OrthodoxWiki:Style Manual (Point of View)
|This page is an official policy on OrthodoxWiki. It has wide acceptance among editors and is considered a standard that all users should follow. If you are part of the administration, please feel free to update this page as needed, but make sure that changes you make to this policy really do reflect OrthodoxWiki's perspective before you make them.|
A key concept in the way OrthodoxWiki functions is what we call "neutral point of view," or "N.P.O.V." This concept is borrowed from Wikipedia, but has been adapted to fit our Orthodox community and confession of faith.
OrthodoxWiki purposes to present the Orthodox Christian viewpoint throughout the site. Articles on OrthodoxWiki will be, so far as is reasonably possible, worded from a neutral point of view (NPOV). That is, disputes between Orthodox Christian groups will be characterized and described rather than entered into. Continue reading for further clarification. (Also see Wikipedia:NPOV for Wikipedia's version of the NPOV policy, which is largely compatible with OrthodoxWiki policy.)
Further, for administrative purposes, OrthodoxWiki is governed by what is called the Mainstream Chalcedonian Bias (MCB). By Chalcedonian we refer to those churches of the Orthodox Church who hold to the decrees of the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon (A.D. 451). By Mainstream we refer to those "official" churches comprised of the fourteen or fifteen autocephalous and the autonomous churches generally recognized as the "mainstream" of the Orthodox Church—for those of us in North America, this will be all Episcopal Assembly jurisdictions and those with whom they're in communion.
What the Bias Means
The main places that the bias will apply will be in terms of naming. Naming is of course important, and the names by which we call things indicate what we believe about them. As is evident to anyone who knows anything of Church History, names are a potentially inflammatory topic. What might be termed namespace will be given priority in terms of the MCB. So, for instance, an article called Church of Alexandria will refer to the Chalcedonian body by that name, whereas one called Church of Alexandria (Coptic) will refer to the non-Chalcedonian body by that name. It applies similarly with regard to parallel hierarchies along other disputational lines, so the official church in Greece will have its article named Church of Greece and not Church of Greece (State Church) (which is how some groups might refer to it).
Additionally, the MCB is in effect in terms of the content in articles, so articles on MC churches will not include content indicating in direct factual terms that they are heretics, schismatics, etc.
Further, articles on non-Orthodox Christian religious groups, while necessarily including some general description of those groups, should have as their primary content the relationship and history of that group in relation to the Orthodox Church. For the encyclopedic purposes of OrthodoxWiki, non-Chalcedonian and non-mainstream churches which identify themselves as Orthodox and are not "self-starters" (i.e., taking the name Orthodox to themselves without any historic origin in the Orthodox Church) will be considered to be Orthodox in terms of categorization and article content—that is, they do not have to be included in Category:Non-Orthodox or focus their article content primarily on their relationship to the Mainstream Chalcedonian churches (though of course that should be covered).
Vagante groups with no history of being within the Mainstream, Chalcedonian Orthodox Church or any substantial history of interaction with it (thus affecting its history), while occasionally being mentioned on OrthodoxWiki, should not have articles dedicated to them (unless the article is justified as with other non-Orthodox groups as above).
What the Bias Does Not Mean
The MCB does not mean that non-mainstream or non-Chalcedonian persons or groups are unwelcome to write or edit articles on OrthodoxWiki. It also does not mean that such groups or their members will be the subject of polemic in encyclopedic articles, though some non-encyclopedic articles may include polemic from any point of view if it is appropriately labelled regarding its own biases. So, instead of saying "the Church of Greece has fallen into heresy, schism and is entirely uncanonical," we might say, "the Church of Greece is regarded as heretical, schismatic and uncanonical by Group X."
The best thing on OrthodoxWiki we can do with regard to any dispute, no matter what side we're on, is to characterize the dispute in the terms of the major disputants, rather than entering into that dispute and bringing the conflict here. That is, so far as we can, we try to word our articles from a neutral point of view (NPOV).
The MCB is not a judgment on any group or persons. It's simply a protocol for the OrthodoxWiki project.
Why Have the Bias?
It's for administrative reasons as much as anything else. OrthodoxWiki is owned and operated by a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, a mainstream Chalcedonian church. Also, if we think carefully, we realize that there must be some sort of bias regarding the issues outlined above, or else we'd have the potential for perpetual renaming and revision wars, all in one massive conflict. OrthodoxWiki is, after all, editable by anyone with an Internet connection.
Additionally, the administration feels that the bias is warranted along what might be termed "definitional usage" lines—that is, the rest of the world, when looking for information about Orthodoxy, tends to think definitionally in MCB terms. That is, it would probably look for an article on the Church of Russia (i.e., the Moscow Patriarchate) rather than one on the so-called Suzdalites when searching for "Russian Orthodoxy." Thus, the MCB helps prevent confusion.
Of course, the MCB cannot prevent all confusion or conflict, but we hope that it will help. Where extra attention needs to be paid, extra care will be taken when the time comes. We ask you that, while we are certainly trying to be Orthodox, we take special care also to be Christian.
Personal and Community pages
Personal opinions may be expressed on "User" and "User_Talk" pages, which are not subject to NPOV. It is understood that these pages may represent the personal views of their authors. All conversation should be kept civil, however. Also, not everything is allowed on personal pages. For example, anything that is clearly unorthodox will be removed or edited. Final say in all these matters rests with the administrator(s).
Although user pages may be edited, OrthodoxWiki administration does not, of course, have the right to change users' own words in such a way as to misrepresent what they are saying about themselves. We may edit or even censor, but we won't twist.
Community pages tend to represent what we might call the "Community Point of View," a mentality which has developed through interaction with the various personalities and circumstances of the OrthodoxWiki community. Often, it will be the voice of practical wisdom that comes from involvement in this kind of wiki project.
Thus, OrthodoxWiki may be envisioned as a grouping of spaces: some personal; some community-oriented; and some more documentary, of a public character.