by Jennifer Campbell
As a graduate of St. Vladimir's Seminary I have wanted to write many times about concerns I have about the OCA and Orthodoxy in America generally, or things I have heard and witnessed that upset me. But, as I could not speak of them without rancor, I have always held off until now. After several years away from seminary, I hope and pray that I have calmed down and gained a bit of perspective, and can simply "speak the truth in love".
The new social media guidelines concern me gravely.
I certainly think some sort of guidelines are a good idea, generally speaking, and am especially impressed that the hierarchy seems to be realizing that there is a disparity of power between clergy of all ranks and their flocks. They must guard against abuses of that power. I have witnessed and experienced such abuses at times, committed more because the offender seemed not to realize that potential for abuse of power existed in his position, than out of any malice.
However, there seems to be a concerted effort to prevent Orthodox in the US of whatever jurisdiction, especially clergy, from practicing simple freedom of speech and conscience--which I believe is the one great gift we American converts have to offer the Church to which we have wedded ourselves--without fear of reprisals. Obviously, clergy must guard their speech and conduct before their flock, but several clergy "releases," "reassignments," and simple dismissals from positions within the Church recently have amply demonstrated that North American clergy aren't being asked to show restraint. They are living under permanent gag orders upon matters of conscience about which they might disagree with their superiors.
Out of genuine love for my Church and deep concern, I therefore tendered this brief thought on the subject:
As a dedicated Orthodox Christian, who loves her Church, her God, and His Mother, I posit that the one best gift that American Orthodox have to offer the Church in which we have placed our faith, in which we have taken shelter and in which we have graciously been received as refugees, is our absolute insistence on freedom of speech and conscience in the face of wrong-doing. I have been guilty in times past of exercising these gifts but not in love, or of abdicating them in favor of keeping a false peace. I humbly repent of both, and will continue to place these gifts at the disposal of my Church, its clergy and its hierarchs, attempting always to practice them in humility and in love, because America's ancestors learned through horrifying trial and grievous error the consequences of relinquishing them.
To this we pledge "our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."