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50th Diocesan Assembly held at All-American Council site

BELLEVUE, WA [Midwest Diocese Communications] — Over 80 clergy and lay delegates from across the Diocese of the Midwest joined His Grace, Bishop Matthias, at the 50th Assembly of the Diocese of the Midwest on October 31, 2011 — the Feast of Saint John of Chicago.

The Assembly was held in conjunction with the 16th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America, which formally opened later that evening.

Following opening prayers marking the Feast of Saint John Kochurov of Chicago, Bishop Matthias addressed the delegates, expressing thanks to the Diocese for the warm welcome he has received during the first year of his episcopate, especially during his ongoing visitations to all diocesan parishes and missions.

Among the highlights of his first year, Bishop Matthias noted that

  • over 150 individuals, most from the Diocese of the Midwest, participated in the July 2011 mission trip to Project Mexico, in memory of His Eminence, the late Archbishop Job. A record number of homes were built for needy families. A similar trip is being planned for 2013.

  • he continues to travel to Guatemala’s Hogar Rafael Ayau Orphanage each February and July. He expressed his hope to have a team of missionaries accompany him there each summer. [Additional information on the orphanage may be found at www.hogarafaelayau.org.]

  • he plans to increase his involvement with the Orthodox Christian Fellowship, emphasizing the importance of ministry to and with college students.

  • five diocesan seminarians currently are enrolled at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, while six diocesan seminarians are studying at Saint Tikhon’s Seminary. In the past, $20,000.00 per year was budgeted to assist seminarians, but this was later reduced to $10,000.00 per year. He would like to establish an annual appeal to assist diocesan seminarians and return the budgeted amount to $20,000.00.

  • he is looking forward to the clergy convocation, slated to be held in Darien, Illinois, in May 2012.

  • the Bishop’s Council, which currently consists of the diocesan Chancellor and the six district deans, will be expanded with the addition of five additional rectors, thereby providing greater input and advice.

  • he wishes to clarify the relationship between Christ the Savior parish and the diocesan chancery and residence. Currently, the parish and the chancery/residence are separate entities, although the parish serves as a “vital and necessary part of the chancery” and the Bishop’s chapel. He hopes to eliminate overlapping expenses, maximize communication, and provide for a full-time chancery staff by 2013.

  • stewardship is a key concern for the diocese and its parishes. More education on stewardship, and especially on tithing, is needed on the parish level, and he hopes that this will be a focus for the coming year.

  • expansion of the diocesan web site will occur in 2012 with the assistance of a personal friend from New Jersey. He hopes to initiate a series of podcasts, with the assistance of John Maddex of Ancient Faith Radio, by which to address the faithful regularly.

With regard to the OCA assessment — a major item on the agenda of the 16th All-American Council — Bishop Matthias noted that, should Council delegates pass the resolution calling for a reduction in the OCA annual assessment from $105.00 per adult communicant to $50.00, it would “cripple the work of the National Church and the Holy Synod.” The diocese would be faced with additional expenses as well. He proposed a contingency plan in the event that the resolution to lower the OCA assessment is passed, thereby passing on the $55.00 that would no longer be remitted to the OCA to the diocese. This would make it possible to absorb additional expenses that would be incurred by the diocese without placing additional burden on the diocesan faithful.

In conclusion, Bishop Matthias pledged to focus first and foremost on the needs of the diocese and its faithful, “to serve Christ and His bride, the Church,” and not get “bogged down” with issues involving the National Church.

Following his address, Bishop Matthias entertained a variety of questions on a wide range of issues, from the internet and blogging to the late vocations program.

Following brief additions to the printed report of Archpriest John Zdinak, chancellor, the 2012 diocesan budget was presented and passed unanimously. In line with Bishop Matthias’ address, a contingency plan addressing the possible reduction in the OCA assessment level was unanimously passed. In the event that Council delegates vote to decrease the OCA assessment, the difference would continue to be collected, but placed in escrow. It would be used in the interim as determined by the Diocesan Council and the 2012 Diocesan Assembly.

The auditors’ report was presented and accepted. In a presentation on the diocese’s Parish Development Ministry, Mr. Joseph Kormos spoke of a variety of programs, including the 2011 Urban Ministry Conference, the second of its kind to be held in recent years.

Prior to adjournment, a resolution for presentation to the All-American Council Resolution Committee was passed, calling for the reestablishment of the Fellowship of Orthodox Stewards or a similar entity to garner funds for the program ministries of the Orthodox Church in America.

No elections were conducted at the Assembly. All persons holding elected positions will remain in place until the 2012 Assembly.

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