Orthodox Christian Laity
November 7, 2009
Contact: George Matsoukas – 877-585-0245
The end result of the 22nd Annual Meeting of Orthodox Christian Laity held at Ligonier, PA , October 28-31, 2009, including board meeting and program meeting, is that the work of creating a Unified Orthodox Christian Church in North America requires the time, talent and skills of hierarchy, clergy and laity. OCL is enthusiastic about helping all Orthodox Christians throughout North America know that the process is underway. It encourages discussion at the parish, clergy brotherhood and diocesan levels. It challenges the clergy and laity to become informed about all dimensions of the process. Creating a unifed North American Church which respects our history as a multicultural church with over 2,000 parishes will require the skills and input of theologians (lay and clerical), geographers, research personnel, merger professionals, attorneys, accountants, teachers and communicators, mediators, and archdiocesan administrators, just to outline a few disciplines. All of these skills will work together in harmony with the Episcopal Leadership that is open and fair. We should all be humbled by the opportunity afforded to Orthodox Christians living in North America at this time to build up the Church. The whole process is the work of the Holy Spirit, and everyone must be mindful that they are doing their work to build up the Church in synergy with each other and the Holy Spirit.
All of us, top-down and bottom-up, have a responsibility and duty to be informed about the process, committees, and meetings related to assisting the Assembly of Bishops. The first Episcopal Assembly will take place the week after Pentecost 2010. Working Committees need to be identified, and the clergy and laity should be informed about these committees and how they may provide time, talent and input into the working of the Committees. Right now, the clergy and laity need to know that there is a process underway, with the charge from the Old World Patriarchates to the faithful who live beyond the borders of the ancient world, to show how we can work together to build a unified, multicultural Orthodox Christian Church.
OCL will provide as much information as is possible related to the process of building up the Church on its websites: www.ocl.org and www.orthodoxnews.com. A special feature is being developed devoted to the Countdown toward Unity that will organize the information and allow for feedback. The two recently-published books, Orthodox Christianity at the Crossroad: A Great Council of the Church – When and Why and A Church in Captivity: The Greek Orthodox Church in America (available from Light and Life, Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble) are good primers.
The two-day interactive, conversation format hosted by OCL on “The Road to Unity – From Vision to Action” left the 21 invited hierarchy, clergy and laity panelists/presenters who set the foundation for the conversation on the topics and the audience who interacted with them, uplifted, excited and enthused about working together to build up the Unified American Orthodox Church. The topics discussed are: New Faces of American Orthodox Christianity in the 21st Century; Orthodox Unity at Work and in Service: Orthodoxy Reaches Maturity in America; Unity at Many Levels; An Accountable and Canonical Unified Orthodox Church of Tomorrow; Orthodoxy and American Culture; Youth; Orthodox Communication; The Great and Holy Council, What does it mean for a unified Church in America? You can hear the entire proceedings on Ancient Faith Radio at http://ancientfaith.com/specials/road_to_unity.
At the annual meeting, the board elected Bill Souvall, a native of Salt Lake City, Utah, to serve as OCL’s eleventh president. Mr. Souvall has served on the parish council and Sunday School Staff of Holy Trinity and Prophet Elias Churches. He has been a member of the OCL board since 2004 and is enthusiastic about its mission. He would like to attract “50 something” board members like himself. He is interested in working with all the hierarchs in North America to make the process of building up a unified North American Church a success.
The board also elected Mr. Nicholas Katich to its membership. Mr. Katich helped mediate the union of the separate Serbian Archdioceses in America and assisted in writing the new constitution for the unified Church. He has authored three essays that relate to Church Unity: “Reflections on Ravenna: Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here” (2008); Chalcedonian Canon 28: Historic Truth or Greek Mythology” (2009) and “A Call to Gather Together as a Church: Reflections on lV Chambesy” 2009.
The board and members of OCL are grateful to all the participants including: The Most Blessed Jonah, Metropolitan of All America and Canada – keynote speaker; His Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel, head of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America; His Grace Bishop Thomas, Diocese of Charleston, Oakland and the Mid-Atlantic; His Grace Melchisedek, Diocese of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania; Fr Antonio Perdoma, Fr Hans Jacobse, Fr Justin Mathews, Sister Sarah Elizabeth Oftedel, Deacon John Zarras, George Karcazes, George Pontikes, Peter J Petkas, Peter Marudas, Nicholas Katich, John Maddex, Fr Nicholas Apostola, Christopher Shadid, Fr Peter-Michael Preble, Teva Regule, Bryan Smith and Alexei Krindatch. We especially thank Fr John Cassar, pastor of Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow, Princeton, NJ, who moderated all the groups and participants with love, respect, and intelligence. His communication skills are extraordinary.
The board and members of OCL are also grateful to all those who participated in the Annual Angel Fund Drive that made this extraordinary meeting possible. We also thank Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post–Gazette who spent two days covering the meeting in person. The facilities and staff of Antiochian Village were outstanding, and we thank them for their services.
The OCL board is a dedicated group brought together by the mission of OCL which is to promote spiritual renewal of the ancient faith by advocating administrative unification of the diverse, multi-cultural Orthodox Christian jurisdictions in Norah America, and calling for lay involvement in all aspects of Church life which maintains a balance and conciliarity in church governance insuring accountability and transparency. The fellowship they enjoy as board members is the result of being involved in the local parish life of their communities. They all serve their parishes as council members, Sunday School teachers, cantors, choir members, festival workers and more, and are generous stewards of their time and talent and resources to both their parishes and OCL. The annual meeting re-elected George Pontikes, Peter Haikalis, Nick Karakas, Bill Souvall and Peter Marudas to three year board terms. Evan Chriss, Paul Cromidas and Teva Regule will serve on the advisory board.
We look forward to our 23rd year of service and are planning our 25th anniversary in 2012.