[ditty_news_ticker id="27897"] History of OCL - Orthodox Christian Laity

History of OCL

 Accomplishments of OCL Since its Establishment in 1987

The Orthodox Christian Laity was organized 33 years ago to educate Orthodox Christians about Orthodoxy and their role in the governance of the Church.  Here is a partial list of what we have accomplished: 

  1. Consistently served as the advocate for Orthodox Christian Unity in the United States and promoted understanding of the process toward unity outlined at Chambesy in 2009.
  2. Supported the convening of the Episcopal Assembly in NYC in May 2010 with a $20,000 donation to the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America (SCOBA) to be used for the expenses of the meeting.
  3. Published Orthodox Christianity at the Crossroad: A Great Council of the Church – When and Why (2009). It includes essays by various hierarchs and scholars on the topic.
  4. Increased awareness amongst the faithful of issues of accountability and transparency in church administration.
  5. Increased awareness of the importance of lay participation in governance.
  6. Created and host two web sites: OrthodoxNews.com and OCL.org viewed by hundreds of thousands of interested participants worldwide.
  7. Hosted to date 60 Educational Forums throughout the United States.
  8. Supported Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) and other charitable and educational endeavors. Provided scholarships to students attending OCF Winter Conference. Hosted a program in the Philadelphia area with Rutgers University Fellowship to assist area students to begin to develop programs on their campuses. Provided a $15,000 grant to St John’s College Maryland OCF to hire a staff person. Initiated the organization of OCF in the greater Cleveland
  9. Published Project for Orthodox Renewal.
  10. Published 7 Occasional Papers – “Transition, Renewal: One Faith, One Church”; “The Theological Foundation of the Role of the Laity in the Church”; “The Challenge of Outreach”; “The American Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate”; “An Orthodox Christian Church in the United States: Unified and Self Governed”; “Greek Philosophy and the Theology of the Greek Orthodox Church”; “New Strategy Needed to Save Endangered Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
  11. Collaborated with St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press to re-publish the Alexander Bogolepov book, Toward an American Orthodox Church.
  12. Established the OCL Archive at DePaul University.
  13. Stimulated discussion throughout all jurisdictions in America about the relationship and synergy of the clergy, laity, and hierarchy working together to provide the good order within the church.
  14. Served as the catalyst for the discussion of Orthodox Christian jurisdictional Unity in North America.
  15. Organized 30 Annual Meetings in various American cities discussing the issues of concern to Orthodox Christians that related to jurisdictional unity.
  16. Took action to maintain the autonomy of the various Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States.
  17. Met directly with Patriarchs Bartholomew, 1993; and Ignatius IV, 1999; Metropolitans Theodosius, 1999, Philip, 1999, 2005, and 2006, and Herman 2005; and Archbishops Iakovos, 1989 and 1992, Spyridon, 1996, and Demetrios, 2000, to discuss Orthodox Christian administrative unity.
  18. Published The Forum newsletter and Updates to keep the faithful informed.
  19. Served as a catalyst to link Pan-Orthodox Ministries on Orthodox web sites.
  20. Educated the faithful to appreciate and celebrate the legacy of the Meeting of Conference of Orthodox Bishops in Ligonier PA 1994. They set the example of what a true synod of bishops for North America can accomplish.
  21. Educated the faithful to appreciate and celebrate the 20th Anniversary (1987-2007) of the acceptance of the Evangelical Christians in the Orthodox Christian Church through the Antiochian Archdiocese. They led the way for Orthodox Christian Evangelism, Missions, and Outreach.
  22. Produced a DVD, Great Events of American Orthodoxy, which highlights Ligonier and the conversion of Evangelical Christians.
  23. Supported Project Mexico and St. Innocent Orphanage – Chula Vista, CA.
  24. Exhibited at National Assemblies of various Orthodox jurisdictions.
  25. Supported Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute publication: Case Study of Canon Law.
  26. Maintained a relationship with Voice of the Faithful, OCL’s Roman Catholic counterpart.
  27. Encouraged Board Members to write on topics related to the mission of OCL for distribution in the various jurisdictional journals and the ethnic press.
  28. Support Orthodox Christian Mission Center.
  29. Since 2008, Orthodox News has been the most consistent news source on the work of the Assembly of Bishops and has supported the work of the pre-Conciliar preparatory meetings, and finally, the convening of the Holy and Great Council.
  30. Developing a Grassroots Unity Network concentrating in pilot areas developed by the Assembly of Bishops and move into areas such as Cleveland and beyond.

OCL (incorporated 1987) Annual Meeting topics (1989-2022) and Featured Speakers

First Annual Meeting
Chicago January 14, 1989 at the historic church of St George in Chicago…guests Rev. Christos Vagias and Rev George Scoulas. Presiding Officer President James A. Koulogeorge, founding president of OCL. By laws ratified, The Forum Publication established. This was an organizational meeting. Meeting June 5, 1989 Rye, New York with Archbishop Iakovos and Fr and Presbytera Baglaneas.

Second Annual Meeting
Rye Town Hilton Hotel Nov 10-11, 1989. A Conversation with Archbishop Iakovos.

Third Annual Meeting
November 9-11, 1990 Chicago, Illinois Theme “Together We Care” at the Inn at University Village and Saint Basil Greek Orthodox Church. Featured speakers Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Hon Paul Tsongas, Rev. Dr. Dimitrios Constantelos.

Fourth Annual Meeting
October 25-27, 1991 Baltimore, Maryland: Workshop on topics included in Project for Orthodox Renewal: Administration and Accountability; Faith Language and Culture; Mission and Outreach; Orthodox Unity; Selection of the Hierarchy; Spiritual Renewal and Women’s Role in the Church. Keynote Speaker was Anthony Ugolnik. His topic was “Orthodoxy: A New World Vision.” Dr. Daniel Shahas spoke on the “Theological Foundation of the Role of the Laity in the Church.” Reception hosted at the Walter Gallery. Senator Sarbanes and Rep Helen Delich Bentley 2nd Congressional District Maryland attended.

Fifth Annual Meeting
“Orthodoxy: Rediscovery and Renewal” Frontenac Grand Hotel, St. Louis Missouri, October 23-24, 1992 emphasis on Orthodox Unity and Orthodox Challenges. Speakers included Fr. Eusebius Stephanou, Th.D. on Proclaiming the Truth of Orthodox Renewal, Fr. Steven Vlahos on How Should the Church Address Interfaith Marriage? and Dr. Paul Meyendorff on Liturgy: Work and the Laity. Three workshops were conducted including Fr. William Gaines Orthodoxy and Young Adults, Pauline Sarantopoulos Orthodox Religious Education and Matushka Ellen Gvosdev on Women in the Church.

Sixth Annual Meeting
October 29-31, 1993 Park Central Hotel, New York, Theme “A Call to Unity: One Christ, One People,” Fr. Thomas Hopko, Dr. Thomas Klocek, Dr. Andrew Kopan, and Dr. Alice Scourby were presenters.

Seventh Annual Meeting
Oct 28, 29, 30, 1994 Skokie, Illinois “Embracing our Spiritual Identity” Workshops on the topics of the OCL Project for Orthodox Renewal. Keynote speaker was Demetria Velisarios Jacquet. Others included Fr. James Doyle, Fr. William Caldaroni, Fr. Joel McEachen and Fr Scoulis, Sts Peter and Paul Glenview, IL.

Eighth Annual Meeting
November 17-19, 1995 Tremont Plaza Hotel Baltimore, Maryland “Orthodox Unity in the Americas.” Keynote speaker was Bishop Nicholas of Amissos on “Unity the Gift from God.” Fr. John Garvy of St Nicholas Church in Jamaica Estates moderated the forum: “What Unites Us, What Divides Us?” Panelists included Dr. Efthalia Makris Walsh, Despina D. Prassas and Nicholas Balamaci. Bishop Nikiphoros of Constantine also spoke on the conditions of the Church in the Holy Land. Afternoon session “Orthodoxy in Action” included Fr. Steven Vlahos, Fr Leon Pachis, Alexander Rondos and Fr. Milton Gianulis.

Ninth Annual Meeting
October 11-13 1996 Sarasota, Florida “Transition, Renewal: One Faith, One Church.” Keynote Speaker was His Grace Bishop Iacovos of Catania, administrator of the Diocese of Atlanta. Title of his address was “On the Historical Jesus.”  Other speakers included: Frank Schaeffer, “Renewing Orthodoxy: Rediscovering the Foundations of our Orthodox Faith,” Dr. Helen Theodoropoulos spoke on the life of St Symeon the New Theologian, Dr Nicholas Gvosdev on The Phanar Project, Sophia Stefanadis eloquently spoke on “Reaching our Young People.” Dr James Oliver vice president for Institutional and Program Planning at St Petersburg Junior College conducted an administrative workshop.

Tenth Annual Meeting
November 14-16, 1997- The Harvard Club and The Maliotis Cultural Center at Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology Boston, MA, Theme “The American Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” Charles T. Lelon, John Collis, Dr. James Counelis, Rev Theodore Stylianopoulos, Dr. Ariseidies Papadakis, Dr. Valerie Karras and George Matsoukas were presenters. Discussions compiled in book form with above title: Light & Life 1998.

Eleventh Annual Meeting
October 9-11, 1998 The Jonathan Club, Los Angeles, CA, Theme: “Orthodoxy in the Next Millennium and the Role of the Orthodox Christian Laity.”  Stephen P. Angelides, George D. Aravosis, George D. Coupounas, Dr. Peter Haikalis, John T. John, Rev. Michel E. Najim, Rev. Steven J. Vlahos, Dr. Verna Harrison.

Twelfth Annual Meeting
November 12, 13, 14, 1999 Radisson Hotel, Berkeley Marina, Berkeley, CA Theme “The Ethos and Identity of American Orthodoxy: A Vision for the 21st Century.” Tour and Vesper Services Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, Keynote Dr. Robert Scott, “Developing the Qualities and Identity of Spiritual Maturity in American Orthodoxy.”

Thirteenth Annual Meeting
October 13, 14, 15, 2000 Doubletree Hotel at Lincoln Center, Dallas, Texas “Individual Responsibility in the Church,” Speakers on the topic included: Dr. Nikolas K. Gvosdev, Dr. Valerie A. Karras, John Sallas, His Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel, Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, Rev. Dn. Robert Schott, and Greta Larson.

Fourteenth Annual Meeting
October 20-21, 2001, Renaissance Hotel Oak Brook, Illinois   Theme: “Orthodox Christian Diversity …and the Unity We Need.”  Peter Marudas, Dr. Elizabeth Prodromou, Dr. John Erickson, His Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit, Primate Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America all contributed to the topic.

Fifteenth Annual Meeting
November 9, 2002 Westin Hotel, Detroit Michigan and St Andrew House Center for Orthodox Christian Studies, Theme: “Returning Home: Bringing or Youth Back to Orthodoxy.” Ann Salvador, students George Gallos and Larissa Galan, Archpriest Paul Jannakos, Natalie M. Kapeluck, His Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel, Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America.

Sixteenth Annual Meeting
Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center, Cleveland, Ohio November 1, 2003: “The Orthodox Christian Ministries Networking Conference.” Presenters included: Very Rev. Anthony Scott, Executive Director of Stewardship Advocates, Gregory Yova founder and director of Project Mexico, Very Rev. Leon A Pachis, Director of Development Eastern Orthodox Foundation of Steel Valley-Senior Care and Healing, Renee Croitoru, Executive Director of Treehouse, Very Rev. Thomas Hopko, Very Rev. Peter Gillquist, Director of Missions and Evangelism, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, Paula Kappos, Executive Director ZOE for Life, Ann Salvator, Outreach Program Coordinator at St. Constantine and Helen Church, Cleveland. Eric Namee, President Virginia H Farah Foundation and Brian Gerich philanthropist and Rev. Scott discussed the need for the development of private foundations to support Orthodox missions and other Orthodox Christian needs.

Seventeenth Annual Meeting
Renaissance Oak Brook Hotel, Oak Brook, Illinois October 30, 2004: “Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Intention of Ligonier.” In addition to the video “A New Era Begins,” His Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit provided the participants with his impressions of Ligonier. Very Rev Fr. Peter Gillquist discussed “Evangelism and the Church at Ligonier and Now,” Dr. Valerie Karras discussed “The Nature of the Orthodox Church” and Alexis Liberovsky, Director/Archivist Office of History and Archives OCA presented “Autocephaly of the OCA: How did it occur and what does it mean?”

Eighteenth Annual Meeting
Church of St John of Damascus, Dedham MA October 8, 2005: “How to Do Pan-Orthodox Ministry Successfully Orthodox Christians United: Building Up the Body of Christ.” Keynote speakers included Very Rev. Gordon Thomas Walker, D. Min Department of Mission and Evangelism Antiochian Archdiocese, New Church Development and Dr. Robert Haddad, Sophia Smith Professor of History and Professor of Religion Emeritus, Smith College.  The work of the Council of Eastern Orthodox Churches of Central Massachusetts was discussed by Deborah Sedares and the St. Nina Quarterly: Publication of Women’s Orthodox Ministries and Education Quarterly was presented by Teva Regule. Very Rev. Peter Gillquist talked about Orthodox Christian Fellowship: Campus Ministry.

Nineteenth Annual Meeting
The College of Notre Dame, Doyle Hall, Baltimore Maryland, November 4, 2006: “The Present State and Future of Orthodoxy in North America.”  Keynote Speaker was Archbishop Lazar, retired Archbishop (OCA) of Ottawa, Canada and Abbot of the All American Saints Monastery, British Columbia, Canada. He is a hesychastic theologian whose writings clearly reflect both the spirit and approach of St. Gregory Palamas and St. Symeon the New Theologian. He is a founder of the Institute for Canadian Orthodox Studies and the Nemanjic Institute for Serbo-Byzantine Studies. He is an acclaimed author of numerous books, monograph and articles. Other speakers included Professor and Journalist Terry Mattingly who spoke on the topic of So What Do the Converts Want, Anyway? Andrew Natsios, diplomat and professor, spoke on Working with the Orthodox Church Around the World in humanitarian efforts to serve the least of God’ children. Peter Marudas, journalist, political activist and commentator, spoke on The Ecumenical Patriarchate and Orthodox Unity in America. Subdeacon Robert Miclean presented his experiences on creating and implementing Campus Ministry programs in the Maryland area and the OCF outreach program at St. John’s College and the US Naval Academy. Father Peter Gillquist, discussed Crucial Steps to Orthodox Unity.

Twentieth Annual Meeting
Anniversary of OCL Celebration and Annual Program presented in Chicago, Illinois, November 2 and 3, 2007. Topic: “The “Upcoming’ Great and Holy Council: Who can Convene it?; Why Have it; and Why Hasn’t it Happened?” Presenters included: Father John Erickson, Metropolitan Christopher, Father Alexander Abramov, Dr Vigen Guroian, Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou. Discussions compiled in book Orthodox Christianity at the Crossroad: A Great Council of the Church – When and Why. Introduction by Archbishop Nathaniel.

Twenty-First Annual Meeting
October 31-November 1, 2008, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Theme: Bringing Together Area College Students of Learn about establishing Orthodox Christian Fellowship Programs on their Campuses. Presenters included Rutgers University OCF and area leadership. Fr. John Cassar, Mother of God Orthodox Church, Princeton, New Jersey, Keynote Speaker.

Twenty-Second Annual Meeting
October 29-31, 2009. Ligonier, PA, The Road to Unity From Vision to Action. A Conversation about the future of the unified North American Church. His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah Keynote Speaker. Presenters also included: Alexei Krindatch, Fr Justin Mathews, Sister Sarah Elizabeth Oftedel, Bryan Smith, Archbishop Nathaniel, Father Nicholas Apostola, Teva Regule, George Karcazes, Peter Petkas, Deacon John Zarras, Bishop Melchisedek, Father Hans Jacobse, George Pontikes, Bishop Thomas, Father Antonio Perdomo, Christopher Shadid, John Maddox, Father Peter-Michal Preble, Nicholas Katich, Peter Marudas. Father John Cassar was the moderator of the 9 panel discussions.

Twenty-Third Annual Meeting
October 15-16, 2010, Salt Lake City, UT, Sts Peter and Paul AOC and Prophet Elias GOA Churches. Vision and Action Continued: Impressions of the Episcopal Assembly May 2010 by His Beatitude Jonah OCA and Archbishop Nathaniel Romanian Episcopate OCA. Canon Law for Today: How it applies to a unifed administrative Orthodox Church in the U.S. Fathers John Erickson and Alexander Lebedeff address the topic.

Twenty-Fourth Annual Meeting
October 7-8, 2011, Marriott Courtyard Hotel, Pittsburgh, PA. Parish Community Holy Assumption of St. Mary Church. Remembering the work and leadership of the Council of Eastern Orthodox Youth Leaders of the Americas (CEOYLA).  Program Coordinator, Ronald Andrei Muresan, Past Chair, CEOYLA and VP of The Orthodox Brotherhood of the Romanian Episcopate. Welcome by Igumen Patrick Carpenter rector. Panelists included His Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel, Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America; Video Reflection His Grace Bishop Basil Diocese of Mid-American Wichita, KS Antiochian Archdiocese; Jim Demetrion, Board Member Orthodox Christian Laity attendee 1963 CEYOLA Festival; Kweilin Nassar, a media professional and broadcaster who produced a special program on third CEOYLA Festival held at Mellon Arena. Michael G. Herzak, President and CEO Insurance Systems Group, Inc. and active member of OCA. Program also included audience participation.

Twenty-Fifth Annual Meeting
October 25-27, 2012, Washington, D.C. Theme: Our Orthodox Past- Our Orthodox Present- Our Orthodox Future.

Twenty-Sixth Annual Meeting
October 31-November 1, 2013, Moraga, CA. Theme: The Assembly of Bishops and the Future of Orthodoxy in America.

Twenty-Seventh Annual Meeting
October 23-26, 2014, St Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY. Theme: Open Forum Discussion led by Alexei Krindatch on the Progress of Assembly of Canonical Bishops of U.S. and Central America.

Twenty-Eighth Annual Meeting
November 5-8, 2015, San Diego, CA. St John of Damascus Orthodox Church, Poway, CA. Theme: Orthodox Working Together. Update on the Assembly of Bishops: Archbishop Nathaniel, Archbishop Benjamin and George Matsoukas. Inter-Orthodox Cooperative Efforts: Ben De La Riva, Executive Director of Project Mexico/St Innocent Orphanage and Andrew Kartalis on cooperative efforts in Cleveland, OH Area in developing a model OCF Program.  Board Members visited Project Mexico Site.  

Twenty-Ninth Annual Meeting
November 17-20, 2016, Cottonwood, UT. St Anna Greek Orthodox Church. Theme:  Helen Creticos Theodoropoulos, “To Each is Given the Manifestation of the Spirit for the Common Good” (1 Cor. 12:7) and Dr. Elizabeth Prodromou, “The Day After the Holy and Great Council: Process, Outcomes and Transformation.”

Thirtieth Annual Meeting
October 28, 2017, Illinois. Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral Center.  Theme: Orthodox Christianity in America: WHERE ARE WE GOING? The Future of the Orthodox Church in the American Cultural Setting. Fr. Frank Marangos –  Finding Our Voice: Orthodox Leadership for the 21st Century. Fr. Hans Jacobse –  The Challenge of Secularism in the Local Parish; Dr. Francis Kostarelos, Religious Pluralism, Fundamentalism and Contested Identities in North American Orthodox Christian Religious Life: The Case of the Greek Orthodox Church in America. His Grace Bishop Paul of Chicago and the Midwest: Progress and Prospect of the Work of the Assembly of Bishops as They Work For Unity Of The Orthodox In USA and Canonical Good Order. 

Thirty-First Annual Meeting
October 20, 2018, St Mary Romanian Orthodox Cathedral, Cleveland, Ohio. PAN-ORTHODOX CLEVELAND. Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, President of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, Keynote Speaker: Pan-Orthodoxy: Truth or Fiction. Presentations by Spokespersons for Pan-Orthodox Ministries in Cleveland including: Fr. Remus Grama, Overview and history of Pan-Orthodoxy in Cleveland; Bert Moyar, IOCC. Paula Kappos, Zoe for Life. Fr Alessandro Margheritino, Cleveland. Maribeth Lekas, Orthodox Christian Fellowship. Paul Finley, FOCUS, St Herman’s House of Hospitality.

Thirty-Second Annual Meeting
November 2, 2019, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Houston, Texas. Thinking Globally and Acting Locally on Pan-Orthodox Unity, Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver. Kenneth Kidd, Acting Director FOCUS North America. Fr. Stephen Powley, Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry. Michael Spartalis, Adjunct Professor-Business Ethics, University of Houston.

Thirty-Third Annual Meeting
Due to the pandemic restrictions, Orthodox Christian Laity’s 33rd Annual Meeting and Program took place online on November 13, 2020. Theme: Orthodox Christian Saints of North America: How Their Lives and Work Draw all Orthodox Christian Faithful toward Unity in the Faith. We looked forward to the opportunity to be on the campus of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary as originally planned; however, the online events did allow wider participation by board members, supporters, and other interested individuals from any geographic location. Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield presented an extremely interesting program on American Orthodox Saints from historical sources as well as his own personal experience after having lived in Alaska and served as Dean of St. Herman’s Seminary for many years.

Thirty-Fourth Annual Meeting
Due to continuing restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic, OCL’s held its 34th Annual Program Meeting on the Eve of the feast of St. Nicholas, December 5, 2021. Protodeacon Peter Danilchick made an online presentation on the topic of “The Role of Servant Leadership in Fostering Church Unity” (view a recording of the presentation here: https://youtu.be/sT7sfRbcUIg).

Thirty-Fifth Annual Meeting
On October 14-15, 2022, Orthodox Christian Laity successfully completed its first in-person annual board meeting and conference  (read the report here) since the beginning of the pandemic. This 35th Annual Conference brought together board members, presenters, and participants to the Atlanta metropolitan area from New Jersey, Texas, Utah, Illinois, Florida, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, California, and Georgia. The theme of the Conference, Pan-Orthodox Unity in Action, commenced with a slide presentation by members of the Atlanta Inter-Orthodox Parish Association (AIOPA), followed by a Q&A (Video of AIOPA Presentation available here). The second session of the Conference featured a Panel Discussion on “A Declaration for Orthodox Unity in America” led by Attorney George D. Karcazes with participants: Peter Zarras, George Matsoukas and Alexei Krindatch (Video of Panel Discussion available here). The third and final session featured a presentation by Alexei Krindatch regarding the results of his most recent survey: Changes in Orthodox Church Life in the post-Pandemic America (Video of Alexei Krindatch’s presentation available here).

Regional Open Forums

From 1987- 2011 OCL has hosted 70 REGIONAL OPEN FORUMS throughout the United States as part of its educational outreach program.

De Paul University, Chicago, Illinois – Department of Special Collections and Archives, Richardson Library, houses the OCL Archives.