The Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches in America
A Brief History
The Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches in America was established in 1973 under the auspices of the then Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, His Eminence Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, now the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, together with His Eminence Mar Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, the late Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of the United States and Canada, as co-chairmen. It was felt that such an official organization would help to address the growing needs and challenges facing the Oriental Orthodox Churches in America. Moreover, it was believed that such a body, comprised of the bishops and clergy of the Armenian (Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America), Coptic, Ethiopian, Syrian and Syro-Malankarese (the current Malankara Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church in North America) Orthodox Churches would provide a united voice in dealing with issues of common concern and witness. Over the years, many clerics have represented their respective churches as Conference members, and have contributed greatly to the growth and expansion of the organization.
Among the major activities of the Standing Conference is the ongoing Oriental Orthodox / Roman Catholic Consultation with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Following initial contacts, a meeting was held in Philadelphia, PA on August 4, 1976 between His Eminence William Cardinal Baum, then Catholic Archbishop of Washington, DC, and Archbishop Manoogian to discuss the possibility of such an official consultation. After additional planning, the first working session of the Consultation met on May 26, 1978. Two important joint publications have merged from the Consultation: The Oriental Orthodox Churches in the United States (1986); and Oriental Orthodox – Roman Catholic Interchurch Marriages and Other Pastoral Relationships (1995). During the years, the Consultation has discussed a number of theological issues as well as matters of common pastoral concerns.
Another important activity of the Standing Conference has been a series of concelebrated hierarchical liturgies held at various locations. The first such celebration was held in Philadelphia at the time of the 41st International Eucharistic Congress of the Roman Catholic Church in August, 1976. Now hosted annually by one of the sister churches, in its own liturgical tradition, with the participation of the hierarchs, clergy and choirs of all of the sister churches, the concelebrated liturgies provide a tangible manifestation of the sacramental unity enjoyed by the Oriental Orthodox Churches, as well as a wonderful opportunity for Oriental Orthodox faithful to meet and worship together.
Today the member churches of the Standing Conference continue to enjoy their mutual fellowship and their participation in each other’s liturgical, educational and cultural programs.