In a document dated March 15, 2015, the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America offered a response to the Chairman and Secretary of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America with regard to the “Common Starting Point” for Canonical and Regional Planning.
The text of the six-page document is available here.
As noted in the document’s introduction, the response is “an expansion of the Preliminary Response which was offered by our Synod on September 17, 2014, during Assembly V in Dallas,” adding that the current document “contains more specific reference to the ‘Common Starting Point’ for which all jurisdictions were asked to submit a red-line draft as a means to enhance the proposal, as requested by His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, the Chairman of our Assembly in his letter of October 15, 2014.”
By way of background, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA met September 15-17, 2014, to consider some proposals for canonical and regional planning within its region. It has been the mandate of the Chambésy process for each of the 13 Assemblies throughout the world to develop a plan for the canonical normalization of the Orthodox Churches in their respective regions so that these various plans could be discussed at the Great and Holy Council which is being planned for 2016.
Prior to the September 2014 Assembly, several jurisdictions had offered written responses to the two proposals that had been submitted by the Committee for Canonical and Regional Planning for consideration by the Assembly. During the Dallas meeting, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America presented a Preliminary Response to the two proposals that were being discussed. This Preliminary Response was posted on the OCA website on September 18, 2014 and may be accessed here.
While no conclusive decision was made by the Assembly about either of the two proposals under consideration, it was generally agreed that the second proposal (which called for a 10-year period of continued cooperation among the various jurisdictions) was more acceptable to many than the first (which called for a 10-year period of autonomy leading to autocephaly for our region).
Subsequently, a request was made by the Chairman of the Assembly, Archbishop Demetrios, for jurisdictional responses to the second proposal, which was re-labeled as a “Common Starting Point” for all the bishops’ consideration. The present formal response was then submitted on behalf of the Orthodox Church in America on March 15, 2015 after review by every member of the Holy Synod, as well as several canonical experts. It was also shared as a draft with the members of the OCA’s Metropolitan Council at their Spring Session and their feedback was incorporated into the final text.
The Holy Synod has blessed this document to be shared with the Church at this time so that all the clergy and faithful may be aware of its position and contribute to the wider distribution of the statements contained therein, which reflect upon the mission of the Orthodox Church in America and present a vision for the ultimate goal of a true local Orthodox Church in North America.