Friday, April 27, 2012

Assembly of Bishops issues Pastoral Practice update

Of the numerous hopes I held out for the "Chambésy process," the work of this committee was quite high on my list. There is such variety from jurisdiction to jurisdiction that in the same city the experience of Chrismation, Marriage, and Divorce among other practices can be completely different. So if you want to become Orthodox and the priest you talked to wants you to wait "too long" you can simply go down the street and get received earlier. If one priest won't process your declarations of nullity so you can get married for a third time, just drive to the other side of town and put up with having the service in an uglier building. In short, right now you can shop for the experience you want to have. It makes the rules that govern life of the Church look arbitrary and capricious. It makes the Church look less than One and is a lamentable reality of the current jurisdictionalism.

(AOB) - Committee for Pastoral Practice 2011 Annual Report

Committee Members and Consultants

Members: Archbishop Joseph (Chairman), Bishop Theodosy, Bishop Mark

Consultants: Fr. Ian G. Pac-Urar, Fr. Timothy Baclig, Fr. Ion Gherman, Dr. Stephen Muse

Secretariat Liaison: Constantin Ursache

Objective of the Committee

The Committee for Pastoral Practice is responsible for i) identifying the differences and inconsistencies among the various jurisdictions in their exercise of sacramental and pastoral praxis and ii) for establishing a protocol to address these inconsistencies and propose models for resolution consistent with canonical practice.


The Committee for Pastoral Practice held three meetings in 2011:

The Committee first met by conference call on July 15. The Terms of Reference given by the Assembly of Bishops were reviewed, and the Committee formally structured. The Committee noted that several of the identified fields imply future collaboration with other Committees of the Assembly of Bishops.

The Committee met again in Los Angeles on September 24 as guests of Archbishop Joseph and St. Nicholas Cathedral. Methods and procedures for data collection were determined and a tentative timeline was established. Additional consultants were identified for each of the areas of pastoral practice, to be called upon as data collection and analysis progresses.

On October 26, 2011, Frs. Ian Pac-Urar and Timothy Baclig led a webinar for seventeen new, practice area consultants. The Terms of Reference were discussed, initial goals were established, and data gathering and analysis procedures were explained. The webinar was recorded and archived online for reference by Committee members and consultants. Additionally, official policy documents are archived online as they are received from each jurisdiction.


The tasks of the Committee for Pastoral Practice are given in the Terms of Reference (see These tasks have been organized by the Committee into three phases.

Phase I (completed 2011):
  1. Identify the sacramental and pastoral practices (e.g., marriage and divorce, reception of converts, etc.) in current usage among all the jurisdictions represented in the Assembly
    1. Identify the fields of pastoral practice to be surveyed (Completed 2011)
Ten fields of Pastoral Practice have been identified: Baptism/Chrismation/Conversion; Marriage; Confession/Communion; Holy Unction/Anointing; Funerals; Hospital Chaplaincy/Visitation of the Sick; Divorce among Clergy and Laity; Pastoral Aspects of Clergy Misconduct; Pastoral Aspects of Clergy Release and Transfer; Reception of Roman Catholic Clergy.
  1. Request the official procedures for each of these practices from each jurisdiction (Completed 2011)
Analysis of the documents received to date reveals that many jurisdictions have no centrally articulated, official, written policies for certain fields of pastoral practice. As the Committee continues its work, surveys and interviews will be used to fill the gaps in the data set.

Phase II (in progress 2012):
  1. Establish a matrix of practices that allows for a clear comparison and a protocol to address inconsistencies (In progress, 2012)
As data are collected from each jurisdiction and in each field of practice, a matrix for that field is being developed. The result will be a set of tables clearly identifying the elements of each practice and identifying the commonalities and variations across jurisdictions for each practice.
  1. Catalogue the differences and inconsistencies that exist and determine whether such differences are local (parish or diocese only) or the policy of the jurisdiction (In progress, 2012)
    1. Survey each jurisdiction/presence in the Assembly as to the variations that may or may not exist in regard to official policy
    2. Collect anecdotal information on the variations
In the interest of obtaining a generalized view of the pastoral practices across jurisdictions, the Committee has focused first on jurisdictional policies. The result will be a catalog of commonalities and variations between jurisdictions, as reflected in official policies, surveys and interview data. Deeper investigation into variation and degrees of compliance within a jurisdiction is a delicate matter requiring sophistication, sensitivity and trust. Read: No outing a jurisdiction for having parishes that aren't following the rules. As jurisdictions and their relevant personalities become familiar with the research process it may become more practical to collect the appropriate data.

Phase III (projected 2013):
  1. Propose models for resolution that are consistent with canonical practice. (Anticipated, 2013)
    1. Determine and evaluate theological and ecclesiological ramifications for the variances
    2. Strategize on possible models for resolution
Models for resolution will vary with the particular conditions and requirements of each field of pastoral practice. The Committee anticipates a series of conferences beginning in 2013, bringing together canonists, pastoral theologians, and administrators from each jurisdiction. The data collected and analyzed in Phases I and II will inform the conferences and provide starting points for their work. Theological and ecclesiological ramifications will be thoroughly examined in a reflective and rigorous setting. Resolution will be achieved by the consensus of relevant persons from the jurisdictions, rather than by decision of the Committee.


The task of identifying and cataloging the pastoral practices of the sixty-odd dioceses in the eleven jurisdictions of the Assembly of Bishops is gargantuan. We are grateful to the members of the Committee, Bishops Theodosy and Mark, and to the consultants for their efforts. We are especially thankful for the goodwill and co-operation shown by the many jurisdictional hierarchs and administrators in providing the relevant data to the Committee as we work and pray for the future unity of all Orthodox Christians in America, in faith and in practice.

In Christ Our Lord,

Archbishop Joseph, Chairman

The Committee for Pastoral Practice

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