This is part of a post made in late 2012 by Archimandrite Irenei, the forum's owner and administrator, which is directly relevant to the matter at hand, and which supplements what Anna Stickles has already eloquently expressed. I urge everyone to read it, and, just as importantly, heed what is being said:
Dear members and readers of the Discussion Community;
The Monachos.net Discussion Community has existed for twelve years on the belief that internet discussions, while always fraught with the inherent risks of depersonalisation and technological disassociation, can nonetheless still be used for the good of the Church if they are held in a focused manner, consonant with the Church’s life and teaching.
We began in 2000, and we continue today, nearing the close of 2012, as an attempt to foster that type of productive, helpful discussion within the context of a specialised, focused forum community. Our very specific, exclusive aim is to promote the study of Orthodoxy in her patristic, monastic and ecclesiastical heritage; that is, to bring participants to abetter, more authentic and more articulate understanding of the Orthodox Church, grounding this aim in the witness of the Fathers, Church life and practice, liturgical and conciliar testimony, etc. Our aim has always been to foster in-depth, constructive, critical discussion of these matters, always with the explicit aim of drawing out more clearly the Church’s teaching and witness.
This has meant that, from the very beginning, we have articulated a very specific scope to the Discussion Community, which in many ways sets it apart from other discussion environments. First and foremost, given the forum’s purpose, we have always explicitly and emphatically stated that the Discussion Community is not an opinion forum, and the free expression of one’s opinion (on Orthodox subjects or otherwise) is neither our purpose nor within the scope of conversations we seek to foster. Gathering together personal opinions and putting them in dialogue is not a way to draw participants towards the deeper life and testimony of the Church, but only to reinforce personal positions, stances, and the like. Instead, the Discussion Community seeks to use constructive, brotherly, critical dialogue to help bring people’s understandings out of the realm of ‘opinion’ and into concert with the mind and life of the Church.
As to other topics and realms of discussion: by limiting the focus of this forum we have never suggested that those issues are not important for Orthodox Christians or should not be carefully studied, discussed and engaged in; but they are outside the scope of this forum, which exists for other purposes. There are locations across the internet where other topics can be addressed carefully and with due focus (e.g. Church and politics, Orthodoxy and other faiths, etc.), and from the first day of our operation we have always encouraged members to be active on other sites that discuss such matters. The Discussion Community does not seek to be, nor pretend to be, the forum for the scope of all good and necessary Orthodox discussion; it seeks, instead, to be an environment for the good and necessary discussion of one realm of Orthodox study.
It should be noted that our specific focus and scope has always upset some people. Given that almost every other forum on the internet was in 2000 (and remains today) driven by the free-for-all exchange of opinions, a forum that worked on a different model is precisely that: different. People have at times been surprised to find ‘my perfectly reasonable opinion’ cited as off-topic; contributors desiring to raise interfaith issues or to question definitions of Orthodoxy and the Church have sometimes been affronted to have such conversations terminated as outside the scope of the forum -- but we have maintained our clear aims, focus and content precisely so that discussion here can be something unique, safe, comfortable yet critical, and ultimately that which draws one closer to the life of Orthodox Christianity.
How this focus is kept.
When we have members routinely skirting the boundaries of appropriate interaction with the forum, we apply post-by-post moderation to help him or her learn the best way to interact with the Community, and we have a warning/infractions system that is similarly meant to help people see where conversations are leaning in a direction outside our scope, and bring things back to a finer order. Is this more moderation than might be found on other fora? Yes, indeed; but it is necessary to help us all overcome some of the temptations and pitfalls of internet interactions, and the forum is committed to this approach whole-heartedly.
In a sense, we have always envisaged the Discussion Community along the lines of an open conversation amongst students within an Orthodox ‘class’ on Church life, history and thought. In such conversations there is a certain flexibility to topics and approaches, as each ‘student’ (and we are all students) asks and approaches questions in a different way; but discussions which start to go beyond the focus of the ‘classroom’ are stopped. This has always been the role of our moderators: to ‘nudge’ conversations back to the work of the Community, which is to shape understandings by and to the heritage of the Church.
The complete post can be found here: