The Eleventh Council, assembled in Chicago, IL on July 16-21, 1995, marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in America.
In its preparation, input from the parish communities was again sought as had been done for the Tenth Council. However, in the format of the council itself, department hearings were eliminated, as following the Tenth Council, in an effort to make more efficient use of resources, the former departments, boards and commissions of the Orthodox Church in America were restructured into five ministry units. Therefore, the council’s formal meetings were exclusively in plenary sessions. It was during the plenaries that extensive reports were delivered on the work of the ministry units and their future goals, which were the main focus of this council. Particular attention was paid to the accomplishment of objectives set forth in resolutions of the Tenth Council. At the session dealing with a particular unit, new resolutions relevant to that unit and based on parish input prior to the council were brought to the floor. This format was used to fulfill the desire for accountability and openness in communication expressed in the spirit of the two previous councils.
Perhaps the most unexpected event of the Eleventh Council was the presentation at a plenary session of a statement prepared by the youth observers entitled “Our Dream for the Church,” which expressed their vision. This statement was widely disseminated throughout the Orthodox world following the council.
As a result of the resolutions of the Eleventh Council, the very successful parish ministries and pastoral ministries conferences were held at St. Tikhon’s Monastery in 1997 and 1998 respectively.
In celebration of the silver anniversary of autocephaly, His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS and other members of the Orthodox Church in America delegation, which had traveled to Moscow in May 1970 to receive the Tomos of Autocephaly, were awarded the Order of St. Innocent at this council.
Again, informal luncheon forums covering areas of church ministry not broached in detail at plenary sessions were held. Additionally, various aspects of church administration were discussed, statute amendments were passed, and the customary elections of the Metropolitan Council, Pension Board and Auditing Committee also took place.
The council joyfully venerated four newly canonized saints: ALEXANDER Hotovitzky, ALEXIS Toth, JACOB Netsvetov and JOHN Kochurov who had been glorified the previous year. Saints ALEXANDER, ALEXIS and JOHN had been missionaries and key participants in the First All-American Sobor in 1907, while Saint JACOB was a missionary in Alaska in the mid 19th century. Saints ALEXANDER and JOHN were later martyred in Russia during the Soviet persecution of the Church.
The spirit of this council can be summarized in its theme “GATHERED IN COMMUNITY.” Among council participants, there was a pervading sense of the importance of the Church gathering in community at the All-American Council to accomplish what the councils are mandated to do. Additionally, this council articulated unity and vision in its actions while building on the tone of accountability, communication and responsibility resonating from the two previous councils.
Written by Alexis Liberovsky
OCA Archivist, Director of the Department of History and Archives.