Following two years of intense negotiations with the Moscow Patriarchate, the Russian Church granted autocephaly to the former Metropolia on April 10, 1970. The name change discussed in 1967 had therefore become a practical reality.
The council convened at St. Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, PA on October 20-22, 1970 was simultaneously the last sobor of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America and the first council of the new autocephalous Orthodox Church in America. As council delegates assembled, they prayed together for inspiration to Saint HERMAN of Alaska, North America’s first Orthodox saint, who had been canonized just two months before. This was the first time that Saint HERMAN was venerated at a council representing the entire North American Church.
The first item on the council’s agenda was approval of the name change discussed at the previous council. Following debate during which various points of view were heard, the council approved the name change almost unanimously. Through this conciliar action, the entire Orthodox Church in America accepted autocephaly. The council then approved a new constitution for the Church. As necessary revision of the Statute to bring it in line with the Church’s new autocephalous status required more time, it was decided to convene a special council for this purpose the following year. Having listened to reports on the canonical and historical aspects of autocephaly, the council in its final major action issued a message to all Orthodox Christians in America calling all to unity in one territorial American Church.
This council conducted its sessions at St. Tikhon’s Monastery, which was founded by Saint TIKHON, Enlightener of North America. Saint TIKHON had in fact been the first to articulate a vision of eventual autocephaly for the Church in North America. His memory along with all those who had carried forth his vision in later years was gratefully revered at the council of 1970. With this council, many dreams had been fulfilled and a new era had begun.
Written by Alexis Liberovsky
OCA Archivist, Director of the Department of History and Archives.