Holy Synod of Bishops Approves Site of 13th All-American Council

At their fall session held at the Chancery of the Orthodox Church in America here October 16-19, 2000, members of the Holy Synod of Bishops announced that the 13th All-American Council will be held at the Renaissance Orlando Resort, Orlando, Florida July 21-27, 2002.

Prior to the meeting of the Holy Synod, Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, OCA Chancellor and VRev Myron D Manzuk, Council Manager, visited numerous potential sites for the Council in conjunction with Conference Direct, a third-party provider that assists in locating appropriate meeting facilities and in negotiating rates. The Orlando site was recommended in light of the many amenities it offers, both within the hotel complex proper and in the immediate vicinity; the existence of sufficient space to accommodate Council plenary sessions, meetings, displays, and liturgical worship; and the reasonable rates it offers.

While the theme of the Council has yet to be determined, members of the Holy Synod appointed the Preconciliar Commission, which will be responsible for the organization of the Council. In addition to Fathers Kondratick and Manzuk, those appointed to the Preconciliar Commission include VRev Paul Kucynda, Acting Secretary of the OCA; VRev Dimitri Oselinsky, Assistant to the Treasurer; and Anne Fuleras, Assistant to the Chancellor. Other Preconciliar Commission members include VRevs John Dresko, William Evansky, John Zdinak, and Basil Zebrun; Drs Paul Meyendorff and Alice Woog; and Marie Caetta, Michelle Janakos, Joseph Kormos, John Koretski, Katherine Vitko, and Daria York.

The Preconciliar Commission will hold its first meeting in December 2000 to develop a proposed operating budget for the Council, which in turn will be sent to the Metropolitan Council for approval.

Metropolitan Theodosius Presides

His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, opened the Holy Synod session by addressing the hierarchs and underscoring the critical need to encourage vocations to the priesthood. He shared his enthusiasm for the forthcoming gathering of all Orthodox Bishops of North America under the auspices of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, slated to be held in Washington, DC in May 2001, and addressed a number of recent developments in world Orthodoxy, including an increasing number of positive contacts with numerous autocephalous Orthodox Churches. The Metropolitan also reported on the significance of the Glorification of Saint Raphael of Brooklyn and the recent official visit of His Beatitude, Metropolitan SAWA of Warsaw and All Poland.

F Kondratick further emphasized the need for more vocations to the priesthood in the Chancellor’s report. He noted that, while enrollment in the OCA’s three seminaries has increased slightly at the beginning of the current academic year, the total number of seminarians from the Orthodox Church in America has remained essentially unchanged. In a discussion on vocations to the priesthood opened by His Eminence, Archbishop HERMAN of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, Rector of St Tikhon’s Seminary, and Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, Dean of St Vladimir’s Seminary, it was noted that the number of OCA students enrolled at the two schools totaled 47. Fr Hopko noted that many of the students are converts, with few Orthodox-born seminarians. Fr Hopko affirmed the importance of meaningful Church experiences and youth activities in fostering vocations, especially in light of the negative general impression of the ordained ministry in American society. “By giving young people meaningful experience of service and the Church and nurturing candidates who have the gifts for service, we can anticipate enlarging the body of candidates for priesthood and other areas of Church service,” Fr Hopko concluded.

Members of the Holy Synod considered a number of other clergy-related issues, including the Late Vocations Program and the Clergy Assistance Program. VRev Gregory Safchuk, Director of the OCA’s Late Vocations Program, noted that the program is flourishing, with a significant number of participants. Synod members stressed the importance of adhering to the existing guidelines for late vocations and emphasized the importance of mentorships coordinated by the local dioceses. With regard to the Clergy Assistance Program, it was reported that the contract for this service, made available to all OCA clergy, their families, and full time Church workers, expires in June 2001, at which time its renewal will be considered. Fr John Hopko, former Secretary to Metropolitan THEODOSIUS who is now assigned to parish ministry, will continue to serve as the program’s coordinator.

In a related area, VRev Alexander Garklavs, Coordinator of the Pastoral Life Ministries Unit, reported that preliminary plans for the second Pastoral Conference for all OCA clergy, slated to be held at St Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary June 5-7, 2001, are underway. He also reported on the successful summer Seminarian Internship Program mandated by delegates to the 12th All-American Council and implemented for the first time in the summer of 2000. Seven interns served in parishes under the guidance of seasoned pastors, and parishes and potential interns will be sought before the beginning of the new year for next summer’s program. Dr Constance Tarasar, Coordinator of the Education and Community Life Ministries Unit, also reported on progress being made on the Education Church Wide Initiative also adopted at the 12th All-American Council. Working teams continue to develop the first unit of the projected educational series, which will focus on Holy Week.

Attorneys Jonathan Russin and William White reviewed for the hierarchs a variety of matters related to parish corporations and property, in which an amendment to Article X, Section 9 of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America strengthening the “trust relationship” with regard to parish properties was proposed. The Holy Synod agreed that the proposal should be studied by the Statute Commission for possible consideration by delegates to the 13th All-American Council.

Reports on the OCA’s clergy life insurance program and pension plans were also presented to the Holy Synod, as were reports on the ongoing work of the OCA’s Office of Development, Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, Mission and Stewardship Ministries Unit, and Office of Church Growth and Evangelism. VRev Theodore Boback, Assistant Director of the Office of Chaplaincies, delivered a thorough report on the present situation of Orthodox military chaplaincy programs, noting that there is a need to recruit additional clergy who are interested in engaging in active duty chaplaincy. At present, sixteen of the 22 Orthodox priests engaged in active duty chaplaincy in the US Navy, Army, and Air Force and seven of the 13 reserve chaplains are within the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America.

International Relations

His Eminence, Archbishop PETER of New York and New Jersey, presented a lengthy report on behalf of the Office of Interchurch Relations and Ecumenical Witness. He reviewed recent developments within the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, and Moscow, offering a detailed analysis of the recent Assembly of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church and the celebrations connected with the consecration of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the canonization of over 1000 new martyrs, confessors and passion bearers. He noted that the delegations representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate, headed by His Eminence, Archbishop DEMETRIOS of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and the Orthodox Church in America, headed by Archbishop Herman, spent a great deal of time interacting with each other throughout the celebrations in Moscow, as reported in the October/November issue of The Orthodox Church. Archbishop PETER also reported on the current painful and fragile ecclesial situation in Ukraine, where the Orthodox Church is experiencing serious division.

Archbishop PETER also reported on the May 2000 official visit of His Beatitude, Metropolitan SAWA of Warsaw and All Poland to the Orthodox Church in America; the participation of Metropolitan THEODOSIUS and Archbishop HERMAN in the enthronement of the new Primate of the Autonomous Orthodox Church of Japan, His Eminence, Metropolitan DANIEL; and on invitations received by Metropolitan THEODOSIUS to visit the Churches of Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania and Poland in the near future.

Members of the Holy Synod approved the establishment of a Representation Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which follows months of negotiations between the Orthodox Church in America and the Russian Orthodox Church. It was acknowledged that the Representation Church’s establishment has been developed in full conformity with the Tomos of 1970 by which the Moscow Patriarchate granted autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in America. Several technical matters for the full implementation of the church’s establishment are still being studied carefully.

In the area of ecumenical witness, VRev Leonid Kishkovsky, Ecumenical Officer, reported on numerous matters related to the World and National Councils of Churches and various interfaith dialogues in which the Orthodox Church is currently engaged.

Financial Considerations

Archbishop HERMAN, Acting Treasurer of the OCA, highlighted the financial activity of the Church between January 1 and September 30, 2000 and presented the proposed budget for 2001. He reported that assessment income is being received, for the most part, in a timely manner, and that 70 percent of the anticipated income for the current year has been received.

VRev John Dresko, who is assisting the Treasurer’s office in formulating a new fair-share system of financial support for the OCA as mandated at the 12th All-American Council, reported on his recent visits to a number of local dioceses, during which he attempts to inform and educate the clergy and laity on the importance of strengthening the financial support of the Church while listening to their concerns and ideas for strengthening this vital aspect of Church life.

Statement on the Middle East Crisis

Prior to the close of the session, members of the Holy Synod issued a statement on the current crisis in the Middle East, expressing “profound sympathy to all victims of violence, shootings, and terrorism” and offering “prayer for justice, peace, and reconciliation” in the region. The complete text of the statement has been posted on the web site of the Orthodox Church in America at www.oca.org and will appear in the December 2000 issue of The Orthodox Church.

In addition to Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, Archbishop PETER, and Archbishop HERMAN, hierarchs participating in the Holy Synod’s fall session include His Eminence, Archbishop KYRILL of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania; His Eminence, Archbishop DIMITRI of Dallas and the South; His Eminence, Archbishop NATHANIEL of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate; His Grace, Bishop JOB of Chicago and the Midwest; His Grace, Bishop TIKHON of San Francisco and the West; His Grace, Bishop SERAPHIM of Ottawa and Canada; and His Grace, Bishop INNOCENT of Anchorage.