The Sixth Council met in Detroit, MI on November 9-14, 1980. “ORTHODOXY, AMERICA AND THE FUTURE” had been chosen as the council theme. This theme was selected in an effort to discern the meaning of the Orthodox Church in America’s autocephaly that had been granted ten years earlier. In contemplating this issue, the council issued a call for administrative unity among all the Orthodox in North America. The council theme pervaded all of its deliberations. As if to underscore the missionary implications of the theme, representatives of the Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC) were present at the council as observers and interesting informal dialogue took place with them. A large group of EOC clergy and laity did in fact convert to Orthodoxy some years later.
The issue of admitting women as delegates at All-American Councils, which had been debated but always voted down at several previous councils, was brought to the fore once again. This time, the council approved a Statute amendment making this possible.
In further action on Statute revision, the council changed the frequency of convocation of the All-American Councils from two to three years.
The format of the council was an enhanced version of the innovative format of the Third Council. At this council, in addition to the usual plenary sessions, there were three types of sectional meetings: hearings, commissions and committees. These workshop/seminars produced numerous resolutions covering virtually all areas of Church life. Additionally, a youth forum and consultation as well as a conference on women in the Church were held just prior to the council’s official opening.
In addressing the issues facing society, the council adopted resolutions on human rights and against abortion and euthanasia. Other council statements decried the portrayal of violence and sexuality in the media. An especially moving matter that the council addressed was the accusation of being a Nazi war criminal brought against Archbishop VALERIAN (Trifa), head of the Romanian Diocese of the Orthodox Church in America. The council wholeheartedly rebuffed this allegation and expressed full support for Archbishop VALERIAN.
At the council, it was announced by the Holy Synod of Bishops that a new Diocese of Washington, DC had been created that would begin functioning in 1981 and that the nation’s capital city would become the see of the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America. This council also joyfully heralded the creation of the new missionary Diocese of the South that had been established by the Holy Synod in 1978.
The Sixth Council is important in several ways: its forward-looking theme permeated council proceedings and sought to advance the issue of church unity, the admittance of women as delegates at future councils, the change in the frequency of future councils, the resolutions on social issues, the innovation in council format, the concern for youth and the creation of new dioceses. All of this clearly shows steady progress in the continuing maturation of the Church in faithfulness to her mission and in witness to Christ.
Written by Alexis Liberovsky
OCA Archivist, Director of the Department of History and Archives.