The first day of meetings of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America reflected a growing collegiality and cooperation among those present. Forty-three hierarchs representing 11 jurisdictions are in attendance. The morning began with hierarchs participating in a common celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in Des Plaines, IL.
“Today…we are here together in unity and joy in full awareness of the truth that the love of Christ has brought us together and is with us,” said Archbishop Demetrios, Chairman of the Assembly, in his opening remarks to the hierarchs. “As we stand with awe, having prayed the Divine Liturgy and received the precious Body and Blood of our Lord, we are not only in God’s presence but also more importantly, we experience His presence as one undivided Body—His Body.”
His Eminence asked the hierarchs to keep in mind a number of issues over the course of the next several days: the threat to Orthodox Christians in other parts of the world and the kidnapped Syrian bishops whose whereabouts are still unknown; the responsibility to offer a complete and authentic image and experience of Christ to faith-seeking Americans; and an acknowledgment of our many blessings and the accompanying responsibility to promote and share the Orthodox faith to those who are suffering and in need.
His Grace Bishop Basil, Secretary of the Assembly, initiated a candid conversation in the afternoon on the vision of the Assembly, and how the Assembly is to interpret and act on the Chambésy decision. Break-out groups followed, in which hierarchs shared their views and then reported back to the group at-large. Further discussion on this topic, including proposals for canonical restructuring, is planned for Wednesday.
An outcome of Tuesday’s meeting was the creation of a new committee to oversee agencies and endorsed organizations. The committee will review recommendations that have been made as to the relationship between the Assembly and its agencies and organizations, and determine criteria for future agency and organization endorsement. The committee’s members will be those hierarchs who serve as agency liaisons, with a chairperson to be appointed.