The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 9 years ago

Interview with Bishop Alexander of the Orthodox Church in America


AFR podcaster Fr. Josiah Trenham serves as a member of the Secretariat of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. He was commissioned by that body to conduct interviews with each of the Hierarchs in the Assembly of Bishops over the course of the next year.

Ancient Faith Radio and patristic nectar publications present the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with Father Josiah trenam. Father Josiah is the pastor of Saint Andrew Orthodox Christian Church in Riverside, California. He is also the founder of Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing this spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. As a member of the Secretariat of the assembly of Canonical Orthodox bishops of North and Central America, Father Josiah has been tasked to conduct interviews with each of the Orthodox hierarchs of America over the course of the coming year. These interviews provide a forum for each Orthodox Bishop in America to share his understanding of, and vision for the exciting work of the assembly of Orthodox bishops. These interviews of the more than fifty Orthodox Bishops will be available here at the arena on ancient faith radio, as well as directly at the website of the assembly of Canonical Orthodox bishops at W W W dot assembly of Bishops Dot Org. That's W W W dot assembly of Bishops Dot Org. And now the interview. It is a joy to be able to interview today the Right Reverend Alexander, the Bishop of Toledo and the Bulgarian diocese of the OCA. His grace was raised at Saint Innocent Church in Tarzana, California. He was educated in California. He did his bachelor of Arts degree in English at UC Berkeley. He did his master's of divinity at St Vladimir Seminary and then spend seven years pursuing doctoral studies at Oxford University in England under His Eminence Metropolitan Calisto swhere. During this time he also spent time in Greece, including a year at Simono Petra monastery on Mount Athos. He received his doctor to philosophy in nineteen eighty and returned to the United States, where he was ordained to the DAC and it in nineteen eighty two and to the priesthood in nineteen eighty four and was tauntured as a monk. He has served the church as a pastor as well as a scholar. In nineteen eighty nine he took a teaching position with a theology department at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which he continued to fulfill until just this last year. In October of two thousand and eleven, the members of the OCIER's holy Senate of bishops elected Arcamandry Alexander to be the Bishop of Toledo and the Bulgarian dice season. He was consecrated on May five of two thousand and twelve and serves today as a bishop. Your grace, thank you for accepting to entertain this interview. Pleasure, your grace. Would you describe for our listeners your perception of the ethos of the Assembly of Bishops? What were your impressions? Well, I was quite pleasantly surprised but the atmosphere. I went not knowing quite what to expect and was very agreeably struck by the general amity among the bishops meetings. Of course they're always dull and we had two meetings went on and on all day, but some other surprising, agreeably surprising, things happened in the course of them. So...

...all in all, I recommended very positive experience and actually look forward to going again. Thank God, your grace. What was the focus of this Third Assembly in Chicago? What did you find significant that you'd like to relate? Well, there are two. Those are two different questions. We first focus where the by laws, which they did pass. That kind of discussion always glazes my eyes. And then, I think the real surprise was the report of the committee headed by the EXOC for the Romanian Patriarch, and that was to discuss the shape of the Orthodox Church in the new world and in particular, what what we hoped to see come about under the general rubric of Eliminating Canonical Anomalies. Now, the obvious anomally that affects us all is said there are more than one bishop in many cities, and so term jurisdiction, and actually they overlap. That is an anomaly. And what was wonderfully surprising was the consensus of the committee report that there should be a single church in the United States. And we don't address Canada there because that's a separate, separate thing. But in the United States the committee proposed to models a centralized structure with one archbishop and all the rest diocese, or a regional structuring with Metropolitan Sieves understood having suffragans, meaning biosis, and bishops meeting in provincial synods. We broke up to discuss the report and the feedback was quite positive. The is that I call the consensus the body was that the regional plans look more sensible. At any rate, I was drilled for it is because this was this is the reason that my own jurisdiction of Rex Church in America exists. It exists too to aid in the in the realization of a canonical structure in the new world, and the Sensei want to go there. So I was. I was understruckt and liked it. And this, of course, answers our second question. This is what indeed I found significant, most significant, your grace. Where will this go? Where will this discussion go? You're describing yourself as thunderstruct is that because you felt like this this is the elephant in the room that wouldn't be talked about and that it was talking? I went. I went with that. I went with that suspicion, I'm afraid. And well, behold, the elephant was underful discussion. Thank God,...

...thank God, now this. That's where will it go? Well, that's another question, because of course the several other churches are all involved in this, so whether this really happens or not is in good great greatest part dependent on them, and we will have to wait and see, your grace, is this work of establishing a canonical structure for the one church in North America, what you would consider to be the most important work of the assembly of bishops, absolutely the Alpha and the Omega? Uh Huh. What is the great obstacle to the success, then, of the assembly? Is it the mother churches, or are there other, other, other obstacles, even domestic obstacles? Well, that's a rather delicate questions, but I I don't want to say obstacles of the mother churches because that would be to pre touch them. I would say they are the key to this going forward and of course we can do very little about that. Now what what's your second question? Will Your grace, you're stimulating my thoughts before we go on to that event's all right. Could we? Could we say perhaps that thank God they're the key because, unless my perception is wrong, over the last ten or fifteen years it hasn't seemed that there has been much collaboration or effort locally for the bishops to get together and that this assembly of bishops is really the direct fruit of the insistence of the mother churches. So would you agree that, in this case at least, that the the role of the mother churches has been to facilitate the collaboration. Certainly in that regard that they've some busy and under the next mony and Patrinarch they have been of great health. I suppose I'm only a little hesitant because patterns in the past, it has suggested that the churches in the old world, especially those coming from governments under the former Soviet yoke, have been under one doesn't have too much what doesn't have proof of this that one has the impression had been under several of them government pressures to see to it to the maintenance of colonies that were here in the new world. Now I can't say for certain other such pressers have disappeared. I think that just to be the case. Could prease as well, and I think that's one of the one of the questions in the airs, it were, that confronts and whether or not this pressure exists and if it does, to what extent, will only be discerned in the unfolding of the work of the assembly. Would you agree with that? You yes. One should add to that the patriarch of Constantinople, while it has presided over this and whose direction was essential for the complication of the Assembly has in the past indicated that it's... doesn't view the formation of a local cynic with great favor. Now that's in the past and their actions certainly have been, as I said, essential for the present situation and the present assemblies, and one can hope that they will see that the formation of a local church and in their world is a great is potentially of enormous benefit, not simply for the Orthodox Church here but I think the Orthodox Church in the world is generally, and the e comenical patriarchate in particular, because surely any canonical arrangements to emerge, count of this would be that they would be they would preside over it in one formal another. Your grace, would you expand it just a bit on your comment just now that the creation of a canonical United Church in America would be a great benefit not just to us but to world orthodoxy. Would you? Would you come in a little bit about how it would benefit us? How will the the face of Orthodox in North America shine in a greater way through this? Well, consider simply the economics. We, all of us, all the jurisdictions, have departments of education, departments of this departments of that mission. So there's an enormous duplication of bureaucracies and in so far as any of us have money, money's and surely this would work much, much better if it were a coordinated and single effort m so that's money's then, in confronting the Non Orthodox Christian world, for all of my lifetime it has been a little difficult to speak of the Orthodox Church as the Church of the apostles, in the fathers, as the one holy, Catholic and Apostolic, and then have to descend the existence of seven or eight different both abouts bishops in the given city, all claiming over lapping juris over thatpping jurisdiction. Yes, you know, we give ourselves a lie in our present in our president situation. So it be nice, I think. I think you would be enormously better to present an actual image of what we claim to be and not a disconnect in your grace. If I may change gears for a moment and move from the question of the large work of the assembly to a particular work, and that is the work of the Committee for Theological Education upon which you sit, would you explain to us a little bit about what that committee is and what you're hoping that this committee will accomplish. Well, first of all, I was appointed to that without my without my input. I found myself on it. It has met once at the assemblies over lunch, so I'm a little bit unclear about what I'm supposed to be doing what. As for what I hope...'re speaking to a now retired professor who gave twenty two years of his life to hire the electrical education. I loved it. Anything that AIDS study and research into the tradition I'm for and I'm hoping the committee can contribute in its way to that benefit that I spoke of just now. Concentration of energies, of money, of treasure to further theological education. Now, what exactly we might do, I'm not I don't know yet. We have how many, two, three, four, five, five seminaries or some among this, all of which are in the appellations and east. There is nothing in the Midwest, in the West or the south. And for my part, I speak only for myself here, would like to see centers established and supported in other parts of the country. There are nuclei, as it were, for that. Certainly one nucleus in Berkeley California, the Patriarch Catholic Orus Institute, and I think the possibilities, whether for new nuclei elsewhere, concentration learning and scholars in places like Chicago, well, these should be we should also be centers of theolantry pal education and research, providing a more accessible education to Orthodox Christians who live in the central part or the western part of the country right through other thos Christians and indeed all of the seminary might in me for this. For the training of clergy, yes indeed. I mean, if you say you live in the Los Angeles or Phoenix and you're thinking about ordination, but you're as many of our seminarians are, this would mean embarking in a second career. That means normally that you have wife, children and packing up the moving two thousan miles. It's pretty difficult and might be a great deal easier if it's within a few hundred other than a few thousand. Yes, so perhaps you'll bring this idea to the table of the Committee for Theological Education. Hey, if I get a chance. Yes, your grace. I think progressively, like a growing snowball, many Orthodox faithful and clergy are finding out about the work, especially of the assembly, especially as that work grows and becomes more significant, and they're finding themselves thunderstruck as well and they're wanting to support the work. How can they do that? How would you counsel your own flock to support the work of the assembly? They should make if...

...they haven't made them, and development, if they've made them, contacts with the other Orthodox in the area and work together. There are other day of course, clergy brotherhoods. In many cities, though, it's the existing one tilet most decidedly encourage. Where they don't exist, they should exist in order, first of all, that are pastors become used to meeting with and dealing with their brothers as brothers. Now, I think, as I said, in many places that already exists. It is only to be fostered. And then, secondly, the congregations over which these pastors preside should also be involved in common projects or just get togethers. Now you know I have in mind down the line, things like parophial schools. You might know something of the history of Roman Catholic Church in the United States. One reason it's so enormous, other than immigrations, simply if it is kept a great many of its its children, and it did so because of a decision that the then missionary bishops, Catholic Bishops in North America, took back in the mid nineteen century, and that was to build schools how to survive in an environment that is not Catholic, environment, overwhelmingly Protestant and where, of course, they were not welcome there. And she was built schools and I think that was a brilliant move, one which we have by and large not duplicated, and I think it's costing us with every generation we breed the hemorrhage. So I would certainly push that. And of course there are other things one can one can be involved in where, in the midst of the call a recession, it's really a depression and looking for last quite some time. Very many in our country are hurting, including, of course, people in our own flocks, and the witness of the church here should be for the relief of those who are suffering and, like the Roman Catholic Councilor Bishops, to bring to the attention of the authorities and the public and the media the importance of equity and Justice Given Society and Charity. So we have a public witness to make it. We can only really do that effectively together. That's certainly a full recommendation and I receive it. Thank you for that, your grace. Before we conclude the interview, May I ask if your grace has any final reflections that you'd like to offer to our listeners, any last words on the subject of the assembly of Bishops. I would ask them from the heart to remember they...

...ship say assembly and to pray earnestly for the success of their work. That's God will bless it and prospering. Thank you, your grace, for that and thank you for making the time to share your heart with the Orthodox listeners who our program who are very interested your prayers. Thank you, father, and good day. You've been listening to the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with father just Siah trenam. Father just Siah is the pastor of seeing Andrew Orthodox Christian church in Riverside, California. He is also the founder of Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to the nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. As a member of the Secretariat of the assembly of Canonical Orthodox bishops of North and Central America. Father Josiah has been tasked to conduct interviews with each of the Orthodox hierarchs of America over the course of the coming year. These interviews provide a forum for each Orthodox Bishop in America to share his understanding of, and vision for the exciting work of the assembly of Orthodox bishops. These interviews of the more than fifty Orthodox Bishops will be available here at the arena, on ancient faith radio, as well as directly at the website of the assembly of Canonical Orthodox bishops at www dot assembly of bishops dot Org. That's www dot assembly of bishops dot Org. Until next time,.

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