A new and comprehensive set of “Policies, Standards, and Procedures on Sexual Misconduct” was adopted by members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America during their Spring Session here March 31 through April 3, 2003.
The hierarchs, meeting under the chairmanship of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, the Church’s Primate, adopted a new and comprehensive set of policies, standards and procedures for use through the church after a detailed presentation and discussion of the draft text, “Policies, Standards, and Procedures of the Orthodox Church in America on Sexual Misconduct,” offered by Attorney William White of the legal firm of Russin & Vecchi. While combining the OCA’s existing rules and policies on sexual misconduct by clergy and lay persons acting on behalf of the Church, the new “Policies, Standards, and Procedures on Sexual Misconduct” supersede the “Official Guidelines for Sexual Misconduct,” adopted by the Holy Synod in 1994, and the “Guidelines for Parishes for Reducing the Risk of Child Sexual Abuse,” adopted by the hierarchs in October 2002. The new document incorporates relevant provisions from both documents while updating and restating the “Statement of the Holy Synod of Bishops on Sexual Misconduct” issued by the Holy Synod in April 2002. In every instance, the new document complies with current insurance requirements and takes into consideration decisions made by civil authorities since 1994. This document is being prepared for general distribution to all parishes and institutions.
The document also mandates the creation of an Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations. Under the direct authority of the Metropolitan, the office will be responsible to the Holy Synod of Bishops and will be supervised on a day-to-day basis by the OCA Chancellor.
In addressing sexual misconduct issues, the Holy Synod was guided by its pastoral concern for the well-being of the Church and her members, seeking to protect the vulnerable from inappropriate behavior by those representing the church.
In a related matter, Mr. Michael G. Herzak, Certified Insurance Counselor, briefed the hierarchs on the issue of Risk Management Insurance. In response to his presentation, the Holy Synod of Bishops directed that all parishes must amend their liability insurance policies to include their diocese, local dean, bishop, the Metropolitan, and the Orthodox Church in America as “additional insured.” A letter of explanation will be distributed to all parishes in the coming weeks along with the newly approved “Policies, Standards, and Procedures on Sexual Misconduct”.
In another major decision, members of the Holy Synod selected Toronto as the site of the 14th All-American Council, slated to convene in 2005, after reviewing a comprehensive report by the Very Rev. Myron Manzuk, AAC Manager. The hierarchs also approved the establishment of the project team responsible for the Council’s preparation. In addition to Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, Chancellor, and Dr. Alice Woog, Project Team Director, the Very Revs. William Evansky, John Dresko and Joseph Fester, Mr. Joseph Kormos, Mrs. Michelle Jannakos, and Mrs. Faith Williamson, were appointed to the team.
Metropolitan Herman opened the Spring Session by delivering a comprehensive report on his ministry as primate.
“We come together in difficult times as the United States and members of other coalition forces are waging war in Iraq,” Metropolitan Herman stated. “We pray that the Lord will bring the war to a speedy end. We pray, especially, for our sons and daughters in the armed forces, for their families and loved ones who anxiously await their safe return, and for our military chaplains who minister to them in the name of Christ.” While noting the “good relationships” the OCA enjoys with sister Orthodox Churches around the world, Metropolitan Herman emphasized the centrality of proclaiming the Gospel in its fullness.
“We cannot forget our primary focus and primary responsibility,” Metropolitan Herman stated. “We realize that our ministry and our mission take place here on this continent and are directed to the people of this continent - those who have been entrusted to us by the Lord Himself.”
Father Kondratick briefed the hierarchs on the work of the Chancery and its staff, the enthusiastic approach displayed by members of the newly reorganized Church-wide departments, and a number of issues concerning the OCA’s seminaries, monasteries, and institutions. He noted that, despite the current economic crisis, response to the three Church-wide appeals has been positive. He also reported that five OCA chaplains are currently deployed on active duty in the Middle East. The five chaplains that are currently deployed include the Rev. John D. Brown, the Rev. Timothy Ullmann, the Rev. Joseph Velez, the Rev. Mark Koczak, and the Very Rev. Jerome Cwiklinski.
In addition to hearing reports from the Very Rev. Dimitri Oselinsky, Treasurer; the Very Rev. Joseph Fester, Executive Director of the Fellowship of Orthodox Stewards; Mr. David Lucs, Director of Special Appeals; and numerous departments, boards and commissions, the hierarchs reported on the lives of their respective dioceses. It was suggested that the role of the dioceses and their relationship to the Church at large be a focus of discussion at the 14th All-American Council. The Very Rev. Alexander Garklavs briefed the hierarchs on the impending return of the wonder-working Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God to Russia. The icon, which has been in Chicago since 1949, will be available for veneration throughout the 99th annual Pilgrimage to Saint Tikhon Monastery, South Canaan, PA over Memorial Day weekend before it begins its yearlong journey to Russia, which will conclude in June 2004.
An extensive report by the Department of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations was also presented, focusing on inter-Orthodox relations in North America and around the world.
The hierarchs reviewed a number of other major items before concluding their meeting.
• In response to a request by Metropolitan Herman, members of the Holy Synod approved a proposal to construct a museum, icon repository, bookstore and religious center at Saint Tikhon Monastery to mark the monastery’s 100th Anniversary in 2005. The building will be named in honor of Metropolitan Theodosius and will house many items he has donated to the Church.
• At the request of the Department of Evangelization, the hierarchs blessed the convocation of a national evangelism conference at the Life-Giving Spring Retreat Center, Boulder City, NV June 9-11, 2003. Working with the diocesan representatives to the department, information will be sent to chancellors and local deans encouraging their participation in the conference.
• Noting that the OCA’s Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese has been without a ruling bishop for over a decade, members of the Holy Synod declared the See, which had been administered by the Metropolitan, vacant and called for the election of a diocesan hierarch in accord with the “Statute of the Orthodox Church in America” and the “Constitution and By-laws of the Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese.”
• After discussing a report by Protopresbyter Daniel Hubiak, Chief Executive Officer of Saints Cosmas and Damian Adult Home, Staten Island, NY, members of the Holy Synod resolved to recognize the home as an official institution of the Orthodox Church in America under the care of the Metropolitan.
• “Let Your Light So Shine” was selected by the hierarchs as the theme for the OCA youth movement for 2003-2004. The Department of Youth, Young Adults and Campus Ministries will be working with the Department of Christian Education to develop resources for use on the local level relating to this theme.
In their ongoing concern for the current world crisis, the hierarchs issued a Synodal Statement on the War in Iraq, exhorting the faithful “to put their trust in God and to raise fervent prayers to the Prince of Peace to come quickly into the midst of this war and by His mighty arm establish peace.” The complete text of the Synodal Statement was immediately posted on the OCA web site at http://www.oca.org and will appear in the next issue of “The Orthodox Church” newspaper.
On Wednesday, April 2, members of the Holy Synod celebrated the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in the Chancery’s Saint Sergius Chapel. Students from Saint Vladimir Seminary, Crestwood, NY, sang the responses.
In addition to Metropolitan Herman, other members of the episcopate attending the Spring Session included His Eminence, Archbishop Kyrill of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania; His Eminence, Archbishop Peter of New York and New Jersey; His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South; His Eminence, Archbishop of 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; His Grace, Bishop Nikolai of Sitka, Anchorage, and Alaska; and His Grace, Bishop Nikon, Bishop of Baltimore and Auxiliary to the Metropolitan.