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Forum protocol (personal criticism in the 'Protoevangelion' thread)


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#1 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 02 March 2010 - 11:32 PM

Moderator's note:These posts have been moved from the "Protoevangelion" thread into a separate discussion as they deal more principally with the nature of how discussions are conducted and what is and is not personal criticism. Further discussion of the forum practice can continue here while the original thread can return to its own topic. - Fr David Moser


What Andreas mentions sounds good in post #97, but surely there comes a time to leave Father Deacon Patrick alone. It is interesting to note that this thread is not shut down.

In Christ,

Matthew Panchisin

Edited by Father David Moser, 03 March 2010 - 02:49 PM.
add introductory note


#2 Paul Cowan

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 03:22 AM

Right or wrong as we all are at times, I second Matthew Panchisin. This is not the forum to correct a persons theology, but to open up the Holy Fathers' to people. It is the heirarchy of the church to censure not ours. Lent is surely in full swing.

Pray for me a sinner

Paul

#3 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 03:57 AM

Dear Paul,

I think you're right, all of us can be right or wrong many times in our lives.

I was just making some observations, I just found my self wondering about how uncommon such discussions used to be publically. Nevertheless, I think as a general rule of thumb in the Church and even in discussions among Orthodox Christians in other places if the Bishop is not present then the senior Priest has the last say. In this matter and actually all others really Father David Moser would be the one to do as he would determine appropriate, hence I think his warning in one of his posts here is right on. While Monachos is most certainly in my opinion a wonderful community and the resources are well done indeed and of great value to many of us there are some areas that can move out of normal bounds, even with very good intentions in mind. It doesn't happen that often so that is very good. Being open to discussion is good and involving others is good as well but there are some things that are really very serious and might be better discussed in areas specifically and rightly set apart for the clergymen.

Nevertheless, we have seen in this thread that they can have some difficult matters to discuss sometimes. In this we can learn to keep them in our prayers support them in our parishes and other good things.

In Christ,

Matthew Panchisin

#4 Paul Cowan

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 04:36 AM

Yes, Fr. in this thread and most all others the Fathers are opened up as you rightly say. I was speaking of the forum in general in this sentence. Also whether Fr. Dcn Patrick is right or wrong, Beating up on him surely is not the answer regardless how right or wrong he is. This is at least how I read many of the posts against him. If I feel this way, how many others do as well? Only 1 in 10 people will complain to a restaurant manager of their experience, the other 9 will simply not return to his restaurant. I know, i was one.

Your prayers

Paul

#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 08:40 AM

Dear Paul, Matthew and others,

There has been nothing intentionally personal in my posts concerning Dn Patrick's contributions. The concern of some of us has been only to expound, clarify and uphold Orthodox Tradition and teaching. I am not a theologian but Fr Dcn Matthew is a distinguished professor of theology, and the other priests who contribute are learned and experienced in Orthodoxy. Olga is no amateur in the fields of iconography and hymnography. Where they perceive error, they are bound to seek to correct it. We must be mindful that this forum is open to anyone who cares to read it, and it is important that, as the premier site for the discussion of Orthodoxy, guests as well as members should not be put in doubt as to what Orthodox teaching is. It is also reasonable to expect of those who contribute to conform to the norms of discussion. Who knows how many out there are getting their impressions of and information about Orthodoxy from here?

#6 Rick H.

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 12:57 PM

I feel the same way as you, Paul, both in general and in particular. There is clearly a gnashing of teeth in some of the posts written as counterpoints to Father Deacon Patrick in particular. I also know what you mean about a censuring in general. There are some who feel this community has a reputation, in general, as being a "censure happy" community . . . and this is seen as being problematic for new/immature Orthodox and especially for those who may be considering making a move to Orthodoxy. I used to think this was simply a rank fundamentalism/phariseeism, until recently. Now I see this as nothing more than human nature, human failings.

I do find this a most enlightening thread, and the fathers are being presented in this thread, so we are well within the scope and boundary of this forum. Hat's off to both Fr. Dcn. Matthew and Fr. Dcn. Patrick for both of their contributions! This is an excellent discussion.

Although, I have seen threads closed for a lot less than what is happening here on a personal level; I hope this one is allowed to continue (with the knowledge that this thread is not about Fr. Dcn. Patrick of course!) so that we might find a conclusion of the whole matter at hand, and to borrow an expression from Olga, get to the heart of the matter.

#7 Father David Moser

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 03:07 PM

Up until a couple of years ago, when Fr Raphael Vereshak and myself were asked to help out, Fr Matthew (as the listowner) was the only moderator of this forum. Within the last year, three other persons were given that responsibility. What might be perceived as "changes" in the way the forum is moderated can most likely be seen as those of us newly added getting their "sea legs" as it were. Rick suggests that some have seen this community as "censure happy" however I can tell you that relatively little moderation actually occurs - most posts go through with not so much as a whisper. Usually is there is some effort to maintaining respect for one another, there is no moderation of views. It must be noted however that the focus of this forum as a whole is limited in scope - it is not about "Orthodoxy" but rather focused only on "the patristic, monastic and liturgical expression of the Orthodox Faith" and submissions that are outside that focus are generally returned to the sender for posting in a more appropriate forum elsewhere on the internet (there are plenty). Those submissions generally fall into two categories - comments on interjurisdiction and interchurch politics and relationships on one hand and purely pastoral issues on the other.

Fr Matthew, as the listowner, is the one responsible for policy decisions and for managing how those policies are to be implemented (and he does try to guide the rest of us moderators, usually by encouraging us to keep as much of a "hands off" policy as possible). I do believe he has created a good and useful space on the internet and I hope that as a moderator (and here I think I can speak for the rest of the moderators) I can help maintain this space as a peaceful and useful oasis of Orthodoxy on the internet.

Fr David Moser

#8 Rick H.

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 04:30 PM

Thanks for the very good post Father David. You have made some good points that address the purpose of this forum as opposed to other forums on the internet. I think this explanation, really helps to clear up some misunderstandings. I suspect this type of reminder will be an ongoing thing in the future, as new members join.

As far as some folks that I know who find Monachos "problematic" and "censure happy" . . . they are not commenting on the moderation of individual posts by the moderators at all. As you say, this seems to be few and far between. But, what they are commenting on is the censuring of threads and the censuring of members by other members. In the first, a censuring that seems arbitrary, and in the second, a censuring that is usually consistent but reflects a mood or an attitude, and a mindset, that is considered problematic.


1.) The censuring of threads. The seemingly arbitrary closing of some threads in order to avoid emotional responses or because they are deemed outside the scope of the forum. In this the question is raised by some, why are some threads which are emotionally charged closed but others which are emotionally charged remain open? And, as well, why are some deemed outside of the scope of this forum and closed while others, on topics like "Cockroaches," allowed to go on unchallenged. And, this goes back before the recent addition of the new sub-moderators who are attempting to get there sea legs. This comment about arbitrary censuring includes threads that are "guided" in certain ways as opposed to others which are not "guided" as they progress.

2.) The censuring of members by other members. Members who try to either shout down another member who they would like to see silenced or, there is a shouting down of an entire thread that another member would like to see closed. Sometimes, there is a censuring through an unwillingness to discuss, as Anthony wrote in his exit post . . . in this there is a refusal to engage but a strong willingness to correct.


Initially, a couple years ago, I only heard this view from folks outside the U.S. But, since then from both clergy and lay folks alike, in the U.S. I have had others attempt to bring me up to speed that for the reasons stated above Monachos has a reputation for being "censure happy" and "problematic." I have come to the realization that this is not an isolated view of a few.

Personally, I know that Monachos can be a place of great blessing "berachah!" and Monachos can be a place of great learning. This is why I'm still here. But, at the same time, there are some valid points made above, and I allow some room for what is shared above.

#9 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 05:07 PM

Dear Father David,

It must be noted however that the focus of this forum as a whole is limited in scope - it is not about "Orthodoxy" but rather focused only on "the patristic, monastic and liturgical expression of the Orthodox Faith"


I never even knew that was possible, thank you for that, it certainly explains a lot to me.

I do apologize to all for my comments since they would then have been wrongly categorized by me to boot!

In Christ,

Matthew Panchisin

#10 Father David Moser

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 05:31 PM

1.) The censuring of threads. ... why are some threads which are emotionally charged closed but others which are emotionally charged remain open? And, as well, why are some deemed outside of the scope of this forum and closed while others, on topics like "Cockroaches," allowed to go on unchallenged.


I think that it is important to note that there is a qualitative difference between comments that are posted in the "Topical Discussion" area which tends to be more tightly focused on one hand and those posted in the "informal chat areas" on the other. Informal chat tends to be much looser with a great deal more latitude given to maintaining the focus. Thus a topic that might not be acceptable in the topical discussion area may well be allowed to slide through in the informal chat area.

Fr David Moser

#11 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 03 March 2010 - 07:02 PM

Dear friends,

Thank you all for the comments. If there were posts or comments in the other thread that were read as aggressive, it is good that it be cleared up that they were not so; and if I on my part came across as attempt to take down anyone else by my comments, I ask forgiveness. Clearly are task is to speak and discuss the truth in love. Yet let us also remember that this is a venue for public discussion on the teachings of the Church through her patristic, monastic and liturgical witness; and when in the course of those discussions it is necessary to rebuke points of view (one way or the other), dig into the implications of what is being said or discussed, etc., this is a good and proper thing. If views are stated strongly, it is also appropriate to respond strongly, as occasion may warrant - and we should not be eager to take this as personal attack (assuming that it is, in fact, not): it is part of the discussion in a place such as this, and when we elect to participate in such discussions, we elect also to be responded to, commented upon, critiqued and conversed with about what each of us says. But we must always remember something built into the forum's guidelines and handbook: discussions here are focussed on the Church's teaching in her patristic tradition, not on people; i.e., we are not a venue for pastoral advice or correction, which in the Orthodox tradition is something rightly done personally, in person, in relationship. So we must always aim to respond to ideas being discussed, statements being made (and, where appropriate, strongly support or strongly reject them and articulate why), but not to try to use a public forum for personal counselling or correction of others.

As to the policies of the forum: at times some have complained that Monachos.net is not a free-for-all discussion, and these complaints have generally come from persons who have been (understandably, perhaps) upset that conversations they wished to have, but which were not in the scope of this forum, were not permitted in the Discussion Community. But we are not a general discussion forum, and from the very first we have made very clear that we are not (and do not wish to be): we are a place with a very specific focus and aim, and with very clearly defined borders to our scope: the discussion of Orthodoxy through her patristic and monastic heritage - all spelled out clearly and in detail in our Terms of Use in the Community Handbook, which every member agrees to when he or she registers to the forum. Never in the nearly ten years this forum has been on-line has any thought or comment been 'censored' for the opinions expressed (and I can say this emphatically, as I have seen every moderational decision ever taken) - our policy is to be as 'hands off' as possible, and to recognise that the best way to respond to points that are incorrect or in error, is to discuss them openly and in a polite way. However, if submissions are beyond the scope of the forum, we simply don't permit them. There are other fora that are open to any topics in an Orthodox scope; our aim here is different and precise. And while I do realise that at times certain persons grow frustrated that they cannot simply discuss anything, the precision of the focus of this forum is right at its heart, and something to which we all must adapt (including, I might add, myself: there are times I would dearly love to discuss some or another Orthodox subject, but which is not in the scope of this forum - and so I do not do so here). Despite frustrated statements, this is not 'censorship', any more than walking into a classroom lecture on Byron's poetry and being told to stop discussing chemistry would be 'censoring': it is simply keeping discussions within the remit of this space.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#12 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 04 March 2010 - 05:18 PM

I`ve been away for the past few days so it is interesting to see all that has gone on in the meantime and the various comments.

I thank Fr David & Fr Dn Matthew though for their comments. We really do as moderators strive to be faithful to the spirit of the Fathers in how we post and also in how we moderate. This means that a word at times needs to be said. But this is never with the intention of stifling others or forbidding them from speaking. For as Fr Dn Matthew says this should only be done person to person. Here then, putting a halt to posts is usually only the result of personal attack or else some other clear infringement of the Forum guidelines.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#13 Rick H.

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Posted 05 March 2010 - 03:02 PM

Dear Father Raphael,

In your usual/characteristic manner, I think you move to the 'heart of the matter' much like a guided missile does to its target when you wrote of moderation that is faithful to:


. . . the spirit of the Fathers . . .



As we see in the thread from which this one spun-off from, this is the Question of questions. Actually, in the other thread when I asked Herman what he thought any sub-plots might be, I was hoping he would return the favor and ask me if I had any thoughts about this. :) I think this is the sub-plot of that thread and just about every other thread, of substance, here on Monachos.

And, what I'm am driving at here is that what you have suggested as being the motivation/guiding factor for 'how' the moderators on Monachos moderate, this is a part of what is seen as being problematic, at times, by some about Monachos.

I think there are about 5 moderators here now, and I'm not sure how many regular active posters there are, let's be generous and say there are about 25-30 people who write on a regular basis here. And, let's be even more generous and say all of these people have been taught the same way and all understand the spirit of the Fathers and come together as 'birds of a feather' around the "life of Christ that lies right at the heart of Orthodoxy," as Father Matthew wrote in his last post today.

In this situation, it has been pointed out to me that there is a very fine line here between what we all hope for in terms of an operation of the Spirit of Life of the Church and a rank groupthink.

And, I can see what is being said most of the time when some unsuspecting chap wanders in and does not think like the group here does. Regardless of the reason, if there is not a subscribing to what the predominate group thinks here, about the spirit of the Fathers and what lies right at the heart of Orthodoxy, there will be various forms of correction offered. Usually, in the beginning, it is a tame thing for the most part, but; if the one who is on the outside does not recant or acquiesce there will be an escalation of attempts to correct this person . . . and I'm running out of time now . . . but, we know what has usually happened in the past in such situations.

The reason I am sharing this in more detail is because after reading some of the above posts, I'm not sure that what has been said initially has been fully grasped by some. The admonitions I have received about Monachos have not been by either frustrated folks or people who do not know what the purpose of this forum is (in fact all but one of these folks have never been a member of Monachos); however, FWIW there it is.

I am very much encouraged though by the last two posts in the thread from which this one spun-off from. I am speaking of the last two posts from Fr. Matthew and Fr. Dcn. Patrick. You see, if all threads with that kind of dynamic ended in the Spirit in which we see these last two posts, then it would be impossible for Monachos to have the reputation that it does with some of these who have made the above claims. Hat's-off to these two fathers all the way round!

I am going to make a metal note of these last two posts in terms of a model of the way it outta be!


Rick the more-or-less idealistic pooh


PS Herman notice I am using the lower case 'p' there.

#14 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 05 March 2010 - 03:43 PM

Dear Rick,

Thank you for your message.

What I meant by 'moderating guided by the spirit of the Fathers' related not to whether we disagree with other posts (that we can scarcely prevent especially on a Forum) but rather whether certain views should be considered to be outside the Forum guidelines given that this is an Orthodox forum.

This, you should know in the present situation of posts, has not been accepted by the moderators as a principle for how we moderate.

In other words on the personal level members are encouraged to express disagreement with others if they so wish as this relates to the Patristic vision of the Church. Such disagreement is something that we must be prepared for if we post here. However what we do not do- and do not believe that we do- is to force others views by 'moderating' eg barring their posts or whatever.

Any appearances of the moderators being identically minded so as to stifle others views are only that. We are all different personalities.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#15 Paul Cowan

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 01:03 AM

Each of us is a moderator. I don't have to read a thread or posts from an individual(s) I choose not to. The forum has the ability to help with this. We have the choice to guard or not to guard our passive receptors the eyes and ears. Best to guard against that which is a temptaion. And as the Fathers encourage, best to guard that most vile serpent, the tongue most of all.

Paul

#16 Anna Stickles

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 03:05 AM

And, let's be even more generous and say all of these people have been taught the same way and all understand the spirit of the Fathers and come together as 'birds of a feather' around the "life of Christ that lies right at the heart of Orthodoxy," as Father Matthew wrote in his last post today.


Rick,

I think you are being WAY too generous if you think that we all understand the spirit of the Fathers, since in the understanding of the Fathers themselves to know and understand what the Fathers teach has a very close connection with to live and do as the Fathers live and do. In Orthodox epistemology, one cannot truly understand what one is not living.

As one of our regular posters has said to me in a PM a little while ago. " I mean, we fight like cats and dogs, with new comers and amongst ourselves too! I think it's amusing, but I always wonder what a new comer sees, if they get intimidated or really turned off by our, oh, so human behaviors! =)"

Usually, in the beginning, it is a tame thing for the most part, but; if the one who is on the outside does not recant or acquiesce there will be an escalation of attempts to correct this person

We all get into this mode of passionate defensiveness at times and this is when the threads start to heat up and yes some of the moderators are prone to this also. I mean if other people are claiming that some of our discussions get passionate here and that our moderators are human beings rather then angels and have passions too... well just tell them, yes your right.

#17 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 04:10 AM

I have to ask that if anyone is scandalized or "intimidated" by our discussions here, have they ever participated in any other online forum anywhere else? The discussions here are incredibly mild by comparison!

#18 Anna Stickles

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 04:34 AM

Ah but Herman, on those other forums it is not a person in authority that is doing the "intimidating" so since everyone is equal - have at it. It is far different to get in a fight with your brother then to have your "parent" step in and try to force their view on the situation.

I really appreciate the hard work you all do here, but I can also understand the criticism. People are going to judge those in authority more strictly and expect more discernment and dispassion of them then they will of themselves and the general mob.

#19 Paul Cowan

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 06:05 AM

I have never participated in another forum before this one. I can only imagine how out of control the rest of the world gets. My hats off to our mods; all of them for helping to maintain this safe haven. This is why I live on this site and support it.

#20 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 01:54 PM

I don't know. You really haven't seen "intimidation" until you have faced a withering chastisement of scathing sartorial wit by a full bishop (now retired) on the Indiana List (I have). Or visited a Southern Baptist list. And heaven help you if you dare to check out some of the geek lists I have seen, or taken part in a Mac Vs. PC debate...




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