2148 Michelson Dr, Irvine, CA 92612

STATEMENT: Regarding the Episcopal Council for North, Central and South America, the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox School of Theology,  Constitutional Matters and Draft Child Protection Policies and Procedures

<span class="caps">STATEMENT</span>: Regarding the Episcopal Council for North, Central and South America, the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox School of Theology,  Constitutional Matters and Draft Child Protection Policies and Procedures

To the Very Rev­erend and Rev­erend Priests and Dea­cons, Ven­er­a­ble Monas­tics, the Mem­bers and Parish­ioners of the Church-School Con­gre­ga­tions and Mis­sion Parish­es of the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Dio­ce­ses in the Unit­ed States of America

For God is not a God of con­fu­sion but of peace, as in all the church­es of the saints
(1 Corinthi­ans 14:33)

Beloved Cler­ics, Broth­ers and Sis­ters in Christ,

It has come to our atten­tion that mis­in­for­ma­tion con­tin­ues to cir­cu­late on the Inter­net, relat­ed to the Church Assem­bly-Sabor which was held in July 2019. Out of our pas­toral love and con­cern for our faith­ful Cler­gy and Laity, ever mind­ful of the Scrip­tur­al adage, you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32), we state the fol­low­ing to lib­er­ate you of your doubt:

The Epis­co­pal Coun­cil for North, Cen­tral and South America

● First, as we clear­ly set forth in the “State­ment” that we issued on August 1, 2019 (https://serborth.org/news_190805_1), the Epis­co­pal Coun­cil of the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church for North, Cen­tral and South Amer­i­ca con­tin­ues to exist and is com­prised of the fol­low­ing Bish­ops: Lon­gin of New Gra­cani­ca-Mid­west­ern Amer­i­can, Mitro­phan of Cana­da, Max­im of West­ern Amer­i­ca, Irinej of East­ern Amer­i­ca, and Kir­i­lo of Buenos Aires and South-Cen­tral Amer­i­ca. Any sug­ges­tion that the Bish­ops of Cana­da and South Amer­i­ca have been exclud­ed from this Epis­co­pal Coun­cil is sim­ply false.

The St. Sava Ser­bian Ortho­dox School of Theology

● Sec­ond, among its many func­tions, this five-mem­ber Epis­co­pal Coun­cil is also in charge of and con­tin­ues to super­vise the work of the St. Sava Ser­bian Ortho­dox School of The­ol­o­gy (Lib­er­tyville-Third Lake). At the recent Church Assem­bly-Sabor held in July 2019, a report regard­ing the St. Sava School of The­ol­o­gy was pre­sent­ed and dis­cussed at length (https://serborth.org/news_190728_1). The report includ­ed men­tion of some improve­ments to the over­all life of the School, such as the estab­lish­ment of a Trustee­ship Coun­cil to assist the Dean in admin­is­tra­tive and finan­cial matters.

Fur­ther study on all mat­ters con­cern­ing the School, includ­ing its com­pli­ance with the laws and reg­u­la­tions of the State of Illi­nois, its accred­i­ta­tion and future, will be done by the above-described five-mem­ber Epis­co­pal Coun­cil in coordination/tandem with the Holy Syn­od of Bish­ops in Bel­grade. The Holy Syn­od may send a Com­mis­sion to eval­u­ate the School. In prepa­ra­tion for the vis­it of the Com­mis­sion, the Epis­co­pal Coun­cil is con­sult­ing edu­ca­tion­al, legal, finan­cial and oth­er rel­e­vant experts to objec­tive­ly assess the School with­out any pre-con­ceived agen­da, so that the Epis­co­pal Coun­cil can make author­i­ta­tive rec­om­men­da­tions to the Holy Synod.

Con­sti­tu­tion­al Matters

● Third, with respect to our cur­rent and long-stand­ing (not new!) Con­sti­tu­tion and relat­ed gov­ern­ing doc­u­ments, we once again ask you, our dear spir­i­tu­al chil­dren, to care­ful­ly read our State­ment issued on August 1 (https://serborth.org/news_190805_1), which explains the arronda­tion (lim­i­ta­tion in ter­ri­to­r­i­al scope) of the exist­ing Con­sti­tu­tion to only the ter­ri­to­ry of the USA (decid­ed by the Holy Assem­bly of Bish­ops at its meet­ing in May 2018) and how this ter­ri­to­r­i­al arronda­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion result­ed in the chang­ing of our con­sti­tu­tion­al title, which now reflects the de fac­to real­i­ty of the actu­al ter­ri­to­r­i­al juris­dic­tion of this doc­u­ment, the Unit­ed States of America.

We again want to remind every­one that the holy canons of our Church leave cer­tain deci­sions to the Bish­ops alone. One of those deci­sions is changes to the ter­ri­to­ry of a dio­cese. Only a dioce­san bish­op can pro­pose a ter­ri­to­r­i­al change to his dio­cese and only the Holy Assem­bly of Bish­ops can allow and approve any changes. We remind every­one of the recent ter­ri­to­r­i­al changes which occurred in 2009, when final admin­is­tra­tive uni­ty was achieved. Dioce­san bound­aries were changed (e.g. the Met­ro­pol­i­tanate of Chica­go and Lib­er­tyville was cre­at­ed and then abol­ished), and all of these changes were done by the Bish­ops and these changes then auto­mat­i­cal­ly became part of our Con­sti­tu­tion. Those ter­ri­to­r­i­al changes were not done by a vote at the Church Assembly—Sabor, but were pro­posed by the affect­ed Bish­ops and were then approved by deci­sions of the Holy Assem­bly of Bish­ops. That is exact­ly what has tak­en place regard­ing our Con­sti­tu­tion and relat­ed gov­ern­ing documents.

Draft Child Pro­tec­tion Poli­cies and Procedures

● Fourth, at the recent Church Assembly—Sabor in July 2019, there was an edu­ca­tion­al safe­ty pre­sen­ta­tion for Cler­gy and Laity on the cur­rent lia­bil­i­ty issues fac­ing all reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions in the USA, includ­ing our three USA Dio­ce­ses. The focus of the pre­sen­ta­tion was on child pro­tec­tion poli­cies and pro­ce­dures that are being devel­oped and imple­ment­ed by many reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions and denom­i­na­tions, as a direct response to new State and Fed­er­al leg­is­la­tion, reg­u­la­tions and caselaw con­cern­ing child sex­u­al molesta­tion and abuse claims. The Epis­co­pal Coun­cil has been work­ing with insur­ance and legal experts in enhanc­ing our cur­rent Dioce­san poli­cies and procedures.

These enhanced poli­cies and pro­ce­dures are still in draft form and have not yet been promulgated/adopted by the Epis­co­pal Coun­cil. Dur­ing the edu­ca­tion­al safe­ty pre­sen­ta­tion at the Sabor, men­tion was made that many US States, the once-sacred “Priest-Pen­i­tent Priv­i­lege” has been abol­ished. In plain lan­guage what that means is that, in these States, all cler­gy (Ortho­dox, Catholic, Protes­tant, etc) are now required to imme­di­ate­ly report any knowl­edge of sex­u­al molesta­tion of a minor, includ­ing but not lim­it­ed to knowl­edge gained dur­ing the course of the con­fes­sion. We are told that many more US States are also con­sid­er­ing abol­ish­ing the Priest-Pen­i­tent Priv­i­lege and we expect that judi­cial rul­ings will also fur­ther erod­ed the Priest-Pen­i­tent priv­i­lege in child abuse situations.

The Epis­co­pal Coun­cil is great­ly trou­bled by the abolition/erosion of the Priest-Pen­i­tent Priv­i­lege – how­ev­er, the Epis­co­pal Coun­cil has no choice but to come to terms with this trag­ic change and we must devel­op a coher­ent and canon­i­cal­ly cor­rect Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian response. We have invit­ed and look for­ward to receiv­ing con­crete pro­pos­als from our own Ser­bian Ortho­dox cler­gy and laity (as well as from our sis­ter Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian juris­dic­tions and oth­er Chris­t­ian denom­i­na­tions which have the Holy Mys­tery of Con­fes­sion), on how we as Ser­bian Ortho­dox Hier­ar­chs should respond and deal with this trag­ic devel­op­ment and change to US law.

Inter­net “Post­ings” and “E‑Petitions”

● Last, the unsigned and anony­mous inter­net “post­ings” and “e‑petitions” attack­ing the Epis­co­pal Coun­cil, the Cen­tral Coun­cil and their work­ing com­mit­tees, par­tic­u­lar­ly the Legal Risk and Com­pli­ance Com­mit­tee, are whol­ly unfound­ed and should be ignored.

Know­ing that the Church “is in the world, but it is not of this world”, we seek the exper­tise of many sub­ject-mat­ter experts in deal­ing with central/national, dioce­san and local parish issues on a reg­u­lar basis. The experts we con­sult are not lim­it­ed to legal experts, but we also reg­u­lar­ly work with finan­cial, edu­ca­tion­al, insur­ance and oth­er experts. Unsub­stan­ti­at­ed, and unat­trib­uted attacks on the mem­bers of any of our expert com­mit­tees is unfair and uneth­i­cal, because these com­mit­tees work at our request to help us pro­tect our Dio­ce­ses, parish­es, monas­ter­ies and oth­er insti­tu­tions in the USA.

With respect to the Legal Risk and Com­pli­ance Com­mit­tee, we reg­u­lar­ly ask our lawyers (who vol­un­teer all of their time!) to iden­ti­fy and help devel­op canon­i­cal­ly per­mis­si­ble respons­es to the risks imposed by the mul­ti­ple legal sys­tems that our Church con­fronts in the Unit­ed States. The sole pur­pose of this com­mit­tee is to advise the Epis­co­pal Coun­cil and the Cen­tral Coun­cil with regard to strate­gies and actions that will pro­tect the Bish­ops, Cler­gy, Laity, and assets of the Dio­ce­ses of the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church in the Unit­ed States. Rather than being attacked, we must all thank our lawyers for the count­less vol­un­teer hours they spend pro­tect­ing our Church! As the Church of Christ, we are in the House of God, but the build­ing of the House of God, which is the Church, is still in progress and continuing.

There­fore, we call on you, the faith­ful chil­dren of Saint Sava to:

REFRAIN from falling vic­tim to these decep­tive and ill-intend­ed inter­net “post­ings” and “e‑petitions”, and from becom­ing sig­na­to­ries; and

AVOID cir­cu­lat­ing or, God-for­bid, sign­ing your own name where you do not know the name of the author of an arti­cle (or a post­ing, or a doc­u­ment), or where you do not have per­son­al knowl­edge of the “facts”, which are put forth, nor the intend­ed end use of the peti­tion, of your sig­na­ture and of your con­tact information.

We fur­ther remind you that “peti­tion­ing” of any kind with­in the Holy Com­mu­ni­ty of God is in direct con­tra­dic­tion to canons, laws, teach­ings and church-hier­ar­chi­cal struc­ture of our Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church. More­over, a peti­tion is a mir­ror of the ethos and, in essence is a main­stay, of Protes­tantism and total­ly non-Ortho­dox in char­ac­ter. We again invite our Cler­gy and Laity to com­mu­ni­cate any and all con­cerns, sug­ges­tions or com­ment on any of the issues described above direct­ly to us, your Dioce­san Bish­ops. As the com­mu­ni­ty of the peo­ple of God in his­to­ry mov­ing on a path towards the Heav­en­ly King­dom, we con­tin­ue to embrace that open dia­logue with all.

Sep­tem­ber 7, 2019

Your inter­ces­sors before Christ,

LONGIN, Bish­op of New Gra­cani­ca-Mid­west­ern America
MAXIM, Bish­op of West­ern America
IRINEJ, Bish­op of East­ern America

Source: https://serborth.org/news_190908_1