Istanbul Blesses Creation of Separate Canadian Episcopal Assembly, Merger of Central and South American Assemblies
In a September 21st letter to the Bishops of the North American Episcopal Assembly, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has agreed to the creation of a separate Episcopal Assembly for Canada, and to the merger of the two Latin American regions into a combined Assembly for both.
The six page letter expresses the Patriarch's "....sincere pleasure and paternal satisfaction at the tremendous effort and parallel success of the first meeting of the Episcopal Assembly of the canonical hierarchs of North and Central America, which was held last May ( from the 26th to the 28th ) in New York." (Emphasis in original) The Patriarch stated "...we are especially moved as we witness our brother hierarchs in the Americas expressing and manifesting their sincere commitment and desire to adhere to the decisions of their respective Churches." Of "particular" importance in this regard the Patriarch writes:"...is the committee charged with the preparation of the plan for the normalization of the canonical status of the region." To this end, the partition of the North and Central American Assembly into two new parts - Canadian and US; and the merger of the Central American with the Assembly of South America - received ".... the consent of the Church of Constantinople." Citing the difficult of convening a gathering of all Orthodox Primates to formally deal with this request, Constantinople will "....anticipate their consensus regarding your request for the said partition and merge." There will now be 12 Orthodox episcopal assemblies throughout the "so-called" diaspora.
The letter concluded with an appeal for unity, and an exhortation to overcome "all regionalism and nationalism". "For," the Patriarch writes, "not only should our faithful not be scandalized by our divisive attitudes and actions, but they should experience the united response by their Orthodox leaders to the crucial challenges and pastoral realities of our time." In his final words the Patriarch expressed the hope that the bishops would have the joy " ...in the foresseeable future, of convening as brothers in Christ in the Holy and Great Council....".
In a letter from the Bishop Basil (Essey) of Wichita, the secretary of the American Assembly, which accompanied the Patriarch'smissal, descriptions of the several committees that the Episcopal Assembly established were given. The Bishop writes:
"These descriptions are not meant to be exhaustive. The duties and responsibilities of the respective committees will include, but will not necessarily be limited to, those listed under each heading.
After reading through these descriptions, each member of the Episcopal Assembly is asked to select three (3) committees on which he would be willing to serve, and prioritize them (first choice being numbered #1, second choice #2, third choice #3) and return this
document to the Secretary of the Episcopal Assembly, His Grace Bishop Basil of Wichita.
In addition, on a separate piece of paper, each member of the Episcopal Assembly is invited to nominate up to three (3) clergymen and/or laypersons whose expertise would qualify them for work with each of the below-listed committees. Please include with these a brief description or c.v. which identifies the qualifications of each individual....
Committee for Canonical Affairs
The Committee for Canonical Affairs will be responsible
i) for creating and maintaining the registries mentioned in the Message of the Episcopal Assembly, namely:
a) theregistry of canonical bishops;
b) the registry of canonical clergy and their status; and c)the registry of all canonical communities in the Region;
ii) for recommending to theAssembly any additions or deletions from these registries;
iii) for determining the canonical status of local communities that have no reference to any of the autocephalouschurches and addressing issues pertaining to these bodies;
and iv) for considering any canonical questions submitted to it by the other committees.
Committee for Military Chaplaincy
The Committee for Military Chaplaincy is responsible
i) for endorsing Orthodox chaplains for work with the Armed Services;
and ii) for working towards a single, unified process of endorsement for military chaplains of all jurisdictions. To this end, it will determine the means by which it may assume SCOBA’s Endorsing Agency status vis-àvis
the Department of Defense.
Committee for Monastic Communities
The Committee for Monastic Communities is tasked with archiving and cataloging, as well as studying and comparing the different monastic constitutions in use within the various jurisdictions and monastic communities in the Region.
Committee for Pastoral Practice
The Committee for Pastoral Practice is responsible for i) identifying the differences and inconsistencies among the various jurisdictions in their exercise of sacramental and pastoral praxis (e.g., marriage and divorce, reception of converts, etc.);
and ii) for establishing a protocol to address these inconsistencies and propose models for resolution
consistent with canonical practice.
Committee for Canonical Regional Planning
The Committee for Canonical Regional Planning will formulate a proposal for a plan to organize all the Orthodox faithful of every jurisdiction in the Region on a canonical basis, in accordance with the Rules of Operation, Article 5.e of the 4th Pre-Conciliar Pan-
Orthodox Conference in Chambésy.
This plan is intended for presentation to the
forthcoming Great and Holy Synod as per the Decision Article 1.b of the 4th Pre- Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference.
Committee for Ecumenical Relations
The Committee for Ecumenical Relations will coordinate and supervise Orthodox participation in ecumenical and inter-faith dialogues and organizations, with particular reference to the existing Bi-Lateral Theological Consultations (Orthodox-Catholic and
Orthodox-Lutheran) and Joint Commissions (i.e., of Orthodox and Roman Catholic Bishops and of Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches).
Committee for Theological Education
The Committee for Theological Education is charged with
i) identifying and catalogingall institutions and programs for theological learning found in the various jurisdictions in the Region,
ii) cataloging the curricula in use in these institutions and programs;
iii) identifying any existing programs for Orthodox theology offered by institutions of higher
and iv) identifying special ministerial jurisdictional programs.
Committee for Financial Affairs
The Committee for Financial Affairs is
i) to determine the means whereby the Episcopal
Assembly and its activities will be financed;
ii) to oversee fundraising and development;
iii) to create a budget for the Assembly;
and iv) to catalogue and compare the financial
practices of the various jurisdictions, agencies, and organizations attached to the
Committee for Legal Affairs
The Committee for Legal Affairs is to
i) determine and resolve all legal issues related to
ii) determine any legal issues related to the activity of the agencies ofwhich the Assembly has oversight, and address those issues;
iii) formulate a common approach to the legal issues facing all the jurisdictions;
iv) study and develop Best Practices related to specific circumstances;
and v) resolve any questions addressed to
them by the other committees.
Committee for Liturgy
The Committee for Liturgy is expected
i) to catalogue and compare various translations,
rubrics, Typika, and liturgical books;
and ii) to develop and suggest a common translation
of basic liturgical texts (e.g. the Symbol of Faith, the Our Father, etc.).
Committee for Church and Society
The Committee for Church and Society will develop a process to determine both the propriety and the priority of advocacy by the Assembly of issues concerning Church, government and society that are relevant to the lives of the faithful in the Region (e.g., same-sex marriage, abortion, war, etc.).
Committee for Youth
The Committee for Youth is charged with i) identifying and cataloging all jurisdictional youth programs (camps, age specific groups, etc.);
ii) identifying and cataloging all joint youth programs (e.g., OCF);
and iii) developing models for coordinating youth-oriented activities and programs that both minimize duplication and maximize the participation of
young people in the life of the Church."
- Mark Stokoe