Holy Synod of Bishops special session July 31-August 1, 2007

A special session of the Holy Synod of Bishops of The Orthodox Church in America was held July 31-August 1, 2007, at the Chancery here.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, convened and presided at the meeting.

Highlights of the session include the following.

1. SPIRITUAL COURT. His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate, who presided at the spiritual court of the Diocese of Washington and New York at which the case of the suspended former OCA chancellor, Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick, was heard, announced the court’s decision, which was accepted by Metropolitan Herman, the diocesan bishop, effective July 31, 2007. The members of the Holy Synod of Bishops concurred. A separate release on this matter was not posted on the OCA web site at www.oca.org/News.asp?ID=1301&SID=19 until August 7 due to the repose of Mrs. Anna Kondratick on July 30 and the celebration of her funeral on August 1.

2. LETTER OF ARCHBISHOP NATHANIEL. Archbishop Nathaniel read a letter titled “Witnessing to the Autocephaly of Our Holy Orthodox Church in America,” addressed to the members of the Holy Synod. His letter surveyed a number of issues facing Orthodox Christianity in North America, including administrative unity, inter-church communication difficulties, and autocephaly. A discussion ensued concerning the OCA’s participation in the National Council of Churches in Christ, a matter that will be discussed in detail at the fall session of the Holy Synod in October 2007. It is anticipated that a statement on this matter will be issued at that time.

3. ALASKA. The hierarchs discussed among themselves various rumors circulating with regard to the Diocese of Alaska. His Grace, Bishop Nikolai of Sitka, Anchorage, and Alaska addressed the matter, pointing out certain inaccuracies in some of the rumors, which will be further explored.

4. CONFIRMATION OF NEW OCA SECRETARY. In response to the recommendation of the Metropolitan Council, the hierarchs confirmed Mr. Paul Bodnar as secretary of The Orthodox Church in America. Mr. Bodnar was introduced to the hierarchs.

5. BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR CANDIDATES FOR ORDINATION. The hierarchs decided that official “national” legal and psychological background checks will be required of all candidates for ordination. Legal background checks will be required at each level of ordination, for candidates entering The Orthodox Church in America, and for beginning seminary students. The psychological check will be required at the first instance.

6. GENERAL COUNSEL FOR THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA. Metropolitan Herman reported that the Metropolitan Council has initiated a search for one or several general counsel[s], and particularly for at least one attorney qualified and licensed to practice in the state of New York. Letters of gratitude will be sent to attorneys James Perry and Alexandra Makosky for their outstanding and self-sacrificing work associated with the special investigation committee, the Proskauer-Rose investigation, and the spiritual court of the Diocese of Washington and New York.

7. BEST PRACTICES POLICY. After a final review and discussion, the hierarchs endorsed the document “Best Practices, Principles, and Policies for Financial Accountability.” Each hierarch signed the three documents annually required—the “Annual Ethics Statement,” the “Annual Conflict of Interest Statement,” and the “Annual Whistleblowers Statement.”

8. ARTICLE ON THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA. The hierarchs reviewed the 1999 presentation of the reflection of the Very Rev. David Brum, former secretary to the Metropolitan, on the nature of the Church’s administration as it functioned at that time. The hierarchs agreed that the document had never been adopted by the Church and remains the personal opinion of the author.

9. ROLE AND FUNCTION OF THE METROPOLITAN AS FIRST AMONG EQUALS. The hierarchs discussed the role and function of the Metropolitan, as first among equals, and his relationship with his brother hierarchs of the Holy Synod of Bishops. Concerns were raised about the need to improve communications among the bishops with regard to manner, substance, and frequency. The possibility of monthly conference calls was also discussed.

While the hierarchs noted that conference calls are desirable, they should be arranged on the basis of need. The Metropolitan could convene and organize teleconferences as the need arises. It was also decided that His Eminence, Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada will discuss the possibility of providing the hierarchs with regular, even monthly, bulletins/reports from the Office of External Affairs and Inter-church Relations concerning the state of The Orthodox Church in general and events among other Christian traditions that affect The Orthodox Church in America.

10. 1999 RESOLUTION ON DISCRETIONARY FUNDS. His Eminence, Archbishop Job of Chicago and the Midwest presented the request to rescind the July 30, 1999 resolution that stated that discretionary accounts cannot be subject to external audit. It was noted that all funds connected with the charitable status of the OCA under the IRS provisions must, by law, be auditable, and that if any account cannot be audited, it cannot be associated with the charitable status and must be regarded as private funds, and therefore taxable. The hierarchs rescinded and repudiated the 1999 resolution, in concert with “Best Practices” and IRS laws.

11. FIFTEENTH ALL-AMERICAN COUNCIL IN 2008. Archbishop Job presented the written report of the Very Rev. Myron Manzuk, All-American Council manager, concerning the venue for the 15th AAC in 2008. The hierarchs agreed that Pittsburgh seems to be the most likely site, considering local resources and favorable rates, while July 2008 is the preferred date, if possible. Given the favorable rates and other conditions, Cleveland and Milwaukee are also possible AAC sites. Later, Father Manzuk, accompanied by the Very Rev. Alexander Garklavs, chancellor; the Very Rev. Paul Kucynda, acting treasurer; the Rev. Jonathan Ivanoff; Deacon John Zarras; and Mr. Paul Bodnar, offered additional information on locations and possible dates to the hierarchs. Possible AAC themes were also discussed.

12. SPECIAL INVESTIGATION COMMITTEE. Reminding the hierarchs that the Metropolitan Council had moved for a continuation of the work of the special committee, Archbishop Job, committee head, asked the hierarchs to consider a time-line of activities in the near future, as well as any possible further committee activities. His Grace, Bishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West, also a member of the special committee, added that, while the committee’s focus had been on the former chancellor, many other questions remain, and that a report to the whole Church had been promised. After discussion, the hierarchs agreed that the status of the special committee will be placed on the agenda of the October joint meeting of the Holy Synod and the Metropolitan Council, under which the committee operates with the blessing of the hierarchs.

13. REPORT ON THE RECONCILIATION OF ROCOR AND THE MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE. In response to a report by the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky concerning the reconciliation, the hierarchs issued the following statement: “The Bishops of The Orthodox Church in America rejoice in the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate, and we embrace them as concelebrants in the Lord.” It was further decided that Metropolitan Herman should send a letter to His Holiness, Patriarch Aleksy of Moscow and All Rus, stating that the Holy Synod has informed the faithful of the OCA of the reconciliation and of our welcoming it.

14. FALL 2007 SESSION. It was decided that the Holy Synod of Bishops will convene in joint session with the Metropolitan Council on October 16, 2007.

The hierarchs will continue their meeting on October 17 and 18, 2007.

In addition to Metropolitan Herman; Archbishops Nathaniel, Job, and Seraphim; and Bishops Nikolai and Benjamin, other hierarchs attending the meeting included His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South; His Grace, Bishop Nikon of Boston, New England, and the Albanian Archdiocese; His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, His Grace, Bishop Irineu of Dearborn; and His Grace, Bishop Alejo of Mexico City.