descoleI started to write this article in March or April, but became sidetracked by other matters. What compels me to finish it now is a conversation that I had last night at a barbecue for Trinity College’s theology students. My interlocutor was a 24-year old man whose family emigrated to Canada from Nigeria when he was 3.

My new friend related to me that, when he was 10, he was out riding his bike. Form a picture of that in your mind’s eye: a boy from Africa, seven years in his new home in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), in grade 5 at school, out riding his bike.

 A cop stops him. Where did you get that bike? 

I started shaking inside. I could hardly hold back my tears for that 10-year old boy, and for the young man sharing his story with me—to his amazing credit, with sadness but no malice in his eyes.

We talked a little about Desmond Cole. Of course my friend knew the name well. A local activist, freelance journalist, and blogger at Cole’s Notes, he has been stopped by the cops fifty time—fifty times!—for the suspicious activity of Walking While Black in Toronto.

If you’re white and don’t know what “white privilege” means, or you deny that it exists, I’ll give you a pass until the end of this article. I was that white man myself, seven years ago.


Don’t let my name fool you. With my Ukrainian and Lemko ancestry on my mother’s side, I’m as white as any Eastern European. I’ve been mistaken for Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, Danish, and German. Apparently, speech therapy in early childhood left me with an accent—undetected by myself, of course—that many people over the years have guessed as Northern European, even people in my own hometown of Jamestown NY and a Canadian immigration officer who prided himself on his unfailing ability to identify foreign accents. 

Which is to say, I’m both possessor and beneficiary of white privilege, just because of how I look and speak. Read More



While it is indeed refreshing and heartening to see Orthodox hierarchs publicly engage with issues unrelated to abortion or homosexuality, the Open Letter to President Trump by Bishop David (Mahaffey) in response to the manufactured migrant crisis at our southern border leaves much to be desired. Not only that, it contains historical analogies and certain harmful right-wing tropes that, left uncorrected, are disconcerting when one considers the role that a bishop plays in shepherding his flock.  

In the letter, Bishop David writes:

Our current president has done many good things for churches, but you wouldn’t know it if you listen to those on the extreme left.

Who, I wonder, constitutes the “extreme left?” What are these “many good things for the churches” that President Trump has done? Has he aided the poor, the afflicted, and the marginalized? Has he welcomed the refugee? Has he created a tax policy that benefits the many? Has he de-escalated American militarism? Has he extended healthcare to the sick? By any objective measure, President Trump has done nothing for those kinds of people so central to the biblical narrative; and thus, I’d suggest, has done no “good things for churches.” One must then wonder if, instead, His Grace has in mind Trump’s fanning the flames of the culture wars, with their myopic emphases on sexuality, abortion, and “traditional morality” as his touchstone for what’s good for the churches—issues that most objective observers would recognize are used as tools of the administration to rile its political base.

In his letter His Grace uses the historical analogy of the Civil War to make a point about our current national disunity. In doing so, he frames the war as an episode in American history that, it seems, could have and should have been solved through compromise. One must wonder if the perspective of the enslaved is at all relevant to this analogy. He writes: Read More



If our Letters to the Editors page were an article, it would rank in sixth place out of 290. The high volume of traffic to this page is due partly to the fact that we announce in our Facebook group and on Twitter each time a new letter is posted. 

We bring this to your attention as one of several ways to join in our ongoing dialogue. If you feel disinclined for whatever reason to submit a full article to Orthodoxy in Dialogue, consider writing a letter.

On average our letters run to about 200 or so words. If you need to go much longer than that, you might consider organizing your thoughts into a short article: some of our articles run as short as 600 to 800 words. Read More



Vasillios Pistolis, a U.S. Marine, clubs a man with a wooden flagpole during the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017. (Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The May/June 2016 newsletter of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Charlotte NC feted the high school graduation of Vasillios Pistolis. (Scroll down to page 8 here.) The congratulatory blurb mentions his past involvement in the Marine Corps Junior ROTC, his recent enlistment in the United States Marine Corps, and his imminent departure for boot camp at Parris Island.

A year later—as reported jointly by ProPublica and Frontline/PBS last month—the young Pistolis showed up in Charlottesville as a member of Atomwaffen Division. The report explains:

Of the many white supremacist organizations that have sprung up in the past few years, Atomwaffen is among the more extreme, espousing the overthrow of the U.S. government through acts of political violence and guerrilla warfare.

The day after the ProPublica/Frontline report, Pistolis’ hometown newspaper—The Charlotte Observer—identified him as one of their own and a member of the Greek Orthodox cathedral parish there.

The ProPublica/Frontline report begins chillingly:

The 18-year-old, excited by his handiwork at the bloody rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer, quickly went online to boast. He used the handle VasillistheGreek.

“Today cracked 3 skulls open with virtually no damage to myself,” the young man wrote on Aug. 12, 2017. Read More


We thank Bishop David for sending this letter directly to Orthodoxy in Dialogue for publication. 

While the President has signed an executive order halting the separation of children from their parents at the border, it remains unclear what impact—if any—this will have on the children who have already been separated. The order also seems to allow for the indefinite internment of families in detention centres.

bp.david.mahaffeyMr. President,

I agree with you that our borders are important and that we need to be vigilant against those who would try to enter our country to do us harm. What I cannot agree with is the disruption of families in the name of security. No child willingly leaves the love and protection of their parents. No parent who is worthy of the name would willingly let their child be separated from them. What gain do you expect when your actions are contrary to nature and even God’s divine commands? Where is the good that is done when a child is taken from their mother or father in the name of “National Security?”

Mr. President, you have done many good works and inaugurated many helpful and positive policies. You and your administration do seem to have the best interests of our country at heart. So why now would you destroy your good work by enacting a policy that will harm innocent children for the rest of their lives?

Recently, your Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, invoked St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans 13 to call us to obedience. I would caution you, sir, that invoking God in such a situation can be detrimental instead of helpful when the purpose is to stop dissent from the people. And I would remind you that the Gospel of St. Matthew has a more fitting verse for this situation:

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Mt 18:6) Read More


This is the second article in our “The Wheel 13/14: Responses” series.


Pavel Florensky and Sergei Troitsky. 1906.

On June 18 Public Orthodoxy published Luis Salés’ review of The Wheel‘s long awaited issue 13/14—Being Human: Embodiment and Anthropology—in which my “Father Pavel Florensky and the Sacrament of Love” appears. The challenge of doing justice to articles by fifteen separate authors in a 1280-word essay would have proven daunting to anyone.   

Dr. Salés devotes most of his critique of my article to five short sentences of mine:

On the feast of the Meeting of the Lord two weeks later, [Florensky] composed the poem, “Two Knights.” It depicts a scene in which [he and his partner, Sergei Troitsky] have removed their armour and laid it under an aspen tree, where resin drips on it from a quivering leaf. The knights kiss on the mouth, embrace tightly “like brothers,” and “break their spears” with each other. Even the sun undresses as it sets amidst fiery clouds. Tears flow in almost every stanza.

In response to this, Salés raises the following objections:

Sanfilippo’s piece implicitly disagrees with [Yannaras, Thermos, and Nassif] but is nonetheless uncompelling. The author wishes to draw attention to the potentially homosexual expressions of Fr Florensky’s life—for which, to be sure, there is meaningful evidence—but his analysis of the texts is problematic. For example, his exposition of the poem Два рыцаря (Two Knights) as a homosexual encounter will likely strike those with firsthand knowledge of Slavic literature and culture as affected and unconvincing. He reads a jousting match as a penetrative homosexual encounter by claiming that the knights remove their armor (nowhere stated in the poem) and “‘break their spears’ with each other” (67). But the line in question depicts a different context: “I will break spears with you in honor of the Lady” (сломим копья с тобою в честь Дамы, stanza 1.4). It is unclear who the “Lady” is (Florensky’s sister Olga?), but surely, queering texts needs no female erasure to make a point. Read More


Olimbias__70120.1392071470.1000.1200_largeIn our editorial of April 20 entitled “Preliminary Thoughts on the Female Diaconate,” our two editors at the time stated the following points of agreement between us:

  • We do not support the ordination of women to the priesthood or the episcopate.
  • We fail to see how a restored female diaconate constitutes a slippery slope to a female presbyterate or episcopate. We have no apprehensions at all in this regard.
  • Yet we do not wish to foreclose the discussion of a female presbyterate or episcopate, because one of two things will result: either we as the Church will come to a better understanding and articulation of why we do not ordain women priests and bishops, or we will conclude that no doctrinal reasons forbid it. (Cf. Acts 5:38-39.) 

To the third point we might add that we may discern, as Church, that doctrinal reasons not only do not forbid it, but require it.

Arguments for and against the ordination of women are scattered around the internet on websites and blogs and in free-standing statements. Some of them have more widespread, and others more limited, exposure. For this reason Orthodoxy in Dialogue proposes to provide a space where all sides of the question can come together for respectful discussion among brothers and sisters. 

In addition to our Submission Guidelines, please note the following for this series: Read More