On Wednesday, July 28, 2021, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon was hosted by Archpriest Thomas Soroka for a live conversation in which His Beatitude formally announced the convening of the 20th All-American Council. The Council will take place at the Hilton Inner Harbor Hotel in Baltimore, MD on July 18–22, 2022.
His Beatitude pointed out that, as in the past, the Council will take place in conjunction with the National Convention of the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America (FOCA). Additionally, the Council will again have a youth component.
The 20th All-American Council was initially scheduled for the end of July 2021. However, in light of the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, last December the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America approved the decision of the Metropolitan Council to postpone the 20th All-American Council from July 2021 to July 2022.
His Beatitude began by quoting the Statute of the Orthodox Church in America, the governing document of our autocephalous Church. According to Article III, Section 1, “The All-American Council is the highest legislative and administrative authority within the Church. The Council brings together the various elements of the Church to bear witness to her identity, unity, and mission.” His Beatitude also emphasized that, “The All-American Council is an incredible opportunity for all parts of the Church to gather together and to express the conciliarity of our autocephalous Church. Although last year the pandemic prevented us from celebrating the 50th anniversary of the granting of autocephaly, it is an event that we should be grateful for, and the All-American Council is the key expression of our work as a local Church.”
The regular sessions of the All-American Council convene every three years. Its members are delegates from various bodies within the Orthodox Church in America, as well as observers and guests. Delegates are members of the Holy Synod, parish priests, assigned deacons, lay delegates from parishes, military chaplains, members of the Metropolitan Council, representatives from theological institutions, superiors of monasteries, and members of the Preconciliar Commission. The Council also welcomes observers who may be admitted in accordance with the registration procedures but without the right to vote (Article III, Section 2).
His Beatitude then urged all of our parishes, monasteries, and institutions to begin their planning for this event. He noted that parishes should especially be reminded that, according to our Statute, they must “elect at a Parish Assembly lay delegates equal to the number of priests… and a single alternate. In order to be validly elected and accredited, the lay delegates and alternate to the All-American Council from Parishes must be Voting Members of the Parish” (Article III, Section 7.a)
Additionally, participation in the Council presents an important financial cost for each parish, monastery, and institution; as such, they should properly budget for this event ahead of time.
His Beatitude then introduced the theme of the 20th All-American Council as approved by the Metropolitan Council, the Holy Synod of Bishops, and the Preconciliar Commission. He pointed out that, having lived through the pandemic over the last sixteen months, people are seeking answers, truths, peace, and, most of all, God. As a matter of fact, many of our parishes are welcoming a great number of inquirers and catechumens. His Beatitude continued, “the Orthodox Church is that safe haven where peace is found, where people are nurtured, where answers are found not just for our intellects but for our hearts. The Church is where truth abides because she is the Body of Christ, Jesus Christ our Lord who reveals Himself to us as ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6).”
“The present challenges,” His Beatitude noted, “urge us ever more to reflect and prayerfully consider what our vocation is as a people, as Christians, and as Church. And that’s why the Holy Synod of the Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America chose ‘vocations’ as the theme of the upcoming All-American Council. Yet, before we even talk about the specific kinds of vocations in the Church, it is important to affirm unmistakably and unhesitatingly that the most important vocation—and one that is shared by every single man, woman, and child—is to become like the perfect human being, to become like Jesus Christ. It is to grow in the likeness of our Lord, God, and Savior in whose image we were created.”
The theme is thus “Becoming Vessels of Grace” as anchored to the greater theme of vocations. His Beatitude noted that, “We offer ourselves and we journey toward fuller union with our God through different vocations, since we are all called to serve the Church in unique ways. And the Church, as a good and loving mother, is called to guide each of her children in this process. This is why nurturing, supporting, developing vocations—priesthood, diaconate, monasticism, choir ministry, lay ministries, etc.—is a primary responsibility for us.” On this note, His Beatitude clarified that by “us” he was not referring solely to the bishops, or the Central Administration, or the seminaries. “Us” means the Church, each and every one of us. His Beatitude explained, “That’s why I write in my Four Pillars, ‘What is called for is a Church-wide endeavor, involving every parish, institution, and individual of the Orthodox Church in America.’”
The 20th All-American Council webpage is now live. There will be various links posted throughout the next twelve months, including necessary information for registration. Registration will officially open in January.
Finally, His Beatitude noted that there are various meetings planned over the course of the next year that will be focused on the preparation of the 20th All-American Council. Among these meetings, the Metropolitan Council and the Holy Synod will gather for their regular Fall Sessions this October in Cleveland, OH. Moreover, during the same week the two bodies will come together for two days in an extended meeting that will also include Diocesan Chancellors, representatives from the three OCA seminaries, and superiors from four monastic communities. This special meeting has very few precedents in the life of our Church. It will be an opportunity for the leadership of the Church to gather together after a long hiatus due to the pandemic, and to share ideas, pray together, and discuss the topic of vocations.