The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 9 years ago

Interview with Metropolitan Isaiah 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 publicationspresent the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with Father Josiah trenam. Father Josiahis the pastor of Saint Andrew Orthodox Christian Church in Riverside, California. Heis also the founder of patristic nectar publications, a non profit organization committed to nourishingthis spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. As amember of the Secretariat of the assembly of Canonical Orthodox bishops of North and CentralAmerica, Father Josiah has been tasked to conduct interviews with each of the Orthodoxhierarchs of America over the course of the coming year. These interviews provide aforum for each Orthodox Bishop in America to share his understanding of, and visionfor the exciting work of the assembly of Orthodox bishops. These interviews of themore than fifty Orthodox Bishops will be available here at the arena on ancient faithradio, as well as directly at the website of the assembly of Canonical Orthodoxbishops at www dot assembly of bishops dot Org. That's W W W dotassembly of Bishops Dot Org. And now the interview. It is a specialdelight to be able to interview today His Eminence, Metropolitan Isaiah of the Greekmetropolis of Denver. His Eminence came to this country, or rather his parentsemigrated to the United States from Olympia, Greece, and Metropolitan Isai himself wasborn in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He was raised there and, after highschool, served our nation as a marine during the Korean War. He attendedHoly Cross seminary, from which he graduated...

...in nineteen sixty and later would dograduate studies at the seminary of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the island of Hul key, as well as at the University of Thessaloniki and Tsoliniki, Greece, wherehe obtained a masters in theology. His Eminence was tauntured a monk in innineteen sixty two and later a deacon and a priest. He was ordained apriest at Saint Sophia Cathedral here in Los Angeles. He served in many pastoralassignments, including in Salt Lake City and Youngstown, Ohio. In nineteen sixtynine he was elevated to the rank of Arcamandrite and served as the dean ofStudent Life at Holy Cross seminary. He also served as a chancellor for thediocese of Chicago and in nineteen eighty six was consecrated to the sacred episcopacy.In one thousand nineteen ninety two, he was appointed to be the bishop ofthe diocese of Denver and was elected to become metropolitan one thousand hundred and ninetyseven. And in the year two thousand into the diocese of Denver was elevatedby the Ecumenical Patriarch to be a metropolis and His Eminence became the metropolitan ofthe metropolis of Denver. Your Eminence, thank you very much for being awilling to do this interview. I thank you for considering me, your eminence. What you describe for our listeners your perception of the ethos of the Assemblyof Bishops? What were your impressions of the initial meetings? Well, wehave had two meetings in the last two years and the way I perceived eachone of the meetings of the first in New York in the second in ICAGO, was as if we were waiting for trying to combine, to pick usup. People are just looking at each other and not too much conversation andI perceive that the few that did speak...

...were the only ones that were beingheard, and probably the majority were just waiting to see what they would hearin order to reflect upon themselves and within themselves exactly where we were going withthis new entity called the episcopal assembly. So do you feel it was reallya reaction to the newness of it? Kind of a quandary that exactly itwas, the newness of it because, as all of us know, Orthodoxhe initially came to America as a missionary church by the Russian and Orthodox patriarchatein the seventeen hundreds, but most of the Orthodox Christians after that came asimmigrants and related to their own mother churches in Europe and the Middle East.Your Eminence, you have a sense that that initial discomfort is falling out,that the bishops are becoming more comfortable with the the idea of the assembly.From the correspondence I have been receiving, and our next meeting is next month, in a few weeks in Chicago. Again, from the correspondence I havebeen receiving, I believe that we are going on a definite path and wegot to working with one another and I'm very grateful, personally speaking, toBishop Basil of the Antiochian archudizes, because he's been doing a lot of workin the organizational part of this new entity, and so I remain very optimistic thatthings will be going very well, especially in Chicago next month. YourEminence, what is the mandate from the Mother Churches About the assembly? Canyou help myself and are on our listeners to understand what the assembly is intendedto be by the request of the mother churches, and how it might bedifferent from what Scoba was? The I...

...have limited information regarding this. Ionly know that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, under which I am a member, hasblessed this endeavor in order to to bring the various jurisdictions together, not initiallyadministratively, but but to work cooperatively, especially in areas where we have commonconcerns, and so the the the only thing I can say with my limitedinformation is that the fact that it's been blessed by the patriarchate of Constantinople,I perceive that that the Patriarchate reflects what other mother churches reflected, in thatwe have been working separately, that the various jurisdictions have been working separately herein the United States and we don't indicate that we are one church. Inregard to Scoba, Scoba was initially a very good in bringing Orthodox leaders together, but again it it had deficiencies, which I would like to address brieflyas the chairman of the Military Chapelaincy Uh oh. Okay, well, ifyou don't mind me, I asked you just a few other questions and thenwe'll get to the subject of the military chaplain. Sees that right. Ifwe proceed course, your eminence, we know through the website of the assemblyof Bishops, through some of the public community case that have come out fromthe assembly of our bishops, that that the assembly is engaged in a wideswath of ministry and discussion and many committees are working what, in your opinion, is the most important work of the...

...assembly as at the present time,because I'm very, very in the Giy of particular about translations. I amvery much concerned that we use the same translations when we translate whatever it isfrom the from our mother languages to the English language. And allow me togive you one example. The creed, which all of us of course Iknow the twelve articles of the creed, what we believe in. I knowthe the Roman Catholic Church does it in their creed and I believe the translationthat some of our jurisdictions have come from the Anglican Church. But it bothersme. I laugh about it, but it bothers me when we talk aboutin the creed what we cite that our Lord that died and then you havethe translation and he rose again. And my question is, how many timesdid he die? Because he rose from the dead. See the word againis is redundant. It doesn't belong there. It's misleading. You know, inwe got to the death and the resurrection of Christ. So that isone small and yet important example in regard to our getting together the Jew thevery jurisdictions and the very Jew jurisdictions and to have the same translation in theEnglish language, in the in the theological areas of our faith. Your Eminence, is this something that that you understand is being discussed, perhaps by thecommittee on Liturgy, or is it in process? I I let me sayI hope it is in process, because I'm not part of that committee.I don't believe. Well, may it...

...come to pass your wish, youreminence. What is the greatest obstacle to the success of the assembly in thisarea and in these other areas that the bishops are trying to to accomplish things? I don't know if I speak from off all the jurisdictions, but havinggrown up in the Greek Orthodox Lugdiency is one of the obstacles is that thereis a confusion between faith and and ethnicity. I always looked upon Hellenism as culturaland not ethnic, but you have the concept that that people have aconcept from a Greek background that the ethnic part of their cultural heritage is equalto the faith. Sometimes I do say I make an in analogy and Isay the the faith is the message and the culture is the vehicle, andpeople can confuse the culture, the faith and the vehicle. They make thefaith the vehicle and the culture the message. That's that's what I see that asa confusion among many people. And allow me to say that maybe maybethe Ottoman Empire is guilt, is responsible for this, because under the OttomanEmpire our bishops were called recognized as ethnoks. What is an eth mark on thatthnois the head of Ethnos. Or nation, which would be means theChristian faith, a bringing it down to the level of ethnicity. You See, and possibly this is why, even today, the Republic of Turkey doesnot recognize the Ecumenical Patriarchate as a truly...

...spiritual leader above all ethnicities. Thiskind of a supposition I have in my mind. M You, eminence,this suck, this question of ethnicism and its extreme form, even the heresyof feelatism, has been discussed for for many, many years in the Orthodoxcontext, especially in the West. Do you have a sense, your eminence, that were making progress in this area? Are We? Are we becoming morenormative and Orthodox in our understanding or less so? I I don't seea change because here in the United States Christian faith, United States are not, is, not has never been a Protestant nation. But in the UnitedStates Christianti has been intellectualized and I do not want to see Orthodoxy being aconfined to the intellectual part of our existence, because it's a living faith. Andallow me to say that a few years ago I read a couple articlesfrom the Salt Lake City Tribune, the heart of Mormonism and Utah, andand the articles, both articles said that the greatest failure rate of Mormon inthe world was in Greece because they could not differentiate between the faith and theculture. So in this regard, culture has a positive influenza on the faith. And because it's the concept of Orthodox Christy Antis to live the faith,not to just think it, and here in America they just think protestantism.You know, I accept Jesus Christ and I'm saved. Well, it's notthat. It's not that easy. You know that. We all know that. And so if there's a transition, I hope it doesn't confine itself tojust the intellectual part of Orthodox of the...

Orthodox faith, but it be it'sa it becomes an experience in living orthodox seat and indicating, especially now,when when America is going more and more atheistic, to indicate that we aredifferent from people who are not members of our faith, different in a betterway, of course. Yes, yes, indeed, your eminence, it's obviousto the Orthodox Laity into the and to the priests who are watching thework of our of our great men of our church, of the bishops ofthe Church in this process, that that there seems to be quite a fewbishops engaged in particular pastoral issues and committees. You yourself are quite known for yourwork with the military and with the military chaplaincy and you chair the assembliescommittee for Military Chaplain Sye. Would you tell our listeners what's that all about, what's happening in that committee? Well, allow me first to say as apreface that that I was always wondering why this particularly this year, thatamong the military, the American military, there has been one suicide a dayfrom the beginning of this year to the present day. Suicides are rampants inamong the military, and I think I got a partial answer from my chancellorfather, Luke Yule, who was an officer in the navy in his youngeryears. He is still young, but then he's younger years anyway, andhe told me that a very large number of the military on their dog tagsdo not designate a religious affiliation, indicates that probably they have not been broughtup in any religious body. And so...

I say that as a preface becauseif we had more chaplains of all denominations and our church in the military,maybe we could stem this tragedy that is taking place among our military. Wedon't have that many military chapls. But our main problem is this. NowFather Luke is the endorsing indorsing agents for the military of our archidices and Ibelieve also the Kape, the Russian and the Ukrainian. But there are otherendorsing agents, I believe, representative, I should say, in the OCAand I think the Antiochan, I might be wrong. Now. That tellsthe Department of Defense that we are not the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We are much like the Protestants denomination. So we have to eliminate this andone of my major my intentions as the chairman of the Military Chaplain's committee, with members of this committee, is to convinced, and I think we'reclose to that decision, the feelings are common and unanimous that the Orthodox churchesin America should have one endorsing agent to indicate to the Department of Defense thatwe are a church much like the wish Catholic and the Jewish and the Jewishreligion, you see. So this is my first and, may I say, my only intention is to get this cleared up and to have all ourjurisdictions agree that they should be one endorsing agent among the Orthodox churchiest and heshould not be a bishop, he should...

...be a priest, because if he'sa bishop, it might create problems in under whose jurisdiction the chaplain is.You seem sure well, wonderful, wonderful goodness, your eminence, a letme say one more thing. I forgot to mention that there are, thereare chaplains in the military today who call themselves Orthodox and they're not. Wewill eliminate that, you see. Sure. Yeah, the Laity, your eminence, are watching and many of them, I believe, are, are desirousof supporting the bishops in their work and especially in helping create a commonwitness for the Orthodox Christian faith in our nation, and the priests who wantto help to I know, in the deacons, your eminence, what wouldyou say to them? How could they help and support the work of theassembly? What practically can they do? First and foremost, they should bevisible when we have Pan Orthodox gatherings here in in this part of the country. I was very blessed to con celebrate the Divine Liturgy with our beloved friendDarg Bishop Dmitri, who fell asleep in the Lord in the recent past,and Bishop Basil. We had we celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Dallas, inKansas City, here in Denver, and the people from all from our differentjurisdictions came together. That would be the first and most wonderful witness because afterwards, during the coffee hour, people meet one another and they realize that,no matter what their background is, we are members of the body of Christ, the one, the one Orthodox Church. I believe this is taking place alsoin the California area from the news releases that I have I've been seeingin reading. I think this. This...

...would be the first pragmatic expression.And I mentioned the coffee are because here, when we do our Sunday of OrthodoxyServices, I have to say more people of the other jurisdictions present ratherthan people who are members of the Cathedral, which is a very large cathedral andmembership maybe eight hundred families, maybe more, and so I see thatthat there is a desire on the part of Orthodox Christians to come together andas far as anything further, I am limited right now in my in mythinking as to how how active our lady should be. But I maybe someOrthodox won't agree with me when I say this, but we should be verycautious and not expressing ourselves as Orthodox Christians when the issue is publicized and ithas become political. For example, the best example is that abortions. Inour country. Abortions a legal when that's a moral issue as far as thechurch is concerned, but when the circular powers make abortion of political issue becauseof money, then I don't see Orthodox Christians participating in public demonstrations because weare supporting the concept, I think, misleadingly, but well, you're supportingthe concept that abortion the the the issue of abortion is a is a politicalseculation. It isn't. It's moral and...

...that's where we have clus you shouldcome in and speak against that from the pulpit, but not to go outactively and show that we are part of any political expressions. That might beconfusing to some people to hear this, but we have to be very carefulwhen something is politicized, not to not to take a side publicly. Andnow we have, of course, the serious problem of same sex marriage.Obviously no Orthodox priest whatever do a service a marriage between two people of thesame gender because it would go contrary to the teachings of the church. Ifthe law says you have to do it, then that's when we have to cometogether much stronger than ever and tell the state don't interfere in religious affairs. I don't know if that's going to come to that kind of a criticalsituation for future. Time will tell. Your Eminence, if I could askyou to to think about the future and maybe ten years, twenty years,whatever, God knows into the future, what would you imagine the assembly lookinglike? What do you perceive to be the final goal of the assembly?Where is this all going? I believe that the intends a very positive,very good that we all recognize one another as cells in the body of Christwill one church. And in regard to to the future, I think themost pragmatic thing that should happen initially would be much like the United States.There are fifty states under a federal government. I believe that the Orthodox churches shouldget together as autonomous, not autocephal...

...is, but autonomous and recognizing thethe mother churches litacy from the spiritual perspective as as that that cover over overall of us, much like the patriarchate of Constantronople, the patriarchal constant troubleis not the administrative head of the Orthodoxy, as the pope is the administry thathad of Roman Catholics. He is the spiritual head. So in recognizingthe for ancient patriarch case and the other, the other Auto Cephalis and autonomous churchesas our umbrella, under that we can we can certainly be autonomous,without saying that out of Cephale will solve our problem, because that goes intolegalism, I think, and Orthodox is not legalistic as pastoral and we haveto keep that in mind. Your Eminence, May I, may I share athought. Since you mentioned that word pastoral, you bring something to mymind. Want to ask your opinion on it. It seems. It seemsto me where I live here in southern California, I'm surrounded by Orthodox churchesof different jurisdictions and we, two greater or lesser degrees, attempt to worktogether. But it seems to me that one of the greatest sorrows of ourjurisdictional divisions is just in this pastoral area. And I'll give you example and youcan tell me if you think that this is legitimate to say there's achurch not far from us here. Many of my parishioners know those the parishionersat this parish and we've done many things together, but because we're separated jurisdictionally, we have limited formal means of communication. You know, the clergy don't gettogether regularly for instruction like they would if they were in the same diocese. And a number of very esteemed parishioners...

...passed away this year at this church, even though this church is very close to mine, and yet we didnot know because we weren't, you know, we didn't share the same email lists, etc. We were not able to pray for the repose of thesouls of these beloved parishioners for two weeks until we heard off the grape vine. That seems to me to be a very practical pastoral expression of the sorrowof jurisdictional divisions. Does that sound right to you? It is a sadreality, because I can also say I did not know until afterwards that mydear friend are bishop several of the Ukrainian church fell asleep in the Lord,as well as Metropolitan Christopher of the Serbian church. I know that they youknow, they're bad. They were back east and I'm out here, butwe, unfortunately we don't have we don't work quickly enough in in our communicationsage, were so advanced in all the expressions of communication. We don't movequickly enough in we got to disseminating information and sharing what should be shared andwe got, you know, I I see that within our our Greek Orthodoxtradition. And allow me to Laura to a lower level. Let us saythey have a festival, the parish has a festival, the next year comesaround and they don't remember what the Committee of the last year did regarding howthe festival was organized. We don't keep a track record of things and sowe are, I think, the worst in keeping records and having communications.What I'm doing here, just to give...

...you an example, in the metropolisbuilding, I am gathering funds and I am putting up eight murals, alarge murals, in the proper center, indicating Orthodox Immigration and this part ofthe country, because we don't keep records, we and that is that is oneof our very, very strong weaknesses. And bringing it up to the tothe present day level, we should communicate much more quickly, especially whenleaders of our of our faith, pass away from this life and we don'tknow what until one or two weeks later. It's absolutely sad. Yeah, youreminence, do you think that the assembly of Bishops and the the networkthat it's building could facilitate this, could accomplish this in the future? Absolutely, absolutely, I'm I'm very hopeful that we're going in that direction in ourown our judieties. We started that in regard to putting more people in theoffice of communications so that we can disseminate information much more quickly than we do. So I'm very optimistic that this is going to work out. It'll beall right, thank God. Well, your eminence, I thank you verymuch for the time that you've made to conduct this interview. I wonder ifyou have any last reflections that you'd like to offer to our listeners. Thelast reflection I have is why I am still active in the clergy, andthat is because I adamantly believe that the Holy Spirit is presiding over the church, as our Lord promised, and no matter what we do or do notdo, the church will remain, maybe in lesser numbers, but the churchwill remain, as our Lord promised, even to the day when he returnsand glory. HMM, and that's all the that's what keeps an me going. That the Holy Spirit is, I...

...say to some people in jest,I said sometimes it doesn't look like the whole these birds around, but heis. He is because he's he's hoping that, using our intellect and freewill, we will go in the right direction and in the harmony with withhis divine will. Is it? Yes indeed. Thank you for that,your eminence, and thank you for the time I ask your prayers. Thankyou very much, and may God bless all of us and and lighten usand inspire us so that we can do his will, whether we are laypeople or clergy or monastics or whatever, working to preserve the message of thecoming kingdom will God's people. You've been listening to the arena Sunday homilies andtheological reflections with father just Siah trenam. Father just Siah is the pastor ofSt Andrew Orthodox Christian Church in Riverside, California. He is also the founderof Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization commit it to nourishing the spiritually thirstywith the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. As a member of the Secretariat ofthe assembly of Canonical Orthodox bishops of North and Central America. Father Josiahhas been tasked to conduct interviews with each of the Orthodox hierarchs of America overthe course of the coming year. These interviews provide a forum for each OrthodoxBishop in America to share his understanding of, and vision for the exciting work ofthe assembly of Orthodox bishops. These interviews of the more than fifty OrthodoxBishops will be available here at the arena on ancient faith radio, as wellas directly at the website of the assembly of Canonical Orthodox bishops at www dotassembly of bishops dot Org. That's www...

...dot assembly of bishops dot Org.Until next time,.

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