Wednesday, March 1, 2023

OCA's Holy Synod puts out updated clergy guidelines

As I have often lauded, the OCA is refreshing transparent in the way they do things. Proceedings are clear, documents are published for all to read, and things come out of a deliberative process. You might be surprised by how some other jurisdictions keep such guidelines as discussed below together only as a loose confederation of episcopal letters clergy are supposed to remember were put out even decades ago. 

(OCA) - The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America is releasing a revised version of the Guidelines for Clergy (PDF). Originally released in 1998, the Guidelines provide support and direction to priests and deacons on questions that arise in the fulfilling of their sacred duties. In particular, the Guidelines apply the Holy Canons and other traditional sources of pastoral direction to the present context.

While never intended to be an all-encompassing pastoral handbook, certain sections of the revised Guidelines are expanded. In particular, more guidance is given on the relationship between the parish priest and other clergy in a parish setting.  Corresponding to the increase in diaconal vocations since the original publication of the Guidelines, the role and responsibilities of the deacon is brought forward.  The text clarifies when priests and deacons are being considered in contrast with all ordained clergy. Monastics, seminarians, readers, subdeacons, and other altar servers are addressed in new sections. Emerging realities around marriage are addressed forthrightly.

The Holy Synod’s earlier edition of 1998 was promulgated under the leadership of the late Metropolitan Theodosius and was drafted by committees led by the late Archbishop Job and His Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel. The Holy Synod’s current edition, which replaces the previous edition, was prepared by His Grace Bishop Alexis of Sitka and Alaska with the assistance of Archpriest Kirill Sokolov over the course of more than two years. The Guidelines were compared with the regulations and procedures of other jurisdictions as well as models from the other Autocephalous Orthodox Churches and other important primary sources.  A wide range of clergy from across the Orthodox Church in America provided invaluable line-by-line review and input including the Chancellors of the Dioceses and the members of the Office of Pastoral Life. The hierarchs of the Holy Synod reviewed the Guidelines and made changes over the course of two sessions of the Holy Synod. This edition of the Guidelines was adopted at the regular Fall 2022 session of the Holy Synod.

“We are laboring in the Savior’s sheepfold during a time when the flock is in dire need of treatment, mercy, and love,” exhorts His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon in the forward to the revised text.  “It is my fervent prayer that pastors will apply these guidelines to build up the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God.”

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