FATHER JOSIAH TRENHAM AND THE SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER

trenham

Father Josiah Trenham

In a twist of supreme irony the following report from June 2016 comes to the attention of Orthodoxy in Dialogue just as The Wheel‘s current issue—subtitled Being Human: Embodiment and Anthropology—comes off the presses.

The Foreword by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) and the Editorial by Father Andrew Louth are available online. We encourage you very strongly to read them if you have not already: the contrast between the gentle, pastoral, and profoundly theological approach of Metropolitan Kallistos and Father Louth to questions of same-sex desire in human nature and the hysterical fear-mongering of Father Josiah Trenham could not be more stark or more chilling. 

Father Trenham is the pastor of St. Andrew Orthodox Church (AOCA) in Riverside CA and adjunct professor of theology at the University of Saint Katherine. His bio on the parish website jumps straight from his MDiv in 1992 at Westminster Seminary California, where he studied “under some of the most influential teachers in the Reformed tradition,” to his ordination as an Orthodox priest a mere year later.

On June 1, 2016 the Hatewatch Staff at the Southern Poverty Law Center published a report subtitled “The World Congress of Families, an anti-LGBT hate group, met in Tbilisi and provided a platform for anti-LGBT and anti-choice voices.” It begins:

The World Congress of Families (WCF) held its tenth congress in Tbilisi, Georgia, the group’s first gathering in an Orthodox country, where WCF hopes the international pro-family movement will be able to “establish a beachhead in the region,” according to the congress’ website. The site also claims that so-called “sexual radicals” target Eastern European countries to “demonstrate their ability to overcome traditional cultures and compel people who cling to normative values to bend to their will.”

The gathering, held May 15-18, offered a panoply of anti-LGBT and anti-choice voices and fearmongering about a “secular agenda” (with roots in western nations) bent on destroying society. The gathering also seemed to serve as a vehicle for pro-Russian and thus stridently anti-western voices, with Russian participants perhaps trying to influence Georgia and further push Russia’s anti-LGBT and anti-European Union messaging.

If SPLC’s designation of the World Congress of Families as a “hate group” seems extreme, we have Father Trenham’s own words as reported. We invite him to correct the record by sending us the entire text of his speech if he detects any inaccuracies below:

Fr. Josiah Trenham, pastor of St. Andrew Orthodox Church in Riverside, Calif., delivered one of the more virulently anti-LGBT speeches, linking homosexuality to predatory and promiscuous behavior, saying that, “There’s a long and consistent history of unusual bathroom use in the LGBT community… . Today there are digital apps that guide homosexual men to particular bathrooms for sexual acts throughout the airports and other public places in America.” Keep that in mind, he said, “when you hear about the contemporary debates about the so-called transgender bathroom bills.” Trenham bemoaned LGBT rights, claiming that LGBT calls for tolerance were actually “a call for the overthrow of traditional religious and civilizational norms for family, sex and law.”

He claimed that the LGBT lobby, which has won “victory” in the media, medicine, psychiatry and courts, is now “pressing for the suppression of dissent.” He lambasted “activist judges” and went on to link homosexuality to terrorism. “Today the USA has a national ambassador for the promotion of sodomy and it uses the LGBT agenda as a litmus test for granting humanitarian aid and military intelligence against terrorism to…nations,” he said. Trenham’s apocalyptic rhetoric got a round of applause when he stated that the prophet Muhammad called for the execution of anyone practicing sodomy. “Stand firm in your faith,” he exhorted attendees. “Tell the LGBT tolerance tyrants, this lavender mafia, these homofascists, these rainbow radicals, that they are not welcome to promote their anti-religious and anti-civilizational propaganda in your nations.”

This is not the only time that a member of the Orthodox Church in the US has attracted the attention of SPLC, although—to our knowledge—this may be the first case involving a priest. This places Father Trenham in the company of Matthew Heimbach and Matt Parrott of the now defunct Traditional Worker Party. (See our extensive catalogue of titles under White Supremacy and Racism in our Archives by Author.) If that seems like an extreme statement on our part, we invite Father Trenham to show us precisely how his viciously homophobic rhetoric differs from that spewed by the current strain of American neo-Nazism.

Let there be no sugar-coating here: Father Trenham’s words stoke the flames of real bodily and emotional harm to the safety and lives of human persons, created in the image and likeness of God and deeply beloved of Him, who find themselves on the receiving end of his hatred.  

We end by paraphrasing a passage from Dostoevsky, if we may:

When all the sanctimonious, self-righteous, judgmental moralizers stand by to see who enters the Kingdom of Heaven, they will cry out:

“Lord, Lord! The faggots! The lezzies! The trannies! The drag queens and drag kings! The suicides! The sex workers and porn stars! The same-sex couples who dared to call themselves Christians and wanted the Church to bless them! All those queers and perverts! Why are You letting them in?”

And the Lord will say to them:

“These are those whom you taught to least expect it.”

For perspective see also “How Should Orthodox Parents Talk to Their Kids about Heterosexuality?
See “Responding to The Wheel: Call for Articles.” 
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