Message of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America
May 28, 2011
CHICAGO – Upon conclusion of the second meeting of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America which was held in Chicago May 25-27, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and Chairman of the Assembly presided at a doxology prayer service conducted in English, Greek, and the other languages of the participating churches. Following the service the hierarchs of the Assembly sat down for a farewell brunch of brotherly fellowship.
The Assembly issued the following official joint message:
M E S S A G E
Christ is Risen!
“Glory to the Holy, Consubstantial, Life-giving, and Undivided Trinity.”
By the grace of God, we forty-five Hierarchs gathered in Chicago IL., on May 25-27, 2011, for the second meeting of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. Several Hierarchs were prevented from attending due to personal illness, while our Serbian brothers, participating at a prolonged assembly of bishops meeting in Belgrade, were also unable to attend. All of us experienced what the Psalmist joyfully declares, “how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 132.1)
We draw inspiration from this resurrectional liturgical period, within which we have assembled, standing at the midpoint between the light of Pascha and the grace of Pentecost, the crossroad between the possibility of new life and the reality of renewed communion, the merging of the melody of unity and the beauty of diversity.
We call to mind our brother Hierarchs who have fallen asleep in the Lord during the past year: Metropolitan Christopher of Libertyville and Chicago (Serbian Diocese), Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos (Carpatho-Russian Diocese), and Metropolitan Epiphanios of Bryoula (Ecumenical Patriarchate). May their memory be eternal!
In our deliberations as Orthodox Hierarchs, we manifested a spirit of conciliarity, expressing our commitment to proceed on all matters in collegial and collaborative manner reflective of the unity that characterizes the various jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church within our regional Assembly. In this respect, we once again affirm our desire and willingness to work toward “the swift healing of every canonical anomaly that has arisen from historical circumstances and pastoral requirements” (2008 Message of the Primates 13.1-2), following the decisions of the representatives of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches regarding the “unswerving position and obligation to safeguard the unity of the Orthodox Church” (2009 Chambésy, Rules of Operation, Article 5.1a) and the promotion of “common action to address the pastoral needs of Orthodox living in our region” (2009 Chambésy, Decision 2c).
In accordance with our determination and decision during the 1st Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops (May 26-28, 2010), we focused and acted upon our understanding that we are successors of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), assuming its agencies and ministries. Therefore, among the items on the agenda was the work of the Assembly’s 13 committees, its Secretariat, and its 14 agencies and endorsed organizations.
We offer thanks to God for the positive spirit of cooperation that prevailed during the sessions of the Assembly. We are pleased to report to our faithful what the committees of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops reported to their brother Hierarchs. The work of these committees will constitute the principal service of the Assembly, meeting frequently and regularly in order – with the participation also of lay members – to materialize the remarkable unity of the Orthodox Churches in this region. In this regard, we are inspired by the words of the Risen Lord: As the Father has sent me, I am sending you (John 20.21); and Truly, truly, I say to you: he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do. (John 14.12)
Thus, in addition to official reports by the Chairman, the Vice-Chairmen, the Treasurer, and the Secretary, the responsibilities of the following committees were discussed extensively: Canonical Affairs, Canonical Regional Planning, Church and Society, Clergy Affairs, Ecumenical Affairs, Financial Affairs, Legal Affairs, Liturgy, Military Chaplaincy, Monastic Communities, Pastoral Practice, Theological Education, and Youth. Moreover, the coordinators of the various agencies and endorsed organizations, formerly under the aegis of SCOBA, will convene with respective Hierarch liaisons in order to determine the criteria of their relationship and establish appropriate channels of communication with the Assembly.
In particular, the Assembly warmly received and unanimously encouraged the creation of a common ministry for our military chaplaincy and our youth.
Our prayers are offered to God at this time for those who have suffered from the extreme weather conditions in the last weeks, especially and most recently the tornadoes and flooding in Missouri and Oklahoma in the United States, and throughout the region of our Assembly, where epic catastrophe has struck numerous people with death, devastation, and damage. May God grant rest to the souls of the departed and may the gentle breeze of His Spirit grant the victims the strength to rebuild their lives. We fervently encourage our parishes to offer generous material, financial, and spiritual support.
We cannot remain silent in the face of atrocities and persecutions committed against Christian minorities by fundamentalists and extremists, in Palestine and Egypt, especially against the Christians caught up in the upheaval of the Arab Spring, which has unleashed long-oppressed diverse sectarian animosities. In particular, the Christian communities in Palestine and the Middle East have been drastically reduced and compelled to emigrate as refugees. We urge political leaders throughout the world to stop ignoring the manifestations of intolerance, discrimination and open persecution against all religious communities – Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike – living in contentious regions and countries of the world, notably in Northern Africa and the Middle East.
In light of the designation of June as “internet safety month,” we exhort our priests and parishioners to raise awareness and secure appropriate protection for our children and communities from the many and diverse prevalent dangers, including pornography, cyberbullying, perils by predators, risks of geotagging, and in particular dissension in the Church. Technology is not sinful; but the abuse of technology is a sin and a crime. We encourage our faithful to disseminate relevant internet safety literature, organize internet safety classes, utilize parental controls, and take rigorous advocacy measures to pressure wireless companies and carriers to mandate protective options.
Finally, we are united in wholeheartedly acknowledging and fervently blessing the tireless ministry of our parish clergy and their families, the honorable presbyters and deacons in the service of Christ, the brothers and sisters of our monastic communities, and all those who do charitable work, those who serve our holy houses of worship, those who labor, teach, and chant, and all the people of God, who await His great and rich mercy.
Truly the Lord is Risen!
Archbishop Demetrios, Chairman
Metropolitan Philip, 1st Vice Chairman
Archbishop Justinian, 2nd Vice Chairman
Archbishop Antony, Treasurer
Bishop Basil, Secretary
Bishop Ioan Casian