The 19th All-American Council took place July 23-27, 2018 in St. Louis, MO. Its principal decisions were to maintain the established periodicity of the All-American Councils at three years and to continue proportional giving for funding the Church Administration. The major impact of this Council was that it served to sustain unity, peace and stability in the Church through conciliar assembly and decision.
At the opening plenary session on Monday evening, the Council theme “For the Life of the World” (based on the book by Fr. Alexander Schmemann) was introduced with a stirring reflection by Serge Schmemann, Fr. Alexander’s son. This was followed by the address to the Council of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon. He welcomed the five hierarchs and one priest in attendance at the Council as guests representing various Local Orthodox Churches around the world. In his speech, His Beatitude spoke of both the Church’s historical path and present condition, while highlighting the vision and missionary labors in North America of his heavenly patron, Saint Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, Enlightener of North America. He then provided some observations from his new book “Of What Life Do We Speak? Four Pillars for the Fulfillment of the Apostolic Work of the Church: A Guiding Framework for the Orthodox Church in America,” the four aspects of which were discussed at forums in the subsequent days of the Council. He outlined his own labors and concerns since the 18th All-American Council and noted the upcoming restructuring of chancery staff.
During the next plenary session on Tuesday morning, the Council began viewing video reports of the work and ecclesiastical life of each of the OCA dioceses, which continued at each plenary session thereafter. After this, several amendments to the OCA Statute were introduced for adoption. The most significant called for a change in the periodicity of All-American Councils to four years instead of three. While receiving a slight majority, this proposal did not receive the two-thirds vote necessary for adoption of Statute amendments. Five minor Statute amendments were adopted. This was followed by the reports of the OCA Officers: Chancellor, Secretary and Treasurer, as well as the Director of the Stewards of the Orthodox Church in America and the Auditing Committee. A resolution to fund the Church’s administration for the coming triennium according to the principles of proportional giving inaugurated at the 18th AAC was adopted after some deliberation.
On the afternoons of Tuesday and Wednesday, six forums were held both to discuss topics within the “Four Pillars” put forth by Metropolitan Tikhon and to provide recommendations emanating from discussion. Each forum’s deliberations were led by a panel, each of which included episcopal representation. The forum topics were: spiritual life, clergy care, stewardship, relations with others and evangelization both within and outside of the Church.
At Wednesday morning’s plenary session, the Council continued the viewing of diocesan videos and then heard greetings from representatives of two of the Orthodox Churches present as guests. This was followed by reports on the OCA Pension Plan, the Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations (ORSMA) together with the Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee (SMPAC) and the work of the Metropolitan Council, whose purpose is to implement the decisions of the All-American Council. Further reports were received from major institutions, including monasteries, seminaries, the OCA Representation Church in Moscow and the Board of Theological Education. Finally, the session concluded with presentations from several pan-Orthodox initiatives and organizations whose ministries extend across jurisdictional lines.
During Thursday’s plenary session, greetings from Council guests were followed by a reflection by Hieromonk Alexis (Trader), at the time an American monk in Greece (now Bishop of Bethesda). Council delegates then viewed video reports from three dioceses and proceeded to the election of Metropolitan Council and Pension Board members. Selected participants from each of the six forums held the previous two days presented highlights from their sessions. Reports were then presented by the Office of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations and concerning the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the US, presented by Archbishop Michael, Treasurer of the Assembly, as well as from the OCA Departments. The session concluded with the announcement of election results. During a formal dinner that evening, Archbishop Leo of Finland and Protopresbyter Leonid Kishkovsky delivered inspiring addresses.
The highlight of the concluding plenary session on Friday morning was the uplifting presentation by participants in the AAC youth program, which immediately inspired a spontaneous pledge drive on the Council floor, yielding pledges of $87,000 toward the establishment of a comprehensive Youth Department and the funding of a full-time Youth Director. After video reports from the remaining dioceses, briefings from several Offices and organizations, and open floor discussion of a number of issues, the Council was adjourned with a closing prayer service and the installation of those elected to the Metropolitan Council and Pension Board.
The 19th All-American Council was a living icon of the Church rejoicing in its unity and fellowship as a conciliar body and was marked by an atmosphere of peace and unity. Participants remarked that the Council was like a family reunion. An extensive youth program was again held in conjunction with the Council and the annual convention of the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America (FOCA) once again took place in the days preceding the Council. The vote to keep the triennial frequency of the councils was an indication of the great value delegates place on the Church gathering in Council as often as possible. The turmoil and tensions that arose in the previous decade were now left behind, while the Church continued to move forward in a dynamic manner under the highly respected and trusted leadership of Her Primate.
Written by Alexis Liberovsky
OCA Archivist, Director of the Department of History and Archives.
Council Addresses and Sermons
Address of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon at the Nineteenth All-American Council
by His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon
- Orthodox Christian youth invited to "Ring the Bell" for youth ministry
- Metropolitan Tikhon introduces "Four Pillars" in video presentation
- Study Guide for Metropolitan Tikhon's "Of What Life Do We Speak?" now available online
- Giving Tuesday: A thank you from our youth!
- New edition of Fr. Schmemann's classic "For the Life of the World" released
- Holy Synod concludes Fall 2018 Session
- Minutes, reports of Metropolitan Council 2018 Fall Session posted
- Metropolitan Tikhon opens Holy Synod of Bishops' Fall Session
- Holy Synod of Bishops' Fall Session to open October 23
- Metropolitan Council concludes Fall Session
- Metropolitan Tikhon opens Fall Session of the Metropolitan Council
- Official 19th All-American Council Minutes posted
- Metropolitan Council opens search for Audit Committee member
- OCA Metropolitan Museum display popular with 19th AAC delegates
- Protopresbyter Leonid Kishkovsky: "Our mission and voice and presence in America"
- Retired OCA Military Chaplains awarded pectoral crosses during 19th AAC
- Archbishop Leo of Helsinki and All Finland: "We share a special vocation"
- Holy Synod, AAC Youth visit FOCUS North America's St. Louis Center
- A Worshiping People: Services at the heart of 19th AAC
- Youth "make their mark" at the All-American Council
- Youth inspire spontaneous drive at AAC closing session to fund Youth Director
- Departments offer reports; Metropolitan Council, Pension Board elections held
- Four Pillars, Six Forums: Putting the AAC into action!
- Delegates updated on OCA and pan-Orthodox institutions, ministries
- AAC delegates pass funding resolution
- Metropolitan Tikhon officially opens 19th All-American Council
- 19th All-American Council formally opens Monday, July 23
- 19th All-American Council is just one week away!
- Monday, July 9 is registration deadline for 19th AAC
- Music for 19th AAC, FOCA Convention now available