Welcome to the official website of the Orthodox Church in America's Diocese of New England,
“We Rejoice even in Tribulation”
An Encyclical of Hope of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America at the Conclusion of the Year of our Lord 2020
The 57th New England Diocesan Assembly will convene on November 6-7, 2020, hosted by St. Nicholas Church, Salem, MA. Registration begins on Friday morning at 9:30 A.M. Clergy and Lay delegates are reminded that this is a two-day assembly, and all are expected to be present on line for the entire assembly.
The Tentative Schedule for the Assembly is here. Being that this is the first Diocesan Assembly being held by a Zoom Meeting the times will change. Please watch for an email closer to the Assembly date that will have a more accurate time schedule. Please dowload the registration forms (clergy, delegate, observer, lay council member).
A New Bishop for Our Diocese – Some Questions and Answers
The Diocese of New England, under the leadership of our Locum Tenens, His Beatitude Metropolitan TIKHON, is now engaged in the process of nominating a man to be considered for election as our new bishop. What are some questions we might have about this process? And, what might the answers be to those questions?
Where can I find official information concerning the Diocesan Bishop, as that position is understood and carried out in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA)?
When thinking about any matter concerning the official administration of the OCA, the place to begin is the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America, which is the official document that legislates how the OCA is organized and operates. That document can be accessed in full at the official website of the OCA, at this link: https://www.oca.org/statute. Article VIII of the Statute is specifically about the Diocesan Bishop, but reference to the role of the bishop, and the bishops, as a group, appear in almost every part of the Statute.
What is a Locum Tenens?
Locum Tenens is a Latin phrase meaning “placeholder.” In the practice of the OCA, when a diocese does not have in place a duly elected Diocesan bishop, the Holy Synod of Bishops declares “the see” vacant, and the Metropolitan, in his capacity as Primate, appoints a Locum Tenens. The role of the Locum Tenens is to administer the Diocese until such time as a new, full-time, Diocesan bishop can be elected. In the case of the Diocese of New England, following the death of our beloved archpastor, His Eminence Archbishop NIKON (Memory Eternal!), His Beatitude Metropolitan TIKHON appointed himself to serve as our Locum Tenens. We are privileged to enjoy such an honor as the Primate of the OCA himself serving us in this significant role.
What is “the see”?
Referring to “the see” is a way in which we can refer to the position of the Diocesan Bishop in his diocese. The term “see” is said to derive from the Latin word for seat (sedes), and to refer to the formal seat on which the bishop sits when in his cathedral. The cathedral is the primary church of the Diocese, and the word cathedra, from which the word cathedral derives, is both the Latin and Greek word for the large, formal, chair in which the bishop sits. We might, in certain contexts, even use the word “throne” to describe this chair. In any case, all these terms are interconnected.
What is the process by which a new bishop is elected for the Diocese?
The process for electing a new bishop for the diocese is defined and described in Article VIII of the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America. (Article VIII can be viewed at this link: https://www.oca.org/statute/
- A special Diocesan Assembly is convened at which the gathered delegates (each parish body usually has a clergy and a lay delegate representing them at this special Assembly) nominate a candidate. The candidate must be a celibate (never-married or presently widowed) Orthodox Christian man of at least 35 years of age (in practice, of at least 30 years of age), who has no impediments that would impede his service as a bishop. In the Church, the word “impediment” means a specific condition or situation that might disqualify a person from holding a particular office, or carrying out a specific role. For example, one impediment to consecration as a bishop would be if the candidate in question was physically unable to perform the rites of the Church. Another impediment to consecration as a bishop would be that there is some circumstance in a given candidate’s life that is properly private and confidential, but, which (if by some unfortunate occurrence that matter became publically known) would be a source of serious scandal to the Church. It is incumbent upon any man being considered for election and consecration as a bishop to decline to be considered if he knows he has such a history—he need not be specific about the matter, he just has to indicate that he does not wish to be considered any longer.
- It is not permissible to nominate a man who is already a Diocesan Bishop elsewhere. That man already has his responsibilities. (The OCA Holy Synod of Bishops has been known in the past to transfer a bishop from one diocese to another, if such an action seems, for weighty reasons, to be proper. Our Diocese of New England has, at least twice, had a bishop transferred away from us to another diocese of the OCA.)
- At the time of his nomination, the nominee does not have to be an ordained person—pious laymen have been elected as bishops, and subsequently gone through all the steps necessary to be consecrated to the episcopacy. (Saint Ambrose of Milan was famously elected to be a bishop while still a catechumen, not yet a baptized Christian. This took place in AD 374. He was subsequently baptized, and then, over the course of seven days, went through all the steps necessary to be consecrated a bishop.) The nominee must be willing to take, at least, preliminary monastic vows, and he must be willing to accept consecration to the episcopacy.
- Consecration of a bishop takes places during the Divine Liturgy. Bishops are consecrated by other bishops. Usually this consecration is accomplished by, at minimum, three other bishops. Before being consecrated a bishop nowadays, one must have been a tonsured Reader, a set-apart Subdeacon, an ordained Deacon, and be, presently, an ordained Priest in good standing. One must, also, as mentioned already, have taken at least preliminary monastic vows—that is why the bishop dresses in a monastic habit. (Bishops are often in the stage of monasticism titled rasophore—also sometimes spelled riasaphor. This is the stage of monasticism where the candidate receives monastic tonsure, is given the distinctive clothing (“habit”) of a monk, and, in fact, takes on the responsibilities of monastic life, but does not actually pronounce the full, formal vows of a monastic. For further information about the stages of monasticism, as implemented at Saint Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, which is the monastery where many of our OCA bishops are enrolled as monks, please see this link: https://www.stots.edu/article/
- Once the Diocese nominates a candidate, he is examined by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), under the chairmanship of the Metropolitan. Once the Synod examines the candidate, they either elect him or refuse to elect him as the new bishop. (If refusal of the nominee occurs, then the Diocese must reconvene an Assembly in order to nominate a different candidate.)
- If, for whatever reason, the Diocese fails to nominate a candidate, the Holy Synod does have the right and privilege to elect their own choice as the duly elected Diocesan bishop.
- Once elected by the Holy Synod, the bishop-elect proceeds through whatever steps are necessary for him to serve as bishop, including formal episcopal consecration by his fellow bishops at a Divine Liturgy, and then is formally enthroned as the new Diocesan hierarch. Upon consecration as a bishop, or if already a bishop, the bishop-elect has all the prerogatives of Diocesan bishop, even if not yet formally enthroned.
- All the above being said, it should be noted, that in the Orthodox Church generally speaking, bishops are elected by bishops, from among eligible candidates identified by the existing bishops. Thus, strictly speaking, nomination by the Diocese is not absolutely necessary. The OCA Statute does specify a nomination process, but this is a local procedure of the OCA, not a universal (or even common) Orthodox practice—and, even in the OCA, formal and canonical election of a bishop is accomplished by the Holy Synod of Bishops.
What is the practical role of the Diocesan Bishop?
The exact “competencies” of a Diocesan Bishop are laid out in the OCA Statute. (Competencies, in this context, mean the actions that the Diocesan bishop has the authority to accomplish.) These competencies include such things as the right and responsibility to guide and lead the faithful of the Diocese as Christians, to open and close parishes and institutions in the Diocese, to convene and preside over Diocesan meetings, to have ultimate say about the management of the Diocese’s material possessions, to ordain and assign clergy to their duties, to provide antimensia for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, to exercise ecclesiastical discipline over the members of the Diocese as might be necessary, to provide essential and even binding guidance in times of difficulty and crisis, to adjudicate difficult issues that might require the application of pastoral mercy (or discipline) as regards the pastoral care of the clergy and faithful, and to visit the people and places of the Diocese at his initiative in order to exercise oversight over the Diocese and its faithful people. This is not an exhaustive list.
What are antimensia, and why are they essential to the life of the Church?
The antimensia are the special cloths, on which are depicted representations of Our Lord Jesus Christ lying dead in His Tomb, on which the Divine Liturgy must and can only be celebrated. This cloth is consecrated and signed by the bishop himself, indicating his spiritual blessing and spiritual presence among the people when the Divine Liturgy is celebrated. A priest cannot serve the Divine Liturgy without an antimension, because the antimension connects the priest to the bishop, and (as we will explain further in answering the next question) the bishop in turn connects the priest and the local community that he is serving to the whole Church, across space and through time. (The word antimension literally means “the instead-of-the-table,” because the antimension is, in fact, a portable altar. When an antimension is placed on any table, no matter how humble, that table becomes an altar on which the Divine Liturgy can be celebrated.)
In a broader sense, what does the Diocesan Bishop do for the Diocese?
One of the most important things that the Diocesan Bishop does for the Diocese is connect the faithful clergy and people of the Diocese to the entire Church, both over time and through space.
When we see our bishop, we know that we are part of the worldwide communion and fellowship of the entity known most often in the world as “the Eastern Orthodox Church,” but what we, who dwell in this entity, would simply call “the Church.”
In this present time, our Diocesan bishop is in communion and fellowship with the other bishops of the OCA, and our OCA bishop are in communion and fellowship with all the canonical Orthodox bishops in the United States, and all those bishops are in communion and fellowship with all the canonical Orthodox bishops throughout the world. When any one Orthodox bishop formally addresses any other Orthodox bishop, he addresses him as “my brother and concelebrant.” This phrase means that these two men can go to Church together, and celebrate the Divine Liturgy together, and receive Holy Communion together. There is no stronger bond between any two humans than the sacramental bond made perfect in the common reception of Holy Communion. We are made one in Holy Communion with God and with each other, our fellow communicants. Every dividing wall, every division, is overcome in the act of Holy Communion. (We should note here that the word “canonical” means officially recognized and officially operative. The word “canonical” has its roots in the Greek word kanon meaning “measuring stick,” so something canonical is something that meets the standards by which it should be measured.)
However, there is, also, another dimension to the communion and fellowship of the Church that is made present in and through our Diocesan bishop. For our Diocesan bishop is not only in communion and fellowship with the other bishops who presently sit on their cathedras in their dioceses, as he sits on the cathedra in our Diocese of New England. Our bishop is also in communion with all the other Orthodox bishops who have ever lived, going back through time two thousand years to the age of the Holy Apostles. The first bishops were consecrated by the Holy Apostles themselves, and then, generation after generation, the bishops consecrated the bishops that followed them. This reality connects every Orthodox bishop to Jesus Christ Himself, He who called the Apostles to their Apostolic ministry. This reality—often termed in the Church “Apostolic Succession”—unites all of us Orthodox Christians, for we all live “under the omophorion” of our bishop, and our bishop connects us to the Church, across space and through time.
What does the phrase “under the omophorion of the bishop” mean?
The distinctive vestment of the bishop is the omophorion, the broad, scarf-like, vestment that he wears over his shoulders. So, all the faithful clergy and people living under the archpastoral care of any given bishop are said to be living “under his omophorion.”
Why do we show the bishop such honor when he is in our presence? Why do we call him Master? Why do we bow before him? Why do we, sometimes quite literally, “place him on a pedestal” in the middle of the Church?
The ways in which we honor the bishop are about the man, for sure, but they are even more so about the office of bishop, which he occupies and makes present among us . Yes, of course, we are meant to honor one another, being the men and women that we are, made in God’s image and likeness. We should be treating each and every fellow human being with the same dignity and honor with which we traditionally treat the bishop. However, the office of bishop—the importance of the bishop in the Church, across time and through space, as we have just described above—is an important part of why we show the bishop such honor when we are in his presence. Also, the bishop in his office, stands in the place of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the present, temporal life of the Church. For the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, is the one and only bishop, the one and only all-seeing overseer (episkopos) of the Church. The Lord Jesus Christ is, as we pray during the Divine Liturgy, not only the Offering and the Receiver of the Offering, He is the Offerer. The bishop when he stands among us, leading us—especially when presiding at the Divine Liturgy and making the Offering that is the central act of the Liturgy—makes present for us Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Great High Priest. (So that we do not miss this connection, icons sometimes depict Our Lord Jesus Christ wearing the vestments of a bishop, especially the omophorion.)
What, ultimately, is the role of the Diocesan Bishop in the Diocese?
Ultimately, the role of the bishop is to be the man around whom the clergy and the faithful of the Diocese gather, as if at home with their father. Like a father in a family, the bishop is the one who leads us along the right path, following Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our bishop does have the right and responsibility of authority, but that authority is to be exercised, not as a tyrant or dictator, but as one who has the best interests of all as the priority which guides his every decision. The burden of the episcopacy is the burden of living and humble service, the burden of loving each and all, just as Our Lord Jesus Christ loves each of us, and us all. The bishop is not meant to drag his flock along behind him. Nor is the bishop meant to drive the flock ahead of him. Rather, the bishop is to walk alongside his flock, attentive to their every step, supporting them, guiding them, and teaching them.
A wonderful image for the bishop is to be found in the story of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s post-resurrectional appearance to Luke and Cleopas on the road to Emmaus (Luke, Chapter 24). In that case, the Lord walks with his disciples, and talks with his disciples, and enlightens his disciples, and makes their hearts burn within them. Then, finally, He reveals Himself fully to them in the blessing and breaking of the bread. This is how the bishop, the archpastor, is to be among the people.
July 24, 2020
To the Reverend Clergy and Pious Faithful of the Diocese of New England, Christ is in our midst!
With this letter, I am happy to announce the procedure by which, God-willing, a new bishop will be nominated and elected for the Diocese of New England. This procedure is in conformity with the standard procedure for such an election in the Orthodox Church in America.
The procedure is as follows:
This present letter will serve as notice to all parishes of the Diocese of New England that any parishioner in good standing can identify one possible candidate for possible nomination as diocesan bishop. Names may be submitted directly and confidentially to the Chancellor of the Diocese of New England, Archpriest John Kreta, at the following email address: email@example.com. All names of candidates must be submitted for nomination by August 31, 2020, and no names received after that date will be considered.
When identifying candidates, please note that according to the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America (Article VIII, Section 6), the following are the qualifications for a diocesan bishop:
If he is not already a bishop, the candidate for the office of bishop shall be nominated from among the clergy or laity, monastic, celibate, or widowed.
To receive episcopal ordination, the nominee must satisfy all the requirements of the Sacred Canons pertaining to this highest of all ecclesiastical offices.
It is preferable that the candidate have completed a course of study in a graduate school of Orthodox theology.
He should be conversant in the English language and, as appropriate, in another language commonly spoken among the faithful of the Diocese.
If at the time of his nomination he is a layman or a celibate or widowed priest, he shall pronounce at least the first monastic vows (rasophore), if he has not already pronounced such vows.
Diocesan bishops shall not be eligible for nomination for another Diocese.
The chancellor will initially discern simply that the qualifications of bishop are met by candidates whose names have been submitted.
At its meeting on February 18, 2020, the Diocesan Council established a Search Committee that includes: the Chancellor of the Diocese, Archpriest John Kreta; the three deanery deans, Archpriest Vasily Lickwar, Archpriest John Hopko, and Archpriest Mark Korban; and Fr. Steven Voytovich who has previously served as a Dean of St. Tikhon’s Seminary. The Search Committee will review the candidates initially vetted by the Diocesan Chancellor (from #2) and from among them confidentially select three candidates.
The Search Committee will then meet, separately and confidentially, with these three candidates, informing them of the Search Committee's intent to present them as candidates.
The Search Committee then must send the names of the three candidates to the Secretary of the Holy Synod, His Eminence Archbishop Michael, for him to confirm which of these candidates are named in the list of candidates, which has been approved by the Holy Synod, that he maintains as Secretary of the Holy Synod. If any of these candidates are not already named on the Synodal list, the Search Committee will forward the name of such a candidate to the Metropolitan with a request that the candidate be vetted according to the process established by the Holy Synod for possible approval. Subsequently, the Holy Synod will inform the Search Committee if the vetted candidate has, or has not, received approval from the Holy Synod.
The candidate(s) nominated by the Search Committee and vetted and approved by the Holy Synod will be asked by the Search Committee to prepare a brief autobiography, and will then meet with the Diocesan Council which shall serve as the Nominating Committee. The Diocesan Council may request further background information and will interview the candidates at an appropriate time.
Next, the Diocesan Council will decide which of the candidate(s) will be forwarded to the Special Diocesan Assembly.
The Special Diocesan Assembly will follow this procedure for the nomination of a candidate, which has been approved by the Holy Synod:
PROCEDURES CONCERNING THE ELECTION OF THE RULING BISHOP
The Special Diocesan Assembly shall begin with a Divine Liturgy and a special service of Invocation to the Holy Spirit.
Following the Divine Liturgy, the Special Diocesan Assembly shall meet in accordance with the provisions of the Statute (Article VIII, Section 7; and Article IX). The Assembly shall then elect tellers entrusted to count the votes.
The Committee on Credentials, appointed in advance by the Diocesan Council (Article IX, Section 8) shall then report the exact number of voting delegates.
The Locum Tenens, as chair of the Special Diocesan Assembly, shall call on the Nominating Committee to present the names of the candidates. Nominations will not be allowed from the floor. There shall be no speeches in support of or against any candidates.
The balloting will take place in secret, and diocesan-certified ballots shall be distributed to all delegates.
On the first ballot one name shall be written. The ballots containing more than one name or names other than officially listed candidates shall be declared void.
The results of the ballot, with figures, shall be announced by the Locum Tenens.
If at the first ballot a candidate receives 2/3 of the accredited votes, he shall be declared by the Locum Tenens as the designated nominee to the See and his name shall be submitted to the Holy Synod of Bishops for approval and canonical election.
If no candidate receives 2/3 of the accredited votes, a second ballot shall take place and two names shall be written on each ballot. The ballots with fewer or more than two names, or names other than those of officially listed candidates, shall be declared void.
The Locum Tenens shall then announce the results. The names of the two candidates with the largest pluralities shall be submitted to the Synod for canonical election.
However, if no candidate received more than 40% of the accredited votes, the Locum Tenens shall declare the ballot as non-conclusive and the Assembly as having failed to nominate a candidate for the office of Diocesan Bishop (Article VIII, Section 7.e). In this case, the Synod may elect another qualified candidate as Diocesan Bishop, or they may authorize another Diocesan Assembly to nominate a candidate.
The Nominating Committee may also, at the beginning of the Special Diocesan Assembly, announce its failure to nominate a candidate, move that the Assembly waive its right to nominate the Bishop, and request that the Holy Synod directly elects a candidate.
Since the Assembly only nominates a candidate and the latter is to be approved by election of the Holy Synod, a nominated candidate is not to be declared as “Bishop-elect”. The Locum Tenens and the Diocesan Council shall inform the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America and request him to convene the Synod for the canonical approval and election of the nominee. As mentioned above, if the nominee is not approved by the Holy Synod, the Synod shall direct the Diocesan Assembly to reconvene and elect another candidate.
The Diocesan Assembly shall adjourn with a Thanksgiving Service.
Following his canonical election by the Holy Synod, the new Diocesan Bishop, if already of episcopal rank, has full authority and prerogatives as Diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of New England. If the canonically elected candidate is not already a bishop, he will receive ordination (consecration) to the holy episcopacy, after which he will have full authority and prerogatives as Diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of New England.
The date and place of the consecration, if necessary, and the enthronement shall be announced to all parishes so that the entire Body of the Faithful may take part in this event.
As the assigned Locum Tenens of the Diocese of New England, I encourage everyone involved to carry out this process in a spirit of peace, integrity, and love for Christ and His Body the Church. I
pray that we may all make our best efforts to "be united in the same mind and the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10) so that the God's will may be done for the Diocese of New England.
With archpastoral blessings and intercessions,
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada
The Diocese of New England makes available limited scholarships for modest financial assistance according to the following guidelines:
A scholarship applicant must:
1) Be a parishioner of a member parish of the Diocese of New England, Orthodox Church in America;
2) Be currently enrolled, as a full–time student, in a degree granting program at an accredited Orthodox seminary with the knowledge and blessing of the diocesan bishop.
For more information, please contact Fr. John Kreta.
For the application, please follow the "more information" link below.
On Friday, May 1, 2020, meeting under the Presidency of His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church issued the following Pastoral Letter, and Synodal Directives related to COVID-19.
Each Diocesan Bishop will be releasing diocesan specific guidelines shortly.
To the clergy, monastics, and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America,
Today is spring filled with sweet fragrance
And creation, renewed, does exult.
Today, the keys are removed from the doors,
As is the unbelief of Thomas, the friend of Christ,
Who crieth, ‘My Lord and my God.’
We are completing the second week of our celebration of the great feast of feasts, Holy Pascha, in which we are reminded of the blessed unbelief of Thomas. All of us have longed to touch the life-giving side of the risen Christ with an eager hand even as Thomas did when our Lord came to the apostles through closed doors. And yet, many of us were deprived of the opportunity, not only to touch His side, but even to enter the temple in order to sing: “Bless God in the congregations, the Lord, O you who are of Israel’s fountain.” (Psalm 68:26)
Our encounter with the pandemic brought about by the coronavirus came upon us in the midst of our journey through the desert of Great Lent. The struggle remains with us during the bright season of the resurrection but now we sense the fragrance of the eternal and physical spring, which brings with it the hope of good things to come. Indeed, with you, the Holy Synod of Bishops longs for the full opening of our churches, missions, monasteries, and seminaries so that we all might return to the fullness of our church life, and with Thomas, offer our worship to the Lord by crying out: “My Lord and my God!”
While the dates for a full opening are still unknown, we are convinced that the time has come for us to begin the preparatory work that will bring us closer to those days. This preparatory work will be difficult as we make our way through the spiritual, emotional, and psychological effects of isolation and quarantine. This preparatory work will also be slow, for we must test the procedures and steps that we will collectively take in restoring our church life, so that we might responsibly navigate the many challenges that will confront our communities on the local level.
Above all, we issue a spiritual call to the clergy and faithful of the Orthodox Church in America. While the spread of this virus has caused death, sickness, anxiety, and economic distress, this time has offered us, and continues to offer us, an opportunity to strengthen our prayer life, to perform works of charity, and to show compassion and love to our brothers and sisters in the Church and in our communities. All Orthodox Christians should remember in their prayers those who have fallen asleep, those who are sick, those who have recovered, those who are suffering from fear, anxiety, and distress brought upon them by this virus. Further, we should offer our prayers and sincere gratitude to all those laboring to insure the necessities of life, healthcare workers and first responders, food supply workers, and other essential occupations who have sacrificially offered themselves for the benefit of their neighbor.
The Holy Synod also provides the following fundamental principles that will guide our steps forward:
As we have always acknowledged, each diocesan bishop is entrusted with the spiritual and pastoral care of the clergy and faithful, protecting their wellbeing as he determines necessary, while always remaining of one mind with the Holy Synod. The same principle applies in the process of re-opening the churches. Any interpretation or clarification of the following guidelines should be directed to the diocesan bishop. Decisions requiring approval of the Holy Synod will be addressed as needed.
To provide for unity and to allow the bishops greater guidance and support regarding how and when to re-open their churches and institutions, the Holy Synod has adopted new directives for use throughout the Orthodox Church in America. This detailed document, entitled, “Towards a Re-opening of our Churches,” is provided as a reference point for the bishops and should be carefully reviewed by all levels of diocesan leadership (Chancellors, Deans, Diocesan Councils, Rectors, and Parish Councils). Implementation of these synodal directives takes place under the authority of the diocesan bishop.
It should be understood that there may be variations in the application of these new directives. These variations will parallel those that are found among regions, states, provinces, counties, and municipalities. It is incumbent therefore upon the church leadership, under the direction of their bishop to be familiar with and understand both the civil guidelines and the Church directives that appertain to their local circumstances.
We must continue to adhere to the civil guidelines, beginning with those of our federal governments and then the particular and localized guidelines from the civil authorities, recognizing that there is a diversity from state to state, province to province, county to county, and even municipality to municipality. While the civil authorities have been reluctant to impose restrictions on the churches, our communities are expected to respond in a way that is consonant with the public welfare. The Holy Synod, concerned for the health and well-being of all, intends to follow in the spirit in which those decrees are given.
During these initial stages of re-opening, when church attendance will, of necessity, remain limited, the clergy are instructed to consult their diocesan bishop for direction on the celebration of the holy, life-giving mysteries of the Church (the eucharist, baptism and chrismation, marriage, etc). The Holy Synod will consider the need for further church-wide directives in these areas as the process of re-opening unfolds.
The above principles, in conjunction with the synodal directives, are offered with the understanding that they are general principles and directives that may provide for the possible opening of parishes, as long as the local conditions warrant this, and with the consent of the bishop. These are not mandatory steps that must be taken by a certain calendar date.
Finally, we note that there is much to cause anxiety in the current circumstances, from political debates to scientific quarrels and the pitting of experts against other experts. We remind the clergy and the faithful that this current pandemic is unprecedented and that even the experts, faithfully following the scientific method, must have time to gather and analyze data. In such a fast-moving situation, even these studies are provisional and subject to correction. This is the nature of the scientific model.
While being mindful of all this, we also offer a word of encouragement to our clergy and faithful by reminding them of the words of the psalmist: Thy mercy, O Lord, shall follow me all the days of my life. Let us trust the Lord to guide us, rely on each other to support and help one another, and kindle in our hearts the fire that Luke and Cleopas felt burning in themselves when the risen Lord appeared and spoke to them on the road to Emmaus.
With our paternal blessing and love,
1 Exapostilarion, Thomas Sunday Matins.
2 Paschal Liturgy, Introit of the Little Entrance.
Jesus Christ taught us to love and serve all people, regardless of their ethnicity or nationality. To understand that, we need to look no further than to the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Every time we celebrate the Divine Liturgy, it is offered "on behalf of all, and for all." As Orthodox Christians we stand against racism and bigotry. All human beings share one common identity as children of God.
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatian 3:28)
The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America approved and issued a revised Policy, Standards, and Procedures on Sexual Misconduct at their Fall 2013 Holy Synod meeting. This policy is now in force in the Church. It is the goal of the entire Church to provide a safe and healthy environment for all of the faithful of the Orthodox Church in America. The Church laments the sin of sexual misconduct, and will not tolerate sexual misconduct by its clergy or any layperson.
At the March 2014 meeting of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, revisions to the Policies, Standards, and Procedures on Sexual Misconduct [PSP] were approved.
An abbreviated PSP for parish use is available here.
The OCA Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response webpage is here.
To confidentially report a case of misconduct please use the toll-free number 855-398-2600. All calls will be confidential.
At the spring session of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, held at the Chancery March 18-21, 2014, “Guidelines on Background Checks” were issued. [See related article.] The Guidelines, which offer detailed information on how and for whom “basic background checks” are required, are available in PDF format. Included in the Guidelines are recommended sources for conducting checks and information on on-line sexual abuse prevention training.