(AOB) - The Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America convened their 7th Annual General Assembly Meeting in Detroit on October 4, 2016 with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Antiochian Basilica of Saint Mary in Livonia, Michigan.
The Bishops commenced their work with an opening address by the Assembly Chairman, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, who greeted and welcomed the hierarchs, encouraging them that “…when we speak together as an Assembly of Bishops, we do so with the authority of the Church; we do not speak as jurisdictions or merely as representatives, but as a single body of Orthodox Hierarchs who are committed to sharing the transformative light of Christ with our local society.”
His Eminence began his remarks with an expression of gratitude and with reflections on the Holy and Great Council which met in June of this year in Crete, crowning 55 years of preparation. The Archbishop noted that 12 of the Assembly’s bishops participated in the productive conciliar work and discussions of the Council, which “…helped us gain a better perception of who we are and…of the need to consistently strive for unity.”
Emphasizing the importance of our local Assembly, the Chairman stated, “…we must search for ways to align our local diocesan work with the work of the Assembly, and it is obvious that our committees may assist us.”
The first working session of the day commenced with the participation of 41 hierarchs of the Church. In brotherly love, and with responsibility and hopes for a fruitful meeting, the bishops approved the minutes of the 2015 General Assembly Meeting, the agenda of their present work, and the financial report from the treasurer. The bishops also heard the reports of the work of the Assembly Secretariat and Committees.
A substantial amount of time during the day was dedicated to hearing and discussing the reports from five of the Assembly Agencies.
Fr. Steven Powley, Executive Director of Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry (OCPM), presented a new promotional video that describes the work of this ministry in fulfilling the call to minister to those in prisons through thousands of personal letters written to prisoners, as well as the distribution of Bibles and books, icons, pamphlets and spiritual works.
Mr. Dean Triantafilou, Executive Director of the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC)—the humanitarian arm of the Assembly of Bishops—shared details on IOCC’s work since its inception. IOCC has delivered nearly $600 million of assistance worldwide in some 50 countries during its 25-year existence. In 2015, IOCC provided program services of $55 million. This year to date, IOCC has provided program services of $21 million and looks forward to celebrating its 25th Anniversary.
Fr. Martin Ritsi, Executive Director of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC), reported on the ministry which focuses on evangelization and re-evangelization of people. In 2015, 29 people served as OCMC missionaries whose assignments in 6 countries involved catechism, theological and seminary teaching, youth work, primary and secondary teaching, counseling, translations and various outreach ministries. Fr. Martin also described the SAMP (Support a Mission Priest) program, which continues to subsidize the support of almost 400 clergymen in 16 countries. OCMC currently contributes to theological training and mission projects in the over 30 countries.
Fr. Gregory Joyce, Board member, Mr. Charles Lelon, Vice Chairman, and Ms. Eleni Alexiou, Managing Director of Orthodox Christian Network (OCN), each highlighted details of this effective media witness around the world. OCN now offers a suite of Orthodox mobile apps, which, along with other multimedia methods, now reaches as many as 5.7 million people per week.
Mr. James Giannakis, of Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF), presented ways OCF strives to be the loving presence of Christ and the Orthodox Church on college campuses. OCF is an integral part of students’ spiritual formation and challenges them to explore and to life their Faith on a daily basis. OCF currently has more than 320 campus chapters throughout the country.
The first day’s work concluded with a meaningful discussion and some clarification on the Assembly’s mandate following the Council in Crete. Following this discussion, the Hierarchs recommitted to their common work as members of the Assembly of Canonical Bishops of the United States.