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All-American Council is name of the periodic general councils of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). This title began with the granting, in 1970, of autocephaly to the former Russian Mission, which was commonly referred to as the Metropolia. The councils prior to autocephaly were called All-American Sobors.
The first All-American Council, held on October 20-22, 1970 was also the last All-American Sobor, the fourteenth, after the diocese received the Tomos of autocephaly from the Moscow Patriarchate. The following is a list All-American councils since the first with notes of the principal activities during each:
First All-American Council
The first council (Sobor) was held at [St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Church (now Cathedral) Mayfield, Pennsylvania] on March 5th throught the 7th, 1907. The Council in 1907 was a natural outgrowth of the history of the North American Mission that we have reviewed and contributed to the Church’s vision that was further developed by the Council. When the First All-American Council (Sobor) gathered on March 5th through the 7th, 1907, it became the culmination and conclusion of St. Tikhon’s archpastoral service in North America. In fact, by the end of March, Saint Tikhon did leave America, never to return again. Several weeks before the Council, it was announced that Saint Tikhon had received news of his transfer to the ancient see of Yaroslavl, and thus, he no longer had the authority to preside over the Council. However, as he had not yet departed to his new assignment in Russia and his successor - Archbishop Platon (Rozhdestvensky) - had not yet arrived in America, auxiliary Bishop Innocent (Pustynsky) of Alaska, who was the temporary administrator of the diocese, asked Saint Tikhon to preside over the Council that his vision had conceived. The assembly of clergy and laity gathered in Mayfield was humble yet it was significant for it met under the leadership of its visionary archpastor to address the needs of the Church’s continued missionary expansion throughout North America, and to bid a fond farewell to their beloved diocesan hierarch. Among the highlights of its deliberations, the Council recognized that to further the Church’s mission, it was essential to create a permanent and orderly administrative structure in the diocese. To enact this, it was decided that a statute should be drafted. Furthermore, the Council realized that the regular convocation of Councils was vital to the development of the Church’s mission. Additionally, the Council sought to create a solid and equitable financial infrastructure for the diocese and its parishes. Such a system, that would among other things provide subsidies for smaller parishes and uniform clergy compensation, was deemed indispensable for missionary expansion. In addressing the issue of differences in liturgical practice across the North American Diocese, the Council’s consensus was to follow St. Tikhon’s wise conclusion that these are to be accepted as, in part, a reflection of the various ethnicities of the clergy and faithful and that they do not contravene the essence of the Orthodox faith. As the Council’s meetings, taking place between sessions of the Russian Orthodox Catholic Mutual Aid Society (ROCMAS) convention, lasted only a few short hours, the Council was not able to deliberate in great detail. However, the Council did delineate a decisive course of action on several issues as outlined above. The foremost significance of the 1907 Council was the precedent it set by its very convocation for the future All-American Councils, which continue to this day. The life of the North American Church was further stabilized and fortified by the Mayfield Council, which resulted in remarkable continued growth over the next decade. Just after the czarist regime was overthrown in Russia in 1917, the long awaited All-Russian Church Council finally convened in Moscow. Perhaps the Mayfield Council in America a decade earlier played a part in paving the way for the Moscow Council. In any case, the influence of the Mayfield Council is clear. Saint Tikhon, formerly Archbishop of North America, was elected the first Patriarch of the Russian Church in more than two centuries. The Moscow Council adopted many far-reaching innovative transformations for incorporation into the life of the Russian Church. Among them was a highly acclaimed parish statute. This document was clearly influenced by the Church statute drafted in America by decision of the Mayfield Council. (1)
1- [Excerpts from Alexis Liberovsky's Banquet address at the 100th anniversary celebration of the First All American Sobor (Council) at Saint John teh Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Mayfield, PA on October 28, 2007] Alexis Liberovsky OCA Archivist Director – Department of History and Archives
Second All-American Council
The second council was also held at St. Tikhon's Monastery in South Canaan from October 19-21, 1971. The council adopted the revised Statutes for the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) which was based upon the short constitution adopted at the council in 1970. The Statutes specified convening an All-American Council every two years. The council also welcomed into the OCA the Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese led by Bp. Stephen (Lasko).
Third All-American Council
The third council was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on November 13-15, 1973 and for the first time used hotel convention facilities for the sessions. This council was the first council to meet in a number of sessions and workshops instead of convening only in plenary sessions. The council approved the expansion of the central chancery, permit women to be delegates at diocesan meetings, and increased the assessments for funding the central administration (chancery). The Council welcomed the Exarchate of Mexico led by Bp. Jose (Cortes y Olmos) into the OCA.
Fourth All-American Council
The fourth council was again held in a hotel convention facility in Cleveland, Ohio, in November 10-13, 1975. A theme on Missions was adopted for this council, and the business of the Council centered on issues of the day.
Fifth All-American Council
The fifth council was held in the Canadian Archdiocese, in the city of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on October 25-28, 1977. This council was the first held outside the United States. The first order of business for this Council was the election of a metropolitan, as Metr. Ireney had announced his retirement six months earlier due to failing health. After failing to gain a two thirds majority on the first vote, a runoff second vote was held to choose two candidates for selection by the Synod of Bishops. While gaining only 179 votes to 348, Bp. Theodosius (Lazor) of Pittsburgh was selected by the Synod over Bp. Dmitri (Royster) of New England.
In the first ballot there were 278 votes for Bishop Dmitri (Royster) of Hartfort, 57 for Archbishop Kiprian (Borisevich) of Philadelphia, 33 for Bishop Theodosius (Lazor) of Pittsburgh, 25 for Archbishop Sylvester (Haruns) of Montreal, 21 for Bishop Herman (Swaiko) of Wilkes-Barre, 19 for Bishop Gregory (Afonsky) of Sitka, 9 for Bishop Kyrill (Yonchev) of Toledo and the Bulgarian Diocese, 8 for Archpriest Boris Geeza, 5 for Archbishop John (Garklavs) of Chicago, 5 for Archbishop John (Shahovskoy) of San Francisco, 1 for Archbishop Valerian (Trifa) of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate, and two invalid ballots.
In the second ballot where every delegate has two votes, there were 348 votes for Bishop Dmitri, 179 for Bishop Theodosius, 99 for Archbishop Kiprian, 73 for Bishop Herman, 48 for Bishop Gregory, 43 for Archbishop Sylvester, 36 for Fr. Boris Geeza, 21 for Bishop Kyrill, 18 for Archbishop John (Garklavs), 18 for Archbishop John (Shahovskoy), 14 for Archbishop Valerian, 3 for Bishop Joasaph (Antoniuk) of Edmonton, 3 for Bishop Jose (Cortes y Olmos) of Mexico City, 3 for Fr. Mark Forsberg, 1 for Fr. Damian Hart, 1 for Fr. Gabriel Barrow, 1 for Fr. Thomas Green, 1 for Dimitri Mityanin, and 18 invalid votes on 9 ballots.
Discussion and deliberations at the council after the election of the new first hierarch were held under the theme of Stewardship. Attending the Council for the first time was the Bulgarian diocese led by Bp. Kyrill (Yonchev) which had been received into the OCA in 1976. This council introduced the attendance of observers, including women, to council sessions. The council moved the date for the sixth Council to 1980, from the normally scheduled 1979, to coincide with the tenth anniversary of autocephaly.
Sixth All-American Council
The sixth council was held in Detroit, Michigan, on November 9-14, 1980. Discussions and deliberations for this Council were held under the theme of Orthodoxy, America, and The Future. The council amended the Statutes to admit women as delegates at All-American Councils. The council also revised the Statutes to schedule convocation of the All-American Councils every three year instead of every two years. The council also expressed support for Abp Valerian (Trifa), bishop of the Romanian Diocese of the OCA, who was defending himself against accusations of being a Nazi war-criminal. At the council the Synod of Bishops announced the formation in 1981 of the Diocese of Washington (DC) as the see for the Primate of the OCA. The council was also advised of the established in 1978 by the Synod of Bishops of the Diocese of the South.
Seventh All-American Council
The seventh council was the first scheduled in the summer and was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 22-26, 1983. The discussions and deliberations of this council were held under the theme of Church Growth. This council was the last one attended by Fr. Alexander Schmemann, who was very ill and died after the council adjourned on December 13, 1983.
Eighth All-American Council
The eighth council was held in Washington, D.C. on August 17-22, 1986. The discussions and deliberations at this council were held under the theme of Evangelization. Among the issues debated, but not resolved, was that of admitting deacons to the councils as clergy delegates.
Ninth All-American Council
The ninth council was held in Saint Louis, Missouri on August 20-25, 1989. The discussions and deliberations of the council were under the theme of The Orthodox Church in America: Reflecting on the Past, Planning for the Future. The ninth council reflected a change in the format for sessions by reverting back to plenary sessions only. The council noted the retirement of Fr. Daniel Hubiak who had been the Chancellor of the OCA since he succeeded Fr. Joseph J. Pishtey after he died on November 2, 1972. The council also noted that the newly appointed chancellor was Fr. Robert Kondratick.
Tenth All-American Council
The tenth council was held in Miami, Florida in July 26-31, 1992. The discussions and deliberations were held under the theme of Discerning God's Will: Our Spiritual Life and Ministry. Most of the deliberations were based upon subjects submitted by parishes during pre-council preparations. The council mourned the death of Fr. John Meyendorff just a few days before the council convened.
Eleventh All-American Council
The eleventh council was held in Chicago, Illinois on July 16-21, 1995. The theme of the council was Gathered in Community. The deliberations were again held in plenary sessions that were organized to reflect the changes in the departmental structures of the central administration.
Twelfth All-American Council
The twelfth council was convened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 25-30, 1999, one year late due to "logistical circumstances." The theme of the council sessions was: On Behalf of All and For All. Among the decisions made were amendments to the Statutes and resolution of an issue on "A Fair Share System of Support." Noted were presentations by Bishop Kallistos (Ware) and Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan.
Thirteenth All-American Council
The thirteenth council was held in Orlando, Florida on July 21-26, 2002. The theme for the council was: The Parish Community: Our Life in Christ. The principal business of the council was the election of a new Metropolitan to succeed Metr. Theodosius (Lazor), who had voluntarily retired because of reportedly poor health. While Bp. Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada received the greatest number of votes on the first ballot, the election proceeded to a second vote by the Synod of Bishops since the majority of two thirds for election was not met. The Synod of Bishops selected Abp. Herman (Swaiko) of Philadelphia as the new Metropolitan.
In the first ballot there were 267 votes for Bishop Seraphim, 141 for Archbishop Herman, 52 for Bishop Job (Osacky) of Chicago, 47 for Archbishop Nathaniel (Popp) of Detroit, 47 for Bishop Nikolai (Soraich) of Sitka, 45 for Archbishop Dmitri (Royster) of Dallas, 12 for Bishop Basil (Essey), 2 for Archbishop Kyrill (Yonchev) of Pittsburgh, 3 for Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) of San Francisco, 1 for Bishop Nikon, 3 for Fr. Michael Dahulich , 2 for Metropolitan Philip, 2 for Fr. Eugene Tarris, 2 for Archbishop Demetrios, 2 for Fr. Irinej Dobrijevich, 1 for Fr. Christopher Calin , 1 for Fr. Vladimir Wendling, 1 for Bishop Nicholas, 1 for Archimandrite Tikhon, 1 Hierodeacon Yakov, and 9 invalid ballots.
In the second ballot there were 473 votes for Bishop Seraphim, 223 for Archbishop Herman, 151 for Bishop Job, 107 for Bishop Nikolai, 94 for Archbishop Nathaniel, 73 for Archbishop Dmitri, 32 for Bishop Basil (Essey) , 19 for Fr. Alexander Golitzin, 18 for Bishop Nikon, 16 for Bishop Tikhon, 15 for Fr. Michael Dahulich , 12 for Archbishop Kyrill, 8 for Metropolitan Philip, 5 for Archbishop Peter (L'Huillier) of New York, 5 for Fr. Irinej Dobrijevich, 5 for Archimandrite Tikhon, 3 for Archbishop Demetrios, 3 for Fr. Vladimir Wendling, 2 for Fr. David Brum, 2 for Fr. Eugene Tarris, 2 for Bishop Dimitrios, 2 for Fr. Basil Summer, 1 for Bishop Nicholas, 1 for Fr. Christopher Calin, 1 Hierodeacon Yakov, 1 for Fr. James Paffhausen, 1 for Dr. Albert Rossi, and 1 for Fr. Ireney Rochon.
Fourteenth All-American Council
The fourteenth council was held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on July 17-22, 2005. The theme of the council was: Our Church and Our Future. The operations and budget of the central administration was reviewed with reports by the treasurer on issues of debt reduction and repayment of borrowed funds. The council received the decision of the Synod of Bishops, made prior to the council, re-uniting the Dioceses of Washington and of New York and New Jersey to form the Diocese of Washington and New York headed by Metr. Herman, following the retirement of Abp. Peter of New York and New Jersey.
Fifteenth All-American Council
The 15th All-American Council, took place at the Hilton Hotel, in Pittsburgh, PA, November 10-13, 2008. The theme for the council was: "Members of One Another". In preparation, the Preconciliar Commission held regional “Town Hall meetings” throughout the summer with members of the Synod of Bishops meeting with church members.
The Council trailed a financial scandal that had been slowly emerging since 1993 that resulted in the early retirement of the Metr. Herman (Swaiko) in September. The chief tasks of the council were to pick a new primate for the OCA and to restore confidence in the financial accountability of the church.
After receiving pluralities in the nominating ballots (though not a two-thirds majority), auxiliary Bishop Jonah (Paffhausen) of Fort Worth was elected by the Synod of Bishops. Present at the Wednesday morning session, were 645 voting delegates, including 310 clergy and 325 lay delegates, and 10 Hierarchs, making 432 votes needed for a first round, two thirds, majority.
On the first ballot, the two leading candidates were Bp. Jonah, with 233 votes, and Abp. Job of Chicago, with 212 votes. Also receiving first ballot votes were, Bishop Benjamin with 75 votes, Archbishop Seraphim 33, Bishop Tikhon 27, Archpriest Michael Dahulich 16, Archbishop Dmitri 10, Archbishop Nathaniel 9, Bishop Basil (Essey) 6, Bishop Nikon 5, Archpriest Alexander Golitzin 5, Archbishop Lazar (Puhalo) 002, Bishop Hilarion (of Vienna) 2, Archimandrite Meletios (Webber) 2, Archpriest Basil Summer 1, Archimandrite Zacharias (of St. John’s Monastery, England) 1, Archpriest Dennis Bradley 1, Archpriest Callinic Berger 1, and Archimandrite Zacchaeus (Wood) with 1 vote. (Three votes were not cast.)
On the second ballot, Bp. Jonah received 473 votes and Abp. Job 364. Their names were given to the other bishops for selection. Also receiving second ballot votes were, Bishop Benjamin with 140 votes, Bishop Tikhon 75, Archbishop Seraphim 42, Archbishop Dmitri 35, Archpriest Michael Dahulich 31, Bishop Basil (Essey) 22, Bishop Nikon 19, Archimandrite Meletios (Webber) 16, Archbishop Nathaniel 9, Archpriest Alexander Golitzin 6, Archpriest Basil Summer 6, Fr. Oleg Kirilov 4, Bishop Irineu 3, Bishop Alejo 3, Archbishop Lazar (Puhalo) 3, Monk Stavros (Leves) 2, Archpriest David Mahaffey 2, Igumen Basil Carpenter 2, Archimandrite Zacharias of St. John’s Monastery, England 2, Archpriest Dennis Bradley 2, Archbishop Nikiphoros 1, Bishop Mark of Toledo 1, and Fr. Juvenaly of St. Tikhon’s 1 vote. (Two votes were not cast and 4 votes were invalid.)
On the previous night, the Synod of Bishops took questions about the financial scandal. The newly consecrated Bishop Jonah gave answers that drew attention for their forthright admission of wrongdoing at church headquarters and explained of how bishops are supposed to lead.
Among the reports and talks during the council were Abp. Nathaniel's update on the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate in America, Special Investigating Committee reports and recommendations.
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