The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America commenced its fifth annual meeting Monday, September 15, with a Pan-Orthodox Clergy-Laity Gathering in Dallas, Texas.
Some two hundred people attended, including more than 30 bishops representing the member jurisdictions of the Assembly. The evening began with a Doxology—a service of thanksgiving—presided over by the Chairman of the Assembly, Archbishop Demetrios of America. His Eminence welcomed those in attendance, remarking that the Doxology was an opportunity to thank God for all His gifts and for bringing the Assembly together once again. His Eminence expressed his wish that the evening would make the faithful more aware of the sacred and great work that the Lord is doing through the Assembly.
Following the Doxology, a panel of bishops answered questions submitted by those in attendance. Questions pertained to the work of the Assembly, including youth ministry, inter-church relations, and evangelism and outreach, and challenges facing the Orthodox Church today, including questions of language, administrative reorganization, and persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
Five bishops were on the panel: Archbishop Demetrios (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America), Bishop Basil (Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese), Bishop John (Russian Orthodox Church in the USA), Archbishop Nicolae (Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese), and Bishop Gregory (American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese). The panel was moderated by Archimandrite Nathanael Symeonides, a member of the Assembly’s Secretariat.
The evening concluded with a meal and fellowship in the church hall.
The Assembly is grateful to the parish of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, which hosted the event, and the numerous Orthodox parishes in the Dallas area that helped make the evening fruitful.
The event was professionally videotaped and will be available on the Assembly’s website in the near future.
The Assembly’s official deliberations begin on Tuesday, after a morning Divine Liturgy and memorial service for Metropolitan Philip of blessed memory, who passed away in March.
ANNUAL ASSEMBLY PROGRESSES WITH CONSTRUCTIVE DIALOGUE
More than 35 members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America joined in celebrating the Divine Liturgy Tuesday morning, September 16, at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Dallas, Texas. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, the bishops offered a memorial service for the repose of the soul of Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. The bishops are gathered in Dallas for the fifth annual meeting of the Assembly of Bishops.
In opening remarks following the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Demetrios, Chairman of the Assembly, said that the Assembly’s convening would “certainly send a clear message to the world that we, the members of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops are all one in Christ through His life, death and resurrection. We have begun our work with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, and the partaking of His One Body and Blood, thus constituting His One Holy, Undivided and Sacred Body. “
His Eminence called on the Assembly to intensify its work in preparation for the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church, which is scheduled to be held in the Spring of 2016 in Constantinople.
The Assembly remains “prayerfully and painfully aware of developments” in the US and abroad, said His Eminence, including the persecution of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, the violence in Ukraine that has caused suffering for our Orthodox brethren, and attacks, both direct and indirect, on our Faith in various forms of atheism, agnosticism and perverse religiosity, including a constant attempt by society to redefine what is moral.
In the afternoon session, the Assembly’s committees provided reports on their activities. Church and Society, Ecumenical Relations, Legal, Military Chaplaincy, Monastic Communities, Pastoral Practice, Theological Education, Youth and the newly-formed Committee for Agencies and Endorsed Organizations reported on their progress since Assembly IV and their plans for the coming year.
The Canonical Affairs committee made a presentation on the creation of a clergy database which, once completed, will be accessible to the faithful on the Assembly’s website. A second presentation highlighted the benefits of Bulletin Builder, a program that revolutionizes the creation of parish bulletins and significantly enhances communication within and between parishes. The program was created by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s Department of Internet Ministries and is now offered free of charge to all parishes in the Assembly.
HIERARCHS RENEW SUPPORT FOR ASSEMBLY AGENCIES
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America convened for a second day of meetings on Wednesday in Dallas, Texas.
The session opened with a special video message from His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the members of the Assembly. “We are addressing you because the time has surely come for us to move beyond words to actions . . . We are called to put our theory and theology into policy and practice. We are called to move beyond what is ‘mine’ and what is ‘yours’ to what is ‘ours,’” remarked His All-Holiness.
The morning session featured presentations by the directors of the Assembly’s seven agencies: International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC), Orthodox Christian Network (OCN), Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF), Orthodox Christian Education Commission (OCEC), Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM), and the Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting (EOCS).
Each agency provided an overview of its history, current activities and challenges. The presentations underscored the fact that, through their pan-Orthodox ministries, the agencies are and have been for many years manifesting the love and unity of the Church “on the ground”—responding to emergencies, assisting those in need, spreading the Gospel, visiting the prisoner, and educating and ministering to the Church’s youth.
In the afternoon session, the Committee for Canonical Regional Planning presented its report, which led to a discussion about the canonical anomaly of multiple bishops in one city. Hierarchs constructively shared their opinions, and after a candid and collegial discussion, agreed to continue working toward greater unity.
In anticipation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which is to convene in Spring 2016, the hierarchs reaffirmed their commitment to actively prepare one or more proposals for its consideration, as has been requested by the Holy Autocephalous Churches. To this end, hierarchs agreed to submit ideas to the Committee for Canonical Regional Planning within the next six months for appropriate action by the Assembly.