CHICAGO, IL [MW Communications] - The Diocesan Council met at Archangel Michael Church in Burbank IL, a southwestern suburb of Chicago, on Tuesday, December 1st for the last of its 2009 semi-annual meetings. After hearing a report from Archbishop Job, receiving updates on Deanery activities, and discussing the ongoing "parish health ministry" initiatives, the assembled clergy and lay delegates took action to begin the episcopal selection process as agreed at the recent Diocesan Assembly in Overland Park, Kansas.
The Archbishop began with a brief overview, stating that the recent meeting of the Lesser Synod in Milwaukee discussed the process on the diocesan level of identifying potential Episcopal candidates. The issue is pressing, not only for the Diocese of the Midwest in light of Archbishops Job’s anticipated retirement in Spring 2011, but for three other OCA dioceses that are currently vacant: Alaska, The South, and the Bulgarian Diocese. He stated that the “Western Pennsylvania Model” was generally favored, but it could be adjusted to make it more efficient and less drawn out. A major concern was the prevention of a diocese being vacant for too long a time as has been the case over the years. Archbishop Job reported that the details of the process envisioned by the Lesser Synod would be presented to the full Holy Synod for review.
The Archbishop continued by noting his meeting with Metropolitan Herman last month, as a guest of the St. Tikhon's Investigative Committee during their interview with the former Primate. The Committee was scheduled to meet with Archdeacon Klimitchev today (December 1st).
• The Archbishop noted several meetings with Anglicans, who have expressed interest in joining the OCA. As many of their clergy are twice-married, there are impediments. The talks are currently on hold given the Pope's "tempting" offer to all dissident Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church without much adjustment. One small (13 member) community in southern Illinois is already planning to enter the Orthodox Church in the near future though.
• The Archbishop spoke of meetings with each of our six deaneries, in which late vocations, liturgical matters, youth work and assessments were discussed. Two parishes are seriously in arrears with their assessments: one is embarrassed and making every effort to rectify their situation, the other has requested their debt be forgiven, and has stated that they "would not be able to support the diocese in the future" either. The Archbishop, Dean and Parish Health Facilitator will be working with the parish to change attitudes.
• Archbishop Job will be sending out a letter regarding clergy compensation, because in these economic times some priests are being short-changed as parishes seek to balance their budgets on the backs of their priests.
• The Deans then gave brief reports, and a decision to liquidate the properties of a northern Minnesota parish that is closing was put on hold to see if moving the historic building 30 miles (so as to be used by a new OCA mission) was not a better use of resources.
• Brief reports on events in the OCA were given by Metropolitan Council members. The Archbishop was questioned concerning ongoing lawsuits in the OCA, and if Robert Kondratick was still was still employed by the OCA, was still leading the Venice parish, and was still receiving holy communion, despite his $250 million lawsuit against the OCA. Frs Wojcik and Fr Gibson noted that Metropolitan Jonah assured us at the recent Assembly this would be addressed in short order. Archbishop Job said that has not happened. The question of Bishop Nikolai also arose. The Archbishop noted the Serbian Church has communicated that they will accept Bishop Nikolai, but only when he has a canonical release from the OCA. The Synod has said he must drop all lawsuits with prejudice, as well as express repentance for his actions in Alaska. Archbishop Job reported that Bishop Nikolai’s health appears t be deteriorating rapidly and askd for prayers for the ailing Bishop.
• As finances had been discussed at the Diocesan Assembly 60 days earlier, and a review of the materials presented showed the Diocese was operating in the black as agreed upon, little discussion was held on finances at this meeting. The Diocese is still making its transition to QuickBooks to make future discussions of finances easier.
• The Diocesan Parish Health Facilitator, Joe Kormos, reported that Fr John Matusiak has made pamphlets, articles and bible studies which all parishes will be able to download and personalize from the diocesan website. Webinars have been presented on the internet. Other webinars will include skill building for clergy will be offered by Fr Joseph Gibson. Various helpful workshops are scheduled for January and February in Kansas City and Ohio. Workshops are planned, including helping develop parish councils, and a major Parish Ministries Conference is planned in Cleveland for June 27-30, 2010 by the OCA’s Departments of Youth, Christian Education and Liturgical Music, in which the Diocesan Parish Health Program will participate.
In its afternoon session the Council began discussing the episcopal selection process. The Archbishop, who blessed the discussion, then left to participate in a telephone conference call of the OCA Synod. After lengthy discussion among the Council members and Deans, a seven person committee composed of three clergy and four laity, to be facilitated by Michael Dorosh, was nominated to report back to the Council by January 15th with both a process for the selection, and criteria to evaluate potential candidates. One major goal is to use every diocesan opportunity between now Spring 2011 to meet potential candidates, such that when parish delegates and clergy gather in assembly, they will be casting informed ballots.
To begin the work of the committee each council member then jotted down criteria they wanted most to see in the next diocesan hierarch. Among the leading qualities desired were a pastoral attitude, a commitment to evangelism, a proven track record, and openness to change.
Fr. Yavornitzky offered a plan to honor Archbishop Job upon his retirement that envisiones 300 faithful from the Diocese building some 30 houses in his name to help the poor through Project Mexico. The cost would be $1300 per person (all parishioners, age 14 and above could participate) and each participant would be responsible for raising their own expenses. The plan was welcomed. For more information contact Mrs. Ruth Yavornitzky at: firstname.lastname@example.org
At the invitation of the Minneapolis Deanery, the next Diocesan Assembly will be in the Twin Cities area at the beginning of October 2010. This completes the rotation of assemblies as previously agreed upon.
The next Diocesan Council meeting will be June 8-9, 2010 in Chicago.