by Fr. Daniel Findikyan
Standing Conference of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in America
Minutes of the Fall 2010 Meeting, Thursday, October 7, 2010
The Autumn 2010 meeting of the Standing Conference of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in America was held at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New Rochelle, New York on Thursday, October 7, 2010. Archbishop Yeghishé Gizirian opened the meeting with a prayer. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian greeted all present. Fr. Jacob had originally invited us to his parish for this meeting, but he had to travel to Egypt and expresses his regrets at not being able to attend.
Oriental Orthodox Autumn 2010
It was requested that we add to the agenda:
(1) Situation of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt;
(2) U.N. Convention on Terrorism.
The Minutes of March 10, 2010 meeting were reviewed. The minutes were approved
a. Oriental Orthodox Youth
Abp. Khajag reported that an invitation was sent to all sister churches to
attend the annual Armenian youth general assembly last May. Two Syrian Orthodox
young people attended. There was discussion about how to expand this effort. Fr.
John Rizkalla announced that the Coptic Orthodox Church is organizing a regional
gathering at the beginning of November. Fr. Ambe said that his church also has a
youth fellowship that is growing. He will invite the Armenian and Syrian
Orthodox youth from the area to attend. Fr. John will do the same.
Sayidna Cyril spoke about the general decline in young people's commitment to spiritual/faith activities. He suggested hosting a forum to discuss how we can address this challenge: youth participation in the life of the Oriental Orthodox Churches today. The forum could be sponsored by SCOOCH. One full day consisting of two sessions: learning from people involved in youth ministry, some from outside our tradition (Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox); and learning from the youth. What are they thinking? The forum will relate to the mission of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the New World. Fr. John Rizkalla, Fr. Daniel and Fr. Kess will work with Sayidna Cyril to organize this event.
b. Oriental Orthodox Website
Fr. Daniel introduced the new Standing Conference Website: www.scooch.org, which is now up and running. He is being assisted by Jeremy Gayed, a Coptic Orthodox young man who has his own web design business, and was recommended by Fr. Jacob Ghaly.
c. Joint Commission of the Eastern/Oriental Orthodox Churches
Abp. Vicken announced that SCOBA no longer exists. It has been replaced by the Assembly of Eastern Orthodox Churches. The OCA is not a part of this body. The two chairmen are Metropolitan Philip and the new Russian Orthodox Archbishop. Bishop Basil of the Antiochian Orthodox Church is the secretary and Bishop Antony of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the treasurer. The synod is still in the formative stages.
Officially, nothing has changed with regard to our Oriental Orthodox / Eastern Orthodox activities. As their situation becomes clearer, we will have a better understanding of their relationship with us.
Abp. Zekarias emphasized that the relationship between the Oriental Orthodox and the Eastern Orthodox must be clarified.
d. Eastern Orthodox / Oriental Orthodox Prayer Service for U.N.
Fr. Meno reported. It was not possible for the Ethiopian Orthodox to host the U.N. Service this year, as we had hoped. Neither was the Malankara Archdiocese able to host it on late notice. The recent restructuring of the Eastern Orthodox Churches in the United States further complicated the issue.
It was decided to cancel this year's service given the late date. We will host the event next October. Abp. Khajag will write a letter to Abp. Demetrius informing him of this decision.
It was suggested that instead of having one of our OO churches host the event from year to year, we organize it together, using an original service that would comprise portions of each of our traditions, and could be reused year after year. One of our hierarchs could still host the event.
Fr. Daniel spoke against composing a single common service, which artificially brings together elements from very different traditions and in the end does not represent any one of them.
It was further suggested that a standing committee be created to oversee this project every year. This committee would take care of all of the logistics: invitations, reception, public relations, et al.
It was decided to appoint a joint organizing committee, but not to compose a "common" service. Abp. Vicken nominated Fr. Tateos and Fr. Jacob to lead the committee. Fr. Meno will represent the Syrian Orthodox Church.
e. Christian Churches Together
Neither Abp. Vicken nor Sayidna Cyril was present at the last meeting. The annual meeting will take place January 11-14, 2011 in Alabama. The Armenian, Coptic and Syrian Orthodox Churches are members. Sayidna said that it is important for us to be members.
f. Oriental Orthodox Church Schools
Fr. Meno reported that the Armenian, Coptic and Syrian Orthodox Church Schools have a good relationship although only the Syrian Orthodox were present at a recent meeting. Fr. Kess noted that Deacon Petrus, who was appointed to represent the Ethiopian Orthodox, has relocated. Abp. Zekarias intends to appoint a replacement soon.
g. Roman Catholic / Oriental Orthodox Dialogue – U.S.
Fr. Meno reported. The last meeting took place on September 20-21 at the Passionist Retreat Center in the Bronx. There were two topics of discussion: (1) Proselytism by Evangelical Christians in our home countries. Fr. Daniel and Fr. Jacob spoke concerning the situation in Armenia and Egypt, respectively. (2) The position of the Holy See on the status of Jerusalem. Fr. Anthony added that the Catholics spoke about the new "Ordinariates" that are being created within the Roman Catholic Church for former Episcopalians.
Unfortunately none of our hierarchs were able to be present. It has been proposed that the next meeting take place on October 6-7, 2011. All of the bishops agreed that this was a good date. Fr. Meno will notify Fr. Ron Roberson.
With the imminent closure of the Passionist Retreat House in the Bronx, the next meeting will take place at the Bishop Malloy Retreat House in Queens, NY.
The topic of next year's meeting will be an evaluation of the achievements of the consultation with discussion of what direction our work should take in the future. Fr. Aelred Cody's article on the history of the Consultation will be presented and reviewed. Representatives from each of the churches will present their assessments.
Abp. Khajag suggested that we focus on pastoral issues and leave more strictly doctrinal matters to the international consultation. This needs to be clarified. Abp. Vicken suggested we speak about Oriental Orthodox using Catholic Church sanctuaries when necessary to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. In what ways can we cooperate on a pastoral level? Fr. Meno will send an email to the hierarchs soliciting their suggestions for future topics of consultation. He will compile these topics for us to discuss at our next meeting.
h. Official Roman Catholic / Oriental Orthodox Dialogue – International
The next meeting will be in Rome at the end of January. There is nothing new to report at this time. There is a new President of the Council for Christian Unity: Abp. Kurt from Basel, Switzerland.
i. Next Concelebrated Divine Liturgy
Fr. Meno warmly congratulated our Ethiopian brothers for the spectacular concelebrated liturgy that they hosted this summer. Until now people are talking about this event.
It was suggested that the Coptic Orthodox Church host the concelebrated Liturgy next year. Fr. David will speak with Bishop David and get back to us.
1. U.N. Commission on Terrorism
Fr. Anthony spoke about the consultations ongoing at the U.N. concerning elimination of international terrorism. He asked to what extent the Oriental Orthodox Churches could be involved in "second-level diplomacy."
2. Situation of Coptic Orthodox in Egypt
Fr. David spoke about recent tensions and mass rallies in Egypt directed against the Copts of Egypt and especially against His Holiness Pope Shenouda. No such thing has ever happened before, he said. In recent days the situation has settled somewhat.
During and after lunch participants shared news from the sister churches. Sayidna announced that Fr. John Meno will be retiring from his pastorate and duties at St. Mark's Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Teaneck, NJ and relocating to North Carolina. Sayidna has asked him to continue his ecumenical duties for the Archdiocese. Khajag Srpazan expressed love and gratitude on behalf of this Conference for Fr. Meno's many accomplishments and most of all for his loving dedication to our work and to the ministry of the Gospel among our churches. He is the senior member of this Conference. Fr. Meno expressed gratitude for these words and asked for the prayers of all of the members. He also commended Fr. Joseph Chamoun, who will assume pastoral duties at St. Mark's.
Several people shared reminiscences of Fr. John and offered good wishes.
There was an extended discussion about the need for Seminary education among the Oriental Orthodox Churches in North America, even the concept of a common Seminary where we could live and study together, while maintaining our distinct traditions. Dr. Terian suggested that each church should seek to endow a chair at St. Nersess specializing in an aspect of their own tradition.
The next meeting will take place on Thursday, March 10, 2011. It was suggested that we meet at the Coptic Center in Cedar Grove, NJ. Fr. David Bebawy will consult with Bishop David and give word to Fr. Daniel. If Cedar Grove is not possible, then Sayidna invited us to St. Mark's in Teaneck.
The meeting ended at 2:45PM with a prayer offered by Sayidna Mor Cyril.
Fr. Daniel Findikyan
Source: SOCM Forum, Thu Nov 4, 2010
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