Source: Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the USA
Keynote Address of Archbishop Elpidophoros to the October 2020 Assembly of Bishops Meeting
by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
to the October 2020 Meeting of the Assembly of Bishops
October 6, 2020
Your Eminences and Graces,
Beloved Brothers in Christ,
Dear Co-celebrants in the Holy Spirit,
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice![*]
I greet all of you, Holy Brothers, with these encouraging words of the Apostle, for we have so very much to be joyful for. I am particularly happy to be with all of you – my brothers in the ministry to the Lord and His Holy Church. This is my First Assembly with the Chief Shepherds of the American Churches. We have nearly a full complement of the Hierarchs of the Assembly, missing only our Russian Brethren for whom we long in the Spirit, and with whom we hope to have restored relations in the not too distant future.
This year has been perhaps the most challenging of our collective arch-pastorates, and our Merciful God has strengthened our resolve to stand with our respective flocks and shepherd them through these difficult days.
This pandemic, which is still with us and has even afflicted the President and First Lady of our Nation, is the worst global outbreak in a century. Across all fifty States, the Church has faced restrictions, prohibitions, and challenges which very few of us would have ever expected to face. And yet, despite the difficulties, we have persevered for the sake of the People of God, even when our Holy Week and the Holy Pascha were severely disrupted and indeed curbed by the pandemic.
But this is why I say, “Rejoice!” Because in the midst of these troubles, as Bishops, as Shepherds of the rational Flock of Christ, we have learned new ways to come together in solidarity of purpose, and in being useful to one another, and to our Faithful.
Here, I would highlight a real “silver lining” within the COVID cloud. As a result of our many challenges, early on in the pandemic, the Executive Committee of our Assembly committed to weekly meetings – every Friday, and we have stuck to this schedule for most of this year. We met to find solutions. Whether through the COVID-19 Task Force, which was convened to give the most up-to-date health and legal news, or through the newly established position of Director of Operations, or through the interactions and dialogues with the various Committees of the Assembly and their Episcopal leadership, the weekly exchanges have infused your Executive Committee with renewed purpose and expectation.
In these next two days, you will see for yourselves that this Assembly is working, and working together. We have a mission to our American flocks. Perhaps not like before, when there was an expectation of forging a model of unity in time for the Great and Holy Council in 2016. Now, we are in a different mode, a mode of finding the most creative synergies to better the spiritual life of all our people.
Allow me to stress that all of us, the Bishops of the Church – we are the substance of the Assembly, and our success as a body will be determined by the commitment of each and every one of us.
Working with the Executive Committee, I have found an inspired and devoted “band of brothers” who bring out the best in me. These close collaborations – even in this time of being physically distanced – is truly a cause for rejoicing!
For example, we will be hearing from our Secretary, Metropolitan Gregory, an exciting new proposal for combining our energies, resources, and talent to reach our youth. Our young people need us to collaborate on their behalf, and I am grateful for the work being done to expedite and innovate new ministries.
I am especially grateful to my beloved and esteemed brother, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, our Assembly Vice-Chairman, for his leadership in advocating the motion that we name 2021 the “Year of the Youth!” His vision, which I and all the members of the Executive Committee share, is to go beyond words and platitudes and really do something special for our youth, something that hearkens back to the fifties and sixties when CEYOLA was a reality, and something that looks to the future with realism and faith in our increasingly complex and complicated world.
The creation of a new Youth Agency will be a motion – along with other motions – that comes from the Executive Committee, and there will other motions for which the various Committees have labored. Your kind attention to these motions will be very much appreciated by your brothers in Christ, who have worked diligently to bring these initiatives to fruition.
My Dear Brothers and Concelebrants:
We have all faced tremendous trials and tribulations, but we do so in the joy of the Holy Spirit, Who is the root of our authority and the fruit of our labors on behalf of the People of God. I am proud and happy to be with you through all these afflictions, for as the Apostle again says:
… we even boast through afflictions, knowing that affliction brings about patience; and patience produces character; and character brings forth hope; a hope that can never be put to shame. For the love of God joyously wells up and streams through our hearts through the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us. [†]
We have been so very blessed, my brothers – blessed to share in the Great High Priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and blessed with each other.
We are the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the USA, Hierarchs who represent disparate communities, but One People of God. Our oneness is a gift, a blessing that is not ours to refuse. There is so much that we can do together for the sake of all our faithful.
My prayer is that through these next two days, our hearts will open to the possibilities. I have seen them already on our Executive Committee, and I know that we only have to open our imaginations to these possibilities.
I thank each and every one of you for your love of Christ, and your service to His Holy Orthodox Church.
May the Lord bless our deliberations, our initiatives, and indeed, all the works of our hands.
[*] Philippians 4:4.
[†] Romans 5:3-5.
Assembly of Bishops Convenes Digitally, Declares “2021 the Year of the Youth”
October 6, 2020
A strong majority, thirty-eight, of the fifty-one canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States of America began their two-day meeting today to discuss Orthodox Christian Unity in the country. The meeting, which took place online due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, was the first since the transition of the chairmanship to Archbishop Elpidophoros.
In his opening remarks, The Archbishop stated, “we have all faced tremendous trials and tribulations, but we do so in the joy of the Holy Spirit, Who is the root of our authority and the fruit of our labors on behalf of the People of God … we are the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the USA, Hierarchs who represent disparate communities, but One People of God. Our oneness is a gift, a blessing that is not ours to refuse. There is so much that we can do together for the sake of all our faithful.” Read the full address here.
Furthermore, the august body adopted the 2021 budget, re-elected Metropolitan Gregory as Secretary and Archbishop Michael as Treasurer, and passed a number of motions set forth by the Executive Committee, the Committee for Agencies and Commissions, Affiliated Ministries and Associations, and the Committee for Youth. More detailed information pertaining to said motions will soon be released.
Finally, recognizing the youth as the future of the Church, the Assembly of Bishops declared 2021 the Year of the Youth. A number of initiatives are expected to be launched that will bring together Orthodox Youth from across the nation.
Tomorrow, October 7, 2020, the Bishops will re-convene to discuss their Strategic Vision for the Assembly.
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Contact: [email protected]
The Assembly of Bishops, comprised of the 51 canonical Orthodox Bishops in the United States of America, is the premier and official forum for Orthodox Christian Unity in the United States of America. Its purpose is to preserve and contribute to the unity of the Orthodox Church by helping to further her spiritual, theological, ecclesiological, canonical, educational, missionary and philanthropic aims.
Closing Remarks by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros to the October 2020 Meeting of the Assembly of Bishops
October 7, 2020
Your Eminences and Graces,
My Beloved Brothers in the Lord,
We have now concluded this tenth anniversary meeting of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the USA. I believe we can say, with the Psalmist, that it has been good and joyous for us, the brothers of the Hierarchy, to be together in the unity of the faith.[*]
For our unity is based in fidelity to the Faith of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the shared two thousand-year old history of our Holy Orthodox Church. As individuals – Hierarchs and Churches, there is much we are called to accomplish. But together, with “one voice and one heart,”[†] we have the strength and fervor to accomplish so much more. For this reason alone, breathing vital life-force into the Assembly is the responsibility of us all.
Again, I want to commend and express my heartfelt thanks to the Most Reverend Brothers of the Executive Committee for their fortitude and their tenacity in persevering during these many months with such faithfulness to our cause. I have found among them, as I am certain among you all, true brothers in the Lord.
Therefore, as we depart from this Assembly and return to the missions that God has appointed for each of us, I leave you with the exhortation of the Apostle:
“Let brotherly love continue.” [‡]
It is up to us to bring the love of Christ to our every endeavor, so that our Faithful behold in us the love of God for each one of them. I hope you are as encouraged as I am, for our responsibility to bring the fullness of Orthodoxy to our Nation is a deeply solemn one.
I thank each and every one of you again for your commitment and faithfulness. May the Lord bless us all abundantly.
[*] Cf. Psalm 132:1 (LXX).
[†] Concluding Exclamation (Ἐκφώνησις) of the Anaphora of the Divine Liturgy.
[‡] Hebrews 13:1.
A Message of Hope from the Assembly of Bishops
Wednesday, October 07, 2020
We, the Members of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, gathering for our first digital meeting on October 6-7, 2020, offer the perennial message of Christian hope and spiritual encouragement to our clergy and faithful, and all persons of good will, in these unprecedented times of the current global health crisis, political division, and social strife.
The Coronavirus pandemic has affected every human being in the world with some form of trauma: loss of life, debilitating illness, separation from loved ones, financial hardship, or emotional fatigue. And yet, it remains true that through the Cross joy has come into all the world. Through these tragedies, health care workers who have sacrificially cared for the sick, parents who have had to manage every aspect of their children’s education and care from home, those who are without employment and those who are facing financial struggles, and clergy who have maintained the spiritual and liturgical lives of their parishes—all bear witness to the power of love and good-will to provide solace in these troubled days. At the same time, this health crisis and the energy required to shoulder it have also given rise to an unhealthy increase of polemical opinion related to questions of science, medicine, and civil and ecclesiastical directives. As often happens when human passions erupt, such polemics have infected other areas of society as reflected in the rise in this country of racial tensions, ideological clashes, and political polarization. We remind all that, as Orthodox Christians sojourning in this land, we are not called to base our lives upon the ephemeral convictions that are common in the realm of politics, economics, or ideology. Rather, we are called to “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2), placing our trust in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and doing His Holy Will through our efforts to fulfill His life-giving commandments.
In our present circumstances, trying to hold a sensible middle ground between opposing forces of faithless reason on the one hand and spiritualized folly on the other is the greatest challenge of our time. As Orthodox Christians we are called to follow the “road, I will turn aside neither to the right nor to the left” (Deut. 2:27). Saint Jerome teaches that the high way or royal way is the way of the One who declares, not only that “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” but also “Your ways are not like my way” (Commentary on Isaiah). This means keeping our eyes on Christ and His sacrificial love for the entire world and being humble about our own particular opinions is the time-tested way to walk along the path worthy of the Christian calling.
Certainly, our present physical separation from one another and spiritual isolation from the divine services have complicated our ability to navigate these troubled waters. It is not fitting for us, as Orthodox Christians, to add to the burdens of our brothers and sisters either by condemning them or by appeasing them with insincere flattery. Rather, we ought to honestly fulfill the law of God by bearing one another’s burdens, as the Holy Apostle Paul reminds us (cf. Gal. 6:2). This means that we are called to an authentic life of patient obedience, sincere humility, genuine compassion, and sacrificial love even towards those with whom we differ. This is not an easy task for human beings to accomplish, but by grace and by the power of the Cross, we who are weak are made strong through Christ. With that grace, let us boldly give expression to Christ-like love and Christ-like humility in a world where many are unable to see anything beyond their own opinion. With that power, let us steadfastly remain faithful to the Tradition of the ancient Church in a land of modernity, uncertainty, and confusion. As a guide, let us “lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven” (Lam. 3:41) and make our own the words of the Psalmist who cries out: “O God, thou art my God; I seek thee, my soul thirsts for thee, my flesh faints for thee, as in a dry and weary land where no water is” (Psalm 63:1).