In an effort to fully clarify the relationship between the Orthodox Church and its individual parishes, delegates to the 13th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America passed a resolution titled “Property Held In Trust” during the fourth plenary session.
His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, opened the plenary session on Tuesday evening, July 23, 2002, after which Mr. Jonathan Russin of Russin and Vecchi LLP introduced a discussion on the resolution, which had been distributed to all delegates prior to the opening of the Council. Mr. Russin noted that the resolution does not apply to the non-territorial dioceses.
After discussion and clarification, clergy and lay delegates moved to accept the resolution, the text of which reads as follows:
• Whereas the 13th All-American Council has considered the need to amend Article X, Section 9 of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America; and
• Whereas the Council believes sound reasons for amendment exist because civil courts have not given full effect to the trust relationship between local parishes and the Church that is inherent in the Statute with respect to parish property; and
• Whereas the Council believes it necessary to express itself on an interim basis in order that interested parties can know how the Church and this Council regard the trust relationship that is inherent in Article X, Section 9;
• Now, therefore, it is, by the 13th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America, hereby resolved as follows:
• 1. All parish property, assets and funds are and shall be owned and held by the parish or parish corporation in trust for the uses, purposes, and benefit of the Diocese of the Orthodox Church in America in which the parish is located. This provision shall not limit the power and authority of the parish or parish corporation with respect to such property, assets, and funds so long as the parish or parish corporation remains part of the Orthodox Church in America, and is subject to its faith, discipline, and its Statute. In the event the Diocese shall cease to be affiliated with the Orthodox Church in America or otherwise cease to exist, all such parish property, assets and funds are and shall be owned and held by the parish or parish corporation in trust for the uses, purposes, and benefit of the Orthodox Church in America, or such other Diocese as the Orthodox Church in America shall designate. This provision does not reflect a departure from prior practice, and sets forth in explicit terms a trust relationship that has been implicit in existing relationships within the Orthodox Church in America, its predecessor entities, and its dioceses and parishes.
• 2. This resolution shall become effective immediately upon its adoption, and shall remain in efefct until such time as Article X, Section 9 of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America is amended by the 14th or a subsequent All-American Council.”
Earlier the same day, Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, OCA Chancellor, delivered his address to the delegates, in which he offered a comprehensive overview of the work of the Church’s numerous ministry units, offices, boards and commissions and surveyed the life of the Church since the 12th All-American Council held in 1999.
• The past three years have offered our parishes, dioceses, and Central Church Administration many opportunities to meet the challenges of living as Orthodox Christians,” Father Kondratick said. “This would be true, of course, of any three-year period in the life of the Church, and life being what it is, the Church is always engaged in the struggle to be true to her call and her mission. But there have been some extraordinary events and concerns confronting the Church recently. It is likely that they will continue to have an impact on our lives in the years to come.”
Father Kondratick continued to reflect on the broad issues of terrorism and security, sexual abuse, and the moral challenges of technological developments, while highlighting the major developments within the Orthodox Church in America, including the establishment of nearly 50 new communities since 1999. He also expressed his personal gratitude for Metropolitan Theodosius’ 25-year ministry as Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, applauding the retiring hierarch’s deep love for God’s People and unswerving commitment to the growth of the Church in North America.
Father Kondratick’s address was followed by a presentation revealing the results of the Parish Profile Survey. The survey, distributed to all parishes several weeks before the Council opening, highlighted factors common to communities experiencing spiritual and numerical growth. The survey report served as a prelude to the keynote Council address, delivered by Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, retired Dean of Saint Vladimir Seminary, titled “The Parish Community: Our Life in Christ.” In reflecting on the Council theme, Father Hopko emphasized the parish as the fundamental unit of Church life and offered suggestions for strengthening parish communities.
[The complete text (in .pdf format) of Father Hopko’s address is posted on the OCA web site at Keynote Address. It was also published in the May-June 2002 issue of “The Orthodox Church.”]
Several workshops followed the presentation, affording delegates and observers an opportunity to discuss the missionary role of the parish, integrating new immigrants into existing parishes, basic Christian leadership principles, strategic parish planning techniques, the centrality of worship in parish life, and the implications and challenges of the Parish Profile Survey results.