Sunday, September 19, 2021

Fr. Damick issues clear response to Abbot Tryphon

Let me say I would no more be Ancient Faith's content officer than fly a cardboard spaceship to the moon. Fr. Damick's below response is very clear-eyed and concise and I don't envy his position at all. A traditional publishing house has the benefit of time. Time to edit manuscripts that come in, time to ponder putting out more books by authors in the face of their questionable life choices, time to talk with authors about things like "tone" and "direction" and "reason." That's not the speed at which the Internet operates.

Being a place for influential Orthodox bloggers is more akin to administering Deep Space Nine than anything as pedestrian and terrestrial as facilitating the application of ink to paper. Cardassians, Ferengi, Trills, and the Maquis are always up to something and it's hard to know what they are up to until things are well underway. 

You can be a good blogger/author and also say and do silly or outrageous things. I have seen some unsavory behavior from some of them myself; I may even be imperfect myself (don't tell the wife).  Ancient Faith has been called out on numerous occasions for having people in their employ do and say heterodox things and I have in the past publicly mused as to when AFM would get an ombudsmen to better respond to these inescapable moments. That's exactly what Fr. Andrew has been brought in to do (among other things). That's how this blog post kerfuffle tumbled onto the Internet just a few hours ago.

I have no idea how this abbatial situation is going to be resolved. I suspect Fr. Tryphon will continue to post somewhere else and AFM will continue hosting its blogosphere as well. But, looking farther down the road, I also expect Ancient Faith will either be seen to more expertly clean house in response to the complaints people make or receive additional hectoring for the perceived permissive way they respond to such situations. One could even imagine a day where they proactively dealt with a situation or vetted someone before cyberspace became aflutter with all the opinions it can muster.Time will tell.

I, for one, place value on the Ancient Faith brand. Along with SVS Press, more parishioners bring their books to me for discussion fodder than from anyone else. They are not perfect. I don't like everything (you can see previous posts on my confusion at some of their podcasting choices) they do. But the content officer position is a move in the right direction and I think they merit some time to right the ship. We should all pray for good, dependable anglophone Orthodox content. When I was a youth there was very little indeed. You can't overstate how many people came to Orthodoxy through its bloggers, authors, and podcasters. One walks into our churches every single Sunday.

(AFM) - Greetings, all. As you may know, I am the Chief Content Officer for Ancient Faith Ministries. A number of folks have written to us regarding AFM’s decision to remove Abbot Tryphon’s blog from our site and offer to help him move it elsewhere. So I wanted to say something about that, speaking now in my official capacity as CCO.

(If you are not interested in this incident, by all means, skip this post!)

First, we genuinely value Fr. Tryphon and his many years of contributions to Ancient Faith Ministries. We have no disagreements with him concerning the content of the Orthodox Christian faith, morality, etc.

Just to be very clear, though: AFM is against abortion, against same-sex marriage, against violent rioting, against sexual immorality, against transgenderism, etc. I could go on, but whatever you’ve read about AFM selling out and rejecting Orthodox moral teachings is simply rumors and lies — to put it frankly. I speak for AFM on this matter, and it’s also my job to make sure that these positions are not compromised for our ministry.

We absolutely do not embrace any kind of attempts to alter or compromise the Orthodox Christian faith, including its moral teachings. We oppose such attempts. Anyone who says differently is bearing false witness. As Chief Content Officer, part of my job is making sure this stays true, and I’m happy to investigate any problems someone might notice in our content and take action if necessary. Please, email me with links, timestamps, etc. Seriously.

That said, we do, however, have a different vision for blogging online than Fr. Tryphon does. AFM is not a platform for political commentary of whatever view — left, right, center, etc. It’s also not the place to oppose candidates for political office, something that Fr. Tryphon did on his AFM blog and which we had to delete. So we’re not going to host that. As a citizen, it’s his right to express his views on these things, but it’s also our right not to host them. That said, our decision was not based on any single post but rather on multiple posts over a long period.

Some have asked whether we contacted Fr. Tryphon about this ever before. The answer is yes — many times over many months. This has been an ongoing conversation. Some asked me to show proof by publishing private emails between us. We are not going to do that.

As of this writing, Fr. Tryphon has still not replied to the private email I sent him informing him of our difficult decision. I hope he will.

Also, we are also making no comment on Fr. Tryphon’s political views at all. As a ministry, we have no position on these political issues. As individual staff and contributors, we have a variety of them. What ties us together is our commitment to Christ and His Church. We respect that people have different political views and also that many of them are based on Christian faith. But we also know that faithful Orthodox Christians of goodwill do differ on what constitutes proper political application of that faith. If someone says we made our decision because we are pushing some opposite political agenda, again, he is bearing false witness.

Some have objected that you can find other people on AFM talking about political issues sometimes. That is true. But here is where the judgment call has to be made — what’s the difference between bringing up politics and being political? It is hard to define exactly where that line is with a universal rule (though supporting or opposing candidates is a clear problem and actually a legal one for us as a non-profit). While determining what is political and what is not isn’t an exact science and requires a judgment call on our part, we have made every effort to be consistent in the application of the policy. In this case, we made a decision based on a lot of discussion over a long period. This was not a snap decision.

It was also not an easy decision. It hurt to make — even before Fr. Tryphon decided to go public with it — because of how much we know people have benefited from Fr. Tryphon’s work with us, and because we genuinely do love him and respect him.

Some have objected that you can find people being interviewed or interacted with by our content contributors who say things against the Orthodox faith. We of course do not endorse those guests’ views. Interviewing someone does not mean you endorse what he says. It’s important to make the distinction between an AFM contributor and someone who was interviewed or a conference event that was covered. And sometimes, disagreeing publicly can be useful, as can talking with someone you disagree with about things other than the disagreement.⁠

I know that not everyone will agree with our approach, and that’s okay. There are many other platforms online for expressing one’s views. And that’s okay, too.⁠

So, the idea that anyone’s free speech is being limited or anyone is being “cancelled” or “silenced” by not being hosted on our platforms is simply not true. AFM is not the only outlet online, and it’s not even the only Orthodox one. We have no authority or control over Fr. Tryphon. We are responsible only for our own platforms.

It is also not true that Fr. Tryphon’s podcast was removed. Rather, we offered its continuation — and want it to continue — but it can’t be about political commentary. You can see for yourself that it’s still current and awaiting his response. We are also still the publisher of his book The Morning Offering and happy to be so.

About 5 years ago, I visited Fr. Tryphon at his monastery (pictured) and had a truly beautiful time with him and his brotherhood there and respect him and all of them. He gave generously of his time to us in long conversation. He is on my prayer list as I hope that I am on his.

Please remember us in your prayers.


  1. I remember that Fr Tryphon had a Morning Offering blog before he was picked up by Ancient Faith. Presumably he'd have no problem reactivating it.

  2. It is very difficult for a person who is old enough (such as Fr. Tryphon) to remember when the 'protestant consensus' still held sway in our culture, to abide by what our culture has become. I personally don't see Fr. Tryphon's desire for a "political" response as anything other than a vanity. The culture wars were fought and we lost. The battle was not even close, something akin to a scoreline of 78-3 AFM is effective on so many fronts that it does not need to follow Fr. Tryphon down this failure path, even if there were not other good reasons not to.

    At times I wish AFM was more straightforward when it comes to culture controversy *within* the Church. I really appreciated its response to Met. Kallistos Ware's Op Ed published in "the Wheel" a few years back, but the fact is thses responses were too *subtle* for most. However I understand given AFM having to get along with the jurisdictional committee, rightly compared to Deep Space 9! lol!

  3. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Abbot Tryphon expressing his position. It shows diversity within our faith. Unfortunately, when a voice is silenced, it appears that AFM is the silencer and going along with “the world.” I am vaccinated. I do believe in the choice we have in doing so. Frankly, I regret having done so. AFM should simply make a statement publicly, as you did in your response, Fr. Damick, that you may not agree with every post but honor a writer’s freedom to opine. I’m sure the evil one is having a ball with this one.

  4. I enjoyed Abbot Tryphon's blog for a number of years, but in recent times he has been posting more about how "our American way of life" is threatened. That right there is a red flag, when it comes to "political content." I think Jake is right that the good Abbot's age has a lot to do with it. I also don't necessarily think that Abbot Tryphon's blog was political overall, although he crossed the line a few times. A sad situation all around.

    AFM is certainly not a monolith, and at its best provides a good overview of where American Orthodoxy is, I think.

    I think Abbot Tryphon and Father Stephen Freeman roughly represent the two paths that American Orthodox are attempting to walk in American culture. That isn't to say they are factions (which is ridiculous), but that both are AN Orthodox way to approach American life. "Destroy the Pagan (American) Temple and build an Orthodox one!" (Father Stephen) or "Convert the Pagan (American) Temple INTO an Orthodox one" (Abbot Tryphon).

    Both "approaches" can be found in our history. It isn't "indifference" to follow Father Stephen's path, and it isn't necessarily "zealotry" to follow Abbot Tryphon's path. I think there is room for varying points of view.