Encyclical of SCOBA for the Sunday of Cheesefare and Mission Sunday
February 18, 2007
Sunday of Cheesefare and Mission Sunday
Behold, I have set before you an open door,
which no one is able to shutÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ (Revelation 3:8 )
The Hierarchs of the Standing Conference
of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas
To all the Faithful Clergy and the Laity of the Holy Orthodox Churches in the Americas
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As the Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), it has become our sacred custom each year to designate this day, Cheesefare Sunday, as "Mission Sunday." Today, we invite you to study and embrace the words of the Lord from the Book of the Revelation of John, the last book of the New Testament: "Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shutÃ¢â‚¬Â¦" (Revelation 3:8 ). These words of the Lord to the Church clearly indicate the tremendous opportunity for the promotion of the Gospel. The door for evangelism is and will remain open since, as the Lord assures us, no hostile human or demonic agency is able to shut it. As Orthodox Christians, we are called to serve as witnesses of the Gospel, which is the most valuable of gifts that we can share with others. The open door urgently calls us to action.
It is for these purposes that SCOBA commissioned its international missions agency, the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). The OCMC offers us, as recipients of God's grace, a way to serve as ushers through this door for the salvation of the people throughout the entire world. Our witness of Orthodoxy is made manifest through evangelism and indeed through many more ways, such as our distinct way of worshipping God as a community united by the bonds of His love, our steadfast prayer to Him, our exercise of philanthropy to others, and our discipline of fasting. These spiritual practices also allow us to discern the manner by which God calls each of us to best heed His call to missions.
Through the dedication and support of the Orthodox faithful in America, the Mission Center has been able to send priests, missionaries, teachers, mission teams, and medical workers to minister to those around the world who hunger and thirst for Christ. In 2006, 120 Orthodox Mission Team volunteers were sent to 9 countries, devoting over 15,240 hours of service. The Mission Center also now supports 289 indigenous priests and has 19 long-term missionaries and their families serving in 6 countries. 2006 also saw $105,000 in grants awarded to clergy abroad. The additional distribution of $120,000 dollars in aid to the Church in developing countries resulted in 25 Orthodox churches being built or restored, 2,200 people receiving medical, dental, and counseling services, and the catechization of thousands of new Orthodox Christians.
It is through love, prayer and sincere effort that the life-saving work of missions must continue. At this hour, in the day that precedes the season of Great and Holy Lent, we keep our eyes fixed upon the open door, through which we can share with all humankind the gift of salvation, proclaimed in His Gospel. We pray for your fervent support of missions through your prayers, your service, and through any financial contributions to the OCMC which you may wish to offer according to your means. We also pray that you may have a blessed Lenten journey, one that draws you and those around you nearer to eternal salvation, furthering belief in Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.
With paternal blessings and love in Christ,
+Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
+Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
+Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER, Secretary
Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada
+Metropolitan NICHOLAS of Amissos, Treasurer
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA
Orthodox Church in America
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada
Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church
Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA
+Bishop ILIA of Philomelion
Albanian Orthodox Diocese of America