Open Letter to Metropolitan Joseph 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 Metropolitan Joseph, Primate of The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, Archbishop of New York, and Vice-Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States 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.

My conscience obliges me to report to Your Eminence that a white supremacist named Matthew Heimbach, who claims to be a practicing Orthodox Christian in good standing, 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 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. I particularly appreciate your boldness in condemning the attack for the racist hate crime that it was. 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 the Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and a member 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 in the Assembly 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 here to His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops and Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

7 thoughts on “Open Letter to Metropolitan Joseph on Matthew Heimbach

  1. Pingback: Open Letter to Archbishop Demetrios of America on Matthew Heimbach | Orthodox in the District

  2. Silouan, have either His Eminence Joseph or H.E. Demetrios responsded to your letter? If they have, did they express agreement with your requests?

  3. For what it is worth, Mr. Hunter, the organization to which Mr. Heimbach belongs has responded to you here:

    It may also be worthwhile to consult their previous responses to similar criticism:

    I am not a member of this organization, but I have to question, as did the excellent Orthodox blogger The Anti-Gnostic ( whether his statement would be nearly as offensive to you in other, more politically palatable circumstances.

    Thank you for your time. I ask for your prayers, as you and yours will be in mine.

    • I have seen this. Claiming that he is only a white separatist (still problematic) is not accurate. He associates with white supremacists and has made statements on race which are phyletist. Most disturbingly, he publicly called Dylann Roof a “victim” because he, the suspected shooter of nine people, is white. He also assaulted a man while carrying an Orthodox cross. You have my prayers, and I humbly request yours as well.

  4. The following is a comment as much on the general behaviors of us Christians as it is on this particular communication that triggered it. The post will be clumsy and anyone who wishes to argue against it will find it easy to do so. Please forgive me. … How can such an appeal or action as this be differentiated from those made or performed by any group? I mean, it seems to me that the essence is a call for condemnation of the offender and solidarity with the wronged, along with a statement of a general moral principle. But these are done all the time by all groups. “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?” (Mt 5:46-47) Do not even the gentiles condemn those who do wrong actions, and praise right actions, and express solidarity with victims? It seems to this foolish one that a Christlike appeal or action would somehow reduce the separation between we who condemn and those we condemn and would accept (without maudlin or mechanical explanations) the principle some characters express in _The Brothers Karamazov_, namely “we are all responsible/guilty for all.” We might express our pain that this our brother has gone terribly astray, and call for humble and tearful prayer that he might come to himself and, repenting, return to the Church. We might call for humility, prayer, and fasting among Orthodox, to act more like the king of Nineveh than like Jonah. People reading this post can discern better than I what might be a distinctively Christ-like appeal and action.

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

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