Thursday, June 13, 2019

Ancient Faith issues strong response to recent article

Let me preface my response by saying two things. First, this is a very forthright letter that clearly states Ancient Faith's policies on their content providers. Second, whenever I have contacted them with a question or comment, I have received a response. In their early days I once emailed to ask about where to find a recording I had just heard of "Lord I Have Cried..." - it took mere minutes for them to respond and send me the music itself. That has been my consistent experience when I have emailed equally benign questions or very pointed concerns. If you email them, you will get a response. You may not like the response if it's a call for action or the like (as we Americans tend to want things done "Right now, damn it!"), but they will hear you out and acknowledge your missive.

I have often found that the people who have the most to say also have the most vocal and voluminous set of opinions. In no small numbers, one will find that outlandish opinions are intermingled among the more mundane thoughts and sometimes this stirring of opinions makes for unsavory soup. You can both believe in Jesus and that he meant for two men to sleep together, purchase children as off a rack, and and make a family. That He never said anything remotely of the kind or that Church teaching veritably shakes in visceral reaction to such an idea somehow has had no lasting impression on the person. That is how an organization like Ancient Faith can employ people who say 100 reasonable things and then say the most absurd thing in the same tone as if they were all of a kind. It's not that they attempt to net a loon, but that the loon comes into the offices in a trench coat and fedora and pretends (or even thinks he is) a reasonable chap who just happens to have colorful anatine features that don't need to be mentioned while trying to sign a book deal. People tell prospective employers what they think they want to hear.

Ancient Faith cannot monitor everything content producers do, but they can and must respond to the claims of its consumers. That I believe they do in respectable fashion. The question then arises: Should Ancient Faith proactively seek out the online footprints of their authors and podcasters in order to forestall future "gotcha" events? There's a fine line there between being a good steward and being a chekist. My personal opinion is that Ancient Faith will be more watchful, and rightly so. For our collective part, we should feel free to enter into dialogue with them when we feel something has gone amiss.

(AFM) - Recently, an article called into question Ancient Faith Ministries’ commitment to Orthodox Christianity by ascribing to it ulterior motives which might undermine the integrity of the Orthodox Faith. Other entities were also indicted, and we have no comment about them.

Ancient Faith Radio, the flagship of Ancient Faith Ministries (AFM), was created out of a desire to serve the English-speaking Orthodox world with teaching and music that support Orthodox Christians to grow in their faith, and to be a witness to the truth of Orthodox Christianity in the non-Orthodox English-speaking world. In all of our subsequent ministries (podcast, blog, or print publishing), we are committed to producing media which is unquestionably Orthodox in content and spirit. Our work is overseen by the episcopacy of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese with a Spiritual Advisor assigned, and our responsibility before God is to serve all Orthodox Christians in truth. In our work, we desire to speak to the world with a clear, unified voice, calling people to the Ark of Salvation. We want Orthodox Christians to deepen their commitment to the Christian life through their parishes, and we encourage others to seek out the truth of Orthodoxy in parishes which will support their journey.

In order to accomplish this sacred task, we review the submission proposals of Orthodox Christians of canonical jurisdictions who, with the blessing of their Spiritual Fathers or Bishops, want to create content for AFM. The criteria for content creators associated with AFM are as follows: first, to be a member in good standing of their home Orthodox parish and to have a firm adherence to the unalterable Tradition of the Church as expressed in the Scriptures, the Creed, the Councils, etc, and in the pronouncements of the Assembly of Bishops in the United States; and second, to have the ability to reach listeners and readers, both Orthodox and inquirers, using their particular God-given gifts and creativity. Once a content creator is approved and a blessing is given by their Spiritual Father or Bishop, a relationship with AFM commences. We are firmly committed to working with content creators who express Orthodox teaching and practice in a truthful and relatable manner without aberration.

As part of the partnership we enter into with a content creator, we ask them to abide by our Speaker’s Policy, which follows this statement (below). Here we make clear our stance on things like abortion and same-sex marriage and ask them to assure us that their content will not depart from the Church’s teaching. We also ask them to refrain from posting public comments that would seem to depart from that teaching.

In very few instances, we have been made aware of questionable statements or actions, either on an AFM media source, or on other social media platforms, by a few content creators, which may have contradicted Orthodox teaching or otherwise called into question the content creator’s commitment to Orthodox Christian teaching or practice. In the few cases that have been brought to our attention, we have moved quickly to review the questionable statement or action, including the date when such comments were made, and when warranted, we have taken decisive action. In some very rare cases, this has resulted in the removal of offending content, both in podcast or blog format and in print, or in removal of the content provider altogether. However, in our information-dense age, it is impossible for us to review everything a content provider says or does outside of AFM. We remain open to being notified about any questionable teaching or actions that might reflect poorly on Orthodox Christianity and AFM in particular.

Our commitment is to serve the Orthodox Christian world by presenting the richness of the Orthodox Faith, supporting Orthodox Christians to grow in the fullness of Christ and, for those who are seeking truth, to come home to the Faith of the Apostles. We are grateful for your support and look forward to strengthening our work.

Here is our Speaker’s Policy:

Thank you for your interest in contributing to the content of Ancient Faith Ministries through your book, podcast, or blog. In beginning new relationships like this, we feel it is helpful both to you and to us to share a general understanding of who we are as a ministry and the type of content we are committed to.

At the center of everything we do is the good news of the Gospel centered on the person of Jesus Christ as the Savior and Healer of the world. We want our listeners and readers to see Him first and foremost in all we present. Sometimes other issues, such as politics, church governance, ethnicity, quarrels, and divisions within Orthodoxy, can block the view to Christ, and we don’t want to see that happen. Rather, we want to be a positive, uplifting, and encouraging resource where people can find hope, peace, and love as exhibited by Christ Himself. We like to point to the 3 E’s—Evangelism, Edification, and Education—as the on-ramps to the experience of and relationship with Christ.

At Ancient Faith Ministries, we present our content with the understanding that viewpoints vary on how to apply Orthodox theology to today’s world. We also understand that people may eventually hear or read something on our platform with which they disagree. While we strive to present only material that is in line with the teachings of the Orthodox Church, we do not necessarily endorse all the content available on our website. So there certainly are some liberties our presenters can enjoy.

However, in agreeing to become a content provider for Ancient Faith, you are committing yourself to staying within the boundaries of clear Orthodox teaching as expressed in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed as well as in the public declarations of the Assembly of Bishops of the Orthodox Church. The latter has helped to interpret Orthodox theology on such contemporary issues as gender, marriage, the sanctity of life, etc. This commitment applies not only to the content you provide for us but to anything you post on your personal platforms, whether websites or social media.

We are pledging to each other that we will remain faithful to the clear teachings of the Orthodox Church as partners in ministry. We realize there are fringe elements in Orthodoxy on the left and the right, but we cannot be identified with any of them. We wish to remain centrist in our media content, avoiding unnecessary controversies or extremes.

If you have any questions, please contact CEO John Maddex –


  1. Are they going to speak with Carlson, the one who posted the pro-abortion screed well after she had signed on with them as an author? I hope so, honestly. I found that quite disturbing.

    1. It is my limited understanding that Carlson is (was?) "nearly" Orthodox, so perhaps her dissent to the normative moral tradition is justified in this way?? Honest question here

      In any case, the anthropological heresies (i.e. support or justification for abortion, homosexualism, women's ordination, etc.) reveal a deeper confusion or outright unbelief. These sorts of "opinions" should be signal's to Ancient Faith about the fitness of an author...

    2. Jake,

      From what I can see, her three books with Ancient Faith came out in 2014 (the memoir "Nearly Orthodox" about her conversion), 2016 (a book about Orthodoxy and the body), and 2018 (a daily read through the Philokalia). The pro-abortion post was from 2016, so well after she was under contract with them.

      In addition to her Ancient Faith books, she apparently has independently published a series called "Doxa Soma" which is a mash-up of vague "Orthodox" spirituality lite with yoga poses. That raises another eyebrow, for me at least.

    3. The missing thing here is discovering what her definition of "pro-choice" is. I've known people who use that term to describe themselves for whom abortion is a dire sin but who also believe that it should be legal. (I am not one of those people, BTW. I believe with the Church that abortion is murder and I also believe that it should be illegal in nearly every case. (An obvious exception would be ectopic pregnancies, which, if carried to term kill both mother and baby; abortion saves the mother.) I don't think that every sin should be illegal, though, even grave ones.)

      Unfortunately, both "pro-choice" and "pro-life" (as well as "feminist," BTW) are used these days to describe a whole range of views, not all of which map exactly onto or away from the Church's teachings.

      Relevant is the blog post she made the other day in which she very explicitly says that human life and personhood begin at conception and even viscerally speaks of miscarriages she suffered in which she named those lost children. If you read that piece, I don't think you can come away with the idea that she is "pro-abortion."

    4. I appreciate your advocacy Fr. Andrew and I believe Angela Doll Carson needs an advocate (a "comforter") as we all do.

      Still, I don't buy it. As far as the use and signification of terms such as "pro-choice" and "pro-life" and "feminist", I don't think there really is the range of meaning you imply. As far as being "pro-choice" in a strictly legal/political sense and yet fully inline with the normative anthropological and moral Tradition, well that too is a secularism. There simply is no support in the Tradition for such a philosophy that is so radically Libertarian in the political sense and Cartesian in the anthropological sense.This sort of "compartemtalisation" of the Faith is exactly what it means to be a secularist.

      I notice that the post at AFM too which you refer is her first blog in almost exactly a year. It clearly is a response to this thread. It also is a classic blaming and shaming. She blames "the internet", "crazy talk", and "arguments". She even goes so far as call the anonymous blogger who outed her as pro-choice a "coward".

      I get that she is smarting from this outing and does not like having to defend herself, but the "storm" to which she refers is of her own making!! Is it not just a little hypocritical of her to blame "the internet" when her public/writing presence is *because* of the internet? Just who is the "coward" in this story?

      In what sense, exactly, is she "pro-choice"? OR, has she repented of her early philosophy? Is she going to continue to blame the internet or is she going to own her philosophy/beliefs?

    5. Her "coward" commentary go too far and I said as much on her blog. This is how I put it (in moderation currently):

      "Respectfully, “coward” goes too far. You are on record (the internet is many things, and one of those things being a record) of being “pro-choice”. I understand you are smarting – nobody like criticism. However these are your words and the storm is of your own making.

      Perhaps rather than blaming “the internet”, a clarification as too how exactly you square your Orthodox anthropology with (what I assume is a libertarian political – only an assumption on my part) “pro-choice” philosophy would be helpful."

    6. Jake, I also left a comment some three or four days ago asking her to please clarify if she had stopped being "pro-choice" due to her faith (which I would applaud!) or if she still considered herself such. It has not been posted out of moderation yet, and at this point, I am not expecting it will. Not a good look for her.

    7. I'm not advocating or asking anyone to "buy" anything. I'm pointing out gaps of information over which leaps in logic are being made.

      If you want to know how someone is using a word, then you should ask that person or use other things they've written or said that might help clarify. Assuming the worst and then third-person impugning from there isn't just illogical -- it's also lazy and even cowardly. (And yes, anonymous hit pieces are also cowardly. Everyone has the moral right to face his accuser.)

      And really, the psychologizing is kind of lame, too. You don't know how someone is feeling unless he tells you.

    8. Fr. Andrew,

      Your "gap" argument does not withstand scrutiny. We have context: Mrs. Carson quoted with approval (even explaining why - her "motivation") the standard secularist pro-choice argument and anthropology of a Democratic VP candidate. What is illogical and lazy is your suggestion that her use of pro-choice in this context does not mean what it means, but means something else, and that this extra-ordinary usage is to be assumed by us. It's up to you and your client, counselor, to "clarify" and explain this alleged extra-ordinary usage of "pro-choice". Besides, Xenie and I (and no doubt others) have already done as you suggest but so far Mrs. Carson and AFM have yet to respond.

      As far as "phychologizing", did you read her blog?! She blames "the internet" and "cowards", but not herself, for her contradictory position and words. It's an adolescent rant written by a person with some writing skill. She has told us exactly how she feels, and now you have descended to her level and and claimed that the plain reading and meaning of her pro-choice political advocacy is "lazy" and "cowardly".

      Your losing your composure counselor, and your case along with it.

      Allow me to make a suggestion, your probably better off defending Mrs. Carson in this way: she is not a theologian nor a "logical" or linear thinker. In her own words she "learned about Orthodoxy from a poet...". Her explicit support of the Holocaust of the Unborn can not be squared with the normative moral Tradition, but as "a modern women" (her words) she is struggling with the secular context of her existence (which of course includes politics and the anthropological "issues" of the day including abortion, sex, women's identity/roles, sex, women's ordination, homosexualism, sex - and how all this fits into our political lives). Mistakes will be made...

    9. What's lazy and cowardly is 1) making accusations without first getting the full story and/or 2) making them anonymously. The rest is just the results of those initial failures to read correctly. I'm not defending anyone. I'm critiquing awful reading. "Her explicit support of the Holocaust of the Unborn" is quite the howler and pretty much demonstrates what I'm talking about here.

      As for the rest, I leave you to it.

    10. Father, what context makes "I have always been pro-choice" acceptable words for an Orthodox writer? Truly, I am baffled by your defense of this, as you don't seem like someone who would fall for the kind of word games you are participating in here.

      I am no coward. My username is a variation on my real legal name and it tracks back to accounts that show who I am "in real life." I will be the first to admit that as for myself, I said a lot of things before becoming Orthodox, and shortly after, that were wrong and in retrospect, terribly embarrassing. Confront me with those words and I will say "yes, I said that. Yes, I was wrong. Forgive me, I have learned much since then, and become more humble in my faith accordingly." I am nothing special, just a bumbling laywoman who desires absolutely no teaching, writing, or leadership role in Orthodoxy, whatsoever. If I can own my mistakes, surely we should be able to expect the same from someone who is getting paid and promoted as a teacher of Orthodoxy.

    11. Your out of order counselor. Shooting the messenger is an offense against the truth. Are you saying that the bloggers screenshot of Mrs. Carlson's explicit support for a Democrat VP candidates rather typical and mundane argument FOR the Holocaust of the Unborn is somehow...false? Are you suggesting her social media account(s) were hacked, or in some other way she did not say what she said?!

      Also, who exactly are you Fr. Andrew (who complains of anonymity)? What is your parish, who is your bishop and what is your jurisdiction?

      What is it that you find funny about Mrs. Carlson's explicit support of a "pro-choice" position?

      Also, what *exactly* is you and your clients argument for explicitly supporting the candidates position on "trusting women" who then kill their unborn children? What subtlety are we so called "cowards" missing? This is the third time we have asked you to support your argument with...something, anything.

      You don't appear to have actually spent any time on your case counselor, and are on the verge of being sued for malpractice...

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    13. "I am baffled by your defense of this, as you don't seem like someone who would fall for the kind of word games you are participating in here. "

      These "word games" Xenie point to a hard truth that is not talked about much within Orthodoxy here in America: We are terribly secularized. Going from memory, but Orthodox folks survey in support of the Holocaust of the Unborn at about he same rate as the general population. The contortion words, meaning, and thoughts have to go through in a vain attempt to justify this is a spectacle to behold...

    14. Xenie: I wasn't defending "I am pro-choice." (As I said, I'm not defending anything. Nor anyone, BTW.) I said that people can mean a range of things by the term. Insisting that there is only one thing that the term can mean, especially in the face of someone clearly using it for something else, is pointless obstinacy. Terms aren't what's important but rather what people are trying to communicate by them. That said, *I disagree with pretty much every variant meaning of "pro-choice,"* so of course I'm not going to defend it.

      It's pretty clear, however, from ADC's recent blog post that "pro-abortion" isn't what she means by "pro-choice." The problem is assuming what is meant without taking the time to find out before making an accusation.

      Jake: I'm Fr. Andrew S. Damick (and thus pretty Googleable). You're welcome to call my bishop (which would be pretty amusing, actually). What I said was a howler was your amazing misconstrual, not the alleged position. That's why it was in quote marks. I'm not sure if you're pretending to be this bad at reading or not. As for the rest, I can't take you seriously. I did try, though.

    15. "It's pretty clear, however, from ADC's recent blog post that "pro-abortion" isn't what she means by "pro-choice." The problem is assuming what is meant without taking the time to find out before making an accusation."

      This is exactly what pro-choicers say in their own defense all the time. Oh, they're not abortion, they're just in favor of "choice." Fine, let them define themselves that way...but we know the truth, don't we? Pro-choice means "in favor of allowing (or "trusting") women to elect to have their child killed in utero for whatever reasons she sees fit." Pro-choice IS pro-abortion (when the woman sees fit.) There's no real subtlety here, it's just word games and propaganda spin. TONS of pro-choice women are of the opinion that THEIR babies are real (because they are "wanted!") and that they would never PERSONALLY have an abortion, but that nonetheless the "choice" should remain for other women. That's quite usual and standard. If that's Ms. Carlson's position, it doesn't make her a complicated Orthodox pro-life person. It makes her a standard secularized pro-choicer.

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    17. Xenie: I can't (and won't) answer for what her position is. So stop asking me to. What I'm talking about here is reading well.

      That said, just because someone doesn't want something to be illegal does not mean that they are in favor of it. I, for instance, don't think that it should be illegal to get drunk, but I definitely don't think anyone should do it. I also don't believe that it should be illegal to be a heretic or a schismatic, even though I believe that those sins are deeply grave. Not all sins have to be against the law.

      So arguing that someone who is in favor of legalization is by definition favor of the action that is legalized is simply wrong. What is moral and what is legal do not have to be matching sets.

      That said, in case it's unclear, I believe that abortion ought to be illegal in almost every case (I mentioned an exception like ectopic pregnancy above, in which abortion must be done in order to save the one life that can be saved). I believe that abortion should almost always be illegal in order to protect innocent life. But I also know that some people believe that the best way to protect that same innocent life does not require making it illegal. (I disagree with them.)

      "Pro-choice" is not equal to "pro-abortion." The latter term means being in favor of people having abortions, because it is not only not morally objectionable to have one but actually a good thing to have one. The former term has a broader range of meaning that usually at least means that abortion ought not be illegal but that might also regard the act as morally objectionable. So again, legalizing something does not mean that one is in favor of it.

      Again, though, I am not defending any position that could be labeled "pro-choice," because I do not agree with any of them. But to say that someone can mean only one thing by the term is simply bad reading. It's demonstrable that there are a lot of ways the term if used. It's not "word games" to observe that. Words do not only ever mean a single thing. (If they did, language wouldn't evolve. But it clearly does.)

      And all that said, it's also simply wrong to level accusations at someone without first learning what they truly mean when they speak. Assuming something that's demonstrably false and then issuing denunciations based on that assumption is creating enmity that doesn't necessarily have to be there. How about asking before accusing? As St. Nicodemus once asked, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” (John 7:51).

    18. Fr. Andrew Damick! I have always appreciated your work - most recently your excellent Tolkien podcasts. I am wrapping up reading The Hobbit to my 10 year old daughter (we might finish it tonight) and of course LOTR is next. I am Christopher Encapera, a member of St. Anthony's of the Desert Orthodox Mission (UOC-USA) here in Las Cruces NM. Your friend and neighbor Fr. Anthony knows me ;)

      Obviously, I don't rate your distinction between "pro-abortion" and "pro-choice", and I especially don't believe it applies to Mrs. Carlson who is by her own admission more poet than philosopher. In all probability her thinking/belief is a confused and confusing mixture of the Faith and secular moralism and anthropology. We all suffer from this to varying degrees of course - it is our lot in our time and place. Not that this is defensible, for "what communion does the light have with the dark"?

      Mrs. Carlson needs an advocate, though I would not do it along the lines you have here. I agree with our host that it would probably be wise for AFM to do some basic vetting of their speakers. Anyone who has not been Orthodox for a minimum of 10 years probably has no business writing for AFM or any other Orthodox ministry in any capacity...

    19. Xenie,

      "...That's quite usual and standard. If that's Ms. Carlson's position, it doesn't make her a complicated Orthodox pro-life person. It makes her a standard secularized pro-choicer."

      Well stated. Now, people are not their philosophy and Fr. Andrew is right to advocate for her. It's just that her confusion is not defensible and Fr. Andrew is looking for subtlety of meaning where there is in fact confusion and contradiction (i.e. in Mrs. Carlson's thinking). It is not "wrong" to note this as Fr. Andrew alleges, and the source of any "enmity" is not in the seeing this truth - on the contrary, the truth is what sets us free...

    20. I really don't understand this strange type of equivocating when it comes to the use of plain English language or our very own eyes. If someone says they are pro-choice, or marches around with a pride flag, or they post pictures of themselves posing with homosexuals and communists, why should any Christian with common-sense be expected to accept that a mealy-mouthed public statement of "affirmation" by that person of basic Church teachings is done in good faith while they and people they associate with continue to malign their fellow Christians who stand up for traditional values as "bigoted" and "hateful". And why is it you never hear so much as a peep from the clergy in defense of the people they malign? If I was to throw on swastika arm-band and go seigheiling down the road, would I get a pro-bono collared lawyer in my corner, asking for a more nuanced perspective from everyone I offend? Yet you see this time and again from priests and laity alike when liberals come under attack in the Church, and it should come as no surprise that over half of American Orthodox support abortion and same-sex
      marriage. There should be no suspicion or ambiguity among the clergy when it comes to basic Church teaching, and anyone who is lukewarm on these issues should be made boiling hot.

      Revelation 3:16, "But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth."

    21. Xenie and all,

      As of this morning no response to you or I as what Angela Doll Carson's meaning of the phrase "I am pro-choice", means, in relationship to her latest blog post where she affirms the normative Orthodox moral and anthropological understanding in her own very personal way.

      Indeed, Her explicit (now three years in the past) "pro-choice" affirmation is conspicuous by its absence in her latest post and unfortunately I think it will remain so. This *is* the response of Mrs. Carlson and AFM - that a certain amount of secular *double-mindedness* is simply the status quo and too be tolerated/looked past.

      Fr. Andrew Damick argues that it is our moral duty to go the extra mile and turn every stone in an irenic attempt to correctly "read", exactly, what Mrs. Carlson means by her pro-choice affirmation.

      Here is the relevant truth: AFM is a public ministry and Mrs. Carlson is a public minister. In this secular age marked by the schizophrenic Self (My "religious" affirmations on the one hand, my "political" or moral affirmations on the other), contradiction, and "mealy-mouthed...equivocation" - in the midst of all this it is the moral duty of public ministers to bring moral and spiritual *clarity*

    22. Xenie,

      Check your email - apparently it came in as I was posting the above...

  2. Xenie,

    I was a competitive athlete for much of my adult life, but I turn 50 this month so I have not competed (Judo) for several years. However, I have a daily stretching routine that is critical for my general mobility after knee surgery's, back strains, etc. This routine has several yoga poses in it and would not be the same without them. Sometimes (many times) I find myself praying during this routine. Not sure I would write a book about all this however.

    Still, if Carlson was baptized/Christmated/received in 2014 and is "pro-choice" in 2016, then clearly she is violation of the letter and spirit of AFM's "Speakers Policy" and the normative Orthodox moral Tradition itself.

    I wonder how John Maddex justify's this? Perhaps because she does not appear to mention or promote her dissent at AFM so her blog/book sales is allowed to continue? AFM is the publisher of at least some of her books, so what do they do now with all that resource and $money$ tied up in her?

    Difficult questions, at least in a wordly sense...