The Fall Session of the Metropolitan Council of the Orthodox Church in America took place Wednesday and Thursday, September 17 and 18, 2019 at the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, NY. The members of the Standing Synod of Bishops, who met concurrently, also participated in the deliberations.
The Fall Session began with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in Saint Sergius of Radonezh Chapel, at the Chancery of the Orthodox Church in America. Archimandrite Alexis (Trader), a monk of the Monastery of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk, officiated. In his homily, reflecting on Luke 4:1-12, Father Alexis offered these words of encouragement to those gathered, “As we offer our services to the Church, as we move forward to face whatever temptations may come before us, let us remember how Christ faced Satan in the wilderness and was victorious, for as the fathers teach, Christ did this not for Himself, but for us. Father Alexis continued by asking those gathered to ask themselves, “Are we serving our brothers and sisters or are we only serving ourselves? Let us place our trust in God, believing that we are His, and letting Him lead us wherever He wills. And let us remember the history of our salvation as a beacon that lights our way, not only through the wilderness of temptations, but into the Kingdom of Heaven where temptations are no more.”
Following the Divine Liturgy, His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin opened the biannual meeting of the Metropolitan Council. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon was unable to attend the opening day of the meeting due to his participation in the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Bishops. His Beatitude designated Archbishop Benjamin, the senior member of the Standing Synod, to preside at the portion of the Metropolitan Council meeting in his absence. During that time, the normal business of the Metropolitan Council proceeded with Archbishop Benjamin as interim chairman. His Beatitude, however, confirmed the decisions of the Metropolitan Council that were made in his absence as the first order of business once he joined the meeting.
Metropolitan Tikhon, in his address to the Council, spoke specifically about the work of the Chancery and his representation of the Orthodox Church in America to the other local Orthodox Churches. He also spoke about his pilgrimage this past summer to Cappadocia and his visit with His All Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew. Turning to the work of the Chancery, His Beatitude welcomed OCA Treasurer Andrew Smith to his first meeting of the Council. Mr. Smith was endorsed by the Metropolitan Council in April, and confirmed by the Holy Synod during their Spring Session in May. His Beatitude also mentioned the recent loss of three great pastors of the Orthodox Church in America, His Eminence, Archbishop Nikon, Archpriest John Matusiak, and Archpriest Steven Belonick. Reflecting on the lives and work of these three men, His Beatitude noted that each of them, in their own way, have made us more aware of the beauty, value, and importance of the Holy Priesthood and the important place the Church played in the raising up of these excellent pastors.
Finally, His Beatitude welcomed the incoming Council members, and expressed his gratitude for the outgoing members.
In his report, Archpriest Alexander Rentel, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, outlined the work under his purview including Chancery restructuring, the Office of Response to Sexual Misconduct and the Sexual Misconduct Advisory Committee, and the Location Committee. Father Alexander also reported on his various domestic travels to the dioceses and the seminaries, and international travel he has made on behalf of Metropolitan Tikhon.
Andrew Smith, OCA Treasurer, reported on the work of his office. Mr. Smith presented a balanced budget for 2020 which was unanimously adopted.
The council heard a variety of other reports from various committees and departments, highlights from those reports were:
- Archpriest Kirill Sokolov, chair of the Internal Governance Committee, reported on the work of his committee which presented for adoption motions combining the committees on ethics and human resources into a single committee, the creation of a technology committee, and a properties committee.
- Mr. Alex Liberovsky, OCA Archivist, reported on the ongoing work of the archives digitization project, and the state of the physical space in which the archives are presently kept.
- Protopresbyter Leonid Kishkovsky, Director of External Affairs, reported on the work of his office highlighting the recent developments in world Orthodoxy.
- Dimitrios Rentel, Youth Department intern, presented a detailed report on the department’s listening project, ”Ring the Bell” for youth ministry, and shared the results of the youth survey which received more than fifteen hundred responses from youth, parents and clergy from throughout the Orthodox Church in America.
- Archdeacon Joseph Matusiak presented a report on the work of the Stewards of the OCA, and reminded the Council members that Steward Sunday is Sunday, October, 27.
Minutes and reports will be posted as they are received.