Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall session notes from OCA Holy Synod

I've refrained from posting a few recent OCA announcements because they have been rather specifics-sparse. This posting is quite a bit more information dense.

SYOSSET, NY (OCA) - The Holy Synod of Bishops met in plenary and closed sessions at the Chancery of the Orthodox Church in America here October 9-11, 2012.

According to Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, OCA Secretary, the following decisions were made by the members of the Holy Synod during their gathering, which was chaired by His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate, Locum Tenens of the Metropolitan See.
  • The Holy Synod was briefed on the progress of various Synodal Commissions.
  • In response to several clergy cases, it was noted that they cannot be considered until after the election of the new Metropolitan. The Holy Synod did review the list of parishes in need of assigned clergy and discussed possible candidates to fill the vacancies.
  • The Holy Synod will prepare a statement on Christian Life, Communication, Relationships between priests and faithful and other pastoral matters, which will be distributed to the faithful prior to the 17th All-American Council. An earlier statement was made on electronic communications between clergy and laity about a year ago. In light of recent episcopal and priestly misconduct allegations, they must feel compelled to go further in outlining what is appropriate contact.
  • It was confirmed that the policy of the Orthodox Church in America is not to release or receive any clergy in an “on-loan” or “leave of absence” status. This is certainly interesting.
  • The Holy Synod mandated the Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee [SMPAC] and the Office for Review of Sexual Misconduct Allegations [ORSMA] establish clear protocols for the efficient and just handling of sexual misconduct cases. The Crisis Management Committee [CMC] is instructed to create its own internal guidelines and coordinate them with the Policies, Standards and Procedures [PSP]. Even after years of discussion on this topic, it seems enough ink has not been put to use on this issue or people still aren't obeying what has already been written.
  • In response to the report of the Chancellor, who was thanked for his dedicated work, an extensive discussion was held on various issues outlined in his written report, which will be released with the Metropolitan Council minutes.
  • In response to the report of Archpriest Leonid Kishkovsky on a variety of matters with regard to external affairs, Archbishop Nathaniel thanked him and His Grace, Bishop Alexander of Toledo and the Bulgarian Diocese for representing of the Orthodox Church in America throughout the world.
  • In response to the report of Archpriest Eric G. Tosi, it was decided that His Eminence, Archbishop Tikhon of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania will look into the possibility of bringing the Icon of Saint Anna to the 17th All-American Council. The hierarchs reviewed in detail the plans for the forthcoming Council and its operation. Other points raised in his report, which will be released with the Metropolitan Council minutes, also were discussed.
  • The Holy Synod blessed the 2013 Budget as proposed by the Metropolitan Council. Ms. Melanie Ringa, OCA Treasurer, outlined the 2012 finances and reported in detail on the work of the Finance Committee and proposals for the 2013 budget. There was a report on bequests and the restricted funds. Ms. Ringa also reported a clean external audit, adding that restricted funds are now properly constituted for dispersal in their respective areas.
  • The hierarchs heard a report on the work of the OCA departments by His Grace, Bishop Mark of Baltimore. In highlighting specific plans, he encouraged the members of the Holy Synod to link the work of the departments to their diocesan and parish web sites for maximum exposure. He also reported on the recent conference call with department chairs and shared some of their concerns. Looking forward to the Diocese of Mexico's upcoming facelift.
  • The Holy Synod blessed the 2013 Church Planting Grants. [See related story here.]
  • The Holy Synod approved the candidates from the Diaconal Vocations Program for ordination to the Holy Diaconate.
  • The Holy Synod accepted Archbishop Benjamin’s presentation of Hieromonk David [Mahaffey] as the nominee for the Episcopal See of Alaska.
  • The Holy Synod established the dates of various events for 2013, reviewed and approved a document related to the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and approved supporting initial plans for the establishment of the Saint Ephraim House of Healing in Colorado. Additional information on these matters will be posted on the OCA web site as it is received.
In addition to regular and closed plenary sessions, a three-hour discussion with members of the Holy Synod and the Church’s officers on their current needs and work was facilitated by Protodeacon Peter Danilchick. The discussion built upon a similar discussion that took place at the recent meeting of the Metropolitan Council. There was some consideration of future needs and requirements for the office of the Metropolitan and his functioning in the Church.

Other hierarchs attending the session included His Eminence, Archbishop Nikon of Boston, New England, and the Albanian Archdiocese; His Eminence, Archbishop Alejo of Mexico City and the Diocese of Mexico; His Grace, Bishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania; His Grace, Bishop Michael of New York and New York and New Jersey, Administrator of the OCA; His Grace, Bishop Irénée of Quebec City, Administrator of the Archdiocese of Canada. His Grace, Bishop Matthias of Chicago and the Midwest was not in attendance.

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