TO BE READ FROM THE PULPIT AND PUBLISHED IN THE CHURCH BULLETIN
December 31, 2003
Beloved Hierarchs, Clergy, Trustees, and All Faithful of this God-Protected and
Greetings and Blessings to all of you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ
on this Eve of the New Year !
Since our return from Damascus on October 18th, 2003 we have been very busy
with the detailed planning of the first steps that must be taken in order
that we properly implement the self-rule status that was granted to this
Archdiocese by the resolution of the Holy Synod of Antioch. The official
English translation of this resolution was previously sent to you to be
read from the pulpit. We have also received many questions from our clergy
and faithful who are rightfully interested in understanding the next steps,
and the time frame for those steps. This letter addresses some, but not
all of those questions. We must all be patient, and understand that events
must happen in a certain order, to insure that the best interests of the
Church are being served. As St. Paul teaches "Let all things be done
decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:40).
Now that our self-rule status is final, the first step will be for us to
integrate the Synodal resolution into the Archdiocese Constitution. We
will accomplish this integration by the amendment process that is specified
in our current constitution. As such, we will call a special convention
consistent with Article V, Section 2 of our current constitution. This
special convention will be held from Friday July 16th through Sunday July
18th, 2004 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Delegates are expected to arrive
in Pittsburgh on Thursday July 15th. The date and location has been chosen
so that the clergy of the Archdiocese can proceed directly from the special
convention to the biennial Clergy Symposium that is scheduled from July
19th through July 23rd at the Antiochian Village. All clergy, parishes,
and missions must be represented either in person or by legal proxy, as is
the case at our regular conventions. The parish will grant their priest
time off from his pastoral duties, as well as travel and living expenses
for his attendance at this Special Convention. Specific information
regarding the hotel and agenda for this special convention will follow in
the near future.
Our intention is to have two major items on the agenda for this special
convention; The approval of the amendments which integrate the Synodal
resolution on self-rule into the Archdiocese constitution, and the
nomination, by our General Assembly, of candidates who will stand for
election as Diocesan Bishops. The nominations will occur according to
Article I Section 6 of our current constitution. The election will occur
at a later time by the Local Synod of the North American Archdiocese, with
the participation of "two or three Metropolitans" designated by the
Patriarch of Antioch and invited to participate in the election.
As stated above, our clergy and faithful have asked many additional
questions regarding the implementation of self-rule. Some information can
be given now, as follows:
1. We will be drawing Diocesan boundaries that will become
the jurisdictions of the Diocesan bishops. Although these dioceses may
resemble the current regions, there will likely be changes, as well as the
creation of new dioceses that do not correspond exactly to any of the
existing regions. This is necessary to insure that our Diocesan bishops
have the maximum opportunity to visit their flocks, and make personal
contact with them. The specification of Diocesan boundaries is likely to
be done before the special convention is convened.
2. The enthronement of our current bishops into specific
dioceses will occur some time after the special convention. The
consecration and enthronement of newly elected bishops will occur sometime
after their election.
3. There is no plan to establish Diocesan Assemblies in
the foreseeable future since we have Diocesan Parish Life Conferences.
4. The Diocesan bishops will have additional duties and
responsibilities as appropriate. We will however, preserve the strong
unity of this Archdiocese under the leadership of the Metropolitan.
5. Commemorations - The Metropolitan will commemorate the
Patriarch of Antioch, the Holy Synod of Antioch, and the Local Holy Synod
of the Archdiocese. The Diocesan Bishop will commemorate the Metropolitan
and the Local Holy Synod of the Archdiocese. The clergy will commemorate
the Metropolitan followed by the Diocesan Bishop. The commemoration of the
Diocesan Bishops will begin after the Special Convention in July.
Together we have much difficult work ahead of us. Let us pray fervently
that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide us, so that our work may be
pleasing to our Lord Jesus Christ, for the Glory of His Holy Name, and the
Glory of His Church.
Your Father in Christ,
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America