Founder: St. Thomas Christians
The Most Rev. ‡ Mar Joseph Vredenburgh, Th.D., Ph.D., D.D.
Catholicos-Patriarch of St. Thomas Christians
134 Dakota Ave., #308
Santa Cruz, California 95060
His Holiness Archbishop Joseph Vredenburgh, Th.D., D.D., Maran Mar Timotheus Josephus Narsai, Catholicos Patriarch—like all other religious leaders—underwent a religious transformation in being “Called” by God. Mar Joseph told me that he’d worked closely as Dean with the Founder of The Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch, Malabar Rite, Herman Adrian Spruit, Ph.D., Archbishop-Patriarch. What Arcbbishop Spruit observed of the religiousity of Mar Joseph was written by him as follows:
The Radius and the Tangent: an Introduction
“This is a first opportunity for the whole of this Church of Antioch to make the acquaintance with a true and inspired pedagogue, Dr. Joseph L. Vredenburgh, author and teacher…and Dean of the Sophia Divinity School. The arrival of one of such generous dimensions calls for a proper welcome and introduction, privilege to be discharged with pleasure at this time.
The fact that he is a most unusual, gifted, talented, spiritual and gracious person, is more than a twice told tale. For one of the rich blessings bestowed upon us that he stands tall, as tall as all our Bishops—imaginative, eager, seasoned, informed, talented and love filled personalities. Thus Dr. Joseph comes into our circle as another remarkable addition to our round table of progressive, inventive and creative minds. He will be right at home with his kinfolk in this extension of spiritual realizations.
Yes, some formal facts are in order! He holds the responsibility of Presiding Bishop of the Federation of Saint Thomas Christians, Exarch of the Order of Antioch, and Chancellor of the College of Seminarians of the American Apostolic University. His story of his life tells of several pastorates in churches and denominations on both sides of the ecumenical watershed. Academic accreditations and recognitions stretch out into a long line, touching a number of territories and principalities as long as my forearm. As College President, Seminary Dean, Professor and Director of a Graduate School, we would have to follow him from New Jersey to California, to the University of Samoa. His formal expertise has been established in a variety of areas of scholarship that we were unable to offer him as a ‘Chair of This’ or a ‘Chair of That’ discipline. He was elected Dean, and thus gave him the right to occupy an entire bench. Think of any legitimate subject a Seminary should rightfully communicate to fit its students, and Bishop Vredenburgh could authoritatively teach every one of them.
By his consent and our invitation he is also an Archbishop of this Church and with the other Archbishops in the Patriarchate a senior member of this body. To come under his tutelage, even occasionally is one of those fine privileges that happens only rarely in a lifetime. To share in the collegiality and connectionalism of our Episcopate is pure joy. As we slip an arm into one of such right, we relish in a sense of partnership that binds us together in Christian love.
As a send-off into his Apostolic labors among us and as Captain of that ship that will take you on this first course in Christian philosophy, this introduction is a given. Even now there are some factors in Dean Vredenburgh’s life that stand out and which prove that he should be the one to assume this Deanship and to handle this course on Basic Christian Philosophy. Even though we have agreed that these seven factors might be basic as we contemplate him appreciatively; there are many more that crowd into our mind.
- He shows an awareness of the fact that he knows and understands that the Great Religious Transformation is already upon us and that it has began to change drastically the culture patterns of this Earth. There is no possibility of retreat into former days and erstwhile ways. The Lord Christ is among us and He is making all things new.
- I sense an awareness in him—of the fact that Myth is the mirror opposite of history—that Myth does not show us the ego of a civilization but the story of its soul.
- He is not an ecclesiastical technician, as most churchmen, particularly Bishops, usually become. Technicians are forever locked into the perspectives of their own expertise. They have been trained, not educated. Like trained seals they are unable to interpret the world except through the bias of their training. Technicians, eventually, degenerate into experts who project their pet theories in several directions and try to force everything upon a grid. The Creative Scientist, which we know our Dean to be, knows how to take up the old anomalies and irregularities to shape them into better patterns and paradigms.
- Whatever Basic Christian Philosophy will achieve for the student, it will help her/him to comprehend that Truth is not a propositional statement—it is a performance. It does not equate with mathematics but with music, art, and poetry and drama. It is like a flight into boundless space.
- Many of our distinguished contemporaries, even men and women of the Cloth are like ants crawling across a beautiful painting, like Jon Styka’s Crucifixion. About all we can expect them to see is a succession of changes. They fail to get a sense of the whole painting. Not so with Bishop Joseph! Long before we have absorbed this Basic Philosophy of Christianity he will have shared us with a total relationship within the structure of a holistic sum.
- It is ever a teacher’s task to offer adequate and accurate descriptions. And it is the function of a teacher to make every description complete. But the best teachers know something of the frustration that, by its very nature, a description can never be total. There is always more than has been seen, that a description is a limited thing. It is a map and not a territory. We anticipate that in all the exposures to his heart and mind, Bishop Vredenburgh will not only treat us to a masterpiece, but also to the settings in which they rest. Why, after all, is Raphael’s Madonna and Child apart from the Zwinger.
- Joe Vredenburgh knows, of this I am sure, that the Universe is not a black box containing floating bits left over from the ‘Big Bang’ explosion. It is a consciousness saturated solution. Mind is not merely located in the human skull; animal, vegetable and mineral forms are alive…that we will never see the rise of one, single universal religion, but that we see the future bring on the great thaw, the melting of the rigid ice of the Church into the living waters of a new and sacred way of life.
All this may not have been the best we might have said about the Dean and Bishop, but it is our best perception of him. Where we have not spoken with sufficient feeling of appreciation, we look forward to the day when our perspectives have been clarified. Our association with him will help us to bring this about.”
Mar ‡ Herman Adrian Spruit, Ph.D.
Archbishop-Patriarch of the Church of Antioch
President of Sophia Divinity School.
The Most Reverend ‡ Herman Adrian Spruit
Mar ‡Joseph Vredenburgh, Th.D., Ph.D., D.D.
- Saugerties High School, Saugerties, NY. Graduated 1955.
- Union College, B.A. in Humanities and Psychology.
- New Brunswick Theological Seminary, New Brunswick, NJ. Bachelor of Divinity, 1958.
- Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. M.S. in Counseling Psychology, 1960.
- Fairleigh Dickinson University, Rutherford, NJ. Counseling Psychology, 1961.
- Lebanon Valley College, Lebanon, PA. Education—teaching credentials, 1964.
- University of California. Education 1965-1967.
- American Apostolic University, D.D. granted by Abp. Exarch Howard E. Mather, 1960. St. Andrew’s Pastoral Institute, Orlando, FL. Doctor of Christian Service granted by Abp. Mar Ignatius Andrew, Brian Glen Turkington, Ph.D. (also of the Federation of St. Thomas Churches).
- St. Luke’s Seminary, Chandler, AZ. Ph.D. in Religion.
- St. Ephraim’s Institute, Solna, Sweden. Granted D.D. by Abp. Bertil Persson, 1981.
- College of Seminarians, Doctor of Theology granted by Abp. Howard E. Mather. Dissertation: “The Aramaic Origins of the Christian Church.”
- Biblical Technical Institute, Las Vegas, NV. Doctorate.
- Gnostic University, Tampa, FL. Doctor of Theology, granted by Abp. Sar Mar Roberto Toca, Th.D., D.D.
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of The Reverend Billy Flying Red Horse Starnes +
(as posted at http://www.dirtylittlegods.com)
"The Reverend Billy W. Flying Red Horse Starnes + preached his first sermon at age 16 in a small Baptist church in south Alabama. Not long after, his questioning mind and an unwillingness to accept answers that defied logic and demanded blind faith (that, along with a healthy dose of common adolescent angst) led to an estrangement from organized religion that lasted the better part of 13 years. During this time Billy communed with Spirit as a songwriter and musician and later through the practice of the martial art Aikido. Aikido was the precursor to an interest in meditation and Eastern Mysticism. After two years of Zen practice and a formal conversion to Buddhism, Billy was ordained as a student teacher (known in Zen as a disciple) and became a staff member of the Atlanta Soto Zen Center in 1995 where he remained for 2-1/2 years. During this time a rekindled interest in Christianity led to the Federation of St. Thomas Christians and entry into seminary studies and ordination to the priesthood in 1997. Differences as to philosophical position on one hand and a desire to be rid of the mire of church hierarchy on the other contributed to a second estrangement from all religious form and regiment in 1999. During this time an encounter with a student of the spirituality native to the tribes of Turtle Island (North America) shed an entirely new and different light on Billy's spiritual journey. Exposure to the books SEVEN ARROWS, SONG OF HEYOEHKAH, and LIGHTNING BOLT caused Billy to seek out and become a student of their author, Hyemeyohsts (Wolf) Storm.
Red Horse teaches his understanding and experience of Earth Medicine and is currently writing a book on a spiritual approach to small business success.
Goddess only know where he'll end up next..."
Following are excerpts from an interview with Flying Red Horse by Enright House Press:
".... I’m Southern born and bred. My birth name is Billy, not William. I was named after Reverend Billy Graham…Not surprisingly I was steeped in the Southern Baptist Church…I and the Church came to a mutual and abrupt parting of the ways after I graduated high school…. I had too many questions the church couldn’t answer… Anyhow, after high school I joined the Air Force, did my time, then soon found myself slipping into the kind of life that I swore I would never live: the 9-to-5 grind…During this time [I] was playing guitar, writing music and my interest [was] in the martial arts. By the time I hit thirty I began to realize that something was really out of whack in my life…I felt like I was drifting. I did know that when I was on the mat practicing Aikido I felt at least something like direction. I felt peaceful…Aikido is the most nonviolent Japanese martial art there is. The focus is on balance and harmony, not resistance or conflict. The discipline and focus I learned by training led me to explore Zen Buddhism. I read and studied informally for two years before I began sitting regularly at the Atlanta Soto Zen Center.
….Basically, I knew I needed to address some spiritual issues, but I was determined to go into what I perceived to be the absolute opposite direction from Christianity to do so. Zen was a good fit and it helped me tremendously. The strange thing was the longer I sat in meditation and studied, the more I recognized certain things I had been exposed to in the church… I had read the Bible and…after I began studying on my own in the 30’s I made a conscious effort to delve into comparative religion and learn from the similarities of different traditions while ignoring the differences. It was this comparative approach that pointed me back toward Christianity. But I was determined to have nothing to do with any form of Christianity that would condemn my choices regarding Zen and the discoveries I had made about myself as a result of my practice.
As it turned out I soon encountered a sect of Christianity that came to America by way of India rather than Europe. The St. Thomas Christian Church had a decidedly different view on worship and God from anything I had previously experienced. About the time I was being ordained as a Zen disciple I was starting seminary studies in the tradition of Thomas the Doubter… From the moment I started studying Zen I knew I was going to be a teacher….
About this time I began reviewing what I had learned and, though I’d learned enough to help me on my way, there were still some gaping holes that needed to be filled. As has been the pattern in my life, this was the time I became aware of the Medicine of the Earth Teachers that shared these Teachings. I still had questions and I came to realize that Mother Earth had answers…. My teachers have all been of mixed-blood. The term is Metis. Earth teachings, at least as I have been taught and now teach, are not about tribe or culture. They are about our Mother, the Earth. These Teachings come from Her. These are Teachings that reveal more about what it is to be human than anything I have ever encountered before…. I find that the truths I encounter in one discipline only serve to reinforce the truths I encounter in others.
…. The lady I was married to at the time made an offhand comment one day that humans are really just ‘dirty little gods’. The phrase impressed…me and has stuck with me till this day. … [In regards to the subtitle of the book: The Musings, Rants and Rantings of A Heretic] I really identify with the Greek root of the word heretic. The root word is haireistha, which means ‘to choose’. I choose what is right for me….Dirty Little Gods is sort of autobiographical of my personal spiritual journey…. The Earth Teachings fragment is not unlike the Zen fragment. Words don’t do the experience justice. Earth Teachings are about balance, the equilibrium of masculine and feminine.
…. Stan Lassiter was my first real spiritual mentor…The next inspiration would be Mickey Elliston. Elliston-Roshi is the founder of the Atlanta Soto Zen Center…Mar Joseph Vredenburgh is the Patriarch of the St. Thomas Church in America. Mar Joseph is one of the most fascinating people I have ever met in my life. I’ve never before or since encountered a walking and talking encyclopedia like Dr. Joe. My first Medicine Teacher is still my Medicine Twin and partner in Life, Quetzal Moran.
Through her I met Thunder Strikes and discovered the works of Hyemeyohsts Storm. Grandfather Storm is my spiritual grandfather and his work continues to enlighten and amaze me…. There were a…lot more women that I was exposed to that taught me just as much… Dr. Joe’s wife Virginia Vredenburgh… Grandfather Storm’s wife Swan… and, of course, Quetzal.
….Personal healing is a demanding process…clearing away the clutter…[to] simplicity…What we do impacts ourselves, those around us and Mother Earth Herself.”
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