Sunday, April 19, 2015

Pastoral Practice Committee's agenda "ambitious"

One of the complaints lodged against the assembly is that they collected all this data and haven't done anything with it. Even if you listen to the interviews with committee members a common thread weaves its way through them when asked what's next - "We have gathered the data. That is what we were told to do. We'll see what happens next." It looks like some of the committees are indeed now moving forward. I find the last section to be of unquestionable importance (both personally and pastorally).

(AOB) - Can Orthodox weddings be celebrated on Saturdays? Are group confessions permissible? How are catechumens prepared for reception into the Church?

The answers to these questions and others depend on which Orthodox jurisdiction you call home. While there are vast areas of agreement in the Orthodox Church, there are variations in practice across jurisdictions in the United States as pertain to baptism, marriage, confession, and other sacraments of the Church.

As the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America strives to manifest the unity of Orthodoxy, it is necessary to develop a common understanding among its member bishops regarding pastoral practice.

Such is the goal of the Committee for Pastoral Practice (CPP), one of 14 Assembly committees. The CPP is responsible for identifying the differences and inconsistencies among the various jurisdictions in their exercise of sacramental and pastoral praxis and for proposing models for resolution consistent with canonical practice.

The Chairman of the committee is Metropolitan Joseph (AOCA). Its members are Bishop Sevastianos (GOA), Bishop Theodosy (ROCOR), and Bishop Mark (OCA). Seventeen consultants serve the committee as well as a facilitator and liaison.

"The work of this committee is very important,” said Metropolitan Joseph, “since it helps us to fulfill the command of St. Paul to the elders of the Church: 'Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the Church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood' (Acts 20:28) This is the spirit with which we pursue this task, for the building up of the Holy Orthodox Church in this land."

The first part of the committee’s task—identifying the practices currently in use and establishing comparative lists—has been completed. The committee began its work in 2011 by identifying 11 fields of pastoral practice to be surveyed. The committee requested, from each jurisdiction, the official written procedures for each of these fields. Analysis of the documents revealed that many jurisdictions have no centrally articulated, official, written policy for certain fields of pastoral practice.

With that information, the committee decided to focus on six areas where adequate documentary data could be gathered: baptism, chrismation and conversion; marriage; confession/communion; holy unction/anointing; funerals and memorials. A matrix of topics for each area of practice was developed and then a questionnaire sent to the chanceries of each member jurisdiction of the Assembly.

The questionnaire had two purposes: to give all jurisdictions the opportunity to verify the Committee’s findings, and to give each jurisdiction the opportunity to provide information that the Committee was not able to discover from the documents it had collected.

The committee now faces the final part of its assignment: where differences in practice do exist, to propose models for resolution that are consistent with canonical practice.

To prepare for this formidable task the committee held a meeting at Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA, November 3-5, 2014. One of the outcomes was the formation of six subcommittees that correspond with the six areas of practice. The subcommittees—led by a hierarch and comprised of consultants—are now revisiting areas of consensus and divergence and developing recommendations. The subcommittees will share their recommendations at a meeting scheduled for May 2015, with the goal of producing a final report with recommendations.

The committee recognizes and desires that each subcommittee should be as broadly representative as possible – a microcosm of American Orthodoxy. With that in mind, the subcommittees will consult with others to ensure that all opinions are represented.

Members of the Subcommittee on Pregnancy and Infant Loss

One other outcome of the November meeting was the decision to simultaneously address the issue of infant loss (miscarriages) and infant death before baptism. In some churches, responses to these situations have been well developed, but universally accepted practices do not exist. A subcommittee on Pregnancy and Infant Loss met at Antiochian Village March 12-14, 2015 and is preparing a guide for clergy, addressing basic medical information, pastoral care, advocacy, and suggested prayers and services. The committee hopes to present the clergy guide to the full Assembly for review at its annual meeting in September 2015.


  1. Ah, new guilt-free miscarriage prayers. With 50% less defilement than the original. Ask your priest for the improved version today! Because the saints simply didn't know basic medical information.

  2. Can you please explain why miscarriage prayers should be guilt inducing? Miscarriage is a time of great grief...whether a miscarriage the day after a positive pregnancy test or a miscarriage at 7 months. Are you implying miscarriage is the mother's fault? As someone experiencing secondary infertility (which sometimes means conception can occur, but nothing else after that) I find it sad that you would want me to think this is my fault. It is hard enough to go through.

    1. And I don't think that the early Saints were aware of a Luteal Phase Defect which plagues many women in which they can conceive but cannot maintain a pregnancy. No one would have ever known they were even pregnant in those days. Now there are pregnancy tests and all sorts of hormone testing. So no, it is not the same today. Women probably had very early miscarriages all the time without even knowing it..without anybody knowing it. Perhaps the trial of a miscarriage is some sort of cleansing from sin, who knows, most trials do that. Isn't the sadness and tragedy of miscarriage enough? In any case, you should know that, some women conceive, and through no fault of their own, an early miscarriage takes place, before a positive pregnancy test can even prove it.

  3. O Sovereign Master, Lord our God, Who was born of the all-pure Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, and as an infant was laid in a manger: do You Yourself, according to Your great mercy, have regard for this Your servant (Name) who has miscarried that which was conceived in her. Heal her suffering, granting to her, O Loving Lord, health and strength of body and soul. Guard her with a shining Angel from every assault of sickness and weakness and all inward torment. You who accept the innocence of infancy in Your Kingdom, comfort the mind of Your servant and bring her peace. Amen.

    Somebody please explain where the guilt and defilement come in.

    1. That's not the complete prayer commonly used...

      O Master Lord our God, Who wast born of the holy Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary, and lay as a babe in the manger: According to Thy great mercy do Thou Thyself have mercy upon this Thy handmaid, who today lieth in sins, having fallen into manslaughter, casting out, willingly or unintentionally, that which was conceived within her; and forgive her transgressions, voluntary or involuntary.

      Preserve her from every snare of the devil, cleanse her defilement, and heal her pangs. Grant health and goodly strength to her body and soul, O Thou Who lovest mankind, and with a radiant angel keep her from every attack of the invisible demons, yea, O Lord, and from infirmity and weakness.

      Cleanse her of bodily defilement and from the divers disorders of the womb which afflict her; and by Thy great mercy restore her in her humbled body, and raise her up from the bed whereon she lieth. For we have been born in sins and iniquities, and are all vile in Thy sight, O Lord; and with fear we cry out and say: Look down from heaven, and behold the infirmity of us who are condemned, and forgive this Thy handmaid N. who lieth in sins, having fallen into manslaughter willingly or unintentionally, casting off that which had been conceived within her.

      And according to Thy great mercy, in that Thou art the good God Who loveth mankind, have mercy and forgive those who found and touched her, for Thou alone hast the authority to remit sins and iniquities, through the supplications of Thy Mother and all the saints.

      For unto Thee is due all glory, honor and worship, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

  4. I have experienced several miscarriages, and probably others I don't even know about. I witnessed Golgotha in my bathroom, and in some parts of my house, the stains are still there. I deserve the full prayers and nothing less than the full prayers, and I'm angry that some other woman would think her experience invalidates mine! Or that some clergy committee could decide they are uncomfortable with my repentance.