Minutes of the September 2013 Meeting of the Assembly (Assembly IV)

September 17‑19, 2013

Chicago, Illinois

 

Tuesday September 17, 2013

 

1. Call to Order and Opening Prayers

The meeting convened at 12 pm at Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in Des Plaines, IL. The Chairmen opened the meeting with prayer.

2. Roll Call of Hierarchs in Attendance

Roll was called, and there were 43 bishops present.  

3. Establishment of Quorum

A quorum was confirmed.

4. Approval of Agenda

Metropolitan Alexios moved to approve the agenda, and Archbishop Nathanael seconded; it was passed by acclamation.

5. Address by Chairman of the Assembly

The Chairman: 1) Acknowledged the enthronement of Metropolitan Tikhon of the OCA; 2) welcomed a new member, Bishop Gregory of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese; 3) expressed his gratitude to Fr. Mark Arey, who has resigned from his position, for all his past work on behalf of the Assembly; 4) introduced Fr. Nathanael Symeonides, who has succeeded Fr. Mark; and 5) announced that the absence of Metropolitan Methodios was owing to the recent death of his brother, Panteleimon.

The Chairman offered an address to the assembled bishops.

6. Approval of Minutes as distributed

Metropolitan Isaiah moved that the Minutes from Assembly III be approved; Archbishop Nathanael seconded; they were approved by acclamation.

The Chairman appointed a committee for the drafting of the Message of the Assembly; Bishop Maxim and Metropolitan Nicholas were appointed. He also noted that, in addition to the Message, two statements needed to be approved, one concerning the situation in Syria and the other concerning the issue of Same-Sex Marriage. He asked that any comments on the draft statements, provided to the bishops, be submitted to Metropolitan Savas by Wednesday evening.

7. Approval of Treasurer’s Report as presented

The Treasurer’s Report was then delivered by Metropolitan Antony. As part of his report the Treasurer strongly encouraged all the bishops to complete and submit the two financial statements sent to them. He noted that should any questions be found problematic, they could be left unanswered.

Bishop Michael moved that the Treasurer’s Report be accepted; Bishop Mark seconded. It was accepted by acclamation.

8. Announcement of Establishment of Permanent 501(c)(3) status

Metropolitan Antony reported that in February 2013 the Assembly was notified that its application for 501(c) (3) status had been granted retroactive to 12 October 2011. He thanked attorneys Eric Namee and Kenneth Liu who did all the legwork and paperwork to file for nonprofit status. All donations received by the Assembly since the time of its incorporation are legally tax deductible. The see of the Assembly is Washington, DC.

9A. Report from the Secretary on Overall Work of the Secretariat

Bishop Basil sent his report to the members of the Assembly in advance of the meeting. He thanked the members of the Secretariat for their dedication. He thanked Bishops Maxim and Andonios for their service and introduced the members of the Secretariat: Fr. Josiah Trenham; Fr. Nathanael Symeonides, who has succeeded Fr. Mark Arey as the Special Assistant to the Chairman; Fr. Nicholas Ceko; Protodeacon Peter Danilchick; Hieromonk Irenei Steenberg; Hierodeacon Benedict Armitage; Mr. Eric Namee; Alexei Krindatch, the research coordinator; Mr. Alex Machaskee; and Ms. Chrysanthe Loizos.

B. Report from the Coordinator for Agencies and Endorsed Organizations

Bishop Andonios, the recently-resigned Coordinator for Agencies, addressed the Assembly. He said that the Assembly needs to decide whether it’s going to continue with the same format that SCOBA did, having the agencies and endorsed organizations. And then it needs to decide on what the procedure will be for a new organization getting a designation or a blessing from the Assembly. He also asked the liaisons to the agencies to follow up with their agencies and report back to the Assembly and to be particularly attentive to the Assembly’s bylaws which state that changes to the agencies’ governing bodies must be approved by the Assembly or the chairman.

After further discussion it was suggested that there should be a new committee for agencies. Bishop Andonios made a motion to establish an Assembly committee responsible for organizations and agencies; Metropolitan Antony seconded. Committee members will be the liaisons to the organizations. The chairman of the committee, once appointed, will be a member of the Secretariat.

C. Report from the Coordinator for Committees

Bishop Maxim expressed his gratefulness to Archbishop Demetrios of America for his encouragement and the blessings seen and unseen and also to Bishop Basil and to the committee chairmen, liaisons and facilitators.

He said the committees are vital and essential for the accomplishment of the mission of this Assembly. Committees had their own meetings, either face to face or via teleconference, throughout the year.  He said his function is to provide a periodic overview of the progress of the committees to the Secretariat, to His Grace Bishop Basil and the Assembly, and to assess any necessary coordination between committees and any or always to support the committee chairmen in their work.

Bishop Maxim reported that most of the committees have met in person or via teleconference over the past year and that progress is being made, ranging from initiating the first audit of the Assembly finances and the development of best financial practices for the Assembly through the initiation of data collection on theological institutions, the identification and working of issues regarding pastoral practices, legal affairs and military chaplaincies, the development of canonical restructuring proposals to the continued examination and different approaches to youth and monastic communities. Bishop Maxim said that committees are working at different levels, with some more active than others.

Affirming and Realizing Assembly Vision

Bishop Basil introduced the topic of the vision for the Assembly. He reminded everyone that the Assembly is not self-established but was established at the call of the Holy Fathers of the Church. He read an excerpt of the Chambésy Decision “that the problem of the Orthodox diaspora be resolved as quickly as possible." "While it is impossible, for historical and pastoral reasons, for an immediate transition to strictly canonical order —a temporary situation that will prepare the ground for a strictly canonical solution of the problem, and it shall not extend beyond the convening of the future Great and Holy Council so that the Council itself can proceed with a canonical solution of the problem." He said that the purpose of the Assembly and the other eleven assemblies is to manifest the unity of Orthodoxy. 

The question was asked whether the future Church will be autonomous or autocephalous. Bishop Basil responded that, per Chambésy, the Assembly is to come up with its own recommendation.

Brief discussion ensued with varying points made about challenges to unification, and the importance of working together as one Body of Christ, and the necessity of ministering to immigrants.

[At this point, the hierarchs broke into groups for further discussion.]         

The full group re-adjourned and the seven breakout groups each reported to the larger group. Challenges discussed included balancing the need to minister to new immigrants in their own languages versus acting in a missionary spirit in America; whether the Church in America will be autonomous or autocephalous; and calendar differences. Advantages discussed included unifying human and financial resources and creating smaller jurisdictions for the benefit of both hierarchs and laity.

Archbishop Demetrios reiterated that the Chambésy decision does not put forth a type of model that the Fathers are expecting. The only prerequisite is that it be canonically correct. He also shared his impression that the atmosphere and spirit of Assembly IV shows clear progress over the first meeting in 2010.

Metropolitan Evangelos leads the chanting of the Apolytikion honoring St. Constantine. 

 

 WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2013

 

The day was opened with prayer. Archbishop Demetrios then congratulated Bishop Maxim for editing or authoring four books over the course of the past two years.

Major Committee Priorities

Bishop Maxim led the presentation on major committee priorities. Speaking on behalf of the Secretariat, he said that the committees are the DNA of the Assembly’s structure. He introduced the new communications officer who can help the committees communicate their work to the clergy and faithful.

He opened the floor for committee chairmen to share with everyone their needs. Bishop Thomas (Youth Committee), Bishop Daniel (Legal Committee), Bishop George (Monastic Communities) and Metropolitan Isaiah (Military Chaplaincy) raised some issues related to their committees.

There was discussion about what the procedure will be for committees in gathering information from jurisdictions (as in the case of monastic communities). Metropolitan Antony motioned that information will first go to the ruling hierarch who will then forward the request to the appropriate person(s). Metropolitan Evangelos seconded the motion. The motion passed.

Proposals for Canonical Restructuring

Archbishop Nicolae gave his presentation on behalf of the Committee for Canonical Regional Planning, presenting the work they’ve done over the course of the past year and asking the Assembly’s guidance in their future work. The committee’s charge is to formulate a proposal to organize all Orthodox faithful of every jurisdiction in the region on a canonical basis in accordance with the rules of operation, Article 5.e of the Fourth Pre‑Conciliar Pan‑Orthodox Conference in Chambésy.

Archbishop Nicolae said that, based on the Chambésy Decision, there are two important principles: one bishop in the same place and the concern for development of common action of all the Orthodox of each region to address the pastoral needs of Orthodox living in the region, including that the diversity of national traditions may secure the unity of Orthodoxy and the communion of faith and the bond of love. The committee’s proposals are based on these two principles. He outlined the leading model and two other models for reorganization.

Archbishop Nicolae gave the floor to Bishop Daniil, a member of the committee, who asked to express the position of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. He read in full a letter stating the Bulgarian Church’s position.

[A breakout session followed, with the hierarchs discussing the proposals in groups]

When the hierarchs reconvened, Metropolitan Antony presented a resolution on behalf of the Assembly congratulating Archbishop Demetrios on the 14th anniversary of his enthronement as the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of New York.

Protodeacon Peter moderated the reporting-back of each group to the plenary. There was a general sense that there was no agreement on the proposed model at this time, but that the model was a good starting point for further discussion and development.

The point was made that, following the conclusion of Assembly IV, there should be discussion within each jurisdiction about the proposals.

In addition, it was decided that the Committee for Canonical Regional Planning would be reorganized to include representatives from every member church participating in the Assembly.

The Chairman noted that this committee has worked very hard already, and encouraged them to take the comments presented to move forward on revising the model and working towards a consensus. He also reminded the member hierarchs that the Assembly’s task is to interpret the will of God, to observe the canons, and to bear in mind the present needs and circumstances of the Church here, all the while with a lively trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Proposal to Plan for AB Sponsored National Youth Conference

Bishop Thomas introduced a proposal that has been prepared by the youth directors of the various jurisdictions and requested the Assembly’s permission to begin planning an Orthodox youth conference. Fr Joseph Purpura presented the proposal. Bishop Thomas and Fr Purpura asked for the Assembly’s blessing to move forward in the planning process which would culminate with a national event in 2016. The Assembly gave its blessing for them to proceed with the planning. They will report at Assembly V on their progress.

 

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2013

Metropolitan Antony opened the session with prayer.

Archbishop Demetrios expressed condolences to Metropolitan Tikhon on the passing of his grandmother.

Regional Model for Communications (postponed from Wednesday’s agenda)

Bishop Maxim presented the West Coast model of communication between the bishops in the region—himself, Metropolitan Gerasimos, Archbishop Joseph, Archbishop Benjamin, and Archbishop Kyrill. Beginning in 2007, the bishops have had many, many liturgical concelebrations, for which purpose they have issued a liturgicon, or book for the Divine Liturgy, both of St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great.

He said that through their cooperation they have come to know each other better so that they have achieved many, many things.

He added that the deans are cooperating as well, not only in the Los Angeles area but also in the San Francisco Bay Area. Archbishop Benjamin noted that in addition to concelebration on Sunday of Orthodoxy, there are other occasions when the bishops serve in each other’s cathedrals and on special parochial and diocesan events, and an annual retreat in which all clergy participate. He said that it has been a wonderful experience and that Orthodox unity must begin with the hierarchs.

Bishop Peter added that the bishops in Chicago have been concelebrating for the past 10 years.

Election of Officers

Archbishop Demetrios introduced the next agenda item, the election of Secretary and Treasurer, whose terms are three years according to the bylaws. He remarked that Metropolitan Antony (Treasurer) and Bishop Basil (Secretary) have been extraordinary in their offices and duties. He motioned that the two be reappointed for a second term. Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos seconded the motion. All agreed and the motion passed.

Archbishop Demetrios asked that the Assembly increase its assistance to the Secretary and Treasurer to facilitate their work as much as possible.

Adoption of Assembly Budget

Metropolitan Antony reported that one of the jurisdictions increased its contribution by 50% because it was moved by the needs of the Assembly. He thanked Bishop Ilia and welcomed any other jurisdictions to increase their donations by 50% if possible.

Metropolitan Antony outlined the proposed changes to the 2014 budget that will help certain committees function more easily and fulfill expectations. The first proposed change is to increase the Committee for Military Chaplaincy’s budget back up to $5,000. And the second change is to increase the budget of the Committee for Pastoral Practice to $20,000, to meet the needs of the aggressive agenda they have outlined for 2014. The third change is for the Committee for Youth, whose budget is also being increased to $20,000. The overall budget for 2014 is $370,000 for total expenditures.

Metropolitan Savas motioned to approve the budget and Bishop Gregory seconded. There were no objections.

Joint Statements from the Assembly--discussion and approval

Statements on same sex marriage and the violence in the Middle East were drafted by the Committee for Church and Society and distributed for comment. Metropolitan Savas read the proposed changes to the texts and a lengthy discussion ensued. Language for both statements was agreed upon and the statements were released to the public.

Archbishop Demetrios proposed that in future Assembly meetings, the reviewing of Assembly statements should be earlier on the agenda so that there is ample time to review and agree to proposed language.

Establishment of 2014 Assembly

The date and location of the next Assembly will be determined in the near future. The Chairman advised that it would be held in mid-September 2014.

The Apolytikion of Pentecost was chanted and the meeting was concluded.