The Spring Session of the Metropolitan Council of the Orthodox Church in America concluded on Friday, February 15, 2019.
Among the highlights of the three-day meeting, according to Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary, were the following.
- After welcoming members of the Metropolitan Council, who were joined by the members of the Standing Synod of Bishops, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon delivered his report at the opening session. He touched upon a broad spectrum of issues involving the life of the Church and its future direction, with particular focus on the continued implementation of the vision laid out in his document, Of What Life Do We Speak: Four Pillars for the Fulfillment of the Apostolic Work of the Church. In particular, he presented elements of a strategic action plan to address concrete initiatives such as the continuing work of Chancery restructuring and the formation of a location committee. The complete text of his report appears below.
- In his first report since he assumed duties as Chancellor on January 1, 2019, Archpriest Alexander Rentel highlighted initiatives he will undertake in the immediate future, including a review of the status of compliance with the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America in diocesan and parish by-laws. In conjunction with Father Alexander’s report, Cindy Heise, Coordinator for the Office of Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations [ORSMA], updated Metropolitan Council members on the Office’s ongoing work, as well as the work of the Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee [SMPAC]. She also reviewed the initial results of the clergy wives’ survey in a separate presentation.
- Father Eric Tosi, Secretary, reported on progress to date with regard to the Archives Renovation Project. In response, members of the Metropolitan Council approved the project’s continuation, using the remaining funds designated in a bequest for this purpose. He also reported on the website redesign and a variety of other administrative matters.
- Melanie Ringa, Treasurer, reported on the Church’s financial state and the status of select accounts. The Metropolitan Council approved D’Arcangelo and Co. as the external auditors.
- Protopresbyter Leonid Kishkovsky, Director of External Affairs, offered a detailed report on a number of issues currently affecting the Church in North America and beyond and offered an update on relations between the OCA and the Orthodox Sister Churches and other religious entities.
- Judge E.R. Lanier, General Counsel, reported on the work of the Legal Committee with regard to current legal matters and pending cases.
- In his report on the work of the Stewards of the Orthodox Church in America [SOCA], Archdeacon Joseph Matusiak noted that $90,000.00 had been raised during the past year, surpassing its intended goal.
- Metropolitan Council members unanimously approved—with the blessing of the Holy Synod of Bishops—Baltimore, MD as the site of the 20th All-American Council [AAC], slated to convene from July 26 through July 30, 2021. Once again, the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America [FOCA] will hold its annual national convention in conjunction with the AAC, while the highly popular youth program also will be available. In related action, the Metropolitan Council approved the formation of the Pre-Counciliar Commission. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.
- Archpriest Matthew Tate and Matushka Mary Buletza-Breton offered an in-depth presentation on the OCA Pension Plan. Three amendments to the Plan were approved by the Metropolitan Council.
- Archpriest Nicholas Solak and Priest Theophan Whitfield presented an overview of the “Thriving in Ministry” program being initiated throughout the OCA as a result of a $470,700.00 Lilly Foundation grant.
- Extensive discussions on the 50th anniversaries of the Canonization of Saint Herman of Alaska and the Granting of Autocephaly—both to be commemorated in 2020—ensued. Additional information will be released on these much-anticipated events in the coming months.
- Current Chancery operations, the Metropolitan Council’s committees, other Church-wide offices and departments, and future initiatives were discussed in detail.
- Preliminary copies of a new Study Guide for use in conjunction with Metropolitan Tikhon’s Of What Life Do We Speak: Four Pillars for the Fulfillment of the Apostolic Work of the Church were reviewed by Council members. The Study Guide, which will be available—at no cost—on the OCA web site as a downloadable PDF document, will be of great value in adult classes and discussion groups and for personal study and reflection.
On Thursday, February 14, Metropolitan Tikhon celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Chancery’s Saint Sergius of Radonezh Chapel, marking the 15th Anniversary of his consecration to the Episcopacy. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, His Eminence, Archbishop Michael, congratulated Metropolitan Tikhon on behalf of the Church. [See related story.]
Reports and minutes of the Metropolitan Council Spring Session will be posted as they become available.
REPORT OF HIS BEATITUDE, METROPOLITAN TIKHON
Metropolitan Council Spring Session 2019
February 13-15, 2019
Welcome. I welcome all of you to the Spring Session of the Metropolitan Council. This is the first meeting of this, the permanent executive body of the Church Administration, since the appointment as Chancellor of Archpriest Alexander Rentel. In a moment, I will more formally welcome Fr. Alexander who will have much to contribute to our work this week.
I look forward to receiving the input and guidance from the members of this sacred body over the next few days as we work collaboratively “for the purpose of implementing the decisions of the All-American Council” and continuing “the work of the Council between its sessions” (Article V.1). Beyond these specific mandates, it is always a joy to gather together and to work with all of you for the benefit of the Orthodox Church in America.
We especially welcome the members of the Standing Synod who are with us this week:
- His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the Diocese of the West, who is serving as the Chair of the Planning Committee for the 50th Anniversary of Autocephaly and the Glorification of Saint Herman of Alaska. We will have occasion to hear from His Eminence about the progress and plans of that committee. Unfortunately, he experienced some flight delays so he will be joining us tomorrow.
- His Eminence, Archbishop Michael of New York and the Diocese of New York and New Jersey, who also serves as the Secretary of the Holy Synod.
- His Eminence, Archbishop Irénée of Ottawa and the Archdiocese of Canada, who is replacing His Grace, Bishop Paul on the Standing Synod and hence, at these meetings of the Metropolitan Council. Due to the funeral for Archimandrite Philip [Speranza], His Eminence will also be joining us tomorrow. We particularly look forward to his participation as a means of highlighting the important Canadian component of our Church. Although in many specific areas of the Metropolitan Council’s competencies, a distinct and unique approach is required (especially as concerns legal and financial matters), there is much more that unites the Archdiocese of Canada with the wider Orthodox Church in America in terms of our mission and vision. It is always good to remind ourselves that our Church is not limited to the United States and that both Canada and Mexico are integral contributors to our existence and presence in North America.
- Although he is not on the Standing Synod, this week we also welcome His Grace, Bishop David of Sitka and Alaska, who serves as the Synodal Liaison for the Pension Board, for which we have dedicated a significant portion of this week’s meeting. The Diocese of Alaska, of course, is the cornerstone of the North American Mission and of what we now call the Orthodox Church in America. The commemoration of the 225th Anniversary of the arrival of St. Herman and his fellow missionaries takes place this year, and in 2020 we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of his glorification, one of the first acts of the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America. The next few years will present many opportunities to highlight not only the historical importance of the Diocese of Alaska, but the current missionary, educational, and pastoral initiatives that are taking place under the guidance of the Bishop of Alaska, who in a few days will celebrate his fifth anniversary of episcopal consecration. Axios!
- Finally, I would like the record to reflect our debt of gratitude to Bishop Paul of Chicago and the Diocese of the Midwest for his contributions to the Metropolitan Council and for his work as Chair of the Pre-Conciliar Commission for the 19th All-American Council.
The Standing Synod will meet separately in the evenings of our gathering this week and I look forward to their contributions to the overall work of the Metropolitan Council.
Metropolitan Council Members: Beginning Term. I extend a warm welcome to new Metropolitan Council Members who have joined us from the dioceses:
- Diocese of Alaska: Archpriest Mikel Bock, St Juvenaly and his Companion Mission, Chugiak, AK; Dorothy Chaney.
- Diocese of the Midwest: Archpriest Alexander Garklavs, Holy Trinity Church, Parma, OH, and former Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America.
- Archdiocese of Washington: Michael Thompson.
We look forward to your contributions to the work of this body and to the mission of the Orthodox Church in America. I would also invite each you, perhaps in our final session on Friday, to share your thoughts about your overall experience of your first meeting of the Metropolitan Council.
Metropolitan Council Members: Concluding Term. There is no one rotating off the Metropolitan Council at this Spring Session. However, I would like to express once again my thanks and appreciation to Archpriest John Jillions, who served as Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America for seven years and, in that position, was an ex officio member of this body. His contributions to the Metropolitan Council, to my Office, and to the Orthodox Church in America over those years are both significant and appreciated. The position of Chancellor is not an easy one in and of itself, but has been particularly heavy during many periods of the past ten years. Although I have expressed my gratitude and thanks to him on several previous occasions, I would like to take this opportunity to let the record reflect my continued appreciation to him for his ministry as Chancellor and to Matushka Denise for her contribution to that ministry.
Chancery Restructuring. I will begin my report with an update on the Chancery Restructuring process.
- Ad Hoc Restructuring Committee. To begin, I would like to express my gratitude to the members of the Restructuring Committee who have, over the past year, offered their collective and personal dedication. I especially want to thank His Grace, Bishop Daniel, who has not only ably steered the work of this committee, but has personally assisted me, first as Administrative Consultant and then as Chancery Administrator during this transition. His Grace has been particularly helpful in maintaining the integrity of the Office of the Metropolitan during this time. His insight as a bishop of the Church was also crucial and provided further incentive for me to more seriously consider the benefits of having an auxiliary bishop.
The other members of the committee were drawn from the Metropolitan Council: Archpriest John Dresko (Chair of the Finance Committee), Archpriest Timothy Hojnicki, and Lisa Mikhalevsky (Chair of the Human Resources Committee). We had an excellent combination of talent with this group and while each of the members has particular gifts to offer to this work, they collectively provided a very holistic approach to every aspect of this fruitful journey. Fr. Timothy will present a more formal report on the overall work of the committee later in this meeting, but I wanted to formally express my thanks to each member of the committee.
I also wanted to share some thoughts on this process with the members of the Metropolitan Council. For me, there was both a personal and a professional component for the restructuring process: personal, in the sense that I wanted to establish a structure that would fit my administrative style and establish a collaborative system for the fulfilling of the work of the Chancery; and professional, in that the Chancery is not simply my personal office, but the nerve-center (so to speak) of the Orthodox Church in America. I believe that the entire Orthodox Church in America will benefit from this process and from the renewed Chancery that is beginning to take shape.
In January, this committee met for one final time in Washington, DC, at my Cathedral Rectory, and we reviewed both the progress to date and set out a trajectory for the next steps. As you know, my intention was to have completed the basic restructuring process by January 1, 2019, with the understanding that certain elements would continue beyond that date. Although we are not quite as far along as I had anticipated, I do feel that we have managed to address the core issues relating to the overall structure of the Chancery, which I presented to this body at our Fall meeting, and to begin the filling of the positions needed. It now falls to the Chancellor to carry this work forward.
- Chancellor. In the Fall, I indicated that I had a candidate in mind to fill the position of Chancellor, although I did not present his name pending his willingness to consider the position. In October, I forwarded to you the name and the CV of my candidate, Archpriest Alexander Rentel and, at a conference call on October 18, this body endorsed him. I then presented his name to the members of the Holy Synod at our Autumn Session on October 23-26, 2018. After some discussion and a meeting with Fr. Alexander, the Holy Synod confirmed him, and I appointed him Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America effective January 1, 2019.
At this time, I would like to introduce and formally welcome Fr. Alexander Rentel to the Metropolitan Council and express my sincere joy at having him on board. As I indicated, he officially began his ministry as Chancellor on January 1 of this year, although I should point out that he did quite a bit of preparatory work prior to that date—both in holding meetings with individual staff here at the Chancery and in meeting with me on a number of specific issues. He has not only hit the ground running, but was, in fact, running before he hit the ground. Although it has only been a few weeks, I am very pleased to report that Fr. Alexander is working out very well and I feel a great relief in knowing that someone as capable as him is serving in this position.
The Chancery as a whole has witnessed an increase in activity and productivity through Fr. Alexander’s presence and leadership. He has assumed the role of Chancellor as defined in the restructuring in a very competent and efficient manner, one which allows me to focus my own energies on the broader responsibilities I have as Primate. He is working closely with all the other officers and staff, particularly with Barry Migyanko, on the numerous clergy and official matters that come through this office.
- Review of Orthodox Church in America Departments, Boards, Offices, and Commissions. This has been on the table for several years now, and it is the area that requires the most immediate attention of the new Chancellor. We are prepared to tackle this review immediately after this Metropolitan Council meeting.
- Communications. Fr. Eric Tosi, Archpriest John Matusiak, Matushka Jessica Fuhrman and Ryan Platte all work diligently in this area. Nevertheless, it remains an area that could be expanded in terms of resources and planning. This is also an area that the Chancellor and I will focus on in the coming months.
The new Chancellor is allowing me to work on these long-term issues with the security of knowing that he has a firm grasp on the day-to-day activities that need to take place and the urgent matters that need to be addressed. He will report to you more on his own experience to date, but I am very pleased and am thankful to this body for its endorsement of such an excellent and churchly individual.
- Treasurer. The next most urgent position that needs to be filled is that of Treasurer, which has been a more complex process. It was always my intention—and that of the Restructuring Committee—to steadfastly maintain the high degree of accountability, transparency, and overall integrity that we have established over the past ten years with respect to the finances of the Church. Because of this, the job description of the Treasurer was the one that required the least amount of adjustment. Another difficulty in filling the position of Treasurer is due to the undeniable excellence of the person who is currently serving in that role: Melanie Ringa.
As you know, Melanie has fulfilled her responsibilities as Treasurer most excellently for ten-plus years. She has been actively involved in all levels of the finances of the Church, including spearheading the very productive meetings of the Chancellors and Treasurers and working to implement, over the past two All-American Councils, a method of funding the Church. She has accomplished all this while maintaining strict vigilance over the day-to-day finances and investments of the Church.
Although we posted twice for the position of Treasurer, and asked several dioceses to post announcements as well, the initial search did not yield a single ideal candidate for our circumstances. Indeed, it was clear that it would be very difficult to find someone of Melanie’s caliber who could fill this position for the half-time salary that we have been paying her. As a reminder, Melanie has been splitting her time between the Orthodox Church in America and St Vladimir’s Seminary, where she serves as Chief Financial Officer.
While no single candidate came forward to fill the Treasurer position as originally configured, we did receive several excellent applicants, each offering professional skills in one or another aspect of the position. After reviewing this situation, the Restructuring Committee proposed taking a slightly different approach to finding a solution. In discussions with John Skrobat, Treasurer of the Diocese of New England and Chair of the Orthodox Church in America Internal Audit Committee, and also with the input and recommendation of Melanie herself, the following re-configuration of the Office of the Treasurer is being proposed:
- The job descriptions of the Treasurer should be divided into two jobs: part time Accounting Manager and part time Treasurer.
- The Accounting Manager position, which requires an accounting degree, would be the on-site person responsible for daily bookkeeping and accounting operations, and would report to the Treasurer.
- The Treasurer would have oversight responsibilities over the Accounting Manager and would review monthly bank and investment reconciliations, produce the quarterly Treasurer’s Reports online, and report in person to the Metropolitan Council, the Holy Synod, and the All-American Council.
- The Finance Department budget would remain the same but would be reconfigured to reflect this new structure, with a salary for the Accounting Manager and a stipend for the Treasurer.
The position of Treasurer, of course, will statutorily require the endorsement of the Metropolitan Council and the confirmation of the Holy Synod. We are in discussions with an excellent candidate for this position. For the position of Accounting Manager, we have already extended an offer to one of our four applicants for the position of Treasurer. I would like to express my sincere thanks, once again, to Melanie for her willingness to remain in her position during this interim period of continued transition in the Financial Office. She has been extremely helpful in providing guidance in this process, and I am grateful for assistance in the transition.
- Chancery Administrator. The third position that needs to be filled is that of Chancery Administrator, which is the title that has been chosen to replace the title of Secretary. This is another position that will be difficult to fill, in large part because of the dedicated pattern of work set by Fr. Eric Tosi.
The restructuring committee has revised the job description. I am considering several candidates for the position of Chancery Administrator and have made initial inquiries to one in particular. It is my hope to move this process along over the next month and to present a name to the Metropolitan Council for endorsement and to the Holy Synod for confirmation at the appropriate time, most likely via a teleconference.
In the meantime, you will see from Fr. Eric’s report the wide range of items that this position needs to address. As I alluded to at our Fall meeting, I have asked Fr. Eric to remain on in his position during the first several months of this year. This was to both assist him in his transition to a new pastoral position and to take advantage of his years of experience in this position to effect a smooth transition. I would like to thank Fr. Eric for his years of faithful service and institutional memory within the Orthodox Church in America, the Chancery, and my Office, as well as to Matushka Christina and their children for their contributions to the overall life of the community here at the Chancery.
Fr. Eric will guide us through a discussion on the 20th All-American Council. As you will have noted in the reports sent out to you last week, there have been some rapid developments in the planning process for the All-American Council, even prior to the formation of a Preconciliar Commission. This body has been informed about the developments relating specifically to the question of the location of the All-American Council. The Holy Synod has also been apprised of the possibility of Baltimore as that location and, at a recent conference call held specifically to address this question, has provided its support for the location.
Another discussion that Fr. Eric will lead us through, together with our Archivist, Alexis Liberovsky, will be an update on the Archives restoration process. As you will have read in both Fr. Eric’s report and in the accompanying documentation related to the Archives project, there are a number of questions that need to be considered by the Metropolitan Council, which is the body having fiduciary responsibility over such matters. The project has evolved beyond what had originally been presented to this body, and there is a need for us to reconsider all aspects of this question. I will speak more about this below.
The Four Pillars. With the foundations of the new structure being completed, and especially with my new Chancellor in place, I am prepared to move forward in a number of ways with respect to the future development of the Orthodox Church in America and the work of the Central Administration.
I have provided a broad outline of a vision for the Orthodox Church in America in my small booklet, Of What Life Do We Speak: Four Pillars For The Fulfillment Of The Apostolic Work Of The Church. My intention in publishing this work was not simply to give myself a writing exercise, but to provide a tool for the interactive involvement of all constituencies of the Church: diocesan, institutional, parish, and individual. I would ask that the members of the Metropolitan Council encourage such interaction and engagement in whatever way you can. To help, we are preparing some additional tools.
As I had indicated at our last meeting, I had asked Fr. John Matusiak to prepare for me a Study Guide for the Four Pillars document. This work has now been completed and proofread and will be posted on our website. I have prepared copies for you to take with you and to share with whomever you would like. I hope to distribute these later during the course of this meeting.
I am also planning to release very short video introductions to the various components of the document to encourage Church-wide discussion. I will begin simply with a single video encouraging Church-wide participation in the discussion on the Four Pillars and, as time and resources allow, will begin to prepare short videos on each of the subsections of the document.
As one example of a practical use of the Four Pillars, I am aware of several parishes that have already undertaken study sessions using the booklet. In addition, a large symposium is being planned for May 11-12, 2019 at the Mother of God Church in Princeton, NJ, with the blessing of His Eminence, Archbishop Michael and at the initiative of Archpriest Peter Baktis.
Strategic Action Plan. In addition to providing some framework for the broader activities of the Orthodox Church in America, the Four Pillars booklet now allows me to address more specific issues facing our Church—and to do this, along with the various administrative bodies of the Church, in a more deliberate and systematic manner. Since the time of the All-American Council, I have been working on this in the form of a Strategic Action Plan for the next triennium. This is a work in progress, but I have dated it January 1, 2019, and I consider this to be the date of its initiation (even though it has not been published or distributed at this point).
I would like to share with the Metropolitan Council the overall shape of this Strategic Action Plan as well as some specific elements, particularly those that relate directly to the work of this body. The document parallels the various articles of the Statute, which I did mostly for ease of presentation and to more clearly articulate the various action items under the general heading of the responsible administrative body (Holy Synod, All-American Council, Metropolitan Council, Diocese, Parish, etc).
Some of these items (Four Pillars Study Guide, Chancery Restructuring, Archives, All-American Council) I have already touched on above in my report. What follows is a sampling of other items, with particular emphasis on those that related directly to the work of this Council. I will note that there is a section related to the Holy Synod of Bishops (Article II of the Statute) which I have not yet discussed with my brothers, but which contains such items as 1) the compilation of a complete Rules and Procedures for the Holy Synod (II.5.aa) by the 20th All-American Council, which has been a work in progress for some time; and 2) consideration of what I call an approach of “liturgical sobriety” in the matter of liturgical practices throughout the Orthodox Church in America. This is a complex question, as we all know, but one which I believe is necessary for the Church as we continue to forge our self-identity as the autocephalous Church in America; and other matters. There are, of course, many other matters that the Holy Synod continues to address on an ongoing basis.
The Metropolitan Council. The Metropolitan Council is a key component in arriving at the above-mentioned self-identity and self-understanding of ourselves. This body provides us with an opportunity to understand ourselves as a single body and to work towards a common goal.
As I mentioned, the Archives restoration project finds itself at a critical stage. This specific project has led to the need to consider the longer-term needs of the Metropolitan and the Chancery in terms of location and the broader concerns that have been discussed for many years relating to the function and funding of the Central Administration.
To this point in time, I have personally advocated for us to remain here at the Chancery building, where we have been located for close to 60 years. It is a beautiful property. It provides the Metropolitan and the staff with a quiet place to work and pray. It is conveniently located close to two major international airports, and has tremendous historical meaning for the Orthodox Church in America. At the same time, there are many inconveniences.
- Travel to my own Archdiocese of Washington is difficult—5-7 hours each way by car, 3.5 hours by train, 4 hours by plane, when one includes all the logistics of those types of travel.
- Physical separation of the Chancery operation from the Primatial Archdiocese of Washington and from the Primatial Cathedral of St. Nicholas.
- High cost of living in Nassau County and in many neighboring areas of New York, which adds a financial burden to employees of the Chancery, and to the Orthodox Church in America as a whole, which must support this entire operation.
- Need to address the Archives situation which is blossoming into a larger project than anticipated.
At this point in time, I believe that these concerns, as well as the broader vision that we must take for the future of the Orthodox Church in America, call for the appointment of a small Relocation Committee. This would be an initial step, consisting of a small and focused task force which should begin considering, in a dispassionate and objective manner, the current assets and patrimony of the Orthodox Church in America, beginning with the Chancery itself.
Such a committee, I would envision, would be comprised of someone from this Metropolitan Council, someone from the Archdiocese of Washington, and someone from St. Nicholas Cathedral. Although Washington is an obvious relocation point, it will be important to consider other options, especially with relation to the Archives, since it has been suggested that these might be housed in locations such as St. Vladimir’s Seminary or St. Tikhon’s Monastery. These options have been considered in the past, as has the possibility of relocating to Washington. However, these discussions were often undertaken in the midst of past turmoil.
Since we find ourselves in a place of relative calm in the Church, I believe now is the time to more clearly—and yet carefully—to begin to consider such long-term questions.
In addition to this issue, this body will need to consider this week the work of the Metropolitan Council Committee Restructuring which was initiated at our Fall meeting. Archpriest Kirill Sokolov was appointed Chair of the Internal Governance Committee. I will meet with him and appoint 3-4 members of this Council to begin this work, overseeing it myself. In the meantime, I am proposing that we continue to place all the Metropolitan Council committees on hold until a revised structure can be presented to this body in the Fall.
External Relations. We will hear later this week from Protopresbyter Leonid Kishkovsky, the Director of the Department of External Affairs and Inter-Church Relations, but I would like to highlight a few items. I just completed a visit to Moscow for the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the enthronement of His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill. Accompanying me were His Grace, Bishop Daniel; the Chancellor, Fr. Alexander Rentel; Melanie Ringa, our Treasurer; Archdeacon Joseph; and Roman Ostash. Also part of our delegation was Archpriest Daniel Andrejuk, who has completed his first year as Dean of St. Catherine’s Representation Church. You can read and see more about this visit on our website.
Thanks. I am also grateful to two of my staff, whom I consider to form part of my external relations team: my Secretary and Deacon, Archdeacon Joseph Matusiak, and my Subdeacon and driver, but also photographer, and (along with Archdeacon Joseph) liturgical master of ceremonies, Roman Ostash. Archdeacon Joseph and Roman are always on call in the many ways I require assistance. This is not limited to the practical needs of my office, but applies also to the broader work of the Church. I am thankful to all who work at the Chancery and offsite—especially Katherine Linke and Svetlana Radunceva—who faithfully continue their daily support for me, and offer extra diligence during events such as this week’s Metropolitan Council meeting.
Conclusion. I would like to conclude my report to the Metropolitan Council by sharing with you the section of my Strategic Action Plan that relates to the Orthodox Church in America as a whole:
As a local autocephalous Church, the Orthodox Church in America has a great responsibility on this continent both internally and externally. Internally, care must be given to the expansion of the mission of Orthodoxy in North America as expressed historically through the rich legacy and patrimony from 1794 through the present. Externally, attention should be given to strengthening the leadership role of the Orthodox Church in America in world Orthodoxy and in ecumenical and interfaith discussions.
In recent months, developments in world Orthodoxy have brought the subject of autocephaly to a place of prominence. The Orthodox Church in America needs to take a leadership role in these global discussions based, not on theory, but on her lived experience as a local autocephalous Church. In spite of, or perhaps precisely because of the ecclesiastical concerns and debates that have surrounded and continue to surround our autocephaly, the Orthodox Church in America is well positioned to provide a unique perspective to the rest of the Orthodox world. This perspective should be offered, not with arrogance, but as the fruit of a genuine self-examination of the successes and challenges of the past 50 years and a humble articulation of future possibilities.
Such self-examination and articulation should be expressed in a multitude of forums over the next three years, with particular emphasis on the celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the Granting of Autocephaly and the glorification of St. Herman of Alaska in the year 2020. The lead-up and follow-up years (2019 and 2021) should also be given a relevant theme to build upon the broader theme of autocephaly and the patrimony of the Orthodox Church in America.
Contribute to global discussions on primacy, synodality, and conciliarity through
- the hosting of lectures, symposia, and discussions on these subjects in collaboration with scheduled events at our institutions (throughout 2019-2021);
- proposing the names of bishops of the Orthodox Church in America to serve as chairs of Assembly Committees (May 31, 2019); and
- securing the inclusion of the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America on the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Bishops (December 31, 2019).
Church-wide renewal in the areas of
- the planting missions and the revitalization of struggling parishes through the expansion and redefinition of the work of the Department of Evangelization (July 31, 2019);
- the identification and encouragement of vocations (bishop, clergy, monastics, and lay leaders) through the ongoing expansion of the Board of Theological Education, as we will hear this week a report on the “Thriving in Ministry” initiative, which is a key component of the larger clergy health question, so central to my Four Pillars; and
- the support of the health of clergy and their families through the work of the Pastoral Life Department and the “Thriving in Ministry” initiative.
The Establishment and Church-wide proclamation of themes for the next four years, including
- 2019: Year of Prayer and self-examination (225th Anniversary of the arrival of the Alaskan Mission);
- 2020: Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Autocephaly and the Glorification of Saint Herman of Alaska;
- 2021: Year of Outreach and Evangelism (20th All-American Council); and
- 2022: Year of Stewardship.
I look forward to discussing all of these matters during the course of our meeting and I welcome any questions at this time.