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The Spring Session of the Metropolitan Council of the Orthodox Church in America was held at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, NY February 6 through 8, 2018.

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon opened the session with a Service of Prayer, after which he offered his opening remarks to Council members.

“I mentioned at the outset that this particular meeting of the Metropolitan Council is significant because of its anticipation of the All-American Council,” Metropolitan Tikhon said, setting the tone for the gathering.  “I would like to emphasize this in terms of the long-term planning for the Orthodox Church in America.  Although we will review a number of items related to the planning and structure of the All-American Council, I believe that it is even more important for us to focus on the overarching goals and outcome of the Council over the next few months.”

Metropolitan Tikhon went on to explain how the imagery used by Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, which compares the Church as a living organism to the human body, is most fitting.

“The Orthodox Church in America as a whole should reflect, or strive to reflect, this image of the One Christ, as should specific bodies within the Church such as this Metropolitan Council, the respective Councils and Assemblies of our dioceses, and even the local parish,” Metropolitan Tikhon noted.

Metropolitan Tikhon also spoke of the efforts of His Grace, Bishop Daniel of Santa Rosa, as consultant, highlighting the work being done on improving the operations of the Chancery.  He noted the upcoming 50th anniversary of Autocephaly and the Canonization of Saint Herman of Alaska in 2020, adding that preliminary plans are being considered for the celebration of these two events.  He also spoke on the work of the communications intern and his recommendations on moving forward with a consolidated multimedia communications plan.

Archpriest John Jillions, OCA Chancellor, reported on his work in such areas as clergy care and pastoral life.  In conjunction with his report, Cindy Heise, Coordinator of the Office of Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations [ORSMA], updated Council members on the work of the office and the Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee [SMPAC].

In his report, Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary, spoke about the impending upgrade of the OCA website, the renovation of the Archives, recent improvements to the Chancery campus, and the release of the new metric book.  He also presented a final proposed agenda drafted for the 19th All-American Council [AAC] by the Preconciliar Commission, which was unanimously accepted by the members of the Metropolitan Council.  The agenda will be sent to the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops for their blessing.  Various other aspects of the 19th AAC were reviewed, including the timeline for the release of materials, the opening of registration of delegates and youth program participants, and the themes of the six forums that will be held during the gathering.

Melanie Ringa, OCA Treasurer, reported on the current 2017 financials and the updated 2018 budget.  She presented the Finance Resolution discussed at the recent meeting of the diocesan chancellors and treasurers.  In response, Metropolitan Council members recommended that the diocesan remuneration rate remain at 34%.  Those dioceses that are above 34% will lower their rate by 2% each year until they reach 34%, without going below that percentage rate.  The full resolution will be released to the Church after it has been approved by the Holy Synod and vetted by the Resolution Committee of the 19th AAC.

Judge E.R. Lanier, General Counsel of the OCA, and Angela Parks, Chair of the Legal Committee, reported on various projects.  In conjunction with the OCA Secretary, two policies were presented to the Metropolitan Council for adoption.  The first is the Bequest and Corporate Gift Policy, which establishes guidelines on receiving gifts to the Church, while the second—Corporate Sponsorship Guidelines—establishes the policy by which the Church can relate to for-profit companies in sponsorship.  Both policies were adopted and will be forwarded to the members of the Holy Synod for their blessing.

Protopresbyter Leonid Kishkovsky, Director of External Affairs, reported on the his work.  Together with Bishop Daniel and Melanie Ringa, he highlighted the work of the committee overseeing Saint Catherine’s Representation Church in Moscow and spoke of the appointment of the OCA’s new Representative to the Moscow Patriarchate, Archpriest Daniel Andrejuk, who began his duties on February 1, 2018.

Reports also were presented by the Metropolitan Council’s committee chairs, together with a review of job descriptions, an organizational chart, the updated Employee Handbook, and other matters related to the internal governance of the Metropolitan Council.  The Pension Board presented a written report to the Council, while Dr. David Drillock offered a report on the work of the Department of Liturgical Music and Translations and Priest Christopher Rowe updated Council members on the work of the Department of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry.

The Standing Synod also met during the Metropolitan Council gathering and attended the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Metropolitan Tikhon in Saint Sergius of Radonezh Chapel on Wednesday morning.

Complete minutes and reports will be posted as they become available.

Homily of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon
Divine Liturgy at Saint Sergius of Radonezh Chapel
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

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In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

This week I have been underlining the importance of our cohesiveness and unity as the Orthodox Church in America. As a providential warning we have in today’s gospel a picture of the precise opposite: a community broken apart. The betrayer Judas uses a sign of love—a kiss—as the sign of betrayal. The disciples scatter and flee, leaving Jesus alone. We see a hostile collection of lying witnesses. Chief priests and elders mocking and slandering Jesus as a blasphemer and false prophet. Peter the chief apostle denies that he even knows Jesus as our Lord is led away to Pilate and the Cross.

In human terms it looks like the end of our Lord’s mission. The epistle reading is equally dark, warning of false prophets making their way into the community, sowing deception and division through the spirit of the antichrist.

Added to this, consider today’s commemoration of the new martyrs, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev—executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918 (almost one hundred years ago today: February 2, 1918) and Archbishop Peter of Voronezh.

Soldiers seized the Kiev Caves Lavra and broke into the churches. Monks were taken out into the courtyard to be stripped and beaten. Five armed soldiers and a sailor came looking for Metropolitan Vladimir. The seventy-year-old hierarch was tortured and choked in his bedroom with the chain of his cross and later taken out and shot. And in the year before his death Metropolitan Vladimir saw his diocese being broken apart by Ukrainian nationalists and Renovationists.

Archbishop Peter of Voronezh was consecrated bishop by Patriarch Tikhon in 1919, and for the next ten years, until his death from typhus in the infamous Solovki prison camp in 1929, he spent much of his time either in prison or contending with schisms caused by the Soviet-backed Renovationists.

All of this is a reminder of how easy it is for the cohesiveness of the Church to be destroyed. And how much ascetic labor is required to keep us together in faithfulness to Christ. We know that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church as a whole. But its survival in any given time or any given place is not a sure thing. We can point to many places in history where the church once flourished but no longer exists. The church’s continued life in history requires courageous faithful witnesses. It also requires us to work together to preserve the fullness of the Church.

Father Thomas Hopko often spoke of the “cross of cooperation.” In that little phrase there is much daily ascetic effort to look to the interests of others, to bear one another’s burdens, to overlook, to forgive, to be forbearing, to be courageous and reject fear and back-biting and slander. These repeated little actions of daily self-sacrifice are the building blocks and mortar of the Temple of the Living God, which is the Church.

We are still in the festal period of the Meeting of the Lord. In many of our parishes, as here in Saint Sergius Chapel, we had the blessing of candles as a reminder of Christ the light of the world, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, a light that cannot be overcome by the darkness. As we heard in the epistle, “this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us….Little children, you are of God … he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

As we continue with our meetings this week, may we each commit ourselves once again to carry that indestructible light of Christ in whatever small way we can for the encouragement of others and the building up of our Orthodox Church in America.