From September 5-7, 2007, a regular session of the Synod of Bishops was held, chaired by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus. Participating were His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany; His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand; His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America; His Grace Bishop Michael of Geneva and Western Europe; His Grace Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan; His Grace Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart and His Grace Bishop Peter of Cleveland.
Protopriest Serafim Gan served as Recording Secretary, having appointed to this duty last September.
At the beginning of the session, Metropolitan Laurus welcomed the members of the Synod of Bishops, expressing his gratitude for their participation in the celebrations held at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY. In his opening address, His Eminence noted that the matter of church unity was gradually developing and gaining strength. Clergymen and laypersons are gradually returning from recent schisms . Archbishop Mark then congratulated Vladyka Laurus on his recent namesday and the 40 th anniversary of his episcopal consecration on behalf of the episcopate, wishing him heavenly aid, good health, courage and success in his service to the Church of Christ and the people of God.
During this session of the Synod of Bishops, candidacies for the episcopate and for the role of Chief of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem were discussed, and also a report by Archbishop Mark on the life of the mission and of its holy monasteries.
Archbishop Hilarion requested approval for changes in the parish by-laws for the parishes of New Zealand, which according to local law must be registered as charitable organizations. His Eminence also asked the Synod to release the reliquary containing the relics of SS Elizabeth and Barbara from the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign to visit the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand, so that the faithful of that diocese could venerate them.
Hearing the report of Protopriest Peter Holodny, Treasurer of the Synod of Bishops, its bishops expressed thanks for his labors and blessed the further research of the development of real estate belonging to the Synod of Bishops.
Archbishop Kyrill then reported on the decision of the Spiritual Court of his diocese on the defrocking of Hegumen Zinon. The Synod of Bishops, examining the details of this matter, confirmed this decision.
Bishop Gabriel informed the members of the Synod of Bishops of the contents of a letter from the mission of the Russian Church Abroad in Haiti who did not follow their leader, Protopriest Gregory Williams, into schism under the suspended Bishop Agathangel (Pashkovsky). Having discussed this matter in detail, it was decided to send Bishop Michael and Deacon Matthew Williams to lend support and pastoral nourishment to the members of the mission in Haiti and to regularize their canonical situation.
Bishop Michael then reported on the life of his diocese, after which Protopriest Andrei Sommer reported on the All-Diaspora Youth Pilgrimage, which enjoyed great success and proved to be of colossal benefit for all its participants, which was confirmed by Bishop Peter, who led the group. The Synod of Bishops expressed thanks to Protopriest Gabriel Makarov of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand, and Fr Andrei for their labors in the organization of this pilgrimage. The Synod blessed Fr Andrei to enter into discussions with Protopriest Yaroslav Belikov and the Parish Council of the London Cathedral on the possibility of organizing an All-Diaspora Youth Conference in that city.
The Eminent President of the Synod of Bishops reported to the Synod on the letters received from clergymen of the former Diocese of Tauride and Odessa who did not wish to follow suspended Bishop Agathangel, who caused a schism. Having examined this matter, the bishops decided that the Synod will intercede before His Eminence Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine to regularize their canonical status.
Having heard the a letter read by Fr Serafim from His Holiness Patriarch Alexy addressed to Metropolitan Laurus on the ecclesiastical exhibition “Orthodox Rus,” which is aimed at unifying efforts of church and lay organizations in preserving and expanding cultural, ethical and religious treasures, the Synod of Bishops decreed to send Archbishop Mark to participate, along with Monk Philaret of St Job of Pochaev Monastery in Munich, and N. Mashkov.
The Synod of Bishops also considered the appeal presented by Fr Serafim from GA Merkulov, Deputy Director of the International Center of Culture, Art and Spiritual Rebirth “Russian Rennaissance” on the possibility of the Synod of Bishops becoming a co-founder of the Non-commercial Partnership of this group. Its goal is to draw attention to spiritual ideals, to preserve Russian cultural traditions in the multicultural world which tends towards globalization and the rejection of national priorities. Having examined this matter, the Synod of Bishops decided to approve Mr Merkulov's proposal and appoint representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to the Supporting Council and Administrative Center of this group; specifically, Bishop Michael and Fr Serafim, the Personal Secretary of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
In response to the invitation of His Beatitude Katolikos of All Georgia, Archbishop Ilii of Mtskhet and Tbilisi, the Synod of Bishops decided to send Bishop Michael and his protodeacon to celebrations being held by the Georgian Orthodox Church this October.
Having considered a letter from His Eminence Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad on the formation of working groups charged with composing a document which will express the Church's position on human rights consistent with Church's position towards non-Christian groups, the Synod of Bishops decided to send Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff and Protopriest Nikolai Artemov to these meetings.
Reading and discussing the contents of a letter from Metropolitan Kirill on the church conference “Orthodox Pilgrimage: Tradition and the Contemporary World,” being organized with the aim of elevating the qualifications of the pilgrimage services offered by dioceses, deaneries, parishes and monasteries, it was decided to send Protopriest Vladimir Malchenko, Rector of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Toronto, to participate in this meeting.
Having studied a letter from Protopriest Vladimir Siloviev, Chairman of the Publishing Council of the Moscow Patriarchate, on the organization of an exhibition on the role of the Moscow Patriarchate in contemporary Russia and the overcoming of the tragic division, after the historic reestablishment of ecclesiastical unity, and the 200 th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Russia and the United States of America, the Synod of Bishops instructed Fr Serafim to participate in the organization of this exhibition in the USA from December 17-23, 2007.
The Synod of Bishops then heard the report of Nicholas A Ohotin, Communications Director of the Synod of Bishops, on the lawsuit filed against the group of individuals who left into schism and sought to take Church property. On September 6, the Superior Court of the State of New Jersey ruled that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is a hierarchical church, that the parish property is held in trust for the Diocese of Eastern America and New York, and that the attempted amendment of the parish certificate of incorporation by the defendants was invalid. The Synod expressed its thanks to him for his efforts towards the benefit of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
In closing this regular session of the Synod of Bishops, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus expressed his gratitude to the members of the Synod, and all the members of its administration, the employees of the Synodal Chancery.