Statement of Purpose
The Assembly of Bishops, in bringing together the Orthodox Christian hierarchy, serves to bring the clergy, monastics, and laity closer to Christ and each other.
The Assembly of Bishops preserves and contributes to the unity of the Orthodox Church in the United States of America by furthering her spiritual, theological, ecclesiological, canonical, educational, missionary, and philanthropic aims.
In His High Priestly Prayer to His Father, Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ prayed for His disciples, the members of the Church that He established … “that they all may be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that You have sent Me” (John 17:21).
Toward a Common Vision
Within the next three years, the Assembly of Bishops will measurably enhance:
Orthodox Christian Unity & Outreach;
Common Orthodox Witness;
Ministries & Initiatives; and
History and Additional Information
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America is made up of all the active, canonical Orthodox bishops in the United States of America, of every jurisdiction.
The Assembly was established in accordance with the Decision of the 4th Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference, convoked in Chambésy, Switzerland, June 6-12, 2009, at which met representatives from all the universally-recognized autocephalous Orthodox churches. These representatives recognized substantial canonical "anomalies" in the organization and life of the Church in these regions, and realized that, though these anomalies had arisen from specific historical circumstances and pastoral needs, they nonetheless present a number of serious problems for the faithful; moreover, they give an appearance of disunity in the one holy Church. As such, these representatives unanimously agreed to the formation of assemblies of bishops throughout the world to heal, as quickly as possible, these anomalies.
The bishops in the USA, Canada and Central America were originally together in one Assembly, called the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America; in April 2014 it was announced that, in order to best respond to the cultural diversity and pastoral needs in the region, the Canadian and US bishops would form separate assemblies and the Central American bishops would join the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of Latin America.
To accomplish its purpose and vision, the Assembly has as its goals:
- the promotion and accomplishment of Church unity in the United States
- the strengthening of the common pastoral ministry to all the Orthodox faithful of the region
- a common witness by the Church to all those outside her
- the organization of the Church in the United States in accordance with the ecclesiological and the canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church
In this way, the Assembly is both consultative and programmatic. It is consultative insofar as, while it has no administrative authority, it is a forum for the exchange of ideas and creation of templates, best practices, and models for each Bishop to implement as he sees fit in his own diocese. At the same time, the Assembly is to be programmatic in its goal to coordinate and ultimately unite the common ministries and pastoral practices of the various jurisdictions.
The Assembly meets annually and functions by a consensus of all its members. At its inception, it established a number of committees with specific tasks to help accomplish its goals. Each committee consists of member bishops who are assisted by clergy and lay advisors. The Assembly understands itself to be the successor of SCOBA, and as such, has assumed all of its agencies, dialogues, and other ministries.
Unlike SCOBA, the Assembly is a transitional body. If it achieves its goal, it will make itself obsolete by developing a proposal for the canonical organization of the Church in the United States of America. This proposal will in turn be presented to the universally recognized autocephalous Churches, gathered in council. Should this proposal be accepted, it is hoped that the Assembly of Bishops will be succeeded by a governing Synod of a united Church in the United States.