1996 Fall Session of Holy Synod - 1997 is Dedicated to St Innocent of Alaska, Pastoral Issues Discussed

The Fall session of the Holy Synod of Bishops convened here at the Chancery of the Orthodox Church in America, October 21-24, 1996. His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS chaired the four day meeting of diocesan and auxiliary bishops from the continental United States, Alaska, and Canada.

In his opening address to the assembled hierarchs, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS focused on three areas of concern: autocephaly, episcopacy and pastoral ministry. Since the Orthodox Church in America celebrated the 25th anniversary of the granting of autocephaly by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1970, the previous year afforded many opportunities to re-visit those early days of vibrant expansion and healthy challenges that confronted all of us as a young Church in North America. His Beatitude stated that much of this excitement has, unfortunately, waned, along with its concomitant drive toward Orthodox unity on this continent. All hierarchs, clergy and laity were asked to rediscover the springtime of our autocephaly once again. In his remarks to the hierarchs, the Metropolitan highlighted certain liturgical and pastoral concerns appearing throughout the Church, including some deviations from accepted practice that need to be addressed by them in their respective dioceses.

In the Report of the Chancellor, Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick addressed finances, vocations, theological education, clergy compensation and visits to diocesan assemblies. In the area of clergy compensation, Fr Kondratick reviewed his August letter to pastors and parish councils, and the Church Administrations attempt to fulfill the resolution on clergy compensation from the 10th All American Council. “In this letter,” he stated, “I reaffirmed the All-American Councils call for the essential need for competent, committed, and contented clergy for the effectiveness of the Church’s saving work.” Fr Kondratick also reported on the project of the Pastoral Life Ministries Unit to develop a systematic plan to implement the “Clergy Compensation Guidelines,” in addition to the production of a video focusing on clergy compensation issues

Another video is also being produced for vocations, coordinated by Mr Michael Anderson, OCA Youth Director. The Chancellor concluded his report with an appeal to the vision of St Innocent of Alaska, who ministered to all those who wanted to hear the message of salvation. In addressing factions and divisions in the Church, Fr Kondratick spoke about the need to focus on our common efforts of building up the Body of Christ instead of promoting personal attitudes and perceptions.

During the session on International Church Relations, His Eminence, Archbishop KYRILL of Pittsburgh reported on his recent trip to Bulgaria, where he was received by His Holiness, Patriarchate Maxim and the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate. He reported that Patriarch Maxim extended an open invitation to Metropolitan Theodosius to visit the Church of Bulgaria.

The Synod heard a paper by Professor John Erickson on the present state of dialogue between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church in America.

In another matter, it was the consensus of the Holy Synod, following the presentation of a report from the International Church Relations Program Unit, that the Orthodox Church in America enter into full eucharistic communion with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA

Metropolitan THEODOSIUS reported on the current situation in Albania, following the consecration of three bishops in Constantinople for the Albanian Church. His Beatitude reviewed correspondence between His All Holiness, Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW and himself on this issue

In his presentation as chairman of the Pastoral Life and Ministries Program Unit, Fr Alexander Garklavs informed the hierarchs of the status of the Clergy Handbook, and of the new “Pastor to Pastor” Newsletter that will be mailed to clergy at the end of November

The Report of the Treasurer was given by Protodeacon Eric Wheeler. His report included the Proposed Budget for the Orthodox Church in America for FY97. Fr Wheeler presented an extensive financial picture of the Orthodox Church in America, clearly defining the strengths and weaknesses in the area of financial stewardship. In defining our common weakness regarding financial support, for example, he stressed the need to begin addressing a common approach to financial stewardship for the entire Church.

An update on membership figures was presented to the hierarchs, indicating a steady decline in financial supporting membership across the board. “While we have attempted to increase assessments to alleviate our financial burden,” stated Fr Wheeler, “we have not halted our membership attrition.” The Treasurer was calling for a serious re-evaluation to our mission of outreach, evangelization and Church growth.

1997 will mark the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of St Innocent of Alaska. It was the recommendation of the Holy Synod that the entire year be dedicated to the memory of St Innocent, and that dioceses, deaneries and parishes plan celebrations focusing on his life and work. His Eminence, Archbishop Herman of Philadelphia was appointed chairman of the St Innocent Bicentennial Celebration, with His Grace, Bishop Innocent of Anchorage and Fr Michael Oleksa as co-chairman. A Proclamation on this commemorative event will be issued for the new year, and both the Memorial Day Pilgrimage at St Tikhon’s and Education Day at St Vladimir’s and the Summer Institute will be dedicated to this celebration. A Hierarchical Liturgy will be celebrated on Aug 26, 1997 at St Tikhon’s Monastery, when the precise date of his 200th birthday falls. The Synod will invite member hierarchs of SCOBA and others to join in this celebration.

Fr Leonid Kishkovsky presented a report on the Task Force on Immigration. The bishops decided to address a letter on the theme of immigration for distribution to parishes during the nativity season. Recent surges in immigration in selected areas of North America prompted this latest concern for the religious needs of people arriving on our shores.

As guests of the Holy Synod, His Grace, Bishop PAUL of Zaraisk, Administrator of Moscow Patriarchal parishes in the United States, and Protopresbyter Matthew Stadinuk, Chancellor of the Russian Orthodox Church, attended dinner on October 23. Bishop PAUL congratulated His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS on the occasion of his 35th Anniversary of ordination to the priesthood, and His Grace, Bishop NATHANIEL who was celebrating his 30th anniversary of ordination. That same evening, Bishop Nathaniel hosted the bishops at a concert in New York City. Internationally-known pan flutist Gheorghe Zamfir performed classical music which included the pan flute and organ, for the benefit of St Marys Romanian Orthodox Church of New York. Following the performance Bishop NATHANIEL introduced Metropolitan THEODOSIUS.

The Holy Synod confirmed the recommendation of the Metropolitan Council that Mr Paul Hunchak be appointed Secretary of the Orthodox Church in America, effective Oct 24, 1996

Participating in this session of the Holy Synod, chaired by Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, were the following hierarchs: Archbishop KYRILL of Pittsburgh and the Diocese of Western Pennsylvania, Archbishop DMITRI of Dallas and the Diocese of the South, Archbishop PETER of New York and the Diocese of New York and New Jersey, Archbishop HERMAN of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania, Bishop NATHANIEL of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate, Bishop JOB of Chicago and the Diocese of the Midwest, Bishop TIKHON of San Francisco and the Diocese of the West, Bishop SERAPHIM of Ottawa and the Archdiocese of Canada, and Bishop INNOCENT of Anchorage, Auxiliary for the Diocese of Alaska.