The Statute of the Orthodox Church in America

Article XII

The Parish

Section 1   Definition

  1. The parish is a local Orthodox Eucharistic community canonically established by and subject to the authority of the Diocesan Bishop. For purposes of this Statute, unless otherwise specified, the term parish refers to parishes, missions, provisional missions, and mission stations. 
  2. The organization and administration of a parish are subject to this Statute, the statute or Bylaws of the Diocese, and the parish Bylaws approved by the Diocesan Authority. The Orthodox Church in general and The Orthodox Church in America in particular are hierarchical in structure.
  3. A chapel is a unique Orthodox Eucharistic community canonically established by and subject to the authority of the Diocesan Bishop. Although a chapel is not a parish, this Statute and this Article in particular apply to chapels insofar as they are appropriate to their situation.

Section 2  

The Diocesan Bishop and the Parish

  1. The Bishop is the spiritual leader of all parishes within his Diocese. In consultation with the Diocesan Council, he shall establish, territorially define, consolidate with another parish, or suppress a parish. He appoints parish clergy, maintaining a relationship with them that is at once hierarchical and conciliar, marked by obedience and collaboration. He has the obligation and right of visitation to the parish and receives and approves regular reports on parish life. In case of conflict and disorder within the parish, he takes all necessary measures to resolve them consistent with the Sacred Canons and this Statute.
  2. For the establishment of a parish, a local group of faithful must demonstrate that it is stable and has the potential to become self-supporting and self-sustaining, and that it agrees that its corporate charter and Bylaws will be consistent with canonical requirements and this Statute. No corporate charter or Bylaws of any parish shall be effective unless approved by the Diocesan Authority.
  3. When the Bishop deems it appropriate, in consultation with the local group of faithful, he dedicates the new parish to a feast day or places it under the protection of a patron saint.
  4. Additional signs of the canonical status of the parish and the sacramental communion that exists between it and the Bishop are the Holy Antimension given by the Bishop and the commemoration of the Bishop during liturgical services.

Section 3  

The Parish Priest

  1. The Parish Priest, also referred to as rector or priest-in-charge, by virtue of his ordination and canonical appointment, serves as the spiritual father and teacher of that portion of the flock of Christ entrusted to him, the first among the parish clergy, and presides over liturgical worship in accordance with the tradition and the norms of the Church.
  2. By virtue of the authority delegated to him at his appointment by the Diocesan Bishop, the Parish Priest, as head of the parish, shall:
    1. Teach, sanctify, and edify the faithful entrusted to his spiritual care with no partiality;
    2. Provide for the administration of the sacraments and the celebration of all liturgical services;
    3. Ensure that all educational, philanthropic, social, and cultural activities within the parish or of the parish are consistent with the mission of the Church;
    4. Head and administer the parish consistent with the provisions of this Statute, the governing documents of the Diocese and parish, and the directives of the Diocesan Authority in cooperation with the Parish Council. No activities in the parish can be initiated without his knowledge, approval, and blessing; neither should he do anything pertaining to the parish without the knowledge of the appropriate parish bodies, so that always and everywhere there may be mutual trust, cooperation, unity, and love;
    5. Normally preside over the Parish Assembly and Parish Council, except in cases when the Bishop is present or when the Bishop’s delegate is present for this purpose;
    6. Head the parish office and be entrusted with the care, custody, and maintenance of sacramental and administrative records, inventories, and the official parish seal; and
    7. Represent the parish before local civil and judicial authorities and other third parties, either personally or through his delegate.
  3. The parish shall compensate the Parish Priest. His compensation shall be determined according to established diocesan procedures and norms. His compensation is to be clearly agreed upon prior to his appointment. 
  4. The Parish Priest possesses the rights and exercises the responsibilities stipulated by the Sacred Canons, the Statute, and the directives of the Holy Synod and the Diocesan Authority.
  5. The Parish Priest cannot vacate his parish, change his status, or seek to transfer to another parish or Diocese without the permission of the Bishop.

Section 4  

Other Parish Clergy

  1. An associate priest is a priest who has been appointed to a parish by the Bishop, receives compensation from the parish, and carries out ministries within the parish as directed by the Parish Priest in consultation with the parish council. His role in the governance of the parish is determined by the established diocesan procedures and norms.
  2. An assigned deacon is a deacon who has been appointed by the Bishop to service within a parish, receives compensation from the parish, and carries out ministries within the parish as directed by the Parish Priest in consultation with the parish council. His role in the governance of the parish is determined by the established diocesan procedures and norms.
  3. Attached clergy are priests or deacons who are canonically attached to a parish by the Bishop without necessary compensation from the parish and without involvement in parish governance.
  4. Like the Parish Priest, all parish clergy, including those in minor orders, possess the rights and exercise the responsibilities stipulated for their order by the Sacred Canons, the Statute, and the directives of the Holy Synod and the Diocesan Authority.
  5. Parish clergy cannot vacate the parish to which they are assigned or attached, change their status, or seek to transfer to another parish or Diocese without the permission of the Diocesan Bishop.

Section 5  

Parishioner

  1. A Parishioner is one who, by virtue of Baptism and Chrismation, is a member of the Body of Christ and incorporated into a local parish community as a parish member.
  2. A Parishioner has a reasonable expectation for pastoral care in accordance with the Orthodox tradition. He or she enjoys full benefits of participation in parish life. He or she has the duty to sustain, strengthen and witness to the Orthodox Faith; to live according to the teaching of the Church; to participate in the religious services; to partake of the Holy Sacraments; to fulfill acts of Christian mercy; to support and help the Church.
  3. Parish membership may be suspended or revoked by the Parish Priest or the Diocesan Bishop for due cause, such as:
    1. Open rejection of the Orthodox Faith;
    2. Public and open defamation of, defiance of, or rebellion against ecclesiastical authority;
    3. Grave moral transgression; or
    4. Formal association with a non-Orthodox religious body.
  4. A Voting Member of the parish is a parishioner who:
    1. Is at least eighteen years of age;
    2. Receives the Sacrament of Confession at least once a year in the parish or, with the permission of the Parish Priest, elsewhere;
    3. Receives Holy Communion at least once a year in the parish;
    4. Has been a parishioner for a period of time as fixed by the Diocesan Authority; and
    5. Fulfills financial obligations as established by the All-American Councils, Diocesan Assemblies, and the parish.

    Voting Membership shall be denied if these criteria are not met.

  5. A Voting Member has accepted the right, privilege, and responsibility to vote in Parish Assemblies. A Voting Member may be considered for election to office in appropriate parish bodies. A Voting Member is eligible for election as a delegate to the Diocesan Assembly and the All-American Council. 

Section 6  

Financial Obligation

Each year, the parish shall remit to the Diocesan Treasurer its minimum financial support to the Diocese and through it to The Orthodox Church in America as determined by the All-American Council and in conformity with local civil law.


Section 7  

The Parish Assembly

  1. The Parish Assembly, sometimes known as the Parish Meeting, meets annually to consider matters pertaining to the life of the parish and to conduct necessary elections relating to the parish as a whole. The Parish Assembly is comprised of the Voting Members of the parish, and such additional persons as shall be provided for by Diocesan and Parish Bylaws, established procedures and norms, normally meeting under the presidency of the Parish Priest, or the Bishop or the Bishop’s delegate. The Parish Priest together with the parish council may invite additional persons with or without the right to speak but without the right to vote.
  2. The Parish Priest together with the parish council, or the Diocesan Bishop, may call a special Parish Assembly to consider matters of specific concern.
  3. Procedures for the call, conduct, and recording of the annual and any special Parish Assemblies shall be provided by the Diocesan and Parish Bylaws.
  4. The following matters are within the competence of the Parish Assembly. The Parish Assembly shall:
    1. Hear and approve annual or special reports by committees and parish organizations;
    2. Consider and decide on matters concerning the purchase, improvement, or sale of real property; investment of parish funds (other than in savings accounts); and the transfer of any interest in or change of ownership and the incurring of indebtedness or otherwise encumbering parish funds or property, subject to the approval of the Diocesan Authority;
    3. Approve the annual operating budget submitted by the Parish Council;
    4. Provide for the adoption and amendment of Bylaws, if this is not otherwise provided for; and
    5. Elect members of the Parish Council, the auditing committee, and the lay delegates to the Diocesan Assembly and to the All-American Council, if the latter is to meet in that current year.
  5. In case the Parish Priest disagrees with one or more decisions of the Parish Assembly, his reasoned opinion shall be recorded in the minutes and the matter submitted to the Bishop. So also, if an officer of the Parish Council disagrees with one or more decisions of the Parish Assembly, his or her motivated opinion shall be recorded in the minutes and the matter submitted to the Bishop. The manner in which further dissent is recorded and possibly transmitted to the Bishop shall be dealt with by Diocesan and Parish Bylaws and established procedures and norms.
  6. No Parish Assembly, either annual or special, shall take any action which is contrary to or not in accord with the Statute. Should there be any such conflict, the Statute shall prevail. Should there be a question whether an action of a Parish Assembly is valid or lawful under this Statute, the issue shall be submitted to the Diocesan Authority for determination.

Section 8  

The Parish Council

  1. The Parish Council is the executive body that assists the Parish Priest in administration of the parish and normally meets under his presidency. The Parish Council is comprised of the Parish Priest, ex officio, and members elected by the Parish Assembly and any ex officio and appointed members as may be provided for by Diocesan or Parish Bylaws. The Parish Council seeks to foster the spiritual and material welfare of the parish.
  2. The number of members of the Parish Council and their terms of office shall be determined by Diocesan and Parish Bylaws. The mode of election, terms of office, titles, and duties of Parish Council officers shall also be determined by Diocesan and Parish Bylaws. All members of the Parish Council shall be installed by the Parish Priest according to diocesan procedures and norms.
  3. Periodicity of meetings and procedures for the normal conduct of business for the regular and special Parish Council meetings shall be provided by the Diocesan and Parish Bylaws.
  4. The following matters are within the competence of the Parish Council. The Parish Council shall:
    1. Exercise fiduciary responsibility for the parish;
    2. Implement within its competence the decisions of the Parish Assembly, the Diocesan Authority, and the All-American Council;
    3. Formulate, implement, and direct stewardship programs;
    4. Oversee implementation of the budget adopted by the Parish Assembly;
    5. Authorize any fundraising activity within the parish;
    6. Manage, inventory, and maintain parish properties, both real and personal;
    7. Regulate use of parish facilities;
    8. Maintain and verify the official roster of the parish’s general and voting membership;
    9. Oversee and regularly receive reports from parish ministries and organizations;
    10. Prepare reports on aspects of parish life within its competence for the annual Parish Assembly;
    11. Propose an annual budget for consideration at the annual Parish Assembly; and
    12. Set a date and propose an agenda for Parish Assemblies.
  5. No regular or special meeting of the Parish Council shall be held without the knowledge and blessing of the Parish Priest. If the Parish Priest is unable to preside over a meeting of the Parish Council, the senior elected officer of the Parish Council shall preside with the blessing of the Parish Priest or the Bishop. In case the office of Parish Priest is vacant, until the appointment of the new Parish Priest, the senior elected officer of the Parish Council shall preside, unless the Bishop or his delegate is present.
  6. The official minutes of all meetings of the Parish Council shall, in accordance with Diocesan or parish Bylaws, be approved, signed, properly maintained, and made available as appropriate.
  7. In case the Parish Priest disagrees with one or more decisions of the Parish Council, his reasoned opinion shall be recorded in the minutes and the matter referred to the Diocesan Authority.

Section 9  

Parish Property

  1. The parish corporation holds legal title to all parish property, assets, and funds. In administering them, the parishioners and the officers elected by them must always remember the religious nature, purposes, and goal of the parish and act as trustees of such property dedicated to the service of God and the use of the Church.
  2. All parish property, assets and funds are and shall be owned and held by the parish or parish corporation in trust for the use, purpose, and benefit of the Diocese of The Orthodox Church in America of which it is a part. This provision shall not limit the authority of the parish or parish corporation in its administration of such property, assets, and funds in accord with the faith, governance, and discipline of The Orthodox Church in America.
  3. In the event the Diocese shall be dissolved or attempt to disaffiliate from The Orthodox Church in America in a disorderly manner, all parish property, assets and funds of such Diocese are and shall remain subject to the use, purpose, and benefit of The Orthodox Church in America.
  4. If the parish is canonically suppressed or otherwise ceases to exist, its real and personal property is disposed of in accord with Section 9, b, above. In all cases, the sacred and untouchable items, viz. the Holy Antimension, the Tabernacle, and the Sacred Vessels, as well as all parish records, shall be surrendered to the Diocesan Bishop or his designee.