The Founding Document of this Church is the original statement of Principles, Faith, Doctrine and Discipline issued on January 1, 1910 by Archbishop Timotheus (Rene Joseph Vilatte) with the approval of Bishops Stephen (Kaminski) and Paul (Miraglis). We are in fundamental agreement with this document.
In 1915 this church jurisdiction received its first civil law incorporation, issued in the State of Illinois under the title "American Catholic Church" under the authority of its president/archbishop. In 1973 the secretary of state of the State of Illinois granted a request by the church's president/archbishop to retitle the corporation as the "Orthodox-Catholic Church of America. Incorporated in Illinois." In 1982 the president/archbishop petitioned for a charter of incorporation in the State of Indiana, which charter was granted and is still in effect as the "Orthodox-Catholic Church of America."
ARTICLES OF CONSTITUTION
This church organization, government and administration is the Orthodox-Catholic Church of America, hereafter referred to as the Church. It is a self-governing, autocephalous, Orthodox and Catholic confession of faith within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church as described in the Nicea-Constantinople Creed.
The worship of God in the Holy Trinity; the proclamation and continuing of the Orthodox faith as taught in holy scripture, the apostolic tradition and the seven ecumenical councils of the undivided, ancient Church of Christ; the providing for a central, national organization for the development of independent members (clergy and lay) and their associations according to applicable civil and ecclesiastical laws.
This Church is and shall remain a self-governing church jurisdiction as canonically confirmed on January 1, 1910. It is an autocephaly similar in structure to the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and all other self-governing Orthodox churches in the world. This Church has jurisdiction in its own name and right in the whole of the United States of America and in North America. This Church exists and functions as a non-profit organization according to its charter and that of the proper civil authority.
This Church consists of an archdiocese together with its subsidiary regional dioceses and its particular parishes, missions and religious communities, all of whose members share a common belief, purpose and moral unity, but not a legal relationship.
Full authority in this Church is invested in its Synod of Bishops presided over by its Metropolitan Archbishop. The Metropolitan Archbishop is elected by the Synod of Bishops or by a Church Synod consisting of clergy and laity duly chosen to act as electors if the full Synod of Bishops so decides.
Legislative power rests with the Synod of Bishops and, if the bishops fully agree, with the National Synod representing the Church's clergy and/or lay members. The Synod of Bishops shall meet in session every two years and the National Synod every four years. Each year, on July 1st, the secretary of the Synod of Bishops will present a brief written report of the Church's activity for the previous year, which report will be ratified by the Metropolitan Archbishop.
Executive power is vested in the Metropolitan Archbishop, the Church's chief executive officer and president, who acts to build consensus as the chair of the Synod of Bishops. "Consensus" is defined as a two-thirds majority of the bishops participating actively in the Synod of Bishops. In the moral or physical absence of a Metropolitan Archbishop and until a proper election is held and certified, the Synod of Bishops elects an administrator to oversee the normal functioning of the Church. To fulfill civil law, the Metropolitan Archbishop is president of the corporation. The Synod of Bishops shall elect a vice-president, secretary and treasurer who act in normative fashion in these offices.
This Church may acquire real and personal property, establish and maintain funds and trusts, accept donations, legacies, trusts and bequests. Moral units within the Church may do likewise so long as the units act in accordance with the stated purposes and beliefs of this Church organization under the administrative authority already described. It shall, however, be the policy of this Church to maintain for the Archdiocese a chancery fund for the use and disbursement of the Metropolitan Archbishop. The Archdiocesan Treasurer (of the Synod of Bishops) shall keep records according to norms established in regular accounting practices and civil laws when applicable.
The Orthodox-Catholic Church of America shall exist perpetually, as shall all moral units chartered by proper administrative authority.
These Articles of Constitution may be amended or changed by the Synod of Bishops or, with the bishops fully consenting, by action of a National Church Synod.
CANONS OF THE CHURCH
There shall exist a listing of the fundamental canons/laws of this Church. A copy of these canons will be supplied to each canonically enrolled clergy person.
These Articles of Constitution secures its authority by its ratification by the Church's Synod of Bishops and its promulgation by the Metropolitan Archbishop. There is no requirement for consultation, consent or approval by any other individual(s) or legal entities.
CANONS OF THE ORTHODOX-CATHOLIC CHURCH OF AMERICA
All members of this church jurisdiction will struggle to live in the Spirit and the Gospel of the Risen Lord.
Full members are baptized/chrismated/communioned persons desiring to adhere to the faith as expressed in this jurisdiction within Western Orthodoxy within the ancient Orthodox tradition. There is an absolute equality of all members with each member having her/his own distinct calling and gifts on behalf of this community and on behalf of all the members of Christ's Body.
This jurisdiction consists of the Archdiocese presided over by its Metropolitan Archbishop and the Synod of Bishops of which the Metropolitan is chair and is the first among equals. The Synod of Bishops shall be composed of at least three episcopal members. The Archdiocese consists of North America and the United States in particular, an area which may be divided into regions or regional dioceses as described and delineated by the Synod of Bishops. Regional dioceses may come into existence and be nullified according to circumstances and pastoral need as determined by the Metropolitan Archbishop with the consensus of the Synod of Bishops. Regional and non-regional bishops, appointed by the Metropolitan Archbishop, serve by the consensus of the Synod of Bishops. Regional vicars may serve as voting, non-episcopal members of the Synod of Bishops for the duration of their appointment with the consensus of the existing members of the Synod.
The Synod of Bishops consists of the Metropolitan Archbishop, all bishops, and duly appointed regional vicars in accordance with canon 3. Consensus means 2/3 affirmative vote of all voting members present at a Synod or of all voting members of the Synod if the vote is taken electronically. All active bishops are full members of the Synod. The age of retirement for all bishops (and therefore from the Synod of Bishops) is 75, although the Synod may invite a bishop to continue service beyond the age of 75 for a specific period of time for pastoral need. Retired bishops are invited to have a voice with the Synod, but do not have a vote. All members of the Synod are responsible to keep in contact and in communion with the other members and the Metropolitan Archbishop.
The following are conditions that will call for censure and/or removal from the Synod of Bishops and/or the clergy roll of this jurisdiction: failure to profess by word and deed the faith as it is received in this jurisdiction; failure to communicate (a bishop with the members of the Synod of Bishops or a priest or deacon with the Archbishop or the regional bishop or regional vicar); misrepresentation of any kind when admitted or ordained into the clergy; unrepented substantiated felonious behavior; repeated and remarkable disregard for the welfare of this jurisdiction; repeated failure to participate actively in and attend either diocesan or archdiocesan clergy synods and meetings without being excused explicitly by the Metropolitan Archbishop, regional bishop, or regional vicar.
Bishops may be nominated from among the presbyters or deacons of this jurisdiction (or, on rare occasion, called from other valid, apostolic jurisdictions) by lay and clerical members of this jurisdiction for pastoral need. The candidate may freely accept or decline episcopal nomination. The nomination shall be confirmed by a consensus vote of the Synod of Bishops prior to an episcopal consecration.
The Metropolitan Archbishop is elected from among the members of the Synod of Bishops or clergy, or on rare occasion, called from another valid, apostolic jurisdiction. This election is completed according to guidelines agreed upon by a consensus of the members of the Synod of Bishops. Duly elected, the Metropolitan Archbishop serves for a term of eight years or until retirement. After the completion of an eight year term, the Synod of Bishops may invite by consensus the incumbent Metropolitan Archbishop to serve for a subsequent term of four years for pastoral need. If the retirement age of 75 is reached before the eight year term expires, the Synod of Bishops can determine by consensus to invite the Metropolitan Archbishop to complete all or some of the remaining portion of the eight year term or the subsequent four year term. For serious and just cause the full membership of the Synod of Bishops may call for the Metropolitan Archbishop's resignation. If resignation is not forthcoming the full membership of the Synod of Bishops and 2/3 of the canonical clergy must agree in written vote to dismiss the hierarch, in which case the dismissal is effective upon receipt to the secretary of the Synod of Bishops the results of the vote.
All voting called for in Canons for election or expulsion must take place within 40 days of formal notification by the secretary of the Synod of Bishops.
A candidate for presbyteral or diaconal ministry (either to be received from another jurisdiction or ordained) must be chosen by the proper regional bishop with the consent of the Metropolitan after a suitable period taking into consideration the candidate's background, interest and ability. A candidate for presbyteral or diaconal ministry should receive appropriate training and formation. A candidate may be summarily removed from consideration by the regional bishop and/or the Metropolitan Archbishop. Presbyters or deacons, if there has been a call for dismissal, may only be dismissed by the Metropolitan Archbishop after consultation with the members of the Synod of Bishops and with the proper bishop of the clergy person. A formal appeal of such a decision may be made to the Synod of Bishops, in which case the person may only be restored with the full agreement of its members. Attempted civil legal action on the part of an appellant will automatically result in a negative vote by the Synod of Bishops.
The Synod of Bishops elects an interim administrator in the absence of a Metropolitan Archbishop. The interim administrator announces an election, promulgates the guidelines agreed upon by the members, instructs the secretary of the Synod and oversees the normal executive needs of the church for the forty days prior to the canonical election of a new Metropolitan Archbishop.
Bishops received from other jurisdictions who wish to serve as bishops in this jurisdiction must so apply to the Synod of Bishops, exercising a ministry assigned by the Metropolitan Archbishop for one year prior to a negative or affirmative consensus vote by the members of the Synod.
An active bishop wishing to retire or otherwise be removed from the Synod of Bishops must give notice to the Metropolitan Archbishop who, seeking the advice and consent of the other members of the Synod, will notify the petitioner of the decision within two weeks. Other clergy wishing to retire or be removed will notify the regional bishop or the Metropolitan Archbishop. The regional bishop and the Metropolitan Archbishop will decide and the petitioner will be notified within one week.
The Metropolitan Archbishop, in addition to the above canons, shall:
- Collect and maintain the archdiocesan chancery records and history
- Promote communication and fellowship among the bishops and clergy
- Form archdiocesan committees and their memberships.
- Represent the jurisdiction to the wider Church or delegate same.
- Preside at the ordination or other sacramental services of clergy or delegate same.
- Oversee the formation and education of clergy.
- Inscribe antimens for members of the Synod of Bishops.
- Appoint regional vicars in conjunction with the Synod of Bishops for pastoral need.
- Call for a general synod meeting of all members of this jurisdiction.
- Represent the jurisdiction to local and national media and other jurisdictions and denominations.
The regional bishops, in addition to the above canons, shall:
- Keep proper records of clergy, copy to archdiocesan files.
- Promote communication and fellowship among regional clergy and fellow bishops.
- Preside at prayer and sacramental services regularly with regional clergy.
- Advise the Metropolitan Archbishop on a routine basis.
- Promote membership in OCCA and its clergy.
- Seek the formation and education of the clergy in cooperation with the archdiocese.
- Inscribe antimens for presbyters/bishops in his/her region.
- Represent the jurisdiction to local media and other churches.
All clergy must live in the Tentmaker Paul tradition, drawing their living income from secular or not compensated for by this jurisdiction nor by any congregation thereof. There will be no stated fees for sacramental services (though free will gifts may be received). The members of the Synod of Bishops may submit to the archdiocesan treasurer and finance committee any bills incurred in the course of episcopal ministry. Our clergy may serve as pastors and clergy within congregations not formally affiliated but not at odds with this church tradition.
Real property used for church functions can be borrowed, rented or owned by the clergy and/or members of the congregation or in a trust. There is no legal contract or covenant to the archdiocese or its other members (clerical or lay). The relationship between any and all members of this jurisdiction is strictly moral, not legal. Proper liability insurance is to be maintained according to common sense and the dictates of civil law.
There will be at least the following areas of concern for archdiocesan committees:
- Pastoral Life and Care
- Social Justice and Political Action
- Formation and Education
- Public Relations and Media
In general, the members of these committees serve at the will of the Metropolitan Archbishop and have no term of office, while a standing finance committee shall be established by the Synod of Bishops. The exact duties of the members of each committee are to be defined by the committee membership in consultation with the Metropolitan Archbishop and the Synod of Bishops.
Each committee shall make annual reports to the Synod and to the membership of the jurisdiction about their activities.
Civil divorce and remarriage through the third degree will not be a canonical barrier to full clerical membership and communion in this jurisdiction. Any other circumstances must be decided by the Metropolitan Archbishop in consultation with the regional bishop.
Christians not of this jurisdiction and other people of good will may not be explicitly prohibited from full participation in our Divine Liturgy or sacramental services. Marriage and Holy Union, though theologically distinct realities, are to be held in equal esteem and respect in this jurisdiction. Clergy received who are not ordained in apostolic tradition (as commonly accepted and understood) are to have their previous ordination or certification affirmed and celebrated by the laying on of hands and prayer according to the apostolic tradition, theological disputations notwithstanding. Gender or gender identity and marital status will not be a determining consideration for ordination or reception (though the wishes of the spouse/partner will weigh heavily on the candidate's acceptance).
This jurisdiction promotes and engages in the ecumenical life of the Church. We seek to form concordats and statements of agreement with other jurisdictions within Orthodoxy as well as in the Reformation, Old Catholic and Roman Catholic traditions. This process recognizes our distinct place within Orthodoxy, within western Orthodoxy, and within the United States' ecclesial scene.
Revisions to these canons shall be approved by a consensus vote of the Synod of Bishops and confirmed by a simple majority vote of the members in attendance at a general synod meeting.