Documents from the North American Episcopal Assembly

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Carl Kraeff (Second Chance):
Quote from: Paisius on May 26, 2010, 10:56:05 PM

Quote from: Second Chance on May 26, 2010, 10:48:25 PM

Vow! This is open rebellion, a declaration of independence. I have no idea what kind of impact it will have but I have to think that, if push comes to shove, I see the Antiochians and the OCA joining forces. In the meantime, the remarks of the Moscow Exarch were also pointed. I just cannot reconcile, however, Moscow's support of the autocephaly of the OCA on one hand, and, on the other hand, her renewed interest in her Exarchate and her continued patience with ROCOR.

Do you have a link to his comments or could you summarize them for us?

As far as the Patriarchal parishes and ROCOR are concerned I think the MP is just being extra cautious in tending to her sheep. The case of ROCOR is especially tenuous and any move to force them to unite with the OCA or other jurisdictions would at this point almost certainly end in schism. After so many years of separation no one wants to see that happen.


Here is the text as found at http://www.eadiocese.org/News/2010/05/abpjustaddress.en.htm

May 26, 2010
New York, NY: Address of Archbishop Justinian at the Episcopal Assembly of North and Central America

Your Eminences, Graces, dear co-brothers!

I sincerely greet all of you as the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, and would like to convey to you the warmest of well-wishes from His Holiness Kyrill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.

The opening of the Episcopal Assembly of North and Central America coincided with the beginning of my service as Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes in the United States of America. I am glad that, not long after my arrival in this country, I am bearing witness to this inspirational moment of Pan-Orthodox unity and mutual understanding. I hope that our current gathering will lay the foundation for further development of efforts to consolidate Orthodoxy on the American continent.

From what I can tell, the Orthodox in America have reasons for similar hope, considering that in our times Orthodoxy is one of the most dynamically developing Christian confessions on the continent. An increasing number of our faithful belong to the Orthodox Church not as the result of their ethnic background, but of a conscious choice in favor of Orthodoxy’s truth.

This hopeful tendency certainly does not absolve us of our responsibility to bear true witness to the Orthodox faith to the world around us. Each of the Local Orthodox Churches represented here possesses Her own unique experience of missionary, theological, educational, and many other aspects of Church activity on the American continent.

I think that we are all ready to freely share our experiences with our Orthodox brethren. The Russian Orthodox Church, which, as we know from history, played a fundamental role in the expansion of Orthodoxy in America, is ready for this as well. The names of such devoted missionaries as St. Herman of Alaska, St. Innocent of Moscow, and Patriarch Tikhon, are enormously significant to the faithful of every American jurisdiction. It bears mentioning as well, that before the 1920’s, there was only one jurisdiction in North America – that of the Russian Orthodox Church, which, as we know, was open to representatives of the widest variety of ethnic communities.

Much has changed since that time. The tumultuous events of the 20th Century forced many citizens of traditionally Orthodox countries to leave their native homes and seek refuge in other countries, which led to the rise of large ethnic Orthodox communities beyond the boundaries of corresponding Local Churches. Being that America became a welcoming home for a huge number of Orthodox immigrants, She is a shining example of the coexistence of various Church jurisdictions in a single area.

The painstaking discussion of this given aspect of inter-Orthodox relations at the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference in Chambésy, Switzerland, in June 2009 speaks to its importance. The result of its work is our current Assembly, which confirms the rightness and viability of the decisions jointly adopted in Chambésy.

It is no secret that the issue discussed in Chambésy invites a great deal of attention, due to the numerous problems and frictions, which, unfortunately, darken the coexistence of Church structures of varying jurisdictions in a single area. We hear of similar complications in the widest variety of other countries and regions. That said, we can take some satisfaction in the fact that the situation in America is not nearly so complex as it is elsewhere. I maintain that this is the case due in no small part to the efforts of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), which in its time was formed with the active participation of the Russian Orthodox Church. Over the course of its existence since the 1960’s, SCOBA has stepped forward as a fairly effective tool for inter-Orthodox cooperation.

I hope that the positive experience and practical knowledge possessed by the Orthodox bishops of this region will be effectively developed in the future work of the Episcopal Assembly of North and Central America, which will allow us to achieve a new level of coordination of our efforts to unite in our bearing witness to the truth of Orthodoxy.

LizaSymonenko:


http://www.uocofusa.org/news_100526_1.html


UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
PRESS RELEASE

First Episcopal Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Hierarchs in North and Central America!

The first Episcopal Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Hierarchs in North and Central America was convened on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel in New York City.
      
This Assembly is the result of the decision of the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference, which met in Chambésy Switzerland in June of 2009, after the extraordinary Synaxis of all the Heads of the Autocephalous Churches convened by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. This Assembly, one of twelve that will be convened around the world in regions where there is no single Orthodox presence, will consist of the active canonical bishops who reside in the region designated as North and Central America. In every Assembly, the chairman will be the senior bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Photos are available at: http://photos.goarch.org/main.php?g2_itemId=3009



Irish Hermit:

Metropolitan PHILIP Addresses Historic Episcopal Assembly on First Day
EPISCOPAL ASSEMBLY - MAY 26, 2010

http://www.antiochian.org/node/23042

"Your Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and Brother Bishops:

My opening remarks this morning are taken from the Vespers of Palm Sunday, “Today the Grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us together.” How wonderful and pleasing to God for all of us to meet and discuss matters related to the life of our Church on this particular continent. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Chairman of SCOBA for his hard work to make this gathering possible.

The literature which we received from Chambesy via the Greek Archdiocese of America, raises some important questions.

ONE, Despite the vitality and the dynamic nature of Orthodoxy in North America, no member of SCOBA, not even the chairman of SCOBA, was consulted about what was discussed in Geneva. We received rules from our brothers in Switzerland which we have nothing to do with. We have been on this continent for more than two hundred (200) years. We are no longer little children to have rules imposed on us from 5,000 miles away. Orthodoxy in America has its own ethos. We have our own theological institutions, and we have our own theologians, authors, publications and magazines. We do not intend to be disobedient to the Mother Churches; we just want to dialogue with them and give them the opportunity to know us and understand us. We have been here for a long, long time and we are very grateful to the Almighty God that in our theology and worship, we do express the fullness of the Holy Orthodox faith.

Fifty years ago our hierarchs, may their souls rest in peace, founded SCOBA which has done a splendid job despite our external limitations. We have established the Orthodox Christian Education Commission which is chaired by a Greek Orthodox gentleman. We have established the International Orthodox Christian Charities which is directed by Constantine Triantafilou, a very good Greek Orthodox. We have established the Orthodox Christian Mission Center which is doing an excellent job and we have done many other things which time does not permit me to enumerate.

My dear brothers,

We are faced now with a very serious procedural nightmare. We are, supposedly, here to discuss a new organization to replace SCOBA. The question is: Was SCOBA dissolved and if so, by whom? And when?? SCOBA has a constitution which is fifty years old. If this constitution has to be amended, let us then amend it according to correct procedures. No one can dissolve SCOBA except SCOBA itself. SCOBA has organized Bishops’ Assemblies before Chambesy told us to do so. The first Assembly was held at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, Pennsylvania in 1994, under the chairmanship of our brother, Archbishop Iakovos, of blessed memory. The second Bishops’ Assembly was convened in Washington, D.C. and the third Bishops’ Assembly was convened in Chicago, Illinois, both under the auspices of SCOBA and the Chairmanship of His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios.

TWO - The second point which I would like to note is concerning the term “Diaspora” which was used several times in the literature which we received from Geneva. I remember, there are many of you who were at the Antiochian Village in 1994 and should remember that the term “Diaspora” was unanimously rejected by our assembly. We are not in Babylon; we are in North America, the new world. We are dealing here with second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth generations of American Orthodox and they refuse to be called “Diaspora.”

I believe that some of our churches in the Old World are in “Diaspora.” In Jerusalem, for example, we have 2,000 Orthodox Christians left. In Constantinople, the glorious capital of the Byzantine Empire, I was told that there are only 2,000 Greek Orthodox left. And the Turkish Government, until now, refuses to let us open that famous Theological School of Khalki, despite the intervention of the presidents of the United States. In Iraq, hundreds of Christians were slaughtered and thousands had to flee Iraq to the Syrian Arab Republic. We are free here in North America -- free to teach, free to preach, free to worship, free to write books and sometimes criticize even the presidents of the United States. We have the full freedom of expression in accordance with the United States Constitution. It is important to note here that the Holy Synod of Antioch, to my knowledge, never discussed the Chambesy decision and the rules of operation in order to formally bless this effort.

THREE - Some of the communiqués which were issued by the fathers in Geneva were good. I don’t understand, however, why Central America was joined to North America. The Antiochian Metropolitan of Mexico and Central America informed me that he wanted to be with the Orthodox Bishops of South America. The reason is: he has nothing in common with North America because he represents a different culture all together. As a matter of fact, he traveled to Brazil to attend the Bishops’ Assembly which met at the Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral in Sao Paulo.

I hope that, in the future, this matter could possibly be addressed. In the communiqué which was issued from Geneva dated June 6-12, 2009, I read something very interesting and very hopeful. It says and I quote: “The conference expresses the common desires of all Orthodox Churches for a solution to the problem of the canonical organization of the Orthodox “Diaspora,” in accordance with the ecclesiological and canonical tradition and practice of the Orthodox Church.” The same communiqué includes these bright words: “The mission of the Bishops’ Assemblies is the proclamation and promotion of the unity of the Orthodox Church, the common pastoral ministry of the Orthodox faithful in the region, as well as the common witness to the world.” Here we see a clear emphasis on the unity of the Orthodox Church. What is needed is the translation of these inspiring words into concrete action.

Other pleasing words appeared in Article III of the rules which state: “The Episcopal Assembly will have an executive committee composed of the Primatial Bishops of each of the canonical churches in the region.” From this text, I understand that no canonical bishop should be excluded from the assembly. If we share the same Eucharistic table which is the highest expression of Orthodox unity, can’t we work together on the Executive Committee?

Article XII of the rules is very promising. It states, “The Episcopal Assembly may establish its own internal regulations in order to supplement and adjust the above provisions, in accordance with the needs of the region and in respect to the Canon Law of the Orthodox Church.”

My dear brothers,

You can see that Article XII of the rules is very flexible and it gives us the freedom to “establish our own internal regulations.” Thus, no Primate of any jurisdiction should be excluded from the Executive Committee. Furthermore, the Executive Committee should be strong enough to prepare an adequate agenda for these Episcopal Assemblies. The Mother Churches must realize that Orthodoxy in America is the best gift to the world. And instead of being crushed by the burdens of the past, let us formulate a clear vision for the future. Thomas Jefferson, one of the fathers of our American revolution, once said: “I love the visions of the future rather than the dreams of the past.”

If I have a vision for the future, it is this: Jerusalem has less than 2,000 Orthodox left. Istanbul has 2,000 Greek Orthodox left. The future of Orthodoxy in the Middle East is uncertain. Thus, for the sake of international Orthodox unity and Orthodox unity in North America, we should with one voice, beg His Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch to leave Istanbul and move to Washington, D.C. or New York City and head a united Orthodox Church in this hemisphere. All of us, I am sure, will be blessed to be under his omophorion and Orthodox unity in North America will cease to be a dream, but a reality.

My dear brothers,

If we do not bury the burdens of the past between certain autocephalous churches, such burdens will bury us, and Orthodoxy in this country and throughout the world will become an insignificant dot on the margin of history."


pensateomnia:
Fr. Andrew Damick is at the Assembly in an auxiliary role and posted his impressions, limited though they be by virtue of being only auxilliary, on OrthodoxHistory.org.

Actual piece of news: Bishop Basil of Wichita has been elected the secretary of the Assembly.

Impressions from the Episcopal Assembly

It was a pretty hot day in Manhattan yesterday. Despite the discomfort, though, the Orthodox Christian hierarchy of North America seemed to be in pretty decent spirits.

I’m here in Manhattan at the 2010 Orthodox Episcopal Assembly of North America in an auxiliary role. I don’t get to attend the actual meetings, though I’ve been at some of the meals and have spent time with the hierarchs and others present in the halls of the hotel. Since this is such a genuinely historic occasion, we thought it might be of interest to readers to provide an informal witness to how things have been proceeding, to what it’s like to be here. (You may also be interested to read the officially published opening addresses of Abp. Demetrios (Constantinople), Metr. Philip (Antioch), and Abp. Justinian (Moscow).)

First, although things are happening in an expensive hotel right on Central Park in Manhattan, it’s not a particularly posh or opulent place. The building consists mostly of hotel rooms, most of which (including those being stayed in by the bishops) are not really of higher level than your average Holiday Inn. To be honest, most Holiday Inns I’ve ever been to have far vaster facilities than the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel, which doesn’t boast numerous parlors and meeting rooms. There’s essentially one large meeting room where the Assembly is taking place, as well as an adjacent dining area where the bishops are eating. (The dining room was small enough that people like me had to eat our meals out on the roof in the sun!) My guess is that the facility was either donated or a good deal was gotten, since the gentleman in charge of the hotel has a rather Greek name. The food is decent, though not extravagant.

Milling about among the hierarchy—more than 50 in all—I am of course struck by the several languages one can hear. I’ve heard at least English, Ukrainian, Russian, Arabic and Greek. But it’s mostly all English, which is not surprising, since there is very little in the way of the bishops sticking to their “own” jurisdictional groups. That is, from what I can see, they’re not being cliquish. They are actually circulating quite a lot among each other. Speaking of languages, though, it was enjoyable last night at dinner at a nearby restaurant when the prayer before the meal including chanting in Arabic, Slavonic and Greek, along with some spoken parts in English. I was fascinated at how many of the assembled hierarchs could sing the Pentecost troparion together in Greek. (Your humble servant remembered only maybe 50%.)

The mood among the bishops seems mostly good-natured and perhaps just a little bored. I’ve been told that most of what was done yesterday was procedural. There are a decent number of smiles among the hierarchy, though there does not seem to be either an ecstatic mood nor a sullen one. I’ve not heard any “exercised” conversations, though I have heard plenty of laughter as the bishops sit at table. One of the highlights of yesterday’s proceedings was the election of His Grace, Bishop Basil of Wichita, as the Secretary of the Assembly. My speculation is that that means he’ll be doing a lot of the day-to-day management of the ongoing work of the Assembly.

All in all, it’s good to be here, and my impression is that, even if not quite yet the case, we are witnessing the beginnings of brothers dwelling together in unity. No doubt this will be a long, bumpy road, and there will be much to do, with lots of boring, detailed work along the way. But as one who is hopeful for our coming together in a single Orthodox Church for America, it appears to me that there is a good beginning here in Manhattan. No doubt the prayers of the faithful that are blanketing this modern-day New Rome are having a good effect.

source

pensateomnia:
http://www.romarch.org/news.php?id=2253

ADDRESS OF HIS EMINENCE
ARCHBISHOP NICOLAE OF THE ROMANIAN ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE
At the Episcopal Assembly of North and Central America

New York, New York
May 27, 2010

Your Eminence Archbishop Demetrios,
Your Eminences and Your Graces,
Dear Brothers and con-celebrants in the Lord,

We have gathered here these days bathed in the Light and Grace of the All-Holy Spirit to discuss the future of our Holy Orthodox Church in North America. Whether this comes to be seen as an historic meeting will depend on us, and what we decide. And while we may have been convened in a new way, that fact is that the project of organizing the Church on this continent is not new. As we continue our deliberations it would be helpful to pause and reflect on all of the efforts over the last century that have enabled us to come to this moment. We stand in a line of very eminent and holy people who grappled with the very same issues we will attempt, over the course of days and years, to reconcile and resolve. If we are able to discuss these issues in ways that have eluded others in the past, it will be in no small measure due to the real vision and sacrifice of all of those men and women who planted Christ’s Church here; who watered and nurtured Her; who ensured that She would take root and grow.

It is customary when we speak of the history of our presence in North America to mention the towering figures of St. Tikhon, Patriarch Athenagoras, Metropolitan Antony Bashir, and Archbishop Iakovos, and it is right to do so. Yet, it is always a perilous business when recounting names. There are so many people to whom this moment belongs. I think of my own predecessor, Archbishop Victorin. He served the Church here for over fifty years, as a professor at St. Tikhon’s, as a parish priest, and finally as Archbishop. He was a faithful witness to Christ’s Church, here. He was devoted to the cause of Orthodox unity, here. He would never be absent from meetings of the Standing Conference or other occasions of pan-Orthodox witness. There are many in this room who, like he, labored for this moment. There are many, clergy and lay people, who have struggled and continue to struggle to ensure the witness of our Church on this continent. It is fitting that we take a moment and give thanks to our Compassionate God for them.

What we are asked to do during these days is not very glamorous. Most of it is administrative. We will hear reports, be asked to establish committees and commissions, discuss and recommend the boundaries of one or more Episcopal Assemblies on our continent, and many other seemingly unimportant matters. But we would be mistaken if we think our work is not absolutely critical to the future of our Church. We are laying a foundation. When people marvel at a magnificent structure very few, if any, venture down to the cellar to examine what stones were laid to support the whole building. My beloved brothers, we are being asked to take the building blocks already prepared for us, and with these and others build the supporting structure for the future.

Let us examine the building materials we have been given. I mentioned St. Tikhon. Already in the early part of the last century he and others identified what would be the challenges of our mission here. As early as 1937 Archbishop Athenagoras and Metropolitan Antony proposed a Conference of Orthodox Bishops. In 1943 these same hierarchs joined with hierarchs of the Patriarchal Russian and Serbian jurisdictions to create the Federation. And finally, in 1960, at the invitation of Archbishop Iakovos, eleven presiding hierarchs of the Church here met and decided to create the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas — SCOBA. Over the course of the first half of the twentieth century there were many other meetings, events, failed starts and anemic successes. The political situation in Europe following the Second World War complicated matters immeasurably. Yet these early efforts gave voice to the emerging reality of an indigenous Orthodox Church in what some call the “diaspora.”

The establishment of SCOBA coincided with and benefited from the convening of the Pan-Orthodox conferences held between 1961 and 1968. There is a direct line between those early conferences and the Fourth Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference held last year in Chambésy, that established the principles for our present gathering. There is a direct line between the efforts in the last century to give a common structure to our Orthodox witness in North America and our current Episcopal Assembly. The Bishops Conferences held in Ligonier in 1994, Washington in 2001 and Chicago in 2006 have already given us, all of the hierarchs here, the experience of coming together to discuss issues of common concern and ways in which to work together.

It is important to keep in mind that SCOBA was never intended to be a permanent institution; it was by its nature a transitional body constrained by circumstances. Yet, despite these constraints, it played a gradually expanding role in organizing Church life here by widening the circle of participation and decision-making. In 1960 there were eleven primatial hierarchs who gathered. Since 1994 three Bishops Conferences have been held. Today we gather as an Episcopal Assembly numbering over fifty. The same can be seen in the changing scope of SCOBA commissions. The commissions of 1960 are not the same as the array of agencies, commissions, committees, and organizations presented to the hierarchs in Chicago in 2006.

Yet, it is in the system of commissions, committees, agencies, and, most recently, endorsed organizations, which we inherit from SCOBA, that we find its most visionary and enduring legacy. The SCOBA Constitution provided that “the continuing work of the Conference shall be assigned to Commissions and Committees of experts who shall work as directed by the Conference.” One is impressed at how farsighted the hierarchs were in 1960 when identifying the work needed to be done in common. Most of those areas identified in 1960 are still being addressed today by commissions and committees established then, even while others have been added over time. We all know that the progress and successes of the commissions and committees have been mixed. Over the years individual commissions have waxed and waned. Yet, taken as a whole, these agencies, commissions, committees, and organizations form solid building blocks with which to lay a foundation.

Those who were present at the 2006 Bishops Conference held in Chicago will recall the reports presented by these SCOBA bodies. I believe it would be useful for us today to refresh our memories on the scope of these organizations.

Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting (EOCS) was established in 1960 as the first SCOBA Commission. Through the years this commission has offered Scouting awards and scholarship in the name of the Church.

Orthodox Christian Education Commission (OCEC) was also established in 1960. From a limited library of religious education materials available in English in the 1940s and 1950s, the Orthodox Church has developed a rich religious education curriculum second to none.

Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF), established originally in 1965 as the Campus Commission, impacted the lives of countless college students in the 1960s and early 1970s. After a dormant period and at the request of the youth directors in our jurisdictions the hierarchs of SCOBA created in 2001 the reborn OCF, with a staff organizing OCF chapters on college campuses.

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) represents the new generation of SCOBA agencies. Established in 1991, IOCC became a vehicle for our Church to offer assistance and help to those in need throughout the world. One could see this as a uniquely North American contribution to world Orthodoxy. Through IOCC our Orthodox Church has also joined the broader network of religious humanitarian organizations. It has given our Church a presence on the world stage.

The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) represents another way in which SCOBA agencies were created. OCMC has its roots in the early 1960s missionary efforts within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. In 1966 the GOA Clergy-Laity Congress created a Missions Committee that continued to grow and support missions all over the world. In 1994 the GOA Mission Center was transformed into a SCOBA program with a new name: the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). Today, the OCMC has reached out to over 31 countries worldwide with mission programs.

The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) was received by SCOBA in 2003 having been started by a local priest of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese as a radio ministry. Today OCN is a national and effective media witness for the Orthodox Christian Church in North America. It produces high-quality programs and media tools for local parishes using the media of radio, the Internet, podcasts, DVDs, television and more.

The Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) began as a ministry within the Antiochian Archdiocese in 1991. In 2005 through a national gathering of prison ministers organized by this Antiochian effort, it was transformed into a SCOBA agency. Through 2009, Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM) has ministered to more than 700 prisoners and former prisoners and is currently ministering to more than 250 Orthodox catechumens in prisons across America.

Distinct from the Agencies, the SCOBA Commissions assisted the hierarchs directly. These are:

The Ecumenical Commission established in 1960 oversees the local North American ecumenical dialogues authorized by the hierarchs. Today these are primarily with the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches. Here we should also mention the relationship we have with the Oriental Orthodox through the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches in America (SCOOCH).

The Social & Moral Issues Commission established in 1998 and reconstituted in 2002 drafts statements on important societal issues at the direction of the hierarchs.

The Orthodox Research Commission (ORC) established in 2005 conducts on-going social-scientific statistical analysis of our Church, jurisdictions and parishes.

The Orthodox Information Technologies Commission (OITC) established in 2005 coordinates the information technology department efforts of our jurisdictions.

The Endorsed Organizations are Pan-Orthodox efforts that have sought out and met the criteria established by the SCOBA hierarchs for Endorsed Organizations. These currently are:

    * The Orthodox Theological Society in America (OTSA) established in 1966.
    * Project Mexico established in 1987.
    * The Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion (OCAMPR) established in 1988.
    * ZOE for Life established in 2002.
    * The Orthodox Peace Fellowship (North America) established in 2003.
    * St. Catherine's Vision established in 2007.
    * Ancient Faith Radio established in 2007.

There are other pan-Orthodox efforts, such as FOCUS North America, that have received warm encouragement from SCOBA, as they await final endorsement.

Finally there is the Study & Planning Commission. It is unique among the commissions and committees establish in that it is designed to be the supervisory arm of the hierarchs themselves. The responsibility of this Commission was to oversee all of the work of the various commissions and committees establish and authorized by SCOBA. The members, appointed as the direct representatives of the hierarchs, assisted the General Secretary in coordinating and prioritizing issues for the hierarchs’ consideration. It is my opinion that as we think about the future structure for the Episcopal Assembly, we will need a way in which all of the voices of our jurisdictions can be present in the work of the Secretariat.

Beloved Brothers,

Beloved Brothers,

When I was called to serve as Archbishop for our Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese, I had little experience of life in North America. I was raised and educated in Romania. I did graduate studies in Western Europe. While deeply grounded in our Orthodox faith in my Mother land, my experience of our Church outside of Romania was largely in France and Germany. As I assumed my duties here, I began to experience the richness and diversity of Church life in North America. To be sure, it is not the same as in a traditionally Orthodox setting, but it is genuine, alive, and full of the Holy Spirit. Many of you have either been raised or spent many years here. I have a different perspective coming here as I did. I was and am amazed by the depth of what I have found. There are difficulties – no one can deny this. Yet, there is also an energy and vitality to our North American Orthodox Christian experience that is to be treasured. As just one example, look at the way in which faithful lay persons have taken up Christ’s work here. The faithful of our parishes and dioceses have embraced the spirit of volunteerism that is the hallmark of our Canadian and American nations. Many of the Agencies and Organizations cited above are staffed primarily by volunteers. This gift of faith in action is something we can offer to world Orthodoxy.

We can never forget that the unity of the Church is not an option. We are united in faith expressed in worship, but we are also united in faith expressed by action. The unity we find when celebrating the Liturgy together must also be expressed in the way we organize ourselves internally and in our outreach to the world. Sometimes, we might be tempted to withdraw into ourselves because of the frustrations we feel with the dissentions in our parishes and the squabbling in our dioceses. However, we can never allow ourselves to accept factions and divisions within the Church as a permanent reality. It makes a lie of what we say we believe. This is true both in our search for a closer unity within the Orthodox Church especially here in North America, as well as in our search for unity with the other Christian Churches.

In saying this we always need to remember that unity is a gift from God. We may argue for the need for a more coherent ecclesiastical structure, but even when we have achieved success at creating a better organizational framework, we still experience this unity as a gift from God, not the result of our efforts. We know that any agreement or constitution is not worth the paper it is written on if the necessary good will and love are lacking. Only God can give us this.

We are called by some the “diaspora.” Others reject this designation. There is certainly a dynamic tension. Let me suggest that in the push and pull of what we were and what we are yet to become we find the “now and not yet” of the coming Kingdom. The development of our Orthodox Church in a pluralistic “new world” has forced all of Orthodoxy to grapple with the missionary imperative of the Gospel. Much of what we see in our SCOBA legacy is in some sense a response to the new setting in which Orthodoxy finds itself.

Among the most important issues we will need to decide in these days is how to absorb the great work of SCOBA. The many ministries of SCOBA over fifty years have truly been a blessing for the entire Church. These ministries have strengthened our unity in Christ Our Lord. The ministries of SCOBA have provided a fruitful witness for Orthodox Christianity throughout these lands. The ministries of SCOBA have contributed to advancement our Church throughout the world. This is truly a precious inheritance that provides us with a firm foundation for our future work. I urge us to not only endorse it, but to embrace what is being offered to us as precious inheritance. So many grace-filled people have labored for so many years to give us this gift offered us by God. For my part, I give thanks to Almighty God for these holy witnesses who have preceded us. In them God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is glorified, now and always.

Thank you,
† Archbishop NICOLAE

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