NEW YORK – Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, Chairman of The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the USA, presided over a meeting of the body of the canonical hierarchs where he delivered a thoughtful keynote address in which among other things he said the following:
“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice! I greet all of you, Holy Brothers, with these encouraging words of the Apostle, for we have so very much to be joyful for. I am particularly happy to be with all of you – my brothers in the ministry to the Lord and His Holy Church. This is my First Assembly with the Chief Shepherds of the American Churches. We have nearly a full complement of the Hierarchs of the Assembly, missing only our Russian Brethren for whom we long in the Spirit, and with whom we hope to have restored relations in the not too distant future.
“This year has been perhaps the most challenging of our collective arch-pastorates, and our Merciful God has strengthened our resolve to stand with our respective flocks and shepherd them through these difficult days. This pandemic, which is still with us and has even afflicted the President and First Lady of our Nation, is the worst global outbreak in a century. Across all fifty States, the Church has faced restrictions, prohibitions, and challenges which very few of us would have ever expected to face. And yet, despite the difficulties, we have persevered for the sake of the People of God, even when our Holy Week and the Holy Pascha were severely disrupted and indeed curbed by the pandemic. But this is why I say, ‘Rejoice!’ Because in the midst of these troubles, as Bishops, as Shepherds of the rational Flock of Christ, we have learned new ways to come together in solidarity of purpose, and in being useful to one another, and to our Faithful.”
In another instance the Archbishop said, “here, I would highlight a real ‘silver lining’ within the COVID cloud. As a result of our many challenges, early on in the pandemic, the Executive Committee of our Assembly committed to weekly meetings – every Friday, and we have stuck to this schedule for most of this year. We met to find solutions. Whether through the COVID-19 Task Force, which was convened to give the most up-to-date health and legal news, or through the newly established position of Director of Operations, or through the interactions and dialogues with the various Committees of the Assembly and their Episcopal leadership, the weekly exchanges have infused your Executive Committee with renewed purpose and expectation.”
The Archbishop also said that “allow me to stress that all of us, the Bishops of the Church – we are the substance of the Assembly, and our success as a body will be determined by the commitment of each and every one of us.”
Archbishop Elpidophoros added, “working with the Executive Committee, I have found an inspired and devoted “band of brothers” who bring out the best in me. These close collaborations – even in this time of being physically distanced – is truly a cause for rejoicing! I am especially grateful to my beloved and esteemed brother, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, our Assembly Vice-Chairman, for his leadership in advocating the motion that we name 2021 the Year of the Youth! His vision, which I and all the members of the Executive Committee share, is to go beyond words and platitudes and really do something special for our youth, something that hearkens back to the fifties and sixties when CEYOLA was a reality, and something that looks to the future with realism and faith in our increasingly complex and complicated world.”