Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Comm. for Pastoral Practice: extremely important talks afoot

The below is from Fr. John Jillions OCA Chancellor's Diary. This is the important work of the Assembly of Bishops that everyone (laity and clergy alike) have been clamoring for.

(OCA) - I left home at 5 am yesterday morning to beat the New York City morning traffic and drive the 6 hours or so to Ligonier. The “Committee for Pastoral Practice” of the Assembly of Bishops is meeting here for a consultation until Wednesday afternoon. The committee chair is Metropolitan Joseph (Antiochian), and other bishops include Bishop Feodosy (ROCOR), Bishop Mark (OCA) and Bishop Sevastianos (GOA). A number of consultants are participating as well from the various jurisdictions, including the OCA’s Father Ian Pac-Urar (facilitator), Father Alexander Rentel (canonist), Father Marcus Burch (DOS chancellor) and me.

The Committee’s task is to review the pastoral practices of the jurisdictions and come to a draft agreement about norms, acceptable variations (there are many) and areas where more study and discussion are needed. In his opening remarks Metropolitan Joseph pointed out that matins and vespers are part of the consultation agenda. He underlined that this is all part of the process of shaping an organically unified Orthodox Church in North America. “Papers and meetings alone cannot bring us together. We need to be gathered around the Lord Jesus Christ and around the chalice, worship and prayer.”

At this point the committee is looking at practices surrounding sacramental life:
  • Baptism, Chrismation and reception of converts
  • Confession
  • Holy Communion
  • Holy Unction
  • Funerals and Memorials
The process is to (1) find points of consensus that could be the draft basis for an agreed statement by the Assembly of Bishops and (2) note issues that require further study. For example, while baptism by immersion and in the name of the Trinity is the agreed Orthodox practice, there is no consensus yet on recognizing baptism done outside the Orthodox Church or how converts are to be received into the Orthodox Church.

Additional areas to be studied in future for working out a common (if not uniform) approach to pastoral practice:
  • The Blessing of Water
  • Suicide and Funeral Services
  • Pastoral care of families post suicide
  • Abortion and birth-control
  • Church authority
  • The role of the priest’s wife
  • Drugs and alcohol
A number of areas will require joint task forces with other Assembly committees: monastic formation, clergy and parish finances, clergy education, wellness, misconduct, sabbaticals, marriage support, clergy families in crisis, clergy divorce, clergy release and transfer, reception of clergy from the Roman Catholic Church.


  1. God speed! May your work be fruitful.

  2. These decisions will require much humility for the faithful, and a willingness to either remain in our practice or change our practice depending on the guidance of the Spirit of Truth. May our Lord help us not to complain.