Archive | February, 2015

How to Expand the Mission: Sharing our stories

In Preparation for the 18th All-American Council [AAC] of the Orthodox Church in America, parishes and individuals are invited to submit personal accounts and photos that illustrate how they put the AAC theme — “How to Expand the Mission” — into action.

Submissions should be sent to info@oca.org. Photos, which will be featured on the OCA 18th AAC Facebook page, may be uploaded to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter tagged with #expandthemissionoca.

“We are especially interested in reflections from clergy and laity alike that are related to the AAC theme and stories that illustrate the Church’s mission ‘in action,'” said Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary. “Selected submissions will be posted before the AAC opening in mid-July 2015.”

Statute revisions available for comments by Church-at-large

AllAmLOGOThe Holy Synod of Bishops recently blessed the general release of the revised Statute of the Orthodox Church in America for general review by the Church.

The finalized revised Statute will be presented at the 18th All-American Council [AAC] in Atlanta, GA July 20-24, 2015.

The proposed revised Statute, together with a letter of introduction from the Statute Revision Task Force is available. A side-by-side comparison of the old and new versions is included.

“The faithful of the OCA are encouraged to read through the proposed revisions and submit comments for review and consideration,” said Archpriest Alexander Rentel. “Comments may be submitted by e-mail to statute.18aac@oca.org. These will go directly to the Commission on Canons and Statutes for reply or possible consideration for inclusion into the revised text.”

A section of the AAC web site for public commentary is now available. All public comments will be reviewed before posting.

“As required by the current Statute, Article XIII, Section 1, the review process will finish April 21 — before 90 days prior to the beginning of the Council,” Father Alexander added.

Articles on Monasticism, Definitions, and the Effective Date have yet to be completed, but will be posted in the immediate future.

With regard to feedback on the proposed text, all members and friends of the OCA are invited to read through the entire text of the Statute, since it is complex and interrelated, before making comments. All constructive and helpful comments will be considered.

“Major changes to the structure of the OCA will not be considered in this revision process, but should be put forward as future amendments, as such, comments suggesting such things will not be considered at this point,” Father Alexander said. “While the Commission on Canons and Statutes will not publicize the origins of comments received via email, anonymous comments will not be considered. Comments that include hateful, profane, or blasphemous language also will not be considered. Comments should be relevant and specific to the Statute and be of a respectful nature.”

All comments and suggestions will be reviewed by the Commission on Canons and Statutes after the April 21 deadline, at which point Commission members will meet to review and consider feedback and prepare the final draft.

“As required by the current Statute, Article XIII, Section 2, this final draft will be made available 60 days prior to the AAC with the recommendations of the Commission on Canons and Statutes in both the published reports for the AAC as well as in PDF format on the OCA website,” Father Alexander concluded. “This final version will be voted on at a plenary session during the AAC.”

Questions may be submitted to the Commission on Canons and Statutes.

Commission members include His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel; His Grace, Bishop Daniel; Archpriests Alexander Rentel, John Erickson and Dimitri Cozby; Priest Ioan Cozma; Judge E. R. Lanier; and Alexis Liberovsky.

Becoming “fishers of men”

by Priest David C. Rucker, MDiv, DMiss (ABD)

There is an old story some missionaries in the last century dared to tell. It goes like this.

Now it came to pass that a group existed who called themselves fishermen. And lo, there were many fish in the waters all around. In fact, the whole area was surrounded by streams and lakes filled with fish. And the fish were hungry.

Week after week, month after month, year after year, those who called themselves fishermen met in meetings and talked about their call to fish and how they might go about fishing. Year after year they carefully defined what fishing means, defended fishing as an occupation, and declared fishing was what they loved to do.

These fishermen built large, beautiful buildings for a local fishing headquarters, and even a national center for fishing. Some began to realize, however, that the more time they spent doing this, the less time they were spending actually fishing. When this was pointed out, some redoubled their efforts.

In addition to meeting regularly, they organized a board to send out fishermen to other places where there were even more fish. The board was formed by those who had great vision and courage to speak about fishing, to define fishing, to promote the idea of fishing in faraway streams and lakes where many fish of different kinds lived. The board hired a director and staff and appointed committees to define fishing and plan for major fishing expeditions, and to even decide where and how to fish next. But the staff and committees did not fish. So, they worked even harder.

A large, elaborate training center was built as a place to teach fishermen how to fish. Courses were designed and offered, some even for academic credit, to promote and teach fishing. The courses covered the needs of fish, the nature of fish, how to identify fish, how to approach and feed fish. Some even obtained doctorates in “fishology.” But fewer and fewer actually spent time fishing.

The fervor intensified. Large printing houses were built to publish fishing guides and information. Presses worked night and day producing materials devoted to fishing methods, equipment, programs, and to report on the last meeting of the board and to prepare for the next meeting.

After one stirring banquet in a beautiful hotel ball room on “The Necessity of Fishing,” one young man left the meeting and went fishing. At the next meeting he reported that he had actually caught some outstanding fish. He was honored for his excellent catch and was scheduled to visit as many meetings as possible to tell how he did it. He was so busy he had to cut back on his fishing in order to have time to tell about it. He talked about his experience so well that he was put on the General Board, and then had no time at all to fish. He really missed fishing.

After all these heroic efforts, after all the funds were raised and spent, after all the sacrifice, imagine the shock when someone suggested that those who don’t fish aren’t really fishermen at all. Does a desire to fish make one a fisherman? How long can one not fish and still be called a fisherman?

The Master Fisher of Men is still calling: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” [Matthew 4:19]. We can renew, expand upon, and participate personally in this calling which is the mission of our Church; we are called to be “fishers of men.” We become His disciples as we participate in making disciples. Theosis (deification) happens in a unique and unrepeatable way in each person who dares to let Christ make of him or her a “fisher of men.”

*Adapted from John M. Drescher, “A Plea for Fishing,” Pulpit Digest, July/August, 1978 and Wayne McDill. Making Friends for Christ: A Practical Approach to Relational Evangelism. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1979. Pp. 8-9.


Priest David C. Rucker, MDiv, DMiss [ABD], ministers in Alaska as a Mission Specialist with the Orthodox Christian Missions Center.

Metropolitan Council concludes spring session

2015-0210-metcouncil1The spring session of the Metropolitan Council of the Orthodox Church in America was held at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, NY, February 10-12, 2015.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, delivered the opening address, in which he reflected on the theme of the forthcoming 18th All-American Council [AAC], “How to Expand the Mission.”

“Archbishop Anastasios of Albania reminds us that ‘each one of us personally, bears his or her share of responsibility, as a living cell of this organic whole. Interest in apostleship, in mission, is not the specialty of particular groups or individuals, but a definitive characteristic of the Church herself. It is designated as the occupation of the Church. It is the sine qua non of its life,'” said Metropolitan Tikhon. “In this light, I have been trying to emphasis this apostolic work, this apostolic mission which is our common labor — and, I hope, our common love. Last March, I presented a draft statement to the Holy Synod, with the title ‘The Apostolic Work of the Church,’ in which I highlighted the three specific areas that seemed to rise to the top in terms of interest from those various groups and that would seem to be prime areas where our apostolic labors and love might be fruitfully applied.”

In addition to missions and evangelism, Metropolitan Tikhon spoke in detail of the importance of clergy health and our monasteries and seminaries. The complete text of the address will be posted on the OCA web site as it becomes available.

“Since this was the last Metropolitan Council meeting before the opening of the 18th AAC in July 2015, Council members conducted a substantial review of AAC activities and logistics,” said Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary. “A proposed agenda was approved and will be presented to the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops for their blessing in March. The Preconciliar Commission was pleased to report that AAC is on, or slightly under, budget. A full agenda, instructions and reports will be made available in May.”

Council members also reviewed proposed revisions to the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America, slated to be presented at the AAC.

2015-0210-metcouncil3“Archpriest Alexander Rentel of the Statute Revision Committee presented an update on the status of the revision and the anticipated time of release,” said Father Eric. “The revisions, currently going through the final editorial stage with a legislative editor, will be presented to the Holy Synod prior to their public release and commentary.” [See related story.]

“A significant portion of the meeting was devoted to reviewing the proposed financing plan for the OCA, also slated to be presented at the AAC,” continued Father Eric. “Melanie Ringa, OCA Treasurer, presented a proposed plan that has been developed over the past two years by the chancellors and treasurers of the various dioceses. The revised proposal will now be sent to the members of the Holy Synod for their blessing before it is forwarded to the Resolution Committee for presentation at the AAC. Copies of the resolution will be made available with the reports.”

Reports were presented by the OCA’s officers. Archpriest John Jillions, Chancellor, discussed a number of issues, highlighting the reactivation of the Pastoral Life Department, which will include representatives from the dioceses who will focus on issues of clergy health and care. He also reported on the work of ORSMA and reviewed current and completed cases.

Father Eric reported in depth on a number of AAC-related issues, plans for the upcoming Mission School, and various matters related to communications, crisis management, publications and estate management.

OCA Archivist Alexis Liberovsky and other members of the Archives Committee presented a report on their progress with regard to archives management and preservation. Ryan Platte, the OCA’s IT specialist, reported on his work with the OCA web site, the new database and future projects, which include an upgrade of the web site in the future. Dr. Al Rossi reported on the work of SMPAC as the policies and procedures continue to be refined.

2015-0210-metcouncil5The Metropolitan Council’s various committees offered reports on their recent activities. Among the highlights was the final report of the Post-Conciliar Committee, which has been tracking progress made since the 16th AAC with regard to the Strategic Plan. Priest John Vitko reported on a variety of successes which will be presented at the 18th AAC. Archpriest John Shimchick reported on the work of the Organization Committee, which has been examining methods of reorganizing the work of the Central Administration and the various boards, commissions, departments and offices. An initial proposal has been approved and will be presented to the Holy Synod for further action.

Protopresbyter Leonid Kishkovsky offered an in-depth presentation on a variety of activities and matters related to ecumenical affairs and Inter-Church relations, while recent visitations and the present state of the OCA with regard to the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA were discussed.

A presentation also was made by members of the OCA Pension Board.

As part of the rotation by various departments and organizations, the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America [FOCA] and the Philadelphia-based Russian Brotherhood Organization [RBO] offered detailed presentations on their work and on ways they might further assist the Church. RBO was represented by Basil Russin, Esq., who spoke of the varied programs the RBO offers, including insurance, scholarships and other forms of assistance. Representing the FOCA were Archpriest Theodore Boback and Dr. John Schulz, who highlighted the organization’s activities and spoke of its national convention, which for the first time will be held in conjunction with the 18th AAC.

2015-0210-metcouncil6During an open session, Council members discussed various topics and concerns, including the Assembly of Bishops; policies for official OCA publications, web sites and social media; the status of theological education; and the general state of the Church in North America.

On Wednesday morning, February 11, Metropolitan Tikhon celebrated the Divine Liturgy.

Minutes and reports from the Metropolitan Council session will be posted on the OCA web site as they are received.

Help Alaskan, Mexican delegates attend the 18th All-American Council

2015-0212-alaskaIn an effort to assist delegates from the Dioceses of Alaska and Mexico to participate in the 18th All-American Council [AAC], a special appeal was initiated recently, with the blessing of the Holy Synod of Bishops and the concurrence of the Metropolitan Council, to raise funds to help offset their expenses.

The AAC will convene in Atlanta, GA July 20-24, 2015.

Air fares and related expenses can be beyond the reach of most parishes in the Dioceses of Alaska and Mexico. Consequently, parishes, organizations and individuals are being asked to continue sending donations to help offset expenses for delegates from those dioceses.

“As we prepare to come together for the All-American Council in Atlanta next July, our thoughts turn to the idea of mission for the Orthodox Church in America,” said His Grace, Bishop David of Anchorage and Alaska. “What is more important to the idea of mission than the presence of delegates from our first missionary diocese in Alaska—and our newest missionary diocese in Mexico—on the North American continent?

“However, this is unlikely to happen without help,” Bishop David continued. “Clergy and faithful in Alaska still live very much as they have lived for the last 200 years, a subsistence lifestyle that involves very little cash and a great deal of hard work to provide food and fuel for their existence. For Alaskan residents, a ticket from the Anchorage hub to Atlanta can be well over $1,000.00, if not substantially more. And Mexico is in a similar position, especially with the peso-to-dollar exchange rate.”

Clergy, faithful and parishes who wish to enable their “northernmost” and “southernmost” brothers and sisters to participate in the 18th All-American Council are invited to send donations to the Orthodox Church in America, PO Box 675, Syosset, NY 11791. Please make checks payable to the “Orthodox Church in America” and include “18th AAC Travel Fund” in the memo line. All donations will be used exclusively for their intended purpose, and accounted for accordingly. Specific questions or suggestions may be directed to Melanie Ringa, OCA Treasurer, at mringa@oca.org.

“We hope that there will be many faithful willing to take the responsibility of helping to fund delegates from our oldest and youngest dioceses,” Bishop David concluded. “Please think of this opportunity as a way to help the Orthodox Church in America fulfill its mission to be a light to all peoples as we move forward for the glory of God!”

A Response to “How to Expand the Mission”

by Archpriest Steven Voytovich, D. Min.

His Beatitude Tikhon, Metropolitan of our Orthodox Church in America, together with the Holy Synod, has put out a call on “How to Expand the Mission,” taken from the first All-American Sobor, held in Mayfield, Pennsylvania, in March of 1907. At that time this same question was brought to bear on the Russian Mission here in America. The Russian Orthodox Church had gathered in 1905 to discuss church reform. Part of Saint Tikhon’s response to this question from the perspective of the American mission has been translated and is printed in the Saint Tikhon’s Theological Journal dedicated to his life and ministry (2006, p. 29-30). And though Patriarch Tikhon had already been re-assigned away from the American Mission, his successor had not yet arrived, so he supervised the events of this precedent-setting Sobor that he in fact had laid the groundwork for. According to the article on this council posted on the OCA website: “Saint Tikhon increasingly sought the participation and input of all clergy and laity in the governance of the diocese. This remarkable style of diocesan administration engendered various regional ecclesiastical gatherings over several years to discuss and develop church life” (http://oca.org/history-archives/aacs/the-1st-all-american-sobor). Not only did this council convene, but the very approach to governance used was later embraced by the Moscow Sobor of 1917!

In 1920 Patriarch Tikhon issued an Ukase laying the canonical foundation for further development of self-governance in America. This Ukase, referenced in Bogolepov’s book, Toward an American Orthodox Church was to only be applicable until such time as relations with Moscow were re-established (2001, p. 89-ff). We know that the events transpiring during these tumultuous years were many and conflicting, complicating the pathway forward for the American Mission.

According to V. Rev. John Erickson, in the Saint Tikhon’s Theological Journal referenced above, Saint Tikhon understood both the importance of the American context to be multi-national/multi-ethnic, and that its clergy had to be: “missionaries in America and for America” (p. 86-87). Then Bishop Alexander Nemolovsky was elected as ruling bishop by the convened clergy and laymen at the Second Sobor in Cleveland, 1919. This decision was approved by Moscow. Father Erickson goes on to summarize additional points of Patriarch Tikhon’s vision, stating: “It was to be a Church that maintained diversity in unity, ministering to ‘our people,’ but at the same time open to the world, with a mission to wider society, in which all – clergy and laity – were called to participate in responsible ways” (p. 89).

From this brief statement, there are a number of important dimensions of “The Mission” held together in tension. Not the least is our ability to gather as Church as in the upcoming All-American Council (AAC) in 2015, with clergy and lay participation, as a direct outreach from the 1907 All-American Sobor. Unity in diversity, sobornost, was also a foundational dimension of the American missionary context in expressing diverse manifestations of Orthodoxy, that at the broadest level included the missionary experience in Alaska, mixed with significant immigration from a variety of lands, creating numerous transplanted branches of the vine of the Body of Christ needing careful tending. As already noted, clergy were called to be missionaries in and for the American context. At the same time all representative leadership could come together to discuss issues of mutual concern. And, “mission to wider society and the world,” remains an important manifestation of a growing self-governing church, directly here in the American context and beyond.

Wouldn’t it be meaningful for us to take time to look at each of these areas held in tension before and during our upcoming AAC as real opportunity to reflect on our efforts, and future goals, related to expanding the mission? Rather than quietly grousing about divergences between expectations and lived reality of our inner and external relations, let us instead openly reflect on them: celebrate our present diversity, glean lessons learned, and recommit our ties. Saint Tikhon spoke of “regional ecclesiastical gatherings.” Within the OCA, perhaps broad-ranging regional dialogues with territorial and ethnic dioceses focusing and strategizing around a variety of areas in our shared church life would assist in building stronger relations. The same dialogue could include honest reviews of relations with sister churches. Perhaps in some cases representatives could be invited to participate. We also need to identify and take stock of ways in which we have and/or need to engage “wider society.”

I believe our OCA is also at a significant crossroads with respect to “How to Expand the Mission.” The generations of those who assisted in guiding our church through the tumultuous times (or were directly in dialogue with those who were) pre-dating and following the granting of Autocephaly, are rapidly dwindling. Many of these leaders (clergy and lay) hold vital portions of our lived history, including some very creative and meaningful steps taken by faithful Orthodox Christians. They are often reticent to discuss such events and steps without being asked directly. Unless we make an effort to capture them soon, such valuable contributions will be lost to future generations. Together, we need to value such creative and insightful steps, along with related mistakes, made by clergy and faithful trying to navigate the treacherous waters of Orthodoxy in America in the unfolding aftermath of the Russian Revolution and related historical events both there and here. This active loss, alongside the more recent time of troubles, has resulted in an alarming loss of energy and focus on our ongoing mission as OCA. Metropolitan Tikhon is right to recall this focus at such an hour, on clergy health, church institutions, and evangelization, the latter I might broaden to add ministry, in keeping with the early mission of ministering to wider society.

For example, has anyone noticed the growing silence of anyone openly talking about the life of our church here in America? In previous decades such talks certainly contributed toward the focus of expanding the mission while inspiring present and future Orthodox Christians. In having returned to seminary in my present role as dean, I am continually astounded to see just how much of what was publically shared and written about when I was in seminary 25 years ago, remains as true and meaningful today. Yes, we hear ample critique of many of these authors by subsequent generations, but little in the form of the substantive body of work many of them created simply out of their real and humble love for Christ, and efforts to build on the foundation of the Orthodox mission planted here.

Shortly after beginning service as dean last fall, I had the opportunity to share early steps taken with Archpriest Paul Lazor, former Dean of Students at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary. In our discussion, we each disclosed having reviewed how previous seminary professors taught course material we were assigned to, and then made adjustments relating to our respective perceptions of current contextual concerns. Father Paul identified the fruit of this approach as developing a “healthy continuity,” and I wholeheartedly agree. Can we reflectively and critically apply such an approach to Orthodoxy in America today?

Our growing – and in my estimation unhealthy – focus most recently appears to be on survival amidst the contracting size and financial strength of the OCA. It is important to note that financial struggles were also present at the time of Saint Tikhon’s time of leadership. An example here is of Holy Trinity Church’s building funds of $40,000 being absconded by a banker they were entrusted to in 1901, followed by related false testimony by another against the character of Saint John Kochurov to the parish. It took Saint Tikhon’s direct involvement to both restore the funds and the relationship between parish and priest for the church to be completed in 1903 (2006, pp. 5-6). Funding itself, though necessary, is not a total solution; relationships remain at the core of our church life.

Additionally, as the dwindling (noted above among previous generations) has persisted, new generations of Orthodox Christians have both emerged from and grown up within in this American context. Many now do not hold the concerns that past generations had around “jurisdictions,” “autocephaly,” and much of the history we have too quickly referenced here. Increasing numbers of our faithful today are among those coming to Orthodoxy as converts. So on the one hand, we have sons of current clergy studying at seminary, remaining convinced of the need to serve the church, and holding some amount of generational lived experience of American Orthodoxy. On the other hand, we have converts that are also greatly convicted of the truth of Orthodoxy. They desire, however, to remain unencumbered by what they see past generations having been in some way consumed by.

The need for dialogue around “How to Expand the Mission,” is, therefore, at least as important today as ever before. Together, as church, we can hopefully value and learn from the labors that our forefathers (some now Saints!) creatively offered, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in what was for them a new and foreign context of America that remain meaningful to us today. And, through the lens of a healthy continuity, we can support and embrace the energy and creativity of those who today want the light of Orthodoxy to continue to brightly shine forth in this context, inspired by the same Spirit.

I believe the best pathway forward is to hold our past and present in tension, as we look to the future, drawing from the celebration of the Eucharist that ultimately defines our identity and mission as Church. It is this primary model of the “local Church” – first referenced with James, the Brother of the Lord, together with the Church in Jerusalem where he was bishop, celebrating the Eucharist – that continues to be both our goal and witness as Orthodox Christians in North America today. I should hope that we would be reluctant to give up this witness, unless in solidarity with our sister church clergy and faithful as they are blessed from abroad to similarly freely undertake such regional ecclesiastical dialogue in resolving questions related to Orthodoxy in North America, as begun in small steps by Saint Tikhon. Sister Church leadership from abroad could remain invaluable prayerful mentors and guides for such historic developmental steps!

I would like to close by repeating the prayer offered by Bishop Basil (Essey) closing his address in the aforementioned journal: “By the prayers of all those saints who knew each other and were co-workers in Holy Orthodoxy’s One Vineyard of North America – Saint Tikhon and Saint Raphael, Saint John Kochurov and Saint Alexander Hotovitsky, Saint Alexis Toth and so many others – may God by their intercessions open our eyes and the eyes of Orthodox believers throughout this country and throughout the world to see the vision that they beheld and to live the life they struggled to live, and to recapture and enjoy the blessing of that unity which they indeed enjoyed by God’s grace” (2006, p. 148).

References:

Bogolepov, Alexander A. Toward an American Orthodox Church: The Establishment of an Autocephalous Orthodox Church. SVS Press, 2001 (revising the 1963 original text).

V. Rev. [sic] Michael Dahulich, ed. Saint Tikhon’s Theological Journal. “Patriarch Tikhon: The American Years, 1898-1907 – Our Common Legacy.” Vol. IV, reflecting papers presented at the September 19, 2006 Symposium with this focus, and fall lecture series presentations that followed it.


Archpriest Steven Voytovich, D. Min, is Dean of Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, South Canaan, PA and Chair of the OCA’s Institutional Chaplain Department.

Metropolitan Council to meet February 10-12

The Metropolitan Council of the Orthodox Church in America will hold its semi-annual meeting at Immaculate Conception Seminary here Tuesday, February 10 through Thursday, February 12, 2015.

According to Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, will offer the opening address and report, followed by reports from the officers of the Church. Detailed plans for the forthcoming 18th All-American Council [AAC], slated to convene in Atlanta, GA July 20-24, 2015, also will be discussed. A final draft of the proposed AAC agenda will be reviewed and submitted to the Holy Synod of Bishops for final approval.

Additional agenda items include the presentation of a draft of the OCA Statute by members of the Statute Revision Committee. The draft will be reviewed and revised accordingly before it is released to the Church for general input and presentation at the AAC.

Reports also will be heard from the Archive Committee, IT specialist Ryan Platte, and the OCA’s other committees and departments. Presentations will be made by the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America and the Philadelphia-based Russian Brotherhood Organization.

Finally, a comprehensive review of initial plans for financial proposals slated to be presented at the AAC will be undertaken.

On Thursday, the new Lesser Synod of Bishops will meet to review plans for the Spring Session of the Holy Synod in March.

Minutes and reports from the meeting will be posted as they are received.

Preconciliar Commission reviews AAC agenda, Statute revisions

Members of the Orthodox Church in America’s Preconciliar Commission [PCC], charged with the organization of the 18th All-American Council [AAC] in Atlanta, GA July 20-24, 2015, reviewed the agenda and overall program for the gathering during their meeting at the Chancery here on Wednesday, February 4, 2015.

The general and plenary session agendas will be presented to the Metropolitan Council and the Holy Synod of Bishops for approval in the coming weeks. High priority was given reviewing progress made by the Statute Revision Committee and the timeline for posting the final draft text on the OCA and AAC web sites. [See related story.]

A variety of logistics matters were discussed, as were procedures for submitting resolutions for consideration at the AAC. Resolutions may be submitted to resolutions@18aac.oca.org before April 17.

PCC members were updated on plans for the National Convention of the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America, which will be held the weekend before the AAC, and the Council’s youth program. [See related news.]

On-line registration for the AAC and hotel accommodations has been available for several weeks at http://18aac.oca.org/registration/.

The finalized AAC agenda, notices and reports will be posted on-line on May 15, 2015 — 60 days prior to the AAC.

Diocesan Chancellors, Treasurers consider finances, Statute revisions

Despite wintery weather, Chancellors and Treasurers of the dioceses of the Orthodox Church in America gathered at the Chancery here for their fourth annual meeting on February 3, 2015.

The meeting opened with the celebration of a Service of Thanksgiving in Saint Sergius Chapel, after which His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon welcomed those in attendance.

Archpriests John Jillions and John Erickson and Mr. Alexis Liberovsky, Archivist, presented an overview of the Statute revision process, reporting that a final draft, to be shared with the faithful on the 18th All-American Council web site, was nearing completion.

The participants then shared what their respective dioceses are currently doing relative to the existing Statute, specifically Acticle 10, Section 6, which addresses the financial support of the OCA and dioceses. It was revealed that the dioceses approach this matter in different ways.

  • The eight territorial dioceses currently submit their assessments to the OCA based on an annual census of their memberships.
  • The Diocese of Alaska and the Archdiocese of Canada tithe 10% of their annual diocesan revenues to the OCA. The Diocese of Alaska remits a check annually; while the Archdiocese of Canada sets aside the funds in a separate account deposited in Canada to be used to pay for OCA business, usually travel by Metropolitan Tikhon or by representatives of the Archdiocese on OCA business.
  • The three extra-territorial dioceses remit a fixed amount to the OCA — $5,000.00 from the Bulgarian Dioceses, $22,000.00 from the Albanian Archdiocese, and $24,000.00 from the Romanian Episcopate.
  • The Diocese of Mexico does not remit assessment payments to the OCA.

It was noted that the Diocese of the South and the Diocese of the West recently developed proposals for their dioceses to move from the per capita assessment to a proportional giving model. Mr. Milos Konjevich, Treasurer of the Diocese of the South [DOS], reported that in 2009, the DOS had adopted a 10% tithe from the parishes in place of the per capita assessment. The DOS still remitted the OCA assessment based on parishes’ annual census reports, but funded this from the parishes’ 10% tithes. Mr. Konjevich added that, while the diocese initially experienced a decline in revenues, the trend was reversed very quickly and the diocesan revenues have been steadily increasing annually by approximately 8-11%.

The Diocese of the West also has been considering a plan for proportional giving, by which the diocese would require a 12.5% tithe from their parishes, of which 34% would be sent to the OCA during the first year of the new plan. Thereafter, an annual one percent decrease would be put into effect, with a 30% cap. The proposal has yet to be finalized and approved, but will be presented to the diocese in the immediate future.

Similar models are being considered by other dioceses, including the Diocese of New England.

With regard to revisions pertaining to finances in the Statute, it was noted that the revised Statute removes the “per capita language” from the section on parishes and places it in the section on dioceses, as proposed by the Statute Revision Task Force upon the recommendation of the Metropolitan Council’s Finance Committee. A lengthy discussion ensued on the mechanics of transitioning from a “per capital” assessment to a proportional giving model and its presentation at the 18th All-American Council in July 2015. The diocesan chancellors and treasurers agreed that there could indeed be slightly different models in play each diocese, depending on where that diocese is at present in transitioning to proportional giving.

Action items that emerged during this discussion include the following.

  • The OCA Chancellor and Treasurer will meet with each diocese over the next two months to establish specific plans for each diocese. Dioceses can have as many representatives as they desire at such meetings.
  • The plans from each diocese will be presented to the entire Holy Synod if Bishops for approval.
  • There will be a follow-up meeting with the diocesan Chancellors/Treasurers to present the complete plan and the resolution that will be presented at the AAC.
  • The final resolution on the funding method and rate will be prepared in time to meet the 60-day requirement — May 21, 2015.

In addition to Metropolitan Tikhon, Fathers Jillions and Erickson, and Messrs. Konjevich and Liberovsky, others attending the meeting included Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary and Ms. Melanie Ringa, OCA Treasurer; Priest Raymond Martin Browne, Treasurer of the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania; Archpriest Joseph Lickwar, Chancellor of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey; Priest David Cowan, Assistant Chancellor of the Diocese of New York and New Jersey; Archpriest Don Freude, Chancellor of the Bulgarian Diocese; and Priest Nathan Preston of the Albanian Archdiocese.

Real questions!

by Dr. David C. Ford

There can be little doubt that today North America is more of a mission field than it ever was. As we all can see, the Christian “reservoir” of traditional values is rapidly evaporating before our very eyes. Now, more than ever, our surrounding society needs the stability, hope, and wholeness that Christ offers through His Holy Orthodox Church – through her true worship, her true spirituality, and her faithfulness to the eternal truths about this earthly life and about eternal life, which have been faithfully passed down to us by myriads of faithful Orthodox Christians through nearly 20 centuries.

But the real question for us, as Orthodox Christians in the 21st century, is whether we will faithfully share these same truths with those who desperately need to hear about them in our surrounding society. Will we be compassionate enough and strong enough in our Faith to proclaim our Lord’s truth, even in the face of misunderstanding, ridicule, and hostility?

For instance, do we talk openly about the fullness of the Gospel of Christ, with its message of hope and wholeness embedded in our Orthodox Faith, to our non-Orthodox friends and/or relatives? Do we invite them to our church services? Do we welcome newcomers into our churches, being eager for our parishes to grow? Are we praying in our parishes for the Lord to bring new people into our churches, whoever they may be? Are we celebrating the services at least mostly in English, so newcomers, and our own people, can understand better?

Will we be more eager, at the parish level, to support our fellow Orthodox Christians in neighboring parishes, whatever their jurisdiction might be, so that our Orthodox witness to our surrounding communities can be stronger through our being more united? Are we eager to hold and participate in combined events with the other Orthodox Christians in our areas, and are we working towards that?

Are we encouraging the young people in our parishes to seek the Lord’s will for their lives, including the possibility of full-time ministry in the Church? Are we actively supporting the work of our seminaries and our missionaries? Are we encouraging and supporting the growth of Orthodox monasteries in our land, and visiting them as regularly as we can?

Are we encouraging our priests to lead weekly study groups, so that we can grow in our faith, and have something else to invite friends to? If our parish has such a group, are we participating in it?

Do we care enough about our young people to firmly yet lovingly advise them that they must preserve their bodily integrity until marriage in order to live in full physical, emotional, and spiritual health, without any guilt – and so that their marriages can get off to the best possible start? Are we strong enough to advise them that all extra-marital sexual activity is sinful and must be repented of? And are we strong enough in our Faith to urge our young people to devote themselves and their marriages fully into our Lord’s hands, so that they may truly be led by Him, with their marriages wonderfully reflecting Christ’s Love for His Bride, the Church?

Are we strong enough to compassionately, yet firmly, advise those with same-sex attraction that they do indeed have the power, through their free-will and through the grace of God that’s always available for the asking, to resist such temptations – even though this may be very difficult at times – and to keep trying to live in purity of body, soul, mind, and spirit [1 Corinthians 10:13]? Will we and our clergy stand firm in resisting the pressures of our surrounding society to give in to the misplaced spirit of toleration in our day that says same-sex sexual activity is no longer to be considered sinful?

By Saint Tikhon of Moscow’s prayers, and those of all the North American Saints, may all of us Orthodox Christians in North America, both clergy and laity, be ready and able to answer “Yes” to all of these questions. For if we’re doing these things, the way will be prepared for our Lord to bring increase to His Church in this land – the mission will indeed expand, as He directs.


Dr. David C. Ford is Professor of Church History at Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, South Canaan, PA.