2013 General Assembly Report of the Dept. of Stewardship


51st Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese Convention
July 21-28, 2013 ... Houston, Texas

The Department of Stewardship has worked on the projects and initiatives detailed below since it last reported to the General Assembly during the 50th Archdiocese Convention in Chicago, Illinois in July, 2011. The Department expresses its continuing thanks and appreciation to Metropolitan Philip for his love, guidance, and leadership. We also wish to also express thanks to our Auxiliary Bishops for their support and for the encouragement they provide as we reach out to parishes throughout the Archdiocese. We pray God will grant our beloved hierarchs many years of good health as they shepherd our Antiochian Archdiocese.

The Department of Stewardship, responding to invitations from these parishes, presented workshops in the following communities:

December 2011 ... SS. Peter and Paul Church, Potomac, Maryland
April 2012 ... St. Nicholas Cathedral, Los Angeles, California
April 2012 ... St. Nicholas Cathedral, Brooklyn, New York and St. Mary Church, Brooklyn, New York
(also in attendance representatives from) St. George Church, Little Falls, New Jersey
Virgin Mary Church, Yonkers, New York
April 2012 ... St. George Church, Washington, DC
September, 2012 ... St. James Mission, Modesto, CA

The Department expresses its thanks and appreciation to the priests and parish council members at these parishes for their invitation, hospitality and hard work which contributed to the success of these sessions.

Every two years since 1992, the Department of Stewardship has planned and conducted a Parish Council Symposium at the Heritage and Learning Center at Antiochian Village. In recent years, this activity has been co-sponsored with the Department of Lay Ministries. Unfortunately, the Symposium scheduled for October 2012, was cancelled due to insufficient advance registrations. With less than five registrations received two days prior to the event, the decision to cancel was reached in consultation between the Departments of Stewardship and Lay Ministries, along with the staff at the Heritage and Learning Center. Thanks and appreciation are extended to V. Rev. Fr. Joseph Abud of St. George Church, Flint, Michigan, Rev. Fr. Milad Selim of St. George Cathedral, Worchester, Massachusetts, and John Dalack and Anthony Bashir, co-chairs of the Department of Lay Ministry, who, along with the Department of Stewardship, had prepared presentations for the scheduled Parish Council Symposium. Options for future symposia at Antiochian Village, as well as the possibility of workshops in the various dioceses, are being explored.

The Parish Council Guidebook, along with the Fifty-Two Week Member Giving Campaign, resources developed by the Department of Stewardship, are available for parishes to access on the Archdiocese website. The advantage of these two documents being online is that parishes and individuals can access any part or the entire content of either one, depending on the needs of their parish. In addition, the electronic versions can be modified and supplemented by the Department of Stewardship on an ongoing basis. The possibility of printing one or both of these documents as hard-copy resources is being evaluated.

The Department of Stewardship wishes to express its sincerest thanks to the Department of Internet Ministry, and its chair, Douglas Cramer, for their excellent and expert help in making these resources available to parishes as part of the Archdiocese website. In 2012, The Department of Internet Ministry provided an opportunity for the Department of Stewardship to participate in an interview session titled, "Giving is Part of our Spiritual Life." The interview enabled the Department of Stewardship to further one of its most important goals, to help fellow Orthodox Christians explore the notion that tithing is an act of spiritual commitment consistent with the teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church. The Department of Internet Ministries is congratulated for providing a forum available to all departments and organizations within the Antiochian Archdiocese. May God continue to guide and bless their good work.

A long term project of the Department of Stewardship has been the creation of a "Parish Council Guidebook." A number of sections have been added to this resource during the past two years. As a result, the Guidebook has been submitted to Metropolitan Philip for review and official approval. An update on the status of this approval process will be discussed during the joint meeting of the departments of Stewardship and Lay Ministry on Wednesday, July 24, 2013. The Department of Stewardship report to the General Assembly on Thursday or Friday, July 25 or 26 will include an update of the approval request.

The Guidebook submitted for approval contains this annotated Table of Contents.

Part #1 ... Preface - This excerpt from Metropolitan Philip's writings on the role of parish councils provides the foundational basis for all parts of the Parish Council Guidebook.
Part #2 ... Introduction - The Introduction explains the important role governance plays in developing and maintaining a healthy and vibrant Orthodox Christian parish.
Part #3 ... The Parish Council Mindset - This excerpt from Archbishop Joseph's writings offers specific examples which serve to further clarify the role of the parish council in the Orthodox Church.
Part #4 ... "Five Guidelines for Conduct: Before, During and After Council Meetings" - Practicing the five behaviors detailed here will help change the feel, function, and outcome of any parish council meeting.
Part #5A and Part #5B ... Who Serves on the Parish Council? and Council Candidate Affirmation
Any parishioner can serve on the parish council, but the behaviors needed to be an effective council member are discussed in these two parts of the Guidebook.
Part #6 ... Need for Council Member "Continuing Education" - Training or continuing education for parish council members should be viewed in the same way as it is for many in their jobs or careers. This activity is designed to raise this awareness among council members and potential council members.
Part #7 ... Roles for Clergy and Laity - Specific points are listed and explained, each detailing a role for clergy and laity in the life of the church and especially in the workings of the parish council.
Part #8 ... Parish Council Meeting Strategies - A hypothetical parish council meeting is described, followed by an analysis of what this council could do to improve the productivity of their meetings.
Part #9 ... Parish Council Meeting Scenarios - Five scenarios detail situations that might develop in a parish. Each can be discussed from the perspective of how it might be handled, and how Jesus might guide us in such a circumstance.
Part #10 ... Parish, Diocese, and Archdiocese ... Together as One - The title, "Together as One," comes to life as the notion that every parish priest serves as a representative of the bishop.
Part #11 ... Voting at Parish Council and Annual Parish Meetings - Meetings and voting in secular settings does not translate exactly to meetings and voting in church settings. This article provides parishes with help in determining how to bring balance and understanding to this secular/spiritual dichotomy.
Part #12 ... Sample Letter to Bishops following Annual Parish Meeting - This sample letter helps parishes meet the requirement to annually submit to their bishops the parish financial report, budget, and results of parish council elections.
Part #13 ... Budgeting Procedures and Practices - Combining both good business practices and relevant scriptural teachings should be involved in a parish's development of an annual budget.
Part #14 ... Parish Council: Leading the Way toward Tithing - Parish councils must take the lead in moving their parishes toward a more enlightened understanding of giving according to scriptural teachings. Tithing, proportional giving, and sacrificial giving are terms involved in this conversation.
Part #15 ... Your Parish Is Not Alone - The Archdiocese Directory, sent annually to every parish, is resource of great potential value to every parish, as this part of the Guidebook reveals.
Part #16 ... Short and Long Range Planning - Conducting a parish needs assessment is a way of insuring that short term and long term needs are identified and that plans are developed to address those needs.
Part #17 ... Peacemaking and Reconciliation within the Parish - Members of the Antiochian Archdioceses have been trained in principles of resolving conflicts within a parish through established practices of peacemaking and reconciliation. A summary of those principles and information about how to contact the trained individuals are detailed in this article.
Part #18 ... Frequently Asked Questions - Five questions commonly heard in the context of parish life are posed and answered in this section of the Guidebook.
Appendix A ... A Definition of Consensus
Appendix B ... "The Parish, the Priest, and the Parish," by Metropolitan Philip
Appendix C ... "The Ministry of the Parish Council," by Archbishop Joseph
Appendix D ... "Metropolitan Philip Addresses the 50th Antiochian Archdiocese Convention,
Chicago, Illinois, July 29, 2011"

We again thank Metropolitan Philip for providing us with the opportunity to work with parishes in the two important areas of parish council training and enhanced understanding of member giving as an expression of spiritual commitment. Thanks also to V. Rev. Fr. Thomas Zain, who Metropolitan Philip appointed as advisor and mentor to the Parish Council Guidebook approval project. His help and guidance has been both helpful and invaluable. We are always available to parishes in the Antiochian Archdiocese to answer questions, provide materials, and conduct workshops. The Parish Council Guidebook and the Fifty-Two Week Member Giving Guide represent resources which we hope parishes will find useful, helpful, and transformative. We are constantly humbled by the endless examples of commitment and determination demonstrated by clergy and laity who are doing God's work to the best of their abilities. Our goal is to humbly hope that we can help them enhance and sharpen those abilities. God bless them always.

Respectfully Submitted,

Ron Nicola
Chair, Department of Stewardship