OCA 15th All-American Council opens in Pittsburgh, PA

PITTSBURGH, PA [OCA Communications] – On Monday, November 10, 2008, the 15th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America opened in Pittsburgh, PA. The Council began with a Moleben celebrated by His Eminence, Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South, Locum tenens of the Metropolitan See.

Later, during his opening address, Archbishop Dmitri spoke of the need for all members of the Church, laity and clergy—including hierarhcs—to rededicate themselves to the vision of the Orthodox Church in America. This vision, he noted, is grounded in Christ’s Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations.” His Eminence also spoke of the important task of reconsidering the relationship between the Church’s dioceses, their life and work, and the central administrative structure of the Church. He stated that both of these tasks must be grounded in the understanding that all believers are “members of one another in Christ.”

His Grace, Bishop Tikhon of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania and Locum tenes of the Archdiocese of Western Pennsylvania, greeted Council participants on behalf of the Archdiocese. Bishop Tikhon, who also gave a meditation at the Compline service that concluded the evening, highlighted the importance of understanding one’s own brokenness in the light of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. It is the reality of the Lord’s death and rising again, His Grace said, that gives context and strength in the face of all suffering.

During the opening session of the Council, participants also heard a greeting from His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia [ROCOR], read by Archpriest Alexander Lebedev of ROCOR’s department of inter-Orthodox relations.

The Council’s first plenary session continued with the selection of Council chairs and committees. The clergy co-chair elected by the Council was Archpriest Paul Jannakos of St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church in Fenton, MI. The lay co-chair was Mr. John Kozey, newly-elected Metropolitan Council member from the Diocese of Washington and New York. Mr. Kozey, whose efforts to bring to light financial improprieties at the OCA Chancery were recognized in the report of the Special Investigating committee, was greeted with heartfelt applause from Council participants.

The remainder of the evening was dedicated to a discussion of the Town Hall Meetings held in July and August of this year in preparation for the All-American Council. His Grace, Bishop Nikon of Boston, New England and the Albanian Archdiocese opened the session with a review of the Town Hall process. He stated that the hierarchs and Preconciliar Commission members who took part in the meetings received clear messages about the hopes and pain of the clergy and faithful who attended them. His Grace shared his hope that the Town Hall Meetings, together with this All-American Council, would be instrumental in the healing that is necessary in the OCA at this time.

Following Bishop Nikon’s remarks, a question and answer session began in which Council delegates presented two written questions per table to the hierarchs for their response. Members of the Holy Synod began responding to questions at the Monday evening session and will continue on the morning of Tuesday, November 11.

Monday’s session ended with Compline with the Canon of Repentance and His Grace, Bishop Tikhon’s meditation on repentance.

In other events during the day the OCA Holy Synod of Bishops and Metropolitan Council held a joint session immediately prior to the Council opening. Among the decisions reached at this joint meeting, the Metropolitan Council unanimously resolved that “the Church withdraw $151,500 from the Unrestricted Endowment Fund of the OCA to pay in full the remaining amount owed to the 9-11 Fund that was collected but unpaid at the time of the collection.”

Meeting participants approved a recommendation of the OCA Pension Board to republish the Pension Plan with all amendments that have been passed since the date of its last publication edited into the text.

The Metropolitan Council also moved to give All-American Council chairs “the discretion to establish parameters for discussions during Council sessions, including the number of speakers pro and con, the time allotted for speakers and when to close discussion.”

In a 17 to 10 vote, the Metropolitan Council passed a motion “affirming its decision of September 4, 2008, regarding the removal of Dr. Alice Woog from the Council.” Dr. Woog had been given the blessing of the Holy Synod to attend the meeting a make a statement concerning this matter.

Full minutes of the November 10, 2008, Holy Synod / Metropolitan Council joint meeting will be published when they are available.

Audio files from the 15th All-American Council’s first plenary session, recorded by Ancient Faith Radio – the OCA’s official media partner for the Council, may be downloaded here.

Over 600 delegates and 200 observers are expected to attend All-American Council sessions, which will continue until Thursday, November 13.