PHOENIX – The official business of the 41st Clergy-Laity Congress concluded Wednesday July 4, 2012 with the plenary session which lasted all day and was the culmination of the forums, meetings of the committees, workshops, receptions and social events of fellowship–all of which contributed to a very productive and successful Congress, inspiring the delegates and participants to spread the message, Chosen and Appointed by God to Go and Bear Fruit.
The Clergy-Laity Congress was attended by 790 participants, 651 of which were registered delegates from 326 parishes. The National Philoptochos Convention had the second highest participation record with 372 delegates. The grand banquet was attended by over 1400 people.
The work of the committees and the workshops on the ministries of the Church, which started on Monday following the opening session, continued all day Tuesday, July 3. The work of these two days was the core of the Clergy-Laity Congress, providing both information and forums to present new ideas and develop the ministries and the organizations of the Church. The delegates, clergy and laity alike, reported finding the information presented throughout as edifying and valuable for their ministry in the parishes.
The Plenary Session began on Wednesday at 9 am and continued until 5 pm with only a short lunch break. It consisted of reports from committees, ministries, and affiliated organizations and institutions of the Church. The reports presented and discussed were by the following: Archdiocesan Advisory Committee on Science and Technology (AACST); Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; Leadership 100 presented by chairman Charles Cotros; Greek Education; Parish Development; Outreach, Missions and Evangelism; Administration Committee; Stewardship; Communications; Internet; Finance; Chaplaincy; Religious Education; Youth and Camping Ministries; and Family and Marriage.
Following the presentation of the Administration Committee report, there was significant discussion regarding the issue of convening the Clergy-Laity Congress every three years instead of every two years as the practice has been for many decades. Finally the overwhelming majority voted to maintain the current frequency of the Clergy-Laity Congresses at every two years.
The Resolutions Committee presented five resolutions which were adopted by the majority of the delegates. These were: 1) a resolution of support for the suffering people in Greece, 2) a resolution on the Patriarchate of Antioch and the situation in Syria, 3) a resolution for the protection of religious freedom of all Christians in Egypt, 4) a resolution supporting accessibility of church facilities to people with disabilities, and 5) a resolution of “Thanks.” (See the resolutions online at http://www.goarch.org/news/2012congressresolutions)
In his closing remarks at the Plenary Session, Archbishop Demetrios of America expressed his gratitude to all the delegates for their diligent work and participation and to the all the Metropolitans for listening lovingly. He said that special care should be given to young adults and college students, for the Orthodox Christian family, in outreach to the unchurched and the baptized who are not regularly practicing, and to the opportunities for outreach that arise in our parishes on occasions like church festivals. The Patriarchal Representative Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto expressed gratitude for the respect he received and for what is being done by the Church in America for our Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The day concluded with a Grand Banquet attended by an estimated 1400 people. Archon Theofanis Economidis, Congress co-chairman, was the master of ceremonies and offered welcoming remarks to the participants, followed by remarks by co-chair Isidiros Garifalakis. Aphrodite Skeadas, the President of the National Philoptochos, recognized the 80th Anniversary of the Philoptochos in her inspiring greetings. Greetings were also offered by the Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States, Pavlos Anastasiadis. The highlight of the evening was a special 4th of July patriotic musical presentation by Rev. Fr. John Bakas, Soprano Michele Patzakis and Baritone Constantine Pappas. A special tribute for the 75th Anniversary of Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology was presented by its President, Fr. Nicholas Triantafilou, followed by a video presentation on the School prepared by GOTelecom.
Remarks and pastoral exhortations were also offered at the banquet by Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco, the Patriarchal Representative Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto, and Archbishop Demetrios of America, who said that this Congress set a high level of achievement in all aspects of its work and reiterated the need to focus on the issues of youth, the disconnected and non-practicing Orthodox Christians, and the rebuilding of St. Nicholas Church at the World Trade Center as beacon for faith and Orthodoxy worldwide.
Finally, today Thursday July 5, the Congress closed with a farewell Clergy fellowship breakfast.