LETTERS TO THE EDITORS

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LETTERS TO THE EDITORS

[The following eight letters were sent in response to Trump Administration Invites Patriarch Bartholomew to Speak on…the Environment? and Have Your Say: What Would You Like Patriarch Bartholomew to Say to Donald Trump?.]

Dec. 9, 2019

I think Patriarch Bartholomew’s planned visit to Washington provides an excellent opportunity for His All-Holiness to point out to Donald Trump and to the world the devastating effects of having ignored the message of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth for all these years.

On peace, Thomas Merton said, “The root of all war is fear.” Need I say more? Trump’s decisions are all based on fear: fear of the enemy, and fear of losing money and/or economic power.

The whole problem with Trump is spiritual, or rather a lack of spirituality. For me spirituality is based on being honest with myself, accepting the consequences of this honesty, and taking responsibility for myself and my deeds.

How to bring this message across to Trump I have no idea. Hopefully His All-Holiness has some idea.

The core problem of Trump is that he cannot take any criticism, which leads to denial and sheer lying. I think it is ironic he has invited the Patriarch. He probably knows he is called the Green Patriarch. I would not be surprised if he has invited him to try to make a good impression internationally.

The Patriarch should point out to Trump how irresponsible his behaviour is in withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, abandoning the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and demanding increased defense investments from other countries. Stepping out of the nuclear agreement with Iran has made the Middle East and the world as whole a more dangerous place. Through his economic policies he is increasing the perverse gap between poor and rich.

It is a daunting task for the Patriarch. Both His All-Holiness and Trump need our prayers.

Vincent van Buuren (Haarlem, Netherlands)

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Dec. 7, 2019

Thank you so much for the opportunity to give my opinion on this very important question.

My gut reflex was no. Then, I thought hard about how to possibly turn this into a positive.

Since we know Trump is only using Patriarch Bartholomew for any possible election advantage he can muster, I say let the Patriarch speak—to condemn every infraction Trump has imposed upon people and planet alike, and to do so with authority and clarity. For now is the time for boldness!

Cynthia Gallion (Raleigh NC)

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Dec. 7, 2019

Using Christ’s teaching that we are not to judge others, I will firstly state that I do not know the mind or heart of your President.

I have two comments which I hope will be useful: one for not attending, and one for attending.

1. From what I have seen and heard of President Trump, I would say that unless Patriarch Bartholomew is prepared to speak truth to power, he would do well to decline the offer, simply stating that the timing might be viewed as a political endorsement and so he must decline. This way offers no offense.

2. One reason for going: Christ gives us an example that many Christians fail to grasp. He spoke to/mixed with/taught the tax collectors. In so doing, Christ makes it clear that we are to engage with those who are failing to reflect His image or do not agree with us.

By attending, the Patriarch steps through the opened door and grasps the opportunity to convert President Trump on climate change.

His All-Holiness is not a fool. Yet he must be on his guard. He could use this opportunity to bring the Holy Spirit into Trump’s life. The outcome could be an opportunity to create great good for the planet and the creatures on it, but also, the opportunity for this man to turn from his present path.

I will pray that His All-Holiness make the right decision,

Dr. Christina Nellist (Winchester UK)
Author, Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Animal Suffering: Ancient Voices in Modern Theology
Editor, Pan-Orthodox Concern for Animals

Editor’s note: Dr. Nellist is referenced in Aidan Hart’s The Making of a New Icon: “Christ Breaking the Bonds of Animal Suffering”.

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Dec. 6, 2019

The possible visit by Patriarch Bartholomew to the White House will certainly have political import, but I doubt whether it will be significant. His All-Holiness should make the decision to attend closer to the date, and dependent on a few things such as any actions by the current White House occupant which the Patriarch may not want to endorse, whether he has his own important message to convey regardless of political winds, and regarding any local pressure not to attend.

I have long admired the Green Patriarch, but doubt that his environmental activism plays any role in the invitation. I doubt the Ukrainian Orthodox split with the Russian Church plays any role, or purported moves by the Russian Church to bolster their presence in Turkey. I doubt this is pushback by the US against Turkey for their invasion of Syria.

More likely, this invitation is a response to the likely pressure the White House will get next year from their opponents because of Trump’s Muslim immigration ban, and plays to Trump’s significant anti-Muslim constituency.

It also shows the sharp contrast between the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s small, vulnerable presence in an overwhelmingly Muslim country versus the easy immigration of Muslims policy of most Western European countries, which Trump probably hates.

So, the invitation plays to Trump’s base and his immigration policies, but I would leave it up to His All-Holiness to make a final decision considering all the factors at play closer to the time of the visit.

John Munter (Warba MN)
Member, St. Michael’s Serbian Orthodox Church

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Dec. 6, 2019

The only reason that His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew would have to visit Mr. Trump would be to share his wisdom on the role that the Orthodox Church and all of humanity have to protect God’s beautiful creation.

Mr. Trump’s environmental policies which promote the degradation of the creation and our global climate are anathema to what our beloved Patriarch teaches us about being environmental stewards. Mr. Trump’s policies are putting children and families across the globe, especially those living in poverty, at risk from climate-related disasters and disease.

If we are to expect any changes to improve the health and humanity of children, which is of course an essential core of our responsibilities as Christians, then the leadership of our Archdiocese should be extremely cautious about how it conducts and publicizes meetings with this White House, lest these meetings give the impression of condoning Mr. Trump’s environmental destruction.

While I understand that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese has been aligned with the Republican Party because of its historically conservative policies, this current administration has been inhumane to the most vulnerable among us. The Orthodox Observer’s depiction of a photograph of Archbishop Elpidophoros with Mr. Trump earlier this fall, praising Mr. Trump’s treatment of Christians around the world, eroded my trust in our Church’s ability to keep us separated from the hunger for alignment with secular power.

What would a Patriarch Bartholomew-Donald Trump meeting or photo op convey to Orthodox Christians?

What would Christ say to Mr. Trump regarding his disregard of climate change while children around the world are literally burning and drowning to death?

Maria Karapelou Brown, MD, EdM, FAAP (Baltimore MD)
Pediatrician and Children’s Environmental Health Advocate
Member, Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation

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Dec. 6, 2019

I had the great honor of meeting Patriarch Bartholomew during the June 2018 Green Attica Symposium in Greece. I am writing to express my hope that His All-Holiness will decline any invitation to meet with President Trump. I do not wish the Patriarch’s moral stature to be exploited by a political leader who has so swiftly and systematically dismantled protections on God’s creation and who continues to conduct an all-out assault on the sacred web of life.

The Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas (Northampton MA)
Missioner for Creation Care
Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts
Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ

Editor’s note: See Dr. Bullitt-Jonas’ bio at Reviving Creation.

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Dec. 5, 2019

Donald Trump cannot be trusted. He has hurt people, places, and the marvelous animals of our beloved and beautiful planet over and over again without showing any signs of remorse. Indeed, he seems to relish the thought that this suggests he is tough—and standing strong beside the greed and callousness that promotes this behavior.

Patriarch Bartholomew is, we trust, far too smart to be taken in by a person who will take advantage of any situation without regard for the truth or dignity that might be compromised as a result.

Please tell the Patriarch to wait to celebrate our National Restoration Day—taking place after the 2020 election because we will have elected, with God’s help, an individual who will be a true steward, and worthy of His All-Holiness’ attention.

Lise Van Susteren, MD (Washington DC)
Board Certified: General and Forensic Psychiatry

Editor’s note: See Dr. Van Susteren’s bio at Climate for Health for her clinical focus on the mental health effects of climate change and her record of climate change activism and other philanthropic initiatives.

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Dec. 3, 2019

Thank you for publishing Trump Administration Invites Patriarch Bartholomew to Speak on…the Environment? and Have Your Say: What Would You Like Patriarch Bartholomew to Say to Donald Trump?.

Patriarch Bartholomew probably already knows that Donald Trump is functionally an atheist. His religious coating is only for public relations, and this is true for a large percentage of those in Congress. If they have positions on moral and ethical issues, it is primarily for public relations purposes.

For the Patriarch’s meeting with Donald Trump, a polite discourse about responsibility for the future would be important, including some mention of how virtually all of organized religion in America is concerned about the urgency of climate change. (See my Religion and Global Climate Change: A Handbook for Faith Leaders and Climate Activists.)

Patriarch Bartholomew has been strong and emphatic about the importance of addressing global climate change. This should be his theme in his public remarks in May, as this is the most crucial issue facing America. This is also an issue which the Orthodox bishops in the US have addressed in strong terms. By taking this approach, the Patriarch will speak with integrity to his past statements and address an issue on which President Trump can learn and which the American people need to hear.

As background, I previously worked as a campaign manager for the Republican National Committee and am knowledgeable about the Congress. I am also a member of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).

Frederick Krueger (Santa Rosa CA)
President, World Stewardship Institute

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Dec. 3, 2019

Thank you for your interest and generous offer to review our new publication, Orthodox Christian Prayers. Please allow us to decline the offer as we believe neither the perspective of Orthodoxy in Dialogue, nor those who subscribe to it, share the values and vision of St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press. We would be concerned that a review in Orthodoxy in Dialogue would confuse our customer base and misrepresent our mission.

Priest Mikel Hill (Waymart PA)
Operations Manager, STM Bookstore & Press

Editor’s note: SVS Press has never refused our multiple requests for review copies of their new releases. Bishops, priests, SVS faculty members, and STS faculty members subscribe to and write for Orthodoxy in Dialogue.

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Nov. 26, 2019

I add my support to Father Aaron Warwick’s For I Was Hungry and You Fed Me, a Stranger and You Welcomed Me. Family Promise is an amazing non-profit. My parish has worked with our local chapter for a few years now. We are not able to be a host congregation, but FP makes it easy to assist as you can.

It is a beautiful thing to see church communities come together and battle family homelessness.

Priest Theophan Whitfield (Salem MA)
St Nicholas Orthodox Church (OCA)

Editor’s note: See Father Whitfield’s own The Parish as Servant of June 2018 at Orthodoxy in Dialogue.

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Nov. 24, 2019

The book review you published is amazing, Maternal Body the most exciting event in theology in a long time! Thank you! I’ve already ordered it!

Andrea Jarmai (Toronto ON)

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Nov. 19, 2019

Yesterday someone posted a link on Facebook to an article published by Orthodoxy in Dialogue with the title The Muscovite Schism Lurches toward Outright Heresy.

It gives me the impression that Orthodoxy in Dialogue is trying to promote, extend, and exacerbate the Ukrainian (not Muscovite) schism. What is the point of that?

We in Africa are living on a knife edge as the Ukrainian schism spreads, apparently throughout the Orthodox world. Planning services is provisional, depending on the state of the schism.

It seems to me that the article published by Orthodoxy in Dialogue comes pretty close to “hate speech,”  and certainly is provoking hatred among people like the one who posted the link to the article on Facebook.

The Ukrainian schism is threatening to become the worst schism since 1054, possibly even worse. Soon we will be reaching the point where we will have to say, “I believe in two holy, catholic and apostolic churches,” and Orthodox mission will be at an end, because which of the two churches will you invite people who are interested in Orthodoxy to join?

In these circumstances, how can Orthodoxy in Dialogue seek to heal the schism rather than exacerbate it?

Deacon Stephen Hayes, DTh (Tshwane, South Africa)

Editor’s note: Most Orthodox mission in Africa is conducted under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, which has recently recognized the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

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Nov. 17, 2019

When I saw today’s article with the “icon” of Putin, I laughed: Surely it was a ruse. However, just in case that was not the case, let’s hear Archbishop John (Shahovskoy) of San Francisco’s address on VOA on the occasion of the Inauguration of President Eisenhower:

Fortunate are the countries whose rulers, in the sight of all, bow down their heads before the Living God and seek not glory for themselves or compel the people to glorify them.

Happy are the nations among  whom no statues are raised to men still living on earth, to be put up like idols in towns and villages.

It is well  for the lands where  all understand that even the greatest and most powerful of men are weak and mortal and that nothing great, good, and stable can come about for the people without God’s blessing.

That goes for all of us.

Amen to that!

Michael Day (Columbia MD)

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Nov. 10, 2019

I’m more interested in knowing [in response to “The Good Wife” According to Father Josiah Trenham: Does Metropolitan Joseph Approve?] what Metropolitan Joseph—and the rest of the American hierarchy—think about sodomy and, worse, the spiritual poison that you and your cohorts at the Orthodox Christian Studies Center are swilling these days. You folks just don’t believe you’re going to die, do you?

Bless your predictable heart [in response to On Sodomy]! The Inhospitality Argument. So revolutionary. On that note, though, tell me, how many Central Americans have you personally provided shelter for?

In fact, let me wager that you’re personally more committed to shirking God’s will for human sexuality than you’ll ever be concerned for the plight of a single refugee, asylum seeker, or economic migrant. Save your deflective, elitist grandstanding, then.

Cory Dupont (Warwick RI)

Editorial note: We refer Mr. Dupont to Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s numerous appeals, over the past two years, for Toronto’s homeless population, refugees and asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border, wildfire victims in Greece, children in war-ravaged Syria, child cancer patients, almsgiving as a way of life, etc. etc.

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Nov. 9, 2019

I write in support of Alexandra de Moffarts’ article, Quo Vadis, rue Daru?, which I found to be well balanced. I do not agree with Daniel Struve’s assessment of it [in the letter immediately preceding this one]. There is nothing “natural” or “inevitable” about the return of the rue Daru Archdiocese to the Moscow Patriarchate. It is a step backward. Too much water has flowed under the bridge since 1929, when the Archdiocese left the Moscow Patriarchate for Constantinople.

Many people with no personal links to Russia have joined the Archdiocese and thrived in its multi-national character. For these people, enracinement—putting down roots in the local, West European soil—is important; whereas, for certain Russians and other East Europeans, maintaining links with the mother country is considered more important. The Archdiocese was a delicate alliance between these two groups, which has broken down under the impact of recent events.

The reason for the break of 1929 was that it became impossible to have meaningful communication with a church that had no independent voice or freedom because of Communist control.

Many, including myself, would argue that a similar situation exists today, the main difference being that the Russian government does not seek to destroy the Church, as it did back then, but merely to subvert it, turning it into an instrument of state power.

De Moffarts’ article is written in the context of a double scourge affecting the Church in Western Europe: Moscow’s rupture with Constantinople [over Ukrainian autocephaly], followed shortly after by the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s brutal and sudden decision to rescind the tomos from the Archdiocese of rue Daru.

It is impossible to overestimate the disaffection and, yes, contempt, with which Orthodox hierarchs are held by Orthodox in the West. For these people, among whom I include myself, hierarchy is division, plain and simple.

It is urgent that the jurisdictional overlaps and duplications that caused this mess should be speedily addressed. Tragically, there is little prospect of this happening in the near future.

James Chater (Avallon, France)

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Nov. 9, 2019

Alexandra de Moffarts’ Quo Vadis, rue Daru? is indeed a very subjective and highly biased view of the situation, full of confusion.

She writes, “From here on, we move in a kind of surreal split, where it is difficult for many to discern who is in and who is out, and where and what the Archdiocese really is.”

This is not my impression at all.

There are differences, of course, but they are very clear, and a large majority of the clergy and of the flock followed Archbishop John (Renneteau) to the Moscow Patriarchate, even if some did it reluctantly.

The reasons are simple:

1. The alternative was dissolution and spoliation by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate).

2. The Moscow Patriarchate created the Archdiocese at first (in 1921), and has been insisting on our return for years. The problem was pending and was dividing the Archdiocese. Patriarch Bartholomew’s November 2018 decision settled the question, giving us the necessary impulse to make the change. In this sense it was a welcome and a sage decision, even it it shouldn’t have been presented in such a brutal way. All the Ecumenical Patriarchs until Demetrios always thought and said that some day we should return to the MP. There are many problems in the MP, of course (and some in the EP…). But then our very existence is closely linked to the Russian tragedy. 

Those who left the Archdiocese on this occasion may feel disoriented, and it will probably take some time for them to be integrated in their new ecclesiastical environment. But these events appear to me on the whole as a clarification, far from the confusion described by de Moffarts.

She writes about “fighting over our affairs in court—with, perhaps, no real chance to win against Moscow.” Actually, there were some threats of this kind from the Greek Metropolis of France, but nothing has emerged yet. If someone fights in courts, it will be Metropolitan Emmanuel, and the fight will be against the Archdiocese (“rue Daru”), not against “Moscow.”

I can’t imagine on what grounds the Greek Metropolis of France should have any claim on the properties of the Archdiocese.  

Daniel Struve (Paris)

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Oct. 18, 2019

What you post in Orthodoxy in Dialogue is most certainly food for thought, both pro and contra. Being new to the site, I did not know the length and breadth of the problems that are discussed, railed about, and so forth. However, in reflection on my time in the Orthodox Church and my past experiences as a seminarian, I am not surprised by any of it.

On the matter of masculinity and femininity we have the Deisis to teach us, where perfect humanity of both men and women is embodied in Christ; perfect femininity is embodied in the Theotokos; and perfect masculinity is embodied in John the Forerunner. Thus, all the poles of human sexuality are included. Those he-men priests you spoke of [here and here] should reflect on the icons they would otherwise so heartily defend.

Yet, should not the masculine also say “Be it done unto me according to Thy word”? Should not the feminine also be a “voice crying in the wilderness”?

Apparently, things are not so neat and tidy as we would like.

Michael Day (Columbia MD)

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Jul. 20, 2019

I am E. R. Lanier, a licensed attorney at law and the appointed General Counsel of the Orthodox Church in America. My duties to the Church include the legal protection and enforcement of the OCA’s intellectual property rights as these exist under federal and state law within the United States of America.

Concerned persons have within the past few hours brought it to my attention that your website, “Orthodoxy in Dialogue,” at https://orthodoxyindialogue.com, has engaged in the blatant and intentional copying of a photographic image belonging to the Orthodox Church in America and its ecclesiastical subdivisions, this without the knowledge, consent, or permission of the Orthodox Church in America or its subdivisions. That photograph may now be viewed, as you well know, in the July 20, 2019, post on that website entitled “LETTER TO A YOUNG GAY ORTHODOX CAMPER.”

[See remainder of letter here.]

E. R. Lanier
General Counsel, Orthodox Church in America

Read our response of July 21 here.

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Jul. 14, 2019

It’s really sad that same-sex love is reduced entirely to physical acts devoid of actual warmth and affection [see Same-Sex Love = Child Rape? Yes, Father Lawrence Farley Went There]. This says a lot more about the heart of one “disgusted” by same-sex love than anyone else. Would romantic love between two straight people be reduced in the same way?

I was taught—not simply in words but by example—that in a healthy romantic relationship between two human beings (note the wording there), sharing sexual intimacy is an expression of that love. People who obsess over the sexual habits of others reveal their own obsessions, which are, ironically enough, unhealthy.

And also, it is none of my business how sexuality is expressed at those intimate moments—that’s why they are intimate—insofar as it is a healthy, mutual expression of love.

Thank you and keep up the good work!

Joshua Sellers (Rochester NY)

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Jul. 13, 2019

Thank you, with all my heart, for posting This Weekend #ProtectEachOther from ICE and the announcement it contains!  As an American Orthodox Christian, I support these suggestions and plans wholeheartedly, with joy and thanksgiving. They truly show forth the Light of Christ in a time of deepening darkness and despair throughout my/our country and our world. I will act on them!  

May God bless you for your compassionate evangelical witness for Christ and His Church—and may He bless and protect all our persecuted brothers and sisters here in America today and in the days ahead!

Jurretta (Juliana) Heckscher (Arlington VA)

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Jul. 11, 2019

The idea that anyone could be a patron saint of nuclear weapons, and the very notion of blessing those weapons (any weapons, for that matter), is nothing less than blasphemous.

The mere existence of such horrors is an abomination, a blasphemy, a type of anti-Christ, and a denial of the God who is love and the Author of life. These obscenities are anti-love and anti-life, both literally and symbolically. They have no business existing.

So how is it possible that a dearly beloved saint could be made the patron of nuclear weapons? Certainly not with his consent! And how is it possible that Orthodox Christian priests could bless such obscenities?

This is nothing less than a betrayal of Christ.

Deacon Paul del Junco (Toronto ON)
Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada

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Apr. 5, 2019

Thank you for creating such a lively and robust forum for exchanging ideas! I’ve only recently become aware of Orthodoxy in Dialogue, and I’m curious if there has been any discussion about creating alternative spaces for Orthodox worship outside of the established jurisdictions? I’m envisioning egalitarian spaces in which men and women gather to share in the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. Does anyone know if such spaces and practices currently exist?   

Surely I’m not alone in desiring an Orthodox forum that doesn’t require I check part of my humanity at the door (I’m a proud gay man, raised in the Antiochian Church, my husband is Muslim, and I reject the church’s position on homosexuality). 

Conversely, does anyone know of an Orthodox congregation in Chicagoland that practices hospitality? I’m 53 years old and not once in my entire adult life has an Orthodox priest told me that I’m welcome to join his congregation as I am. 

Hence, my interest in exploring alternative venues for Orthodox expression.  

Jamil Khoury (Chicago IL)

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Feb. 12, 2019

Now we just need to have such a petition for the OCA! These things were once intrinsic to the OCA’s understanding of its own autocephaly….

Archpriest Isaac Skidmore (Ashland OR)
Auxiliary Priest, Archangel Gabriel Orthodox Church (OCA)

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Feb. 11, 2019

Thank you for publicly posting my private email appeal. I hope it will help other Orthodox teens and families discern the truth and avoid the lies and distortions of this age.

God works in mysterious ways!

Chris Banescu, Esq. (Santa Clarita CA)
Business Consultant

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Feb. 9, 2019

Note: In this letter the writer mocks what is a life-and-death matter to too many people and shares the “joke” with his bishop, the owners of Ancient Faith Ministries, and several fellow priests.

Darn, I feel terribly left out. 

Fathers Damick, Farley, Jacobse, Parker, and Trenham—Hah, what makes them so special? 

I was speaking unfavorably about this vice long before these youngsters were born

How come this anonymous author didn’t mention me

How cruel and insulting to kick an old priest out of the way, like this. 

It’s a bias, that’s all, just a bias against the elderly. And to do it anonymously

I am going to consult my attorney. I may have a civil case. 

Archpriest Patrick Reardon (Chicago IL)
Rector, All Saints Orthodox Church (AOCA); Editor, Touchstone

Additional notes:
Father Reardon sent this letter not only to Orthodoxy in Dialogue but also to Chris Banescu, Father Josiah Trenham, Father Andrew Damick, Father Johannes Jacobse, John Maddex, Bobby Maddex, Father Wilbur Ellsworth, Walid Tony Abdul Karim, Father Andrew Kishler, and Bishop Anthony (Michaels) of the AOCA’s Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest.
According to Father Reardon’s Wikipedia page, he “came to national attention in 2015 when he announced he was refusing to sign any marriage licenses issued by the state of Illinois, owing to the state’s complicity in the redefinition of marriage.”
A reader informs us that, when he visited Father Reardon’s church in 2010, Mormon tracts quoting the Book of Mormon on the “natural family” were being distributed in the narthex.
On 2/11/19 Father Reardon wrote to ask us to correct the record: his Orthodox parish was handing out Lutheran tracts in 2010, not Mormon.  He showed no compunction for using the real life of a real LGBTQ teen as an opportunity to share a childish “joke” with his apparently like-minded bishop and fellow priests.

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Dec. 6, 2018

Happy St. Nicholas Day! Once again I commend you for your work in providing a space for discussion of important but difficult topics in the Orthodox world. [Sent in response to Orthodoxy and Ecumenism: Come Now, Let Us Reason Together.] 

Archpriest John Jillions, DMin, PhD (Bridgeport CT)
Chancellor, Orthodox Church in America

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Nov. 25, 2018

I just wanted to email regarding the interview with Lindsey on your site. I am Orthodox Jewish, but it really touched me, because I’m also non-binary and not out to anyone at my synagogue or in my family. It’s intensely alienating to live in such a culture of silence, and I just wanted to extend my thanks to them for speaking on living a life where being religious does not have to mean leaving behind your identity. Thank you.

Anonymous

Editorial Note: Our policy normally does not allow anonymous letters to the editors. Yet the present letter seems too important a witness not to publish.

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Oct. 15, 2018

I began reading the recent post, responding to Metropolitan Jonah’s article about Ukraine (here), but closed the browser at the mention of him “pining for a woman” as a young man.

I don’t know much about the situation in Ukraine, but I do know it is both extremely complicated and intensely volatile. Hard, fact-based journalism, presented as impartially as possible, is needed to help us make sense of this situation. The piece you posted might have merits in that regard, but the ad hominem attack against another author severely weakens your credibility. Even if someone “goes low” please do not “kick them” in your journalism.

Archpriest Sergius Halvorsen (New Haven CT)

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Sept. 28, 2018

Please remove me from your list [for your Open Letter to the Assembly of Bishops].

Archbishop Mark (Maymon) of Philadelphia, Orthodox Church in America

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Sept. 27, 2018

I have looked at Sexuality & Gender: Open Letter to the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, and I cannot sign such a document. It seems to me that it is demanding that Orthodox bishops be entirely secularised in their thinking. It makes a lot of peremptory demands that the bishops follow current fashions in secular thought, without even attempting to give a theological reason for this.

Making peremptory demands that people “cease” doing things that most of them have probably never even thought of doing does not look like dialogue to me—it smacks of prejudice, and even bigotry rather than a desire for dialogue.

I have seen very few, if any, pronouncements on morality from Orthodox bishops of the kind that the web page is demanding that they stop making.

It makes me wonder—where should Orthodox Christians get their moral compass—their sense of right and wrong? It seems that quite a lot of people seem to think that it should be from the American secular commentariat. And I find that disturbing.

Deacon Stephen Hayes, DTh (Tshwane, South Africa)

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Sept. 10, 2018

Thank you for a very informative article [“The Will of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine“]. Just out of interest, I am sure your readership would like to know what percentage of the Orthodox faithful does the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC; Українська автокефальна православна церква [УАПЦ]) hold?

Michael Zurowski (Warsaw, Poland/Montreal QC)

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Aug. 4, 2018

[This letter responds to “Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Issues Statement on Israeli Nation-State Law.”]

I have been asking this question on Twitter for four years already.

What do we care about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? There is an outsize media coverage of this conflict, and little coverage of dozens of other conflicts globally at the same time.

What do we care?

The situation is as follows:

There are 8 million Israelis and 200+ million Arabs, depending on who is counting and who is considered an Arab. Arab Nationalism does not really exist, as “Arab” effectively means “Muslim.” Arabs themselves are split in hundreds of tribes, Palestinians being just one of them. These tribes have been fighting with each other for centuries already, tribal identity being primary.

I’m not sure why any Christian denomination should take any sides in this conflict of 8 million vs. 200+ million. Sure, pray for peace, hope for peace, as for any conflict globally, but why bother so much with this conflict only?

Ektrit Kris Manushi (Tirana, Albania)

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Aug. 2, 2018

Anba Epiphanius seems like a remarkable man on so many levels, and his death a real loss to the church. But if “the identity and motive of the murderer are unknown as of yet, despite the speculations of many,” how can you call him a “hieromartyr?” Please—let GOD manifest his saints! Do not YOU be in the business of manufacturing them!

One thing is the presence among us of a saint. Another thing is our need for saints. Let’s not confuse the two!

May God himself glorify those who are his own.

John Burnett (San Anselmo CA)

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Jun. 22, 2018

Congratulations to the editors of Orthodoxy in Dialogue for launching a successful website that allows for the airing of widely divergent views. One may not agree with all the views expressed, but that is the nature of conversation and debate.

Archpriest John A. Jillions (Huntington Station NY)
Chancellor, Orthodox Church in America

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Jun. 18, 2018

Please sign my name to your Open Letter to the Church: The Humanitarian Crisis at the US-Mexico Border.

Kiddie concentration camps. It is utterly reprehensible. I am deeply ashamed to hear from some Orthodox Christian people and clergy who agree with separating children from their parents as they flee from the most abominable and dangerous circumstances in Central America. They have risked their lives to seek asylum from a murderous and squalid life and to try to find some hope. 

I realize that racism and white nationalist fear are driving a good bit of this unconscionable behaviour on the part of the government. We are in a New World order of fear, racism, and hate, in which some of our own clergy are involved in the most despicable ways. I hope that more of our hierarchy and clergy will have the courage to speak out on this inhumane behaviour.

Some of our people are just fine with this because these refugees have brown skin instead of white. I have had encounters before with so-called “pro-lifers” who have a fixation on the unborn, but absolutely do not care for the already born. They accuse anyone who cares about already born children as being socialists or leftists. What does this say for our moral condition as Christians?

Archbishop Lazar (Puhalo) 
Retired, Orthodox Church in America

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May 16, 2018

I have just read Adam DeVille’s review of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life. Although I am in no way competent to judge whether the book is beneficial in any way, I do want to say something about the book review itself: it seems less of an actual review than a biased polemic against Peterson. I must say, I have never read an “academic” review, or even an honest general review, that went to such lengths to simply say that something is garbage. It’s not really a review, is it? It’s just book-bashing. 

I have recently gotten into Peterson and am attempting to understand him. What is obvious to me at this point is that Peterson is a thinker. It’s too early in the game for me to decide what, if any, redeemable qualities are a result of what he is thinking. 

I must say I am not certain someone with only an undergrad degree (DeVille) in psychology can produce a fair and sustained value judgment against Peterson. I understand full well DeVille has further degrees in philosophy and theology, but question whether he has the groundwork in psychology to critique Peterson with anything resembling non-biased precision. It’s quite obvious he cannot do it lovingly.

In my humble opinion, this review comes across as being angry the majority of the time and condescending at least part of the time. I highly doubt the review will serve any other purpose than to spur inquisitive people to listen to Peterson more attentively and read his work more thoroughly.

I was looking at 12 Rules on Amazon last night and decided not to buy it. However, after reading DeVille’s over-the-top review, I am now compelled to purchase this book and everything else Peterson has written. All thanks to DeVille!

S. Charles Bivens, ThM (Vancouver WA)

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Apr. 14, 2018

I read with interest Rod Dreher’s article from The American Conservative which you posted very recently on your site. Thank you for posting it.

While I think Mr. Dreher makes many good points, I disagree with his conclusion about the inevitability of “progressivism” prevailing in the Orthodox Church through websites like yours. If we really trust the Orthodox Church as Christ’s true Body, I strongly believe we can also trust that the truths She has always taught about sexual morality will withstand the sexualized and secularized onslaught that modernity is trying to bring against Her. I also believe that truly open dialogue will help these truths to prevail in the Church.

I would like to reinforce in particular one of Mr. Dreher’s good points—that of his identifying the tendency of “progressives” to quickly dismiss any conservative viewpoint as being “fundamentalist.” I very much hope you and your site are not repeating this completely unjust and highly flagrant mistake. Just because all traditionalists reject all sexual relations outside of marriage (as the Church always has done) does not mean that all traditionalists are “fundamentalists”—though of course, some of them are.

I have the feeling that there may be some “progressive” Orthodox Christians who are convinced, or at least suspect, that I myself—and by extension, St. Tikhon’s Seminary as a whole—are “fundamentalist.” 

I frequently emphasize the dangers of fundamentalism/sectarianism in my Church History courses at St. Tikhon’s—especially when we talk about the rigorist early heresies of Montanism, Novatianism, and Donatism; when we study Protestantism and Islam; and when we discuss the Old Believers in Russia, ROCOR before the reconciliation with the Moscow Patriarchate in 2007, and modern-day Greek Old Calendarist groups.

David C. Ford (South Canaan PA)
Professor of Church History, St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary

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Apr. 3, 2018

Thanks so much for your collaborative vision. Through your work, theology has regained some of its dynamism—”theology in motion.” I have let other people know about your site. 

Wishing you all a peaceful Holy Week and joyous, joyful Pascha.

Susan Arida (Boston MA)

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Mar. 29, 2018

Thank you for posting your very insightful and encouraging letters to the struggling monk. I think they are excellent in content and tone. I hope they were helpful for him.

And I think they do help to counter the impression that everyone who endorses same-sex relationships must also endorse sexual promiscuity.

David C. Ford (South Canaan PA)
Professor of Church History, St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary

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Mar. 21, 2018

Again my congratulations, this time to Aidan Hart for his “Icons and Culture: Transformation or Appropriation?” I’ve read nothing better in any language. He poses the questions, analyzes the issues, and makes judicious observations with admirable tact and conciseness. He strengthens the foundations for iconography’s future, which ill-inspired travesties like those of Brother Lentz were threatening to sap. I look forward to reading more of what Aidan has written. May God grant him many years.

John J. Yiannias (Charlottesville VA)
Professor Emeritus of Art History, University of Virginia

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Mar. 1, 2018

I was stunned by the Greek priest’s response to Michelle Oberman. Her article is so important. I have lived through “being too poor to have another child” (by the grace of God, both the child and I survived), and I too believe that fixing the economic and health care situation for many women would solve the “problem.” Banning abortion will bring us back to the Dark Ages. I don’t know of any Orthodox group homes where pregnant women can get practical support as well as counselling. There is a Catholic group home in Ottawa. 

Jane Szepesi (Ottawa ON)

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Jan. 30, 2018

I congratulate Prof. Demacopoulos for his well-argued recommendation that St. Vladimir’s and Holy Cross merge. In decades past, that may not have been the wisest course for the Church to follow, but now it offers, in my estimation, the only practical solution to the problem of devising an effective system of higher Orthodox education for this country and for this time of corrosive cultural change. I particularly agree with his observation that a merger would, among other things, result in more cross-cultural, cross-ethnic awareness and intellectual growth than we have now. Anyone can see, or ought to see, that two Orthodoxies, or Orthodoxy with two faces, is in the process of evolving in the West—let us call them (though the names can be argued) the Greek and the Russian. The worst thing that can happen in America is for the two to continue going their separate ways, and the present two-seminary system almost surely guarantees that they will. The GOA and the various other Orthodox jurisdictions in our country must combat this tendency, and the formation of a single institution predicated on, and dedicated to, the cooperation and cross-fertilization of the two traditions on the academic theological level would seem an obvious and long-overdue goal to pursue.  Things should not and cannot continue as they are.

John J. Yiannias (Charlottesville VA)
Professor Emeritus of Art History, University of Virginia

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Jan. 24, 2018

When my family and I were inquiring about Orthodoxy, our second visit to an Orthodox church was a parish in East Tennessee that is home to the white supremacists that may have painted our beloved rock.

Before visiting I didn’t know that this parish had members bent this direction. However, by the time coffee hour was over I had seen enough Nazi tattoos to know what was going on. Afterwards I called an Orthodox friend whom we had met on our first visit to a different parish and asked about the situation. He assured me that white supremacy was not representative of Orthodoxy. Relieved, we decided to go back to that first parish. We have been at St. Anne in Oak Ridge TN since. We were baptized in August.

I think back at what could have been if we had visited the white supremacist-tolerant parish first. My family may not have been Orthodox today. We just hope that other potential converts have not turned away due to the same experience.

Paisios Jones (Morristown TN)

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Dec. 31, 2017

I was a conscientious objector in the Vietnam era, while still a Protestant Evangelical, and served two years as an Orderly in an Illinois hospital. But I cannot lament Bishops not speaking favorably of conscientious objection.

In the U.S. at least, 1-A-O or 1-O status required religious scruple (or, by court gloss, quasi-religious philosophical scruple). Unless the use of arms (1-A-O), or service in the military at all (1-O) is forbidden by the Church, how could a Bishop speak favorably of conscientious objection, the gaining of which status would require one to make an idiosyncratic personal dogma of something about which the Church has not dogmatized?

With a volunteer military, however, I’m “all in” on warning of grave spiritual and psychic wounds. A Christian college acquaintance in the Vietnam era, who attended the Urbana ’70 Missionary conference in uniform, was suffering the beginnings of such wounds merely by having to join obscene and genocidal jody calls in basic training. It doesn’t get better, I assume.

Roger Wm. Bennett (Lafayette IN)
Tonsured Reader, St. Alexis Orthodox Church (ACROD)

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Dec. 31, 2017

Thank you for Jim Forest’s New Year Peace Homily [here]…a tiny fragment of his and his wife Nancy’s committed lives.  Why oh why is the lip service to peace so seldom accompanied by No to war? Forest’s picking up on the German churches from 1933-45 is so apposite to the US and UK and many other places. No lesson learnt. 

My wife was imprisoned by the Stasi for her solidarity with the Women for Peace in East Berlin. I helped get her out.

When Dan Berrigan [here] received the Pope John XXlll peace prize in Washington, the presiding bishop (of Baltimore, I think) in his amazing response said he could only convey the Holy Father’s blessing conditionally. Church!

Canon Paul Oestreicher (Brighton UK)
Canon at Coventry Cathedral during the Blitz of 1940

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Dec. 12, 2017

Reading Orthodoxy in Dialogue is always a “stretching” experience. Seldom am I not moved either to disagree vehemently or to agree with the deepest of appreciation. 

Jim Forest’s recent introduction [here] of his book on Fr. Daniel Berrigan was quite moving. I remember Fr. Daniel’s protests at the height of the Vietnam War. At that time I was a youthful “Love it or leave it” patriot. Age, and the study of history, has tempered my views somewhat. Berrigan had what so many of us Christians lack: courage. Courage to follow his convictions, no matter how radical, is what will endear his memory to generations to come. I don’t have to have agreed with all of his theology or politics but I admire him for following Christ no matter how unpopular or inconvenient. May his memory be eternal and may my dear brother Jim Forest be blessed for having written his biography.

V. Rev. Fr. Timothy Cremeens, PhD (Wilkes-Barre PA)
Dean, Holy Resurrection Orthodox Cathedral (OCA)

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Dec. 5, 2017

“It is commonly assumed that the strident homophobia of the contemporary American Orthodox Church has been imported with the influx of thousands of unconverted converts from Evangelical fundamentalism from the late 1980s to the present.” [See reference here.]

This is an appalling bit of bigotry. Gone is my presumption that Giacomo Sanfillipo [sic] is bona fide and scholarly.

Roger Wm. Bennett (Lafayette IN)

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Nov. 8, 2017 

Please accept my appreciation for publishing Gregg Webb’s article [here]. I am a heterosexual woman with some very dear gay friends, and I have struggled with this issue quite a bit, on their behalf. If it is a difficult issue for me, how much more difficult must it be for those who are themselves in the sexual minority and Orthodox? I applaud Gregg’s courage to speak out publicly. I hope some of our clergy will have the courage to participate in this dialogue and help us all, whether we ourselves are in this community or not, to understand the Orthodox perspective and not push it and them away out of fear and confusion. My husband is a priest, and encourages Orthodox LGBTQ people to do exactly as Gregg is doing: maintain a celibate life of prayer and struggle against all his passions, sexual and otherwise, as we all should do. But they need support in their struggle as much as, if not more than, any of the rest of us. I hope his speaking out encourages others to open their hearts and minds and feel compassion towards everyone.

Matushka Marina Holland (McKinney TX)

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Sep. 26, 2017

I recently had the pleasure of speaking, here in Australia, with a man who I am sure is a great friend of this blog, Aristotle Papanikolaou. In discussing his recent journeys in Orthodoxy and academia, he said to me that it was, in his opinion, a great ascesis to be able to bring together a wide range of thoughts and opinions on a particular topic within Orthodoxy, in order to foster constructive and spiritual discussion.

I absolutely commend this blog for fostering this kind of discussion within Orthodoxy.

The Church here in Australia is unfortunately struggling under the weight of the division between conservatives and progressives, with no oxygen left for a moderate viewpoint.

I pray that the kind of dialogue being promoted in this blog continues and spreads further in the Church and around the world.

Please pray for us.

Terry Gerovasilis (Sydney NSW)

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Aug. 27, 2017

To boldly pursue open and honest dialogue in a Church culture where openness, honesty, and dialogue are painfully lacking is always prophetic. And so thank you, dear editors, for Orthodoxy in Dialogue, the genesis of which I pray will engender God’s blessing of “It is good.”

Your inaugural piece, “The State of Orthodox Theology Today,” was superb, both in the vitality of its message and the necessity of its expressed intent “in which there are no taboo subjects, no political correctness that creates defining lines of territory, no cultural barriers misrepresented as Holy Tradition.” Amen, and amen!

Expect resistance from those for whom openness, honesty, and dialogue are cause for alarm. Such is the lamentable condition of those who are captive to “straining the gnats” of traditionalism, and whose ecclesiastical myopia inhibits a clear vision of mercy, the increasing of which must always be the ultimate aim of all true theology.

But such is the burden, and blessing, of all who are called by God to prophetic engagement.

Blessings to you, my brothers and sisters.

Jeramy Fotinis (Phoenix AZ)

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Aug. 23, 2017

With respect to Fr. Ellison I find the letter submitted to the hierarchs absolutely appropriate. Our Lord himself says, “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers you do to me.” For too many years people of colour have been the least of our brothers. If those of us, both cleric and lay, choose not to interfere in this injustice we are no better than the priest or Levite on the road to Jericho. I for one am grateful to the editors of Orthodoxy in Dialogue for writing this letter, and am more grateful to the Assembly of Bishops for addressing it publicly. May God continue to grant them many years.

Liam Farrer (Toronto ON)
PhD Student in Theological Studies, Regis College

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Aug. 22, 2017

God bless you! The inaugural piece, “The State of Orthodox Theology Today,” is wonderful! May the Lord prosper the work of your hands—and minds (and hearts!).

Very Rev. Peter Galadza, PhD (Toronto ON)
Director, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies 

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Aug. 18, 2017

I find this letter to our hierarchs completely inappropriate. This critical spirit is of this age and not of the kingdom. The events of that day although tragic do not warrant the amount of attention the news media has given it especially with the deep political spin that has accompanied it. Every word and response analyzed and critiqued rather than simply accepted at face value. Let us show mercy and kindness and leave the bishops to attend to the work of the Gospel.

V. Rev. James B. Ellison (Urbana IL)