The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 10 years ago

Interview with Bishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

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 non profit 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 www dot assembly of bishops dot Org. That's W W W dot assembly of Bishops Dot Org. And now the interview. It is a special honor to be able to interview today his Grace Bishop Demetrios of molky source. Bishop Demetrius is a native of Chicago. He was raised in the historic assumption Greek Orthodox community there. He's a graduate of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Seminary. He was tontured a monk and ordained to the DAC and it in nineteen eighty nine and to the holy priestood in nineteen ninety two, and was elevated to the rank of our commandry to nineteen ninety five. He is well known throughout the country for his many labors in especially in the ecumenical interfaith settings, including serving as the president of the Council of the religious leaders of Metropolitan Chicago. He was consecrated to the sacred episcopacy on December ninth two thousand and six by His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrius of America, and he serves, amongst other things, as the chancellor of the metropolis of Chicago. Your grace, thank you for accepting this interview. Thank you for it's good to be with you. Would you describe for our listeners your perception of the Ethosi of the Assembly of Bishops? What were your impressions of the meetings? I really enjoyed coming together in brotherhood and fellowship with fellow hierarchs and the very jurisdictions under one setting, one table sort of reminiscent or almost an icon of we should be doing around the Eucharist. As one body in Christ Jesus, it's it was a beautiful first and second gathering. I'm anticipating a beautiful third gathering. Oftentimes we could gather, at least in Chicago. We've always had a good pen wise cooperation with the hierarchs here. There were nine at one time, I think would now, with the falling asleep of Metropolitan Christopher, we only have one Serbian now, but that's fine. It is a beautiful coming together and we're obviously joined together in the EUCHARIS and now to try to understand and work our way through, a navigate our way through this complex labyrinth that we've created here in this country. It's going to be an interesting undertaking, but beef us, I think, is one of respect, Brotherhood, love in Christ Jesus and honesty. Your grace. Did you have opportunity in the previous assembly meetings to be able to interface with bishops that you had never met before and never known. Yes, absolutely, that was ...

...a great blessing. Some that you've only heard about or see the pictures and finding it to meet them and speak with them and interface with them. It's sometimes challenging because you gravitate towards people. You know that's human nature, but forcing oneself to speak and to work and to interact with hierarchs that we never knew before was indeed wonderful opportunity for us to see each other as brothers in Christ, to see and to share our our pains and our joys and to understand that we all sometimes face the same challenges, even in different ethnic settings and in different administrative realities. Hmm, your grace, would you speak to our listeners a bit about exactly what the Assembly is and what's the mandate from the mother churches for the Assembly and and how is it different from what we've known as Scoba? Moscoba was a representative body, in other words one higher arm from the jurisy, each of the Varyo jurisdictions represented all the other hierarchs. Here, all higherarchs are of equal vote and equal voice and come together around the table. It's a little it's a lot different in its approach to fulfill the mandate. The mandate is to come up with items for the agenda for the great and Holy Council which will lead to administrative normalcy and how we how that needs to be understood in the context of the ASPRA or of toluralistic societies. I think it's going to take us a little longer than we anticipated and I think it's going to take a little longer than most people anticipate. It took us this long to get into this configuration. I don't want to say mess this because consideration. So it's going to take us, hopefully not as long, to unravel it, but it's up to some other churches on how to and Raveling. So what we need to do is come up with questions, agenda items, items that we need to flesh out for the mother churches and present to them in a respectful manner so that the mother churches can understand the reality of the situation in the the ASPORA and then, I'm sure they understand full well. Let's understand it as we live it, and then to come up with some way of addressing this complex issue. I'm hopeful and I'm grateful to the mother churches for allowing us to take place and for not only allowing it, but promoting it to take place and sure to encourage us to meet and encourage us to come up with items for that agenda. I'm really grateful and hopeful. Actually, your grace, would it be correct to say that the mother church is not only allowed this and promoted it, but that they're the real cause of the assembly? Could we say that that it's their interaction and their communication that has caused this? I would absolutely say so. It's their mandate, it's their encouragement, it's their their blessings to go forward. It's not revolution, I think it's evolution and I think that both both sides of the equation of the mother churches and the Churches here in the diaspora, working together in a beautiful, synergistic process is going to produce something that is going to we're going to be proud of. It's something we will celebrate. Absolutely believe that the mother churches are the ones that have been the catalyst to bring this forward with the guises of the Holy Spirit and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I believe now is the right time. Your Grace, I have interacted a bit with some who who are cynical. They there's somewhat skeptical about whether or not this could really take place, whether this collaboration could really be authentic, and they pointed out that there isn't any time frame that's been, you know, dictated by the mother churches for the Council,...

...and therefore this might go on for a hundred years and nothing really be accomplished. How would you respond to someone who is cynical about it its success? There's always going to be people for a cynical I think that they keep us honest in some respects. In other respects I wouldn't put too much weight into what they say because we're already doing the work and I think we've even been doing the work and working together prior to the man names of mother churches. Again, my reality, in my lived experience, is Chicago. We had nine hierarchs living here. We used to meet frequently and break bread together, discuss our problems together. I think we have one of the greatest pan or sex celebrations this entire country. We have nine to eleven higherarchs. President, we have seventy five clergy and twenty five deacons in a hundred fifty cents. It's a glorious, glorious celebration. But not only that, in the METROPE ric worth, that Protropolis of Chicago I have, we have fifty nine parishes and about seventy four priests. Oftentimes, when vacations roll around, it's hard to fill the parishes with other clergy from my own jurisdiction. Easily and gladly and without any hesitation, I'll call the OCIA bishop the Antio can priests and we are able to use each other's clergy freely and it's been a blessing and it's certainly been a welcome resource. So we've been doing the work already and if anybody doesn't believe we have been, they just need to look and see that the work is been a what's been accomplished already. We've come a long way from the S, even the S. we've come a long way beyond not just speaking to each other. We're speaking to each other, we're bracing one another, we're celebrating with one another, we're borrowing clergy from one another. So it's begone and people who are cynical need to wake up from their dogmatic slumber to borrow phrase from another famous felt and to realize is that the church is alive, the Holy Spirit lives, Christ lives and therefore, if it takes us one, five, ten, twenty five years, I don't know how long it's going to take, I certainly wouldn't want to put a time limit on that, because and to rush to produce something that's inferior or not even considered by the mother churches is something significant, in something serious. Sure, they're the mother church has been around since, for centuries, and we need to respect that time in Orthodoxy as a different kind of reality. I mean we have a get us, we have a put on us. Right. So I think now is the get us. Now is the right time, the sanctified time, to enter into this work in a serious, systematic manner. But I don't want to put a limit of court on us on it. I don't want to say how long it's going to take. I don't know, but to be cynical and say it's never going to happen, I wouldn't. I would never say that. But you're suggesting that we take the time so that what we actually produce will become respected by the mother churches and be of substance. Of course, absolutely, we have to anything that we do needs to be done seriously, methodically, to be done with purpose, intention, respect, understanding and gratual of empathy. A lot of all our traditions on a very basic level, not in the time a holy tradition or Orthodox and talking about ethnic expression, a live reality. How the local parish and whatever jurisdiction we have functions and what is their reality needs to be respected and needs to be celebrated and we can't just ignore those. Twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years, hundred years of history might not seem a lot, like a lot to the mother churches, but certainly in this country is a lat we have parishes and fond lack, Wisconsin celebrated...

...a hundred anniversary. For us it's a long time, sure, for the Church of CONSTANS and Nople it's not. It's all relative, but that has to be respected and that has to be celebrated and we have to make sure we do it intentionally. Yes, indeed, your grace, the assemblies is active in many areas. It has thirteen committees and overseeing many ministries and organizations. What is the most important work of the assembly in Your judgment my committee. Of course, well said, well said. I'm the chair of the Ecumenical Committee. That's a special interest in Mine and love of mine, and I maybe I'm a little tongue in cheek with it, but I do believe that projecting a unified orthodoxy to a pluralistic society and to the Western world is very important, especially now, as we were living in a heightened sense of interfaith, interaction with our sisters and brothers of the various faith traditions. I'm specifically thinking of the rise of Islam and the rise of other minority religions, I it's say, but religions that have been around for quite a while. And in this spirit of diversity, which I embrace, we need to present a unified orthodox voice and witness to the world, and the only way we can do that is by respecting the other, not being fearful of the other or something that's different and not condemning the other, and to respect and to meet the other where the other is and to witness or the truth of Orthodoxy in a unified, systematic fashion. I think that is important work. I don't know if we said explicit work of the of the assembly, but I know it's my part of my committee's work. We met recently at Pant of College Holy Cross in May. That's a recent in May, and we realize that all the jurisdictions are doing some kind of ecumenical interfaith to work and we need to somehow bring that together and make it more unified, so that the OCA or the Antiokins of the Serbs or the Greeks aren't doing aren't interacting with the various Christian and non Christian traditions on different ways or levels, but we do it in a more unified for that way we project ourselves to the world, project the truth of Orthodoxy and the truth of our faith to the world, and also we can make progress in living together in peace and harmony and moving beyond tolerance. We which is, I think, a very important concept in this day and age. Your grace, would you speak to us a little bit more about your role as the chairman for the committee on Ecumenical Relations for the Assembly? What exactly is your responsibility as the chair and what are some of the plans that that committee has? Well, we met, as I mentioned in made our first phase of our journey is to gather the information on what other all the jurisdictions are doing ecumenically and in the interfaith world. I wanted at one point to address the name of the committee, which seems rather fundamental, but it's important. When we speak of ecumenical work, we speak of work among various Christian traditions. When we speak of interrue faith work, we speak of work between Christians and Non Christians. So I like to call the to many ecumenical interfaith, which is fine. If some people just understand as ecumenical, it's that's understanding. We have to gather the information with to know who's doing one and we all. We have to do it on a number of levels. One of them is the bilateral consultations, in other words between Orthodox and Roman Catholics, Ortslox and concerns Orsox, etc. The other is the multilateral which is something like the national constant churches, Christian churches,...

...together the various ecumenical bodies that exist and how we are we going to relate to them? For example, the national counsel of Churches is a body that embraces thirty four different Christian communions. Among those thirty four are a number of a number of orthodox traditions. The Greek archdioces of America, the Serbian Orthodox Church of the ORTHOX church in America. So there are various jurisdictions are represented individually. The question we need to answer for ourselves as it behoove us to relate to that organization as the Assembly of Bishops? What is it better to relate to that body as a multiple jurisdictional levels? The question we have to struggle with and a question we have to eventually answer. So the part of the work is to is to see whatever one is doing, however relates to the various ecumenical bodies, interfaith bodies, and then come to some understanding and how we're going to move forward. The second phase would be to actually engage in a dialog, in a DIALC and man and staff the dialogs and the commissions. So it's not going to be a quick process. Also, we're in the we're right now in the beginning of put every vising the handbook and ecumenical work on what is what's allowed, what's not allowed, what's required, if for the pastors and the parishes and the priests and how to how to relate to interfaith that chumenical bodies, especially when it comes to Inder Church marriages accelarious topics. Living in the day a age we do. We're more than half, but sixty percent of our marriage is, maybe more, are into church marriages. It's important, yes, we maintain that integrity and that that authenticity. So this, this committee, has special relevance for the West and for pluralist societies. And do you feel like that you have the support, that you have the resources that you need to accomplish something like this? This significant for the assembly? Oh, I think yes, absolutely, and the greatest resources for the mark are in the archdioces of American Ecumenical Office there, as well as the ecumenical offices of the various jurisdictions. Right now our committee consists of three higher Chs, Bishop Alexander of the Antiochan Arch Diocese, Bishop No keys the deck of the OCA, and myself, and the consultants. We have quite a few from various urisdictions and they're all scholars and people have been doing any of the work in the ecumenical of your faith world for many, many years, and I think that's been a real blessing. I absolutely have those resources and if any of the brother Bishops on the assembly is a whole feel uncomfortable with ecumenical work. They don't have to, of course, be on the committee, but everyone is has different gifts and talents and different interests, and that's what I think is part of the beauty of this this diversity of gifts that we bring to the table all for one purpose, and we're able to to grow that interest and nurture that interests so that we can bring about the desired effect. Mayde, Mayde, God give you what you need, your grace, saying I'll give you what you're needing. You, you are articulated for us a beautiful hope for a common witness, especially in our interaction with other Christians in America and other faiths, and and suggested that's the most important work that the assembly can accomplish now, your grace. What, then, is the greatest obstacle to the success of the assembly in that area? I think, ironically enough, I think it's the cynicism you spoke about earlier, the cities that you can never accomplish this, the citicism that it's not going to happen in our lifetime and we need to make it happen our lifetime. That kind of negativity is an obstacle. I don't think among the brother bishops, I really don't. I think everyone at the table...

...and everyone in the room is committed to this work and they take it. They take it seriously, very seriously, and you can tell because of their presence, not only physical presence but also their attentiveness to the details of what's happening. Meetings are never exciting and never people don't want to go to get another meeting, but this is something different. This is sacred. We gather in our ECCOTASA robes and hats and veils and Gopia to show that this is a serious undertaking and anybody that says it isn't, I think, is an obstacle towards our work and I'd rather they turn that cynicism into hope and give us at least their prayers if they're not going to contribute to the work in some meaningful way, be it on a committee as a consultant. Actually the committees are staffed by more lay people than in clergy. We have a great synergy of hierarchy, clergy and Laity in the assembly doing the work of the assembly. Of course the members the assembly are the HIERARCHS, but the committees were all the work it's really done is composed of a few higher archs, some clergy, some Laity, and we have more non higher arts and hierarchs on the committees and they're informing the process. So it's it's really a beautiful synergy and it's really encouraging to see this work. The obstacle of cynicism needs to be removed and we need to if they're not really part of the process and part of the solution, I would ask them to please remain silent and prayerful, and that would probably be the best thing that can happen for us so that we can remove that obstacle. Uh, maybe we can enlightense to I mean if they see the work that we're doing and if you compare what's happening today to what was going on thirty years ago in Orthodoxy and disparity that existed then and now they're the unity that exists in so many levels, I think one would be very hopeful and not be cynical. Did it take a while? Yes, is that okay? Of course it's okay. And would you would you agree also the even the growing momentum of the work of the of the bishops and in a common assembly that this in time, perhaps some of the less enthusiastic vicious will begin to see the positives that come out of it and grow in their own support. I would definitely agree. I have to tell you the truth. In the ambishops I have encountered I've not seen any negativity. Now in would see if they harbor that somehow or they feel that. I don't know, but from what appears, from what appears to be, it appears to be that they are enthusiastic about this work. I think the cynicism, an optical comes from outside the assembly. I don't think I'm from within. I really don't. After the first assembly I forgot who. Someone wrote something that was for other negative. My first thought was you weren't even in the room, so hot, you know, and that was always that my first question. Why are they saying these things when they weren't even there? I guess it didn't Coudn't. What was reported out didn't conform to their understanding or what they wanted to see done. But it's in God's time and it's going to happen. You're grace. You've mentioned already this beautiful, authentic the equinea of the clergy and the Laity serving with the great men of the Church and following the bishops in the support of this project. What are you telling your priests and deacons and your laity in the metropolis of Chicago that they can do to support the assembly? First and foremost is to pray for success the assembly, to to speak well of the hierarchs in the various jurisdictions, not to rejoice when one of the brothers has a challenge or difficulty...

...and, whatever jurisdiction it might be, to support financially the work of the assembly if they're able to. I don't know the details of that kind of support, I'm sure others can direct it, and to to really get behind that hopefulness of the work of the assembly with their prayers, with their words and with their financial treasures if possible. Your grace, do you have any final reflections that you'd like to offer to us before we conclude? I really look forward to the great and Holy Council. I look forward to that day when those men of faith come together and unravel this this quandary that we're in. But I also want everyone to know that we do have a unity and we are united in Christ Jesus and we have we share one chalice, we are one church. I really have a difficulty these when people talk about the disunity of the Orthodox Church. The ORTHOX church is not disunited, is united, is unified, it's a unified whole and maybe we have different jurisdictional expressions right now and some day that will be corrected with the God's help and blessings and the blessings of the mother churches. But until then I would hope and pray that the people of God, that the clergy, the HIERARCHS, all proclaim the unity of our orthodox tradition and the truth of our Orthodox faith and to understand and to preach one Lord and One Chalice and that's reality of who we are, and to witness orthodoxy in its fullness as a unified expression and a unified church and a unified truth. Omen, I thank you very sincerely, your grace, bishop demetrious, for making time to talk with us about the work of the assembly. You were very inspiring and I again thank you. You've been listening to the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with father just Siah Trenem. Father just Siah is the pastor of St Andrew Orthodox Christian Church in Riverside, California. He is also the founder of Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to 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 W W W dot assembly of Bishops Dot Org. Until next time,.

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