Main Archdiocesan Legislation

Handbook of the Archdiocesan Council

Policy on Compensation and Benefits for Clergy and Lay Employees

Bursary Fund and Application Form

The Ordinances - 1903, 1904

The Ordinance of the North-West Territories cited following is the foundation of the corporate status
of the Archdiocese of Canada.
All other legal establishments of our Archdiocese and Episcopacy are keeping this foundation,
by St Tikhon of Moscow, in mind.


1903 Ordinance to incorporate the Bishop of the Russo-Greek Catholic Orthodox Church, and the Parishes, and Missions of said Church.

The North-West Territories
Passed in the First Session
of the
Fifth Legislative Assembly
Begun and holden at Regina on Thursday, the Sixteenth
Day of April, and closed on Friday, the
Nineteenth Day of June, 1903
His Honour Amedee Emmanuel Forget
Lieutenant Governor

John A. Reid, Government Printer



An Ordinance to incorporate the Bishop of the Russo-Greek Catholic Orthodox Church, and the Parishes and Missions of the said Church.

[Assented to June 19, 1903]


Whereas the Bishop of the Russo-Greek Catholic Orthodox Church for North America and the Aleutian Islands, has petitioned that he, his successors in office having jurisdiction over the said church in Canada, and each of the duly authorised parishes and missions in the Territories be incorporated; and it is expedient to grant the prayer of the said petition;

Therefore the Lieutenant Governor by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Territories enacts as follows:


1. The Bishop of the Russo-Greek Catholic Orthodox Church for North America and the Aleutian Islands and his successors in office, having jurisdiction in Canada, is hereby incorporated for the purposes mentioned in this Ordinance, under the name of “The Bishop of the Russo-Greek Catholic Orthodox Church” (hereinafter called the corporation sole) with all the. powers and privileges contained in paragraph 38 of section 8 of chapter 1 of the Consolidated Ordinances 1898.

Power to hold

2. The corporation sole may receive and hold property of any kind
real property for the uses and purposes of the Russo-Greek Catholic Orthodox Church in the North-West Territories, including the uses and purposes of any parish or mission, institution, college, school or hospital, now or hereafter connected with the Russo-Greek Catholic Orthodox church, and that it may receive any devise by will, gift, deed, conveyance of land or any estate or interest therein and sell, alienate, mortgage or lease any lands, tenements and hereditaments held by it.

Executive Committee

3. The corporation sole may exercise all its powers by and through an executive committee, or such boards or committees as the bishop from time to time appoints for the management of any of the affairs of the said bishopric in the North-West Territories, but in accordance only with the trust relating to any property upon or for which the same is held.

Service of papers

4. The corporation sole shall appoint and fix at least one place in the Territories where service of process may be made upon the corporation sole in respect of any cause of action arising within the Territories, and may afterwards from time to time change such place. And a certificate fixing or changing any such place under the seal of the corporation sole, and verified by the signature of the bishop of the said church, for the time being, shall be deposited in the office of the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies for the Territories. And if any cause of action shall arise against the corporation sole within the Territories and any writ or process be issued against the corporation sole therein out of any court in the Territories, service of such process may be validly made upon the corporation sole at a place within the Territories so appointed and fixed; but if the corporation sole fail to appoint and fix such place, or to deposit, as hereinbefore provided, the certificate in that behalf above named, any such process may be validly served upon the corporation sole by service of the same upon any priest or officer in charge of the religious, educational or charitable institution, instituted under the provisions of this Ordinance, nearest to the place where such cause of action arose.

Execution of documents

5. Instruments executed by the corporation sole shall be verified by the signature of the bishop or a member of his consistory, for that purpose by him in writing appointed.

Incorporation of parishes and missions

6. The priest in charge and trustees of any parish or mission in the North-West Territories now or hereafter duly organised according to the constitution of the Russo-Greek Catholic Orthodox Church shall be a body politic and corporate and they and their successors under the name of “The Russo-Greek Catholic Orthodox Parish (or Mission) of (here insert the particular designation of the parish or mission in question),” hereinafter called the corporation aggregate, with all the powers and privileges contained in paragraph 38 of section 8 of chapter 1 of The Consolidated Ordinances of 1898.

Power to hold

7. Each corporation aggregate may receive and hold property of real property any kind for religious, educational and charitable uses and may receive by will, gift, deed, conveyance of land or any estate or interest therein, and sell, alienate, mortgage or lease any land, tenements and hereditaments held by it:
Provided that in the administration of real property as regards selling, exchanging, alienating, mortgaging or leasing (except as regards the sale of burial plots in any cemetery for which consent shall not be necessary), the corporation aggregate shall first obtain the consent of the bishop of the said church for the time being having jurisdiction over such parish or mission.

Execution of documents by corporation aggregate

8. Instruments executed by the corporation aggregate shall be verified by the signature of the priest in charge and trustees constituting the body corporate, and the consent to such dealing by the bishop as aforesaid to be verified by his signature, or that of a member of his consistory for that purpose by him in writing appointed.

Public Ordinance

9. This Ordinance shall be a public ordinance

Chapter 29

An Ordinance to amend Chapter 42 of the Ordinances of 1903 (First Session), entitled “An Ordinance to incorporate the Bishop of the Russo-Greek Catholic Orthodox Church and the Parishes and Missions of the said Church.”

[Assented to October 8, 1904]

The Lieutenant Governor by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Territories enacts as follows:

1. Section 6 of Chapter 42 of the Ordinances of 1903 (first session) is hereby amended by inserting after the word “church” where it occurs in the fourth line thereof the words “and their successors in office” and by striking out the words “and they and their successors” where they occur in the fifth line thereof.

The Archdiocese of Canada, The Orthodox Church in America July, 1998


The Tomos of Autocephaly (1970)

The Tomos of Autocephaly (1970)
TOMOS OF ALEXIS, by the Mercy of God,
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

For a number of years, the Russian Orthodox Church has observed with maternal love and concern the development of the Orthodox Church which she planted on the American continent. In the last few decades she has sorrowfully witnessed the unfortunate appearance there of a pluralism of ecclesiastical jurisdictions, a temporary phenomenon, and by no means a permanent norm of the canonical organization of the Orthodox Church in America, since it is contrary to the nature of Orthodox canonical ecclesiastical unity.

The Holy Russian Orthodox Church, striving for the good of the Church, has directed her efforts toward the normalization of relations among the various ecclesiastical jurisdictions in America, particularly by negotiating with the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America, concerning the possibility of granting autocephaly to this Church in the hope that this might serve the good of the Orthodox Church in America and the glory of God.

In her striving for the peace of Christ, which has universal significance for the life of man; desiring to build a peaceful and creative church life, and to suppress scandalous ecclesiastical divisions; hoping that this act would be beneficial to the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church of Christ and would make possible the development among the local parts of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of such relations which would be founded on the firm ties of the one Orthodox Faith and the love that the Lord Jesus Christ willed; keeping in mind that this act would serve the welfare of universal, mutual cooperation; taking into consideration the petition of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Metropolitanate of North America, which expressed the opinion and desire of all her faithful children; acknowledging as good for Orthodoxy in America the independent and self-sustaining existence of said Metropolitanate, which now represents a mature ecclesiastical organism possessing all that is necessary for successful further growth. Our Humility together with the Sacred Synod and all the venerable Hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, who have signified their agreement in writing, having examined the said petition, in sincere love grant autocephaly to the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America, that is, the right of a fully independent ordering of church life in accordance with the divine and sacred Canons and the ecclesiastical practices and customs of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church inherited from the Fathers; for which purpose this Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos is directed to His Beatitude, IRENEY, Archbishop of New York, Primate of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America, Metropolitan of All-America and Canada, by which we announce:

1. The Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in North America is confirmed and proclaimed an Autocephalous Church and named “The Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America”;

2. By “autocephaly,” which is confirmed in this decision, it is understood that the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America shall:

a. be independent and self-governing with the right of electing her own Primate and all her bishops, without confirmation or the right of veto over such elections on the part of any other church organization or representative of the Eastern Orthodox or any other confession;

b. firmly and inalterably preserve the divine dogmas, being guided in her life by the sacred Canons of the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church of Christ and governed in accordance with her own Statute as accepted, augmented or amended from time to time by her own highest legislative and executive organ;

c. maintain direct relations with all other Churches and confessions, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike;

d. enjoy all the authority, privileges and rights usually inherent in the term “autocephaly” in the canonical tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church, including the right of preparing and consecrating Holy Chrism.

3. The following are excluded from autocephaly on the territory of North America:

a. St. Nicholas Cathedral and its possessions, located at 15 East 97th Street in New York City and the accompanying residence; and also the immovable possessions in Pine Bush, New York, together with buildings and edifices which might be constructed in the future on this land;

b. Parishes and clergy in the U.S.A. which at present are in the Patriarchal Exarchate and which desire to remain in the canonical and jurisdictional care of the Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia – these parishes, desiring to remain in the canonical jurisdiction of the Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and excluded from the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America are the following:

1. St. Nicholas Church, Brookside, State of Alabama

2. St. Demetrius Monastery, Bellflower, State of California

3. Christ the Savior Church, Berkley, State of California

4. St. Nicholas Cathedral, San Francisco, State of California

5. Church of All Saints Glorified in the Russian Land, San Francisco, State of California

6. Our Lady of Kazan Church, San Diego, State of California

7. Resurrection Church, Chicago, State of Illinois

8. Dormition Church Benld, State of Illinois

9. Holy Trinity Church, Baltimore, State of Maryland

10. St. Elias Church, Battle Creek, State of Michigan

11. St. Innocent Church, Detroit, State of Michigan

12. St. Michael the Archangel Church, Detroit, State of Michigan

13. Church of St. Andrew the First-Called Apostle, East Lansing, State of Michigan

14. Holy Trinity Church, Saginaw, State of Michigan

15. St. John Chrysostom Church, Grand Rapids, State of Michigan

16. House Chapel of St. Seraphim of Sarov, Westown, State of New York

17. St. Demetrius Church, Jackson, State of Michigan

18. St. Nicholas Church, Bayonne, State of New Jersey

19. Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Elizabeth, State of New Jersey

20. Three Hierarchs Church, Garfield, State of New Jersey

21. Holy Cross Church, Hackettstown, State of New Jersey

22. Sts. Peter and Paul Church; Passaic, State of New Jersey

23. St. John the Baptist Church, Singac (Little Falls), State of New Jersey

24. St. Olga Church, Somerset, State of New Jersey

25. St. Mark Chapel, State of New York

26. Church of St. George the Great Martyr, State of New York

27. Church of All Saints Glorified in the Russian Land, on the estate of Pine Bush, State of New York

28. St. John the Baptist Chapel, Bronx, State of New York

29. Church of All Saints Glotified in the Russian Land, Amsterdam (Wolf Run), State of Ohio

30. St. Stephen Church, Lorairi, State of Ohio

31. Nativity of Christ Church, Youngstown, State of Ohio

32. St. Nicholas Church, Chester, State of Pennsylvania

33. St. Nicholas Church, Edinboro, Pageville, State of Pennsylvania

34. St. Nicholas Church, Reading, State of Pennsylvania

35. Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Mount Union, State of Pennsylvania

36. St. Nicholas Church, Wilkes-Barre, State of Pennsylvania

37. St. Andrew the Apostle Church, Philadelphia, State of Pennsylvania

38. St. Michael the Archangel Church, Philadelphia, State of Pennsylvania

39. Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Scranton, State of Pennsylvania

40. Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Burgaw, State of North Carolina

41. St. Gregory the Theologian Church, Tampa, State of Florida

42. Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Manchester, State of New Hampshire

43. Church of St. George the Great Martyr, Buffalo, State of New York

c. All parishes and clergy in Canada, which presently constitute the Edmonton, Canada Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate (they all desired to remain in the jurisdiction of the Most Holy Patriarch).

4. St. Nicholas Cathedral and its possessions and residence, and also the property in Pine Bush, New York, shall be governed by the Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia through a person representing him in the rank of Presbyter.

5. Parishes and clergy in the U.S.A. which remain in the canonical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate shall be governed by the Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia through one of his vicar bishops; not having a title of the local American Church, especially appointed for this, and until such time as these parishes express their official desire to join the Autocephalous Church in America in the manner described below.

6. Parishes and clergy which at this time constitute the Edmonton, Canada Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate and remain in the canonical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, shall be governed by the Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia through one of his vicar bishops not having a title of the local American Church, especially appointed for this, and until such time as these parishes express their official desire to join the Autocephalous Church in America in the manner described below.

7. The Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America shall have exclusive spiritual and canonical jurisdiction over all bishops, clerics and laymen of the Eastern Orthodox confession in continental North America, excluding Mexico, and including the State of Hawaii who are presently part of the Metropolitanate, or who shall later enter the Metropolitanate; and over all parishes which now belong or later shall be accepted into the Metropolitanate, excepting the entire clergy, possessions and parishes enumerated in Paragraph 3, points a,b,c.

8. The Moscow Patriarchate shall not lay claim to either spiritual or canonical jurisdiction over bishops, clergy and laymen of the Eastern Orthodox confession, or over parishes mentioned in Division 1, Paragraph 7, and by the present yields to the Metropolitanate, all jurisdiction to which she has laid claim on the above mentioned territory (Paragraph 7); excepting the entire clergy, possessions and parishes enumerated in Paragraph 3, points a,b,c.

9. The changing of jurisdictions by parishes which are in the canonical care of the Moscow Patriarchate after the proclamation of the Metropolitanate’s autocephaly shall occur on the initiative of the parishes themselves and after bilateral agreements in each concrete case between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Autocephalous Church in America.

10. The Moscow Patriarchate shall not receive into its care in North America any clerics without written release or any parishes except parishes from uncanonical ecclesiastical organizations in Canada; and shall not canonically permit clergy and parishes remaining in its care to enter any of the Orthodox jurisdictions but the jurisdiction of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America.

11. The Patriarchate assures the parishes remaining in its care of its readiness to defend their status as parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate, and also defend the enumerated parishes from attempts to change their present status without a free expression of their decision without the written agreement of the Moscow Patriarchate.

12. The Moscow Patriarchate and the Orthodox Autocephalous Church in America shall maintain sincere fraternal relations, in which they should be guided by the bilateral agreements, signed by His Eminence, Metropolitan IRENEY, and by His Eminence, Metropolitan NIKODIM, Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod, on March 31, 1970.

13. The Exarchate of North and South America, together with the dioceses in the U.S.A. and Canada which comprised it, is abolished.

Confirming the Autocephaly of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in America, we bless her to call herself The Holy Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America; we acknowledge and proclaim her our Sister Church, and we invite all local Orthodox Churches and their Primates and their faithful children to acknowledge her as such and to include her in the dyptichs in accordance with the Canons of the Church, the traditions of the Fathers and ecclesiastical practice.

The newly-established local Orthodox Autocephalous Church in America should abide in brotherly relations with all the Orthodox Churches and their Primates as well as with their bishops, clergy and pious flock, who are in America and who for the time being preserve their de facto existing canonical and jurisdictional dependence on their national Churches and their Primates.

With profound, sincere joy, We announce this to the Fullness of the Church and We do not cease thanking the All-Gracious Almighty God, who directs all in the world by His right hand for the good and the salvation of mankind, for the successful and final formation of Autocephaly, and we entreat the all-powerful blessing of God upon the younger Sister in the family of local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, the Autocephalous Orthodox Church in America.

May the Consubstantial and Life-creating and Undivided Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, acting on Its own wondrous providence, send down on the Archpastors, Pastors and Faithful Children of the Holy Autocephalous Orthodox American Church Its heavenly, unfailing help, and may It bless with success all her future endeavors for the good of the Holy Church.

Signed in the city of Moscow, April 10, 1970.

1. ALEXIS, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

Members of the Holy Synod:

1. Metropolitan of Krutitsy and Kolomna, PIMEN

2. Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod, NIKODIM

3. Metropolitan of Kiev and Galicia, Exarch of the Ukraine, PHILARET

4. Metropolitan of Orel and Briansk, PALLADY

5. Metropolitan of Alma-Ata and Khazakstan, IOSIF

6. Metropolitan of Yaroslavl and Rostov, IOANN

7. Archbishop of Irkutsk and Tchita, VENIAMIN

8. Archbishop of Ufa and Sterlitamak, IOV

9. Archbishop of New York and the Aleutians, Exarch of North and South America, IONAFAN

10. Bishop of Kishinev and Moldavia, VARFOLOMEY

11. Bishop of Tula and Belev, IUVENALY

12. Bishop of Chernigov and Nezhinsk, VLADIMIR

13. Bishop of Smolensk and Viazmia, GEDEON

14. Chancellor of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan of Tallin and Estonia, ALEXEI

The Archdiocesan By-laws (1990)

The Deaneries and Deans (2008)



The purpose of the deanery structure is NOT legislative.

The deanery exists in order to foster good spiritual development of the faithful locally, and to facilitate communication and mutual support between the parishes, and the episcopate - particularly in view of the vast territory of Canada.

The description of the responsibility of the dean outlines the supervisory, and medicinal character of the office - but once again, the dean is in place to AID communication with the bishop. He us also to be the first instance - not only of appeal, but of paternal, healing support.

Areas in which the dean, officers, and assembly may fulfil this role include :

Any enabling of cooperative effort by parish communities to develop spiritual, and catechetical maturity in the faithful ; e.g.

  • Youth retreats, camps, activities
  • Encouragement of monastic life
  • Retreats
  • Seminars
  • Development of ministries of laity
  • Projects for relief of the poor, and needy

In all cases, it must be remembered that the blessing, and protection of the ruling bishop is necessary for proper functioning of everything.

Article IX

1. Deaneries

Deaneries are specified districts within the boundaries of a diocese, which are established by the Diocesan Council (Art. VIII/5) ...

2. The District Deans

The District Dean is the priest who is the head of a deanery.

While subordinated to the Diocesan Bishop, he has the responsibility of leading the life of the deanery, and is the first instance of appeal, when disputes arise.

3. Competence, and Duties

Subject to the instructions of the Diocesan Bishop, the District Dean has competence in :

  1. Directing the affairs of the deanery
  2. Supervising the activities of the clergy of the deanery
  3. Giving directives, and explanations in matters of pastoral services, with the right to direct, counsel, and admonish, in a strictly PRIVATE. and CIRCUMSPECT manner, rectors, and clergymen within his deanery, whenever their personal conduct, or manner of discharging duties, indicates the need of such action
  4. Receiving, and investigating complaints against rectors, or other clergymen, as well as protests against the decisions of the parish bodies, which complaints, or protests, he submits with his report to the Diocesan Bishop
  5. Convoking deanery meetings
  6. Filling temporary vacancies in parish clergy, with the consent of the Diocesan Bishop
  7. Receiving the minutes of parish meetings held within his deanery, with the right to make recommendations ,to the Diocesan Bishop, and forwarding copies of such minutes to the Diocesan Bishop’s office
  8. Taking part in parish meetings, upon commission of the diocesan authority, or the request of the rector, or the parish council
  9. Aiding, and planning the organisation of new parishes within his deanery
  10. Observing that new church edifices under construction are built according to the approved plans of the diocesan authority, and if necessary upon advice of the Metropolitan Council
  11. Acting on all other matters submitted to him by the Diocesan Bishop
  12. Submitting the minutes of every meeting of the deanery to the Diocesan Bishop
  13. Submitting a quarterly report on the status of his deanery to the Diocesan Bishop ; and a report also to the Diocesan Council, and the Diocesan Assembly, stating not only the achievements, but also instances of serious negligence
  14. Negotiating with the parish, and the assigned priest the stipend, and “fringe-benefits” needed by the priest, in agreement with the ability of the parish to meet these requests

4. Election

The District Dean is elected from among the rectors of the deanery, and confirmed by the Diocesan Bishop, for a term of up to three years. When an election is not possible for some reason, the Diocesan Bishop may appoint the District Dean, also for a term of up to three years.

Creating Parish By-Laws

Workbook for Creating Parish By-Laws (1998)

Sample Parish By-Laws (2004)

Parish By-Laws Appednix A Ordinance (1903)

Parish By-Laws Appednix B The Statute of the Orthodox Church in America

The Church is Hierarchal - by Alexander Schmemann (1959)

The Church is Hierarchal

An Answer to Ralph Montgomery Arkush, Esq.

By Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

As a follow up of the storm he raised at the Tenth All American Sobor of the Russian Church by declaring that our Church is not hierarchal, Mr. Ralph M. Arkush has issued now a mimeographed pamphlet entitled Is Our Church Hierarchal? “This question,” – he says in conclusion, – “must be answered in the negative. The form of our Church is sobornal”. This conclusion is based on: a) Webster’s definition of the term “hierarchal” (pp. 1-2); b) a brief analysts of the various forms of church government since the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem (pp. 2-3); c) references to the Moscow Council of 1917-18 and the Detroit Sobor of 1924.

Were the conclusion of Mr. Arkush a mere ‘private opinion’, or rather his own peculiar interpretation of Church history, ecclesiology and canon law, we could, in spite of our total disagreement with him, pay no attention to his pamphlet. But Mr. Arkush has been for a number of years a leading layman in our Church, the official Jurisconsult of the Metropolia, the Orthodox delegate to the National Council of Churches, a lawyer, who by the very nature of his profession is constantly confronted with the meaning of Orthodox tradition. All this makes his case a very serious one. And since his views are shared by many of our lay people, those especially who play an active part in the life of the Church, we seem to face a really unprecedented situation: a segment of the Church simply refuses to accept and confess a doctrine that has never been questioned. One thing is made clear by this pamphlet: the time has come for an unambiguous clarification of the whole issue.

Before we come to the pamphlet, one preliminary remark of basic importance must be made. When in the “clergy-laity controversy” the erms “government”, “administration”, “controlling authority” are used, are all those who use them aware that when applied to the Church, they must of necessity mean something different from what they mean in a purely secular context. The Church is not a secular society and, therefore, all definitions and descriptions of its life and functioning to be adequate must necessarily be transposed and adjusted to its nature. Any type of government must be adequate to the nature and the purpose of what it governs. We live in a Democracy which is a high and noble doctrine of government. But we know that the principle of Democracy (“government of the people, by the people, for the people”) is not applicable everywhere even in the secular society. It is not applicable to the Armed Forces, to the school, to the family. Is it difficult to understand the simple and trivial truth, that for much more serious reasons it is not applicable to the Church? The Church is not and has never been a democracy because the Church is not a human institution with human goals and purposes. The Church is a Divine Institution, founded not by men, but by Christ, receiving her life from God and having one specific goal: to save people by introducing them into the life of grace, forgiveness, love and truth, by uniting them to the life of Christ Himself. To be sure, the Church has a human aspect, a human dimension of her life – yet this “humanity” of the Church is not independent from her spiritual essence, from her Divine root, but embodies it, expresses it, is totally and absolutely subordinated to it. To speak of two spheres in the Church – one spiritual and the other material – as being independent from one another is to completely misunderstand the real nature of the Church, whose “Pattern” is Christ Himself, God made Man, in whom the human nature was entirely accorded to the Divine, totally expressive of the Divinity. The whole Church, in all her aspects and activities, in the totality of her life is governed primarily by Christ, who is the Head of the Church, and this is why we must emphatically reject the very idea of a “democratic Church”, however highly we value the democratic ideal for a secular society. But, for the same reason, the idea of an “autocratic” Church is equally wrong. If in the secular context “autocratic” is the only alternative to “democratic, this alternative simple does not apply to the Church – yet, this is precisely what Mr. Arkush and those who agree with him, are apparently unable to understand. The Church is hierarchal – which means, that power and authority in the Church are always related to, and proceed from, the ultimate source of its Iife – Christ Himself. Those who, by Divine appointment and consecration (Sacrament of Order) exercise this authority are not “autocrats” because they themselves must be totally and unconditionally subordinated to Christ and to His Church, to her Tradition, canons, to the whole of her Truth and Spirit. And the unique goal of their government is to keep the Church within this Truth and to assure her growth into the “full stature of Christ”. They “govern” the Church not by people’s consent, but by Divine appointment and the Church believes that in the Sacrament of Order they are granted necessary “charisms” or gifts for this government.

It is impossible to exclude anything in the Church from the sphere of this government, to say, for example, that the hierarchy is responsible for the “spiritual”, and the laity for the “material”, aspects of the Church life. As said above the Church has no other goal but salvation and spiritual edification of her members. All her activities, from the most spiritual to the most practical and material, are therefore internally shaped by this goal and ordered towards it. A “parish activity” that would not be in some degree related to the spiritual task of the Church would ipso facto be alien to the Church and to the parish, would contradict the very principle of the Church. Let us take, for example, the whole aspect of fund-raising and financial welfare of the parish, an area where the controversy on the “rights” and “responsibilities” is especially heated. Is it possible to say, as it is said so often, that this is a “material” problem and must be handled by the laity without the interference of the clergy? The very fact that money is being raised by the Church and for the Church makes this activity spiritual, for this money must be spent in accordance with the spiritual goal of the Church. But “it is our money” and “we don’t want any one to have control of it” is the usual answer. Another tragical misunderstanding, showing how radical is our misconception of our Church. The money that we gave to the Church has ceased to be our money and has become God’s money. It is neither ours, nor priest’s – it belongs to the Church and the Church does not belong to us, for we belong to the Church. The possibility of giving to the Church is not our merit, it is the greatest privilege, it makes us coworkers in Christ’s work of salvation, ministers of His purpose. Therefore the Priest who by definition is the keeper and the guide of the religious life of the Parish must necessary give the sanction to every decision concerning the use of the Church’s funds. The fear that he will use “our” money for “his” interests reveals the moral level of Orthodoxy in this country and is a shameful one. One of two things: either the Priest is the Priest, knowing who he is, trained to fulfill his ministry, sincere, enlightened and “pastoral” – the fear in this case is superfluous and must be replaced by trust. Or he is a bad Priest (and there have always been bad priests in the Church!) using his position to enrich himself, stealing the parish’s funds, lazy, ignorant, selfish. Then he betrays his function, and the Church has all possible means to depose such a Priest and to deprive him of the function which he has betrayed and falsified. But to erect the distrust into a legal system, to establish the whole life of the Church, as if it had to be “defended” against the Priests is to make the Church a mockery and to disregard her real nature.... There can be no doubt that the “controlling authority” in the Orthodox Church belongs to the hierarchy. And it should be the common goal and task of all Orthodox to assure its clergy such training and spiritual preparation that would make them capable of exercising their authority with the wisdom, the experience and the spiritual insight which are the characteristics of a good Pastor.

It is this misunderstanding of the spiritual nature of the Church (spiritual which is not opposed to, but includes, the material) that constitutes the root of the monumental distortions in Mr. Arkush’s pamphlet. It is too bad Mr. Arkush does not see them. It is too bad that he is blind to the fact that his secular terminology, when applied to the Church is entirely “out of key”, false, inadequate. It is the terminology and the language of someone who can see all the “legal points”, and yet fails completely to see the religious essence of the Church.

The first of these errors is the opposition between “hierarchal” and “sobornal.” Mr. Arkush presents these terms as mutually exclusive. “Hierarchal” means “government administered in the Church by patriarchs, archbishops, bishops etc . . .” (Webster) and since in our Church “the supreme legislative, administrative and judicial authority within the Church is the Sobor” with the participation of the laity – our Church is not “hierarchal” – so runs Mr. Arkush’s argument. But it is based on a purely legal concept of the Sobor, a concept which is simply incompatible with the concept of the Church. The Sobor being the expression of the Church is itself a hierarchal organ, i. e. reflects and expresses the structure of the Church. All members of the Sobor take part in it according to their order and status in the Church: Bishops as Bishops, Priests as Priests and Laymen as Laymen. It would be absurd to think that from the moment the Sohor is convened, all its members loose their “status” in the Church and become equal “units” of an abstract government, with the majority rule as the only principle of decision.

It is obvious that the participation of the laity in the Sobor is given a false interpretation based on a false application of the “democratic” principles to the Church. Their participation means primarily the privilege given then to express their concern for the Church, to discuss together the needs of the Church, to devise better solutions for her actual problems and to take decisions insofar as they are in agreement with the Tradition and the Faith of the Church. This privilege is based on the Orthodox belief that no one in the Church is deprived of the Holy Spirit, and that to every one is given the spirit of responsibility and concern for the Church, the spirit of active membership. It is not based, however, on any juridical right that would make laity “co-governors” and “co-administrators” of the Church. The authority to decide whether this or that decision of the Sobor is in agreement with Tradition remains with the Hierarchy and it is in this sense that the Sobor is hierarchal.

The Sobor is thus the expression of the common concern for the Church of all her members and the expression also of her hierarchal structure, and this is what “sobornost” and “sobornal” mean in Orthodoxy. It is a cooperation, in which each member of the Church is given full possibility to express his views, to enrich other with his experience, to teach and to be taught, to give and to receive. The hierarchy can profit immensely from this cooperation with the laity, just as the laity can be enlightened on the various dimensions of the Church life. But all this does not mean “egalitarianism”, a transformation of hierarchy into laity and vice-versa. It is a sad fact, a tragedy indeed, that under the influence of secularism and legalism, the whole emphasis in our understanding of the Sobor activities has shifted to “decisions” and “motions” which are being considered as the main task of the Sobor, whereas its real value is in the wonderful opportunity to clarify the mind of the Church by a common discussion, by sharing the concern for the Church, by deepening the unity of all members of the Church. It is a sad fact, that instead of pervading our “secular” life with the spirit of the Church, we can think of nothing better than to transform the Church into a secular corporation with “balance of powers”, “fight for rights” and pseudo-democratic “egalitarianism.” Once more, the Sober is an hierarchal organ of the Church, submitted as such to the basic structure of the Church and valid inasmuch only as it is hierarchal.

Equally wrong is Mr. Arkush’s analysis of the lay participation in the Sobors of the past. In his opinion, the Church of the Ecumenical Councils not only changed the practice of the early Church (which was that of accepting the laity into the “synod”) but legislated in exactly the opposite direction: laity was canonically excluded from the election of Bishops and participation in Church Councils. The “early” practice was restored by the Moscow Sobor of 1917-18, and constitutes the basis for the Church in America. First, on the election of bishops: It is true that the bishops were elected by the local church. The consecration, however, which alone made them bishops was performed by the bishops – and this order expresses the ontological order of the Church. Election, i.e. suggestion, proposal, etc., comes from the people of the Church, the Sanction comes from the hierarchy, and this principle is to be applied to the whole life of the Church, in which, according to St. Ignatius of Antioch, “nothing can be done without the bishop” (i.e. without the hierarchal sanction). No canon ever condemned or forbade the election of the bishop by the people and if this was not done for a long time, the reason is purely historical and accidental, not “canonical.” It is highly desirable to restore it wherever and whenever possible, but let it be clear, that election as such is not the condition of validity for a bishop. The Apostles were not “elected” by anyone, and it is at least doubtful that St. Paul when appointing Timothy or Titus was basing his choice on a popular election. It is true that many forms and the very spirit of secular government pervaded the Church after her alliance with the Roman Empire, transforming the bishops into high officials (hence the uncanonical transfers of bishops, the idea of a “cursus honorum”, the weakening of the ties between the bishop and his church etc.), but it is also true that the best bishops and the real canonical tradition were always fighting this transformation as a distortion and called for the restoration of a true Orthodox ecciesiology.

“The canons of the Ecumenical Councils, – writes Mr. Arkush, – make no mention of the laity as sharing in Church government. On the contrary they indicate that the Bishop solely governed the Church”. I am glad that Mr. Arkush makes this clear statement and, although he tries immediately to question its relevance for us and our time, there remains the fact that our Church knows of no other canonical tradition but precisely that of the Ecumenical Councils period. The Church was governed by the Bishops because the Bishops are the ministers of Church government, and to ask whether this principle or “canon” is still binding is to ask whether the Church is still the Church. What Mr. Arkush overlooks, however, is the fact that the lay participation in shaping the life and the activities of the Church, its voice – was fully recognized, even though they took no official part in the Church councils. The great monastic movement was at its beginning a lay movement, yet it had a great impact on the whole life of the Church. Eusebius of Dorylea was a simple layman when he protested against the heretical teaching of his bishop Nestrorius. Theologians were not necessarily bishops and the tradition of “lay theology” has remained a living one even today. Participation, activity, concern for the Church, thinking, discussion – all this was never denied to the laity, on the contrary, belongs to it as its right and duty.

It was indeed a wonderful achievement of the Moscow Sobor of 1917-18 that it restored this lay participation to its full capacity and gave the laity new possibilities of cooperation with the hierarchy and creative activity in the Church, and this at a moment when the common defense of the Church became an urgent need. It brought to an end a false “clericalism”, a situation in which clergy alone constitute the active element in the Church. It clearly proclaimed the principle that all Christians are living and active members of the Church. But the Moscow Sobor did not and could not change the basic structure of the Church, as Mr. Arkush seems to interpret its decisions. By introducing the laity into the Sobor – “the supreme authority of the Church”, it did not change the status of the laity in the Church, it did not give them “rights of government”. The final sanction within the Sobor belongs to the Bishops, and this principle according to Prof. Kartashoff was the “corner stone of the whole activity of the Sohor” (A. Kartashoff, The Revolution and the Sobor of 1917-18, in “The Theological Thought”, Paris, 1942, pp. 88) – “All decisions of the plenary sessions, – writes Prof. Kartashoff, – were revised at special sessions of the Bishop’s Council; if rejected by three-fourths of the Episcopate, they were sent back to the plenary session. If not accepted by the Bishops after revisions by the Sobor, they were not to become official acts of the Sobor”. Thus, at this point Mr. Arkush’s interpretation is false. The Sobor created two organs of the Church government: the Synod of Bishops and the Supreme Church Council, and it was clearly stated that to the competence of the Synod of Bishops belong the questions concerning Doctrine, Worship, Theological Education, Ecclesiastical Government and Discipline (Decision of December 8, 1917). Finally, in the Parish statute (April 20, 1918) the government of the parish is defined as follows: “It is the duty of the Rector to have a concern for all the activities of the Parish” (Ch. V. 29). To oppose the Moscow Sobor to the earlier tradition of the Church, to see in it the beginning of a “sobornal as opposed to the hierarchal Church” is therefore a pure distortion.

Mr. Arkush’s pamphlet has one notorious merit: it crystallizes the issue of our present ecclesiastical trouble. He formulates the question and answers it in the negative. It is our absolute conviction that the Orthodox faith and the Orthodox tradition put us under obligation to answer it in the positive. The Church is hierarchal. To let these two mutually exclusive answers coexist any longer would endanger the very foundation of Orthodoxy in this country. All men, who put the Church, her Life and her Truth, above their own private and individual options, likes and dislikes, must understand the ultimate scope of this controversy, make their choice and act accordingly.

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 4, Fall 1959, pp. 36-41

The Parish and the Church - by Alexander Schmemann (1959)

The Parish and the Church

Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

1. The arguments about the Statute of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America adopted by the Ninth All American Sobor of 1955 are not “technical” arguments, but have a deep significance of principle. They involve fundamental questions relating to the life and organization of the Church. The passionate character of these arguments plainly shows that we are faced not only with two different “practical” settings which conflict with each other, but with two different conceptions of the whole canonical structure of the Church. In the Church – which is a living and growing organism – there is room for argument; it is legitimate to search for the truth and to seek the correct answers to the problems of modern life. But such arguments can be fruitful and useful only if both sides unconditionally accept as their common ground and point of departure the eternal and the unchangeable teaching of the Orthodox Church, as expressed in its dogmas and canons. The dogmas and canons of the Church are not subject to revision; such a “revision” would be tantamount to a “falling out” of the Church, to a rejection of Orthodox. We would like all those who argue about the Statute to keep this always in mind and to understand that the issue involved is whether we are to remain Orthodox, or whether under the name of “Orthodoxy” there is growing up something alien to the Church, something equivalent to a betrayal that would render all discussions of the Church’s organization senseless and futile.

2. Practically all discussions about the Statute centre on the problem of the parish and are concerned with the following questions: who is to be at the head of the parish? How should the parish be organized and governed? Several crucial points in this discussion require elucidation. The aim of this paper is to give a brief analysis of those points in which we can clearly detect a flagrant departure from the fundamental principles of the canonical and dogmatic tradition of Orthodoxy. We have purposely used the term “dogmatic” tradition, because despite the widespread notion that the dogmatic and administrative fields are unrelated to each other – the Church has invariably considered that both fields form inseparable parts of one and the same tradition based on the same dogmatic principles. The organization of the Church and its “administration” are wholly determined by the faith of the Church, i. e., by the doctrine held by the Church about herself. It is hence an error to think that the faith of the Church can be preserved if her diocesan and parochial organization is built up on new and purely secular administrative and juridical foundations. I do not propose to touch in this paper upon the question of who is responsible for a situation which is often used to justify the necessity for new forms and norms in the Church. This is a large and complex question. But whoever bears the responsibility and whatever the novelty of the present situation, the fundamental principles of the Church organization cannot depend on them. The points which are listed below are so fundamental that any departure from their original canonical meaning would be as I have already stated, tantamount, to a departure from the Orthodox tradition.

3. The first of these points is the question of the relation between the parish on the one hand and the diocesan – more generally, the ecclesiastical – authorities on the other.

In practice this refers to the so-called “independent parishes,” i. e., those parishes that determine their relation to the ecclesiastical authorities unilaterally. The general tendency is to claim that the traditional conception of the parish as a part of larger organism (the diocese, the Church) contradicts the law of the United States, more especially the state laws of incorporation; the parish – so the argument runs – is incorporated according to the laws of the state, and this, perforce, makes the parish administratively independent and self-governing. However, it will be obvious to anyone who has some knowledge of American legislation, and in particular of the legislation concerning religion, that this assertion either rests on ignorance or is made with evil intent. 1) The American principle of separation of Church and State enables every religious community to organize its own life and administration in accordance with the teaching and rules of its faith. 2) The incorporation of a parish by no means makes it an “independent” and “self-sufficient” body, because all depends on what sort of society is being “incorporated”; hence it is not incorporation that defines the structure of a given society, but on the contrary, the structure and the basic principles of the society define the form of incorporation. In other words, it all depends on how the parish considers and defines itself, and any reference to American law is senseless here, because the only purpose of the law is to protect and legalize the self-determination of a group of believers. On the organization and administration of the American Orthodox Church the civil law is silent.

Hence it is clear that the idea of an “independent parish” is based on a distorted notion of the Church and is a rebellion against her basic norms. Let us briefly recall these norms.

I. Canonically, and hence administratively, the parish is a part of the Church and, like everything in the Church, is subject to the Church’s authorities, and in the first place to its bishop. A parish “independent” of its bishop or a parish that recognizes his authority only in a “spiritual,” and not in an administrative, sense, is a canonical absurdity.

II. The Diocesan Bishop has the following authority in the parish: he appoints its clergy and constantly supervises the entire life and activities of the parish either personally or through its clergy. This leads neither to arbitrary rule nor to “absolutism,” for the canons of the Orthodox Church as well as the Statute of 1955 define very precisely the means by which the Bishop exercises his authority; but to single out any one sphere of parish life and to claim that this sphere lies outside the competence and the jurisdiction of the Church’s authorities is to contradict the very idea of the Church as expressed in the words of St. Ignatius the God Bearer: “in the Church nothing is done without the Bishop.”

III. From this point of view Pastor is the representative of the Bishop and of his authority in the parish. The Pastor’s rights and duties are also strictly defined by the canons of the Church and by the Statute. But it cannot be emphasized too strongly that the notion of a priest as a hired person subject to the demands and dependent upon the conditions imposed by his employers – is not only false, but clearly heretical. We must remember that a parish priest, – the parish being part of the Church – represents the Church itself, its traditions, its teachings, its hierarchy; the Pastor is not subordinated to his parishioners, but both are subject to the aims, tasks and interests of the Church; and the Pastor views the interests of the parish in the light of this relationship of the parish to the Church as a whole.

IV. The Orthodox teaching on the Church asserts the possibility and necessity of co-operation between clergy and laymen on all levels and in all spheres of Church life (The Sobor, the Metropolitan Council, the Diocesan Council, the Church Committee). Orthodox doctrine consequently rejects not only the monopolizing of authority by the clergy (Roman clericalism) but also the distinction between the sphere that is subject to the clergy’s jurisdiction and the sphere that lies outside it (Protestantism). In the Orthodox Church everything is done together, in the unity of clergy and laity. But the term “together” means firstly that the bishop and the priest participate by right in all spheres of the parish’s life, and secondly that to them, according to the hierarchical principle, belong the religious right and duty of sanctioning all activities. Nothing can be done in the Church without the hierarchy or against it, because by its very nature everything, including the material, financial and economic spheres of Church life, is subject to the religious purpose of the Church. A parish does not build a church, a school or any other building, neither does it collect money, simply to enrich itself; all this is done in order to carry out the teaching of Christ and to promote the well-being of the Church; hence every sphere of the parish activity is inwardly subordinate to religious aims and should be examined and appraised in the light of these aims. Therefore the active leadership, participation in and control of parish life by the spiritual head of the parish is both necessary and self-evident.

In the light of these principles we should unconditionally condemn all attempts:

1) to make a parish independent of the Diocese, the Metropolitan district and all other lawfully constituted organs of Church authority;
2) to “incorporate” a parish in contradiction to the above principles;
3) to distinguish between the “spiritual” and the “material” spheres of the parish’s activity;
4) to treat the parish priest as a “hireling” who can be hired or dismissed by decision of the Church Committee;
5) to deprive the priest of his rightful position of leader in all forms of parish life.

In our opinion failure to accept the points listed above is equivalent to a violation of the basic principles of Orthodoxy; this danger we submit, should be brought to the attention of all Orthodox people.

The Very Reverend Alexander Schmemann

Published by: Committee on Convocation of the 10th All-American Church Sobor of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America [NY], 1959

Guidelines on Parish Insurance Coverage

Clergy, Lay Employee Compensation

Gifts from Your Will or Trust