About the All-American Sobors and Councils section

The Lifeline of The Orthodox Church in America

An Introduction to the synopsis of the Sobors and Councils

In the 20th century, the most crucial decisions affecting the life of what is today the Orthodox Church in America have been made in council and many significant developments have evolved through the All-American Councils.

Hence, the All-American Councils, at which representatives of the entire territorial Church gather together for deliberation, legislation, elections and fellowship in prayer, have been the lifeline of the Church and have marked some of the most important historical transitions in the American Church's growth.

Over the years, the All-American Council has become, according to the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America, "the highest legislative and administrative authority within the Church."

In reflecting on the Church's path in the 20th century, and looking forward to the future in the 21st century, it is useful to contemplate the history of the twenty-five All-American Councils, which mirror the very image of the Church's historical path and may even hold the key to future developments in church life.

Alexis Liberovsky
OCA Archivist
Director - OCA Office of History and Archives

Synopsis Conclusion

A spirit of unity in church life is achieved through conciliarity, embodied in the Orthodox Church in America by the regular convocation of All-American Councils. Over the last century, the Church in North America has faced many crises and difficult situations. The All-American Sobors and Councils have to a great extent shaped the historical destiny and direction of the Orthodox Church in America. Decisions of the sobors and councils have paved the way to autocephaly and further historical developments. These conciliar gatherings also allow representatives of the local church communities throughout the North American continent to gather in fellowship to develop consensus on crucial issues and to gain strength from unity in the Eucharist celebrated together. The All-American Councils are the very expression of the ecclesiological reality that the Orthodox Church in America is both hierarchical and conciliar. These councils allow the local communities that participate in them through their delegated representatives to surmount a congregationalist mindset and the inherent dangers of isolation from each other and the Church as a whole.

The Orthodox Church in America is undoubtedly fortified by her councils and, through the prayers of all the saints of North America, strives to be faithful to Christ and the Holy Tradition of the universal Orthodox Church. She seeks to worthily serve and witness in the difficult circumstances of a non-Orthodox culture and the increasingly antichristian spirit of the contemporary world. As the Orthodox Church in America faces new challenges in the 21st century and the new millennium, future All-American Councils should derive wise inspiration from the historical legacy and rich experience of the councils of the past in order to chart the Church's course for the future.


1) This text was originally prepared as captions for the pictorial display of the OCA Office of History and Archives exhibited at 12th All-American Council (Pittsburgh, PA). It was later updated to include information on the results of the 12th Council and was printed as a tract with the accompanying photos from the historical display exhibited at the 12th Council. The text has been substantially revised for its current publication.

2) In order to differentiate between the councils before and after the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in America in 1970, when the church entered a new historical era, it was at the time decided that the councils from 1907 to 1970 would be designated by the Russian term "sobor," and that the conciliar gatherings since autocephaly in 1970 would be called by the equivalent English term "council." Therefore, the 14th All-American Sobor in 1970 became the 1st All-American Council. Even after autocephaly, the councils have sometimes been commonly referred to even in English by the Russian term "sobor." In Russian, there is no terminology to differentiate the name for the councils before and after autocephaly - both are called "sobor."