LETTERS TO THE EDITORS

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LETTERS TO THE EDITORS

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)