June 23, 1999
SCOBA Holds Spring Meeting
Expresses full Support for Archbishop Spyridon
and for Serbian Orthodox Church
New York, NY - Today, His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, convened the semi-annual meeting of SCOBA, (Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas) in Syosset, New York. The meeting took place at the headquarters of the OCA at the invitation of Metropolitan Theodosius, Primate of the OCA. Archbishop Spyridon, who as the Exarch of the Ecumenical Throne is the Chairman of SCOBA, opened the meeting with prayer and remarks (full text of remarks are appended).
The agenda for the meeting was extensive, including an extraordinary motion of Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Church made at the conclusion of the meeting. The motion was a fraternal affirmation of the leadership of Archbishop Spyridon and is given in its complete form below.
"It is regrettable that some laymen, influenced by the politics of their corporate board rooms, have brought to the Church and to His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon, our Chairman of SCOBA, a secular and unecclesial mindset.
"Therefore I would like to make a motion that we in SCOBA support Your Eminence Archbishop Spyridon in all your endeavors to build the Church as the Body of Christ, because we know you very well and we see your blessed work as Archbishop and the good shepherd of the flock who hears the voices and concerns of the clergy and laity who comprise the Body of Christ, and you are faithful to Holy Tradition.
"The SCOBA members ask all Orthodox Faithful in the USA and Canada not to resort to such groups to have their voices heard. We must solve our problems within the Church."
The motion passed unanimously and was followed by another motion congratulating Archbishop Spyridon on the recognition he has received from the U.S. State Department for his leadership and work in human rights and religious freedom.
The meeting was chaired by the Archbishop and attended by the following member Hierarchs (listed by office in SCOBA, host, seniority, and proxy): Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church (Secretary of SCOBA), Metropolitan Nicholas of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church (Ecumenical Patriarchate and Treasurer of SCOBA), Metropolitan Theodosius of the OCA (the host for today's meeting), Archbishop Victorin of the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada, Metropolitan Constantine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (Ecumenical Patriarchate), Bishop Antoun who represented Metropolitan Philip (Vice Chairman) of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, and Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthou who directs Inter-Orthodox Relations for SCOBA, and is the Executive Director of the Ecumenical Office for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. Archbishop Peter, the OCA bishop of New York also attended the meeting.
During the course of the meeting, the Hierarchs of SCOBA unanimously approved the following statement on Kosovo and the Balkans:
STATEMENT OF KOSOVO AND THE BALKANS
The large-scale violence and atrocities in Kosovo as well as the bombing of Yugoslavia have come to an end. Many Albanian refugees and expellees are returning to Kosovo. Many Serbs of Kosovo are now fleeting. In a courageous pastoral act, Patriarch Pavle has moved to Pec in Kosovo, the ancient patriarchal see of the Church of Serbia, to emphasize his appeal to the Serbs of Kosovo to stay in their ancestral land, relying on the international force which has entered Kosovo to protect the Serbs and Albanians of Kosovo alike.
We express our support of Patriarch Pavle and of Bishop Artemije, the Serbian Orthodox Church's Bishop of Kosovo's see of Raska-Prizren, in their appeal for intercommunal peace and in their commitment to the continuing and historic presence of Serbs in Kosovo. We commend and support the policy of the international force in Kosovo (FOR) defending the right of Serbs and Albanians alike in Kosovo to live at peace in their land. While war appears to have ended in Kosovo, the peace has not been won. What lies ahead is the painful and difficult work of conflict-resolution and reconciliation, rebuilding and reconstruction in Kosovo, in Yugoslavia as a whole, and in the whole of southeastern Europe. The religious communities of the region must take a full and active part in the work of building a peaceful and just present and future for all the peoples of the region. If peace is to be won for all of southeastern Europe, it is particularly important that the Orthodox Churches of the region assume an active and constructive regional role in spiritual renewal, economic reconstruction, and humanitarian responsibility. It is critically important that the Serbian Orthodox Church be given quick and strong affirmation as a key participant in the process of regional reconstruction, and that this involvement of the Church of Serbia be understood as an important starting point for the civil and democratic renewal of Yugoslavia.
Finally, we affirm and endorse the on-going work of the humanitarian agency of the Orthodox Christians in the United States and Canada, International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) in Yugoslavia and southeastern Europe. IOCC has had a strong presence in the Balkans for seven years, and is now engaged in an effort to build on this foundation by establishing a regional response to the Balkan crisis -- a response which would include Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Albania, the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, and Greece. We commend IOCC and its work to Orthodox faithful and parishes, and urge our Orthodox people to give their strong financial and moral support to IOCC. We also commend IOCC to the various governments, to international and regional organizations, and to humanitarian agencies as an Orthodox humanitarian agency fully committed to humanitarian help for people of all ethnic and religious groups in the spirit of reconciliation.
During the course of the five hour meeting, the SCOBA Hierarchs discussed various issues concerning deposed clergy and non-canonical churches. They also heard reports from the Executive Director of IOCC, Dean Triantafilou, who had just returned from Belgrade, on the humanitarian work of IOCC in the region. Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthou gave an update on ecumenical affairs, including updates on the last two meetings of Orthodox/Roman Catholic dialogues and the Orthodox/Lutheran dialogues. It was also decided to re-instate the Orthodox/Episcopalian dialogue, beginning in November of this year. Archbishop Spyridon has been working with SCOBA Hierarchs and the leadership of the Episcopal Church to restart this dialogue for the past two years. Metropolitan Maximos of Aenou, the presiding Hierarch of Greek Orthodox Diocese of Pittsburgh will head up the Orthodox delegation on behalf of SCOBA. Written reports from OCMC (Orthodox Christian Mission Center) and the SCOBA Scouting Commission were received as well.
There were also reports on SCOBA plans for the observance of the Millennium. SCOBA has designated the Sunday of Orthodoxy, 2000 to be its official observance of the Millennium with a special service at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York City. There will also be a major SCOBA encyclical issued for the occasion and a joint press statement. Joint regional events, including youth events and special joint choral concerns will highlight the year.
In other business, the Hierarchs asked Metropolitan Nicholas of the Carpatho-Russian Church to serve as Chairman of the SCOBA Study and Planning Commission.
GREETINGS OF HIS EMINENCE ARCHBISHOP SPYRIDON
TO THE SCOBA MEETING
Syosset, New York - 23 June, 1999
"My dear brothers in the Lord,
I greet you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in whose living care I trust our Arch-pastorates dwell in grace and truth and love. It is especially refreshing to be together with you as we seek to discern the will of God for us and for the Church in the Western Hemisphere.
We gather together as one family in Christ Jesus on the eve of the new millennium, and we each desire to see our Churches united and one in the complex culture of this, our great nation. Let us rejoice together my brothers, that we share one common cup of salvation in the Body and Blood of our Lord. Our common bond of love proclaims with power Christ's living presence amongst us and glorifies the name of God. It is by His power and the Holy Spirit that we walk in the shoes of the Apostles themselves. The Lord makes us new in Him, renewing that image placed within us of old. As we are renewed in Christ, we seek together to know His will and His grace. "The newness of Spirit promises to us by the Gospel in our inheritance and our legacy; the tongues of fire upon which our faith was based burn within us still. Our Churches, the faithful Christians in them and those who long to find Orthodoxy in this thirsty land are counting upon us to reveal the road to salvation to them. The aridity of the culture around us longs for the refreshing blessings of the water of life, and we are the bearers of the fullest measure of that refreshment.
"As human beings, our tendency is always to seek solutions to our worldly problems in the exercise of our worldly authority. We are quick to become caught up in the principalities and powers of this world. We tend to seek the answer to unity in the visible signs of authority, forgetting all too quickly the heavenly commandments that have been given to us. We shall not succeed in finding the unity of our earthly selves in the trappings of power that is of this world. We must find the strength to join one another in what the blessed St. Paul calls the more excellent way.
"In a few days, we shall celebrate the feasts of Saints Peter and Paul. In the icon of these two great pillars of our faith's history, they embrace exchanging the kiss of peace. For us, we see in that kiss the conflicts of their own disagreements through the lens of the unity in Christ Jesus. In their embrace is the promise of the Church's future victory over our own tendencies for the trappings of earthly authority.
"In the midst of our diversities and our struggles to grow and flourish in this complex culture, each of our jurisdictions sought to answer our respective community's needs to the best of our ability. We did so believing in ourselves and in the Lord's great gifts of spiritual blessings, each according to the gifts bestowed upon them by God.
"As the spiritual leaders of our communities, we must seek the more excellent way, the higher calling that our priesthood has bestowed upon us. As we address the issues on our agenda today, let us remember the sacrifices of those who came before us. Let us seek a consensus about our future while we remain connected to our past. Let us honor history as the very means by which God Himself revealed and reveals Himself to us.
"The history of SCOBA is a revelation of the Church of herself, to herself. SCOBA is an organic part of our development as Orthodox Christians in the United States. Through SCOBA, we continue to honor our venerable Mother Churches whose care and concerns we must continue to honor according to the commandments given to Israel at Mt. Sinai.
"The continued significance of SCOBA in the life of our Churches is evident in today's deliberations. We must act in love and express our Lord's love in every decision we take. We must honor the love our Mother Churches have shown us through time. The Ecumenical Patriarchate seeks the unity of the Faith in Love. She seeks the "globalization of love," as His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew has so aptly put it, with Orthodoxy being the universal guide for all to find the truth of Christ's love and presence in all things, times and places.
"We also look forward with joy and anticipation to the visit of His Beatitude, Patriarch Ignatios of Antioch. We share with our brother Metropolitan Philip, the pleasant anticipation of experiencing the blessings of Antioch's ancient honor in the contemporary modernity of American culture. Surely there is wisdom in respecting the past even as we seek to discover the road to our future.
"Today's agenda calls us to consider many complex issues. As Hierarchs, we must discuss deposed clergy and divergent communities. We must continuously address the complexities of jurisdiction and social justice. We must address the significance of the Millennium to our parishioners keeping our perspective in the light of Christ's directive to discern our path in the world without concern about the Lord's intentions in temporal history.
"Let us move forward with our heads held high; let us be proud of our complex origins, our ethnic diversities and our cultural growth in the United States as Americans. Let us express without reservation the truth of our feelings and experiences in the context of our evolution in America. Let us strive to reason together in the context of our history, rather than abandoning our unique histories in favor of the mirages of newness and novelty. Let us find our unity in the common cup of salvation, in the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior. He will truly and surely guide us in our journey toward earthly union, having directed us by His heavenly example. "May Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the strength of the Holy Spirit guide us all toward the Truth in Love."
June 23, 1999 ]