Archive | January, 2015

Statute Revision Task Force completes first stage of work

2015-0130-statute-rev-meeting1The Statute Revision Task Force completed the initial phase of its work during a meeting at the Exaltation of the Holy Cross Church here January 13-16, 2015.

Appointed by the Holy Synod of Bishops in 2013, the Task Force drafted a revised version of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America. The original Statute was adopted at the Second All-American Council in 1971. A major guiding principle of the Task Force’s work has been ensuring that the revision reflects current realities of the OCA’s life and structure, which have changed significantly over the past four decades.

Under the guidance of His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate, Chairman, Task Force members considered several revised articles drafted prior to the meeting. As new provisions were considered, they carefully checked them against previously drafted sections of the Statute to ensure that no contradictions will appear in the revision while maintaining uniformity and integrity, as many provisions in different sections of the Statute are interdependent.

Archpriest Alexander Rentel, Task Force Secretary, reported on recent presentations on the revision process offered in several dioceses. The presentations stressed the complexities of the revision process and cautioned that the process might not meet the deadline for adoption of the revised Statute at the 18th All-American Council [AAC] in July 2015.

“I am pleased to see that the members of the Task Force, working exceptionally hard at a difficult task, have completed a draft ready for consideration by the Church,” Father Alexander stated.

2015-0130-statute-rev-meeting2Over the next few weeks, the revised text will be reviewed by copy editors and legislative proofreaders. The Task Force will then seek the Holy Synod’s blessing to disseminate the proposed text of the revised Statute to encourage discussion and solicit comments and suggestions for further revision from clergy and faithful alike.

According to amendment provisions in Article XIII of the current Statute — suggested revisions and comments will be accepted up to 90 days prior to the opening of the AAC. The final text will be posted 60 days before the Council and subsequently presented for adoption to AAC delegates. Hence, the revised text is expected to be posted on the OCA web site sometime in February. A dedicated e-mail address will be created to enable clergy and faithful to submit comments and suggestions before April 21, 2015. During this period, Task Force members will be available, on request, to answer questions or facilitate discussion at diocesan, deanery, parish or other gatherings.

After all comments and suggestions have been received, the Task Force will meet in late April to consider all submitted feedback. The text of the revised Statute will then be finalized, incorporating suggested revisions and comments as appropriate. By May 21, 2015, the final proposed text will be posted on the OCA web site and disseminated throughout the Church, after which the text will not be subject to further revision until it is presented for adoption at the AAC.

In addition to Archbishop Nathaniel and Father Rentel, other Task Force members include Archimandrite [now Bishop] Daniel [Brum], Archpriests Dimitri Cozby and John Erickson, Priest Ioan Cozma. Judge E.R. Lanier, and Alexis Liberovsky. Task Force members expressed profound gratitude to Priest Thomas Frisby, and his parishioners for hosting the meeting.

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18th All-American Council resolutions now being accepted

18thAACThe Resolutions Committee for the 18th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America is now accepting proposed resolutions for consideration. Parishes and other Church bodies—deaneries, dioceses, stavropegial institutions—are asked to submit proposed resolutions and amendments for consideration well before the AAC convenes in Atlanta, GA July 20-24, 2015. Proposed resolutions should be sent via e-mail to resolutions.18aac@oca.org or in hard copy to the Resolutions Committee, 18th All-American Council, c/o the Chancery of the Orthodox Church in America, PO Box 675, Syosset, NY 11791. The deadline for submitting proposed resolutions is April 17, 2015. After review by the Resolutions Committee, they will be published/posted by May 15, 2015 — 60 days before the AAC per Article III, Section 5, Part E and Article XIII, Sections 1-2 of the current Statute of the Orthodox Church in America. Resolutions also may be proposed during the course of the AAC itself. The Resolutions Committee will review all submitted proposals.

  • If necessary it will discuss possible editorial changes with the submitting body.
  • If substantially identical resolutions are submitted, the Committee will consolidate them into a single resolution, again after consultation with the submitting bodies.
  • If, in the estimation of the Committee, a proposed resolution clearly lies outside the competence of the All-American Council, whether on canonical grounds or in conflict with the OCA Statute, the Committee will inform the submitting body of this.
  • In case of doubt, a proposed resolution will be submitted to the Holy Synod to determine whether it can be brought before the All-American Council.
  • If a proposed resolution is determined to lie outside the competence of the All-American Council, the Committee, in consultation with the Holy Synod and the proposing body, will consider alternative ways of bringing issues underlying the proposed resolution to the attention of the All-American Council. After review of submissions, the Resolutions Committee will turn over proposed resolutions to the Preconciliar Commission for inclusion on the All-American Council agenda. Deliberation on proposed resolutions will take place in plenary sessions throughout the course of the Council.
  • Resolutions from parishes normally shall bear the signatures of the parish priest and the president of the parish council; those from deaneries, of the dean and other priests of the deanery; those from dioceses, of the bishop and the diocesan chancellor; those from stavropegial institutions, of the abbot, dean or rector, and at least one other member of the institution in question.
  • Resolutions and proposed amendments to the OCA Statute will be sent to the respective diocesan hierarch, who will sign and forward them to the Resolutions Committee.

Detailed information on resolutions may be found here. Since a highlight of the 18th AAC will be the presentation of the revised Statute of the Orthodox Church in America, a revised Statute will be posted on the AAC website for commentary. Detailed information in this regard also may be found at the aforementioned link. The revised Statute will be posted on the AAC web site when finalized.

Expanding the Mission

by Joseph Kormos

Expanding the Mission requires a clear, consistent vision — a description of “what it will be like when we get there.” Here is a vision for the Orthodox Church in America in 20xx

  • A Church where its life and the lives of its communicants and parishes are transparent to Christ and proclaim hope and life in Him.
  • A Church whose holiness is worked out according to the well-established traditions of the Church and the unique needs of Christians sojourning in North America.
  • A Church where appropriate traditions/customs are maintained in harmony with a respectful reverence for the inheritance from traditional Orthodox lands.
  • A Church where Orthodox visitors from historically Orthodox countries can recognize a continuity of the faith with their homeland while also appreciating that the Church here as a living form of Orthodox Christianity. A Church that builds upon the best qualities and cultures of North American life and has put down deep roots in a new homeland.
  • A Church that exhibits a steadily growing number of healthy parishes which exhibit a healthy degree of diversity in unity. Parishes are distributed across North America to the extent that 90% of the population needs to travel no further than 45 minutes to attend an Orthodox Church.
  • A Church with parishioners/worshippers of all ages and all backgrounds, reflecting the local communities they serve.
  • A Church that is welcoming to all, where people are knowledgeable in their faith and demonstrate a zeal for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a willingness to share it with others — a zeal normally seen today from evangelical Protestantism, but softened, molded and enabled by the historical, spiritual depth of the Orthodox Christian Faith and nourished regularly by its sacraments and worship.
  • A Church that takes its rightful place among Sister Orthodox Churches and offers its traditions and insights into pluralistic cultures to world Orthodoxy.
  • A Church that is leading by example and humility in a drive to achieve an autocephalous administratively unified American Orthodox Church.
  • A Church that is led and energized by appropriately educated and prepared bishops, priests and lay leaders.
  • A Church where each bishop serves and administers to all of the parishes in his territorial diocese.
  • A Church that is headed by a First Hierarch who, with a modest administrative staff, maintains order and aids diocesan resources to execute initiatives and programs that help parishes proliferate and grow (quantitatively and qualitatively) with as little combined resources (central and Diocesan) as possible and where decisions are made promptly and consistently at the level appropriate to the decision.
  • A Church that speaks first through its deeds and uses all of its God-given talents, available resources and technologies, to speak loudly, forcefully, consistently, clearly, skillfully, and frequently to the people of North America about the Orthodox Christian faith and Holy Tradition, its ability to deliver salvation and to be a principle-centered compass for a morally challenged society.
  • A Church that, as the fruit of its deeds, receives respectful media treatment which focuses on its positive spiritual and societal outcomes rather than its failings or curious colorful ethnic inheritance while always remembering that its principle and an goal is to enable North Americans to acquire the Holy Spirit of God through the Orthodox Christian life and faith.

Mr. Joseph Kormos is a member of Christ the Saviour/Holy Spirit Church, Cincinnati, OH and heads the Parish Development Ministry of the OCA Archdiocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.

Registration, hotel info for 18th AAC now available on-line

18thAACA letter dated Wednesday, January 21, 2015, sent to all parishes of the Orthodox Church in America, includes the official announcement of and registration instructions for the 18th All-American Council [AAC], slated to convene in the Hilton Atlanta, Atlanta, GA July 20-24, 2015.

“The registration process for the 18th AAC differs from past years in that it will be expedited on-line through the official AAC web site,” said Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary. “Registration instructions will be mailed to every parish and institution. Registrants will receive an e-mail confirmation when their registrations are accepted.”

All procedures for selecting clergy and lay delegates remain unchanged, in line with Article III, Sections 2 and 6 of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America.

“Parishes are reminded that their special AAC assessments must be paid in order to obtain approval to attend the AAC, Father Eric added. “The assessment covers expenses for clergy and lay delegates, who remain responsible for their own travel, hotel and food costs. Observers may register with the approval of their parish priests.”

To register for the AAC, log on to http://18aac.oca.org. On the upper right-hand side, click the “Register” link. A new page will open with links for AAC and hotel registrations. Detailed instructions for clergy, lay and youth delegates and observers, suggestions for flight and other travel arrangements, and related information may be found here.

The Hilton Atlana has provided a designated web site for reserving rooms at the discounted rate of $124.00 plus tax per night. Hotel registration may be completed on-line at https://resweb.passkey.com/go/18thaac.

May 15 deadline for 18th All-American Council exhibitors, vendors

AllAmLOGOApplications, contracts, and related information for exhibitors at the 18th All-American Council [AAC] of the Orthodox Church in America are now available. Deadline for receipt of applications is May 15, 2015.

The AAC will be held at the Atlanta Hilton Hotel, Atlanta, GA from July 20 through 24, 2015.

“The exhibit halls will be available to vendors interested in promoting their goods and services to AAC participants and attendees,” said Mr. Peter Ilchuk, AAC Logistics Manager. “Since a limited space will be available, vendor applications will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis. Vendors are asked to make their own travel arrangements and hotel reservations.”

The AAC will be utilizing the services of Freeman Exhibition Company, which will provide booths, signage, and related resources for exhibitors. The company also can arrange for the shipment of goods to and from the Council, as well as fill any special needs or requests.

Space is also available for displays for OCA dioceses, departments, institutions and other entities.

For more information, please contact Mr. Jeff Condra, local committee exhibit chairman, at jcondra.aac@gmail.com, or Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary, at 516-922-0550.

Theme, Vision or Commandment?

by Archpriest Peter Anthony Baktis, CH [COL] USA

The the theme of the 18th All-American Council — “How to Expand the Mission” — is the same theme introduced by Saint Tikhon of Moscow more than 100 years ago. For me, this is the vision of the Orthodox Church in America. If we look at the lives of our North American saints, they are the witnesses of this vision. The prayer of Christ for the Church in Saint John’s Gospel instructs us what this mission is, “that the world may know that Thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as Thou has loved me” [John 17:23]. We are exhorted by Christ to go and baptize, to make disciples, to teach and bring the Good News to all. The 18th All-American Council becomes the reaffirmation of the very existence of our life in the Church to expand the Mission.

As I prepare for the renewal of the commitment to expand the Mission, I reflect upon my 25 years as an Orthodox priest serving in the United States Army. My first assignment was in Oklahoma. The only Orthodox community that I knew of in the area was in Oklahoma City, about 75 miles away. I found myself far from the familiar life of New York City. I not only had to understand what it was to be an Orthodox priest in the Army, but to learn that the United States was a complex composition of geographies, cultures and traditions. I remember when my mother first visited us. We went to the grocery store and the bagger brought the bags to the car. My mother had the tip ready in her hand, but the bagger politely refused it. She was shocked. She asked if there was there something wrong with her money? She did not realize that baggers were forbidden to take tips. Mom, this is not New York.

I quickly discovered that the Orthodox Church was not familiar not only to those I worked with in the military, but to those I encountered in Lawton, Oklahoma. How was I to expand the Mission and be faithful to the Gospel in what, for me, was a foreign land? My family and I began with what we knew. We started a liturgical life at the Old Post Chapel with a handful of parishioners. It was during this time that I rediscovered the lessons of the Great Missionaries — Saints Paul, Cyril and Methodius, Herman of Alaska, Innocent and Tikhon. They, too, had left their comfort zones and had to develop an understanding of new peoples and cultures — and even develop written languages. I needed to learn the new languages of the Army and the American Southwest. This first assignment provided what was perhaps the greatest growth I had experienced in my spiritual life. I became totally aware that everything I did and said and how I treated others reflected not just upon me, but upon the Orthodox Christian faith and Church.

In the years since Oklahoma, I have been sent to South Korea, Europe, Southwest Asia, Africa and many other places. These assignments allowed me not only to provide direct ministry to the Orthodox Faithful serving our nation, but to educate and bring an understanding to many who had never had the opportunity to experience the Orthodox Church. I have baptized, chrismated and prepared for baptism and chrismation many. Recently, I received an e-mail from a woman from my previous assignment informing me that “you planted a very small seed that sprouted into my chrismation as Theodora on the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ this year. Thank you, from the bottom of my newly illumined heart.” Expand the Mission.

As we prepare to gather as Church in council in Atlanta, I ask that you begin not only to reflect upon the theme, but to live the theme where you are. How do you expand the mission at work, in your neighborhood, at your children’s athletic events or after school activities? How do we welcome the stranger, treating all with dignity and respect? We are created in His Image and Likeness. The words of Christ found in the Gospel of Saint Mathew are not an option, but a command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” [Matthew 28:19-20]. The legacy of those who planted the vineyard in North America is ours to bring forward. I remember my days at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary when there was never a question as to who we were or from where we came. There were only a few “cradle” Orthodox Christians in my incoming seminary class. The rest came to the faith through the life of faithful witnesses who showed them to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the fullness of the Orthodox Church. We turned and sang the troparion to Saint Herman at every service, reminding us that it was not a theme that we shared, but rather a life, a vision and a positive response to the commandment “to expand the Mission!”


Archpriest Peter Baktis serves as a Chaplain in the US Army and resides in Lorton, VA.