Tuesday, October 02, 2018
Address of the Chairman His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America
At the 9th Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America
Your Eminences, most respected Hierarchs of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, I greet you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is truly a blessing to meet once again – this time in Cleveland, Ohio – for our 9th annual convocation. Each year these meetings provide an opportunity for us not only to grow closer together and to deepen our mutual respect but, more importantly, to approach the chalice and commune together as we did this morning.
In chapter 3 of the Book of the Revelation of John, the Lord addressing the head of the Church in Philadelphia says I know your works. Behold I have set before you an open door which no one is able to shut; I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name (Rev. 3:8).
These divine words are addressed also to us. The Lord has set before us, in spite of our weaknesses, an open door for apostolic action which no one is able to shut. The opportunity is truly awesome.
At the same time, we remember that the great Apostle St. Paul writing to the Corinthians he used the same idea of the open door but added something very significant when he said: A great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries (1 Cor. 16:9).
The door is open, but here are many adversaries for us, too. Many challenges. This is why it is vitally important to be together, to act together, to strengthen the work of this Assembly. Here we have the opportunity to discuss strategies for offering our Orthodox witness, to deal with problems that we face as churches, as well as problems that we may face with one another. It is in dialogue and in assembly, in the presence of God, that we build our unity in Christ and we overcome any difficulties we should address as brothers serving the one and the same Lord. For this reason, being aware of the absolute necessity of presence in our assembly, we are saddened by the absence of several Brothers. We are particularly saddened by the non participation of the Brothers of the Moscow Patriarchate in the present synaxis. Given the various difficult matters of ecclesiastical and geopolitical significance our Mother Churches are dealing with, I take this opportunity to emphasize the need, now more than ever, for our Assembly to strengthen our relationships and continue our essential work serving the Orthodox faithful of this country. Here in the United States of America, we are in a unique position to witness Christ’s love and exemplify – despite any diversity – the One, Holy, Apostolic Orthodox Christian Church. This is a gift from God to us. In fact this is an extraordinary privilege.
This year’s Assembly will address with the help of God three important and delicate matters. First, we will learn from two special scholars and practitioners about baptism, chrismation, and reception of converts. We look forward to their presentation followed by a fruitful discussion. Second, Archbishop Nicolae will report on the work of the Committee for Canonical Regional Planning and lead us in a workshop. The results from the workshop will be used in the next stage of the committee’s efforts. Finally, we will discuss the current reality of the Assembly, recognizing our shortcomings and adjusting our methods for a more productive future. We are shepherds and our flocks, collectively, deserve the optimum and maximum, the most and the best. Therefore, we must determine what is working, what is a condition of inertia and what will benefit most our people and Christ’s holy Church.
Before closing, I will take this opportunity to mark an important milestone in the work of the Assembly. In just a few weeks, the Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation will meet for its 95th session. The Consultation was formed and developed under SCOBA in 1965 and became the responsibility of the Assembly at its foundation in 2009. Though one of the most active ministries of the Assembly, as overseen by the Committee for Ecumenical Relations, it has been often overlooked in recent years. It is one of the oldest of such dialogues. This is something in which we can all take pride. But I also mention this because the Consultation will only continue and thrive if we as a body choose to accept responsibility and support its work both spiritually and financially.
Finally, we express our thanks to Metropolitan Savas and Bishop Irinej for their assistance in having this Assembly in Cleveland. We congratulate His Eminence Nathanael, the new Metropolitan of Chicago, as well as our Secretary, His Eminence Gregory of Nyssa, for his elevation to Metropolitan status. We wish Bishop Danill of the Bulgarian Patriarchate much success as he begins the next phase of his archpastoral ministry and we pray for our brother Archbishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Church in America for the fruition of his efforts in his native Ukraine.
Let us now engage in intensifying and enhancing our work together in the unity of faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit. Having opened this auspicious meeting in the most sacred manner with the Divine Liturgy, let us now proceed with our schedule. And repeat with St. Paul: Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to do more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus in all generations for ever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:20)