From Tuesday, May 18, to Friday, May 21, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America met under the presidency of His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon for its Regular 2021 Spring Session at the Dormition of the Mother of God Monastery in Rives Junction, MI. This was the first in-person meeting for the hierarchs since November 2019.
In addition to His Beatitude, the members of the Holy Synod who participated in this meeting were His Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate; His Eminence Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West; His Eminence Archbishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania; His Eminence Archbishop Michael of New York and New York and New Jersey; His Eminence Archbishop Alexander of Dallas, the South, and the Bulgarian Diocese; and His Eminence Archbishop Paul of Chicago and the Midwest.
His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania and His Eminence Archbishop Irénée of Ottawa and Canada participated via teleconference. His Eminence Archbishop Alejo was unable to participate via teleconference because of technical issues, but he sent a detailed report on the state of the Diocese of Mexico, which was distributed to the members of the Holy Synod and presented by His Beatitude.
Participating in the Spring Session by invitation were His Grace Bishop Daniel of Santa Rosa; His Grace Bishop Alexis of Bethesda, Locum Tenens of Sitka and Alaska; His Grace Bishop Andrei of Cleveland; Archpriest Alexander Rentel, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America; and Priest Alessandro Margheritino, Secretary of the Orthodox Church in America.
The members of the Holy Synod discussed and deliberated on a variety of topics concerning the life of the Church. On Tuesday, May 18, the Holy Synod elected Archimandrite Gerasim (Eliel) as Bishop of Fort Worth. Bishop-elect Gerasim will be ordained to the episcopacy on June 29, 2021 at the Saint Seraphim of Sarov Cathedral in Dallas, TX.
On the same day, the Holy Synod confirmed Priest Alessandro Margheritino as Secretary of the Orthodox Church in America. As per statutory requirement, Priest Alessandro was previously endorsed by the Metropolitan Council at the beginning of May.
The hierarchs shared reports on their respective dioceses, including the Diocese of New England and the Albanian Archdiocese currently under the Locum Tenency of His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon. Bishop Alexis of Bethesda and Locum Tenens of Sitka and Alaska offered a report on the Diocese of Alaska, and was granted extended Locum Tenency according to Article VIII Section 7-b of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America.
The Holy Synod discussed the recently updated guidelines on COVID from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and agreed on some common principles which will be communicated by each diocesan bishop to his respective diocese.
His Eminence Archbishop Paul was appointed episcopal moderator of the OCA Pension Board, a position that had remained vacant since the falling asleep of Archbishop David of Sitka and Alaska, who served in this role.
The Holy Synod also heard and accepted reports from Archpriest Alexander Rentel, Chancellor of the Orthodox Church in America; Priest Alessandro Margheritino, Secretary; and Mr. Andrew Smith, Treasurer. The Honorable Judge E.R. Lanier, the General Counsel of the Orthodox Church in America, also updated the Synod on a variety of legal matters, while Archpriest Thomas Soroka, Project Manager of the Departments of the Orthodox Church in America, presented on the work of the departments. Further, the Holy Synod heard and accepted a number of other reports offered via teleconference, including a report from Archpriest Chad Hatfield on Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, a report from Archpriest John Parker on Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, and a report from Deacon Peter Ilchuk, OCA Council Manager.
On Wednesday, May 19, the second day of their Regular 2021 Spring Session, the members of the Holy Synod of Bishops welcomed the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother God. With the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Peter of Chicago and Mid-America (ROCOR), Priest Gregory Joyce, Rector of Saint Vladimir Parish (ROCOR), Ann Arbor, MI, brought the icon to the Dormition of the Mother of God Monastery so that the members of the Holy Synod could venerate it.
Throughout the meeting, the hierarchs received the warm hospitality of the Monastery, which provided a spiritual and prayerful environment for the meetings. The hierarchs were also able to participate in the liturgical life of the Monastery.
On Friday, the last day of the 2021 Spring Session, His Grace Bishop Andrei presided at the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy in the Monastery Church for the feast of the Holy Equals-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine and his Mother, Helen.
Over the course of the 2021 Spring Session, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon was also able to meet individually with each hierarch and discuss a variety of topics concerning each diocese.