The 16th All-American Council was the first to be held in the Diocese of the West. In fact, the previous westernmost venue for an All-American Council had been Saint Louis, Missouri. Bellevue, near Seattle in the state of Washington, was chosen to recognize the Diocese of the West as one of the oldest dioceses of the Church from where Orthodoxy had spread across the continent in the late 19th century, and to enable greater attendance at the Council by participants from the Diocese of Alaska. “The Household of Faith” was the theme of this Council.
While much was accomplished since the previous Council to improve the Church’s financial situation, particularly in terms of accountability, transparency and proper recordkeeping, numerous administrative difficulties and misunderstandings occurred at many levels during the primacy of Metropolitan Jonah. In his address to the 16th All-American Council, His Beatitude acknowledged his responsibility for this crisis, apologized for his part in creating it and pledged to rectify the situation. Several members of the Holy Synod offered their responses to the Metropolitan’s address. After the report of the outgoing interim Chancellor, Bishop Melchisedek, the newly appointed Chancellor, Archpriest John Jillions, offered his remarks. Extensive and at times uneasy discussion and questions followed both the Metropolitan’s address and the communications from the chancellors. After the report of the Secretary by Archpriest Eric Tosi, Priest John Vitko presented the Strategic Plan drafted since the last Council, which was then discussed.
Two plenary sessions were set aside for small group discussion of the following ten aspects of the Strategic Plan. Each participant was free to choose which sessions to attend.
- Parish Development
- Diocesan Relationships
- Young Adults
- Theological Education
- Continuing Education
- Inter-Orthodox Relations
- Contemporary Issues
The Treasurer’s report, along with reports from the church’s internal and external auditors evidenced much progress in the Church’s financial recordkeeping and accountability. Debate, both before and during the Council, about how best to fund the church, resulted in a compromise resolution, mandating “fair share assessment for each of the participating dioceses at an amount of $105.00 per capita of the census of the participating dioceses for 2012, and then to reduce the assessment proportionately from that point forward.”
The Council adopted a Statute amendment allowing a parishioner to receive confession at another parish with the blessing of their parish priest, while still maintaining voting membership in his/her home parish. The Council also reaffirmed the Statute’s provisions regarding the election and terms of office of Metropolitan Council members, which had been adopted in 1975 but were not published in subsequent editions of the Statute text.
It is noteworthy that the Metropolitan Council, which was “the permanent executive body of the Church Administration which exists for the purpose of implementing the decisions of the All-American Council and continuing its work between sessions,” (OCA Statute of 1971, in force at the time), in order to foster the spirit of transparency and accountability, presented a report to the All-American Council for the first time since 1963.
Another new aspect of the Council was that, in addition to their written reports prepared in advance of the Council, brief presentations were made by each department during a plenary session.
The Council passed resolutions in support of Deaf Outreach, African-American Outreach, Monasteries, Seminaries and the Sanctity of Marriage.
After hearing summations from the working groups on the various aspects of the Strategic Plan, Council delegates voted to approve implementation of the general directions of the Strategic Plan through the formation of a Post-Conciliar Committee which would oversee execution, and mandated the Metropolitan Council to find funding to support the Plan’s realization.
The enduring result of this Council’s decisions was the incorporation of several enterprises within the Strategic Plan into the day-to-day life of the Church. After the Council, implementation teams were established to oversee initiatives in the following areas mandated by the Strategic Plan: Evangelization and Parish Development, Leadership and Management, Youth and Young Adults, Revitalizing Diocesan Relations, Inter-Orthodox Relations, Contemporary Issues and Continuing Education. A significant outcome of the Plan was the establishment of the Department of Continuing Education, which oversees a variety of now mandatory clergy education programs for both priests and deacons, whose purpose is to revitalize their ministry.
Written by Alexis Liberovsky
OCA Archivist, Director of the Department of History and Archives.
Council Addresses and Sermons
Address to the 16th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church
by His Eminence, Metropolitan Jonah
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