South Bound Brook, NJ -- At the autumn meeting of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas on December 17, the hierarchs approved the opening of an Orthodox Advocacy Office in Washington, DC, to be operated under the aegis of SCOBA. Meeting at the Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, the Washington Office was among several topics discussed throughout the day-long meeting.
The meeting was chaired by His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and Chairman of the Standing Conference, and was hosted by His Eminence, Metropolitan Constantine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. Other hierarchs in attendance included Metropolitan Philip, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, Metropolitan Herman, Orthodox Church in America, Metropolitan Christopher, Serbian Orthodox Church in the US and Canada, Archbishop Nicolae, Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the US and Canada, Archbishop Antony, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, and Bishop Ilia, Albanian Orthodox Diocese. Metropolitan Nicholas of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese was recovering from surgery and unable to attend, as was Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese, who was participating in a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate in Sophia.
Other hierarchs attending the autumn meeting included Archbishop Peter of New York, Orthodox Church in America, Bishop Antoun, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, and Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and General Secretary of SCOBA.
Recognizing the need for a unified Orthodox voice in the nation's capital, the hierarchs approved the opening of the Washington office for March 1, 2003. The SCOBA office in New York will be accepting applications for the position of Executive Director for the Washington office, through January 31, 2003. Candidates with a theological degree and expertise in Church-state relations may submit their resumes to His Grace, Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, 10 East 79th St, New York, NY 10021.
In the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the absence of an Orthodox presence on the national stage was clearly noted. "By establishing a full-time presence in the nation's capital," commented Bishop Dimitrios, "with qualified people speaking on behalf of the entire Orthodox community, a more visible and unified presentation of Orthodoxy can be affected." "Furthermore," he continued, "the Church should not ignore this opportunity to educate decision makers about Orthodox positions on major issues." In confirming this new office, the bishops also approved a commitment to funding from the several SCOBA jurisdictions, in addition to soliciting funds from benefactors to support the Washington effort.
Another major item on the agenda was the upcoming Bishops' Conference at Antiochian Village, scheduled for May 7-9, 2003. The last conference in 2001 brought 35 Orthodox hierarchs together in Washington to discuss issues affecting all Orthodox faithful in North America. Following a discussion on themes and speakers, the bishops instructed the Study & Planning Commission to fine-tune the agenda for final approval after the new year.
The Sunday of Orthodoxy celebration, sponsored by the Standing Conference in previous years, was re-instituted for 2003, and will take place on March 16, 2003 at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in New York City. Parish Council members from Orthodox Churches throughout the New York area will be invited to participate in the Sunday of Orthodoxy Liturgy and to meet with SCOBA hierarchs.
In other business the hierarchs issued a resolution "On the Destruction of Spiritual and Cultural Property in Kosovo and Metohija," endorsed the Orthodox Peace Fellowship (North American Chapter) and The Orthodox Fellowship of the Transfiguration, and approved a constitutional amendment establishing SCOBA as a non-profit organization.
Fr Michael Nasser, Chairman of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF), informed the hierarchs of a substantial grant from the Lilly Foundation in conjunction with the Holy Cross/Hellenic College grant. These funds will enable the OCF to appoint a full-time director and expand work with Orthodox college students. SCOBA reactivated the former Campus Commission last year. The hierarchs agreed to designate the third Sunday in September each year as "OCF Sunday."
The bishops worked on a war and peace statement, which will be finalized and issued next month. Upon the recommendation of the Ecumenical Commission, Bishop Seraphim of Ottawa, Orthodox Church in America, was approved as Co-Chairman of the Joint Commission of Orthodox and Roman Catholic Bishops.
Archbishop Demetrios expressed the gratitude of all hierarchs for the kind hospitality extended by the Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA.
From SCOBA's Study & Planning Commission, the following members participated: Fr Djokan Majstrovic, Serbian Orthodox Church in the US & Canada; Fr Patrick Tishel and Michael Krochta, Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocese in the US; Fr Robert Stephanopoulos, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese; Fr Robert Kondratick and Fr Leonid Kishkovsky, Orthodox Church in America; Fr Michael Rosco, American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese; Fr Paul Schneirla and Charles Ajalat, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese; Fr Frank Estocin and Fr Basil Zawierucha, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA; Fr Nicholas Apostola, Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese; and Fr Gregory Havrilak, Associate General Secretary of SCOBA.
For more information contact the Office of the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas, 10 East 79 St, New York, NY 10021. Phone: 212-774-0526; FAX 212-774-0253.
By Albert H. Lee