Archive | March, 2015

Register now for 18th All-American Council

Hilton, Atlanta, GADelegates and participants in the 18th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America and the 89th National Convention of the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians of America, both of which will be held here in mid-July 2015, are urged to make hotel reservations at their earliest convenience.

“Registration has been brisk for the limited number of available rooms,” said Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary. “The hotel has developed a dedicated site for easy on-line registration.”

The back-to-back events will be held at the Hilton Atlanta, 255 Courtland Street NE, Atlanta, GA. Participants may register on-line for the special AAC/FOCA rate. The discounted nightly rate of $124.00 plus tax is guaranteed from July 18-24.

To register as an AAC delegate, observer, or youth participant, please visit http://18aac.oca.org/registration. Detailed instructions for clergy, lay and youth delegates and observers, suggestions for flight and other travel arrangements, and related information may be found here.

Holy Synod approves “Stewards of Children” training program for all clergy, youth workers

At their spring session held at the Chancery here in mid-March 2015, the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America approved the use of the “Stewards of Children” [SOC] sexual abuse prevention training program.

During the last week of March, a letter was sent to all bishops and clergy concerning the program. The letter is available in PDF format.

“Developed by the not-for-profit organization “Darkness to Light“, the SOC program may be undertaken on-line or in person,” said Cindy Heise, Coordinator for the OCA’s Office of Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations [ORSMA]. “The training program, which provides education on the prevention of sexual abuse of children as well as how to respond when a child discloses abuse, usually takes two hours to complete. And it is free of charge to anyone who registers through ORSMA.

“All individuals age 16 and over who work with youth in various capacities are required to take abuse prevention training (PSP 14.01),” Mrs. Heise emphasized. “These positions include all bishops, priests and deacons, and youth workers/ministers; youth leaders, mentors, and advisors; Church school teachers; and so on.”

It is recommended that SOC training be undertaken every three years. Shorter modules for those completing SOC may be pursued in the “off” years between each full training session.

To register for the on-line training course, please contact Mrs. Heise at cheise@oca.org or 516-922-0931. As a certified facilitator, she also is available to provide training in person to groups. Those interested in scheduling a group training session are encouraged to contact her.

In addition, Mrs. Heise will offer SOC training during the 18th All-American Council in Atlanta on July 22 and 23. Seating will be limited to 40 participants per session, so those interested in attending should sign up on-line at http://18aac.oca.org/registration When completing the registration process, participants should select “Protecting the Youth – Cindy Heise and Bernie Wilson” for either Wednesday or Thursday.

Expanding Our Mission through Theological Education

by Archpriest Dr. Chad Hatfield

The great Orthodox Christian missionary bishop, Saint Innocent of Alaska, founded the first seminary in North America, while he was bishop of the new diocese in Alaska of the Russian Orthodox Church. This “Missionary Seminary” was located in his home in Sitka (New Archangel), which was constructed 1841–1843, and in which Saint Innocent lived until 1853. The “Russian Bishop’s House” is now part of the National Parks System, but its second floor chapel still is graciously made available to Orthodox Christians for liturgical services from time to time.

I have had the great blessing to serve in that chapel, using the same chalice, diskos, and censer that had been used by Saint Innocent. I was deeply moved as I sat quietly in the first-floor section of the house that had been used for the instruction of seminarians. I could sense it had been a place of prayer, where students were educated and formed for service in the vast Diocese of Kamchatka, the Kuriles and Aleutians, from the cathedral see in Sitka.

These seminarians would have spoken Fox Aleut, Tlingit, or Yup’ik, or Athabaskan. These native and mixed-race candidates for Holy Orders would have learned Latin, Church Slavonic, and Russian, and would as well have studied theology, medicine, and liturgics. Bishop Innocent imparted to them all the great importance of expanding the mission of the Orthodox Church.

Saint Innocent believed three things were required to plant Orthodoxy in a new land.

  • Recruiting local people as candidates for the priesthood.
  • Training them in local seminaries.
  • Communicating the Gospel in the language of the local people.

In 1853 the Sitka seminary was transferred to Siberia, when by then, the now Archbishop Innocent had been transferred to lead the diocese from its new see in Yakutsk. While the seminary was moved to Siberia, education in theology remained available in Sitka, as part of the school system that had been established in Alaska by the Church. The seminary that Saint Innocent had established then became known as the “Innocentian Missionary School.” Up until 1900, that school was still functioning, and included a two-year course in biblical history, catechism, liturgics, church history, church practice, along with classes in the humanities and mathematics!

When Russia and the United States negotiated the Alaska Purchase in 1867, Saint Innocent, by then Metropolitan of Moscow, viewed the sale as an opportunity for the Church to expand its mission even farther throughout North America, and not as a tragedy for the Russian Orthodox Church, which already had made significant inroads in establishing centers of theological education and in spreading the true faith throughout the U.S. and its territories.

When Bishop John (Mitropolsky) transferred the administrative offices of the Diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska to San Francisco in 1872, he also transferred the Missionary School (though it later returned to Sitka). Upon the arrival of Archbishop Vladimir (Sokolosky-Avtonomov) in 1888, a school for readers and choir directors was established.

However, as the Orthodox presence in the eastern and mid-western parts of the United States grew, Bishop Nicholas (Ziorov) moved the theological education center from the west coast to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to coincide with the shift in the Orthodox Christian population. There, the “Minneapolis Missionary School” was opened in 1897, and continued until the growth in the student body (numbered at 122!) made necessary an expansion of the school facilities.

A Seminary Commission was formed by Archbishop Tikhon (Bellavin) to explore the formation of a new seminary for the North American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. After favorably receiving the findings of the commission, Archbishop Tikhon transferred the missionary school from Minneapolis to Cleveland, Ohio, and replaced it in Minneapolis on July 1, 1905, with the “North American Ecclesiastical Seminary.” The first dean of the new seminary was Priest Constantine Popov, a graduate of the Vologda Seminary in Russia. In 1906 Priest Leonid Turkevich was appointed rector and dean of the seminary. During the time the seminary remained in Minneapolis, the Divine Liturgy and other church services were celebrated in English.

However, it soon became apparent that the majority of seminarians were coming from the northeastern part of the U.S., and equally important to note was that the administrative center of the diocese was in New York City. Considering these two facts, a decision was made to move the seminary from Minneapolis to Tenafly, New Jersey in 1912, at which time it was renamed “Saint Platon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary.” At that time Archbishop Tikhon emphasized once again the crucial importance for seminaries to train candidates to become “pastors for the people from within their own milieu, knowing their spirit, customs, and language” (Report to the Holy Synod, 1902, in J. Erickson, Orthodox Christians in America: A Short History, 2nd rev. edn., New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 50).

In 1917, the Russian Revolution brought financial hardship and confusion to the Church in North America. Classes continued until 1922 at Tenafly before the seminary operation was moved to the Russian National Home in New York City. From 1924 until 1937–1938 there were no seminaries to train future priests. A few Orthodox seminarians trained at Episcopalian seminaries during this time, including Nashotah House in Wisconsin. There, a large icon of the Three Hierarchs is still found, a gift of Orthodox Christian graduates from the Class of 1928.

In 1937, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America established a theological school at Pomfret, Connecticut, which eventually became Holy Cross School of Theology, with its location in Brookline, Massachusetts. In 1938 the Russian Mission in North America established Saint Vladimir’s Seminary in New York City and Saint Tikhon’s Pastoral School in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. In 1942 the Great Sobor of Bishops recognized Saint Tikhon’s as a seminary, and it began expanding its faculty, campus facilities, and curriculum. In 1946, at the Seventh All-American Sobor, the Church approved a plan to reorganize Saint Vladimir’s Seminary as a graduate school of theology, and in 1948 the Synod of Bishops granted that privilege, thus making Saint Vladimir’s a “Theological Academy” (the Russian equivalent of a graduate school of theology); this transformation was officially sanctioned by the Board of Regents of the University of New York by granting the seminary first a Provisional Charter (1948) and then an Absolute Charter (1953). In 1973 Saint Herman’s Pastoral School (later seminary) was established in Alaska, giving the Orthodox Church in America three seminaries to oversee and support.

As we look to expand the mission of Orthodox Christianity in North America in 2015, we clergy and hierarchs of the OCA must now consider if it’s time to examine in a proper and passionless manner the place and role of our three seminaries, by asking the following: Why is residential formation for priestly ministry considered essential in our Orthodox Christian tradition? How can our seminarians meet the demands of the high cost of residential education? Where do distance learning and hybrid forms of education fit into the scheme of expanding our mission?

We need this conversation to determine a long-term game plan, building on the great legacy that comprises our OCA history of missiological and theological education.

Moreover, at our 16th All-American Council meeting in Seattle in 2011, a resolution was passed unanimously that called for all of our parishes and missions to send 1% of the total monetary sum of their annual budgets to an OCA seminary of their choosing. If embraced, executing this resolution parish-by-parish and mission-by-mission would go a very long way in reducing the current annual funds needed for operational costs facing our three seminaries.

Sadly, only a handful of our OCA parishes and missions participate in this sacrificial, but much needed, method of support for our seminaries, where leaders for expanding our mission are being educated and formed. Remember: those first seminarians in Alaska, including those who began studies with Saint Innocent, grew their missionary diocese to the point of having more than 50 clergy in a mere 18 years!

The question before us in Atlanta at the 18th All-American Council will be: Are we ready to move on a proper strategic plan for theological education and seminary financial support that will be foundational for effective missionary outreach in the future? Without addressing this fundamental question, expanding our mission through our seminaries will be nearly impossible in this 21st century, and we will be found remiss in honoring our impressive heritage of theological education.
_____________________

Sources:

  • Orthodox America 1794-1976 Development of the Orthodox Church in America, C. J. Tarasar, Gen. Ed. 1975, The Orthodox Church in America, Syosset, New York.
  • John H. Erickson, Orthodox Christians in America, Oxford University Press, New York.

Archpriest Dr. Chad Hatfield, is Chancellor and Adjunct Professor of Missiology at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY.

Reacquainting ourselves with what God has called us to be

by Archpriest Basil Rhodes

The theme of the 18th All-American Council is “How to Expand the Mission.” What is the “mission” of the Orthodox Church in America anyway, and why does it need expanding?

According to the Mission Statement of the Holy Synod of Bishops, “The Mission of the Orthodox Church in America, the local autocephalous Orthodox Church, is to be faithful in fulfilling the commandment of Christ to ‘go into all the world and make disciples of all 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 He has] commanded,’ so that all people may be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth: 1) To preach, in accordance with God’s will, the fullness of the gospel of the Kingdom to the peoples of North America and to invite them to become members of the Orthodox Church. 2) To utilize for her mission the various languages of the peoples of this continent. 3) To be the Body of Christ in North America and to be faithful to the tradition of the Holy Orthodox Church. 4) To witness to the truth, and by God’s grace and in the power of the Holy Spirit, to reveal Christ’s way of sanctification and eternal salvation to all” [Adopted by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, 1990].

The Mission of the OCA is to incarnate the words of the Tomos of Autocephaly — in other words, to BE the autocephalous Orthodox Church in North America. To expand this notion is first of all to reacquaint ourselves with what God has called us to be, and secondly to embrace that calling with renewed vigor and renewed dedication. The word “mission” also means “a calling to action.” This calling is to spread the Word of God as rightly preached and rightly practiced to all the peoples of North America. God has not called us to be a museum conserving religious artifacts. He has not called us to be a cultural preservation society for any particular people. God has not required of us any affiliation with any particular ethnic or national identity or cause other than our own. We are Canadians, we are Americans, we are Mexicans… and we are Orthodox Christians. This does not mean that we do not recognize traditional, “Old World” communities within our larger context. On the contrary, we DO, and we celebrate them. We honor and respect them. But “mission” means “to expand and to grow,” bringing the word of truth to those outside of the traditional Old World communities, communicating the Holy Tradition in a way they can appreciate, and in a language that they can understand.

Some have suggested that the only way to accomplish a unified North American Orthodox Church is to surrender our vision and our mission to that of others. I disagree. We may be small, but David was small. We may be weak, but as Jesus said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” [2 Corinthians 12:9]. We may be unrecognized by many, but so was the Lord Jesus Christ [John 1:10]. No, surrender is not the way. Expand the mission, celebrate the mission, extol the mission, empower the mission. In this way, we not only fulfill the mandate given to the Church by God, but we each, as individuals, “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:14].


Archpriest Basil Rhodes, is Rector of Saint Nicholas Church, Saratoga, CA.

Expanding the Mission: A monastic perspective

by Brother Christopher of New Skete

In reflecting on the theme for the coming 18th All-American Council, what strikes me as most vital is this question: How do we as a Church help bring those we meet into a living and dynamic relationship with Christ — one which at the same time is an experience of the Kingdom of God? We can be ever so doctrinally pure, have awe-inspiring liturgy and beautiful architecture and iconography, but if we are cold, distant, and judgmental to those who come through our doors, our churches will stagnate and eventually wither. Dostoevsky articulated this tension brilliantly through the characters of the Elder Zossima and Father Ferapont. What is alarming is how seductive the rigorist mindset of Ferapont seems to be to some in the Church who measure authenticity by a narrow, triumphalistic ecclesiology.

More than any specific program of evangelism or model of renewal, more than wonderful liturgies and beautiful churches, our primary concern must be that we are a community of welcome that others experience as authentic and Christ-like, that initiates them into a living experience of the Kingdom of God. This is what is attractive and believable to our world: the fruit of the transformation we ourselves have experienced. This openness and generosity is the preeminent gift of Orthodoxy and accounts for its remarkable growth throughout the early Church. It is our inheritance. Whenever people experience this, the rich tradition of the Church flowers in life-enhancing ways that foster true growth.

If we are to faithfully expand the mission of the Church, we must be “catholic” in the best sense of the term. This means finding our identity as Church here in North America, with a vision that is broad enough to include immigrant communities, but which renounces any sort of ethnic or colonial tribalism as inimical to the identity of the Church. We are Orthodox, and for that very reason we are inclusive in the best sense possible. Further, it is essential that we empower and support the various ministries of the Church precisely because they act on behalf of us and in communion with us. The Church requires our financial and moral support. By self-identifying as the Church in North America, our vision must transcend any sort of “club mentality” and work to be a community of faith that humbly radiates the presence or Christ to all we meet. This is what our world hungers for. Responding to that need is at the core of our mission, at the core of our own identity.


Brother Christopher, is a monk at New Skete, Cambridge, NY.

Deadline for submitting AAC resolutions is April 17

18thAACApril 17, 2015 is the deadline for submitting proposed resolutions for the 18th All-American Council, slated to convene 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. 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.

As announced in mid-January, 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.

Love People, Be Courageous, and Work Hard

by Protodeacon Peter Danilchick

“He longed to preach the Gospel to those who had not heard it.” So one historian described Saint Nikolai of Japan, Equal-to-the-Apostles, who planted Orthodox Christianity in Japan in the late 1800s. I was very fortunate to serve from 1977 through 1979 at Tokyo’s Holy Resurrection Cathedral, known to the public as Nikolai-Do, the “house of Nikolai.”

Saint Nikolai was assigned in 1860 as the Russian consular chaplain in Hakodate, on the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan. He could have had a very comfortable life ministering solely to the needs of the Russian people there. But he did not. He turned his efforts to evangelizing the people of Japan.

Saint Nikolai’s missionary principles were threefold — love the people by first understanding who they are, be courageous in sharing the faith, and work hard and continuously.

He visited Buddhist monasteries to understand their beliefs. In fact, at one monastery, he engaged in such intense discussions that the monks thought he wished to convert to Buddhism. However, the shoe was on the other foot. He wished to convert them! But first he needed to understand the spirituality of the Japanese people. Why? In order to minister to them. “He attempted to transplant Orthodoxy into Japanese minds and infuse it into the Japanese spirit.” But then it was necessary that the people understand the prayers, liturgy, and theology of Christ’s Church. To do this, he translated into Japanese the New Testament and the services of the Orthodox Church, not ceasing until his death in 1912.

When Saint Nikolai began his work, Christianity was forbidden, and any missionary efforts could be met with prison and death. One day, a sword-wielding samurai came to see him in order to dissuade him from his Christian belief and, if unsuccessful, to kill him. Saint Nikolai persuaded the warrior to sit down with a cup of tea and have a calm discussion. The samurai eventually became one of the first Japanese Orthodox priests. Saint Nikolai was courageous in sharing the faith.

In 1911, the Japanese Orthodox Church had three times as many catechists as clergy. The catechists were not seminary-trained. They would meet in-house twice a week to learn about Christ and His Church. But Saint Nikolai did not allow them to keep their newly acquired faith and knowledge to themselves. They would hold classes two other times in the same week, teaching those who knew less than they did. They worked hard and seriously.

As a result of my experience in Japan, followed by mission efforts in Texas, Hong Kong and Singapore, I have found the following three simple and straightforward missionary principles to be very useful. Unfortunately, they are so simple that sometimes they can be forgotten.

  • Include the people in the service and the work of the Church. In our Singapore and Hong Kong missions, we didn’t rely on one or two readers, but asked various people in the congregation to read the psalms. We sang from simple song sheets, ensuring as much as possible that the hearers would understand the words, especially when new to them. We utilized different approaches to the music of the services. In Singapore, Matins was sung using two-part harmony from the OCA “Soroka Matins book.” The Typica (and Liturgy) hymns were sung according to the GOA Divine Liturgy Hymnal. Cradle Orthodox felt at home; converts learned about diversity. Organizing mission services and activities required a lot of work. We didn’t wait for people to volunteer. We asked them to help, emphasizing that everyone is called to be part of the “fellow-workers” beloved by Saint Paul.
  • Educate people in words and concepts that they can understand. We emphasized Christ, the daily life of prayer, reading the Bible, good works, kindness, generosity and forbearance. In Singapore, potential converts from Buddhism first read the Gospel of Saint Mark, being the simplest, shortest and most direct of the four. (Recall that Saint Mark’s Gospel was the one which Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, as a non-believer, read and discovered the presence of Christ.) Our church in Singapore was quite small, simple, and intimate. Teachings were directed at the needs of the people. One of our American expats said that she regretted the day that she had to return to her large church in America and would miss the closeness and sharing of the community in Singapore.
  • Be models of Christian behavior for those to whom we are missionizing. Love others in practical ways. Welcome all visitors warmly. Ensure they’re included in the life of the Church. Learn about their families, their hopes, their troubles. Pray for them. No matter the size of the parish or mission, assign people, clergy and laity, to ensure others are continuously looked after. When you look upon the congregation, see not just the “regulars,” but also the people who are not there, known and unknown. Engage the ones who should be there, who need the saving message of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Love people, be courageous, and work hard.


    Protodeacon Peter Danilchick, is attached to Protection of the Holy Mother of God Church, Falls Church, Virginia.