Metropolitan Joseph (Al-Zehlaoui) and Archpriest Josiah (aka “Brad”) Trenham of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese
When I read Orthodoxy in Dialogue I do so as an outsider. I’m a Presbyterian minister who is the pastor of what could possibly be the most progressive, left-fringe congregation in my denomination. I also went to Westmont College with Josiah Trenham—though back then he was a surfer dude named Brad.
Back when I knew him, Brad was part of a group of students who agitated—successfully, is some cases—to convince the college to deny tenure to Religious Studies professors who actually studied religion. Chief on the list of targets were professors who used literary criticism in their biblical scholarship. Keep in mind, our college was an academically respected (if somewhat conservative) institution. The Religious Studies department, where I studied, had professors with degrees from places like Harvard, Duke, Oxford, and Cambridge. Brad and his buddies had high school diplomas, and they were sociology majors who never took classes in religion beyond what was needed for graduation. They criticized what they did not understand.
Things haven’t changed much. Brad—now Josiah—is still criticizing what he doesn’t understand, and still his criticisms have significant consequences. In college he ruined the lives of professors who, in some cases, lost their academic careers; today Trenham is promoting religion as a system of repression, oppression, and hate. As a result, many people—especially young people—who long for self-affirmation and love from the Church are suffering. Many who suffer will engage in self-destructive behaviors. Some of that self-destructive behavior will lead to suicide.
Brad Trenham has become Father Josiah [NB: See Father Josiah Trenham and the Southern Poverty Law Center for his fast-track from not-Orthodox-at-all to Orthodox priest], and in the process he has gone from ruining careers to running lives. In college I was part of a group of students who tried to act as a counterbalance to Brad and his cadre of crusaders; I’m grateful to know that within the Orthodox community this work goes on, led by people like Giacomo Sanfilippo.
May we all dedicate our lives to the practice of a gentle faith that points to the love of God and to the holy joy that pervades creation. May we resist every effort to weaponize our venerable traditions. May each of us speak peace and practice compassion.
My prayer is that God will bless Brad/Josiah with conversion. I pray that he receive the gift of repentance and the grace to live an amended life filled with tenacious grace and hopeful courage, such that his gifts not be used to harm God’s most vulnerable children, but to bear witness to God’s tender mercy and loving embrace.
For additional context see the Josiah Trenham: The Scandal section in our Archives 2020.
Ben Daniel holds a BA in Religious Studies from Westmont College in Montecito CA, with an emphasis in urban ministry, and an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, with an emphasis in systematic theology. His writing has appeared in a wide variety of national and international print, online, and broadcast media. He is the author of three award-winning, critically-acclaimed books: Neighbor: Christian Encounters with “Illegal” Immigration, The Search for Truth about Islam: A Christian Pastor Separates Fact from Fiction, and Thoughtful Christianity: Faith and Action in the Way of Jesus. He serves as senior pastor of Montclair Presbyterian Church in Oakland CA.
Readers wishing to communicate their concerns about Father Trenham to the hierarchy of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese may contact them as follows:
- Metropolitan Joseph ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bishop Basil ~ BpBasil@aol.com
- Bishop Thomas ~ email@example.com
- Bishop John ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bishop Alexander ~ email@example.com
- Bishop Anthony ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bishop Nicholas ~ email@example.com
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