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. (UPDATE: You can find his new site here.) 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!)
(NB: I have updated this post a few times with additional thoughts and to address further concerns.)
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. Yes, we really mean that.
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. (I won’t be responding to public provocations or demands about this. That’s not a good-faith way to engage.)
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. Again, if someone says that’s not true, not only is he bearing false witness, but he is doing so based on ignorance of our many conversations about this over a long period. (And I suspect he’s claiming to be able to read minds.)
Some have asked whether we contacted Fr. Tryphon about this ever before. The answer is yes — many times over many months. Years, in fact. 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.
We are also not going to be offering evidence to be judged in the court of public opinion. We’re not denouncing him or telling people not to read or listen to his work. We’re just handing his blog back to him.
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. (UPDATE: He did! I will not share his email, but I do not believe there are any hard feelings between us. There certainly aren’t any from our end.)
Some seem to have misunderstood the nature of our relationship by saying that he was “fired.” He wasn’t “fired.” He was never hired. He voluntarily contributed content, and we voluntarily hosted it. He does receive royalties from the book we published, and he still will. But like almost all our contributors, he was never an employee.
Also, we are 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 said that they don’t think there were any political postings being made at all. That may be because multiple posts got deleted over the years, so you might not have actually seen them. That may also be because you have a different idea of what constitutes being political. This is our platform, though, so we have to make that call.
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. Fr. Tryphon continues to publish his content in numerous other places online.
I’ve gotten a few messages indicating plans to “compete” with AFM in response to our decision. I wish all Orthodox ministries well, but I will be honest that I don’t think that competition is what Christian ministry is about. Don’t we all serve Christ? Orthodox Christians are brothers, not enemies or competitors. If someone is preaching Christ and Him crucified, wherever or however they do that, I am glad.
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. (UPDATE: At his request, we have removed the archives of Fr. Tryphon’s podcast.) 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.
Finally, I will say this: In the midst of a number of responses to our decision, it’s been claimed in one way or another that I am lying about what I’m saying here. If that really is true, then of course the reader’s mind is made up and he is not interested in actually engaging. That’s his choice.
I understand that, but consider the possibility that all these people working hard for AFM — who in many cases have set aside very lucrative employment opportunities, who put in a huge amount of time for this ministry, many of whom are converts to Orthodox Christianity who left the sinking sands of other religious groups behind, not to mention the hundreds of faithful content contributors from all across the Orthodox world — are not actually subversives trying to undermine the Christ Whom they love and serve with all their hearts.
If you don’t believe that’s true, that AFM is in fact part of a massive conspiracy of hundreds of Orthodox people, including many hierarchs and other clergy across multiple jurisdictions and countries throughout the world, well, please pray for us, because we obviously need it.
Either way, please remember us in your prayers.