From the Assembly of Bishops :
In today’s secular society, which is often filled with meaningless rhetoric, it is encouraging to report that the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America is progressing toward its stated goals.
Recent achievements include the official incorporation of the Assembly on October 18, 2011 as the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America (ACOB). (It was formerly known as the “Episcopal Assembly” of North and Central America.) Last month an historic teleconference of the Assembly’s committee chairmen was held, bringing together representatives of all Orthodox jurisdictions in North America. On January 24 and 25, 2012, the Secretariat—which holds monthly teleconferences—held its second annual face-to-face meeting in Riverside, CA.
The Secretariat meeting in Riverside was hosted by Fr. Josiah Trenham of St. Andrew’s Church, and included Bishop Basil (Secretary of the Assembly of Bishops), Archbishop Antony (Treasurer), Bishop Andonios, Bishop Maxim, Fr. Mark Arey, Fr. Nicholas Ceko, Hierodeacon Benedict (Armitage), Protodeacon Peter Danilchick, and Messrs. Alexei Krindatch, Alex Machaskee, and Eric Namee.
Applauded at the Secretariat meeting was “Conversations With Our Bishops,” which is a series of audio interviews of the Assembly’s 53 member hierarchs conducted by Fr. Trenham. The interviews provide a broad swath of perspectives to the Church-at-large on the significance and work of the Assembly. Seventeen interviews have been completed so far, and new interviews are regularly made available on the Assembly’s website. 
At the conclusion of the Secretariat meeting, much excitement was generated by the idea that the Assembly consider planning an event sometime in the near future that would encourage all Agencies of ACOB (e.g., IOCC, OCMC, OCF, et al) to have their annual meetings in the same place and at the same time together with the Assembly’s annual meeting, a major youth event, and a concelebrated Liturgy. This would be a major Celebration of Orthodoxy and vividly demonstrate a unity of purpose for Orthodox Christians.
Four committees—Financial Affairs, Youth, Pastoral Practice, and Canonical Regional Planning—have all held recent meetings. Of particular note is the Committee for Youth’s recent meeting, held on January 24th and 25th, 2012 at the Antiochian Village Heritage and Learning Center, in Bolivar, PA. The Committee met in conjunction with the annual Camp and Youth Worker Conference, which drew together youth workers of many jurisdictions from across the country. By developing models for cooperative youth activities and programs, the Committee hopes to maximize participation by our youth in the full life of the Church. The Committee sees its work as a pathway to transforming our youth to lead their lives in service and witness to Christ.
While some of the other committees report slower progress, all are committed to accelerating, in 2012, accomplishment of the charges they have been given through their Terms of Reference.
ACOB recently elicited positive responses from clergy and laity for its “Record of Protest Against the Infringement of Religious Liberty by the Department of Health and Human Services.” In this ruling by HHS, religious hospitals, educational institutions, and other organizations would be required to pay for the full cost of contraceptives (including some abortion-inducing drugs) and sterilizations for their employees, regardless of the religious convictions of the employers.
The Assembly’s priority issues in 2012 include formal adoption of the By-Laws. The By-Laws have been drafted and are currently under review; all member bishops will soon be given an opportunity to comment on them.
At present, the Assembly does not have an established mechanism for endorsing Orthodox organizations. A process for endorsement is under development. A “statement of principles” is also being created, which would define the relationship between the Assembly and endorsed organizations.
In 2012 the Assembly’s committees hope to host “town hall meetings” for the public. These open forums would be led by the committees’ Bishops and clergy/ lay consultants; they would provide an opportunity for clergy and laity to ask questions about the Assembly and the work of the committees.
The Assembly implores all Orthodox to take an interest in its work and asks that they encourage their bishops to become engaged and active in the mission of the Assembly. Financial donations are also greatly welcome in order to fund the activities of the Assembly. Donations can be made by mail or through the Assembly’s website, www.assemblyofbishops.org .
For detailed reports of the committees making significant progress, such as Financial Affairs, Canonical Regional Planning, and Pastoral Practice, please consult the website.
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America was formed by the 4th Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference in Chambesy, Switzerland in June, 2009. It is one of 12 such assemblies that were formed worldwide.
The Assembly replaces the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of America (SCOBA) and has assumed all of the agencies, dialogues and other ministries of SCOBA.
The Assembly is comprised of all the active, canonical Orthodox bishops of North and Central America of every jurisdiction. Its purpose is “to preserve and contribute to the unity of the Orthodox Church by helping to further her spiritual, theological, ecclesiological, canonical, educational, missionary and philanthropic aims.” To accomplish this, the Assembly has as its goals: i) the promotion and accomplishment of Church unity in North and Central America; ii) the strengthening of the common pastoral ministry to all the Orthodox faithful of this region; and iii) a common witness by the Church to all those outside her. In addition, the Assembly has as an express goal: iv) the organization of the Church in North and Central America in accordance with the ecclesiological and the canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church.
The 13 committees under the Secretariat are responsible for canonical affairs, canonical regional planning, church and society, clergy affairs, ecumenical relations, financial affairs, legal affairs, liturgy, military chaplaincy, monastic communities, pastoral practice, theological education, and youth.
The ACOB committee chairmen will have a face-to-face meeting on Wednesday, May 30, in South Bound Brook, NJ, hosted by Archbishop Antony.
The 2012 annual meeting of the full Assembly is scheduled to be held in Chicago in September.
This report was prepared by ACOB’s Program for Communications: Alex Machaskee, Senior Consultant, Chrysanthe Loizos, Nikki Stephanopoulos, and Sharon Rubis.