The Constitution of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas

Adopted August 8, 1961

"Behold how good and how pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity"' (Psalm 132,1). For the last one hundred and fifty years the Orthodox Church in America has been blessed with marks of divine favor. Her beginnings in this country were humble. Planted by a handful of Missionaries in Alaska and nourished by successive waves of immigration from Orthodox lands, she is now a great and flourishing member of world Orthodoxy. All of the faithful brought here the treasure of their national Orthodox traditions, so that the American Church is the inheritor and custodian of the glorious Paradosis of the Apostles, Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils. Fully integrated in American Society the Church is here to stay, to grow, and to bear witness to the true faith. At the moment when the United States assumes an always-greater responsibility in the world community, the presence of Orthodoxy in America acquires a new significance and calls for better forms to express her common testimony. By the mercy of God our unity of faith has been preserved. But the time has come to actualize this unity in all those fields in which a common effort is required.

Therefore we, the hierarchs of the American Church, have decided to establish a Standing Episcopal Conference for the consideration and resolution of common problems, the coordination of effort in matters of common concern, and the strengthening of that unity which is the essence of Orthodoxy.

I. NAME, MEMBERSHIP, AND OBJECTIVE

(a) Name. The name of this Conference shall be "The Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas," hereinafter called the Conference.

(b) Membership. The Conference shall consist of the presiding hierarchs
of the Canonical Orthodox Churches in the Americas, whose names are subscribed to this Constitution, and their canonical successors in office.

(c) Objective. The purpose of the Conference is the consideration and resolution of common ecclesiastical problems, the co-ordination of effort in matters of common concern to Orthodoxy, and the strengthening of Orthodox unity.

  1. All authority in the Conference resides in the member hierarchs and is derived from them. All decisions of the Conference shall require two-thirds approval of the member hierarchs present at a regular or special meeting to become binding on the Conference.
  2. No decision of the Conference shall interfere with the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of any of the Canonical Orthodox Churches, or any of the member Hierarchs.
  3. Autocephalous Churches, represented in the Standing Conference, are recognizing each other as equal sister Orthodox Churches with equal canonical rights.

(b) Structure.

  1. Presiding Hierarch. The Office of Presiding Hierarch shall pass in turn annually to the presiding hierarchs of the member jurisdictions in order of their precedence in the Church.
  2. The Presiding Hierarch shall preside at all meetings.
  3. The conference shall elect a Vice-Chairman, who in the absence of the Presiding Hierarch, shall preside at meetings.

III.

  1. A Study and Planning Commission of the theologians representing the member Hierarchs and appointed by them, shall be delegated to supervise the work of appointed Commissions and Committees, provide appropriate items for the agenda of the meetings relative to the interests of the Conference and its activities.
  2. To interrelate the work of the various Commissions and Committees appointed and serve as a common clearing source of information, a General Secretary shall be appointed annually at a regular meeting to work in close co-ordination with an office and a budget to be established by the hierarchs.
  3. The hierarchs shall elect from among themselves a Treasurer to serve for one year, who shall sign together with the General Secretary all checks or drafts on funds of the Conference. The hierarchs may elect additional officers, from time to time; the General Secretary shall present to the Conference a budget for the following year within which he may make disbursements for that year.

IV.

  1. The continuing work of the Conference shall be assigned to Commissions and Committees of experts who shall work as directed by the Conference and submit biennial reports, in advance, to the meetings of the hierarchs.
  2. Among the Commissions and Committees to be established or accredited by the hierarchs, priority shall be given to the following:
    1. The Orthodox Christian Education Commission
    2. The Orthodox Catholic Committee on Scouting
    3. The Orthodox Committee on College Work
    4. The American Orthodox Committee on Relations with non-Orthodox bodies.
    5. The Council of Eastern Orthodox Youth Leaders of America
    6. A Committee on Chaplaincies in the Armed Forces and welfare institutions
    7. A U .S. Study Commission on Pan-Orthodox Synod
    8. A Committee on Theological Education
    9. A Committee on Standardized Liturgical Texts
    10. A Vigilance Committee of Orthodox attorneys and legislators shall be appointed to keep the hierarchs informed of legislation, juridical, or executive action of interest, or of importance to the Church, and to render advice and assistance in the event of need.
    11. A Missionary Commission shall be set up to study the needs and opportunities of the jurisdictions in the external and internal mission fields of the Church, here and abroad, to point out opportunities or failures, and to suggest areas in which necessary resources might be found.
    12. A Committee on Budget and Fund Raising. A Committee shall be appointed by the hierarchs to provide for the financial support of the needs of the Conference by adequate assessment on the participating jurisdictions and by all other good means.
    13. Membership on the various Commissions and Committees shall be restricted to one or two nominees of each of the member hierarchs. Additional advisory members may be accepted by the appointed members for assistance in the assigned work.

V. MEETINGS

  1. The Conference shall meet twice annually for the mutual exchange of information and for decisive action and at other times for special needs.
  2. The time and place of each regular meeting shall be determined by the hierarchs at the last previous meeting. Six member hierarchs shall provide a quorum.
  3. Special meetings may be requested by any member hierarch through the General Secretary and shall be held within fifteen days after the consent of two-thirds of the member Hierarchs shall have been obtained in writing by the General Secretary.
  4. (a) Attendance at the meetings of the Conference shall be restricted to member hierarchs, each of who may bring one or more theologians, or advisors with him.

    (b) Diocesan or Vicar, or assistant Bishops of member hierarchs may attend meetings at the invitation of their immediate superior, but shall not vote, except as proxies.

VI. AMENDMENTS AND BY-LAWS

By-Laws or amendments to this Constitution may be proposed by any member hierarch at a regular meeting. Such by-laws or amendments shall be voted upon at the next regular meeting, and require a two-thirds affirmative vote of the members present in order to be adopted.

The following Amendment to the Constitution of the Conference has been duly adopted by all of the member hierarchs of The Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops In the Americas on October 29, 2002, and endorsed by their signature at their autumn meeting on December 17, 2002 at the Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, Somerset, New Jersey.

"VII. EXEMPT STATUS REQUIREMENTS

"The Conference is organized exclusively for religious, charitable, and educational purposes, including for such purposes the making of distributions to organizations that qualify as exempt organizations under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or corresponding section of any future federal tax code.

"No part of the net earnings of the Conference shall inure to the benefit of, or be distributable to, its members, trustees, officers, or other private persons, except that the Conference shall be authorized and empowered to pay reasonable compensation for services rendered and to make-payments and distributions in furtherance of the purposes set forth in the purpose clause hereof. No substantial part of the activities of the Conference shall be the carrying on of propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation, and the Conference shall not participate in, or intervene in (including the publication or distribution of statements) any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution, the Conference shall not carry on other activities not permitted to be carried on (a) by an organization exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or corresponding section of any future tax code, or (b) by an organization contributions to which are deductible under section 170(c)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code, or corresponding section of any future tax code.

"Upon the dissolution of this Conference, assets shall be distributed pro-rata to the archdioceses of the member hierarchs which archdioceses are organized for one or more exempt purposes within the meaning of section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or corresponding section of any future federal tax code. Any such assets not disposed of shall be disposed of by the Court of Common Pleas of the county in which the principal office of the Conference is then located, exclusively for such purposes or to such organization or organizations as said Court shall determine, which are organized and operated exclusively for such purposes.”