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All American Council Report---July 2002

Written by Roslyn Stevens, Lay Delegate

On July 21-26th, the 13th All-American Council met in Orlando, Florida. Those present included His Beatitude Our Metropolitan Theodosius, the Hold Synod of Bishops, clergy & lay delegates, observers, and monastic/ theological school representatives. A total of about 2,000 people were present representing the Holy Orthodox Christian Church of America.

Monday July 22, 2002

Plenary Session: Address of his Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius

The theme of His Beatitude's address was "Remember, Rejoice, and Renew". He explained that through memory we are defined as self, family and church. This unites us as the church through oneness in Christ. We are also called to remember ourselves as Christians. In addition, the memory of the missionary beginnings of church in North America started our church. Roots of the OCA date back to 1794 in the wilderness territory, diocese of Alaska, founded 1840 when Russians came to wilderness for fur trading. This was the cornerstone of our church in North America.

He also talked on renewing our relationships. There have been over 250 new parishes during his term. He believes we need to rededicate ourselves as missionaries in US. He also conveyed there is necessity for organized, efficient voice in America.

His Imminence said, "We're becoming a forgotten child to Muslims. Orthodoxy used to be the 4th largest faith. Now Muslim is and we're 'at the door, begging for scraps'." Our church is often perceived as frozen in the past or as European and not relevant. Orthodoxy needs a strong movement and to be fully alive & surviving in the West.

Interestingly, more than half of the current bishops that make up the synod have not been born in the Orthodox Church. That is, they entered in adulthood. Now all bishops are speaking English fluently and are committed to propagation of Orthodox Church. Now that our church is diverse, there is a new realization of identity.

OCA came from separating from the Russian church & ultimately, becoming the OCA. Now, he suggests the question we ponder is: Will there be autonomy or autocepholy? We aren't guests here anymore. We are here to stay. Church achieves maturity and lives in different circumstances, achieves self-government = autocephaly, yet lives in communion with orthodox institutions. He encourages us to live in hope and the full vision of Orthodox Church will be achieved with vision commitment in God's time.

He believes we should engage in service w/ love, charity, and compassion to all. We may not always agree, i.e. family, but God's image is in us, and we should offer small acts of kindness. These can change a person's day and how they'll encounter others. A bishop once said, "It's the little things". Our story had shown one current. There is a common desire for unity; it's not enough to do things together. We need to be manifested as one church. Wouldn't we all agree that at some point we are always asked about orthodoxy? --The response is often "Is that like Greek, Russian, or is that something like Catholic?" If we want to clean up confusion in US and to witness to others, we need to unite.

Orthodoxy in US began in 1794 in Alaska. Metropolitan Theodosius came here in 1977 from Montreal, Canada. He served 35 yrs as bishop, 25 yrs as primate. He finished his address in saying that next…."I'm going to Disneyworld".

Plenary Session II

Elections

A total of 1278 nominations were cast

Top five nominations:

  1. Bishop Seraphim 473
  2. Archbishop Herman 223
  3. Bishop Job 151
  4. Bishop Nikolai 107
  5. Archbishop Nathaniel 94

The members of the Holy Synod of Bishops then entered the sanctuary to elect the new Metropolitan and emerged to declare that Archbishop Herman of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania was elected.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Plenary Session III: Report of the Chancellor: Protopresbyter Robert Kondratick

Introduction of Theme: "The parish exists for the salvation of souls and its place where the will of God that all people saved and come to the knowledge of the truth is realized".

Needs of church
Education/Involvement of Youth
Renew Christianity
Orthodox witness before society
Training leaders

Missionary outreach

Finance the vision
Effective communication

Challenges/Opportunities

Terrorism/Security leads to spiritual reflection
Growth
Strengthening of community life
US kindness sympathy, generosity
Intercessory Prayer
Our church has responded

Sexual Abuse: We all suffer when innocent suffer
1994 guidelines were issued policies proceeding and April 2002 restated and emphasized

Moral challenges of technological developments
Violate moral law, contradict orthodox Christian
IE cloning, abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research
Parish is itself the above concerns' battleground

A call for volunteers as a form of stewardship!

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Plenary Session III: Parish Profile Report

Parish councils that report habitual focus on program ministries, stewardship, and strategic planning report the greatest growth.

Core practices of the growing parishes, reporting in 70% of the calendar, brochure, web site, adult education, and press releases. Keep in mind, though, that this doesn't apply cause/effect to ensure growth. On that note, growing parishes do & try more things. Seriously attendance-declining churches don't. Causing activity is useful in/of itself.

How does this tie into our St. Luke's Core Values Survey???? These ideas match up our church's core values almost exactly.

Miscellaneous Facts: If parishes have more than 100 parishioners, you're above average. 4/5 speaks English only. 1/3 experiencing immigrant influx. >50% have changed priests in 10 years. 76% deal with facility issues of some sort.

Plenary Session III: Keynote Address: "The Parish Community" by Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko

The following discussion questions were posed to each discussion group.

  1. What is the self-consciousness of the parish? Why do our people exist?
  2. What is the consciousness of the unity of the parish? Is there an awareness tat all belong to God? Should be a fullness "Catholic" in church, fullness of God with every aspect being present and should have a mission "Apostolic"
  3. He challenged us to reflect on if real prayer is going on, or is something missing there? If so, is it being done decently and in order?
  4. Worship. "Liturgy" means hard work. Is the work of prayer going on? Is their time for it?
  5. Do we have a consciousness of being sent to bring presence of God to world, not to convert all, but to make available.
  6. What exists to help people deal with problems?
    Prayer list
    Youth group
    Maybe referral lists of Christian professionals could be developed. Video programs on parenting and marriage exist at St. Luke's.

Wednesday July 24, 2002

Plenary Session IV: Property in Trust

Speakers: Archbishop PETER, V. Rev. Robert Kondratick, Prof. John Erickson, Jonathan Russian, and ESP.

Legal ramifications of church lock-outs toward priest in CA.
Lead to attorney/court fees in excess of $350,000
Before 1979 most state courts adopted deference theory. Is hierarchical our congregational church?

Amendments have been made to accomplish this.

Plenary Session: V

Report of the Office of Finance and "Fair Share" Presentation

Represents a 33% increase in expectation of dues
Ceiling is at $85.00 per person
Diocese can pay either BI-monthly, on 1st of month, etc; administrative concerns will be worked out according to what diocese decides will work best for them.
From $64.00 to $85.00 increase
Inflation for fair share giving to the national church was voted not to exceed a 10% increase for first year
(2003) and a 3% thereafter for 2004 & 2005.

For roughly a total of 105 adults that are members here at St. Luke's, currently, parishioners are required to give $40.00 annually per adult toward the national church fund. In order for the national church to meet their goal of raising an estimated $2.7 million dollars to operate, fair share will be initiated.

In addition, our weekly parishoners' collection shows a current giving from members that averages $5-10 per week

Further explanatory excerpts are below and are extracted from Plenary Session V.

Resolution on a Fair Share System of Giving:

  1. Apply the estimated income from the Fellowship of Orthodox Stewards, planned gifts, endowment funds, miscellaneous contributions, and those dioceses not fully participating in the assessment system. (I.e. all income other than the fair share support) to the adopted expenditure side of the budget.
  2. Take the remainder of the income budgeted and divide it by the number of actual reported adult membership (as of September 1st of each year) from all the territorial diocesan and stavropighial parishes of the OCA to determine a per capita basis.
  3. The office of the Treasurer shall then inform each territorial dioceses of the Orthodox Church in America, with the exception of the Diocese of Alaska and the Diocese of Canada or their fair share amount of expected budget support. The fair share shall be equal to that portion of total OCA membership the diocesan reported membership represents. The fair share amount shall be no greater than the equivalent of a per capita amount of $85.00. The diocesan bishop and diocesan treasurer shall be notified in writing of the expected diocesan fair share for the subsequent year, and a copy of the line by line budget for that year shall be forwarded to them.

Why is this being implemented? Administration income exceeded administrative expense. These administrative expenses have decreased with each year, yet increases of adult membership are displayed in most parishes.

National Church was over budget in 2001
Why?
Increase in costs of travel of VIP's
History / archives
Charity & Emergency Assistance
New car for Moscow representation church and accompanying full time salary
Staff benefits

2003 is unlike others
Why? Budget based now on projected needs & funded by fair share system of support. Takes close look at church and explore pitfalls/successes to support the following needs:

Administration is changing
Need for fulltime CFO
Secretary: FT
Computer network and project developer: FT
Financial developer /Planned giving offices: FT
Departmental coordinate PT
Departmental coordinator: PT
Director of Christian education: FT
Youth/Young adult assistant: FT
Stewardship director: PT
Assistant archivist: FT
Assistance and external and ecumenical affairs secretary: FT
Pastoral life: reestablished of seminarian scholarship

Projected Needs of National Church: 2, 771,000.00

Generous people do give when needs are explained. Need to convey this to the church.

Midwest Diocese:

Region's fair share would never go over what would be equivalent to $85.00 per adult parishioner. Midwest diocese comprises 24.7% of National Church. Needs in 2003 to be me by our diocese is $570,308.

Membership of church leads to expected giving allocation to OCA

National church needs a new commitment to consistency in giving in order to limit fluctuations and wants parishioners to remember that giving is a natural result of the growth of church. This must lead to each parish's ability to budget accordingly.

Clergy & Lay Delegates listened to the session and wanted an example estimate to be given to each diocese. Unfortunately, a piloted standard form was sent to parishes of 641, but only 100 returned wish all of the headcount information. Consequently, this is inadequate for analysis, so the national church is unable to give specific calculations at this time.

What was voted on was fair share, but with control on spending. Fair share is different then straight assessment.

Ex:

$65 X 10%: Year 1
Above sum X 10%: Year 2
Above sum X 3%: Year 3 Cap

Plenary Session V: The Bible and Parish Life

Speaker V. Rev. Andre Morbey

Refresh faithful 7 lively involvements
Study of scriptures fall by wayside.

4 Reasons why engagement with scriptures is important
tell who we are
Important information
Give us a language
Draw us into presence of Lord

Mediation on work of God is spiritual food/drink
Application of scripture to life that is hallmark of orthodoxy
All of our services are largely woven.
Scriptures, by listening closely, in may be edified.
Enabling attentive lectionary but
All preaching should have biblical references and cross references
Wouldn't be informational, should be brought alive

Youth bible studies would be based in scriptures, not just talking about feelings.

Participation in bible study is challenging
Scripture is story of people of God.

Closing Plenary Session

Drafts/text relayed

Need for Orthodox unity in America as illustrated by lack of involvement in post September 11th efforts.

Sexual Abuse: policies/guidelines reviewed& reemphasized

Home-medical/technological issues

Mentoring of newly ordained priests needs to take place

Retirement of His Eminence Bishop Theodosius/Election of New Metropolitan

To amend the OCA pension plan, health insurance

To outline the specific provisions of Priests for Life