Holy Synod Ends Spring Session, Reviews Financial Support

While the decision to proceed with the Glorification of Bishop RAPHAEL [Hawaweeny] of Brooklyn dominated the recent meeting of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America here March 27-30, 2000, the hierarchs also considered a number of other issues facing the Church.

Metropolitan Theodosius Addresses Hierarchs

In his opening address, His Beatitude, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, stressed the importance of entering the third millennium “with renewed commitment to the 2000 year mission of the Church.”

“Our consciousness of 2000 years of Christian tradition tends to encourage Orthodox Christians to emphasize the Church as ancient,” Metropolitan THEODOSIUS observed. “Yet a necessary dimension of our experience of the Church is our sense of the Church as ever-youthful. The Church, in her very faithfulness to the living Tradition, is called to new tasks and is faced by new challenges.”

Reflecting on the OCA’s autocephalous status, granted in 1970, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS spoke of “the new challenge of maintaining the ecclesiological truth of the autocephaly, while maintaining good relations and full communion with the Orthodox patriarchates and autocephalous Church abroad, and with the other Orthodox communities, archdioceses, and dioceses in America.”

“Those who cast doubt on the maturity of the Orthodox Church in America or its ability to maintain itself as an autocephalous Church pose questions which are not new to us,” the Metropolitan said. “These questions about viability center around a few key aspects of our life and mission.”

Adding to the complexities of today’s Church life is the new wave of immigration to the US of Orthodox Christians from the former communist-bloc countries, which has created what Metropolitan THEODOSIUS called “a new agenda for much of the Orthodox world” as many patriarchates and autocephalous churches abroad increasingly focus attention on the spiritual, pastoral and “ethnic” needs of members of their flocks who have emigrated to the West.

Turning his attention to parish development, Metropolitan THEODOSIUS noted that “there is a clear shift in the Church’s demographics.”

“We are seeing that a significant number of the large parishes which were once the backbone of Church activity in America are experiencing a decline in membership and viability,” the Metropolitan said. “But we are also witnessing the birth and growth of new parish and mission communities which tend to be smaller in terms of membership and also tend to be more widely dispersed geographically, often quite isolated from other Orthodox parishes or missions. As we are grateful for the contributions made to the Church and its life by older, more established parishes, we are also equally grateful for the life and vitality which these younger and smaller communities of faithful bring to the Church as she continues her Mission of proclaiming the fullness of the Gospel of Christ to North America.”

Metropolitan THEODOSIUS also discussed the implications demographic change has had on the Church’s finances and administrative structures. In the area of finances, the Metropolitan reported that he and His Eminence, Archbishop HERMAN of Philadelphia, Acting Treasurer of the Orthodox Church in America, together with a number of trusted professionals, met with the accounting firm of Lambrides, Lamos, Moulthrop and Co., which subsequently completed and signed the audits for 1997 and 1998.

Chancellors Report

Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, OCA Chancellor, updated the hierarchs on a number of issues related to clergy compensation, the OCA pension plan, and ongoing spiritual and professional care for the clergy. He also addressed a number of inter-Orthodox matters, including the impending official US visit at the invitation of Metropolitan THEODOSIUS of His Beatitude, Metropolitan SAWA of Warsaw, Primate of the Orthodox Church of Poland, Father Kondratick also noted that his office, “in fulfillment of the directives of His Beatitude to right-size the Chancery’s operations based upon financial realities, continues to meet with outside consultants to review the situation.”

He added that significant changes in the Chancery’s financial operations have been made as many of the routine activities are being undertaken by an outside accounting firm.

Other Business

His Eminence, Archbishop PETER of New York and the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Assistant to the Chancellor for Inter-Church Relations and Ecumenical Witness, briefed the hierarchs on developments within the patriarchates and other autocephalous Churches. Archbishop PETER spoke positively about recent activities initiated by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas [SCOBA], adding that progress is being made in drafting a “Millennium Encyclical.” He added that plans are under way for a conference of all Orthodox Bishops in America in May 2001, probably in Washington, DC, and reported that a professionally prepared and funded “parish studies project” was being planned to establish accurate and relevant statistical data about Orthodoxy in the US.

“The inter-Orthodox and ecumenical relations of our Church constitute part of our Church’s witness in the Orthodox Church worldwide and in the world at large,” Archbishop PETER concluded. “If our Church were to refuse to meet the challenges of inter-Orthodox and ecumenical relations, this would be equivalent to withdrawal into a ghetto and an acceptance of a voiceless and invisible role - a veritable contradiction and betrayal of our calling as the Orthodox Church in America.”

In his report, Archbishop HERMAN, Acting Treasurer, presented a step-by-step plan to implement the resolution on financial support adopted by delegates to the 12th All-American Council in July 1999. Included in the plan is the development of a clear process for assisting parishes in determining their minimal financial support for 2000, the drafting of a standard form for reporting parish operating budgets, initiation of discussions with diocesan financial officers and the Metropolitan Council to explore feasible methods for determining a parish’s fair share and the preparation of a final proposal for presentation at the 13th All-American Council in 2002, and preparation of financial stewardship education materials in conjunction with the Mission and Stewardship Ministries Unit.

The hierarchs also reviewed reports from the OCA Office of Development, the individual dioceses, and other ministry units and administrative organs.

In addition to Metropolitan THEODOSIUS and Archbishops PETER and HERMAN, other hierarchs present for the Holy Synods Spring Session included His Eminence, Archbishop KYRILL of Pittsburgh; His Eminence, Archbishop DMITRI of Dallas; His Eminence, Archbishop NATHANIEL of Detroit; His Grace, Bishop JOB of Chicago; His Grace, Bishop TIKHON of San Francisco; His Grace, Bishop SERAPHIM of Ottawa; and His Grace, Bishop INNOCENT of Anchorage, Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Alaska.