Holy Synod Concludes Spring 2001 Session

The election to the episcopacy of Archimandrite Nikolai [Soraich], Chancellor of the Diocese of the West of the Orthodox Church in America and Rector of Saint Paul the Apostle Church, Las Vegas, NV, was among the many items on the agenda of the spring session of the OCA’s Holy Synod of Bishops held at the Chancery here March 19-22, 2001.

Archimandrite Nikolai was named Auxiliary to His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, with the title of Bishop of Baltimore. His consecration will take place at Saint Seraphim Cathedral, Dallas, TX on Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22, 2001. [See related article elsewhere on the OCA website.]

In related actions, Metropolitan Theodosius informed members of the Holy Synod that effective March 21, 2001, His Grace, Bishop Innocent of Anchorage, was released from duties in Alaska while continuing to serve as an Auxiliary to the Metropolitan with the title of Bishop of Hagerstown, MD. It was also decided by the Holy Synod to grant retirement to His Grace, Bishop Mark of Bethesda, who will retain the title of Former Bishop of Boston.

Metropolitan Theodosius addresses hierarchs

After the celebration of a Service of Thanksgiving in the Chancery’s Saint Sergius Chapel, Metropolitan Theodosius opened the Holy Synod’s Spring Session by addressing the role of the episcopacy in the overall life of the Church.

“We must acknowledge that we, as bishops, are called upon to provide guidance and leadership and to make decisions that affect the lives of our clergy and faithful, our parishes, dioceses, and indeed, the life of the entire Church,” Metropolitan Theodosius stated in his opening address. “The Episcopal ministry, the ministry of ‘overseer,’ demands that we listen, hear, reflect, study, and ultimagely act upon that which we have heard and seen — always with the well-being and growth of the Church in mind.”

Metropolitan Theodosius continued by sharing insights he and His Eminence, Archbishop Herman of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, had gained during their recent visit to the Diocese of Alaska, during which they met with a majority of the diocese’s clergy and their wives, numerous lay persons, and the student and faculty of Saint Herman’s Seminary, Kodiak, AK. Struggles facing the Alaskan clergy have been a major concern for the Church in recent years, as have the difficulties being encountered in maintaining the seminary and its programs.

Turning his attention to world Orthodoxy, Metropolitan Theodosius stressed the importance of nurturing the OCA’s relationships with sister Orthodox Churches throughout the world and informed members of the Holy Synod that he has accepted invitations to visit the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches of Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Poland, and the Czech and Slovak Republics during 2001. Metropolitan Theodosius also announced that the recently elected Primate of the Autonomous Orthodox Church of Japan, His Eminence, Metropolitan Daniel, has accepted his invitation to visit the US and the OCA in May 2001 and will attend commencement exercises at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY and Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, South Canaan, PA and will concelebrate at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery during the annual Memorial Day Pilgrimage.

Metropolitan Theodosius also shared his enthusiasm for the National Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops slated to be held May 1-3, 2001 in Washington, DC, adding that the Divine Liturgy during the conference will be celebrated at the OCA’s Saint Nicholas Cathedral. The conference, which is expected to attract over three dozen hierarchs from across North America, will be hosted by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas [SCOBA].

Before concluding his address to the Holy Synod, Metropolitan Theodosius led the hierarchs in singing “Memory eternal” for the late Metropolitan Ireney on the 20th anniversary of his repose and for the newly departed Bishop Boris, retired Bishop of Chicago.

Chancellor’s report

In his report to the Holy Synod, Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, OCA Chancellor, updated the hierarchs on a variety of ongoing issues and concerns.

In reviewing preliminary plans for the 13th All-American Council, scheduled to be held in Orlando, FL in July 2003, Father Kondratick noted that the Preconciliar Commission has already begun its work and that its members “plan to build off the successes of the 12th All-American Council in terms of positive spirit, dialogue and action items, worship services, keynote speakers, workshops and fellowship.” He also reported that two videos, one in honor of the 25th anniversary of Metropolitan Theodosius’ primatial ministry and a second highlighting the work of the Church-wide Initiatives, are in the planning stages.

In the area of pastoral ministries, Father Kondratick reported that final preparations are being made for the Pastoral Ministries Conference which will be held at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary in June 2001. The conference theme will explore the relationship between the spiritual health of the clergy and their parishes.

The FOCUS Curriculum, which made its debut on the OCA web site at the beginning of Great Lent 2001, was among the Education and Community Life Ministries Unit’s projects also reviewed by Father Kondratick. He also spoke about ongoing efforts by the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, particularly the development of a CD-ROM titled “The Hub,” which includes a compilation of all youth resources developed by the OCA. The CD-ROM will be distributed to all parishes free of charge.

Father Kondratick also reviewed recent activities conducted by the Office of Church Growth and Evangelism, the Office of Humanitarian Aid, and the Mission and Stewardship Ministries Unit. In his concluding remarks, he reviewed the work of the Chancery, adding that the ongoing “right-sizing” of the staff had been completed.

Interchurch and interfaith relations

The Very Reverend Leonid Kishkovsky presented the report of the Office of Interchurch Relations on behalf of His Eminence, Archbishop Peter of New York, Office Chairman. Archbishop Peter highlighted the importance of the recent document of the Church of Russia which establishes a “social doctrine” by which the Church might address the current moral, ethical and social issues it faces today. Significant developments in various areas of ecclesiastical conflict, such as Estonia and Ukraine, were also reviewed. The importance of Metropolitan Theodosius’ forthcoming official visits to several Church throughout Central Europe was also stressed in the report.

Archbishop Peter and Father Kishkovsky noted that SCOBA continues on a positive course and that positive relations exist among the SCOBA hierarchs, as evidenced by plans for the forthcoming National Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. They reported that, while pan-Orthodox endeavors such as International Orthodox Christian Charities, the Orthodox Christian Missions Center, and SCOBA’s Ecumenical Commission offer a visible sign of cooperation and solidarity, similar progress in the movement to address the canonical status of Orthodoxy in North America has been less evident in recent years.

Before concluding their report, Archbishop Peter and Father Kishkovsky spoke about the work of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the World Council of Churches, noting that an interim report had been submitted to the WCC Central Committee in February 2001. [The Special Commission was established in response to growing concern on the part of the WCC’s Orthodox members to the direction in which the international ecumenical agency has taken in recent years.] Updates on recent developments within the New York-based National Council of Churches in Christ and the Canadian Council of Churches were also given.

Domestic concerns

A wide variety of matters affecting the life of OCA communities were also reveiwed by members of the Holy Synod of Bishops.

Anne Fuleras, Assistant to the Chancellor, offered the hierarchs a visual presentation of the OCA’s recently redesigned web site. In her presentation, she highlighted the new FOCUS Curriculum site, which represents the initial step in the education Church-wide Initiative mandated by delegates to the 12th All-American Council. The Very Reverend Alexander Garklavs, Chairman of the Pastoral Life Ministries Unit, reviewed the list of seminarian candidates for the 2001 Seminarian Intern Program, a Church-wide Initiative also mandated by delegates to the 12th All-American Council. Due to the initial success of this program during the summer of 2000 and ongoing enthusiasm, it was suggested that the program be ongoing and that the Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council consider including the program in the OCA’s budget beyond the initialthree-year funding commitment.

With Protopresbyter Daniel Hubiak’s tenure at the OCA’s Representation Church in Moscow drawing to a close, Metropolitan Theodosius proposed that Archimandrite Nicholas [Iuhos], Rector of Saint John the Baptist Church, Passaic, NJ, be appointed to continue Father Hubiak’s work. Members of the Holy Synod concurred, and Archimandrite Nicholas will begin his duties in Moscow on June 1, 2001.

After hearing a report by the Reverend John Hopko on the OCA’s Personnel Assistance Program [PAP], which has been in existence for six years, members of the Holy Synod agreed to continue the program for another two years. The PAP program provides assistance to clergy, clergy families, and non-ordained fulltime Church workers experience personal difficulties and crises. Funding of the program will continue to be provided by the individual dioceses.

The Very Reverend Joseph Fester, Director of the Office of Development, reported that a search has been initiated to find a suitable candidate to work specifically in the area of planned giving, thereby separating this aspect of financial stewardship from the Fellowship of Orthodox Stewards and the OCA’s Special Appeals. In a related matter, the Very Reverend John Dresko, charged with exploring and designing alternative methods to the current assessment system for funding the work of the OCA, updated the hierarchs on the development of a “fair share” system which proposes that the financial responsibility of each parish be determined by the percentage of the total population of the diocese which it represents. Members of the Holy Synod of Bishops offered suggestions and direction and asked Father Dresko to prepare a presentation to be offered at the next meeting of the Metropolitan Council.

Throughout the four-day session, each hierarch also offered a detailed report on the life and ministry conducted within his respective diocese.

The Holy Synod of Bishops, which includes all active hierarchs of the Orthodox Church in America under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Theodosius, meets in session every spring and fall. In addition to Metropolitan Theodosius, Archbishop Peter, Archbishop Herman, and Bishop Innocent, other hierarchs participating in the spring session included His Eminence, Archbishop Kyrill of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania; 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 Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada.