ROCOR-A Bishops Council Mtg Minutes 16-17 SEP 10 – English

(Hat tip: D.G.) Minutes Part I (Summary)
 Meeting of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
The meeting of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad occurred on September 3/16, 2010, in the Theophany Monastery of the St. Petersburg Diocese.
Attendees:  The Most Reverend Agafangel, Metropolitan of Eastern American and New York, First Hierarch and Chairman of the ROCA Synod of Bishops; the Right Reverends: Archbishop Andronik of Ottawa and Canada, Vice Chairman of the ROCA Synod of Bishops; Archbishop Sofroniy of St. Petersburg and Northern Russia; Bishop Georgiy of Bolgrad and Belgorod-Dnestrovsk, Secretary of the ROCA Synod of Bishops; Bishop Afanasiy of Vologodsk and Velikoustyuzhsk, Bishop Gregory of Sao Paulo and South America.
The following attended by invitation: Bishop Kirill of Voronezh and Southern Russia, Bishop Dionisiy of Novgorod and Tver, and Bishop Tikhon of Verkhotursk.
The following agenda was approved:
1. The Synod Chairman’s general report.
2. Reports of the Diocesan Bishops.
3. Discussion of the appeal from a representative of the Orthodox Church in Ecuador.
4. A report on matters in the Holy Ascension parish in Barnaul.
5. Discussion on diocesan boundaries.
6. Report on matters in North America.
7. Report from the Theological Committee.
8. Discussion on religious education.
9. Other.

1. Synod Chairman’s general report.

All is well in the Church.  There are no further splits.  There needs to be unity among the bishops to give an example to the flock.  Archbishops Cyprian and Ambrose of the Greek Old Calendar Church visited Odessa.  Met. Agafangel invited to visit Greece.  A religious conference took place in Odessa in June and members of the groups that arose from the Church Abroad participated.  There will be a similar conference next year.  Slowly but surely, others are joining our Church.  Many by reading our materials posted on the Internet.  Met. Agafangel is receiving letters from MP priests.  Interest in our Church is growing.  Underlines how important internal unity is.
Resolved: accept the report.
2. Reports of the Diocesan Bishops.

Abp. Andronik reports all is well in his diocese.  With help of George Lukin, a former Catholic monastery in New York State was purchased and a corporation was formed to manage it.  Financing the new property is an issue.  Asks that his primary cathedra be the Syracuse diocese.

Resolved: report accepted.  Syracuse diocese will be the primary cathedra.

Abp. Sofroniy reports things are going well in his diocese.  Tells of his travels to North and South America and his participation in the religious conference in Brazil.  Underscores importance of printing a service book for priests.  Proposes to commemorate this year the decision 90 years ago to transform the Supreme Church Council in southern Russia into the SCC Abroad.  We should also commemorate the 25th anniversary of the passing of Metropolitan Philaret and prepare a service for that event.
The Chairman points out services to various saints are being prepared and posted on the Internet.  Once completed, they can be released as small books.
Resolved: report accepted.  Abp. Sofroniy will prepare a draft of a service book for priests by the next meeting.  The dates will be commemorated by a moleben at all ROCA parishes.
B. Afanasiy reports they are building a church and a monastery in the Vologodsk diocese.  A summer camp for youths was held.  It was very successful and will be organized again next year.  Harassment from the MP through the media and courts continues.  One parish has been deemed a “totalitarian sect.”  Appeals have not been successful.  Concerned that such tactics will be used against the Church as a whole and this must be defended against. 
Resolved: report accepted.  To not stay silent when being attacked.  A copy of the legal matter will be sent to the Chairman.
B. Georgiy reports more and more MP priests in the Bolgrad area are making inquiries.  A diocesan council, spiritual court and other important diocesan bodies were elected at the last diocesan meeting.  A youth conference was held.  Construction of church buildings continues.  Registration of our churches is difficult due to problems with translating documents.
Resolved: report accepted.
B. Gregory reports he visited Chile and saw Archimandrite Venyamin and Hegumena Juliana.  The church in Argentina continues to have difficulties from the MP and negotiations between the RF reps and Argentine government.
The religious conference in Brazil was very successful, with about 95 people attending.  Some lectures from the conference will be published soon.
The Chairman remarks RF reps are keenly interested in “leftist” groups in Argentina, as witnessed by the constant harassment.  It will be difficult, but we must remain strong.  Suggests missionary work among the locals to spread the appreciation for the Russian church.
Resolved: report accepted.
B. Kirill reports of a parish near Krasnodar that has joined his diocese.  The main difficulty for the diocese is not having enough priests.
Resolved: report accepted.  B. Kirill has blessing to continue missionary work in the southern Kavkaz area.
B. Dionisiy related how his parish left the MP and the unpleasantness associated with that.  Some agreements with the local authorities have been accomplished.  Points out the close relationship between the government and the MP and that it will continue to pose problems for us in the RF.  Does not see any hope in open confrontation or legal recourse.  Suggests a “semi-catacomb” condition, without legal status, but on good terms with local officials.  Diocese has 7 parishes and 4 priests.
Resolved: report accepted.
13:25 – break for lunch.
Meeting resumed at 14:25
B. Nikon reports parishes in Khabarovsk and Barnaul have joined the Siberian diocese.  Needs a choir director.  The parish in Verkhoturiye is doing better now that they have a priest.  The two parishes in Kazakhstan needs priests.  They have 13 parishes in total with 9 priests.  The diocese is working without being officially registered.
Resolved: report accepted.
3.  Discussed: B. Gregory presents the request from the Orthodox Church in Ecuador, Central and South America which has 8,000 faithful, 14 priests, 8 monastics.  The history of the Church, its activities and information about Archbishop Chrysostomos are reviewed.
The specifics of the canonical status of Archbishop Chrysostomos, the ethnic makeup of his flock, their pastoral, missionary work are discussed, along with their material condition, and the overall impression is a good one.  Abp. Sofroniy says it is imperative to meet with the clergy and faithful personally.
B. Dionisiy points out how such groups have been welcomed in the past in the Russian Church.  If a cleric appeals with his entire flock, then it must be taken seriously.
The Chairman points out the need for a mission in South America and that that area was overlooked previously by ROCA.
Resolved: to welcome the desire of the clergy and faithful of the Orthodox Church in Ecuador, Central and South America to join the ROCA.  Invite Archbishop Chrysostomos to the next Bishops’ Council.
4.  Discussed the situation of the Holy Ascension parish in Barnaul.
Resolved: to welcome the Holy Ascension parish in Barnaul with its rector, Fr. Georgiy, into the ROCA.  Ask our flock to pray for the faithful in Barnaul so that they may withstand the onslaught of the MP in its attempts to confiscate the property that rightfully belongs to them.
6. Discussed the purchase of the property in North America and its possible uses.  Also how to obtain property in the United States for the Synod in general.
Resolved: the corporation formed to manage the newly-purchased property in North America will decide its use.
The meeting concluded on the first day at 19:10, singing the prayer “It is truly meet…”
Minutes Part II (Summary)
Meeting of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
Second day of the meeting, September 4/17, 2010.
The meeting began at 09:40 after Divine Liturgy and after singing “O Heavenly King…”
The attendees are joined by the Right Reverend Iriney, Bishop of Vernensk and Semirechensk.  He is the temporary ruling bishop of the Western European Diocese.
The minutes from the preceding day are read and corrected.
5. Bishop Iriney reports on events in his see.  His main focus is tending to the flock in Starsbourg, which lost its
church to the MP.  The flock is also much smaller now.  A similar situation exists in Cannes.  It is somewhat better in Bern, where Andrew is helping greatly to maintain services.  It may be possible to form parishes in Dijon (France) and Bonn (Germany).  There is a severe lack of priests.  The only one is Archpriest Christo, who serves in Lyon.
All the bishops discuss how to provide more priests in the diocese.
Bishop Iriney tells of his efforts in Kazakhstan, where there is one parish, and in Kyrgyzstan, where there are two.  Services are held in people’s houses, as the MP has taken away their churches.
Resolved: report accepted. Name Bishop Iriney as the official bishop for the Western European Diocese, with the title “of Lyon and Western Europe.”
Meeting is adjourned for lunch at 13:00 and resumed at 14:00.
7. B. Georgiy, the Chairman of the Theological Commission of the Synod of Bishops, presented a draft of “The Rules Governing the Actions of an Orthodox Priest When Involved in Interfaith Meetings.”
They discuss the important point of dealing with mixed marriages, of which there are many in our dioceses, as they are located in areas with other dominant religions.  The Chairman points out the MP and the other churches of “World Orthodoxy” are very actively engaging in interfaith meetings, thereby diluting the borders of the Church.  There is a need for guidelines for our priests, especially to avoid any concelebrating.  We must remain on the “Royal Path” of our Church Fathers, avoiding extremes such as “Matthewism” or being drawn into ecumenism.
Resolved: to consider the proposed draft.  Have the bishops discuss all these matters with their priests, citing the Declaration from October 13/26, 1953, of the ROCA Bishops’ Council.
B. Georgiy proposed “The Confession of the Orthodox Faith by Bishops and Clergy Who Joined the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad from Heretical or Schismatic Jurisdictions.”  A discussion ensued and a proposal was made to formulate a checklist which will be reviewed with clergy seeking to join the Church, or laypeople wishing to join the clergy, and have them sign it.
The Chairman underlines the importance of such a list, to guard the interests of the Church spiritually as well as legally.  He points out precedents in ROCA history.
Resolved: accept the proposal.  A draft will be prepared for the next meeting.  The checklist will also be developed and both documents, with signatures, will be kept in a clergyman’s personnel file.
8. Discussed the need for establishing seminaries and other institutions for religious training, along with other important initiatives for the Church.
Resolved: any initiatives must be monitored by the ruling bishop throughout their development.  Only when the initiative is deemed worthwhile, will it be considered by the Synod for approval.
9. The bishops discuss various challenges arising from liturgical practice, relating to uniformity of the services, performing baptisms, giving communion to newly-baptized infants, and other matters.
B. Afanasiy relates how people in the Vologodsk diocese revere religious people who may be considered for canonization.
The Chairman that such matters must be presented to the Bishops’ Council.  The ROCA typically preferred naming them new martyrs, but was very careful about consecrating anyone into sainthood.
B. Dionisiy adds there was a book in pre-Revolutionary Russia about false fools for Christ.
The Chairman says more should be written and related about ascetics within the Church Abroad, while the urge to canonize someone is often based on political, not religious reasons.
B. Gregory asks about the many icons brought out of Russia by believers depicting ascetics revered by the MP.  May we bless these icons?  Display them in our churches?
The Chairman is of the opinion that they may be displayed only in private homes and only as respectful depictions.
Resolved: A large number of individuals are being canonized by the MP and other churches of “World Orthodoxy” at the moment.  We cannot give credence to the proof presented in these cases.  Until they are consecrated in the ROCA by a sobor, we may not pray to such icons or use them in services.
The bishops discuss awards for the clergy.
The Chairman proposes to elevate Hieromonk Methodius (Gerb) to Hegumen.
Resolved: approved.
B. Gregory proposes to award a palitsa to Archpriest Constantine Bussyguin.
Resolved: approved.

B. Kirill proposes to award Archpriest Roman Kravets the wearing of a jeweled pectoral cross.

Resolved: approved.

B. Nikon proposes the text of the appeal to the parishioners of the Holy Ascension Church in Barnaul.
Resolved: accepted.
The date and location of the next meeting was dicussed.
Resolved: the next meeting will be held April 28/May 11 to April 30/May 13, 2011, in the city of Middleburg in new York State, USA.
The meeting concluded at 18:30, singing the prayer “It is truly meet…”
 +Metropolitan Agafangel
+Archbishop Andronik
+Archbishop Sofroniy
+Bishop Georgiy
+Bishop Afanasiy
+Bishop Gregory
+Bishop Kirill
+Bishop Dionisiy
+Bishop Iriney
+Bishop Nikon

Letter to the rector and parishioners of the Holy Ascension Church in Barnaul
from the ROCA Synod of Bishops
Dear father and rector, dear brothers and sisters!
 We, the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, offer you the words of support that our Lord Jesus Christ spoke to His disciples: “Fear not, small flock!”
The Lord warned all who truly believe in Him and live according to His commandments, that they will endure sorrows and will be persecuted and accursed in this world.
In the times we live in, we witness deviation from Christ’s truth on a grand scale.  We see how the “princes of the Church” are going down the same path of the bishops and high priests of the Old Testament, who became the primary persecutors of the incarnate Lord.  They used their high office not for the glory of God, but for power and personal gain.
We share your pain in the difficult conditions you find yourself, as a result of standing for the truth of  holy Orthodoxy and address to you these words of comfort from the Gospel: “Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner evil against you” for being loyal to our Savior.  Remain in the truth and “rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”  May the Lord give you strength through the prayers of the holy martyrs and confessors of Russia.  We pray for you and ask for God’s blessing on you all!
 September 4/17, 2010, St. Ioasaph, Bishop of Belgorod.
+Metropolitan Agafangel
+Archbishop Andronik
+Archbishop Sofroniy
+Bishop Georgiy
+Bishop Afanasiy
+Bishop Gregory
+Bishop Kirill
+Bishop Dionisiy
+Bishop Iriney
+Bishop Nikon