The fourth Plenary Session of the 20th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America convened today in Baltimore, MD. Metropolitan Tikhon opened the meeting with a statement on pressing concerns within the Church.
The first issue is the need for clergy financial support in the Diocese of Alaska, where many pastors labor faithfully for meager compensation. In response to this concern, His Beatitude established a charitable fund to assist Alaskan clergy. He then personally committed $10,000 annually for ten years to the fund. The second pressing concern within the Orthodox Church in America is the education of clergy in the Diocese of Mexico. The need for seminary training in Spanish will be met by the construction of Saint Basil Academy in Mexico City. His Eminence Archbishop Alejo is establishing a charitable fund with the hope of raising $80,000 to complete the project. Metropolitan Tikhon personally committed $10,000 annually to this fund over three years.
Next, His Eminence Archbishop Michael of New York and New Jersey offered a statement on behalf of the Holy Synod concerning the continual rise of views on human sexuality and gender identity that are contrary to an Orthodox Christian worldview. Quoting multiple Biblical passages, he emphasized that the Church teaches that God has created human beings as male and female—a reality that cannot be altered. Furthermore, human sexuality can only be blessed within a Christian marriage of one man with one woman. Archbishop Michael also cited previous official statements of the Orthodox Church in America and affirmations of pan-Orthodox statements as evidence that the teaching of the Church has not changed or can be contravened. He then warned that any clergy or laity who publish or teach opinions not aligned with Orthodoxy on human sexuality or gender identity will be disciplined. His Eminence received a standing ovation from the assembly.
Archpriest Thomas Soroka, Project Manager for the Departments of the OCA, presented his report on the ongoing work of the various departments of the Church. The Department of Liturgical Music and Translations will soon be offering a choir director certification program to aide parish singers. They have also received approval to designate the Sunday after the feast of Saint Romanus the Melodist to be OCA Church Musicians Sunday, recognizing the importance of liturgical music in the worship of the faithful. The Department of Christian Education will soon be releasing new resources for Vacation Church School. They also will be hiring a national director of youth to oversee youth ministries in the future. Another project of the Department of Christian Education is the publication of a free, online adult catechism for use in preparing individuals for reception into the Church. This resource will become available in December 2022.
The Executive Director and CEO of International Orthodox Christian Charities [IOCC], Constantine Triantafilou, addressed the delegation on the work of his organization around the world. He concluded his presentation by remembering his friend and co-worker at IOCC, the late Archpriest Leonid Kishkovsky, former Director of External Affairs of the Orthodox Church in America.
A resolution was brought to the floor to designate the Sunday closest to the feast of Saint Herman of Alaska on December 13 a day to remember the clergy of the Diocese of Alaska, and to take up a collection in each parish to assist their ministry. It passed unopposed. A second resolution was brought to the floor condemning the aggression against Ukraine, thus affirming the statement previously released by the Holy Synod. The resolution called to mind the catastrophic effect of the war on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church helmed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry, and commended the Holy Synod for their continual support of this sister Church. The resolution passed nearly unanimously.
The final reports presented were from the seminaries. Archpriest Chad Hatfield, President of Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, NY played a short film about the life of a seminarian, and then urged the audience to continue their financial support of students who will become the future clergy and leaders of the Church. Archpriest John Parker, Dean of Saint Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan, PA spoke of the rich history of his seminary and its connection to the Saints of North America, and invited all to support the work of the school.
The final order of business was the election of new members to the Metropolitan Council and Pension Board. Elected to the Metropolitan Council were clergy delegates Archpriest Justin Patterson, Archpriest Lawrence Margitich, and Archpriest Thomas Moore; and lay delegates Lynnell Brunswig, Elizabeth (Lisa) Mikhalevsky, and Alexis Liberovsky. Elected to the Pension Board were clergy delegates Archpriest John Dresko and Archpriest Chad Hatfield; and lay delegates Melanie Ringa and Matushka Mary C. Buletza Breton. All newly-elected members of the Metropolitan Council and Pension Board will be confirmed Friday at the fifth Plenary Session.