The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 10 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 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 delight to be able to interview today His Eminence, Metropolitan Isaiah of the Greek metropolis of Denver. His Eminence came to this country, or rather his parents emigrated to the United States from Olympia, Greece, and Metropolitan Isai himself was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He was raised there and, after high school, served our nation as a marine during the Korean War. He attended Holy Cross seminary, from which he graduated...

...in nineteen sixty and later would do graduate 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, where he obtained a masters in theology. His Eminence was tauntured a monk in in nineteen sixty two and later a deacon and a priest. He was ordained a priest at Saint Sophia Cathedral here in Los Angeles. He served in many pastoral assignments, including in Salt Lake City and Youngstown, Ohio. In nineteen sixty nine he was elevated to the rank of Arcamandrite and served as the dean of Student Life at Holy Cross seminary. He also served as a chancellor for the diocese 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 of the diocese of Denver and was elected to become metropolitan one thousand hundred and ninety seven. And in the year two thousand into the diocese of Denver was elevated by the Ecumenical Patriarch to be a metropolis and His Eminence became the metropolitan of the metropolis of Denver. Your Eminence, thank you very much for being a willing 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 Assembly of Bishops? What were your impressions of the initial meetings? Well, we have had two meetings in the last two years and the way I perceived each one 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 us up. People are just looking at each other and not too much conversation and I perceive that the few that did speak...

...were the only ones that were being heard, and probably the majority were just waiting to see what they would hear in order to reflect upon themselves and within themselves exactly where we were going with this new entity called the episcopal assembly. So do you feel it was really a reaction to the newness of it? Kind of a quandary that exactly it was, the newness of it because, as all of us know, Orthodox he initially came to America as a missionary church by the Russian and Orthodox patriarchate in the seventeen hundreds, but most of the Orthodox Christians after that came as immigrants 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 have been receiving, I believe that we are going on a definite path and we got to working with one another and I'm very grateful, personally speaking, to Bishop Basil of the Antiochian archudizes, because he's been doing a lot of work in the organizational part of this new entity, and so I remain very optimistic that things will be going very well, especially in Chicago next month. Your Eminence, what is the mandate from the Mother Churches About the assembly? Can you help myself and are on our listeners to understand what the assembly is intended to be by the request of the mother churches, and how it might be different from what Scoba was? The I...

...have limited information regarding this. I only know that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, under which I am a member, has blessed this endeavor in order to to bring the various jurisdictions together, not initially administratively, but but to work cooperatively, especially in areas where we have common concerns, and so the the the only thing I can say with my limited information 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 that we have been working separately, that the various jurisdictions have been working separately here in the United States and we don't indicate that we are one church. In regard 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 briefly as the chairman of the Military Chapelaincy Uh oh. Okay, well, if you don't mind me, I asked you just a few other questions and then we'll get to the subject of the military chaplain. Sees that right. If we proceed course, your eminence, we know through the website of the assembly of Bishops, through some of the public community case that have come out from the assembly of our bishops, that that the assembly is engaged in a wide swath 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 am very much concerned that we use the same translations when we translate whatever it is from the from our mother languages to the English language. And allow me to give you one example. The creed, which all of us of course I know the twelve articles of the creed, what we believe in. I know the the Roman Catholic Church does it in their creed and I believe the translation that some of our jurisdictions have come from the Anglican Church. But it bothers me. I laugh about it, but it bothers me when we talk about in the creed what we cite that our Lord that died and then you have the translation and he rose again. And my question is, how many times did he die? Because he rose from the dead. See the word again is is redundant. It doesn't belong there. It's misleading. You know, in we got to the death and the resurrection of Christ. So that is one small and yet important example in regard to our getting together the Jew the very jurisdictions and the very Jew jurisdictions and to have the same translation in the English language, in the in the theological areas of our faith. Your Eminence, is this something that that you understand is being discussed, perhaps by the committee on Liturgy, or is it in process? I I let me say I 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, your eminence. What is the greatest obstacle to the success of the assembly in this area 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 having grown up in the Greek Orthodox Lugdiency is one of the obstacles is that there is a confusion between faith and and ethnicity. I always looked upon Hellenism as cultural and not ethnic, but you have the concept that that people have a concept from a Greek background that the ethnic part of their cultural heritage is equal to the faith. Sometimes I do say I make an in analogy and I say the the faith is the message and the culture is the vehicle, and people can confuse the culture, the faith and the vehicle. They make the faith the vehicle and the culture the message. That's that's what I see that as a confusion among many people. And allow me to say that maybe maybe the Ottoman Empire is guilt, is responsible for this, because under the Ottoman Empire our bishops were called recognized as ethnoks. What is an eth mark on thatthno is the head of Ethnos. Or nation, which would be means the Christian faith, a bringing it down to the level of ethnicity. You See, and possibly this is why, even today, the Republic of Turkey does not recognize the Ecumenical Patriarchate as a truly...

...spiritual leader above all ethnicities. This kind of a supposition I have in my mind. M You, eminence, this suck, this question of ethnicism and its extreme form, even the heresy of feelatism, has been discussed for for many, many years in the Orthodox context, especially in the West. Do you have a sense, your eminence, that were making progress in this area? Are We? Are we becoming more normative and Orthodox in our understanding or less so? I I don't see a change because here in the United States Christian faith, United States are not, is, not has never been a Protestant nation. But in the United States Christianti has been intellectualized and I do not want to see Orthodoxy being a confined to the intellectual part of our existence, because it's a living faith. And allow me to say that a few years ago I read a couple articles from the Salt Lake City Tribune, the heart of Mormonism and Utah, and and the articles, both articles said that the greatest failure rate of Mormon in the world was in Greece because they could not differentiate between the faith and the culture. 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 not that. 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 to just the intellectual part of Orthodox of the...

Orthodox faith, but it be it's a 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 are different from people who are not members of our faith, different in a better way, of course. Yes, yes, indeed, your eminence, it's obvious to the Orthodox Laity into the and to the priests who are watching the work of our of our great men of our church, of the bishops of the Church in this process, that that there seems to be quite a few bishops engaged in particular pastoral issues and committees. You yourself are quite known for your work with the military and with the military chaplaincy and you chair the assemblies committee 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 a preface that that I was always wondering why this particularly this year, that among the military, the American military, there has been one suicide a day from the beginning of this year to the present day. Suicides are rampants in among the military, and I think I got a partial answer from my chancellor father, Luke Yule, who was an officer in the navy in his younger years. He is still young, but then he's younger years anyway, and he told me that a very large number of the military on their dog tags do not designate a religious affiliation, indicates that probably they have not been brought up in any religious body. And so...

I say that as a preface because if 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. We don't have that many military chapls. But our main problem is this. Now Father Luke is the endorsing indorsing agents for the military of our archidices and I believe also the Kape, the Russian and the Ukrainian. But there are other endorsing agents, I believe, representative, I should say, in the OCA and I think the Antiochan, I might be wrong. Now. That tells the 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 and one 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're close to that decision, the feelings are common and unanimous that the Orthodox churches in America should have one endorsing agent to indicate to the Department of Defense that we are a church much like the wish Catholic and the Jewish and the Jewish religion, you see. So this is my first and, may I say, my only intention is to get this cleared up and to have all our jurisdictions agree that they should be one endorsing agent among the Orthodox churchiest and he should not be a bishop, he should...

...be a priest, because if he's a bishop, it might create problems in under whose jurisdiction the chaplain is. You seem sure well, wonderful, wonderful goodness, your eminence, a let me say one more thing. I forgot to mention that there are, there are chaplains in the military today who call themselves Orthodox and they're not. We will eliminate that, you see. Sure. Yeah, the Laity, your eminence, are watching and many of them, I believe, are, are desirous of supporting the bishops in their work and especially in helping create a common witness for the Orthodox Christian faith in our nation, and the priests who want to help to I know, in the deacons, your eminence, what would you say to them? How could they help and support the work of the assembly? What practically can they do? First and foremost, they should be visible 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 friend Darg Bishop Dmitri, who fell asleep in the Lord in the recent past, and Bishop Basil. We had we celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Dallas, in Kansas City, here in Denver, and the people from all from our different jurisdictions 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 also in the California area from the news releases that I have I've been seeing in 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 Orthodoxy Services, I have to say more people of the other jurisdictions present rather than people who are members of the Cathedral, which is a very large cathedral and membership maybe eight hundred families, maybe more, and so I see that that there is a desire on the part of Orthodox Christians to come together and as far as anything further, I am limited right now in my in my thinking as to how how active our lady should be. But I maybe some Orthodox won't agree with me when I say this, but we should be very cautious and not expressing ourselves as Orthodox Christians when the issue is publicized and it has become political. For example, the best example is that abortions. In our country. Abortions a legal when that's a moral issue as far as the church is concerned, but when the circular powers make abortion of political issue because of money, then I don't see Orthodox Christians participating in public demonstrations because we are supporting the concept, I think, misleadingly, but well, you're supporting the concept that abortion the the the issue of abortion is a is a political seculation. It isn't. It's moral and...

...that's where we have clus you should come in and speak against that from the pulpit, but not to go out actively and show that we are part of any political expressions. That might be confusing to some people to hear this, but we have to be very careful when something is politicized, not to not to take a side publicly. And now 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 the same gender because it would go contrary to the teachings of the church. If the law says you have to do it, then that's when we have to come together 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 critical situation for future. Time will tell. Your Eminence, if I could ask you to to think about the future and maybe ten years, twenty years, whatever, God knows into the future, what would you imagine the assembly looking like? 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 Christ will one church. And in regard to to the future, I think the most 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 should get together as autonomous, not autocephal...

...is, but autonomous and recognizing the the mother churches litacy from the spiritual perspective as as that that cover over over all of us, much like the patriarchate of Constantronople, the patriarchal constant trouble is not the administrative head of the Orthodoxy, as the pope is the administry that had of Roman Catholics. He is the spiritual head. So in recognizing the for ancient patriarch case and the other, the other Auto Cephalis and autonomous churches as our umbrella, under that we can we can certainly be autonomous, without saying that out of Cephale will solve our problem, because that goes into legalism, I think, and Orthodox is not legalistic as pastoral and we have to keep that in mind. Your Eminence, May I, may I share a thought. Since you mentioned that word pastoral, you bring something to my mind. Want to ask your opinion on it. It seems. It seems to me where I live here in southern California, I'm surrounded by Orthodox churches of different jurisdictions and we, two greater or lesser degrees, attempt to work together. But it seems to me that one of the greatest sorrows of our jurisdictional divisions is just in this pastoral area. And I'll give you example and you can tell me if you think that this is legitimate to say there's a church not far from us here. Many of my parishioners know those the parishioners at 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 get together 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 did not 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 the souls 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 sorrow of jurisdictional divisions. Does that sound right to you? It is a sad reality, because I can also say I did not know until afterwards that my dear 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 you know, they're bad. They were back east and I'm out here, but we, unfortunately we don't have we don't work quickly enough in in our communications age, were so advanced in all the expressions of communication. We don't move quickly enough in we got to disseminating information and sharing what should be shared and we got, you know, I I see that within our our Greek Orthodox tradition. And allow me to Laura to a lower level. Let us say they have a festival, the parish has a festival, the next year comes around and they don't remember what the Committee of the last year did regarding how the festival was organized. We don't keep a track record of things and so we are, I think, the worst in keeping records and having communications. What I'm doing here, just to give...

...you an example, in the metropolis building, I am gathering funds and I am putting up eight murals, a large murals, in the proper center, indicating Orthodox Immigration and this part of the country, because we don't keep records, we and that is that is one of our very, very strong weaknesses. And bringing it up to the to the present day level, we should communicate much more quickly, especially when leaders of our of our faith, pass away from this life and we don't know what until one or two weeks later. It's absolutely sad. Yeah, your eminence, do you think that the assembly of Bishops and the the network that 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 our own our judieties. We started that in regard to putting more people in the office 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 be all right, thank God. Well, your eminence, I thank you very much for the time that you've made to conduct this interview. I wonder if you have any last reflections that you'd like to offer to our listeners. The last reflection I have is why I am still active in the clergy, and that 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 not do, the church will remain, maybe in lesser numbers, but the church will remain, as our Lord promised, even to the day when he returns and 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 he is. He is because he's he's hoping that, using our intellect and free will, we will go in the right direction and in the harmony with with his divine will. Is it? Yes indeed. Thank you for that, your eminence, and thank you for the time I ask your prayers. Thank you very much, and may God bless all of us and and lighten us and inspire us so that we can do his will, whether we are lay people or clergy or monastics or whatever, working to preserve the message of the coming kingdom will God's people. You've been listening to the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with father just Siah trenam. 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 commit it 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 www...

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

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (590)