the aforementioned sexually liberated” to “these questions” refers explicitly in Sanfilippo’s article to their wanting “to hear a spiritual, and anthropological, and ascetical explanation of sexual chastity, not moralistic, or legalistic, or fear-mongering, or shaming. Surely their sincere openness to these questions reveals the gentle power of the Holy Spirit wafting as a life-giving breath through this world that He helped bring into being.”
Mr. Sisco, you have made a fool of yourself.