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Metropolitan Joseph (Al-Zehlaoui) and Archpriest Josiah Trenham of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese

From June 2018 to the present, Orthodoxy in Dialogue has published extensively on Father Josiah Trenham’s record of pastoral, spiritual, liturgical, predicatory, and oratorical abuses. Our work has included repeated appeals to Patriarch John of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and Metropolitan Joseph of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of America to do the following: apologize publicly for Trenham’s harmful actions, especially toward women and LGBTQ people; compel him personally to issue a public apology; order his entire “œuvre” removed from all internet platforms (Ancient Faith Ministries, Patristic Nectar, YouTube, et alia) until fully evaluated for its conformity with Orthodox faith, praxis, and ethos; and conduct an in-depth professional assessment of the emotional and spiritual health of his parish and family.

Privately, we have provided the hierarchy of the Antiochian Church with alarming evidence from the Trenham household—including, but not limited to, an incriminating photograph—that all is not well there.

For those of you who have not followed this scandal from the beginning, we direct your attention to the following titles:

Future titles will be listed under Josiah Trenham: The Scandal in our Archives 2020.

Despite the ongoing public silence from Antioch and Englewood, reliable internal sources speaking to us on condition of anonymity assure us that Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s persistence has begun to show some preliminary results behind the scenes.

Most significantly, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary had little choice but to withdraw Father Trenham’s name from consideration for Professor of Patristics. As announced on March 12, this position went to Father Bogdan Bucur. The spotlight that Orthodoxy in Dialogue has continued to shine on Father Trenham’s misdeeds—combined with our vociferous objections in July 2018 when another internationally known homophobe, Father John Parker, was appointed dean of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary—made it impossible for St. Vladimir’s to keep Father Trenham any longer under consideration.  

[Addendum: Father Chad Hatfield, president of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, disputes this account in his letter to the editors of May 29, 2020. We have no reason to doubt the reliability of our sources.]

On March 8, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, Father Trenham preached one of the most bizarre sermons to which we have ever had the misfortune of listening.

After boasting that Metropolitan Joseph and Bishop Basil phone him to discuss their spiritual struggles, and that his own ascetical exploits earned him a visit from demonic birds who pooped on him and his freshly washed vehicles (on the first day of Lent, no less!); after recounting the cloying details of how he venerates icons and begs the saints for X specific number of catechumens, and urging his listeners to imitate his piety; after segueing inexplicably to papal infallibility as a monstrous heresy (emphasis his) springing from nothing but human pride, power, and control—with no apparent self-awareness that he has replaced it with his own personal infallibility springing from nothing but pride, power, and control; after reciting a litany of completely unverifiable (but easily falsifiable) historical “facts” on the immunity of Orthodox Christians from contagious disease (!); after exhorting his hearers to an appalling disregard for the growing chorus of public health officials to practice social distancing in the face of the quickly worsening COVID-19 pandemic (“We’ll continue to hold large liturgical services! We’ll continue to receive Communion the way we always do! We’ll continue to kiss icons! We’ll continue to have coffee hour! We’ll even continue to kiss each other!“); he delivered his coup de grâce:

[A]nd if you have a thought at all, “Oh my gosh, someone who was sick went up and took the Eucharist off the same spoon, I shouldn’t go,” banish the thought from your mind. It is a thought of unbelief sent from the devils. If you can’t banish it, by no means approach Communion, then or ever, because you are unworthy. You do not believe in the life-giving Eucharist if that is a thought that you actually embrace.

 This sermon was posted to Patristic Nectar as a “special” podcast.    

Reactions were swift. Not only laypeople, but also his brother clergy, reported Father Trenham immediately to Metropolitan Joseph. They even reported him to California state authorities as a threat to public health. (He can add this to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s profile of his record of hate speech in his curriculum vitæ.)

Englewood forced Father Trenham to take down the podcast. It is nowhere to be found on the internet, not at The Arena (his podcast page at Ancient Faith Ministries), not at Patristic Nectar, not anywhere else in a Google search.

In the midst of the furor over Father Trenham’s Sunday of Orthodoxy sermon, our internal source told us that he was under “private ecclesiastical discipline,” but would not elaborate for us in what this consists. 

We note how sharply this contrasts with the swiftness and publicity of the discipline imposed on Father Aaron Warwick for proposing a loving approach to LGBTQ ministry in the Orthodox Church (see the Warwick Files in our Archives 2020). We ask why Father Trenham’s very public, very harmful words and actions should warrant only a “private ecclesiastical discipline.”

More importantly, we continue to ask whether Father Trenham’s discursive violence fulfils the pastoral rubrics of “love, compassion, and dignity” that Father Nicholas Belcher exhorted in his secret letter to the clergy of the Antiochian Archdiocese.

We encourage Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s readers to convey their dissatisfaction with Englewood’s inadequate handling of Father Trenham and to demand more decisive—and more public— disciplinary action:

Metropolitan Joseph ~ metjoseph@antiochian.org

Bishop Basil ~ BpBasil@aol.com

Bishop Thomas ~ bpthomasjoseph@gmail.com

Bishop John ~ frjpa@aol.com

Bishop Alexander ~ themutran@yahoo.com

Bishop Anthony ~ bpanthonymichaels@gmail.com

Bishop Nicholas ~ bpnicholasmse@gmail.com

Phone: (201) 871-1355
Fax: (201) 871-7954

Orthodoxy in Dialogue seeks to promote the free exchange of ideas by offering a wide range of perspectives on an unlimited variety of topics. Our decision to publish implies neither our agreement nor disagreement with an author, in whole or in part.
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