How I View the Church History Work of Orthodoxhistory.org

With a couple of the latest posts by Matthew, the comments section has become dominated by people concerned with his research.  I have read through them up to this point, and I thought maybe it would be helpful to people to see how I view orthodoxhistory.org.

On the one hand, I do not think Orthodoxhistory.org is intended to publish, regularly, with the same level of detailed investigation that is required for a peer reviewed article.  I am in the process of putting together Prairie Parish Press, which will publish the Journal of American Orthodox Church History.  So, God-willing, we will have such a journal publicly available in a few months.

On the other hand, Orthodoxhistory.org isn’t mere opinion, and certainly is not intended to be armchair opinion.  To me, I see Orthodoxhistory.org as having three possible goals with any post:

1) Publication of something researched nearly to the point where it could be submitted for peer review.  With my Archbishop Arseny posts, I did that.  No, I never wrote an article that could be submitted (for I would never submit something I write online anyhow), but the research into his trial was a serious beginning of something that could have been developed in that direction with some additional work.  So, sometimes, we will post on new primary source research that is analyzed in detail.  That is one possible goal any given post may have.

2) Publication of a piece with commentary that simply points to a larger issue without making any strong claims about anything in too much detail.  I did that in my last post on SVS’s beginning.  I didn’t research the whole beginning.  I simply posted a single newspaper article and then pointed to the larger picture.  So, sometimes, we will write posts that do little else than point to a larger area of investigation or interest that others might want to pursue.  These are reminder pieces, I suppose, and for some people, maybe new info, but not overwhelming info.

3) Publication of preliminary research intended for engagement by our readers.  This is probably the main kind of posting that Matthew does (though he also does sometimes do 1 and 2 too).  I think sometimes we might forget that.  We might think he simply describes what he found so quickly that he must mean it to be comprehensive.  That’s not entirely fair to him, though.  And, to be fair, I did something similar with my post on the OrthCathA collection at the University of Buffalo.  I didn’t actually go there and look at the collection before I posted, so I couldn’t have told you specifically what kind of volumes were donated by Fr. Michael Gelsinger and Fr. Boris Burden.  I certainly would not have minded had someone done that.  That would have been fine.  Likewise, Matthew is open to people providing information that may change his conclusions.

So, those are the three main goals I see.  I may tend toward goals one and two, but that does not mean goal three ought to be suspect.  I think it’s venerable to want engagement from our readers in furthering research and discussion.  In a way, goal three is like “peer reviewing,” at least peer review in a blog context.  This makes the discussions in the comments section so important.  Should more non-English sources be scoured?  As a general rule, of course, but I also hope we don’t presume that people writing tentative conclusions are simply dismissed because they did not have the time and money to do so.  Also keep in mind, that tentative research is still research.  It may only be the very beginnings, but throwing that stuff out there can lead to engagement, which can lead to new leads.  Some of our posts will be attempting to do little more than that.  I hope, though, that that will not dissuade people from reading nor turn people away but, rather, encourage people to join us in our journeys.

This article was written by Fr. Oliver Herbel.