IOTA Statement: Safeguarding Academic Freedom in the Church
The International Orthodox Theological Association opposes the restriction of freedom of speech and academic research in the religious sphere. What is IOTA? Founded in 2017, the International Orthodox Theological Association is a community of scholars and professionals dedicated to the worldwide exchange of knowledge within the context of the Orthodox Tradition. IOTA organizes international conferences and facilitates group research projects; the association contributes to the growth and renewal of the Orthodox Church by supporting pan-Orthodox unity and conciliarity. As a pan-Orthodox nonprofit organization, IOTA does not belong to any one local Church and strives to maintain constructive relations with the leaders of all Orthodox Churches.
IOTA responds to the suspension of Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun from his priestly duties in the Moscow Patriarchate. The statement calls for the protection of academic freedom and freedom of speech in the intellectual environment of the Church, emphasizing the importance of dialogue and unity in the Orthodox community
IOTA Board of Directors’ Statement on Academic Freedom
As a scholarly society serving the Church, the International Orthodox Theological Association (IOTA) champions academic freedom. IOTA also promotes the healing of divisions within the Church and stands against the spirit of alienation.
On September 25, 2023, the Patriarch of Moscow suspended Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun from his priestly duties. The reason cited for this disciplinary action was Hovorun’s co-serving with the hierarchs and clergy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate with which the Moscow Patriarchate unilaterally broke communion in December 2018. The unilateral breaking of communion runs against the spirit of Orthodox unity. When the communion is broken without serious theological reasons, the whole church suffers.
Moreover, the cited reason – Hovorun’s intercommunion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s clergy – appears to be only a pretext for this disciplinary action. The main reason is Fr. Cyril’s academic work, in which he has criticized the Moscow Patriarchate’s involvement in the Russian war against Ukraine. This disciplinary action is an attempt to silence Hovorun. It is also an attempt to intimidate other courageous Orthodox leaders, especially those currently residing in Russia, who dare to speak out against the war. Such a repressive action is a blow to academic freedom and the freedom of conscience. The violation of these freedoms anywhere is a threat to freedoms everywhere. The IOTA Board of Directors supports these freedoms and calls upon all Orthodox Christian leaders to refrain from and oppose repressive actions within the church.