The main task of the Second All-American Council convened once again at St. Tikhon’s Monastery on October 19-21, 1971 was to adopt the governing Statute of the Orthodox Church in America. This Statute, a revised version of the Statute gradually developed by all the councils since the first in 1907, was based on the short Constitution adopted at the council of 1970. Revisions to reflect the new autocephalous status of the Orthodox Church in America were prepared in advance by a special commission. While dissenting voices were heard from the council floor regarding some provisions of the statute, hearkening back to the difficulties in the development of statutes and bylaws in previous decades, the articles of the new Statute were all passed by overwhelming majority votes. A key provision of the new Statute was to mandate the convocation of the All-American Council every two years.
The council also joyfully welcomed the Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese, headed by Bishop STEPHEN (Lasko), into the Orthodox Church in America. Just a few days before the council, the Holy Synod of Bishops had officially received Bishop STEPHEN and his diocese into the Orthodox Church in America. The Albanian Archdiocese is a direct descendant of the Albanian Orthodox Mission headed by Fr. (later Metropolitan) THEOFAN (Noli) which was part of the united Orthodox Diocese of North America under Archbishop PLATON (Rozhdestvensky) and his successors at the beginning of the 20th century. With the granting of autocephaly, Bishop STEPHEN and his diocese, harkening to the call for unity by the Orthodox Church in America, petitioned to join and were accepted. Heeding the same call, the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate had already joined the Metropolia in 1960.
During the council’s deliberations, a proposal was made to admit women as delegates at future All-American Councils. After some discussion, it was overwhelmingly defeated.
The Second All-American Council’s importance is that it adopted the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America, the same one that still governs the structure and administration of the Orthodox Church in America today, although some amendments have been legislated by subsequent councils. The roots of this Statute can be traced to the statutes originally drafted by decision of the Mayfield Council in 1907. The statute composed following the Mayfield Council in part influenced the Statute of the Russian Church adopted at the Council of Moscow in 1917-18. When the Metropolia embarked on developing new statutes at the Detroit Council in 1924, it had been stipulated that they should be based on the statutes of the Moscow Council of 1917-18. The 1955 Statute, revised in 1971, was the result of that effort. The evolution of many provisions of the Statute over the years reflects the continuing growth and maturity of the Orthodox Church in America.
Written by Alexis Liberovsky
OCA Archivist, Director of the Department of History and Archives.