Bishops’ Assembly Concludes 10th Anniversary Meetings, Establishes New Agencies | community, church, united states
WASHINGTON DC – The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America met in person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in Washington, DC from October 2-5 for its meeting 10th anniversary. This is the first face-to-face meeting chaired by Archbishop Elpidophoros. Twenty-nine Hierarchs participated in person and were joined by seven Hierarchs who participated virtually. In their opening session, they recalled the losses suffered over the past year and a half, due to the global pandemic, and offered prayers for the continued health and recovery of the faithful and all people.
The events started on October 2 with a meeting of the Executive Committee. Later that evening, all of the bishops gathered at the Saints Peter and Paul Antiochene Orthodox Church in Potomac, Maryland, for High Vespers, under the presidency of Metropolitan Joseph, vice-president of the assembly. A reception organized by the parish for the local clergy and their families followed.
On Sunday October 3, the members of the Executive Committee – Bishop Elpidophoros (GOA), Metropolitan Joseph (AOCA), Bishop Irinej (SOC), Metropolitan Nicolae (ROC), Bishop Saba (GOC), Metropolitan Tikhon (OCA) and Metropolitan Gregory (ACROD) – concelebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Hagia Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, DC This historic event was the first time the Assembly opened with a concelebration of leaders and representatives jurisdictions, promoting the bond of love and communion. The sermon was delivered by Metropolitan Tikhon. After the liturgy, they spoke with the faithful during a reception offered by the parish.
The bishops then engaged the local faithful at a charity networking event at the Bible Museum on Sunday evening, where a panel of youth and young adults gave presentations on the challenges and opportunities facing young people today. hui, as well as how the Church can support young people to remain faithful. At the end of the panel, all the participants joined the bishops to assemble hygiene kits which will be distributed by the IOCC (International Orthodox Christian Charities) to people in need.
In his opening address on Monday October 4, Bishop Elpidophoros, President of the Assembly, shared his joy that the Hierarchs were able to meet in person this year, continuing their 10th anniversary celebration. He also expressed his sadness at the falling asleep in the Lord since the last meeting of Metropolitan Theodosius of OCA, Metropolitan Maximos of OGA and Archbishop David of OCA, and joyfully welcomed the new members at their first meeting of the Assembly.
The President spoke of unity in diversity: “Orthodoxy, as we all know, is not a federation of churches, but a family – a very large world family. He also spoke about the current climate in America and the challenges posed by culture, and the responsibility of the assembly to be a unified voice defending the traditions of the Church, while being balanced and above all pastoral.
In 2020, the Hierarchs declared 2021 the Year of Youth. Thus, one of the highlights of this gathering was the formation of two new transformational Assembly Agencies focused on serving youth and young adults, in order to better meet their needs. A pan-Orthodox agency for youth and young adults will prepare and provide effective resources, programs, tools and gatherings to assist ministry officials, clergy, parishes and parents to form and strengthen future generations of committed and faithful Orthodox Christians.
The new Orthodox Volunteer Corps will respond to the deep desire of our Orthodox young adults to serve others, providing opportunities for immersive service throughout the year in non-profit organizations. These two new agencies will continue the attention of the Assembly of Bishops to young people and young adults.
The Assembly also examined the in-depth work of its committees and working groups undertaken over the past year and considered the committee’s proposals. The Assembly approved the ongoing work of the Committee for Canonical Questions to continue to develop a database on the clergy, the upcoming Orthodox Conference on Camping and Young Workers of the Youth Committee to be held in the first quarter of 2022, and the Institutional Chaplaincy Program of the Committee for Chaplaincy. The Mental Health Working Group has indicated that it will continue its work, having completed the Mental Health Needs Assessment Survey by developing program proposals based on the results.
On their last day of meetings, the Hierarchs engaged in a thoughtful dialogue about their respective practices for welcoming converts into the Orthodox Church. Accordingly, the Assembly approved the formation of a working group, under the supervision of the Committee for Pastoral Practice, to examine the issue of welcoming converts into the Church.
The final session of the meetings examined the North American Orthodox-Roman Catholic Theological Consultation, examining the past, present and future of this historic and important ministry.