The Winter Session of the Metropolitan Council of the Orthodox Church in America took place Wednesday and Thursday, February 5 and 6, 2020 at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, NY.
The meeting began with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the repose of Saint Theodore of Chernigov, at the Chapel of Saint Sergius of Radonezh, at the Chancery of the Orthodox Church in America. The Divine Liturgy was served by Archpriest Alexander Rentel and Protodeacon Jesse Issac, a council member from the Archdiocese of Canada. At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon offered the prayers for the Opening of a Sacred Council.
Metropolitan Tikhon opened the biannual meeting with his address to the council and began by noting with sorrow the recent falling asleep of Archpriest John Kuchta and Mr. Milos Konjevich. “Father John and Milos were excellent servants of Christ, offering their skills and talents to the Orthodox Church in America through their work on the Metropolitan Council and the Pension and Investment Committees, respectively,” noted Metropolitan Tikhon.
Metropolitan Tikhon then reported briefly on his domestic and international travels; in particular, he spoke about his annual trip to the Diocese of Mexico for the Feast of Theophany. Metropolitan Tikhon noted that Archbishop Alejo has been instrumental in the spiritual and physical growth of the diocese, and suggested that the clergy, monastics, faithful, and especially the youth of the Diocese of Mexico would, “certainly benefit from better and more directed stewardship on the part of their brothers and sisters in the North”.
Metropolitan Tikhon then spoke about his work as the Locum Tenens of the Diocese of New England and the Albanian Archdiocese noting his intention to move steadily forward in filling those vacancies while at the same time allowing for both dioceses to have an appropriate period of mourning for the loss of their shepherd and father, Archbishop Nikon, and to allow some time for each diocese to undertake a self-assessment of their current status as they prepare for new leadership of the respective dioceses.
Metropolitan Tikhon concluded his report by noting that he had structured the agenda of the Winter Session in such a way so as to provide substantial time for constructive discussion on the results and suggestions of the youth report and the work of the Chancery Location Committee.
Following the report of Metropolitan Tikhon, members of the council received a progress report on the work of the Preconcilliar Commission for the upcoming 20th All American Council from Deacon Peter Ilchuk, Council-Manager. Deacon Peter presented the Council Theme, “Hope in an Age of Despair”, and a draft of the Council Logo, which will be presented to the Holy Synod for approval at their upcoming Spring Session. He also highlighted some initial plans about the council agenda which is still being developed by the Preconciliar Commission.
On Monday afternoon, Youth Department Intern, Dimitrios Rentel, delivered a comprehensive 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. Reporting on the data received from the survey, Dimitrios suggested five areas on which future youth ministry needs to focus: vocation concerns, meaningful interaction with elementary and high school-aged youth, continued and sustained engagement with young adults away at college, summer camps, and the development of a culture of music and singing among our youth as a way to keep them connected to the church, and their peers. Commenting on the results of the survey, and his experiences visiting youth camps Dimitrios noted that, “connections and meaningful relationships, not just with friends but with priests and older adults are what keep youth and young adults in the church.” In response to the report, the Metropolitan Council formed an ad-hoc committee to begin to develop programs and methods to address the identified areas needing focus.
In his report to the council, Archpriest Alexander Rentel, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America, outlined the work under his purview including reports on the work of the Ministry Departments and the Office of Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations (ORSMA).
The council also heard reports from Mr. Andrew Smith, Treasurer of the Orthodox Church in America; Protopresbyter Leonid Kishkovsky, Director of External Affairs; as well as the Internal Governance and Legal Committees of the Metropolitan Council.
On Thursday afternoon Metropolitan Tikhon, with the assistance of council member Mr. Christopher Lewis (DOS), led the council in a discussion on the physical location of the Chancery of the Orthodox Church in America. At the Spring 2019 meeting of the Metropolitan Council, Metropolitan Tikhon had formed a small relocation committee, made up of primarily members of the Metropolitan Council, as an initial step to consider the current assets and patrimony of the Orthodox Church in America, beginning with the Chancery itself. During the discussion on the physical location of the Chancery, results from this committee’s work were shared with the members of the council. From this research and from the discussion, it was evidenced that both the physical and fiscal health of the Chancery’s real estate assets were unsustainable. Likewise, it was determined (after an examination of the budgeted elements of maintaining and repairing the 106-year-old structure) that further investment in the existing property would be an irresponsible use of the giving entrusted to the OCA central administration. Considering all that had been reported, and following a lengthy, but fruitful discussion, the council adopted the following resolution:
Be it resolved that: 1) It is not financially feasible for the necessary repairs and maintenance to be made to the Chancery; 2) It is not possible for the archives to be preserved if they remain at the Chancery; Therefore, 1) Efforts shall be made immediately for the sale of the Chancery property; 2) Efforts shall be made immediately to determine a location for the new Chancery administration building; 3) Efforts shall be made immediately to determine a location for the residence of the Metropolitan; and 4) Efforts shall be made immediately to determine a location for the archives.
Commenting on the resolution, Archpriest Alexander Rentel, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America said, “A process now begins by the Locations Committee to perform the necessary work to fulfill the requirements of this motion.” Fr Alexander further noted, “the achievement of this resolution demonstrates the Metropolitan Council’s commitment to serving the faithful of the Orthodox Church in America with a particular commitment to transparency and fiscal responsibility.”
Metropolitan Council minutes and reports will be released as they become available.