Archive | April, 2015

Register now for FOCA 89th convention in Atlanta

foca-logoJuly 2015 marks the first time the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America [FOCA] will be holding its annual national convention — the 89th in the organization’s history — in conjunction with the Orthodox Church in America’s All-American Council.

The convention will be held in Atlanta July 18-20, 2015, while the 18th All-American Council will open July 20 and run through July 24.

The FOCA’s activities will begin on Saturday, July 18, with the President’s Golf Outing at the Stone Mountain Golf Club, located in Stone Mountain National Park near downtown Atlanta. The cost is $75.00 per participant, which includes 18 holes of golf, cart and entrance fee to the park.

Two tours — CNN and Coca-Cola — are also scheduled for Saturday. The FOCA Board of Trustees will meet at the hotel at 3:00 p.m. Attendees are invited to attend Saturday evening Vespers at Atlanta’s Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral at 6:00 p.m., with the convention open house slated to begin at 8:00 p.m.

On Sunday, July 19, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon will preside at the Divine Liturgy at 9:00 a.m. At 6:00 p.m. that evening, the convention banquet and dance will be held.

A 90-minute Peachtree Trolley Tour of Atlanta proper will be offered on Monday, July 20, at 9:30 a.m., with convention sessions scheduled for 1:00 p.m.

Forms for placing ads in the commemorative book and ticket orders for convention events are available on the FOCA web site. Related information on convention and AAC lodging registration is available here.

See related news here and here.

Friday, April 17 deadline for submitting AAC resolutions

18thAACBright Friday, April 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 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 18th All-American Council, slated to convene in Atlanta, GA July 20-24, 2015.

Detailed information on resolutions may be found here.

Holy Synod issues letter supporting continuation of Statute Revision process

2013-1122-holy-synod-logoIn a letter dated Friday, April 3, 2015, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon shared the intention of the Holy Synod of Bishops to continue the process regarding the revision of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America and the presentation of the final draft at the 18th All-American Council [AAC] in Atlanta, GA July 20-24, 2015.

The text of the letter may be accessed here.

While weighing concerns that the time allocated for a Church-wide review of the revisions is insufficient, the members of the Holy Synod agreed to continue the current process and to make the proposed revised text available on-line and in hard copy 60 days before the Council’s opening, as required by the current Statute. As previously reported, the revision will be considered as a whole through an “up and down,” rather than an “article by article,” vote by AAC delegates.

Concurrently, the Statute Revision Committee has issued a letter offering an update on its activities and the continuation of the Church-wide vetting process, which is available here. Also available is the text of Article XIII — not found in the current Statute — which addresses the OCA’s monastic institutions.

In related news, the deadline for submitting resolutions is April 17, 2015. In addition to offering comments on the Statute, resolutions may be submitted on-line at

Related information may be found here.

Calling all youth, adult volunteers to participate in the 18th AAC

2014-0815-youth-aacFor years, the Orthodox Church in America’s Department of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry, in conjunction with the Department of Christian Education, was very successful in reaching hundreds of youthful participants at the OCA’s All-American Councils [AAC]. This year’s AAC, slated to be held in Atlanta, GA July 20-24, 2015, will be no exception.

“At the height of this ministry run by Father Michael Anderson, with the blessing of the Synod of Bishops, there were nearly 400 youth participants,” said Priest Benjamin Tucci, who is overseeing this year’s AAC youth program. “We are bringing back the program in an attempt to reach out to our youth and help them to grow in the Church while they enjoy meeting other Orthodox Christians from across North America.”

The department encourages the OCA’s youth, as well as chaperones, educators, and other volunteers, to register now to participate in and help implement the AAC youth programs. Detailed registration information is available on the AAC web site. A flyer that includes the daily youth schedule of activities and outings also is available.

“You will need to purchase plane tickets and shuttle youth to the hotel,” Father Benjamin added. “You are welcome and encouraged to use the cost efficient Marta train system that will bring you from the airport to the hotel.

“Youth participants, chaperones and adult volunteers will be overwhelmed by the number of clergy and lay people who care about the OCA, learn more about their faith, and meet new people who are Orthodox or interested in Orthodoxy,” Father Benjamin said. “They will also participate in the Divine Liturgy and other services with hundreds of other Orthodox Christians while enjoying a variety of afternoon events and activities.”

Saint Tikhon’s Pastoral Vision

by Archpriest Alexander Garklavs

As previous reflections have noted, the theme of the 18th All-American Council, “How to Expand the Mission,” is taken from the first All-American Sobor, which took place in Mayfield, Pennsylvania in March 1907. That historic gathering marked the end of Saint Tikhon’s hierarchical tenure as Bishop of the North American Mission of the Russian Orthodox Church. Saint Tikhon came to North America in 1898, and the nine years of his archpastoral administration were a period of dynamic growth. The North American Mission was already 100 years old, but it was on Saint Tikhon’s watch that a “vision” of Orthodoxy in the New World acquired substance. Although Saint Tikhon had several outstanding co-workers assisting him, a fact that he readily acknowledged, he played the critical role in defining and articulating that vision.

“How to Expand the Mission?” This was the question posed by Archbishop Tikhon at the beginning of the 1907 Sobor. We should bear in mind that “Mission” here meant the entire “North American Missionary Diocese of the Russian Church,” not general missionary evangelization. The task ahead, as Saint Tikhon saw it, was to establish parishes and develop programs that would facilitate the way for the Mission to become self-reliant and financially independent. Although short-lived, the Sobor was acknowledged a success by participants and the “Church growth” that followed was impressive.

In fact the 10 years that followed saw a phenomenal expansion of the Mission. Between 1907 and 1917, almost 100 new parishes were formed so that the Church’s 1918 Directory listed over 300 communities. Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, founded in 1905, developed into a working monastic community at South Canaan, which was also the site of a functioning orphanage. Another orphanage was established in Springfield, Vermont, while in Brooklyn a woman’s college was opened. In 1912, the Minneapolis seminary was renamed Saint Platon’s Seminary and moved to Tenafly, New Jersey, to bring it closer to the diocesan center in New York City. At the seminary liturgical services were both in Slavonic and English, and the 1906 English translation of Orthodox services known as “Hapgood” was in use more and more. An important symbolic event, illustrating the recognition of Orthodoxy in the United States, was the concert of the excellent male choir from New York’s Saint Nicholas Cathedral at the White Hour in 1914. By 1917, the census of the Mission, which included the Syrian, Albanian and Serbian parishes, was estimated to be 300,000 people!

Thus, the Mission really did expand following the Sobor. There is no mystery as to why or how this occurred as two basic factors for successful Church growth were in place: 1) hard working and dedicated clergy, and 2) enthusiastic and committed laity. But in addition to these two factors we need to add these two important corollaries: 1) With few exceptions, the clergy were of a high caliber, mostly sons of clergy, who received excellent training at Russian seminaries. They were supported morale-wise and financially by the Russian Orthodox Church which, for example in 1917, allocated $500,000 for the Mission (about $10,000,000 in today’s money). 2) Church growth was directly proportional to the number of Eastern European immigrants (Ukrainian, Russian, Carpatho-Rusyn, Romanian, Serbian, and Albanian). Also significant is the fact that the immigrants were mostly young, with young and emerging families, who sought the spiritual and social comforts that churches afforded to them in a new and foreign land.

As we are reusing the same theme, we may ask if we can expect similar Church growth to follow the 18th All-American Council? The future being in the hands of God, we cannot predict with certainty, but it is reasonable to think that there will not be growth on such a scale. The external circumstances of 1907 have changed dramatically, and there is neither a flow of money or immigrants from Europe. But the first Sobor did become a template for subsequent councils. Significantly, all of the councils of our Church have included lay people, almost in equal number to the clergy participants. We take this for granted today, but it was an important development in 1907. On a somewhat humorous note something happened at that council which has been reoccurring ever since: a good deal of time was expended on discussion of a fair and practical system for procuring revenue from parishes, but the only result was the creation of a committee.

The real important lesson that we can take from the 1907 Sobor is not something that happened at the council but the vision of Saint Tikhon, which he articulated in his writings and sermons and which compelled him to convene the Sobor. Though it has been augmented and adapted, the essence of that vision remains the fundamental ideal for North American Orthodoxy, and therefore also the ideal for the Orthodox Church in America. Being the good pastor that he was, Saint Tikhon was also a good observer and in a short time was able to ascertain the unique conditions and needs of Orthodoxy in North America. He was given a perfect opportunity to articulate his vision in 1905 when all of the diocesan bishops in the Russian Church were asked to respond to a series of questions in preparation for the planned All-Russian Church Council. As things worked out, that Council did not take place until 1917, when Saint Tikhon was elected Patriarch, which became the last and tragic chapter of the his life. But it is his comments in the 1905 responses that are important for us.

The relevant portion of Saint Tikhon’s response is available in English — What he wrote about the North American diocese is both constitutive and prophetic. He envisions a continuation of dynamic growth of the Orthodox Church in North America, where diverse ethnic communities would preserve whatever particular religious customs may be meaningful to them. The connection with the Mother Church would remain, but in an unencumbered manner, allowing the Mission to develop its own identity. It is a vision where the fundamentals of Orthodox Christianity are preserved, without being compromised by cultural-religious customs, nor by the fact that here Orthodoxy is transplanted into a non-Orthodox environment. He not only sees future success, and he even theorizes about “autocephaly,” which is amazing when we remember that he is writing in 1905!

The qualitative feature here is that this is a pastoral vision. Absent are a) the strict application of confining principles, and b) the restrictive supposition that one form of Orthodoxy is the best. What is present, and constitutes the overall framework of Saint Tikhon’s vision, are three points: 1) an abiding conviction that, as Orthodoxy is the faith of One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Christianity, the Church is for everyone, in any place, in any time; 2) pastoral solicitude that is discerned through sensitivity to the time and place; and 3) a genuine love for people, which of course can only exist when there is genuine love for God.

For the participants of the 1907 Sobor the “Mission” was the name of the Church to which they belonged. Expanding the mission meant for them the establishment of parishes and programs for Orthodox immigrants. For us in 2015 “Mission” means evangelization and outreach, to the non-Orthodox as well as to the lost sheep. To some extent this does include the establishment of new parishes, but because many of the existing parishes are losing members it is clear that expanding the mission will require formation of different strategies which would effectively bring people into the fold of Orthodox Christianity. To be fair, we must acknowledge the efforts of certain priests and people who have been successful in their outreach programs. Boot camps, Church growth seminars, various workshops, etc., all of these have produced some benefits. But this 18th All-American Council is convened not to celebrate our modest successes, but to acknowledge that we have much work to do. In Atlanta and in the days and years to come we will continue prolonged discussions and debates, asking difficult questions, being patient, being bold, being wise, being humble, accepting compromises in the spirit of conciliarity, and speaking the truth in love at all times. We will also continue supporting our theological schools so as to cultivate strong and wise leaders who will continue the work after us.

And of course, we will pray. If the most memorable moments of our gathering in Atlanta will beour common prayers and Eucharistic celebrations, then we will convey satisfaction to parishioners back home. Sometimes success is intangible, not to be measured in terms of miles run, money earned, or prizes rewarded. Such in fact was the 1907 Sobor. It was distinguished neither because of profound discussions nor by outstanding resolutions. Rather the spirit of the event made it special. Inspiring and underlying the council, Saint Tikhon’s unique personality and his vision set the tone and affected the results more than the agenda. The Sobor was imbued with his love and generosity, his spirit of devotion and faithfulness to God, and his respect and courtesy for people. Expansion of the mission in a manner as dramatic as took place between 1907 and 1917 is, at this time, unforeseeable. However, recapturing the pastoral vision of Saint Tikhon and discerning how it can be implemented for us now is possible. In fact, it is essential.

Archpriest Alexander Garklavs, is Rector, of Holy Trinity Church, Parma, OH.

OCA Pension Board to host workshop at 18th AAC

At their quarterly meeting at the Chancery here on March 17, 2015, the members of the Orthodox Church in America’s Pension Board finalized their written report and schedule for the 18th All-American Council, slated to convene in Atlanta, GA in July 2015. During the Council, the Pension Board will host an informative workshop from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, July 20, 2015. AAC participants are encouraged to register for this workshop to learn more about the Pension Plan and its benefits for clergy and church workers.

During their meeting, Board members also met with professional investment, legal, and actuarial providers to update investment and actuarial decisions. Board members also met briefly with the Holy Synod of Bishops.

The Orthodox Church in America Pension Plan serves over 325 active participants and more than 125 retirees, widows, and beneficiaries. The Plan is the only approved retirement vehicle for OCA parishes and clergy. Participation is expected of all clergy and is available for all full-time Church workers. Information and resources concerning the Plan are available here.

Pension Board Trustees include His Eminence, Archbishop Nikon; Archpriests Matthew Tate and John Zdinak; Priest Gleb McFatter; and Messrs. Theodore Bazil, Barry Gluntz, and John Sedor.