Open Letter to Archbishop Demetrios of America on Matthew Heimbach

We censure, condemn, and declare contrary to the teachings of the Gospel and the sacred canons of the holy Fathers the doctrine of phyletism, or the difference of races and national diversity in the bosom of the Church of Christ.

– Article I of the Decree of the 1872 Council of Constantinople

“Do you consider yourself a racist?”

“Sure! So what?”

– Matthew Heimbach to an interviewer in the video clip here.

To: His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, Exarch of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Chairman of the Holy Eparchial Synod of Bishops, and Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America.

CC: Ms. Marissa P. Costidis, Department of Communications, Coordinator, Managing Director of GOTelecom, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Your Eminence, bless!

I consider it the greatest blessing to be part of the Orthodox Church, the Body of Christ which has produced so many holy men and women and Saints over the centuries. In particular, it is a great source of inspiration to me and so many of my Millennial generation that we have the prophetic words of the 1872 Council of Constantinople which, possessed of a divine vision for the inherent dignity of all humanity, condemned phyletism and other forms of racism decades before the national Civil Rights movement arose. I consider it a great honor and blessing that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in particular was blessed with so courageous a hierarch and Primate as the late and ever-blessed Archbishop Iakovos, who marched at Selma with Dr Martin Luther King, Jr in 1965. I am aware of Your Eminence’s own recent commemoration of this momentous event in the life and history of our nation.

My conscience obliges me to report to Your Eminence that a white supremacist named Matthew Heimbach, who claims to be a practicing Orthodox Christian, has unfortunately been receiving major media coverage from ABC News in the wake of the recent Charleston shootings. Only yesterday, an article appeared in ABC News in which Heimbach was interviewed while wearing an Orthodox cross. Mr. Heimbach has publicly claimed that the suspected shooter in the Charleston attach is a “victim” of a culture which, supposedly, hates and oppresses white people. Mr. Heimbach has claimed, and continues to claim –falsely– that his racist views somehow are in line with those of Orthodox Christianity. He further claims, despite having been excommunicated for his views by Bishop Anthony of the Antiochian Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest, to be an active Orthodox Christian in good standing. While his constitutional rights to free speech allow him to do this, I and a number of my friends from across Orthodox jurisdictions are greatly concerned that Mr. Heimbach’s views will cause non-Orthodox members of the public to associate the Holy Church with his radical, un-Orthodox views. He is furthermore presenting a false narrative, claiming himself to be an active member of the Church when in fact he is excommunicated. I am especially anxious that the memory of your illustrious predecessor Archbishop Iakovos not be profaned by the shameful association of such an ignoble man with Holy Orthodoxy.

I and so many of my generation appreciate Your Eminence’s loving and strong message of support for and solidarity with the victims of the Charleston Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting. It is a joy to have such a conscientious hierarch as yourself to express such sentiments which reflect the timeless Orthodox teaching on the inherent dignity of all human life. I am writing now to Your Eminence in your capacity as Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops, with the fervent hope and prayer that, in your wisdom and charity, you will urge your brother bishops, both in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and in the Assembly itself, to 1) reiterate that Matthew Heimbach is an excommunicated person outside the Orthodox Church and 2) to issue a statement from the Assembly bishops condemning the Charleston shootings for what they were: a racist, hate-motivated terrorist attack.

Yours faithfully in Christ,

-Ryan Hunter (Christian name “Silouan”)

P.S. I have also written to His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese here.

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20 thoughts on “Open Letter to Archbishop Demetrios of America on Matthew Heimbach

  1. Statement Regarding Matthew Heimbach:

    On Saturday, April 12, 2014, I received Matthew Heimbach into the Orthodox communion through the sacrament of Chrismation. I did not understand at that time that he held nationalistic, segregationist views. Immediately upon learning of the scope and development of Matthew’s views, I responded to his decisions quickly and decisively, meeting with him in person and by phone on multiple occasions, and conferring with our bishop.

    Typically pastoral issues are best handled confidentially between priest and penitent in order to protect the privacy of those coming for counsel. If, however, a person makes inflammatory public statements in the name of the Orthodox Faith, as in the present case of Matthew Heinbach, a public statement is most certainly warranted.

    Though Matthew has made progress in coming to understand the teachings of Christ, he has not formally renounced his views promoting a separationist ideology. Orthodoxy rejects the teaching that churches or countries should be divided along racial lines. For, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). And again, “They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd” (Jn. 10:16).

    Matthew must cease and desist all activities, both online, in print, and in person, promoting racist and separationist ideologies, effective immediately. He must formally reject violence, hate speech, and the heresy of Phyletism. Finally, he must submit to period of formal penance in order to be received back into the Orthodox communion.

    – Father Peter Jon Gillquist, Antiochian Archdiocese of North America

    • Does “nor is there male and female” then mean that the sexes must not be separated under pain of excommunication? Are gendered bathrooms heretical?

    • Do we as Orthodox Christian hold the Septuagint in regard anymore? I am not defending this man as there is no excuse to be hostile to your fellow human being, however we learned of what happened to the Tower of Babel.

      • Hello! I’m not sure what you mean, but yes, all Orthodox Christians are encouraged to read the Septuagint (either the original Classical Greek, or, if they cannot read this, then an approved, eloquent English translation of the original text).

  2. I hope a very clear statement disavowing the racist views of Matthew Heimbach will be forthcoming from Archbishop Demetrios and from hierarchs of other Orthodox jurisdictions. While they’re at it , how about a similar statement disavowing and condemning the casual anti-Jewish sentiment that one runs across all too frequently among some Orthodox people . (I have heard remarks from ordinary Orthodox folk , not necessarily priests or bishops , that sound like they’ve been reading the Protocols of the Elders of Zion ) .

  3. My letter to His Grace Bishop Anthony of the Antiochian Orthodox Diocese of Toledo and the Midwest, the bishop who excommunicated Matthew Heimbach for his racist views:

    “Your Grace, bless!

    My name is Ryan Hunter. I am an Orthodox Christian, my bishop is His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the ROCOR. I am writing to you because I am deeply concerned by ongoing public statements made by Matthew Heimbach. I understand that you excommunicated him from the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese after he continued to advocate for white separatist views. Unfortunately, Heimbach has refused to desist and adhere to the Church’s teachings against Phyletism. He was featured in an interview only yesterday at ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/…/white-separatist…/story…

    I have reached out with an open letter to His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios in his capacity as chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. Fr Nathanael Symeonides, Archbishop Demetrios’ Executive Secretary, responded to my e-mail and said he would talk to His Eminence about these things. I would respectfully ask you to contact His Eminence or Fr. Nathanael directly so you may inform them of what course of action you took regarding Mr. Heimbach. Fr. Nathanael’s e-mail is frnathanael@goarch.org. Matthew Heimbach is making a big public show of being Orthodox while, in fact, he was excommunicated.

    Respectfully yours in Christ,
    -Ryan Hunter”

  4. Pingback: Open Letter to Metropolitan Joseph on Matthew Heimbach | Orthodox in the District

  5. It is gratifyingly decisive action toward a man who is creating scandal by espousing views, as a purported Orthodox Christian, which have been formally condemned as heretical by the Church. It is not extortionate to say “you are excommunicated for your public, scandalous views for which you thus far refuse to repent.”

  6. I am a Greek Orthodox Christian, from Bethlehem in Palestine an live in the USA, I believe that an official statement, an immediate press release must clarify that this man doesn’t represent our Greek Orthodox faith and he is excommunicated fro the orthodox holy faith

  7. Pingback: RE: Another Open Letter Demanding Heimbach’s Head | Traditionalist Youth Network

    • Joe, the letter is addressed to Archbishop Demetrios in his capacity as Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops , asking him to bring the matter in front of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops and for the entire Assembly to formally denounce the views of Matthew Heimbach and make it clear that Matthew Heimbach has been excommunicated from the Orthodox Church and that his views are not Orthodox .

  8. Pingback: Response to Matt Parrott, Matthew Heimbach’s supporter, who responded to my Open Letter to Archbishop Demetrios | Orthodox in the District

  9. Pingback: My Interview with Matthew Heimbach | Orthodox in the District

  10. That was really a wrong decision. People should not be discriminated based on their ideology as long as this doesn’t affect their theological beliefs. Matthew is one of the many people who converted to Orthodoxy or consider to do so because what attracted them originally was that our Church is one of th few (if not the only one) that respects and preserves the tradition in the modern, globalised, anti-Christian world. This incident gives the sense to someone out of the Church that Orthodoxy is like the protestant churches of the US, not expressing its moral dogma and any rhetoric against the degeneracy,that has prevailed in the western world, being afraid that will be called “racist”, “homophobic” etc
    If Heibaw had to be excommunicated because of his beliefs on “faith, family and folk” then i guess almost the every eastern european Orthodox of Greece, Serbia, Cyprus, Russia must excommunicated too…
    Do not Americanise Orthodoxy

    • No one is “Americanizing” Orthodoxy here, Stefanos (whatever that is supposed to mean…). I don’t think that Heimbach should have been communicated without having at least had the opportunity to meet with his bishop face-to-face to answer the charges against him. But that being said, by his own admission he has now left, publicly, the full sacramental grace of the canonical Church. I entirely agree with you that people must not face discrimination due to their ideological beliefs.

      Of course the Church has expressed, continues to express, and will forever continue to express the immutable and unchanging nature of Her inner moral life and convictions — this is as it always has been and must be so.

      You are, however, missing something very important: Orthodoxy isn’t an overtly political religion. “Faith, family, and folk’ can be applied to literally any country in the world — in Pakistan there is a certain “faith, family, and folk” mentality, in Thailand another, in Kazakhstan another, in Venezuela another. If you reduce Orthodoxy to simply “this is the culture of our people”, then that impoverishes Orthodoxy because *every* people in history produces fallible sinners. Orthodoxy includes within it peoples of literally every race and people — you do realize this? If you are a Greek man, you may go to Russia or Syria or Georgia and commune at the Orthodox church you visit, if you have properly prepared with the appropriate fasting, confession, and prayers of repentance. Orthodoxy includes, yet also transcends, ethnic and national identities. Many, many Russians/Greeks/Serbs/Ukrainians/Romanians/Georgians/Syrians et cetera are only “culturally” Orthodox; they don’t always know or live the integral fullness of the Faith. Yet, paradoxically, in these countries there is an incredible spiritual inheritance and legacy of so many hundreds of years (really over 2,000 for the eastern Mediterranean countries) of Orthodox legacies, so many ancient saints and monasteries and temples…. All this to say that simply believing in “faith, family, and folk” isn’t enough. One can believe that slogan and be a pagan or a heretic. Orthodoxy transcends this. If you reduce Orthodoxy to “I’m Orthodox because I’m [insert ethnos here]”, that’s all fine and dandy, but you don’t then have a real internal understanding that Orthodoxy is, and always has been, something believed by many different nations. All of us who are Orthodox — yes, we belong to different earthly nations — are, above all else, one Orthodox family. You are my brother in Christ, and I am by heritage Irish, English, and Scottish (if your given name is actually Stefanos, you are Greek). We have beautiful inheritances, ethnically. But our common Orthodox faith matters most. It is our Orthodoxy, not our Greekness or Russianness or what have you, which will enable us to “overcome the world” and preserve the Faith handed down to us from forefathers across the centuries. Being Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian, or Romanian didn’t prevent 70 years of atheist communism from terrorizing these countries and producing hundreds of thousands of new martyrs for Christ. Being Orthodox gave these suffering peoples the strength and divine help to persevere through the communist nightmare — and before that the despicable Turkokratia.

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