By Theodore Kalmoukos, The National HeraldBOSTON — The proceedings of the first Episcopal Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Hierarchs in North and Central America ended on Friday May 28, 2010 with the dissolution of SCOBA – the Synod of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of America. As reported, the two-day Assembly was held at the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel in New York on May 27-28, 2010 under the chairmanship of Archbishop Demetrios of America. By decision of the Assembly, all organizations and joint action projects operating under SCOBA, such as International Orthodox Christian Charities, will operate under the auspices of the Episcopal Assembly from hereon in.
SCOBA was first established back in 1960 in order to bring the bishops of the various Orthodox jurisdictions operating in America closer together, and promote cooperation and increased synchronization of their ministries. The late Archbishop Iakovos of North and South America had played a key role in the organization’s founding, along with Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Archdiocese.
The assembly came to a formal close with the celebration of the divine liturgy at the Holy Trinity Archdiocesan Cathedral, to mark the brotherhood and unity present at the assembly.
Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Orthodox Church had initially opposed the dissolution of SCOBA, but was eventually convinced and agreed with the majority of the hierarchs.
Other issues discussed included the requests made by Metropolitan Sotirios of Toronto and all Canada and Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico and Central America to partition the present region of the Episcopal Assembly of North and Central America into two distinct regions of the United States and Canada, as well as to merge Mexico and Central America with the Assembly of South America. These requests will be sent to the Ecumenical Patriarchate by the Episcopal Assembly.
Archbishop Demetrios of America served as Chairman of the proceedings, aided by Vice-Chairmen Metropolitan Philip of the Antiochian Archdiocese and Archbishop Justinian of Naro-Fominsk, who is Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in the U.S. Bishop Basil of Wichita was elected as Secretary and Archbishop Antony of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA was elected Treasurer.
The Orthodox Church in America also was represented at the Episcopal Assembly, with Metropolitan Jonah in attendance. Although the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not recognized the OCA’s Autocephaly, Metropolitan Jonah told TNH that the Church he heads has liturgical communion with all the Orthodox Church, despite statements to the contrary made by Metropolitan Philip Saliba and Rev. Mark Arey, Director of the Office of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, that OCA is not recognized by any Church with the exception of Moscow.
During the proceedings various committees were formed that will meet at regular intervals to discuss issues of common interest to all the Orthodox jurisdictions.
There were no direct statement regarding ecclesiastical autocephaly or autonomy, except for a few indirect statement by Metropolitan Philip in regards to the Orthodox Diaspora and Metropolitan Christopher of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America. The American-born Metropolitan Christopher noted that the time is ripe for such an undertaking, but Archbishop Demetrios disagreed.
None of the bishops of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America made any mention of autocephaly or autonomy, while Archbishop Demetrios clarified the role, responsibilities, and goals of the Assembly, noting that coordinated cooperation was sought on behalf of all the Orthodox Churches.
The date of the next Episcopal Assembly was not announced.
May 28, 2010