|– St. Mary’s Cathedral Cleveland, OhioOn October 17-19, the 2008 Orthodox Brotherhood Conference was held in Cleveland, Ohio. Attendance was up a bit from last year, with new members participating.|
|The delegates were hosted by St. Mary’s parish priest Fr. Remus Grama. Spiritual Advisor Fr. Dimitrie Vincent and Episcopate Chancellor Archdeacon David Oancea were also present. As well, Fr. Ian Pac-Urar from Holy Presentation, Akron (Joint Dialogue Commission member) and Fr. Anton Frunza from Holy Annunciation, Grand Rapids, Mich. (SOLIA Romanian editor) participated.
President Dan Miclau opened the Conference session on Friday evening. Fr. Grama and Conference chairman Dave Salanty welcomed everyone. The executive board covered the delegates’ work, reports, finances and membership. Along with its sister auxiliary in Canada, the “Fratia” or “Brotherhood” is the layperson SERVICE auxiliary of our Episcopate, and has “been there” when extra eyes, hands and pockets have been needed to make important projects “happen”.
On Friday and again Saturday morning’s sessions, the delegates reviewed and approved program and financial reports, which include:
At President Miclau’s request, on Saturday afternoon Fr. Vincent set out a really involving presentation, packed with facts and wide-open discussion, to help in the analysis of the Unity project now being contemplated by our Romanian Orthodox Episcopate (ROEA) which is under the canonical coverage of the Orthodox Church in America, and the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of the Americas (ROAA) which is under the Orthodox Church of Romania.
St. Mary’s parish priest Fr. Grama had both a baptism and wedding scheduled, so Fr. Pac-Urar, participated in the discussions, as he, along with Fr. Grama is on our Episcopate’s 5-member Dialogue Commission. The afternoon was divided between Frs. Vincent, Frunza and Oancea leading the discussions.
First came Fr. Dimitrie’s interactive workshop, where everyone got familiar with the Unity Dialogue’s 16-year history, by answering a questionnaire with the aid of our official Annual Church Congress Reports over the years. Many eyes were opened by its start-and-stop history especially when Fr. Pac-Urar confirmed that the Romanian ROAA has always been firm that “the day will never come that they would ever leave the Romanian Patriarchate”. This is why the talks were stalled for a number of years.
Next came Fr. Frunza’s PowerPoint presentation, with his detailed outline of how our JDC needs to be more careful in negotiating about possible Unification. He showed that the 20 point “Proposal to Establish a Romanian Orthodox Metropolitanate of North America” contravenes the newly passed Romanian Orthodox Church Constitution and by-laws that were ratified in late 2007. He also showed how much more work needs to be finished if the 2 dioceses can even begin to contemplate any kind of union given the outstanding legal and financial issues. Most importantly he underlined the very different cultures that have grown over 60 years of separation. He showed how the Romanian ROAA has maintained a post 1945 Romanian autocratic culture in its structures and organization compared to a much more American style adopted in the American ROEA. He pointed out that in 2008, the Church of Romania abolished the laypeople’s traditional right to be 2/3’s of the vote in all elections of Romania’s bishops. Obviously, clear-headed negotiation has got to protect the church life we’ve set up in Canada and America. The Romanian Patriarchate’s new Constitution and by-laws contravenes our own traditions, culture and understanding of what Orthodoxy truly is; Hierarchal AND Conciliar, together, Bishops, Priests, Deacons and laity forming the body of Christ, i.e. the Church. When Hierarchal is taken to mean non-conciliar we no longer have Orthodoxy but Roman Catholicism. Imperial autocracy is not Orthodoxy. This is not even the culture of pre 1945 Romanian Orthodoxy, let alone post 1945 American ROEA religious culture. The incompatibility of the American ROEA and the Romanian ROAA was thus highlighted as a major obstacle to any Unity, even under the OCA.
Fr. Archdeacon Oancea followed with a short talk. He likewise stressed that our American ROEA Vatra Episcopate is far different in style than the Romanian ROAA. He pointed out that if any Unity talks were to be successful, a consensus blueprint would first have to be drawn up and then respected. Essential would be keeping a solid front among the reverend clergy and the laypeople. If our Episcopate’s history has proven one thing, it is that our laypeople’s central role in our Church life has been pivotal to our proven track record of growth that has made our Episcopate admired for its staying-power and energy. It has faithfully combined the best of Romanian and American Orthodoxy. It has stood the test of time in the face of adversity.
A wide-open Q&A discussion followed, with many airing their opinions, and getting out in the open a lot of questions and points that had been murky. Fr. Pac-Urar tried to field the many questions which put in doubt the need for unity under Bucharest. It was clear from the questions that most people wanted unity but that this unity should be under the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and not be under Bucharest Patriarchal rule. The fact that the ROEA Dialogue Commission overstepped its mandate and negotiated unity without the authority to do so and in complete violation of our ROEA Vatra Constitution and by-laws was also tabled, but remained unanswered. The session then drew to an end…
The new 2008-09 executive board was elected and installed, with the new President being Nick Avramaut of St. Mary’s in Cleveland.
Dec. 1, 2008
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PRAYER OF ST. EPHREM
O Lord and Master of my life,
leave me not with the spirit of laziness,
of despair, of domination, or idle words.
Rather, give me, your servant, the spirit of integrity,
of humility, of patience, and of love.
Thus, Lord, grant me the wisdom to see my own faults,
and not condemn my brother;
for You are blessed, now and forever. Amen.
Our Father, who are in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day
our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.