The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America is one of thirteen bishops’ assemblies that have been established in different geographical regions throughout the world. It is made up of all the active, canonical Orthodox bishops of the United States of America, of every jurisdiction.
The Assembly was established in accordance with the Decision of the 4th Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference, convoked in Chambésy, Switzerland, June 6-12, 2009, at which met representatives from all the universally-recognized autocephalous Orthodox churches. These representatives recognized substantial canonical “anomalies” in the organization and life of the Church in these regions, and realized that, though these anomalies had arisen from specific historical circumstances and pastoral needs, they nonetheless present a number of serious problems for the faithful; moreover, they give an appearance of disunity in the one holy Church. As such, these representatives unanimously agreed to the formation of the assemblies of bishops to heal, as quickly as possible, these anomalies.
The bishops of the USA, Canada and Central America were originally together in one Assembly, called the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America; in April 2014 it was announced that, in order to best respond to the cultural diversity and pastoral needs in the region, the Canadian and US bishops would form separate assemblies and the Central American bishops would join the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of Latin America.
The purpose of the Assembly of Bishops of the United States of America is to preserve and contribute to the unity of the Orthodox Church by helping to further her spiritual, theological, ecclesiological, canonical, educational, missionary and philanthropic aims. To accomplish this, the Assembly has as its goals: i) the promotion and accomplishment of Church unity in the United States ii) the strengthening of the common pastoral ministry to all the Orthodox faithful of the region; and iii) a common witness by the Church to all those outside her. In addition, the Assembly has as an express goal iv) the organization of the Church in the United States in accordance with the ecclesiological and the canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church.
The Assembly, which meets annually, functions by a consensus of all its members. It has established a number of committees to help further its work. These committees are charged by the Assembly with specific tasks; they are made up of member bishops, and are assisted by lay and clergy advisors. The Assembly understands itself to be the successor of SCOBA, and as such, it has assumed all of its agencies, dialogues, and other ministries.
Unlike SCOBA however, the Assembly is a transitional body. If it achieves its goal, it will make itself obsolete by developing a proposal for the canonical organization of the Church in the United States. This proposal will in turn be presented to the forthcoming Great and Holy Council, which will consist of all canonical Orthodox bishops throughout the world. Should this proposal be accepted, it is hoped that the Assembly of Bishops will then come to an end, ultimately to be succeeded by a governing Synod of a united Church in the United States.