The most striking change at the Ninth All-American Council, held in St. Louis, MO on August 20-25, 1989, was its format. As this council was being planned, it was decided to revert to a format of almost exclusively plenary sessions. The committees, commissions, workshops and hearings of the immediately preceding councils were eliminated. However, the plenary sessions were unlike any at previous councils. Several sessions were devoted to a particular area of Church life (pastoral, liturgical and spiritual life; witness and service; Orthodox unity and ecumenical participation and witness). Each plenary was opened with scripture readings and prayer. Following introductory remarks on the topic being discussed, table discussions followed by general deliberation were conducted in an effort to build consensus. As a result of this process, numerous resolutions on a very broad range of issues were brought to the council floor. In fact, there were so many resolutions that there was insufficient time for the council to deal with all of them. The Holy Synod took up the ones that the council was unable to address at its fall session later that year.
The theme of the Ninth Council was “THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA: REFLECTING ON THE PAST, PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE.” In order to facilitate reflection on the past, a video called “An American Destiny,” outlining the history of Orthodoxy in America, was shown at one of the initial plenary sessions. Attempting to plan for the future was accomplished in the council’s various resolutions. The most important resolutions were perhaps those on mutual accountability and financial management. A resolution against the death penalty generated heated debate but was narrowly passed.
Additional new features of the Ninth Council included extensive youth activities and luncheon forums on diverse topics facilitated by the Department of Lay Ministries.
This council paid special tribute to Fr. Daniel Hubiak, retiring Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, who had served in the central administration for twenty-five years. At the same time, the council learned of the appointment of Fr. Robert Kondratick as the new Chancellor.
While many felt that this council produced no tangible results, it was clearly evident that the new council format and the tone of deliberations and resolutions called for increased mutual accountability, greater openness in communication at all levels of the Church, as well as a stronger commitment to the spirit of conciliarity which must carry the Church from council to council.
Written by Alexis Liberovsky
OCA Archivist, Director of the Department of History and Archives.