Holy Dormition of the Mother of God here provided the setting for the Spring Session of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America May 7-10, 2012.
In addition to reviewing a variety of matters affecting the life of the Church, the hierarchs participated in the daily cycle of services at the monastery, including the Divine Liturgy, which provided an essential spiritual dimension to their undertakings. They also visited the Ascension of the Lord Monastery, Clinton, MI, and the Vatra, the headquarters of the OCA’s Romanian Episcopate, Grass Lake, MI.
His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, presided at the opening Divine Liturgy and the sessions. In his address to his fellow hierarchs, he offered a comprehensive overview of his activities and ministries. The members of the Holy Synod also approved his travel schedule, as presented.
Highlights of the session include the following.
- In his report to the Holy Synod, Archpriest John Jillions, Chancellor, reviewed his work at the Chancery, spoke of the good working relationship he maintains with Metropolitan Jonah, and cited the professionalism of the other officers and members of the Chancery staff. He summarized the work of a number of committees and updated the hierarchs on a number of other current issues.
- Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, Secretary, updated the hierarchs on staff changes and the development of job descriptions for department chairs. He also reported on the Orthodox Health Plan.
- In her comprehensive report, Ms. Melanie Ringa, Treasurer, noted that a surplus was realized at the conclusion of the first quarter of 2012. She also reported that, with the approval of the Metropolitan Council, a bequest has been used to pay down the Honesdale National Bank loan. Further, she updated the hierarchs with regard to an estate that had been left to the OCA.
- Archpriest Leonid Kishkovsky of the Department of External Affairs updated the hierarchs on a number of recent developments throughout the Orthodox world. In related news, the members of the Holy Synod appointed His Grace, Bishop Alexander of Toledo and the Bulgarian Diocese chair of the Department of External Affairs.
- In other episcopal appointments, the hierarchs confirmed His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel as Chair of the Holy Synod Canonical Commission and the Holy Synod Canonization Commission.
- In response to questions presented by Father Tosi concerning the Procedures for Petitioning for Ordination and the logistics of conducting psychological evaluations, the members of the Holy Synod reaffirmed that all candidates for ordination — as well as clergy wishing to transfer into the OCA — must undergo the approved battery of psychological evaluations. They further recommended that any Bishop who does not have direct access to the services offered at the seminaries should retain the services of a local psychologist. Each Bishop is also encouraged to solicit mental health professionals to assist in interpreting test results.
- The hierarchs requested that the OCA Clergy Guidelines and Policies, Standards and Procedures for Sexual Misconduct be translated into Spanish, Russian and French.
- With regard to OCA clergy being placed “on loan” to serve in other jurisdictions, the hierarchs reaffirmed their previous decision that, especially in long-term cases, this should be discouraged.
- Protodeacon Peter Danilchick and Eric Namee, members of the Secretariat of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North and Cental America, offered a presentation on the Assembly’s work. They emphasized the importance of inter-Orthodox efforts on the grass roots level while fielding a number of questions ranging from organizational concerns to the endorsement of Orthodox military chaplains. In a related matter, Thaddeus Wojcik, OCA General Counsel, offered comments on the Assembly’s articles of incorporation and by-laws.
- In response to questions of a pastoral nature vis-à-vis non-Chalcedonian Christians, the members of the Holy Synod reaffirmed that they are received into the Church through the sacraments of Confession and Communion. However, should they later return to their own Church, they no longer would be admitted to communion in the Orthodox Church.
- Protocols associated with the Sacred Antimensia were reviewed. The hierarchs reaffirmed that Antimensia should contain relics of martyrs, although relics of Holy Confessors are acceptable. Antimensia may be replaced by a new bishop, who may also update them by placing his signature under that of the previous bishop.
- In response to a proposal of Metropolitan Jonah, diocesan bishops with five years’ tenure will be elevated to the dignity of Archbishop. Hence, His Grace, Bishop Nikon; His Grace, Bishop TIkhon; His Grace, Bishop Benjamin; and His Grace, Bishop Alejo were congratulated on their elevations. Statements will be issued to their respective dioceses concerning this decision.
- The hierarchs formally noted that Sunday, May 6, 2012 marked the 10th anniversary of the late Bishop Innocent [Gula]. May his memory be eternal!
Each diocesan hierarch offered a report on the life of his respective diocese. In closed sessions, the hierarchs addressed a number of legal and related matters.
The members of the Holy Synod expressed their deep gratitude to Archbishop Nathaniel for his hospitality in hosting the meeting and to Abbess Gabriella and the nuns of Holy Dormition Monastery. His Grace, Bishop Ireneu, the monks of Holy Ascension Monastery, and the Vatra staff also were thanked for hosting the hierarchs’ visits.
In addition to those hierarchs noted above, other bishops participating in the Holy Synod Spring Session included His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania; His Grace, Bishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania; His Grace, Bishop Michael of New York and New York and New Jersey; His Grace, Bishop Matthias of Chicago and the Midwest; His Grace, Bishop Mark, Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore; and His Grace, Bishop Irénée Auxiliary Bishop of Quebec City and Administrator of the Archdiocese of Canada.
A gallery of photos may be accessed here.