FARMINGDON HILLS, MI [OCA Communications] — His Grace, Bishop Nikon of Boston, New England, and the Albanian Archdiocese, presided at the annual assembly of the Albanian Archdiocese of the Orthodox Church in America at Saint Thomas Church here October 19-21, 2006.
In his opening report to the delegates, Bishop Nikon spoke about the current situation of the Church.
“By now it is no secret that our national church is in the midst of a crisis not experienced since Orthodoxy first came to our shores more than 200 years ago,” Bishop Nikon said. “For many of our clergy and faithful, it has become an all consuming occupation and diversion from our responsibilities as Orthodox Christians. It has become the total of our involvement in church life.
“With vigor and zeal, the internet, a tool that can be best used for spreading the good news of the Gospel, has been inundated with much information and many truths; as well as has been sullied with half truths, innuendo and speculation,” he continued. “It has torn at the very fibers of our Church. A trust that we have enjoyed for decades no longer exists. Confidence in the central administration and the Holy Synod itself has dissipated. The crisis has set clergy against clergy, laity against laity, and sorrowfully, hierarch against hierarch.
“Archbishop’s Job’s simple question, ‘are the allegations true or false,’ is yet to be fully answered,” Bishop Nikon stated. “On a personal level, I have been morally supportive of Archbishop Job’s desire for full answers and transparency. There appears to have been procedures at the highest levels that point to gross mis-management, mis-appropriation of contributions, and malfeasance. I was privileged to be invited to a meeting of the Lesser Synod where we were advised that there is an ongoing investigation of all of the allegations.
“As one of our pastors so beautifully stated, ‘we need to work together and the first step of that togetherness is to recognize that the Church is Christ’s, that His vision is found in the whole Church, not simply the few.
Simply put, the bishop appoints the priests, the priest sings ‘Blessed is the Kingdom,’ and the response from the people is an ‘Amen.’ If this trinity—bishop, priest and laymen—is not in sync on the parish level, the diocesan and archdiocesan level, the national level, we fail to reflect the Holy Trinity in all that we may do.’
“I would like to have had a full report on the allegations for this assembly, but the Holy Synod is scheduled to meet next week and the agenda for that meeting includes a report from Proskauer Rose, the law firm that has been investigating the allegations over the past four months,” he continued. “I know that some of our sister dioceses have issued statements about the crisis and I feel that as a diocese we too should voice our concerns. I say this as when one part of the body of Christ rejoices, the whole church rejoices and when one part of the body of Christ suffers, the whole body suffers.”
Expressing his confidence that “we will withstand, live through, and survive this crisis,” Bishop Nikon offered for the delegates’ consideration a statement, the text of which read as follows: “The Annual Assembly of the Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese, gathered in Farmington Hills, MI on October 19-21, 2006, expresses continued concern with regard to the systemic crisis currently facing the Orthodox Church in America, including its moral and spiritual dimension. It is our fervent prayer that the Holy Synod, Central Administration in Syosset, and the Metropolitan Council shall forthrightly continue to investigate the causes of the current crisis, take appropriate measures to implement the needed safeguards, correct all untoward procedural aberrations andmake all necessaryefforts to restore confidence among the faithful in the proper conduct of our national church administration.”
Assembly delegates unanimously adopted the statement.
During the assembly, Mother Gabriella of the Dormition Monastery, Rives Junction, MI, offered an inspiring presentation on monasticism, while the Very Rev. Joseph Gallick, rector of Annunciation Church, Natick, MA and a military chaplain, gave a power point presentation on the chaplaincy. Father Joseph recently returned from 18 months active duty in the Middle East.
At the assembly banquet, the Very Rev. Michael Matsko, rector of Holy Transfiguration Church, Livonia, MI, spoke on the “giants” of Orthodox Christianity in America, including Metropolitan Leonty, Metropolitan Theophan [Noli], and others.