The Code of Canon Law For The Governance of the

American Orthodox Church – North American Orthodox Church

and all her various dependencies

 

Canon One

Corporate Identity and Purpose

1.1 The corporate name of this Orthodox Faith community shall be and is "The American Orthodox Church."

1.2 Within these canons it shall also be referred to as "the Church" or “The Church”, "the Western Orthodox Church", "the AOC.", and such other nomenclatures descriptive of any one or more of her various dependencies [ie: American Orthodox Catholic Church “AOCC”, North American Orthodox Church “NAOC”], etc...

a. The California Non-Profit Corporation of The American Orthodox Church is the parent Church established in 1971-1972 and was also incorporated in New Mexico (USA) as:

                           i.      AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

                           ii.     NORTH AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

                           iii.    NORTH AMERICAN ORTHODOX CATHOLIC CHURCH

1.3 The American Orthodox Church is a canonically chartered and autocephalous jurisdiction within the One Holy (Orthodox) Catholic and Apostolic Church, founded by Jesus Christ. His Holy Apostles, and composed of all true Christians throughout time and eternity.

1.4 The American Orthodox Church is incorporated in the State of California, and shall be incorporated elsewhere from the parent corporation by whatever nomenclatures as may be expedient, as a not for profit religious corporation.

1.5 The Church exists to give right worship, praise, and adoration to God, and to bring the saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.  The Church shall establish dioceses, parishes, religious communities, charitable institutions, and other necessary institutions to fulfill this purpose.

§1 To facilitate this purpose, The Church is empowered to purchase, own, and hold in perpetuity, property, both real and personal.

Canon 2

Doctrine

2.1 The American Orthodox Church acknowledges, worships, praises, and gives adoration to the One True God revealed to mankind; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

2.2. The American Orthodox Church acknowledges that God’s self-revelatory actions are to be found in Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

§1 The Holy Scriptures are defined as the Old and New Testaments of The Bible, including those books known as Deutero-Canonical.

§2. The American Orthodox Church acknowledges that the Sacred Tradition is to be found in the Writings of the Fathers, and the Decrees of the Oecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church 

2.2 The American Orthodox Church accepts, without alteration, inclusion or interpretation, the Baptismal Creed commonly called Nicene.

      §1 The standard English translation of the Creed used in The Church is:

I believe in one God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and Invisible:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God; begotten of his Father before all worlds; God of God; Light of Light; very God of very God; begotten, not made; being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and became man: And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, he suffered and was buried: the third day he rose again according to the scriptures: and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father: and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke through the prophets:

And I believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church: and I acknowledge
one Baptism for the remission of sins: And I look for the
Resurrection of the dead: and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

2.3 The American Orthodox Church accepts the Apostles’ Creed as a valid statement of faith, albeit a less complete formulary than that known as the Nicene.

2.4 The Church cannot alter, change, or revise the Creedal Formularies established and approved by the Oecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church.

2.5 The Church is subject to all of the dogmatic decrees defined by the Seven Oecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church; those being commonly known as:  First and Second Nicaea, First, Second and Third Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon.

        §1. From time to time the Canon Law of the Undivided Church has changed depending upon historical reality and local custom.  Therefore we venerate the Canons of the Ancient Churches, especially the collection known as “The Rudder”, and are bound to honor them as historic and advisory documents created in, by, and for the Churches of Christ, insofar as they are in accord with current Use and Praxis.      

Canon 3

Membership

3.1 Any person baptized, confirmed, or received according to the approved liturgical rites is a full member of The Church.

3.2 A person may terminate their membership with The Church through reception within another faith community, or by submitting a letter of intention to the Pastor or Local Ordinary.

Canon 4

Sacraments and Liturgy

4.1. The American Orthodox Church acknowledges and celebrates all the Holy Mysteries of the ancient Church which, for present times have been described as  seven (7) Sacraments (Mysteries), in which God’s redemptive and sanctifying Grace are operant, those being, Baptism, Chrismation, (Confirmation), The Eucharist (Holy Communion), Anointing of the Sick, Reconciliation (Confession and Absolution), Marriage and Holy Orders. While these are not all that constitute the many Holy Mysteries, they describe the primary basic Mysteries

4.2. The Sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation, and Holy Orders cannot be repeated since they impart an indelible character on the recipient.  However, if after diligent investigation, moral uncertainty whether any of these sacraments have been validly conferred, they may be conferred conditionally.

4.3 The liturgical texts approved by the Synod of Bishops, together with the rubrics and instructions concerning the services, are to be faithfully observed in the celebrations of the Rites and Sacraments of the Church

§1 A Bishop Ordinary may approve other Liturgical and Sacramental Rites for Use, or Trial, within his jurisdiction.

4.4 Clergy are forbidden to ask for any gift, monetary, personal or real, in exchange for the administration of the Sacraments.  They may however accept honoraria, freely offered, and in accord with guidelines established by the Local Ordinary.     

4.5 Simony is a grievous sin against God and The Church, and is defined as the deliberate intention to, or the attempt to, buy or sell a spiritual reality, or the temporal thing joined to that spiritual reality for a temporal price.

§1 Simoniacal conferral of any Sacrament, or appointment to any church office, is de facto and de jure null, void, and of no effect. 

§2. Simony is sufficient cause for deposition from the clerical estate.

4.6 Clergy of The Church licitly administer the Sacraments of Reconciliation/Penance, Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick to Catholic Christians whose Faith Communities are not in full communion with this jurisdiction, if they ask on their own for the Sacraments and are properly disposed to receive them.

4.7 When necessity requires or the Care of Souls makes it expedient, and provided that the danger of confusion is avoided, members of The Church may receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation/Penance, Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick from Catholic clergy whose Faith Communities are not in full communion with The American Orthodox Church, provided these jurisdictions have valid Sacraments and Orders.

Canon 5

Baptism

5.1 Water Baptism in the Name of the Father, and of The Son and of the Holy Spirit, is necessary for salvation and the act by which all people are: freed from sin, reborn as Children of God, and incorporated into the Church..

5.2. Infants and children are to be brought to The Church to receive the Sacrament of Baptism as soon as practicable. 

§1. Developmental Disabilities, or Mental Illnesses, which impair the ability to Reason are to be equated with infancy; so far as Baptism is concerned.

5.3 Baptism is normally to be conferred by triple immersion.  In cases of necessity it may be conferred by triple pouring of true water, together with the prescribed formulary.  Sprinkling is insufficient for conferral of the Sacrament.

5.4 The normal place for Baptism is in a church or oratory, but following the holy example of St Phillip, may be properly and licitly administered in any body of true water.  

5.5 Normally, adults are to be Baptized in their own local parish church, and infants are to be Baptized in the parish church of their parents, unless a just cause pastorally suggests otherwise.

5.6 Outside of cases of necessity, Baptism is not to be conferred in private homes, without the permission of the Local Ordinary.

5.7 The ordinary minister of Baptism is a bishop, priest, or deacon in good standing, with due regard that the prescriptions of the proper authority be observed..

§1 Those Baptized by the ministry of a Deacon are to be brought, as soon as possible, to The Church, that the Rites of Christian Initiation may be completed.

§2 In extremis, any Baptized Christian who intends to do what The Church does, and uses the proper matter and form, as per this Canon, may licitly and validly Baptize persons in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Baptisms performed under this Canon are to be immediately reported to the Local Parish or Mission, to be recorded in the official records of said Parish or Mission. 

§3.  Any person who receives Baptism per Canon 5.7§2, and survives, must be brought to The Church as s

5.8 To be Baptized, it is required that an adult have manifested the properly formed will to be Baptized, be sufficiently instructed in the Truths of Faith and in Christian obligations and be tested in the Christian life by means of the Catecumenate; the adult is also to be exhorted to have sorrow for personal sins.

5.9 Unless grave cause prevents it, an adult who is baptized should be Confirmed / Chrismated immediately after Baptism and participate in the celebration of the Eucharist, also receiving Communion.

Canon 6

Chrismation

6.1 The Sacrament of Chrismation impresses a character and by it, baptized persons continuing on the path of Christian initiation, are enriched by the gift of the Holy Spirit and bound more perfectly to the Church; it strengthens them and obliges them more firmly to be witnesses to Christ by word and deed and to spread and defend the faith.

6.2 The Sacrament of Chrismation is conferred through the anointing with chrism, which is done by the imposition of hands, together with the words prescribed in the approved liturgical books.

6.3 The chrism to be used in the Sacrament must be consecrated by a bishop, even if the sacrament is administered by a presbyter.

6.4 It is desirable that the Sacrament of Chrismation be celebrated in a church and during The Divine Liturgy, but for just and reasonable cause may be celebrated outside of the norm and in any worthy place.

6.5 The ordinary minister of the Sacrament is a bishop or a presbyter delegated by the Local Ordinary.

6.6  Baptized persons who have not yet been chrisrmated, and only they, are capable of receiving the Sacrament.

6.7 Following the norm and custom of the Ancient Orthodox Churches, infants may receive the Sacrament immediately following Baptism, that they may be strengthened and empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill their Calling and Witness as children of God..

Canon 7

Eucharist

7.1 The celebration of the Eucharist is the action of Christ Himself; in it Christ the Lord, by the ministry of a priest and the action of the Holy Spirit, offers Himself, substantially present under the forms of bread and wine, to God the Father, and gives Himself as spiritual food to the Faithful who are associated with His offering.

7.2 The minister, who in the person of Christ can effect the sacrament of the Eucharist, is solely a validly ordained priest, or validly consecrated bishop.

7.3 A priest or bishop who is not canonically impeded celebrates the Eucharist licitly, observing the prescriptions of the following canons.

7.4 A priest or bishop may apply the The Divine Liturgy for anyone, living or dead.

7.5 Priests or bishops may concelebrate the Eucharist, unless the welfare of the Faithful requires or urges otherwise.

7.6 A priest is to be permitted to celebrate the Eucharist only (even) if said priest is known (unknown) to the rector of the Church. Such priests must present a current letter of faculties or recommendation issued by their Local Ordinary or competent religious superior. (1/31/2005 highlighted underscored changes requested by +David Francis Wigley).

7.7 Remembering that the work of redemption is continually accomplished in the Mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, priest and bishops are to celebrate frequently; indeed daily celebrations is strongly recommended, since even if the Faithful cannot be present, it is the act of Christ and the Church in which priests and bishops fulfill their principal function.

7.8 Extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist may be appointed by the Local Ordinary to assist in distributing the Sacrament to the Faithful.

7.9 The pastor and parochial vicars, chaplains and the superior of a community of apostolic life have the right and duty to bring the Most Holy Eucharist to the sick in the form of Viaticum.

7.10 Any Baptized person, who is not prohibited by law, is properly disposed, and recognizes the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament, may and must be admitted to Holy Communion.

7.11 The Most Holy Eucharist may be given to children and infants, per the Praxis of the Ancient Orthodox Churches..

7.12 All the Faithful, after they have been initiated into the Most Holy Eucharist, are bound by the obligation of receiving Communion at least once per year.

§1 The above precept must be fulfilled during the Easter season unless it is fulfilled for a just cause at some other time of the year.

7.13 The Christian Faithful, who are in danger of death, arising from any cause, are to be nourished by Holy Communion in the form of Viaticum.

7.14 The Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be celebrated with bread and wine, with which a small quantity of water is to be mixed in honor of the mixing of the human and divine nature in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

7.15 Holy Communion may be given under the form of bread alone or under both kinds in accord with the norm of the liturgical laws or even under the form of wine alone in case of grave necessity.

7.16 It is sinful, even in extreme necessity, to consecrate one matter without the other, or even both outside the celebration of the Eucharist.

7.17 In celebrating and administering the Eucharist, bishops, priests, and deacons are to wear, minimally, the liturgical vestments prescribed by the rubrics.

            7.17a In extremus, a stole may be the only vestment necessary.

7.18 The celebration and distribution of the Eucharist may take place on any day, and at any hour, except for those times excluded by liturgical norms.

7.19 The celebration of the Eucharist is to be celebrated in a sacred place, unless necessity demands otherwise; in which case the celebration may be done in any respectable place.

7.20 In sacred places where the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved, there must always be someone who has the care of it.

7.21 The Most Holy Eucharist is to be reserved regularly in only one tabernacle of a church or oratory.

7.22 Consecrated hosts are to be reserved in a ciborium or other suitable vessel in sufficient quantity for the needs of the Faithful; they are to be frequently renewed and the old ones properly consumed.

Canon 8

Confession and Reconciliation

8.1 Individual, auricular confession and absolution is always to be available to the faithful person who is aware of serious sin that s/he may be reconciled to God and the Church.

8.2 In no case may individual auricular confession and absolution be required of the faithful.

8.3 Bishops and priests with jurisdiction, who are in good standing are the ministers of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

8.4 For the valid absolution of sins it is required that, besides the power received through Sacred Ordination, the minister possesses the faculty to exercise, over the Faithful, the Power of the Keys to whom the minister imparts absolution.

8.5 The absolution of an accomplice in any sin whatsoever is invalid, except in extremis.

8.6 The Local Ordinary, as well as the competent religious superior, may revoke the faculties to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation from a priest for just cause.

8.7 When the faculty to hear confessions is revoked by his or her Local Ordinary or competent major religious superior, a cleric loses the right to hear confessions everywhere, except in extremis. When the faculty to hear confessions is revoked by a positive act of another Local Ordinary or competent major religious superior, the cleric loses the faculty to hear confessions only as regards the subjects of that Ordinary’s jurisdiction, except in extremis..

8.8 Other than revocation, the faculty to hear confessions ceases by loss of office, or excardination.

8.9 Even though a priest or bishop may lack the faculty to hear confessions, any priest or bishop validly and licitly absolves from any kind of censures and sins any penitent who is in danger of death, even if an approved priest or bishop is present.

8.10 In hearing confessions, the confessor acts as a judge as well as a healer and is placed by God as the minister of divine justice and mercy, concerned with the Divine Honor and the salvation of souls.

8.11 The confessor, in posing questions, is to proceed with prudence and discretion, with attention to the condition and age of the penitent, and that the confessor is to refrain from asking the name of an accomplice.

8.12 If the confessor has no doubt about the disposition of a penitent who asks for absolution, absolution is not to be refused or delayed.

8.13 The confessor is to enjoin salutary and suitable penance in keeping with the quality and number of the sins, but with attention to the condition and age of the penitent; the penitent is obliged to perform the penance personally.

8.13a The confessor, if needed for the spiritual, mental and/or physical health of the penitent, may refer the penitent to a competent physician or psychiatrist during the operation of the confessional and/or seeking their permission to arrange for an appointment for the penitent. (1/31/2005 – request to be added by +David Francis Wigley for those clerics who have sufficient training to recognize the possibility of an illness).

8.14 The sacramental Seal of the confessional is inviolable. Therefore it is a crime for a confessor, in any manner or form, to betray a penitent for any reason.  Violation of the Seal is de facto and de jure sufficient cause for deposition from any and all offices held and deposition and expulsion from the clerical estate.  

8.15 An interpreter, if needed, is also obliged, under penalty of Excommunication, to preserve the Secret, and also all others to whom knowledge of sins from confession shall come in any way.  

8.16 Even if every danger of revelation is excluded, a confessor is absolutely forbidden to use any knowledge about sins from confession when it may harm the penitent.

Canon 9

Sacrament of Anointing

9.1 The Anointing of the Sick is conferred by anointing with oil while observing the words, the order, and the manner prescribed in the liturgical books; but in cases of necessity it is sufficient that one anointing be made of the forehead or even on another appropriate part of the body, while saying the entire formula.

9.2 The communal celebration of the Anointing of the Sick can be performed according to the prescriptions of the Ordinary of the diocese.

9.3 Every priest and bishop in good standing validly administers the Sacrament of Anointing.  In extremis, any priest or bishop may validly confer the Sacrament.

9.4 The Sacrament of Anointing can be administered again to a member of the Faithful, who, after a period of recovery begins to decline and once again becomes seriously ill.

Canon 10

Marriage between A Man and A Woman

10.1 The matrimonial covenant, by which a couple establishes between themselves a partnership of the whole life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses; this covenant between Baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a Sacrament.

10.2 Marriage is brought about through the consent manifested between the parties who are capable of giving consent. No human power can replace this consent.

10.3 All persons who are not prohibited by canon law can contract Marriage.

10.4 Pastors and shepherds of souls are obliged to see to it that their own ecclesial community furnishes the Christian Faithful assistance so that the matrimonial state is maintained in a Christian spirit and makes progress towards perfection. This assistance is especially to be furnished through:

§1 Preaching and catechesis; so that the Christian Faithful may be instructed concerning the meaning of Christian Marriage and the duty of Christian spouses and parents.

§2 Personal preparation for entering marriage so that the parties may be predisposed toward the holiness and duties of their new state.

§3 Assistance furnished to those already married so that, while faithfully maintaining and protected the conjugal covenant, they may come to lead holier and fuller lives.

10.5 If they can do so without serious inconvenience, Catholics who have not yet received the Sacrament of Confirmation are to receive it before being admitted into Marriage.

10.6 It is strongly recommended that those to be married approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Most Holy Eucharist so that they may fruitfully receive the Sacrament of Marriage.

10.7 Before a Marriage is celebrated, it must be evident that no impediment  to the valid and licit celebration of the Sacrament exists.

10.8 All the faithful are obliged to reveal any impediments they are aware of to the pastor or to the Local Ordinary before the celebration of a Marriage.

10.9 A person must have completed their eighteenth year of age prior to entering into the Sacrament of Marriage.

10.10 A person who, for the purpose of entering Marriage with a certain person, has brought about the death of that person’s spouse or one’s own spouse, attempts such a Marriage invalidly.

10.11 Consanguinity in the direct line in any degree whatsoever invalidates Matrimony.

10.12 In the collateral line of consanguinity, Marriage is invalid up to and including the fourth degree.

10.13 A dispensation can never be given from the impediment of consanguinity in the direct line.

10.14 A dispensation can be given from the impediment of consanguinity in the fourth degree of the collateral line by the Local Ordinary only for grave reason.

10.15 Affinity in the direct line in any degree whatsoever invalidates Matrimony.

§1 Dispensation from the impediment of affinity in the direct line can be given by the Local Ordinary only for grave reason.

10.16 They cannot validly contract marriage between themselves who are related in any degree whatsoever in the direct line, or up to and including the fourth degree in the collateral line through a relationship arising from legal adoption.

§1 A dispensation can never be granted from the impediment of a relationship in the direct line arising from legal adoption.

§2 A dispensation from the impediment of a relationship arising from legal adoption in the fourth degree of the collateral line can be granted by the Local Ordinary only for a grave reason.

10.17 Those that lack sufficient use of reason are incapable of contracting Marriage.

10.18 Deception by fraud, perpetrated to obtain consent, concerning some quality in the other party which by its very nature can seriously disrupt the partnership of conjugal life, invalidates de jure and de facto any attempt to enter Marriage.

10.19 A marriage, which cannot be recognized or celebrated in accord with the norm of civil law, shall not be witnessed by a cleric of this Church.. This Canon shall not be interpreted as prohibiting or invalidating Marriage between persons of differing race.

10.20 The internal consent of the mind is presumed to be in agreement with the words or signs employed in celebrating Matrimony.

10.21 Marriage can be contracted by means of an interpreter.

10.22 Only those Marriages are valid which are contracted in the presence of the Local Ordinary or the pastor or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assists, or in the presence of two witnesses, according to the norms expressed in the following:

§1 The one assisting at a marriage is understood to be only that person who, present at the ceremony, asks for the contractants’ manifestation of consent and receives it in the name of the Church.

10.23 Unless they have been excommunicated, interdicted, or suspended from office or declared such, whether by sentence or decree, within the confines of their territory, the Local Ordinary or Pastor, by virtue of their offices validly Witness, on behalf of The Church, Marriages of their subjects as well as of non-subjects.

10.24 As long as they validly hold office, the Local Ordinary and Pastors can delegate to priests and deacons the faculty to assist at Marriages within the limits of their territory.

10.25 Outside of a case of necessity, the rites prescribed in the liturgical books approved by the Church or received through legitimate custom are to be observed in the celebration of Marriage.

10.26 If the Marriage was contracted in a parish where a spouse was not baptized, the Pastor of the place where it was celebrated is to send a notice of the contracted Marriage as soon as possible to the pastor where the baptism was conferred.

10.27 Local Ordinaries and other Pastors of souls are to see to it that the Catholic spouse and children of an ecumenical Marriage do not lack spiritual assistance fulfilling their obligations and are to aid the spouses in fostering the unity of conjugal and family life.

10.28 Only for serious and urgent reasons can the Local Ordinary permit a Marriage to be celebrated secretly.

10.29 Parents have the most serious duty and the primary right to do all in their power to see to the physical, social, cultural, moral, and religious upbringing of their children.

10.30 Persons who are bound by a public vow of chastity invalidly attempt marriage.

§ The impediment cited in Canon 10.30 ceases only after a dispensation from the vow has been granted by the appropriate authority.

Canon 11

Dissolution of the Marital Bond and Subsequent Marriage

11.1 Recognizing the reality that some marital bonds may dissolve and cannot be reconciled, the Church does not believe that the Sacramental Grace can remain present in a marital relationship in which there is emotional or physical violence, permanent abandonment, or the proven inability to maintain marital fidelity. The Grace of the Sacrament is not present in such relationships of pain and misery. Thus, the Church must allow persons the freedom to leave such relationships and to permit such persons the opportunity to invite Christ into a spirit-filled Marriage.

11.2 One may petition the Church to declare a Marriage non-binding and nullified for the following conditions:

§1 Physical violence.

§2 Psychological violence.

§3 Permanent abandonment.

§4 Proven inability to maintain marital fidelity.

§5 Realization of true sexual orientation incompatible with the form of the Marriage.

11.3 One who wishes to enter into a subsequent Marriage must present documented evidence of such conditions from their previous Marriage to their pastor prior to attempting such a Marriage.

11.4 Upon obtaining all necessary information, evidence, and documentation related to a petition, the pastor will investigate and ascertain the weight of the evidence and submit a recommendation to the Local Ordinary that a Grant of Dissolution be issued

§1 A Grant of Dissolution cannot be issued prior to the finalization of a civil decree of divorce or dissolution.

§2 The Local Ordinary must respond to petitions for a Grant of Dissolution within one calendar month of receipt of petition.

§3 The Local Ordinary alone possesses faculties to issue a Grant of Dissolution.

11.5 Petitioners for a Grant of Dissolution, who have had two or more previous Marriages, must make their petition directly to the Local Ordinary.

11.6 Petitioners who submit false or misleading information, or who omit relevant information on their applications will have their petitions for a Grant of Dissolution summarily dismissed.

11.7 Candidates for a subsequent Marriage must be provided with extended pastoral counseling prior to entering into the Sacrament.

11.8 A dispensation from the provisions of Canon 11.2 can be given by the Local Ordinary only for a grave reason.  

Canon 12

Holy Orders

12.1 By divine institution, some among the Christian faithful are constituted sacred ministers through the Sacrament of Orders by means of the indelible character with which they are marked. Accordingly, they are consecrated and deputed to shepherd the People of God, each in accord with their own grade of Orders, by fulfilling in the person of Christ the Head the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing.

12.2 The Orders are the Episcopacy, the Presbyterate, and the Diaconate.

12.3 The Order of Deacon is open to both men and women, who have properly fulfilled the required educational and formation processes.   Only men may advance to the Sacred Orders of Priest (Presbyter), and Bishop, per the Example and Will of the Undivided Orthodox and Catholic Church.

12.4 Orders are conferred by the imposition of hands and by the consecratory prayers, which the Ordinal prescribes for the individual Orders.

12.5 Ordination is to be celebrated within the solemnity of The Divine Liturgy.  It may be celebrated on any day of the week, as expedient, but not during the preparatory and penitential Seasons of Advent or Lent, save for the traditional Ember Saturdays, without grave cause.

12.6 Ordination is by nature a community event and is to be celebrated in a church and the clergy and other members of the Christian Faithful are to be invited so that a large congregation may be present for the celebration.

12.7 The minister of Sacred Ordination is a Bishop validly consecrated within the historic Apostolic Succession, who posses jurisdiction, either by right, or by delegation, per Canon 12.10.

12.8 The principal consecrating bishop in an Episcopal consecration is the Presiding Bishop, or his designee.  The Principal Consecrator is to associate with himself at least two other consecrating bishops; but it is especially appropriate that all bishops who are present should consecrate the bishop-elect along with the bishops mentioned.

§1 Episcopal Consecrations performed by fewer than two bishops may be valid, but are deemed highly irregular, and may be viewed as valid only when a clearly demonstrable Canon of Necessity exists.

§2 Without a properly executed Mandate of Election, signed by the Presiding Bishop and at minimum one other member of the Synod of Bishops, no Episcopal Consecrations may be performed within this Church, unless a clearly demonstrable Canon of Necessity exists.   

12.9 Each candidate is to be ordained to the Presbyterate or Diaconate by their own Ordinary, or with legitimate dimissorial letters, from their bishop or major religious superior; notwithstanding the provisions of Canons 12.7 and 12.10.

12.10 A bishop without jurisdiction, or a bishop who is outside of his own jurisdiction, may confer the Sacrament of Orders only with the written authorization of the Local Ordinary.   

12.11 Only a Baptized and Chrismated candidate validly receives Sacred Ordination.

12.12 It is required that in the judgment of the same legitimate superior that a candidate for Sacred Ordination be considered useful for the ministry of the Church.

12.13 In order for a candidate to be ordained they must possess the required freedom.

§1 In the case of a candidate for Sacred Ordination, who is married, the written consent of the spouse is required for the licit reception of the Sacrament.

12.14 Those who aspire to the Diaconate or Presbyterate are required to complete a prescribed program of formation, and theological education.

§1 In the case of candidates for Sacred Ordination, who are married, the formation program shall include the spouse to the extent deemed necessary by the Local Ordinary.

§2 Candidates for the Diaconate or Presbyterate must be a full member of the Church prior to their consideration to enter into secular clerical formation.

12.15 As part of the application process to enter into secular clerical formation, candidates must complete the following:

§1 Provide documentation of their Baptism, Confirmation, and Marriage, if any

§2 Provide documentation of the dissolution of any Marriage.

§3 Complete a criminal background check at the candidate’s expense.

§4 Complete a standard psychological examination at the candidate’s expense.

§5 Provide documentation of successful completion of required theological education, or declare their ability to meet all financial obligations for either a.) the tuition and other expenses of a) an approved school of theology or b.) the approved Reading For Orders Study Program.

§6 All application forms

§7 Meet the residency requirements of the local diocese.

12.16 The diocesan Director of Vocations will empanel a review board of three clerics in good standing to consider the applications of all candidates and present their recommendations to the Local Ordinary. The decision of the Local Ordinary to accept or reject any candidate is final and not subject to review.

12.17 As part of their formation process, candidates for Ordination will enter into minimally the minor Orders of Lector, Acolyte, and Sub-deacon prior to being ordained to the Order of Deacon.

§1 The Sub-deaconate may be conferred at the discretion of the Local Ordinary, at any time following the conferral of the Order of Acolyte.

§2 In the case of a candidate for Ordination who has completed the required theological studies prior to beginning the prescribed program of clerical formation, the conferral of the Minor Orders shall be at the discretion of the Local Ordinary or competent major religious superior, after consultation with the candidate and the Diocesan Director of Vocations.

12.18 Candidates will enter into the Order of Deacon just prior to the start of their internship. The Local Ordinary must evaluate the readiness of the candidate prior to the calling of the candidate to Orders.

§1 The length of the internship will be decided by the Local Ordinary.

12.19 The Order of Deacon cannot be dispensed for candidates to the Presbyterate.

12.20 After all circumstances have been taken into account in the prudent judgment of the Local Ordinary or the competent major religious superior, only those should be promoted to Orders who have an integral faith, motivated by right intention, possess the requisite knowledge, enjoy a good reputation, good morals, proven virtues, and other physical and psychological qualities which are appropriate to the Order received.

12.21 Only for canonical reason, even if it be secreted, may the Ordinary or competent major religious superior forbid access to Orders, with due regard for recourse in accord with the norm of law.

12.22 The Deaconate is not to be conferred upon those under the age of twenty three (23) and the Presbyterate is not to be conferred upon those under the age of twenty five (25), or who do not possess sufficient maturity; an interval of at least six months is to be observed between the Diaconate and Presbyterate Ordinations.

12.23 Candidates must complete their theological studies prior to entering into the Order of the Presbyterate.

12.24 In order to be promoted to the Order of Deacon or Presbyter, the candidate is to give to the Local Ordinary or competent major religious superior a signed declaration written in their own hand, testifying that they are about to receive Sacred Orders of their own accord and freely; and they will devote themselves perpetually to the ecclesiastical ministry. This declaration is also to contain their petition for admission to the reception of Orders.

12.25 In order for any priest or deacon to validly function within the Church, they must be granted faculties from their Ordinary.  Letters of Faculties are a binding contract between the Church and its clergy.  Priests and Deacons from religious congregations may petition for faculties through the office of their religious superior.  All priests, secular and religious, serve within any given diocese at the discretion of the Local Ordinary.

§1 Prior to entering into Orders or Incardination, all secular and religious candidates must sign the following letter of agreement:

" I, NAME OF CANDIDATE, hereby acknowledge that I understand and accept the Code of Canon Law of The American Orthodox Church.  I hereby acknowledge and accept the responsibilities of any and all faculties granted to me by my Ordinary and that I further acknowledge and accept the fact that I serve at the discretion of the Ordinary.

I further swear and promise that should my faculties end, either through an official act of suspension by the Ordinary, or through an act of resignation or self-termination, I will not attempt nor continue to engage in the pastoral activities granted to me through my former faculties, style myself as a cleric of The American Orthodox Church or any other church jurisdiction name which the Church uses or Religious Congregation nor promote myself as a legal representative of The American Orthodox Church or Religious Congregation.  Should I continue to engage in any of the abovementioned activities I shall be liable for breach of contract consequences.

I make this pledge freely and without mental reservation."

§2 Candidates for Orders or Incardination who fail to sign this agreement cannot enter into Orders or be Incardinated into the Church or into any Religious Congregation within The American Orthodox Church.

12.26 The following are irregular candidates to receive the Sacrament of Orders:

§1 those with a history of mental illness, Developmental Disability, or other psychic defect which, after consultation with experts in the medical field, are judged to render the individual incapable of rightly carrying out the ministry.

§2 those with a history of apostasy, heresy, or schism within the Church.

§3 those with a history of voluntary homicide.

§4 those with a history of sexual assault.

12.27 A neophyte is simply impeded from receiving Orders, unless they have been sufficiently proven in the judgment of the Local Ordinary

12.28 The faithful are obliged to reveal irregularities and impediments to Sacred Orders, if they know of any and can provide documentation, to the Local Ordinary, competent major religious superior, or pastor before Ordination.

12.29 Ignorance of any irregularities or impediments does not exempt from them.

12.30 For one to be promoted to Sacred Orders, the following documents are required:

§1 Certification that the academic studies prescribed have been successfully completed.

§2 Certification that the Diaconate has been received if it is a question of those to be ordained to the Presbyterate.

§3 Certification that Baptism, Chrismation, Marriage (if applicable), or any Grant of Dissolution have been received and that any additional ministries requested have been received if it is a question of those to be promoted to the Diaconate.

12.31 As regards the inquiry concerning the qualities required of candidates for Ordination, the following prescriptions are to be observed:

§1 Testimonials from competent persons.

§ In order that the inquiry may be properly conducted, the diocesan bishop or the competent major religious superior may employ other means which may seem useful in accord with the circumstances of time and place.

12.32 In order for a bishop to proceed to the Ordination of one who is not the bishop’s subject, it is necessary that the required dimissorial letters declare that all necessary documents have been furnished, and that the inquiry has been conducted in accord with the norm of law and that the suitability of the candidate has been proved.

12.33 If, despite all the above listed considerations, the bishop has certain reasonable concerns regarding the suitability of the candidate for Ordination, the bishop is not to ordain the candidate.

Canon 13

Of Ecclesiastical Courts

 

13.1 There shall be an Ecclesiastical Court for the trial of a Priest or Deacon which shall be composed of two (2) Priests or Deacons elected by the Convention for a term of four (4) years and one (1) Lay Persons, who are confirmed adult communicants of this Church in good standing, elected by the Triennial Convention for a term of three (3) years. No member of the Court may be a member of The National Board of Directors. The Court shall appoint not less than one, nor more than three Lay Persons who are chriirmated adult communicants of this Church in good standing, learned in the law, as Assessors.

 

13.2. The death, disability rendering a person unable to act, resignation or declination to serve as a member of an Ecclesiastical Court shall constitute a vacancy on the Court. Notice of resignations or declinations to serve shall be given by members of the Court in writing to the Presiding Judge of the Court. If any Priest elected to the Ecclesiastical Court is elected a bishop, or if any lay person elected to the Ecclesiastical Court is ordained prior to the commencement of a Trial, that person shall immediately cease to be a member of the Ecclesiastical Court. If either event occurs following the commencement of a Trial, the person shall continue to serve until the completion of the Trial and the rendering of a Verdict thereon. Vacancies, other than for cause under subsection b of this Canon, occurring in any Ecclesiastical Court shall be filled by the remaining members of the Court until the next meeting of the Convention.

13.3. Members of the Ecclesiastical Court may be challenged by either the Accused or the Church Attorney for cause stated to the Court. The Court shall determine the relevancy and validity of challenges for cause. Vacancies caused by challenges determined by the Court shall be filled by majority vote of the court from persons otherwise qualified for election under these Canons. Vacancies filled by the Court shall be from the same order as the person challenged was when first elected to the Court.

13.4. Any member of the Ecclesiastical Court may recuse himself or herself from any Trial. Any vacancy caused by such recusal shall be filled by majority vote of the Court from persons otherwise qualified for election under these canons. Vacancies filled by the Court shall be from the same order as the recused person was when first elected to the Court.

13.5. Within two (2) months following the Convention the Court shall organize itself to include the election of a Presiding Judge from among its members. The Court shall also choose a Clerk, and, if necessary, Assistant Clerks who shall be Priests or Deacons or adult confirmed communicants in good standing of this Church and who shall serve at the pleasure of the Court. The Ecclesiastical Court shall also appoint a Reporter who shall provide for the recording of the proceedings and who shall serve at the pleasure of the Court.

13.6 Three (3) members of the Court shall constitute a quorum.

13.7. The Assessors shall sit with the Court to advise it upon questions of law, procedure or evidence.

13.8. A Church Attorney shall be appointed by The National Board of Directors with the advice and consent of the Ecclesiastical Court for a term of three (3) years. The Church Attorney shall be a confirmed adult communicant of this Church in good standing, and learned in the law. The Church Attorney may not be the Chancellor or a Vice Chancellor of the Church or a member of The National Board of Directors and may not be from the same law firm as the Chancellor, the Clergy Consultant, or any Lay Assessor.

13.9. A Clergy Consultant shall be appointed by The National Board of Directors with the advice and consent of the Ecclesiastical Court for a term of three (3) years. The Clergy Consultant shall be a Priest, chaplain or other person familiar with the procedures, alternatives, requirements and consequences of the disciplinary Canons. The Clergy Consultant may not be the Chancellor or a Vice Chancellor of the Diocese or a member of The National Board of Directors. The Consultant shall be available to consult with and advise the Priest or Deacon and his or her legal advisors at reasonable times prior to the issuance of a Presentment. The Consultant shall explain the rights of the Priest or Deacon and the alternatives available under this Canon. A Priest or Deacon shall be notified of the availability and identity of the Consultant at the earliest of (a) the communication to the Priest or Deacon of a Charge; (b) any interrogation or request for a statement; (c) the service of a Temporary Inhibition; (d) submission to the Ecclesiastical Authority; or (e) prior to the Execution of a Waiver and Voluntary Submission to Discipline. All communications between the Consultant and the Priest or Deacon, or his or her legal advisors shall be Privileged Communications. No Consultant shall be required to respond to any questions regarding any Priest or Deacon for whom the Consultant has acted as a Consultant. The expenses of the Consultant shall be the obligation of the Church.

13.10. In all proceedings under the disciplinary Canons, whenever a Priest or Deacon suspected of an offense is required or permitted to appear, the Priest or Deacon shall have the right to be represented by counsel of her or his own choice. This right shall be in addition to the right to the advice and assistance of the Clergy Consultant.  All expenses of such counsel are the obligation of accused.

13.11 Except as otherwise expressly provided by Canon, it shall be the duty of all Members of this Church to appear and testify or respond when duly served with a Notice or Citation by The Board of Directors or the Ecclesiastical Court in any matter arising under the disciplinary Canons of this Church.

 

Canon 14

Presentment of Charges, Trials, and Appeals

A. Presentments:

1. A Presentment to the Ecclesiastical Court may be issued only by The Diocesan or National (International) Boards of Directors as provided in this Canon.

2.. A Charge against a Priest or Deacon shall be in writing, verified and addressed to The Board of Directors of the Diocese wherein the Priest or Deacon is canonically resident, except as otherwise expressly provided in this Title. It shall concisely and clearly inform as to the nature of and facts surrounding each alleged Offense.

3. A Charge may be made:
(a) by a majority of the lay Members of the Vestry of the Parish of which the Accused is the Rector; or
(b) by any three Priests canonically resident in the Diocese wherein the Accused is canonically resident or canonically resident in the Diocese wherein the Accused is alleged to have committed the Offense; or
(c) by any seven adult communicants in good standing in the Diocese wherein the Accused is canonically resident or in the Diocese wherein the Accused is alleged to have committed the Offense; or
(d) in a case where the alleged Offense is the violation of Ordination vows involving the disregard or disobedience of a Pastoral Direction issued by a Bishop, only by that Bishop or the Ecclesiastical Authority of that Diocese, or by another Bishop, if the Bishop who issued the Pastoral Direction has resigned, retired, or died or is unable to act; or
(e) in a case where the Offense alleged is a Charge specifying the Offenses of Crime, Immorality or Conduct Unbecoming a Member of the Clergy, by any adult who is (i) the alleged Victim, or (ii) a parent or guardian of an alleged minor Victim or of any alleged Victim who is under a disability, or (iii) the spouse or adult child of a Victim; or
(f) in a case where the Offense alleged is that of holding and teaching publicly or privately any doctrine contrary to that held by this Church only, by a majority of the members of The Board of Directors of the Diocese in which the Priest or Deacon is canonically resident or of the Diocese wherein the Accused is alleged to have committed the Offense; or
(g) by a majority of The Board of Directors of the Diocese in which the Priest or Deacon is canonically resident or of the Diocese wherein the Accused is alleged to have committed the Offense whenever The Board of Directors shall have good and sufficient reason to believe that any Priest or Deacon has committed the Offense; or
(h) the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese in which the Accused is alleged to have committed the Offense, if different from the Diocese of canonical residence.

4. If a complaint or accusation is brought to the Bishop by any adult who is (i) the alleged Victim, or (ii) a parent or guardian of an alleged minor Victim or of an alleged Victim who is under a disability, or (iii) the spouse or adult child of an alleged Victim of an Offense of Crime, Immorality or Conduct Unbecoming a Member of the Clergy, the Bishop, after consultation with the alleged Victim, the alleged Victim's spouse, or the alleged Victim's parent or guardian or adult child, may appoint an Attorney to assist those persons in understanding and participating in the disciplinary processes of this church, obtain assistance to formulate and submit an appropriate Charge and in obtaining assistance in spiritual matters, if the alleged Victim, spouse, parent or guardian or adult child so choose. Any alleged Victim or Complainant may be represented by an attorney and/or advocate of their choice.

5. Whenever the Bishop has sufficient reason to believe that any Priest or Deacon canonically resident in this Diocese has committed an Offense and the interests and good order and discipline of The Church require investigation by The Board of Directors, the Bishop shall concisely and clearly inform The Board of Directors in writing as to the nature of and facts surrounding each alleged Offense but without judgment or comment upon the allegations or guilt, and The  Board of Directors shall proceed as if a Charge had been filed.

6. Any Priest or Deacon who deems himself or herself to be under imputation, by rumor or otherwise, of any Offense or misconduct for which he or she could be tried in an Ecclesiastical Court, may on his or her own behalf complain to and request of the Bishop that an inquiry with regard to such imputation be instituted. Upon receipt of such request by a Priest or Deacon, it shall be the duty of the Bishop to cause the matter to be investigated and to report the result to the Priest or Deacon.

7. Any Charge against a Priest or Deacon shall be promptly filed with the President of The Board of Directors.

8. Upon the filing of a Charge with The Board of Directors, The Board of Directors shall promptly communicate the same to the Bishop and the Accused.

9. In a case of a Priest or Deacon convicted in a criminal Court of Record in a cause involving Immorality, or against whom a judgment has been entered in a civil Court of Record in a cause involving Immorality, the Priest or Deacon shall notify the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese in which the Priest or Deacon is canonically resident, in writing, of such conviction or entry of judgment, within thirty days thereof, whether or not any time for appeal has expired. It shall be the duty of the Ecclesiastical Authority to give notice of the conviction or entry of judgment to The Board of Directors of the Diocese in which the Priest or Deacon is canonically resident, in which case, or if The Board of Directors shall otherwise have knowledge of such conviction or judgment, it shall be the duty of The Board of Directors to institute an inquiry into the matter. If the conviction or judgment be established, The Board of Directors shall issue a Presentment against the Priest or Deacon for Trial.

10. Within thirty days after the filing of a Charge, other than a Charge alleging a conviction in a criminal Court of Record in a cause involving Immorality or alleging the entry of a judgment in a civil Court of Record in a cause involving Immorality, The Board of Directors shall convene to consider the Charge. If after such consideration The Board of Directors determines that an Offense may have occurred if the facts alleged be true, The Board of Directors shall prepare a written general statement of the Charge and the facts alleged to support the Charge and transmit the same to the Church Attorney.

11. The Church Attorney shall promptly make an investigation of the matter.

12. Within sixty days after receipt of the statement from The Board of Directors, unless delayed for good and sufficient cause stated, the Church Attorney shall render a confidential Report to The Board of Directors of the findings of that investigation and as to whether or not an Offense may have been committed if the facts disclosed by the investigation be found to be true upon Trial, and with a recommendation as to the matter in the interest of justice and the good order and discipline of this Church and based upon such other matters as shall be pertinent. The Report of the Church Attorney shall be confidential for all purposes as between the Church Attorney and The National Board of Directors. Provided, however, The Board of Directors shall share the Report of the Church Attorney with the Bishop of the Diocese.

13. Within thirty days after the receipt of the Report of the Church Attorney, The Board of Directors shall convene to consider the Report and whether or not a Presentment shall issue. In its deliberations, The Board of Directors may consider the Church Attorney's Report, responsible writings or sworn statements pertaining to the matter, including experts' statements, whether or not submitted by the Church Attorney. To assist in its deliberations, The Board of Directors may itself, or through a subcommittee of its members or others appointed by The Board of Directors, provide an opportunity to be heard to the Accused, the alleged Victim, the Complainant or other persons and receive additional evidence which it in its sole discretion deems appropriate. The Board of Directors may issue a Presentment for an Offense when the information before it, if proved at Trial, provides Reasonable Cause to believe that (i) an Offense was committed, and (ii) the Accused committed the Offense.

14. The vote of a majority of all the members of The Board of Directors shall be required to issue a Presentment.  No member shall disclose his or her vote or the vote of any member to any person not a member of The Board of Directors. In the event that, due to members who have been excused or vacancies in office, The Board of Directors does not have sufficient voting members to meet the requirements of this Section, the action of The Board of Directors shall be postponed until such time as there are sufficient members in office to fulfill the voting requirements of this Section.

15. If a Presentment be issued, it shall be in writing, dated, and signed by the President or the Secretary of The Board of Directors on behalf of The Board of Directors, whether or not that officer voted in favor of the Presentment. In the event that there be no President or Secretary, or they be absent, a member of The Board of Directors appointed for that purpose shall sign the Presentment. The Presentment also shall contain (i) a separate accusation addressed to each Offense, if there be more than one, and (ii) a plain and concise factual statement of each separate accusation sufficient to clearly apprise the Accused of the conduct which is the subject of the Presentment.

16. Promptly after the issuance of a Presentment, The Board of Directors shall cause the original to be filed with the Presiding Judge of the Ecclesiastical Trial Court with a true copy thereof served upon the Bishop, the Accused, the Clergy Consultant, the Church Attorney and each Complainant and, unless waived in writing, the alleged Victim, and the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese in which the Accused is canonically resident, in which the Accused is licensed, and in which the Accused resides.

17. If The Board of Directors votes not to issue a Presentment, then that decision shall be in writing and shall include an explanation. A copy shall be served upon the Bishop who shall file it with the Secretary of the Convention of the Diocese, the Accused, the Clergy Consultant, the Church Attorney, each Complainant, and unless waived in writing, the alleged Victim.

18. Prior to the issuance of a Presentment or a determination not to issue a Presentment as the case may be, the matter shall be confidential, except as may be determined to be pastorally appropriate by the Ecclesiastical Authority.

19. Non-compliance with time limits set forth in this Canon shall not be grounds for the dismissal of a Presentment unless such non-compliance shall cause material and substantial injustice to be done or seriously prejudice the rights of an Accused as determined by the Trial Court on motion and hearing.

B. TRIALS

1. Ecclesiastical Courts shall governed by such procedural rules or determinations as the Ecclesiastical Court deems appropriate and not inconsistent with such Canons, and by The Federal Rules of Evidence in the conduct of the Trial.

2. The Ecclesiastical Court shall keep a record of the proceedings in each case brought before it and the record shall be certified by the Presiding Judge of the Court. If the record cannot be authenticated by the Presiding Judge by reason of the Presiding Judge's death, disability or absence, it shall be authenticated by a member of the Court designated for that purpose by majority vote of the Court.

3. The Ecclesiastical Court shall permit the Accused to be heard in person, and by the Clergy Consultant, and by counsel of the accused's own selection. In every Trial the Court may regulate the number of counsel who may address the Court or examine witnesses.

4. (a) Upon receiving a Presentment, the Presiding Judge shall, within thirty days, send to each member of the Court a copy of the Presentment.
(b) The Presiding Judge of the Court shall, within not more than three calendar months from the Presiding Judge's receipt of the Presentment, summon the Accused to answer the Presentment in accordance with the Rules of Procedure.
(c) The Accused's answer or other response to the Presentment in accordance with the Rules of Procedure shall be duly recorded and the Trial shall proceed; Provided, that for sufficient cause the Court may adjourn from time to time; and Provided, also, that the Accused shall, at all times during the Trial, have liberty to be present, and may be accompanied by the Clergy Consultant or other counsel and one other person of his or her own choosing, and in due time and order to produce testimony and to make a defense.
(d) If the Accused fails or refuses to answer or otherwise enter an appearance, except for reasonable cause to be allowed by the Court, the Church Attorney may, no sooner than thirty days after the answer is due, move for Summary Judgment of Offense in accordance with the Rules of Procedure. If the motion is granted, the Accused shall be given notice that Sentence of Admonition, Suspension or Deposition will be adjudged and pronounced by the Court at the expiration of thirty days after the date of the Notice of Sentence, or at such convenient time thereafter as the Court shall determine. Sentence of Admonition, Suspension or of Deposition from the Ordained Ministry may, thereafter, be adjudged and pronounced by the Court.

5. In all Ecclesiastical Trials, the Church Attorney shall appear on behalf of The Board of Directors which shall then be considered the party on one side and the Accused the party on the other. Each Complainant or alleged Victim shall be entitled to be present throughout and observe the trial and for each to be accompanied by counsel or another person of his or her own choosing.

6. Before a vote is taken on the findings and in the presence of the Accused and counsel, counsel for the parties may submit requested proposed instructions. The Presiding Judge of the Ecclesiastical Court, after consultation with the Lay Assessors, shall declare which of the proposed instructions shall be issued and shall instruct the members of the court as to the elements of the Offense and charge them (i) that the Accused must be presumed not to have committed the Offense alleged until established by clear and convincing evidence, and unless such standard of proof be met the Presentment must be dismissed, and (ii) that the burden of proof to establish the the accused's commission of the Offense is upon the Church Attorney in the name of The National Board of Directors.

7. A separate vote shall be taken first upon the findings as to the commission of an Offense by the Accused. The Presiding Judge shall cause the accused, the Clergy Consultant, the Church Attorney, each Complainant, and, unless waived in writing, the alleged Victim to be advised of and provided with a copy of the findings of the Court.

8. For a Judgment that the Accused has committed an Offense, the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Members of the Ecclesiastical Court then serving for that Trial shall be necessary. Failing such two-thirds vote, the Presentment shall be dismissed.

9. No vote shall be taken on the Sentence to be imposed until at least thirty days after the Priest or Deacon, the Clergy Consultant, the Church Attorney, each Complainant and, unless waived in writing, the Victim have been informed of the Judgment and each has had a reasonable opportunity to offer matters in excuse or mitigation or to otherwise comment on the Sentence. All matters in excuse or mitigation or comments on the Sentence shall be served on the Accused, Church Attorney, Complainants and, unless waived in writing, the Victim. The Court shall provide a reasonable time for response to the Court which shall also be served as provided above. The Court may schedule hearings on the submissions. The Members of the Court shall vote upon the Sentence.

10. The concurrence of not less than two-thirds of the members of the Ecclesiastical Court then serving for that Trial shall be necessary to adjudge and impose a Sentence upon a Priest or Deacon found to have committed an Offense. The Court shall then vote upon a Sentence to be adjudged and imposed upon the Priest or Deacon and the decision so signed shall be recorded as the Judgment of the Court. The decision of the Court as to all the Charges shall be reduced to writing, and signed by those who assent to it.

11. The Judgment and any Sentence adjudged on a Judgment shall be communicated promptly to the Bishop of the Diocese wherein the Trial was held, the Ecclesiastical Authority, if there be no Bishop, The National Board of Directors, the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese in which the Priest or Deacon is canonically resident, the Priest or Deacon, the Clergy Consultant, the Church Attorney, each Complainant, and, unless waived in writing, the Victim.

C. TEMPORARY INHIBITIONS

1. If a priest or deacon is charged with an Offense or Offenses or serious acts are complained of to the Bishop that would constitute the grounds for a Charge of an Offense and, in the opinion of the Bishop, the Charge is supported by sufficient facts, the Bishop may issue a Temporary Inhibition.

2. Any Temporary Inhibition shall: (i) be in writing, (ii) set forth the reasons for its issuance, (iii) be specific in its terms, (iv) define the Offense or Offenses charged or serious acts complained of, (v) describe in reasonable detail the act or acts inhibited, (vi) be promptly served upon the Priest or Deacon to be inhibited, and (vii) become effective upon being served upon the Priest or Deacon to be inhibited.

3. A Temporary Inhibition may be issued without prior written or oral notice to the Priest or Deacon.

4. Any Priest or Deacon against whom a Temporary Inhibition has been issued, modified, or extended may request a hearing concerning the Temporary Inhibition before The Board of Directors, which shall hear the same at the earliest possible time, but not later than fourteen days after the date of receipt of the request. The National Board of Directors by a two-thirds vote may dissolve or modify the Temporary Inhibition. The Bishop, the Clergy Consultant and the Church Attorney shall be given notice of such hearing and shall be permitted to attend and be heard or to designate a representative to attend and be heard.

5. At any time, a Bishop may dissolve or modify the terms of a Temporary Inhibition.

6. A Temporary Inhibition shall continue in full force and effect until the earlier of (i) the withdrawal of the Charge or the allegations, (ii) the refusal of The Board of Directors to make a Presentment on the Charges alleged, (iii) dissolution of the Temporary Inhibition, (iv) imposition of Sentence following a voluntary submission to discipline, or (v) a period of ninety days measured from the date of service of the Temporary Inhibition; provided, however, the ninety-day period may be extended by the Bishop for additional ninety-day periods upon good cause.

7. In the event the Temporary Inhibition is dissolved or reduced or otherwise expires, the Ecclesiastical Authority shall so notify all persons to whom notice of the issuance of the Temporary Inhibition was given.

8. If a Presentment has been made by The Board of Directors against a Priest or Deacon, or if a Priest or Deacon has been convicted in a criminal Court of Record in a cause involving Immorality, or if a judgment has been entered against a Priest or Deacon in a civil Court of Record in a cause involving Immorality, the Bishop may issue an Inhibition to the Priest or Deacon until after the judgment of the Ecclesiastical Court becomes final.

D. PRESENTMENTS AGAINST AND TRIALS OF BISHOPS

1. If a Presentment is brought against a Bishop of The Church, all of the preceding rules and procedures shall apply, except that either a Diocesan Board of Directors, or the National Board of   Directors shall be authorized to bring a Presentment, and that The Synod of Bishops shall constitute the Ecclesiastical Court of Original Jurisdiction.

E. IMPLEMENTATION

1.Implementation of all provisions of Canons 13 and 14 will begin immediately upon certification by The Presiding Bishop that sufficient options exist to accomplish such implementation.  Pending such certification, all provisions of the aforementioned Canons shall be fulfilled insofar as is possible.

F. APPEALS

1. Appeals of all Trails and sentences imposed may be appealed to the Synod of Bishops.  The Synod of Bishops shall be the Ecclesiastical Court of final appeal.

H. TIMELY EFFECTIVENESS

1.  No charges, presentments or other actions may be taken on such allegations or charges that are more than one (1) year old except and unless such allegations or charges have been brought by action of civil law, in which event, good cause being merited, all provision of Canons 13 and 14 shall become effective and implemented.

Canon 15

Of the Religious Life

15.1 Life consecrated by the profession of the evangelical counsels based on the teaching and example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, are a divine gift, which the Church has received from the Lord and always preserves through His grace.

15.2 The intention of the Founder(s) and his/her/their determination concerning the nature, propose, spirit and character of the institute which has been ratified by competent ecclesiastical authority, as well as its wholesome traditions are to be faithfully observed by all members of the institute.

15.3 It falls to the Diocesan Bishop to approve and erect institutes of consecrated life within his Diocese by a formal decree, provided that the Presiding Bishop has been consulted.

15.4 The Diocesan bishop shall ensure that any new rule of consecrated life conforms to the laws and spirit of The Church.

15.5 The Presiding Bishop (Primate) shall function as the Protector of all Institutes and Orders of Religious Life..

15.6 Members of institutes of consecrated life are subject to the authority of the diocesan bishop in whose territory they reside and work in all matters relating to the care of souls, the public celebration of the liturgy, and other external works of the apostolate.

§1 In exercising an external apostolate, religious are also subject to the authority of their own superior and the Local Ordinary of the Diocese in which they are located.

15.7 Religious Institutes that are presently known to be in existence are:

·        Holy Order & Society of St. Jude Thaddeus, aka: Thaddean Companions, aka;        

         Thaddean Fathers (SSJt.).

·        Orthodox Benedictine (OSB).

·        Confederation of Orthodox Benedictine (OSB)

·        Orthodox Order of Franciscans (OOFM).

·        Servants of the Good Shepherd (SGS)

·        Servants in Service to the Servants of Christ (SC)

·        Monastery (Monastic Community) of St. John Maximovitch and the Holy Theotokos

·        Orthodox Brotherhood of St. Jude Thaddeus (SSJt.)

·        Edta Ha Thomas.

·        Western Orthodox Theological Institute (WOTI)

Canon 16

Incardination of Clerics

16.1 Candidates for Clerical Incardination into The Church must be full members of the Church prior to their application for Incardination. No application for Incardination shall be given prior to reception into the Church. (IE: "Church" as defined is that of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and to which the Seven Ecumenical Councils are accepted and observed).

16.2 As part of the application process of Clerical Incardination, candidates must fulfill the requirements of Canon 12.14.

16.3 If there is a pastoral need, the Local Ordinary may grant candidates for Clerical Incardination the title of "cleric in residence", and provide them with the necessary faculties to assist the bishop.

16.4 A candidate for Clerical Incardination will be subject to all of the requirements of Canon 12.

16.5 If it is determined that the candidate comes from a tradition that does not have valid Apostolic Succession and/or lacks the completion of the Rite of Orders, the Local Ordinary will supply the necessary sacramental validity through the Imposition of Hands and the required consecratory prayers for the Order received. As a sign of respect, the requirements of valid Sacramental Ordination will be supplied in such a way as not to demean the dignity of the previous community or ministry.

16.6 Candidates for Clerical Incardination must possess a Master of Theology, Divinity or equivalent degree, or they must complete the required theological studies prior to being incardinated.

16.7 The length of time for the process of Incardination will be determined by the Local Ordinary, in consultation with the candidate and the clergy of the diocese.

16.8 Temporary Protection of displaced, retired or otherwise dispossessed clergy from other Faith Communities possessing valid Orders and Sacraments, may be granted at the discretion of the Local Ordinary, for a period up to six (6) months, while the process for Candidacy for Incardination is initiated.  

Canon 17

Episcopal Incardination

17.1 Members of the Episcopacy of another Faith Community possessing Valid Orders and Sacraments are permitted to make application for Incardination into The Church.

17.2 Candidates for Episcopal Incardination must fulfill the requirements of Canons 12 and 16.

17.3 Candidates for Episcopal Incardination must make their applications directly to the Presiding Bishop of The Church, who will then act as Episcopal Director of Vocations.

17.4 Once a candidate for Episcopal Incardination has been received into The Church, the Presiding Bishop may grant presbyterial faculties to such bishops who have begun the process of Incardination. Such bishops will be granted the title of "Bishop in Residence." While accorded all the respect and honor due their office, such bishops are ineligible to participate in the functions of the Synod of Bishops, nor can they act as spokesperson for the Church. If a candidate for Episcopal Incardination has not fulfilled the requirements of Canon 12, they must do so prior to making final petition for Episcopal Incardination.

17.5 Upon completion of a two year transitional period, the Synod of Bishops will make their decision, which is final and not subject to review, regarding the granting of full Episcopal faculties and duties to candidates for Episcopal Incardination in the Church.

17.6 Upon being Incardinated into the Church, such bishops will take their seat within the Synod of Bishops, and be given full Episcopal faculties and duties, with all the rights and privileges due their office.

Canon 18

Of Bishops and the Holy Synod

18.1 Bishops within The Church are called forth in service and in leadership by the People of God, with the advice, and consent of The Synod of Bishops..

18.2 Bishops shall serve the Church as either a Local Ordinary of a Diocese, Bishop Co-Adjuter or Auxiliary Bishop of a Diocese, or as Prefect of a Vicariate.

18.3 Bishops are called forth because of a liturgical, sacramental, or pastoral need. Bishops are also called for their spiritual guidance, theological knowledge, academic ability, and pastoral .

18.4 Candidates for the Episcopacy shall be priests who have been ordained or Incardinated into the Church for a period of not less than five years, and are currently in good standing within the Church.

18.5 Candidates for the Episcopacy must possess appropriate academic credentials.

18.6 For a just cause, a bishop may request a leave of absence from faculties. Such requests are made to the Presiding Bishop, who shall grant such leaves for appropriate pastoral cause and shall appoint an Administrator for the period of the leave of absence, who will work directly with the Presiding Bishop.

18.7 An Auxiliary Bishop requesting a leave of absence must apply to the Local Ordinary, who will submit the request to the Presiding bishop.

18.8 The Bishop of the Diocese or Local Vicariate must reside within the jurisdiction to which they are appointed.

18.9 The Bishop of a Diocese or Vicariate possesses all the rights, prerogatives, and responsibilities inherent in that office, as long as they are not in violation of any Canons of the Church.

18.10 The Synod of Bishops shall be responsible for pastorally governing the Church in all matters regarding Theology, Doctrine, Christology, and Orthodoxy. In addition, the Synod of Bishops shall be responsible to for ensuring that the Church functions in accord with the civil law.

18.11. All secular and religious order Bishops, with jurisdiction, and in good standing in the Church shall be members of the Synod of Bishops.

§1 All Bishops of The Church, who do not possess jurisdiction shall serve as Advisors to the Synod of Bishops, and shall have voice in the Synod, but not vote in all matters of governance.

18.12. The Synod of Bishops shall be responsible for the spiritual life of the Church and of all its members.

18.13 The Synod of Bishops shall be responsible for the collective adherence to the spirit and letter of the properly approved Canons and Policies of this Church.

18.14. The Synod of Bishops shall elect one of their peers to serve this Church as Presiding Bishop (Primate) for a minimum of two year term of service.

Canon 19

 Priests Synod

19.1 All clergy who are on active status and in good standing in their Diocese or Religious community are members of the Priests Synod.   Each organized and incorporated Mission or Parish in good standing of this Church shall also be entitled to two Lay members of the Priests Synod.

19.2 The Priests Synod shall actively involve themselves in matters concerning the Church, and shall make recommendations to the Synod of Bishops regarding matters of importance to the Church.

19.3 The Priests Synod shall be convened and presided over by the President of the House.   In the absence of the President, the Vice President shall act as President of the House.

19.4 The President and Vice President of the Priests Synod shall be elected for two (2) year terms of office by the same Synod.  No one may serve in either of these positions for more than four (4) consecutive years.

19.5 The President and Vice President of the Priests Synod shall serve as Advisors to the Local Ordinary and the Synod of Bishops.

Canon 20

 Office of the Presiding Bishop (Primate)

20.1 The presiding Bishop shall proactively serve as national spokesperson for the Church.

20.1(a) The Presiding Bishop shall be that of a consecrated Metropolitan or Archbishop who shall serve for life unless otherwise stated hereafter, ( See: 20.10) he shall have authored a resignation for just cause or reposed.

20.2 The Presiding Bishop (Primate) shall proactively evangelize the Gospels.

20.3 The Presiding Bishop (Primate), in his role as Bishop Protector of Institutes of Consecrated Life, shall actively promote the creation of new religious orders, and to take care that they grow and flourish according to the spirit and charism of their Founder(s).

20.4 The Presiding Bishop (Primate) is responsible for convening semi-annual meetings of the Synod of Bishops.   Such meetings of the Synod may be done in person or via teleconferencing, or some other electronic method of communication, except that in each odd numbered year, the Summer meeting of the Synod will take place at the time and place of the National Synod.

20.5 The Presiding Bishop (Primate) is responsible for convening the National Synod at a location accessible for all to attend.

20.6 The Presiding Bishop (Primate) shall appoint a member of the Synod of Bishops to serve as Vicar General, who shall assume the duties of Presiding Bishop on a provisional basis should the office of Presiding Bishop (Primate) become vacant before the end of the current term.

20.7. The Vicar General shall have the responsibility to contact the members of the Synod of Bishops, the National Board of Directors, and the Priests Synod regarding a vacancy in the office of Presiding Bishop (Primate). The Priests Synod shall make recommendations to the Synod of Bishops regarding the selection of a new Presiding Bishop (Primate) no later than three months after the vacancy occurs. At the time of their recommendations, the Synod of Bishops shall elect a new Presiding Bishop.

20.8. The Vicar General shall perform other duties assigned by the Synod of Bishops

20.9. During any such transitional period, the Vicar-General shall act as spokesperson for the Church; consulting with the Synod of Bishops before making any pronouncements binding upon the Church and its members.

20.10  The office of Presiding Bishop (Primate) is for a minimum of two years and thereafter, if acceptable to the Holy Synod, for life or until he shall resign or become incapacitated by physical, mental of have gone to his repose (death).

20.11  When a Presiding Bishop or Primate shall have resigned, he shall remain as one of the functioning administrational bishops of the Holy Synod, of which there must be no less than three members from the Holy Synod at any one time.  All matters affecting the Holy Synod, administrational affairs of the church shall be presented equally to the newly elected and installed Primate as such shall also be presented to the former Presiding Bishop or former Primate for advice, vote and voice.

Canon 21

National Board of Directors - Diocesan Boards of Directors - Parish Councils

21.1 The American Orthodox Church shall have a International and/or National Board of Directors to assist in promoting the welfare and good of the Church.

21.2 The International and/or National Board of Directors for the Church shall be composed of the Presiding Bishop (Primate) and all other Bishops of the Church.

21.3 All bishops are permanent members of the International and/or National Board of Directors.

21.4 The International and/or National Board of Directors shall convene and meet during the biennial National Synod of the Church, and at other times, as needed.

21.5 All meetings of the International and/or National Board of Directors will follow the guidelines of Robert's Rule of Order, Revised.

21.6 All official documents of the International and/or National Board of Directors shall have a master and a scanned/approved copy and the scanned copy will be kept in a separate location from the Master.

a. All official documents of the International and/or National Board of Directors shall be made available to all members.

21.7 Each Diocese of the Church shall have a Diocesan Board of Directors to assist in promoting the good and welfare of the Church. The Diocesan Board of Directors shall also have the responsibilities and faculties to act as Board of Directors for any and all non-parish missions within each Diocese.

21.8 Each Diocesan Board of Directors of the Church shall be composed of the Local Ordinary, and other such members appointed from the ranks of clergy and laity.

21.9 All clerical and lay members of the Diocesan Board of Directors shall be appointed to serve terms of service for two years.

21.10 The Presiding Bishop (Primate) of the Church shall enjoy the honor of being a consultative member of each Diocesan Board of Directors.

21.11 Only those members of the Diocesan Board of Directors, who have been fully and formally received into the Church, shall enjoy voting rights on the Diocesan Board.

21.12 All members of Diocesan Boards of Directors shall sign a contract accepting the Canonical and legal limitations of their office and will abide with the Canon Law and by-laws of the Chutrch

21.13 The Diocesan Board of Directors shall convene and meet during the months of January and July of each year. The winter Board meeting may be done in person or via teleconferencing, or some other electronic method of communication.

21.14 All meetings of the Diocesan Board of Directors will follow the guidelines of Robert's Rules of Order, Revised.

21.15 Any member of the Diocesan Board of Directors who abuses their role in office may be dismissed from their position, by the Ordinary.

21.16 All official Diocesan Board of Directors documents shall have a Master and a scanned/approved copy and the copy shall be held in a separate location from the Master.

a. All official Diocesan Board of Directors documents shall be made available to all members.

b. All official Diocesan Board of Directors documents shall be forwarded to the Presiding Bishop (Primate) for inclusion and use by the International and/or National Board of Directors.

21.17 Every parish and mission shall create a local parish council, to assist the pastoral team in promoting the welfare and good of the Church.

§ Local Parish and Mission Councils shall be created at the time of incorporation and reception into the Western Orthodox Church, of said Parish or Mission.

21.18 The Local Ordinary shall serve as a consultative member of all Diocesan Parish and Mission Councils.

21.19 All members of Parish and Mission Councils shall sign a contract accepting the scope of their duties and accepting the Canonical and Legal limitations of their office.

21.20 All Parish and Mission Councils shall meet at least four times per year.

21.21 All meetings of Parish and Mission Councils shall follow the guidelines of Robert's Rules of Order, Revised.

21.22 Any member of a Parish or Mission Council who abuses their role in office will be dismissed from their position.

Canon 22

Clerical Leaves of Absence

22.1 Upon written request to the Local Ordinary or competent major religious superior, clerics may petition for a leave of absence from their clerical functions and duties.

22.2 Upon receiving the permission of the Local Ordinary or the competent major religious superior to enter into a leave of absence, all clerical faculties are suspended, and no such cleric licitly functions publicly in a clerical role, such as stated in Canon 12.25

22.3 A cleric shall be granted a six-month leave of absence, with the option of an additional six months. A serious review of the cleric’s status with the Local Ordinary or competent major religious superior must be taken prior to the extension of the leave of absence beyond one year.

Canon 23

Clerical Suspension

23.1 If after a leave of absence of one calendar year, a cleric declines or refuses to discuss their future with the Local Ordinary or competent major religious superior, all their clerical faculties shall be suspended, with the possibility of canonical removal from office if the cleric should remain obdurate in disobedience.

23.2 Should any cleric remain steadfast in disobedience to Theology, Doctrine, Christology, Orthodoxy, or Orthopraxis, despite the efforts of the Local Ordinary or competent major religious superior, such a cleric shall be placed under clerical suspension until they correct their error.

23.3 Any cleric who fails to fulfill their vow of obedience to their Local Ordinary regarding pastoral policies or directives and matters listed in Canon 22.2 shall be placed on clerical suspension until they correct their error and subject to Canon 12.25.

23.4 A suspended cleric who habitually declines to correct his or her error shall be canonically removed from office

Canon 24

Clerical Resignation from the Church

24.1 Any cleric can petition to leave the Church by submitting a letter of resignation to the Local Ordinary or competent major religious superior, thus surrendering their clerical faculties from the Church, and all rights, privileges, and honors which they held with their office. Resigned Clerics are bound by Canon 12.25.

24.2 At the time a cleric tenders their resignation, they leave or are considered in western terms as being excardinated and lose all clerical faculties, official positions and association with the Church as a cleric. The former cleric can, if they wish, remain a lay member of the Church if so requested of the Local Ordinary and approved by the Local Ordinary. The former cleric can petition the Local Ordinary to be re-appointed to any position, Board memberships, etc. they once held as a cleric within the Church, but such re-appointments as a layperson is problematic at best and not automatic.

Canon 25

Ecumenical Relations

25.1 Dual affiliation of clerics of The American Orthodox Church with other denominations not in communion with The Church are prohibited. Faculties may be granted by the Local Ordinary for a cleric of The Church to pastorally function within another Christian community, for a designated period of time.

25.2 A cleric of The Church may petition for permission from the Local Ordinary to provide ecumenical pastoral assistance to a Christian community not in communion with The Church, which is without pastoral care, or is in transition and attempting to secure pastoral care from their denomination. In such cases, The Church and its clerics are forbidden from initiating any type of recruitment of that parish body. To do otherwise would be in violation of the spirit of cooperative ecumenism.

25.3 A cleric of The Church may petition the Local Ordinary to provide pastoral care to a community that is not in communion with the Church, only if that faith community has formally expressed in writing their desire to discern the possibility of continuing their journey of faith with the Church.

25.4 It shall be the responsibility of the Local Ordinary to select a cleric suitable to assist such faith communities in their discernment process. It shall be the direct personal responsibility of the Local Ordinary to remain involved in this discernment process.

25.5 Clerics of the Church may freely celebrate or concelebrate with a faith community which has entered into a formal covenant of Intercommunion. Prior to celebrating with such communities, clerics of the Church must have the written permission of the Local Ordinary of the sister community.

25.6 Clergy of The Church are strongly encouraged to join and participate regularly in colleague support groups and clergy associations.

26.1 Clergy are not encouraged to enter into celebrations or concelebrate with any faith community which violates the Seven Ecumenical Canons in their faith-belief-doctrine and dogmas.  The discernment of who such communities may be shall be the Local Ordinary.  Those faith communities that are involved in any practice, dogma, doctrine or activity that might, could, or would be considered as “synchrestic ecumenism” shall be shunned, including such other communities or organizations that promote a “One World Church” ideology for a “One World Church” shall not happen until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ as portrayed in the Holy Bible.

Canon 26

Pastoral Sexual Ethics

A. .INTRODUCTION

1.
O Lord my God, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof; yet you have called your servant to stand in your house, and to serve at your altar. Enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit; and may all the desires of my heart and will center in what you would have me do. Make me an instrument of your salvation for the people entrusted to my care, and grant that I may by my life and teaching set forth your true and living Word.

            Part of a Canon of the AOC (California) 1972 …

The Church has always recognized that those who are chosen for ordained ministry bear a particular responsibility to pattern their lives according to Jesus' example. Not only are bishops, priests and deacons regarded by the faithful as examples of what a Christian life should be but any moral offense by clerics or by laity entrusted with pastoral and educational ministries is especially hurtful because it betrays that trust committed to them by the Church to nurture and care for every member.

In recent years, it has become clear that some clergy and lay ministers have engaged in sexual misconduct, which has hurt those very persons entrusted to their care. Unfortunately, in the past, instances of sexual misconduct were often denied by church authorities or dealt with secretly. Frequently, offenders were sent on to another congregation or diocese while victims were neglected or even blamed and congregations ignored. Such a response fails to implement the standards of justice and Christian love that God requires of the Church, and prevents the healing that is necessary so that new life may be known.

The Church desires to confront the fact of sexual misconduct by its trusted leaders. In part, the change in the Church's attitude has been the result of greater awareness in American society of the problems of sexual abuse and harassment. Several states have enacted legislation that makes sexual misconduct by certain professionals, including clergy, grounds for criminal or civil action.  The growth in tort liability litigation has had an effect and some actions against churches have succeeded in obtaining large amounts of money as damages.

Many denominations are responding to the issue of sexual misconduct.  Parishes will be held accountable for sexual misconduct as defined in this Canon by all those who are in their employ.  This Canon developed by The American Orthodox Church is required reading for all such church leaders. This Canon is commended as well to the people of The Church. It has as its purpose education on the issues related to sexual misconduct, with special concern for the prevention of incidents, and the protection of potential victims.

For the purposes of the policy in this Canon, "pastoral relationships" are defined broadly as those situations in which trust is given to a religious leader-- i.e.: the Pastor of a parish or the adult leader of a youth group. Pastoral counseling or spiritual direction involve the more intense, one-on-one relationships in which the pastoral relationships are complicated by psychological transference.

As a public representative of The Church, a cleric is advised that their actions speak louder than words. A cleric acknowledges that they publicly witness to a reality larger than themselves, and so must be aware of the philosophy of the organizations and clubs to which they belong and especially in which they hold a leadership role. A CHURCH cleric may not accept or hold a leadership position in any organization or club that endorses, openly or implicitly, illegal, licentious, or unbridled and degrading sexual behavior.

A. THE BASIC POLICY OF THE AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IS SIMPLY STATED:
SEXUAL MISCONDUCT IS HARMFUL, GREIVOUSLY SINFUL AND UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR, AND WILL NOT BE TOLERATED IN THE AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

B. SEXUAL MISCONDUCT DEFINED

1. Sexual misconduct may constitute sexual abuse, sexual harassment or sexual exploitation.

a. Sexual Abuse

For the purposes of this Canon, sexual abuse is sexual involvement or contact by a cleric or lay leader with a person who is a minor or who is legally incompetent. This definition includes rape. Sexual abuse is a criminal offense in most states and must be reported to law enforcement officials. It is the policy of The Church to make such reports immediately and to cooperate fully with law enforcement officials in investigating any allegations of sexual abuse.

b. Sexual Harassment

For the purposes of this Canon, sexual harassment is an unacceptable form of employment discrimination.

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

i) Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment.

ii) Submission to or rejection of such conduct by individuals is used as the basis for employment decision affecting such individual.

iii) Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonable interference with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

iv) Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, unwelcome and/or persistent sexually-oriented humor or language, questions or comments about sexual behavior, preference or orientation, unwelcome or undesired physical contact, inappropriate comments about clothing or physical appearance, or repeated requests for social engagements or interaction, in a situation where there is an employment, mentor or colleague relationship between the people involved, including aspirants, postulants and seminarians sponsored by, or working in, this Church.

c. Sexual Exploitation

i) For the purposes of this Canon, sexual exploitation is a betrayal of trust in a pastoral, professional or ministerial relationship. Sexual exploitation is also contact of a physical nature between adults in an unequal power relationship that may involve inappropriate touching, embraces or assault. Sexual exploitation includes activity such as dating during the course of a counseling relationship, kissing, touching breasts or genitals, verbal suggestions of sexual involvement or sexually demeaning comments by a leader, or sexual intercourse.

ii) Clergy should be aware that due to the imbalance of power existing between them and parishioners, the development, or the attempted development, of a sexual or romantic relationship between a religious leader and a person with whom the leader has a pastoral relationship has the potential of becoming sexually exploitive.

iii) When a single, divorced or widowed cleric begins a dating relationship with a parishioner, supervisee, or any other person with whom the cleric has a pastoral relationship, the couple shall inform the bishop and the pastor or other supervisor that this relationship has begun. The cleric shall terminate the pastoral role with the person he or she is dating, and shall support the person in seeking pastoral care from another cleric.

C. PROHIBITION AND STRICTURE

1. The American Orthodox Church strictly prohibits interaction with children or youth by anyone with a civil or criminal record of child sexual abuse or who has admitted prior sexual abuse or anyone known to have a paraphilic diagnosis (e.g. pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism) as defined by the American Psychiatric Association.

a. Understanding the importance of training and hiring qualified personnel for the Church's work, The American Orthodox Church will comply with guidelines requiring background checks on all aspirants, postulants and candidates for ordination, as well as those clergy involved in the parish deployment process.

b. Background checks will be made of all volunteers who regularly supervise youth activities (excluding unpaid Sunday School teachers), and employees, within the confines of permissible law, prior to employment, to determine current or historic allegations, criminal records or paraphilic behavior.

2. Because of the extreme sensitive nature of relationships between a priest or other clergy with that of parishioners and those in training, it becomes necessary to understand that there have been and are clergy, although not most common, who have protected the Seals of the Confessional by accepting a civil plea bargain in which the clergyman may have been erroneously convicted of pedophilia (sexual abuse of a minor) or some other sex offense.  It becomes therefore necessary that the above C1 be implemented.  The Church is a spiritual hospital for sick souls, even clergy, and therefore in these special situations and circumstances, a clergyman should not be cut off for his or their action to protect the Seals of the Confessional, one of the primary pillars of the Orthodox Church Catholic.

a. The place for ascertaining the degree to which the Seals of the Confessional shall apply is to be discerned by a ‘closed’ tribunal of the highest tribunal of the Church, as implemented in Canon 13 and 14 or, in the alternative, verifiable proof submitted to two bishops of the Church who are above reproach in the instance presented.  Other Canons may apply.

D. POLICY FOR RESPONDING TO COMPLAINTS OF CLERGY SEXUAL MISCONDUCT

1. If any person has a complaint against clergy of The American Orthodox Church, they are advised to notify the Bishop.

2. If members of the clergy receive accusations of unethical conduct against them, they are advised to report them promptly to the Bishop..

3. If members of the Parish or Mission Council have become concerned that actions of their clergy may have ethical implications that threaten the well-being of the parish or mission, they are encouraged to ask the assistance of the Bishop in investigating the matter.

4. Charges of sexual misconduct by clergy or laity that come to the Bishop shall be referred by him to The National Board of Directors.

5. The National Board of Directors shall thereafter proceed in accordance with the provisions of Canon 14,.
Presentment of Charges, Trials, and Appeals

6. All Charges of Sexual Abuse shall also be referred to appropriate law enforcement officials having jurisdiction.

E. PROCESS FOR CLERGY SCREENING

1. Every clergy person of The American Orthodox Church shall read the Policy on Clergy Screening and sign the Acknowledgment in order to continue to be counted amongst the clergy.

2. Every candidate on a search committee's short list will. receive the American Orthodox Church's Policy on Clergy Screening and the Acknowledgment and will be required to complete the Acknowledgment before they can continue in the search process.

3. Candidates on a search committee's list of persons they wish to visit will be checked through the previous diocese of record.

4. Candidates invited into the final interview stage of a search will be checked in a bishop-to-bishop check in the present diocese and the previous diocese of record.

5. When a Parish or Mission Council votes to extend a call, the recipient of the call will undergo a criminal background check and complete the behavior screening questionnaire before the call is announced. If a previous check has been done by another diocese within six (6) months and the documentation of that check is available for review, an additional check may not be required.

6. Any clergy person currently serving in the American Orthodox Church and moving to a new ministry in the Church will undergo the entire checking process outlined above and in The Church's Policy on Clergy Screening.

7. Clergy coming into the Church to do interim ministry will undergo the same screening process as clergy accepting a call.

F. CLERGY WELLNESS - RESPONSIBILITIES OF CLERGY FOR SELF

1. As Clergy we have promised to pattern our lives (and those of our families, households, or communities) in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ, so that we may be wholesome examples according to our nature and degree of ability. One part of this commitment is to care for God's gift which we embody in ourselves and thus to proclaim in deed as well as word the Gospel of Jesus Christ by fashioning our lives in accordance with its precepts. The following are suggestive of some of the ways that we express this care:

a. We give adequate attention to our spiritual health, we observe daily times for prayers, scripture reading, and meditation, and regular retreats with Daily Offices as the guide in our tradition.
b. We give adequate attention to our physical health, including regular check-ups, regular exercise, healthy eating habits, and moderation or abstinence in any use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs.
c. We give adequate attention to our emotional health and when there is need, identified by ourselves, our friends or colleagues, will seek professional help.
d. We observe at least one and a half days off work each week and endeavor to enlist our parishioners' support in honoring these times of rest.
e. We take two full weeks each year for vacation as time for recreation and renewal, plus a week after Christmas and Easter.
f. We make every effort to reach mutual agreement with our congregations and ecclesiastical authority to plan for periodic sabbatical leave for refreshment, renewal and growth.
g. We maintain a regular program of continuing education in consultation with clergy colleagues, bishop and congregational representatives. At least every 5 years we give concerted effort to an examination of our professional and vocational development.
h. We maintain regular contact with other clergy through ecumenical and colleague groups as well as this Jurisdiction's INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS HEADQUARTERS.
i. We spend intentional and significant time with our family, household or community.
j. We seek avenues of community involvement and/or friendships which allow us to relate to others where we are not priest/congregation leaders.
k. We practice responsible stewardship of our financial resources. We accept the tithe as a minimum standard of giving, and if we are not already tithing, adopt a systematic plan of moving towards that minimum to the Local Ordinary and the ones over him.

G. The Inviolability of the Seal of the Confessional - Reconciliation

1.  When abuse by a cleric is reported or discussed in the confines of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, that Sacrament is inviolable and no matter brought up in that Sacrament may or will be divulged to any person or authority by the Confessor.  The penitent making such statements and allegations in the Sacrament of Reconciliation fully accepts the limitations placed on the Confessor by the Church and may not seek civil, legal, or ecclesial damages when no civil report in made. 

        §1 Notwithstanding the above, the Confessor who ascertains any such report in the context of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, will offer Godly Counsel, in the strongest possible terms, that the penitent report such occurrences to civil and ecclesial authorities, even to the extent of withholding Absolution pending same. Yet, the Father Confessor is bound to the full implications and meaning of protecting the SEALS OF THE CONFESSIONAL even if such might, could or would require him to serve prison term(s) or death. The Seals of the Confessional are Sacrosanct! They must never be broken by the Father Confessor whatsoever, even under civil authority and pressure.       

H. Applicability

1. All portions of this Canon, including Introductory and explanatory matter are considered integral portions of this Canon.  Violation of any portion of this Canon, can and will result in the invocation of the provisions of Canon 14, ”Presentment of Charges, Trials, and Appeals”.

Canon 27

Documentation and Records

27.1 All clerics of The Church are responsible to keep accurate up-to-date financial records and books, as well as official church records, or assign a competent person to keep said books for the members of the church who are in their care.

27.2 The Church, together with all organized Diocese, Parishes, Missions, and Religious Institutes of the Church shall have, maintain, and use on all official records, a corporate Seal, which shall be well guarded. 

27.3   Any cleric who is authorized to use the Church seal (corporate Seal) and/or Ecclesiastical Seal, must return the Seal to the Local Ordinary or to his superior should he leave the church or have reason for obtaining a leave of absence.

27.4  The official records of a cleric shall be copied and provided to his Local Ordinary who in turn shall provide a copy for the Presiding Bishop (Primate).

Canon 28

Acceptance, Interpretation, and Amendment of Canons

28.1 These Canons will take effect immediately upon approval of a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the Synod of Bishops, replacing any and all previous canons. (Approved in 2005 by unanimous vote).

28.2 The Synod of Bishops, in consultation with the President and Vice President of the Priests Synod shall have exclusive authority to interpret these canons.

28.3 These Canons may be, from time to time, amended, upon approval of a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the Synod of Bishops.


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"Never, never, never let anyone tell you that, in order to be Orthodox, you must also be eastern. The West was Orthodox for a thousand years, and her venerable liturgy is far older than any of her heresies."

- Blessed St. +John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco

 

"Prejudice makes Prisoners of the Hated and the Hater" 

Metropolitan Archbishop +Joseph Thaddeus (1990)

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