|The Episcopate of the Orthodox Church in America.|
SYOSSET, NY—A review of preliminary plans for the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Saint Tikhon Monastery in 2005 and the establishment of a commission to consider the canonization of the late Metropolitan Leonty and Archbishop Arseny were among the items discussed by members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America at their fall session at Saint Tikhon Monastery and Seminary here October 18-21, 2004.
The session coincided with the celebration of the 40th anniversary of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman’s ordination to the Holy Priesthood, marked with the celebration of a Hierarchical Liturgy on Tuesday, October 19 and a banquet at which some 500 hierarchs, clergy, and faithful attended.
On the eve of the celebration, Metropolitan Herman opened the session with an address in which he reported on his recent official visits to the sister Orthodox Churches of Georgia, the Czech Lands and Slovakia, and Russia, the latter in conjunction with the return of the wonderworking Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God.
“To cease our ongoing communication with other Churches, to refrain from making official visits, or to otherwise downplay our relationship to the Orthodox Churches around the world would only serve to isolate us,” Metropolitan Herman stated in his address. “And, at this point in history, the Orthodox Churches are in greater need than ever of being supportive of one another.
“We also recognize, of course, that while maintaining and furthering our relationships with the Orthodox Churches around the world, we must always remain true to who we are and never forget that our primary mission is to North America,” Metropolitan Herman continued, adding that with the “approach of the 35th anniversary of the granting of our autocephaly and the 35th anniversary of the glorification of Saint Herman of Alaska… we will be blessed with the grace-filled opportunity to refresh our collective memory and both reclaim and renew our common commitment to who we are as the Orthodox Church in America and our unique place among the Orthodox Churches.”
In addition to reviewing several other areas of Church life, Metropolitan Herman addressed the need for increased emphasis on the growth of the Church, especially in light of rapid demographic changes.
“As I travel, I often hear concerns expressed by our clergy and laity alike concerning the growth of the Orthodox Church in America,” Metropolitan Herman stated. “These concerns are primarily voiced due to the limitations that are placed on our smaller communities in the areas of both human and financial resources. We are acutely aware of the decline in financially supporting members of the Orthodox Church in America. At the same time, we know that new missions continue to be established and some of our older, more-established parishes also continue to grow and welcome new members.
“Clearly, the Lord has blessed us and established His Holy Church here in North America to reach out and proclaim the Good News of salvation to all those who live on this continent,” he continued. “Through our Department of Evangelization we are able to provide resources for those communities willing to evangelize in order to bring others into the One Flock of Christ. It is my hope that each of us, individually in our own dioceses and as members of the Holy Synod, will continue to support and encourage those who dedicate their time and energies to the important work begun by Saint Herman of Alaska and those who accompanied him to this land in order to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Metropolitan Herman also spoke of the ongoing enquiry into the life of the ever-memorable Archbishop Arseny and recommended the establishment of a commission to initiate a formal study of his life and ministry as the first step in the process of possible canonization. He also recommended that a preliminary study of the life and ministry of the ever-memorable Metropolitan Leonty be undertaken. Prior to adjournment, the hierarchs formally established a canonization commission to initiate these enquiries.
Protopresbyter Robert S. Kondratick, OCA Chancellor, presented an overview of preliminary plans for the 14th All-American Council, slated to convene in Toronto in July 2005. He reported that the AAC project team had initiated work with a large number of enthusiastic clergy and laity from the Toronto area willing to serve on the local committee. The AAC theme, “Our Church and Our Future,” will be further developed by the Preconciliar Commission in the coming months, while His Grace, Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada will continue to provide advice and counsel as the host hierarch.
While noting a marked increase in activity among the OCA’s 21 departments, boards and commissions, especially in providing an ever-growing number of resources spanning such ministries as youth, communications, and evangelization, Father Kondratick noted that the Church has not been immune to a decrease in contributions.
“The drop-off in free-will offerings is not unique to the Orthodox Church in America,” Father Kondratick noted. “All Orthodox jurisdictions in North America have reported a drop in income, as have most religious and not-for-profit organizations.”
While reporting that the response to the September 2004 special appeals for the victims of the tragedy in Beslan, Russia, and the victims of the hurricanes in Florida and elsewhere were “extremely positive,” he added that the timing of these appeals, which coincided with a major push for increased support of the Fellowship of Orthodox Stewards [FOS], limited the level of free-will offerings necessary for providing adequate funding for the work of the OCA’s departments and ministries.
The Very Rev. Dimitri Oselinsky, OCA treasurer, echoed similar concerns in his report to the hierarchs, as did the Very Rev. Joseph Fester, FOS executive director. After a thorough review, members of the Holy Synod recommended that the OCA’s 2005 budget be adopted by members of the Metropolitan Council at their November 2004 meeting.
Bishop Seraphim’s report on behalf of the Department of External Affairs and Inter-church Relations highlighted the OCA’s ongoing participation in the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, Metropolitan Herman’s official visits to the sister Orthodox Churches, and recent events within world Orthodoxy.
The work of the other departments was also reviewed in a series of detailed reports. In response to the report of the Board of Theological Education, Metropolitan Herman reiterated that late vocations programs designed to prepare men for ordination to the Holy Diaconate is neither a replacement for formal seminary studies, nor an alternative to priestly formation. He added that many married seminarians and their families have made tremendous personal sacrifices in pursuing formal theological studies. In a related matter, Mr. Michael Herzak reported that effective January 1, 2005, the Loyal Christian Benefit Association, Orthodox Society of America [OSA] Division, will insure at no cost to the insured all OCA seminarians in priestly formation, their spouses and their children, while they are enrolled as seminary students in honor of the 40th anniversary of Metropolitan Herman’s ordination to the Holy Priesthood.
After offering a detailed report to the members of the Holy Synod on the Diocese of New York and New Jersey, His Eminence, Archbishop Peter, who had been on a leave of absence and faces ongoing health concerns, announced his intention to retire from active episcopal ministry. In response, the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops decided to extend the Archbishop’s present leave of absence until the date of his retirement, which will be determined by the Holy Synod. In other episcopal matters, the hierarchs approved a proposal from His Grace, Bishop Nikolai of Sitka, Anchorage, and Alaska to take the wonderworking Sitka icon of the Mother of God on pilgrimage throughout the US in the fall of 2005. He also shared initial plans for the celebration of the 35th anniversary of the glorification of Saint Herman of Alaska in August 2005.
In addition to Metropolitan Herman, Archbishop Peter, and Bishops Seraphim and Nikolai, other hierarchs participating in the session were His Eminence, Archbishop Kyrill of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania; His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South; His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate; His Eminence, Archbishop Job of Chicago and the Midwest; His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco and the West; His Grace, Bishop Nikon of Boston and the Albanian Archdiocse; His Grace, Bishop Irineu of Dearborn Heights; His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of South Canaan; and His Grace, Bishop Benjamin of Berkeley.
Click here for photos from the Fall Session of the Holy Synod of Bishops.