September 22, 2012
Howell, NJ: Metropolitan Hilarion led a Regular Session of the Diocesan Council

On Tuesday, September 4, a regular session of the Diocesan Council was held in Howell, NJ under the chairmanship of the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York. Prior to the start of the meeting, a panihida was held in the lower church of St. Vladimir Memorial Church to the Millennium of the Baptism of Russia in Jackson, NJ at the grave of Archbishop Nikon (Rkitsky), on the occasion of the 36th anniversary of his repose.

Also taking part in the meeting were:

His Grace George, Bishop of Mayfield
His Grace Jerome, Bishop of Manhattan
Archpriest Serge Lukianov – diocesan secretary
Deacon George Temidis
Subdeacon Michael Wengrin – diocesan treasurer
Mr. George N. Nikolsky
Mr. Serge R. Lopoukhine

The meeting opened with the singing of the prayer "O Heavenly King," followed by the reading of the day’s agenda and the minutes of the previous meeting (June 6, 2012). Metropolitan Hilarion approved the minutes of the previous meeting and thanked his vicar bishops and members of the Council for their help in running the diocesan administration during his archpastoral visit to the Australian Diocese.

1. Diocesan Liability Coverage

A report was heard from Diocesan Secretary Archpriest Serge Lukianov regarding two lawsuits against the Diocese and its parishes, which were either dropped or dismissed by the courts. A new insurance policy was acquired to offer liability protection for the Diocese and its officers. The new policy will also cover the cost of legal defense in any future lawsuits against the Diocese.

2. Metropolitan Hilarion’s Namesday Celebration

Council members discussed Met. Hilarion’s upcoming namesday celebrations on November 3rd. Since the feast of St. Hilarion coincides with St. Demetrius Soul Saturday, many clergy will not be able to participate in the divine services because of services in their home parishes. The Council resolved to celebrate Met. Hilarion’s namesday in the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York City with a Divine Liturgy at 9:30 AM. Those parishes who serve on Soul Saturday will have an opportunity to schedule earlier Liturgies and then participate in the festive luncheon after the Liturgy in the Synod. As is customary in the Diocese, a special collection will take place so that all the parishes can participate in a gift for the Metropolitan.

3. Closure of St. Michael’s Parish in Newark, NJ

A report was heard from the Diocesan secretary about the proposed closure of St. Michael’s Church in Newark, NJ. Parish membership has been reduced to six people and the parish council desires to close the parish and sell the church and rectory. Discussions are being held with the parish council to facilitate the closing of the parish and to invest a portion of the sale funds into the construction or purchase of a new church in the Southern part of the Diocese. Met. Hilarion approved the negotiation process and blessed the continued investigation into this matter.

4. Investigation into the Entry of the Theotokos Convent

Bishop George presented the results of a special investigative committee that was appointed by Metropolitan Hilarion to investigate several scandals surrounding the Entry of the Theotokos convent in Maryland. Serving on the committee were Bishop George (chairman), Archpriest Victor Potapov (dean), Archpriest Serge Lukianov, and Hieromonk Alexander (Frizzell). The committee presented its findings to the ruling bishop and, beginning on July 17/30, in accordance with Directive № 07.113.12, the convent is no longer considered a monastic community of the Russian Church Abroad. A directive was sent to the convent’s abbess, notifying her of the decision, and a public statement was published on the diocesan website.

5. 1025th Anniversary of the Baptism of Russia and 75th Anniversary of St. Vladimir Memorial Church

2013 will mark the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia and 75th anniversary of the founding of St. Vladimir Memorial Church in Jackson, NJ. The Diocesan Council unanimously approved the idea of a large scale diocesan celebration to be held on St. Vladimir’s Day, July 27-28, 2013, with the participation of all diocesan clergy. A discussion was held about the possibility of hosting a youth conference during the week leading up to St. Vladimir’s Day, so that the youth would be able to participate in this monumental anniversary. The fundamental theme of the conference would be an analysis of the path of the Church Abroad since 1988, and engagement of the youth in a discussion about their involvement in the Church over the next 25 years, particularly pertaining to missionary work in America. On Wesnesday. July 24, the Great Consecration of the lower church, in honor of the Holy Equal-of-the-Apostles Princess Olga, will be performed.

Preliminary research for the celebration is being conducted by representatives of the diocesan administration and the St. Vladimir’s Society Board of Directors.

6. 400th Anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty

2013 will mark the 400th anniversary of the House of Romanov. The Council resolved to organize a celebration on the Triumph of Orthodoxy, March 24, 2013, the actual day when Tsar Michael Romanov ascended the Russian throne in 1613. Council members proposed to continue the tradition of a joint Great Vespers service with Patriarchal clergy on the Triumph of Orthodoxy. The exact location and schedule of events is to be determined and will be discussed in greater detail at the next Council meeting.

7. General Diocesan Assembly

A report was heard from the Diocesan Secretary about the upcoming Diocesan Assembly, to be held in the Holy Virgin Protection Parish Hall in Nyack, NY on October 10. Metropolitan Hilarion’s directive outlining the assembly procedure was sent to all diocesan clergy. The Assembly is free of charge, but delegates must register online by September 20th if they wish to participate. The agenda will include a state of the diocese address by Metropolitan Hilarion, an auditing report, financial report, reports on the administration, media office, and other diocesan organizations and initiatives.

Delegates will vote for members of the Diocesan Council, auditing committee, and spiritual court. Parish rectors are welcome to nominate candidates whose names will be printed on the ballots, so long as they meet the requirements outlined in ukase №8.34.12 and are received no later than September 20th. Nominations submitted after September 20th will not be printed on the voting ballot. If they are approved by the Metropolitan, they may be written in on the ballots during elections. As per the Metropolitan’s instructions, the Diocesan Council will be comprised of 13 members – three hierarchs, five priests, and five laymen (deacons are here considered laymen). The spiritual court will be comprised of five priests and the auditing committee will be comprised of three laymen or clerics.

The First Hierarch approved several candidates to be printed on the voting ballots. Council members resolved to include brief background information on each candidate to be printed on the ballot.

Diocesan Treasurer Subdeacon Michael Wengrin presented a financial report to the Council and a list of parishes that are noncompliant with the Diocesan Financial Policy. Council members reaffirmed their resolution from the June 4th meeting that stated: "Parishes that do not pay their dues will not have the right to vote at the general meeting." If parishes have paid their full 2011 dues and have submitted at least partial payments for 2012, they will be eligible to vote. The treasury office will contact delinquent parishes to inform them of their status prior to the Assembly.

Subdeacon Michael also presented a proposed budget for 2013, which was unanimously approved by the Council and will be presented to the Assembly for final ratification. Yearly financial reports for 2009-2011 will be presented at the Assembly, along with a complete list of dues payments for each parish since 2009.

8. Joint Pastoral Conference of the Eastern American Diocese and the Moscow Patriarchate

Council members heard a report from the Secretary about the ongoing preparations for the Joint Pastoral Conference of the Eastern American Diocese and the Moscow Patriarchate, to be held on October 11-13. Additional speakers have been selected to speak at the conference:

Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov) – Deputy Abbot of Sretensky Monastery in Moscow
Archpriest Victor Potapov – Rector of St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC
Archpriest Alexander Golubov –
Cleric of St. Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral in New York City
Archimandrite Irenei (Steenberg) – Dean of Monastics of the Western American Diocese
Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov – Rector of All Saints Church in Krasnoe Selo in Moscow

Several of the senior-ranking clergy delegates will also be chosen to participate in the panel discussions on a variety of topics, including missionary work, confession, and the strengthening of unity between the parishes.

The primary language of the conference will be English, but some lectures will be delivered in Russian. Two full-time interpreters will be on hand at all times to offer Russian and English translations.

Council members expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the conference sponsors: the Fund for Assistance to ROCOR, the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, and Damascene Gallery.

Council members also discussed various issues facing the diocesan administration in its everyday operations. The meeting concluded with the singing of "It is truly meet."

Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese