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Exclusive: Reverend Deacon Robert Spencer of Our Lady of the Cedars Church

robert_spencer_exposed (1)

by Garibaldi

For quite some time it has been known that Robert Spencer, according to his own testimony, is a Catholic of the Maronite Melkite tradition. However what has not been discussed has been the extent of his involvement with the Church. Spencer attempts to portray himself as a “freedom fighter” (nothing could be further from the truth), fighting “Islamization” and the “savage” Muslims. Presenting himself as an “objective” scholar (though he has no qualifications when it comes to Islam) and a blogger while downplaying his other prominent roles in life.

In light of the recent and welcomed news that the Catholic Diocese of Worcester disinvited Spencer from a speaking engagement at an upcoming Men’s Conference, it is clearer why he was invited in the first place: he is an active Catholic deacon.

In a 2002 article by Shawne K. Wickham, a certain Robert Spenser (his name is spelled wrongly) is cited as studying to become a Melkite deacon. Spen(s)er discusses the idea of “bringing heaven to earth,”

Robert Spenser, who is studying to be a Melkite deacon, recalls an old story of the emissaries who were sent out into the world by the Slavic king to investigate various religions, and happened upon a Byzantine church service in Constantinople. “We didn’t know if we were on heaven or on earth,” they would report back.

“I think the idea of bringing heaven to earth, and having a taste of heaven on earth is one of the reasons people come here,” Spenser said.

In 2002 Spencer (this time with his name spelled properly) is listed as “Associate director of Educational Services” at Our Lady of the Cedars Church:

Associate to the Director of Educational Services – Robert Spencer of Manchester, NH.
Robert Spencer is in the Diaconal Formation Program and has been active in the home-school movement.

A 2006 discussion thread titled “Deacon Robert Spencer on C-Span tonight” on the Byzantine Forum leaves no doubt that Deacon Robert Spencer and JihadWatch Robert Spencer are one and the same.

A 2011 official Melkite Greek Church directory lists Spencer as “Rev. Deacon Robert Spencer”

Spencer, Deacon Robert
Our Lady of the Cedars
E-mail :
robtspencer@myfairpoint.net

In 2011, Spencer also wrote an article for Crisis Magazine, a Catholic publication on his Church titled “We are Non-Roman Catholics.

A 2012 PDF document from Our Lady of the Cedars lists Spencer’s ordination at the top of the masthead.

This information also provides further insight into the reasoning behind Spencer’s anti-Muslim/Islam hate activism. What has been known for quite some time through Robert Spencer’s own statements and declarations (such as his 2003 interview with the Washington Times and his “debate” with his former college Professor Peter Kreeft) is that his Crusade against Islam and Muslims is colored by an extremist Christian supremacist theology that views Islam and Muslims as the ultimate existential threats to “Christendom.”

Additionally, and this is perhaps the real question, it speaks volumes about the Our Lady of the Cedars Church. Why would they have someone ordained who is designated as a hate group leader? Why would they have someone in their ordained clergy who makes a living telling people that Muslims are violent criminals bent on destroying the West?

Is this what the Catholic church is all about? I happen to believe it is not, especially considering that surveys of Catholic Americans show that the majority have positive views of Islam and Muslims. The fact that Spencer is out of step with mainstream Catholicism is also underscored by the fact that the National Catholic Reporter applauded the cancellation of his speech by the Worcester diocese.

If anyone should understand what it feels like to be discriminated against based on religion, it is Catholics. They have faced a history of prejudice in the United States, thus it is odd that such a hostile, and at the least, very controversial figure would assume a leadership role in their church.

And presumably, a portion of his income from his anti-Muslim rants goes to the church. There is one link that shows him as a “platinum” donator to a church function, and another one where he gives a “generous” gift to have a Pantocrator icon installed in the church.

Lastly, we must call out Deacon Spencer’s hypocrisy: In the Melkite tradition, women are not allowed to enter the Holy Place, where the altar stands, and girls are not allowed as altar servers. But of course Spencer rails about discrimination against women in Islam yet he doesn’t notice such blatant discrimination happening in his own tradition. A case no doubt of,

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:5)

Update: Robert Spencer kneeling before the altar, decked out in full green regalia?

pentecost-kneeling-vespers-05-4fc4c67a2786f

Update II: Barth’s Notes: Robert Spencer and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church (h/t: Jai Singh)

Spencer here follows the example of the late Paul Weyrich, whom he regarded as a mentor-figure, although Spencer’s Melkite affiliation also reflects his personal circumstances: he is of Greek Orthodox heritage (family displaced from Turkey) and married to a Catholic, and so a form of Catholicism that follows an Orthodox style has obvious attractions.

Some of Spencer’s books include the name of the priest of his church among the acknowledgements, although the church itself does not appear to promote the kind of anti-Islam polemicising for which Spencer is notorious. In 2006 Spencer promoted a report about a speech given by then-US Melkite leader Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, in which Bustros made criticisms of Islam; however, Bustros did not resort to the kind of rabble-rousing rhetoric and sloppiness that are Spencer’s hallmarks.

Related:

HOPE Not Hate: Robert Spencer exposed as Catholic deacon

Petition: Remove Hate Group Leader Robert Spencer as Catholic Deacon

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  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    Actually, I think it might be better to snap pictures of Spencer at his church’s local Mahrajan. Just imagine what his fans would do if they saw him surrounded by falafel, dabke, signs in Arabic and *gasp* people of Middle Eastern descent. 😀

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    Heh, like I said, turnabout is fair play. Honestly, Spencer doesn’t necessarily look Middle Eastern to me… but he doesn’t look like he’s not Middle Eastern either. He could go either way. As I’ve pointed out before, Middle Eastern/Eastern Mediterranean ethnicity is pretty broad. He may very well have roots in Turkey, but part of his appeal to his audience is his claim that HIS family had to flee Muslim persecution.

    And like I said, he may very well have roots in the Middle East. But those roots don’t necessarily mean much… especially if it was a single grandparent, or great-grandparent. The surname Spencer, after all, likely would have come in through marriage.

    As for his faith, we’ve already shown that he is a convert, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, he is being rather evasive about it. It owes more to Paul Weyrich (another convert) than to any real devotion on Spencer’s part. And I don’t think its inappropriate to point this out to people. Of course, these same people would likely get their panties in a knot if they knew that Spencer’s church actually uses “Allah” in their rites, or if they saw Spencer in his suspiciously Islamic looking garb.

    There’s a reason he doesn’t advertise this at his anti-Muslim lectures after all…

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    No prob. I can see how you would make that assumption, cedars being a symbol of Lebanon and all. They even appear on the Lebanese flag. A quick Google search reveals several Maronite Churches in the US (and abroad; including South Africa of all places) with that very name. But I felt it important to distinguish the two Rites.

    Besides, the Lebanese people have already suffered enough in recent years without being linked to a moron like Spencer 😀

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    Yeah, I gotta give credit to my readings in Medieval history (and the occasional Vampire: the Dark Ages game). Otherwise I probably would have guessed ‘Friar’ or ‘Father’ too.

  • Pingback: Exclusive: Reverend Deacon Robert Spencer of Our Lady of the Cedars Church | Islamophobia Today eNewspaper()

  • Just_Stopping_By

    Garibaldi:

    You have actually been a bit ahead of the game in calling out Spencer on his view of Islam as an opponent of Christianity right now. Yesterday, his JW site announced his new book, with one review starting as follows: In Not Peace but a Sword, Robert Spencer carefully examines the multifaceted challenge posed to Christianity by an increasingly militant Islam.”

    No doubt the book will be a perfect gift from one Islamophobe to another. 🙁

  • Pingback: Robert Spencer and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church | Spencer Watch()

  • Jai_S

    UPDATE:

    Extensive further information is now available via this new article by Richard Bartholomew: http://barthsnotes.com/2013/02/05/robert-spencer-and-the-melkite-greek-catholic-church/. The article includes details on Robert Spencer’s affiliations and experiences with other members of the US-based Melkite Catholic clergy, including his own clerical superiors (eg. the Archbishop of the sect in the US etc).

  • Pingback: » Robert Spencer and the Melkite Greek Catholic Church Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion()

  • Talking_fish_head

    thanks for the answer

  • Hasn’t Spencer mentioned before that he apparently traces his ancestry back to Turkey, with his family having fled the events of WWI due to persecution from Ottoman authorities? Looking at him, at least as far as simple appearances go, I’d be inclined to believe him. I don’t think it’s really worth lying about too much, even if some of his base would question how legitimately ‘European’ (or ‘Western’) that makes him. A ‘turncoat,’ as it were, can be just as valuable an ally as someone just like you – see, Bat Ye’or, Walid Shoebat, etc. for examples.

    As for his name, well, it’s very true it’s not exactly Turkish, but then, there’s no accounting for what happened with immigration officials. It’s possible that their names were changed on paperwork (or, at some point, they Anglicized their names like many immigrants did). I know my mother’s family, for example, had their pronunciation butchered and it kind of just stuck (Hilgert being pronounced like ‘Hill-yurt’ in their native German rather than how it is today, ‘Hill-gurt’). Small things like that can snowball sometimes.

    Regardless: maybe we should all start a campaign to get Spencer to reveal more of his familial history considering he’s associated with birther types before. “Where’s the Ancestry.com page, Bobby?!”

  • Someone else can correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I vaguely recall of some world religion classes that I’ve had, a deacon’s duties generally revolve around collecting alms/donations, being in charge of baptisms, they’re allowed to present consecrated items to churchgoers and, though this depends on denomination, lead the faithful in prayer. A Catholic Encyclopedia link seems to corroborate this, among other things:

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04647c.htm

  • Leftwing_Muslim_Alliance

    I agree Garibaldi but I do think we should refer to him as fr. Deacon Robert Spencer at every available oppertunity.
    I am very happy to see he is not married to Pam Geller also.
    Do you think he will now run around claiming his life is at risk now the Muslims know his secret?
    Sir David

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    He is not celibate, he’s married. In the course of digging on the internet, I also learned the name of his wife and children, though that isn’t really germane to the discussion so I won’t advertise it.

    His son Tom Spencer also works with Old Cedars.

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    This information has been floating around the net, though Spencer is keen on burying and downplaying it it seems, as you say he is very furtive about his religion and background, as if has something to hide. This article is more to make such associations visible especially after his invitation was rescinded by the diocese of Worcester.

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    You are correct Zakariya, it’s Melkite from what I can gather, and there is as you note the difference between Maronite and Melkite. Originally I had Melkite, I can’t remember why I changed it. He is evasive and he has said contradictory things in the past. Thanks for the correction!

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    Ahhhh, “Frater” didn’t even cross my mind. Thanks!

  • Thanks for the clarification.

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    One minor correction here, I’m not sure that ‘Our Lady of the Cedars’ is a Maronite Church. On their own website, they describe themselves as a Melkite Greek Catholic Church. The Melkites are different from the Maronites, and while I don’t doubt that there are likely Maronite Churches with the same name, the Byzantine Rite split off from the Syriac Rites very early on. Looking around the web, I can’t find anything about Spencer or his Church self-identifying as Marontie (though, as I noted before, he is very evasive about his origins)

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    No, at least, not necessarily. In the Eastern Churches, clergy have always been allowed to marry, though I’m not sure about Eastern Catholics.

    If you follow the link to the Wickham article, it does indeed say that he was a convert, and that he is also married:

    “Spenser was baptized in the Orthodox
    church, and married a Roman Catholic woman. In the Melkite church, he said,
    “We were both able to come and…worship in a place we found fitting.””

    Haha… I didn’t even catch that the first time, but it certainly explains quite a bit. Especially why he is so evasive about his origins. Just as I suspected…

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    No, actually ‘Fr.’ is likely an abbreviation for ‘Frater,’ which is Latin for ‘Brother’ (cf. fraternal, fraternity, etc). I remember that from my readings on Medieval history. LOL

  • Leftwing_Muslim_Alliance

    Do we know where spencer was born and when ? Is Spencer his real name ? Its not like he is related to the late Princess Di . Who is he really ???? I sense a story here
    Also
    Does this Fr and Deacon stuff mean he is celibate ? If so, no wonder his brain is going a bit la la
    Sir David

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    Interesting article, but not exactly ground breaking either. Most of this information has been floating around the net for quite a while. Still, it never hurts to consolidate it in one place, or to get the word out to more people. Spencer is very furtive about his religion and background, almost as if he has something to hide…

    Personally, I’ve always suspected the Spencer is a convert, and likely not even of Middle Eastern descent himself. Think about it. His claim to ‘Middle Eastern Christian ancestry’ is based on the fact that it gives him the image of being an ‘expert.’ He’s not too dark skinned or ethnic looking to be ‘scary’ to his largely white, middle-class Protestant audience. And Spencer is hardly a Greek or Arab sounding surname…

    More to the point though, Spencer’s mentor was Paul Weyrich, another former Protestant convert to Eastern Catholicism, and an early mouthpiece for the neo-cons. It wouldn’t surprise me if Spencer’s conversion owed more to Weyrich than any of the teachings of the Catholic Church…

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    Of course, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that his evangelical buddies wouldn’t be too keen on him being a ‘Papist’ either… 😀

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    Haha… yes, as I’ve always said, turnabout is fair play. Spencer drapes himself in the trappings of being ‘eastern,’ all while paling around with people who foam at the mouth at the thoughts of people speaking Arabic or eating a falafel. I suspect his evangelical buddies would declare a Crusade against him were they to find out he dresses like an ‘Ay-rab.’ Maybe they’d even think he was a ‘secret Muslim,’ just like they do with Obama. Heh, I think this would be hilarious. If nothing else, it could ruin his reputation, always a good thing.

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