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A Reply by Fr. Washburn

Sunday, November 22, 2009
I have read and re-read the three replies to my reflection on Understanding Media.  I am only going to respond to the anonymous clergyman’s reply.
He referred repeatedly to my “thesis,” which surprised me a bit because I didn’t think I had stated one.   It seemed like it might be a good idea to respond by stating my thesis, but when I tried it didn’t seem to work. 
Why?  I think it was because my comments here for the most part are less “thesis” than “anti-thesis.”   And it is pretty hard to clearly state an antithesis when the other people’s thesis has not been clearly delineated in the first place.
We are engaged with one another on a site named ocanews which states on its home page, upper right, that its purpose was/is to bring light to the financial darkeness in the OCA (due to the previous administrations).   That statement was a statement of integrity and directness when it was first drafted and posted.  That purpose was actually followed and in large measure has been achieved. 
It should be obvious to us all, however, that the discussion as presently conducted is usually far, far outside the boundaries of that stated purpose.   After brief reflection it should also be clear to us that to maintain some semblance of focus, the level of integrity and directness to which Mark and most of the contributors here clearly aspire, and the standards to which, according the the participants here everyone else is supposed to hold, that a new, clear statement of the purpose for this site is not only necessary, but actually overdue. 
Once we have a clearly stated purpose contributors will have a better idea what and how to contribute.    Critics will have a better idea of what, if anything, to criticize, and defenders will be better able to defend intelligently too.  
My comments on Understanding Media were predicated on some unstated assumptions I was making about the high seriousness of purpose which many seem to think this site can and should fulfill.   But if it is just a place to emote or vent, then my doubts about the participatory, democratic and reactive characteristics of the forum make little sense, for venting and emoting are nothing if not partipatory, democratic and reactive!
Once we require that the purpose be clearly stated in a way that conforms to the way the site actually works, it will be possible to have an intelligent debate over whether or not the stated purposes are being well served by what is done here.   And/or possibly to propose better ways of doing it. 
Over a week ago Kevin Allen asked four good questions which I had hoped to answer after the site’s purposes have been clarified.  The passage of time has caused me to think that maybe some brief answers are in order now so as not to appear to be ignoring him.
1.  My experiences in Ben Lomond have strongly influenced me to think that the whole Protestant, Puritan, Reforming approach to Orthodox church leadership is not a fruitful one.   I think I recognize here much of what I used to hear there in the lead up to the split.
2.  I do not believe that all public criticism of Church leadership is wrong or counterproductive.   It is impossible to speak the truth in love so that everyone can grow up in Christ (Eph. 4) without some critical thinking and some critical speech.    But truth and love always suffer when there’s a free for all, don’t they? 
3.  I think there has to be a better way to go about speaking the truth in love than public confrontation, but until there is a clear statement of purpose for this site, and then a serious effort to hew to the purpose if it is a worthy one, I do not see this site being much of a part of finding and following that better way.
4.  I believe that the exchanges on this site may have made some beneficial contributions to the decision making process that culminated in Damascus in June.   I am too far removed from that process to say it based on personal knowledge, though.   I am also convinced that this site has made some negative contributions.  But once again, any real comment is best left until after there is a clear (“transparent” and “accountable”) statement of actual, present purpose here.    

Fr. George


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