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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Nov. 10, 2022
NB: For context see the Metropolitan Joseph: The Scandal section in our Archives 2020-22 linked at the top of this page. We publish this letter anonymously because the author is one of our principal sources of leaks from both Damascus and Englewood. It is addressed directly to the person of our editor Giacomo Sanfilippo and published with the author’s consent.
I prayed for you in the Divine Liturgy, asking God to grant you good health and thanking Him for giving us, through Orthodoxy in Dialogue, the freedom to express our thoughts and discomfort about our church leadership. I just wanted to let you know that you are in our prayers and how much you are loved and appreciated by many people around me.
When I send you anything, I put it in the hands of the Holy Spirit and you to decide what to do with it. This email is solely to extend my enormous appreciation to you and to let you know you are in our prayers supporting your path in Christ Our Lord and Savior.
May God always protect you from the evil one!
Love in Christ.
Oct. 20, 2022
I am a lay Antiochian Orthodox and a university professor in Lebanon. I have been reading with interest Orthodoxy in Dialogue, including its coverage of the scandal of Joseph Zahlaoui. It is indeed a scandal. The church leadership should have acted swiftly and more firmly. The position you have advocated is, to be sure, justified and appreciable. I value your courage and uncompromising stance on corruption as well as on any other unethical behavior.
However, there were instances where your condemnatory language went too far in its generalization or gross exaggeration. A regrettable illustration is a quote attributed to an unidentified source which says, “The reason for non-deposal is because most of the Metropolitans in the old country have a woman…. A jury of MJ’s peers cannot depose him of the exact thing they are doing.” Such a sweeping statement is totally unfounded, even if there might have been one or two bishops whose image conforms to the stereotypical portrayal you quote.
Another unacceptable illustration concerns Metropolitan Philip Saliba’s “generosity.” It is true that he has provided, on behalf of the North American Archdiocese, financial assistance to one or two dioceses and/or institutions. It is also likely that a few bishops were close to him and might have received his gifts or were given the opportunity to fundraise in the USA. Anything beyond that is largely fanfaronades of Philip and his coterie.
Having said this, I sincerely wish that you opt for a greater caution and precision in what you write and quote, for the sake of the credibility of your defense of a good cause. The truth sets us free.
Marwan Mansour (Beirut, Lebanon)
Oct. 18, 2022
I know people are justifiably upset over the Synod’s decision, but would you please use your connections to report on whether there is going to be a truly independent auditing of the Archdiocese’s and Metropolitan Joseph’s finances?
Eric Perry (Belle, West Virginia)
Editor’s note: Suspicion of financial crimes by Joseph Al-Zehlaoui and the Archdiocese is running high among the faithful. A number of individuals have taken the initiative to speak to federal and state law enforcement, and will let us know if and when there is something to report.
Sep. 24, 2022
Thanks for printing my good friend Mike Woolsey’s letter [immediately preceding]. I wholeheartedly agree with the tenor of his opinion. I wish that there was a section of your reporting that relied only on the facts. I truly believe that headlining factual letters with unproven opinion and “evidence'”just drags down your potential value. Your and others’ opinions could be separated somehow.
It seems obvious that something negative has happened with Joseph and his situation. All investigations, potentially leading toward civil and criminal liabilities, not only of him, but also of his accusers, must continue if the Faith, as expressed through its trusted stewards, bishops and clergy, is to be honored and revered. Regardless, as many have said and written, “God is still on high, the Gospels are still on the altar, the Creed still states our beliefs, and Christ is risen!”
Best regards in continuing to print the “facts” and let others express opinions in another section of your reporting. Your work seems extremely valuable for 21st-century Orthodoxy.
P.S. Since Joseph is “retired,” by his own action, and given the apparent acceptance by Patriarch John, it seems strange that parishes in the Antiochian Archdiocese are still ordered to acknowledge him during services, rather than the Patriarch or local Bishops where they exist.
Phil Tamoush (Redondo Beach, California)
Sep. 21, 2022
I am sympathetic to a site like yours generally. I am a new viewer. But you totally lose me when you add such speculative writings as The Far Reach of the Metropolitan Joseph Scandal: Evidence of Criminal Wrongdoing? (“… it appears to be either an investment scheme, a way to funnel money to Joseph, or heaven knows what [laundering??]),” The Adulterous Metropolitan’s Pathetic Attempt to Retain (Regain?) His Dignity, etc etc. I feel like I am watching/reading the typical so-called news stations of today that are not news but rather opinion shows with a bias.
You can do much better without the sensational headlines. I appreciate your platform but am disappointed in the tenor of the coverage. I was hoping for straight news and mature discussion here.
Mike Woolsey (Torrance, California)
Sep. 3, 2022
Clearly, you’re not interested in the truth regarding the accusations against His Eminence, Metropolitan Joseph. You’ve already made up your mind. You’ve gone from reporting—if that was ever your intent—to prosecuting.
However, unlike an honest prosecutor, you equate hearsay with evidence and accusations with a conviction. Neither is true. Anyone with a commitment to the rule of law, a casual understanding of the judicial process, or the standards of journalistic integrity would respect the difference.
I don’t know if the Metropolitan is innocent or guilty. (How would I?) But I do know that an honest inquiry of the matter would assume he’s innocent, suspend judgment, and then dispassionately consider all the evidence.
The one thing we know from human nature is that “the first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). In other words, there are always two sides to every story. Anyone who renders a judgment prior to hearing both will inevitably regret it.
The final straw for me is the fact that you quoted Buzz Learn. This says far more about you than the Metropolitan. You have now become the TMZ of Orthodoxy.
Marcus Hoekenga (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Aug. 25, 2022
I do not understand why you are rushing to judgment on Metropolitan Joseph. It sounds like you have seen evidence that is compelling. However, this is not enough to condemn the man as you have done.
This is precisely why we have due process—investigations, ecclesiastical courts, and civil courts. Those who are accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty. If this is not the case, then every accusation becomes an indictment.
Every leader will inevitably face accusations. Sometimes they’re true; sometimes they’re false. That’s why St. Paul exhorts St. Timothy, “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses” (see 1 Timothy 5:19).
To assume Metropolitan Joseph is guilty and to refer to his accuser as a victim, rather than “the alleged victim” lacks journalistic integrity and Christian charity.
If he’s guilty, then he should be defrocked and deposed. But that first needs to be determined by an investigation and the synod of bishops. Until that work is complete, we should pray for both Metropolitan Joseph and his alleged victim.
Isn’t this how you’d want to be treated if you were in this situation?
Marcus Hoekenga (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Aug. 24, 2022
Hello, you may put this on your nasty website: the only reason I feel bad about Met. Joseph doing (that is if he really did) is the fact he allows the devil workers (you and others) to take advantage of what is happening and hit the morality of Clergy which in reality the devil’s way of hitting the Church. But make no mistake: you and others will wither and the Morality of the Church as it’s part of it’s tradition and life will Live forever!
Iyad Jabbour (Lexington, Kentucky)
Jul. 25, 2022
[The following response to OCA Synod of Bishops Slams Door Shut on Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Orthodox Christians has been edited and condensed for clarity.]
We are all children of the same God.
Over forty years ago, I was honest with my father confessor about my loving orientation and was advised to be monogamous and still receive Holy Communion. I was 20 years old, attending college in San Diego. I was blessed with a true Orthodox Christian priest.
A year later, he was transferred. The new priest turned me away during confession and would not give me Holy Communion because I told him I could not change my loving (sexual) orientation. I felt like the worst sinner in the world when that happened. I went to speak to the priest at my home church where I had been baptized and had served as an altar boy growing up. He told me I was excommunicating myself by not repenting of my orientation. I then left the Church, but I never left my Orthodox faith, which remains in my heart as part of my identity to this day.
I did find a welcoming and affirming Episcopal parish to attend. Ironically, the pastor, Father George Regas, had previously been Greek Orthodox. This was a special place to worship, full of people on fire for Jesus who worked hard to help the poor and stood up for peace and justice. The tears would run down my face as I heard the priest speak of the God who loved all of His creation, including His gay children.
I am heartbroken over this new statement from the Orthodox bishops that I have just read. They have not, in over 40 years, nor will they ever, strip me of my Orthodox faith and my love of all people and of God.
I have been in a loving relationship for almost 9 years. My partner is Catholic. We attend an affirming Catholic parish where the priest allows me, as Orthodox, to receive Communion.
I wish all Orthodox Christians who have been turned away from the Orthodox Church could find a second home just until my hope is realized that the bishops of the Orthodox Church will soon soften their hearts and let the love of Christ for all of God’s children shine through them.
In closing, I want to mention another true Orthodox Christian priest from a parish nearby. This priest is also welcoming and affirming as much as he can be. This priest makes me feel whole when I attend an Orthodox service there. I go up for a blessing during Holy Communion. Receiving his blessing gives me strength for the journey and keeps me connected to my rich Orthodox upbringing in the Church that I still respect.
Edward Mark Harry Stepanian (Signal Hill, California)
Jul. 22, 2022
The statement of the OCA Synod of Bishops is the most theologically offensive and intellectually insulting declaration about same-sex orientation that I have ever read, even by Roman Catholic and evangelical authors.
At the moment I am too angry to offer any rational proposal for how I might participate in a “disobedient” counter-offensive; but please put me on your list of ‘those who are willing. Meanwhile, if I can think of some creative way to resist, I’ll let you know.
Finally, if there is some informal organization of like-minded Orthodox, whether lay or clergy, I would very much like to associated with it.
Bill Hood (Birmingham, Alabama)
Jul. 21, 2022
I’m not surprised about this announcement from the OCA Synod of Bishops. Last year I suffered great psychological abuse from my ex-pastor in the OCA. It was bad enough that an ambulance was summoned to my home. That event snapped me out of what now seems to me like a cult in the way they exerted their control over my thoughts and actions. Looking back, I am grateful that it happened because now I am free to grow in Christ without living in fear. There is a profound sense of pietism and complete disregard for the marginalized.
M.F. (Santa Rosa, California)
Jun. 2, 2022
As a member of an OCA parish, if I learned that my bishop’s lineage originated from a self-ordained fraud, I would want someone to “quibble” over that.
John Arbogast (Mableton, Georgia)
May 31, 2022
I just read A Question for ROCOR and the OCA: What Now? As a lifelong member of thirty-nine years in the OCA—from a family of seminary graduates, choir directors, and people who have helped build up the Church in America for as long as we have been here (over 100 years now), here’s what I think is going to happen: my gut says that +Tikhon and the OCA are going to bend the knee to Kirill for ten rubles of silver, not even thirty.
Philip Brunke (South Plainfield, New Jersey)
May 30, 2022
Thank you for the most recent and very good piece on the OCA and ROCOR. One correction: the UOC-MP did not condemn Kirill. They expressed disagreement (незгода) with his position regarding the war in Ukraine. (See the announcement on the UOC-MP website.) This is a relatively soft term considering the circumstances.
Vyacheslav Karpov, PhD (Kalamazoo, Michigan)
Apr. 4, 2022
This may sound like a childish concept, but I am so upset over events in Ukraine that I would like to see everyone drop the word “Orthodox” from the title of the Russian Church. There is NOTHING ORTHODOX in that body.
I hated seeing Hilarion Alfeyev touring Syria to express the Moscow Patriarchate’s concern for children there while children in Ukraine are tortured and murdered!
Shame on them!!!
Protopresbyter Basil Papanikolaou (Davenport, Iowa)
Retired, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
Nov. 28, 2021
In his response [the letter immediately below] to my article, Paul Nizinskyj cites four reasons that induced him to conclude that, on balance, the UK was better off outside the EU. He also states that he assumed, at the time of the vote, that the UK would remain within the EU Customs Union. I do not want to argue with his reasons, and certainly would not maintain that the EU is perfect. Nevertheless, I believe that the EU has massively benefited member nations, including the UK, and that the advantages of membership far outweigh the disadvantages. Paul identifies real problems and shortcomings that the UK would have been in a good position to influence if she were still an EU member. With Brexit, that opportunity is gone.
That Nizinskyj and others voted in good conscience I do not doubt. But I would argue that he was, along with millions of others, betrayed, if not at the time of the actual vote, then later, when, despite earlier assurances, it transpired that the UK was to leave the Customs Union, and that frictionless trade and freedom of movement would end. He chose to trust the Tory Party, whereas I did not.
James Chater (Le Mans, France)
Nov. 28, 2021
I have just read James Chater’s piece on Brexit, Europe, and Nationalism and felt I must offer an alternative perspective. I am a British citizen of wholly Ukrainian ancestry and deplore nationalism of all kinds, whether that be British, Scottish, Russian, or Ukrainian. I am also a Ukrainian Greek Catholic.
There are those of us—oft ignored—who have no sympathy with British nationalism but concluded, on balance, that the United Kingdom was better off out of the European Union. Many of us were also happy to remain within the Single Market and to continue free movement, as it was always previously assumed we would. That politicians lie is nothing new—nor that they are particularly adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t vote with our consciences.
We wanted to be free of the restrictions of the EU Customs Union, which unfairly penalises developing countries by levying ruinous customs duties on the agricultural and refined products on which their economies rely. We wanted to be free of a Common Agricultural Policy which rewards millionaire landowners simply for hoarding vast tracts of land, regardless of whether it is put to use, and reward responsible stewardship instead. Like Icelanders, we wanted to regain control of our fishing waters to protect fish stocks and revitalise our impoverished fishing towns. We wanted to end the perverse abuse of the European Arrest Warrant by governments like Romania’s who use it to silence their opponents in other EU states—a situation to which Brussels turns a blind eye in order to maintain the legal fiction that Romania met EU accession criteria in 2007. These were all votes of mercy.
I strongly agree with Mr. Chater that “Church leaders must learn to speak more boldly and with greater understanding across a wider spectrum of contemporary social and political issues.” Frankly, if we are not a thorn in the side of the powers of this world, we are simply not doing our jobs. But let us also be charitable to our fellow men. To assume that anyone who voted for Brexit is wicked, ignorant, or deceived is to adopt just the kind of narrow reductionism and demonisation of other human beings on which nationalism itself thrives.
Paul Nizinskyj (Alton, Hampshire UK)
Feb. 22, 2021
Due to the petition currently being sent around against Orthodoxy in Dialogue, I just wanted to register my support publicly for Orthodoxy in Dialogue.
Esther Robinson (Fond du Lac WI)
Feb. 16, 2021
It is so enjoyable to read Orthodoxy in Dialogue. It doesn’t pull any punches. It is understandable for all and does not couch itself in faux piety or high theological rhetoric. It is truly a conversation of a church. The original meaning of church was a gathering of people, and not what we see today, clergy, institutions, etc. Dialogue is not meant to be pretty, maudlin, saccharin, smarmy, etc. It is to the point and seeks common ground.
There are those who think that Orthodoxy is somehow ossified or petrified in a specific form. They conflate cultural tradition with sacred tradition. Sacred tradition is living, growing, and transforming in time, cultures, and places.
Thank you for the great service you provide for all of us.
Gerard Zabik (Niantic CT)
Feb. 8, 2021
I recently stumbled upon your site and I have to say I am utterly disgusted and dumbfounded that you cannot see the blatant contradiction in claiming to be Orthodox while perpetuating secular garbage such as same-sex marriage and other extreme immoralities.
I see your attempts at reconciling traditional Orthodox doctrine with sodomy and the rejection of nature (i.e., transgenderism) as nothing short of Satanic. Although I am myself a most unprofitable sinner, I must beg you to repent for these egregious and incomprehensible errors.
Brandon Bruzzese (Minden NV)
Feb. 4, 2021
I am writing today in response to your article on Michael Sisco, though the part of the article I object to has nothing to do with him. I’m vaguely aware of him, but I don’t really know very much about him or his work.
The problem with the article is its insistence that there is something wrong with being a monarchist. The article conflates monarchism with mere petty nationalism and with white supremacy (God forbid!): “…we should not be surprised to find white supremacists, monarchists, and fascists there [in the Church].” The fact of the matter is that monarchy is what the Bible explicitly teaches, from the writings of Moses, through the historical books, the wisdom texts, and so forth. This teaching is reaffirmed in the New Testament, as well. Furthermore, many Fathers and saints have taught that monarchy is not merely the best option among many possible options, but that it is the exclusive option, the sole option that mirrors the heavenly hierarchy, and that is good for man.
It is inappropriate to suggest that those who follow this clear and simple apostolic teaching on monarchy are to be counted in the same camp as petty nationalists (which I am not) and white supremacists (which I am certainly not!).
St. Tsar Nicholas, exemplary Orthodox monarch for our times, pray for us!
Paul Clare (Manchester UK)
Jan. 25, 2021
Over here in Europe, we’ve been following the developments in the USA with, generally, anxiety, relief, hope, and deep concern all mixed together.
This is a time of high passions, for all of us. Current world events, like a pandemic, invite it. Resisting them is a challenge.
I’m fond of Orthodoxy in Dialogue. I believe this is a necessary platform, I’m grateful for the insights the people I’ve met here have provided me, and I enjoy occasionally writing for it. I love to have a place where we can actually learn from disagreeing with one another. But along with Fr John Daly, who wrote an earlier letter to the editors [Dec. 20, 2020 below], I also find myself a little worried.
There is, at times, a very fine line between refuting lies and maintaining a feud. Headlines like the ones that have been used lately can be incendiary, which would do nothing to change the minds of opponents, but can put off those ‘on the fence’, as it were. We should wear like a badge the heart and mind of Christ. And, occasionally, we probably should let the sun go down on our anger.
I love this platform. I want to continue loving it.
Monica Spoor (Veenendaal, Netherlands)
Jan. 15, 2021
[Due to the importance of this matter and the author’s credible fear of repercussions to their family, we have agreed to publish their letter anonymously after verifying their identity. For context see Open Letter: OCA Priest Participates in Trump Riot, Reported to FBI, Father Seraphim Holland and Father Mark Hodges Respond to Open Letter on Trump Riot, and Why on Theophany? An Open Appeal to Father Mark Hodges.]
Father Mark Hodges has been suspended. I am unaware of deposition status. [See the official notice of Hodges’ suspension on the diocesan website.]
Parishioner (Lima OH)
St. Stephen the First Martyr Mission
Dec. 20, 2020
I was disturbed to read editorials entitled Orthodox Nutjob Launches Petition Against Synod of Bishops and St. Vladimir’s Seminary Goes Stark Raving Mad. Those are not headlines worthy of a serious Orthodox organization. They are more in keeping with the debased and debasing political culture our country has been trapped in for decades now. Please consider a different approach to people you profoundly disagree with. You can’t win hearts and minds with insults. The people you disagree with bear the same iconic image of God as we all do. We are all struggling to manifest His likeness in the world, sometimes wisely, sometimes foolishly.
Perhaps the words of Francis of Assisi apply here: Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est (Where charity and love abide, there God is).
God bless and keep you well.
V. Rev. Father John Daly (Worcester MA)
Nov. 23, 2020
I was delighted to read the news of the approval of Giacomo Sanfilippo’s dissertation proposal. [See Doctoral Thesis Proposal: Father Pavel Florensky’s Orthodox Theology of Same-Sex Love.] This comes with my prayers for strength, health, and endurance for him as he begins writing.
Sept. 21, 2020
The comment by applesgirl99 [see letter immediately below] is shocking in its hatred—and also shows what anti-Christian attitudes we have to fight in our own churches. Just googling her email led me to disturbing comments not just by her, but by others. It’s amazing that people can read the Bible and think that this represents Jesus…. Or have they actually read it?
Esther Robinson (Fond du Lac WI)
Sept. 21, 2020
Breaking with our usual editorial practice, we publish the following letter unedited and despite the fact that the writer refused, upon request, to divulge her identity and place of residence.
I’m just curious what on earth is your so called orthodox site about?
Are you a bunch of homosexuals whining to infiltrate the church with your abominations, your demonic filth ?
PLEASE go join Anglican Church – they’re full of fags.
They destroyed dignity of Episcopalian church long ago & is that what your ilk is trying to do?
No wonder millions are walking out
Seriously: why not join Episcopalians? They accept deviant homosexuals.
WHY must you contaminate Orthodox Church too?
Because as a psychiatrist on radio once said “Hostility is operative driving force for homosexuals – a mental illness.
p.s. don’t stench up memory of Seraphim Rose [see our When Biography and Hagiography Collide] – he Renounced his homosexual past with great shame.
Go read St. John Chrysostom on his denouncing the evil of homosexuality.
There was a time homos were not allowed inside churches –
now your out to destroy the church that takes pity on you. We see your agenda – just remember:
once you drop dead, you won’t enter paradise.
Sept. 19, 2020
I often read Orthodoxy in Dialogue, generally a voice of sanity in an insane world.
Father Andrew Louth (Darlington, UK)
Jul. 24, 2020
Mike Tereshko’s letter, published today (July 24), raises the important question of Christianity’s relationship with Marxism. While I may not agree with Mr. Tereshko’s implication that Marxism is inherently incompatible with Christianity, I think it is important that we acknowledge the implicit cynicism of Marxist and critical theory and how this, perhaps in ways even more so than dialectical materialism, is truly corrosive to the witness of Christians in the public sphere.
Albert Camus, in an address entitled “The Unbeliever and the Christians,” once spoke to an audience comprised of both Marxists and Christians (and probably some Christian Marxists) along these lines:
If [Christianity and Communism] are pessimistic as to man, it is optimistic as to human destiny. Well, I can say that, pessimistic as to human destiny, I am optimistic as to man.
We cannot ignore the systemic and impersonal evils that are built into the structures of today’s communities and human experiences. However, we cannot afford to exhaust our efforts on systemic evil alone. Any social movement that does not strive for the transformation of the self as much as, if not more than, the transformation of society is a pharisaical deception.
We must not give in to the deep and sinful inertia of thinking that everything is okay that seems so, but we must also remember that truth does not always thrive in times of triumph and apparent social progress, to say nothing of when these movements instrumentalize violence even for putatively noble ends.
Can we find it in ourselves to accept this thought: that I am the only Antichrist who needs to be overcome for peace to reign in the world? I dare to believe that if only one person could do this, and truly believe it, then their light would be irresistible and the ages would be transfigured, and God would be all in all.
Daniel Nicholas (Ashland OR)
Jul. 24, 2020
[The following letter responds to our Do Black Lives Matter? Our Bishops Respond of June 7, 2020.]
I don’t think that any Orthodox Christian denies that we should love ALL of our neighbors as we love ourselves and that we are all children of G-d.
However, the Eastern Orthodox Church teaches us that we do NOT bear the guilt of original sin, although we suffer the consequences. While bearing the guilt of our personal sins, we also do NOT bear the guilt of the sins of our ancestors—parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, all the way down our lineage.
While keeping our Orthodox Christian duty in mind, we should be very wary of falling into the trap of supporting politically correct “social justice” organizations that have their basis in the lies of godless Marxism. Unfortunately, the legitimate movement for social/racial justice in our country has been hijacked by blatant Marxist movements like Black Lives Matter and ANTIFA.
As a Russian Orthodox Christian I am very much aware of the misery, suffering, and death brought upon Holy Orthodox Mother Russia by the godless Marxists for seventy-four years. The Bolsheviks of today are so emboldened that they do not even mask their intent and openly trumpet their agenda on their websites.
Mike Tereshko (St. Paul MN)
Jun. 28, 2020
The blessing of the Lord be upon you. I won’t respond [to Happy Pride? Orthodoxy, Orthodouchey, and the Church’s War on LGBTQI People] or write an article. I only want to convey the Lord’s blessing on Luke.
Archbishop Paul (Gassios) of Chicago and the Midwest (Orthodox Church in America)
Jun. 24, 2020
I would be grateful if you could convey my heartfelt thanks to Archbishop Alexander of Nigeria for his inspiring Faith in a Time of Pandemic: Why Are We Sitting Here? It has given me some hope at a time when it feels in short supply.
Martin Olsson (Exeter, Devon UK)
May 29, 2020
Your 5 April 2020 post regarding Archpriest Josiah Trenham and the search for a new Professor of Patristics at SVOTS is false and needs to be removed from the post. Father Josiah is certainly qualified to apply for the position but he never applied and was not one of the twelve candidates who did apply. Your sources are wrong and the implication that this seminary had no choice but to remove him from consideration is a lie.
Please remove this “fake news” from the article. I will be tracking it closely to see how quickly you respond to my request to not falsely associate St. Vladimir’s Seminary with your article.
Archpriest Chad Hatfield (Yonkers NY)
President, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary
Editor’s note: In consideration of a number of factors, and since we have no reason to doubt the reliability of our sources, we have left our original report unchanged except for adding a parenthetical link to this letter.
May 27, 2020
Greetings from a non-Orthodox Christian believer.
Let me just say that I was like many former Evangelicals who convert to Orthodoxy. You could say I am not unlike Rod Dreher in that I converted to Catholicism, but after the abuse scandals I did not seek greener pastures in the Orthodox Church. I went to the Anglican Church. There I found a Church struggling with different issues and trying to incorporate gays and others who have been marginalized. It’s not perfect there, of course.
I have looked at Orthodoxy, but am wary of what sounds too good to be true. I found Father Trenham and Rod Dreher and thought something seemed to be off with them. In Orthodox web forums any criticism, no matter how innocent, is censured. You can’t criticize anything Orthodox or you’re out.
Orthodoxy in Dialogue is great. Keep up the good work. If more Orthodox people were like you I would convert to Orthodoxy. The Church has always been a home to people with disparate opinions gathered together to worship God. Many Orthodox have made an idol of their Church, and while they habitually scrutinize other faiths, they never scrutinize their own.
Mark Ortega (Bronx NY)
Apr. 27, 2020
I’ve mostly lurked in Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s Facebook group since its debut almost three years ago. I’m an eavesdropper, I suppose, being from outside the Orthodox tradition, but as a fellow-traveler with ecumenical interests across the whole Christian spectrum.
Asked recently what I thought was the most important single issue discussed on these pages, I have to admit I was flummoxed. In my view, each topic is birthed in a context that is important for the moment and therefore, in that moment, said topic is the most important matter before Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s readership.
What I appreciate about Orthodoxy in Dialogue is the opportunity to listen in to discussions that are rooted deep in Orthodoxy yet able to engage in free and exploratory discussion on a range of contemporary challenges without retreating into an institutionalised fortress.
God bless, and onward and upward!
Dennis Ryle (Perth, Australia)
Mar. 4, 2020
Recently, in the Facebook group affiliated with Orthodoxy in Dialogue, I entered into conversation about a statement by the patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church in which I made comments that were tone-deaf, offensive to many, and embarrassing to me.
I brought a progressive Protestant perspective and a passionate concern for human safety to a conversation about whether or not it is possible for an Orthodox person to be infected with a pathogen while taking Communion. My zeal was hurtful, and I regret that.
In the Facebook exchange—and in subsequent conversations elsewhere—I have learned a lot about Orthodox sacramental theology and I’m grateful for that knowledge. It has deepened my appreciation for the Orthodox tradition while, at the same time, confirming my own affinity for, and commitment to, the Protestantism I practice.
I ask for your prayers as I endeavor to express my commitments in ways that continue to promote the physical and spiritual health of all God’s children while, at the same time, honoring the faith and spiritual practices of those same sisters and brothers who, like me, are frail children of the Holy One.
The Rev. Ben Daniel (Oakland CA)
Montclair Presbyterian Church
Feb. 8, 2020
Daniel Nicholas’ words in After Tradition: Choosing the Life of the Spirit over Lifeless Conformism resonated with me: “It is in these ‘wilderness’ moments, when we feel most disoriented, that disentangling the content of the faith from its context may be most necessary.”
It is exactly that wilderness that I am going through now.
For example, I do not believe in the ritual impurity of either sex, just because there is an issue of reproductive materials from the body. And I frankly do not care what “holy (t)radition” says on this matter.
He that is the Author of all life made the menstruation cycle as well. By His taking on of flesh, Christ has cleansed all things of the taint of the Law, taboos, and superstition; so what God has cleansed let no one call unclean.
Good Lord, I could go on, but won’t for now.
Wilderness, you say? Wasn’t a voice heard from there once?
Good job, Daniel Nicholas.
Subdeacon Michael Day (Columbia MD)
Feb. 8, 2020
What you have experienced with Facebook [see “Temporarily” Thrown off Facebook?] strongly resembles what many patriotic Ukrainian bloggers have gone through, and I suspect that the mechanics behind the incident may be the same. Russian (Russian Orthodox) trolls flood Facebook with complaints about offensive/hateful content. Facebook moderators err on the side of caution (cowardice), and someone’s page is gone.
Coincidentally, you recently criticized authors of “Russian Faith” [see Englewood Sure Knows How to Pick ‘Em: Antiochian Priest Feeds His Family by Bashing “Trannies, Homos, and Wife-Swappers” from the Safety of His Russian Hideaway], which to me seems like an offshoot of the Russian “Orthodox” propaganda machine in the US. And that was in addition to your courageous defence of the Ukrainian Church…. So, I am not surprised.
May God give you strength in your noble endeavors. Even though on occasion I disagree with you, I admire your courage and your love-inspired work.
Vyacheslav (Slava) Karpov (Kalamazoo MI)
Professor of Sociology, Western Michigan University
Feb. 7, 2020
You should shut your sham-show down.
John Milbank (Nottingham UK)
Feb. 7, 2020
Daniel Nicholas’ After Tradition: Choosing the Life of the Spirit over Lifeless Conformism is very timely and pertinent, especially for those of us struggling with the question of Orthodox identity in a country which is not Orthodox by tradition.
One point worth adding is that, it seems to me, the concept of Tradition, which is a process of handing on or passing on, is inseparable from evangelization in the broad sense of carrying out the “great commission,” when Christ commands His disciples: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19).
Tradition is not an icebox where things are preserved and frozen for all time, not a museum, nor a long corridor closed at both ends. It is, or should be, more like throwing s stone in a pond and seeing the ripples spread out. In this sense the Orthodox Church needs to reconnect with its raison d’être, its fundamental mission. This it will do only when it ceases to make an idol out of Tradition.
James Chater (Avallon, France)
Jan. 31, 2020
I read Suddenly I’m Afraid in horror, shame, and concern for Giacomo Sanfilippo. He has been and remains a courageous breath of fresh air in Orthodoxy. I pray for his safety and the continuation of his ministry. A voice crying in the wilderness.
Wm. Christopher Mathews, M.D., MSPH (San Diego CA)
Professor Emeritus of Clinical Medicine
Director, UCSD Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) Clinical Core
Jan. 31, 2020
Before coming to Orthodoxy, I ran from any churches which smacked of fundamentalism, anything Calvinist, or which promoted the subjugation of women or allowed anyone to be abused. I no longer believed that anyone who’s not a Christian or who doesn’t follow all the “rules” of a particular sect automatically goes to Hell.
I came to Orthodoxy on the promise of a mystical theology which allows the possibility of even non-Christians to go to Heaven. Of a God of love and mercy. That even the “wrath of God” is a human term to describe consequences of our own actions, not a raging God. And the women of my church are hardly an example of meekness.
Orthodoxy was also presented to me as using oikonomia, following the spirit and not the letter of the law, capable of recognizing when small-t traditions are manmade and don’t have to be followed, rather than Catholic legalism.
Trenham [see Josiah Trenham: The Scandal in our Archives 2020 for context] would put us back under the horrors of the Protestant fundamentalist churches that I ran from. It sounds like he’s bringing in the tyranny of the Calvinist Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which is driving many women out of Evangelical churches.
Was I a victim of a bait-and-switch? The kind of thing promoted by Trenham has no resemblance to what I’ve seen of Orthodoxy in the fourteen years I’ve been in my local parish.
I can’t believe that Trenham’s version is the real “Orthodoxy,” but converts from fundamentalist churches trying to bring poison from their old churches into Orthodoxy, rather than embracing the God of love and mercy.
In listening as well to what he has said about homosexuality, it sounds like a bunch of fear-mongering, ignoring the fact that perversions also abound among heterosexuals, making people afraid of those who simply want to live chastely and be allowed to marry the person they are in love with.
Marriage between a gay man and a straight woman, for example, can never reach the passionate love that most people want in a marriage. Both would be ultimately unsatisfied, leading in many cases to infidelity. Yet we’re told this is the only option for homosexuals. [See, for instance, Father John Whiteford’s Appalling Ignorance and Pastoral Malfeasance.]
We know a lot more now about sexuality than we did 2000 years ago. We also know more about science, leading to the acceptance of evolution and non-abortive birth control. Why stay stuck in 2000-year-old ideas about sexuality and gender? I’ve read the Bible numerous times, and Jesus never said that homosexuality is wrong. That came from other writers, most of them during the same time that people were told not to mix linen and wool or eat shellfish. Yet Christians mix fabric all the time without a thought, and shellfish is allowed us even during Lent.
Esther Robinson (Fond du Lac WI)
Jan. 31, 2020
We don’t want sexual degeneracy in the Church, thank you very much. Homosexuality is an abomination and thank the Lord for destroying Sodom and Gomorrah!
[The writer of this letter included the link to this video.]
Steadfast Reactionary XII (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Editor’s note: Steadfast Reactionary XII represents a peculiarly Orthodox species of closeted, self-loathing homosexual wrapped in a protective cloak of toxic masculinity. He hides behind a number of anonymous websites and email accounts where he presumes to use an icon of St. John of Kronstadt as his avatar and describes himself as follows: Monarchist, traditionalist, nationalist, anti-Zionist. Future convert to Eastern Orthodoxy. Against both capitalism and communism and in favour of agrarianism and localism. Generation Zyklon. Zyklon was apparently a 19th-century pesticide later used by the Nazis as one method among many to exterminate Jews: this makes Steadfast Reactionary XII’s “anti-Zionism” a euphemism for the most extreme and dangerous anti-Semitism. He sent his letter in the midst of a concerted internet onslaught directed against Orthodoxy in Dialogue over the past few days by anonymous trolls in defense of Father Josiah Trenham, his “teaching,” and his “preaching.”
Jan. 31, 2020
[This letter responds to Karen Prescott, author of the letter below dated 1/26/20.]
You open your letter with, “Orthodox Christians, of which you are not, don’t take your articles or website seriously.” Yet here you are. Thanks for sharing your insight with us, in judging those of us who read and support Orthodoxy in Dialogue, that we are not Orthodox Christians.
Thanks also for the smile you gave me when I read the rest of your letter, especially “you rewrite church and biblical beliefs to accommodate your agendas.”
Biblical beliefs like “Judge not, lest you be judged,” or “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” or, God forbid, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” And let’s not forget, with the last quote, that Christ elaborated on a working definition of who my neighbour is: those demonic Samaritans! As noted in John’s Gospel, “The Jews answered Him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Of course, there was nothing demonic about Samaritans, but our Lord was so playful and really loved to mess up the heads of His disciples (and our own) that He showed us the way to enter into His Divine Life by experiencing the Love that He is, with His Father and Spirit. Love of the Other (and, in your case, perhaps the homosexual, transgender, or whatever you decide) could be a road leading to your divinisation within Christ?
Try embracing the diversity and beauty within our Lord’s creation and not the narrow strictures you seem to be imposing on yourself.
Theodoros Lambros (Sydney, Australia)
Jan. 30, 2020
Last week I was introduced to your website after a conversation I had with my husband over our concerns with the present climate of Orthodoxy. How grateful I am to have found Orthodoxy in Dialogue! That night I pored over the website for hours, dug into the archives, and was heartened by what I was reading. Surprised that what I had been longing for—thoughtful dialogue on current issues—was right there.
I’ve seen too many people leave Orthodoxy because they’ve dared to ask meaningful questions and have been discouraged from thinking differently from whatever popular Orthodox online media outlets present as “true Orthodoxy.” Orthodoxy, which was feeling dead, is now feeling alive to me again. Glowing embers have been stirred. I feel hopeful and less alone knowing that there are others out there who want to see Orthodoxy engage with the world.
I have already told many people about Orthodoxy in Dialogue. It’s a valuable resource—one I hope you keep going in spite of the attacks I know you receive.
Thank you for what you’re doing.
Jihan Nicholas (Harker Heights TX)
Jan. 28, 2020
I read your Review: That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation with great interest. I am in agreement with most of the points you raise. [See Father Manoussakis’ Salvation à la Hart, slated for the Journal for the Continental Philosophy of Religion.] I thought that your observations on the die-Hart fans were particularly astute.
You write with equal conviction from the mind as well as from the heart. However, you shouldn’t expect that either would make an impression on the Harten hearts of the Master himself or his disciples.
Thankfully, you don’t need their consideration.
Archimandrite John Panteleimon Manoussakis (Worcester MA)
Editor-in-Chief, Journal for the Continental Philosophy of Religion
Jan. 27, 2020
I just felt the urge (from the Spirit?) to let you know how much good you do with Orthodoxy in Dialogue, more by far than you know.
Certain places I have recognized as blessings to me. This site is most definitely one of them.
May you be blessed a thousandfold for it. It really is and will make a tremendous difference.
Peter Alaimo (Tuckahoe NY)
Jan. 27, 2020
Having earned my crust as a lecturer in early church history, patristics, and historical theology, I dispute David Bentley Hart’s right to call himself a patristics scholar. [See our Review: That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation.] That is something that too many academic and quasi-academic Orthodox scholars do unchallenged. The mark of expertise is specialist publication, from which in this instance it can be said without fear of contradiction that Hart is a philosophical theologian and/or religious philosopher. He is not regarded as a patristics scholar by specialists at work in the field.
As to his style, it is by design pyrotechnical and tendentious. I find reading his publications is wearying—not because they are too sophisticated to understand (they aren’t). They are wearying because the bluster typically distracts from the lack of underlying rigour.
As a general matter, I presume that clarity, simplicity, and directness are the hallmarks of profound knowledge. The ability to communicate is the hallmark of a good teacher. I find those traits lacking from his publications.
Augustine Casiday (Glasgow UK)
Jan. 26, 2020
Orthodox Christians, of which you are not, don’t take your articles or website seriously. You are just another attempt to pervert and destroy Orthodoxy through infiltration and promotion of LGBTQ and other sinful and sick agendas. You have the backing of powerful and sinful Ecumenist Globalists worldwide. Like many “churches” among the heterodox, you rewrite church and biblical beliefs to accommodate your agendas.
Karen Prescott (City and state/province withheld by author)
Jan. 25, 2020
Bravo, Giacomo, for Review: That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation. Lord, you write well. Your style is distinctive, but at times it reminds me, in flashes, of Merton.
Do you also write poetry? If yes, would you consider sharing that, too, with your readers?
Hierodeacon Amvrosi (Mlodzik) (Rawdon QC)
Editor’s note: See Unworthy Priest in our Archives 2017-19 for poetry written by Giacomo Sanfilippo during his priesthood.
Jan. 18, 2020
I read the whole wretched article [An Open Letter to Metropolitan Joseph: Stop. Trenham. Now.] regarding the so-called need for Metropolitan Joseph to SILENCE Father Josiah, and, I call, “BOGUS!” This article drips with a leftist-leaning and mushy-modern sentiment.
Father Josiah is absolutely a hard-liner. He speaks in unambiguous terms about many issues—the encroachment of Islam in the US and elsewhere, the scourge of abortion in this nation and throughout the world, and the legal affirmation of same-sex lifestyles as normative and good.
If this (scared-to-give-his-name) clergyman wants to specify where Father Josiah is wrong, he should do so—openly, and with the opportunity for the accused to respond.
[NB: In fact “the accused” has never asked Orthodoxy in Dialogue to publish anything from him.]
As this article stands, the accuser makes broad brush condemnations of Father Josiah’s unloving, hateful, violence-inciting, non-Orthodox, etc., etc., errors that should have had him SILENCED years ago.
WHY DO ALL LEFTISTS ESCHEW OPEN DEBATE AND DIALOGUE, WHILE ADVOCATING CENSORSHIP AND THE STOPPING OF EARS?
I may have never referred to any of these hot-button issues in the same manner as Father Josiah. But, I would bleed and die fighting for his right to do so—and doing so IN THE CONTEXT OF HIS ORTHODOX PRIESTHOOD.
Nothing mentioned regarding the content of Father Josiah’s perspectives on these issues was proven completely false, unloving, unorthodox, or as a cause of harm. Those assertions were just repeated over and over in this article, and that somehow made them more clearly so (I knew I was facing a storm of ad hominem accusations when I got five or six paragraphs into the article and NO ACTUAL INCIDENTS OR STATEMENTS WERE CITED).
Never forget, many (THE Many) turned away from our Lord when He taught about the most sensitive subjects of His day (the eating of His Flesh and Blood, His going to the Cross for our sake, and His clear instruction that he, as Messiah, was NOT leading an insurrection against the Romans). Many in Israel continued to persecute and murder the Apostles and disciples for speaking about this Crucified One, and (note; the Forerunner) for speaking out against sexual immorality (“It is not lawful for you to have her as wife!”).
The author of this article, on the other hand, says that whenever a person gets offended at Father Josiah, it is FATHER JOSIAH’S FAULT. Every person who leaves the Church did so BECAUSE OF FATHER JOSIAH! And, every use of harsh terms IS CLEARLY NOT CHRISTIAN!
Has this priest read the words of the Lord, His Apostles, the Prophets, the Forerunner? Or was all that reading filtered through a perspective that focuses on “feeding the poor and the needy,” and, protesting racism, slavery, misogyny, raining down bombs on children, and the oppression of indigenous peoples?
There are times and places for dealing with all such issues (helpful hint: not everyone thinks a bigger government subsidizing program and a deeper national guilt is the answer for these problems).
Father Josiah was NOT addressing those other issues. He was addressing sexual immorality as he sees addressed in Holy Scripture, throughout holy history, and in his study of the Church and her Fathers.
If this anonymous priest (or whatever) wants to have those more left-leaning perspectives preached, THEN HE SHOULD PREACH THEM!
But, he should ABSOLUTELY NOT advocate the muzzling of another priest’s views, while hiding in the shadows of anonymity, and not even showing the “wrongness” of that priest’s views.
Father Josiah saying words that hurt other people’s feelings does NOT constitute being wrong, being unloving, being un-Christian, or being non-Orthodox in one’s teachings.
And, if anyone wants to have these kinds of “opposings,” at least OPPOSE HIM TO HIS FACE!
The Apostle Paul did so to the chief of the Apostles, Peter.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. (Gal 2:11)
Why this author and this website felt the need to snipe from the shadows is beyond me!
It smacks of cowardice, really!
Douglas B. Law (Pomona CA)
Reader, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese
Jan. 13, 2020
Your Eminence, Metropolitan Joseph:
On behalf of girls, women, and LGBTQ children, teens, and adults in the Orthodox Church; those who come to our Church as seekers, inquirers, and potential catechumens; those who look to Orthodoxy from afar for spiritual guidance and inspiration; and Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s several tens of thousands of readers around the planet, I am writing to draw your attention to your own clergyman’s detailed exposé of Father Josiah Trenham’s many instances of misogyny and homophobia which we published yesterday evening.
I can vouch for the author’s identity as an active member in good standing of the clergy of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese.
Already, in the middle of the night (I have very poor sleep habits), this Open Letter has been read several hundreds of times around the world. From experience, I know that those numbers will grow to the thousands before day’s end. Cumulatively, our articles on Father Trenham’s pastoral and theological malfeasance—while few in number compared to other subjects that we cover—constitute our readers’ second or third most popular topic.
My work as editor of Orthodoxy in Dialogue positions me to be almost daily on the receiving end of confidences, inquiries, and appeals for clarity and spiritual support from people around the world, both Orthodox and outside of our Church, many of whom have been deeply wounded by priests such as Father Trenham and the silence of our hierarchs. The brief stories that these latter have shared with me only confirm the more detailed narrative provided by the clergy author of our Open Letter.
Respectfully I encourage Your Eminence to order all of Father Trenham’s internet content taken down from wherever it appears—Ancient Faith, Patristic Nectar, YouTube, etc.—until it can be thoroughly evaluated for its appropriateness and its consistency with the Orthodox faith; to have Father Trenham issue a retraction and apology to be published by Orthodoxy in Dialogue and the AOCA website (as Father Warwick was ordered to do); and to communicate your awareness and handling of this troubling situation with our readers. Orthodoxy in Dialogue stands at the ready to publish whatever words of reassurance you submit to us.
Our Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ, whose incarnation unto our deification we have just celebrated, was never profiled by a Hatewatch Staff, nor has His Church, Body, and Bride ever been designated a hate group.
The world is watching and placing its hope in your paternal care for us.
The unworthy servant of Christ,
Giacomo Sanfilippo (Toronto ON)
Editor, Orthodoxy in Dialogue
The above was emailed to Metropolitan Joseph, the AOCA Chancery, Ancient Faith Ministries, and Father Trenham earlier this morning.
Jan. 11, 2020
Rod Dreher is a name that quickly lost any intellectual or moral value for me almost two decades ago. His singling out of Orthodoxy in Dialogue doesn’t surprise me, with his petulant “bitchy queen” comment. Everything in the past that I’ve read by him has been noxious and ugly—and all the worse because he uses God as an ideological prop for his own pathetic bigotries.
I’ve always associated him with those other conservative pundits who give some thin intellectual veneer to their racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and so on. His profession as a “Europhile” (what a cute euphemism!) would make Richard Spencer proud—he’s Archie Bunker with a PhD. I don’t understand what anyone sees in him, or other pontificating twits, such as David Brooks or Jonah Goldberg. These pseudo-intellectuals may not be frothing at the mouth Trumpers, but they have certainly played their part in pushing the Overton Window ever rightward in the past 20 years by making their conservative views “respectable.”
Whatever Dreher may imagine himself to be, his concerns have much less to do with Christ and all the more to do with Christendom.
Joshua Sellers (Rochester NY)
Jan. 11, 2020
I must oppose everything in Abortion, Contraception, and Christian Faith and Orthodoxy in Dialogue on Abortion. You cannot side with Satan and be of God. Killing and murdering innocent babies is an absolute atrocity. It is the very opposite of of the Spirit of Life given by the Holy Spirit from the Father.
I would not want to stand before the dread judgment, having to explain to God the Author of life about condoning killing and murdering these poor kids in the womb. Your articles disgust me.
Repent and be saved.
May the conviction of God fall upon you and you return to Him.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Christopher Baker (Northampton UK)
Jan. 4, 2020
I just want to take a second to say THANK YOU for publishing Father Aaron Warwick’s Pastoring LGBTQ Individuals in the Orthodox Church. The article was very well written and a refreshing perspective in our Western culture. He hit the nail on the head with love and compassion, while keeping the “Christian Ideal” at the forefront.
I’d love to encourage you to NOT remove the article [see Father Warwick’s Public Statement] despite the controversy it ignited. We NEED voices of compassionate reason and Christ’s love in this modern world.
Katie Desch (Kansas City KS)
Dec. 23, 2019
I read Pastoring LGBTQ Individuals in the Orthodox Church by Father Aaron Warwick with great interest. I agree with the main spirit of the article and look forward to reading his thoughts on bisexuality and transgenderism.
I hope the article engenders some good and profitable discussion among Orthodox priests.
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
Dec. 19, 2019
I would like to add some supplementary information to your Renneteau Brings Muscovite Schism to Greece.
On the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate’s new Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe (until November 2018 the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Exarchate nicknamed rue Daru)—headed by Metropolitan John (Renneteau) of Dubna—there was a list of ten monasteries and sketes which puzzled some of us very much for a number of days. It seems they have changed jurisdiction several times. (See Russian Backtracking in Relation to Aspropyrgos “Metochion” in Attica at Orthodox Times.) The monasteries in Switzerland, Norway, Germany, and Italy were founded by the Greek Archimandrite Dionysios Kalampokas, who is under interdiction in the Church of Greece and the Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Constantinople. Their last juridiction was the Church of Georgia. The monasteries in Norway were released by the Georgian Patriarchate in March 2016. (See Monastic Warning: The Georgian Patriarchate Excludes the Cult. [Editor’s note: While this report reads almost like an excommunication, the actual letter on Patriarchate letterhead releases them and recommends that they place themselves under the Ecumenical Patriarchate.])
Suddenly, on Thursday, December 17, this list disappeared and was replaced with a smaller one, without the ten mysterious sketes and monasteries.
On December 19, a communiqué appeared, stating that the Archdiocese has accepted, after a meeting of the Archdiocesan Council on Friday, December 13, to grant “canonical hospitality” to these communities. The communiqué explains that they had been under Georgia, but the Ecumenical Patriarchate had put pressure on the Georgian Church to release them. For this reason Georgia gave them a canonical release, “to attach themselves to Constantinople or to any canonical Church.”
The removal of the list from the website is explained as follows: Metropolitan John had granted these communities only temporary hospitality in the Archdiocese while they undergo examination by an ad hoc committee. (But why had they been listed there before, may we ask?)
Nevertheless, your comment on the Archdiocese’s trespass of the canonical territory of the Church of Greece retains its pertinence. It seems to be a part of a set of problematic decisions by Metropolitan John, probably under the guidance of the Moscow Patriarchate.
A question which I cannot help asking is this: Was Metropolitan John acting on his own accord (with the support of what he calls “the Council”), and was he really moved by pastoral interest and care (in a rather clumsy way), or does he simply want to increase the number of candidates for auxiliary bishops? Or is it an example of Moscow politics to assign “dirty work” to him, that is, to contribute even more to the division between the Orthodox Churches?
Alexandra de Moffarts (Brussels, Belgium)
[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)
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)
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”.
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
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
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.
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.
Dec. 3, 2019
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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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
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)
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)
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)
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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)
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
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)
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)
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)
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)
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
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
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)
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
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)
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
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
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)
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
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)
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)
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
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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
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
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.