Members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America decided to update and expand the Church’s Guidelines on Sexual Misconduct, initially issued in 1994, during their fall session held at the OCA Chancery here October 21-24, 2002.
“Recognizing that precise policies with regard to allegations of sexual misconduct are imperative, the hierarchs studied a research document titled ‘Sexual Misconduct Policy/Investigation’ and a policy statement recently approved by the Assembly of the Diocese of the West,” according to the Very Rev. John Matusiak, OCA Communications Director. “Attorney Jonathan Russin, Legal Counsel to the Orthodox Church in America, who also offered specific recommendations to the hierarchs, was asked to prepare an expanded version of the guidelines issued in 1994.”
The policy statement approved by the Assembly of the Diocese of the West, “Reducing the Risk of Child Sexual Abuse: Guidelines for Parishes,” was presented and reviewed by the hierarchs. The document offers practical guidelines on recruiting and supervising parish workers, reporting procedures, responding to allegations, and other important issues. The Holy Synod agreed that the policy statement is to be accepted as general policy for all dioceses of the Orthodox Church in America.
The Holy Synod of Bishops also stressed that parishes must make provision in their liability insurance policies to address their responsibility concerning misconduct on the part of their clergy and lay workers.
“Given the climate and tenor of our times, we cannot simply deny the existence of such allegations,” His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman stated in his opening address. “Our further discussion of this matter will allow us to assure ourselves that we are doing all we are capable of doing to assure that such occurrences do not take place and that, if they do, we will respond in a manner that protects those who are harmed, whether they are victims of misconduct or victims of false allegations.”
Holy Synod members also approved a reduced budget for 2003, which will be presented on November 12 to members of the OCA’s Metropolitan Council for acceptance and implementation.
The budget as approved by members of the Holy Synod reflects a reduction of $700,000 in expenses.
“This cutback is extremely significant, not only in the dollar amount represented, but also in the challenges that it places before us, for we hope to continue to provide services and support to the dioceses and parishes at the same level, not decreasing the services provided,” Metropolitan Herman reported to the hierarchs.
The hierarchs also considered the implications of the “Fair Share” method of funding the work of the Church. The “Fair Share” method, adopted by delegates to the 13th All-American Council in July 2002 to replace the former per capita assessment, is slated to be implEmented in January 2003.
In his opening address to the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops, Metropolitan Herman shared observations on the state of the Church since his election as OCA Primate in July 2002.
In reflecting on his enthronement as Primate in September, Metropolitan Herman thanked Holy Synod members for their participation, which served “to express our unity of faith, our oneness of vision, and our shared commitment to continue to work together for the building up of the Kingdom of God. The presence of so many representatives from our sister Churches throughout the world, as well as the presence of various civil dignitaries and representatives of other Christian confessions, was a reminder of the esteem in which the Orthodox Church in America is held.”
Metropolitan Herman added that “it is also a reminder to us of the work that has yet to be done and the goals which have yet to be acomplished as we continue to share [the Orthodox Church in America’s] distinct mission and unique role within world Orthodoxy.”
Metropolitan Herman briefed the hierarchs on his other activities during the first three months of his primatial ministry, including his archpastoral visit to the Diocese of Alaska, his visits to the OCA’s seminaries, and his hopes for the ongoing work of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas [SCOBA].
In his report to the Holy Synod of Bishops, Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, OCA Chancellor, reviewed a wide variety of concerns, including the reorganization of the Central Church Administration and changes in the structure of Church-wide departments. He also updated the hierarchs on the encouraging enrollment at the OCA’s three seminaries. At present, a total of 141 students are enrolled at Saint Vladimir and Saint Tikhon seminaries, with an additional 15 studying at Saint Herman Seminary. He briefed the hierarchs on the ongoing work of the Church’s various units, offices, and commissions.
In reviewing the work of the 13th All-American Council, Father Kondratick stressed the “extraordinary nature” of the gathering.
“It was extraordinary in that it was the occasion of the retirement of Metropolitan Theodosius and the election of his successor, which in turn made the Council extraordinary in terms of the number of people registered and participating in Council activities,” Father Kondratick reported. “Under the circumstances, the Council required some extraordinary and creative planning on the part of the Preconciliar Commission and an unprecedented dedication of resources by the staff of the Central Church Administration. It is our sense that the Council both expressed and generated a remarkable enthusiasm and commitment on the part of the clergy and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America.”
Father Kondratick’s sentiments were echoed in a report presented by Dr. Alice Woog, 13th All-American Council Project Manager, in which the results of Council attendees’ evaluation forms were noted. Dr. Woog noted that some 2,100 individuals participated in various Council sessions, workshops, and events.
“The evaluation results indicate a very favorable response to the planning and implementation of the Council agenda and activities and indicate that there is a continuation of growth, maturation, and development of the Orthodox Church in America and its members,” Dr. Woog observed. “The enthusiasm of the Council is being felt many months after the event.”
In addition to hearing reports from the Church’s numerous offices, units, and commissions, members of the Holy Synod of Bishops
• decided to approve the request to establish a Joint Theological Commission between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church in America.
• requested that further information on the proposed establishment of a SCOBA office in Washington, DC be obtained while reaffirming “commitment to recovering proper canonical order in North America and being true to and living up to our own autocephalous status.” Metropolitan Herman encouraged the hierarchs to participate in the SCOBA conference, slated to convene in May 2003.
• to explore the means to effectively serve the growing number of new immigrants, especially those from Eastern Europe.
• appointed Archimandrite Zacchaeus [Wood], rector of the Representation Church of Saint Catherine in Moscow, as the OCA’s Representative to the Patriarchate of Moscow.
• expressed thanks to His Grace, Bishop Nikolai of Sitka, Anchorage and Alaska, Rector of Saint Herman Seminary; to the Very Rev. Michael Dahulich, Administrative Dean of Saint Tikhon Seminary; and to Prof. John Erickson, Dean of Saint Vladimir Seminary, for their detailed reports on the work of the Church’s theological institutions.
• announced the publication and distribution of new books for recording sacramental celebrations, which will be sent to all parishes in the immediate future.
The Holy Synod also reviewed and confirmed appointments to the 2003 Lesser Synod of Bishops, the Administrative Committee, and the OCA Pension Board.
In addition to Metropolitan Herman, His Eminence, Archbishop Kyrill of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania and His Eminence, Archbishop Peter of New York and New Jersey, were confirmed as members of the Lesser Synod, together with His Grace, Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada, who serves as Secretary. Metropolitan Herman serves as chairman of the Administrative Committee, assisted by the Very Rev. Paul Kucynda, Secretary, Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, Chancellor, the Very Rev. Dimitri Oselinsky, the Very Rev. Gregory Safchuk, the Very Rev. Eugene Vansuch, Dr. Alice Woog, and Mrs. Maureen Bezuhly-Galterio. Bishop Nikolai was appointed chairman of the OCA Pension Board, with the Very Rev. Michael Westerberg serving as Group Leader.
Other hierarchs participating in the fall session included His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South; His Eminence, Archbishop
Nathaniel of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate; His Grace, Bishop Job of Chicago and the Midwest; His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco and the West; and His Grace, Bishop Nikon of Baltimore, Auxiliary to the Metropolitan.