In addition to other decisions made at their April 17, 2008 meeting—see http://www.oca.org/News.asp?ID=1528&SID=19—the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America approved a recommendation by the Preconciliar Commission to hold “town hall” consultative meetings in preparation for the 15th All-American Council, slated to convene in Pittsburgh, PA in November 2008.
The recommendation was contained in a report by His Grace, Bishop Nikon of Boston, New England, and the Albanian Archdiocese, who chairs commission for the 15th All American Council.
“The consultative meetings, which will be held in several geographic regions, will provide opportunities for clergy and laity to present their concerns and suggestions to the Preconciliar Commission,” said the Archpriest Andrew Jarmus, OCA director of ministries and communications. “Based on the input received from these meetings, the commission’s members will be implementing the suggestions into the agenda of the 15th All American Council.”
The text of the proposal reads as follows.
“Recognizing that at this time pain and strife exist within the Orthodox Church in America, it is crucial that we find the means to heal and move the Church forward. An important part of preparing for the 15th All-American Council will be to give the faithful of our Church an opportunity to express their concerns and feelings. Addressing this concern before the Church meets in Pittsburgh in November will be essential to fostering a working atmosphere at the Council. In order to provide this opportunity the Preconciliar Commission proposes a series of ‘town hall’ meetings throughout the Church as a ‘living’ study papers preceding the Council.
“It is vital that the whole Church is represented at these meetings, hierarchy together with clergy and laity. These meetings would make this possible as the faithful of the OCA share their concerns, hopes and fears for the Church in the presence of the hierarchy.
“The proposed agenda for these meetings would be very simple. Participants would be asked to offer their responses centered around three themes:
“1. What is working well in the OCA?
“2. What are your concerns and suggestions for the future of our Church?
“3. What would you want to say to the All-American Council
“Meetings would be held on a regional basis, with nine proposed initial sites. At each meeting, a member of the Preconciliar Commission would function as facilitator and ideally there would be more than one hierarch present. The expectation of our hierarchs at these meetings would be simply to listen to the feedback offered by participants. It would be our hope that each member of the Holy Synod would be present for at least one town hall meeting in the series.
“Sites suggested to date include Washington, DC; New England; Eastern Pennsylvania/New York/New Jersey; Ohio; Dallas; Orlando, FL; West coast location; Edmonton, AB, Canada; and Ottawa, ON, Canada.
“The consultation that was called by the Preconciliar Commission with invited participants on April 7, 2008, was truly a breakthrough and demonstrates the value of this type of open discussion. At this meeting people were able to express their concerns, which were at times in opposition to those of others, in a charitable and gracious manner. It was noted at the conclusion of this meeting that all present had the welfare and future of the Church at heart.”