The final meeting to conclude the Fall 2020 Session of the Metropolitan Council of the Orthodox Church in America was convened by video conference on Wednesday, November 4, 2020. Previous meetings of the Fall Session took place on August 27 and September 16-17. In preliminary remarks to open this meeting, OCA Chancellor, Archpriest Alexander Rentel noted that the meeting had been scheduled for October 21 but was postponed due to the repose and funeral of retired OCA Primate, Metropolitan Theodosius (Lazor).
In his report to the meeting, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon expressed his hope for a productive meeting. Among recent events in the life of the Church, he particularly noted the funeral of Metropolitan Theodosius, where he had presided, the grave illness of Archbishop David of Alaska and the serious condition of former Metropolitan Council member, Gregory Nescott. He asked for prayers for them and all who are ill, especially those afflicted by the pandemic. He then offered his perspective on key agenda items for this meeting.
Gregory Honshul delivered a report from the Property Committee to update the Council on efforts to sell Westwood, the property where the Metropolitan’s residence and OCA Chancery are located, since a contract with a realtor was signed on August 31. He detailed marketing strategies being undertaken by the realtor and noted that there have been several showings for both developers and an individual who wishes to renovate the building as a residence, but no offers have been received.
Judge E. R. Lanier presented a report on legal matters from himself as General Counsel to the OCA and the Legal Committee of the Metropolitan Council. He noted litigation involving the Church and other legal matters. He expressed particular satisfaction with OCA involvement in the Committee for Legal Matters of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, which is chaired by Archbishop Michael. The Committee has been active this year in advising and assisting with issues related to the pandemic. He also reported that he had recently presented a lecture to students at Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.
The Church’s proposed budget for 2021 was presented and explained by OCA treasurer, Andrew Smith. He indicated that it was strictly the operating budget of the Central Church Administration and does not take into account expenses for the 20th All-American Council, which entails its own budget, and does not include possible expenses associated with the sale of Westwood. Any changes in circumstances, including those related to the pandemic, which might entail revisions to the budget will be presented to the Council for budgetary amendments during its next meeting. After discussion, the budget was unanimously adopted by the Metropolitan Council.
The Council then approved a motion, submitted by Mr. Smith, authorizing the Chancery Administration to pursue and submit an application for forgiveness of the loan it had received through the Paycheck Protection Program of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress in March 2020. Mr. Smith indicated that, in consultation with legal counsel, it has been ascertained, as stated in the resolution, that “the Orthodox Church in America has satisfied the intent and parameters of the program by retaining payroll during the measurement period and incurring other allowable expenses in accordance with the most recent available guidance from the Small Business Administration.”
Proposals for Church Planting Grant funding in 2021 totaling $68,000, prepared by Fr. Thomas Soroka, Project Manager for OCA Departments, who was unable to participate in the meeting, were presented to the Council for approval by Fr. Alessandro Margheritino, Executive Assistant. These proposals for Church Planting Grant funding were unanimously approved and forwarded to the Holy Synod of Bishops for final confirmation during its upcoming meeting.
The final item of the meeting’s agenda concerned the relocation of the OCA Archives. Fr. Alessandro Margheritino presented a resolution recently drafted for approval by the Council that would formally constitute the Archives Advisory Committee to assist with advisory functions in respect to the OCA Archives relocation process and to support the work of the OCA Archivist. The Committee would be specifically authorized to issue a Request For Proposals (RFP) from interested parties that would provide support and assistance to the OCA Archivist for the curation and storage of the OCA Archives, appropriate storage services for the OCA Archives as well as display/access to OCA archives as needed/requested and to delineate appropriate criteria for the RFP. The motion was unanimously approved.
To close the meeting, Fr. Rentel noted that while this year’s events to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of the granting of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in America and the glorification of Saint Herman of Alaska had to be postponed, he reported that the new edition of “A Commemorative List of the Departed Servants of Orthodoxy in North America” will soon be published and that this will allow for ongoing prayerful remembrance of those who came before us, which is a fitting way to mark the anniversaries.
The Fall Session of the Metropolitan Council was concluded with closing remarks by Metropolitan Tikhon in which he expressed appreciation for the amount of work accomplished during the Fall Session of the Metropolitan Council and conveyed his gratitude for the ongoing efforts of Council members and OCA Chancery staff.
Minutes and reports from the 2020 Fall Session of the Metropolitan Council will be posted on the OCA web site as they become available.