Canons are imperative for the well functioning of the Synod, its communities and ministries. Questions about these Canons are to be addressed to the Metropolitan, in whom rests the final authority of establishing, amending and interpreting these Canons.
Candidates, who have petitioned to enter the church, must direct their biographical details to the local bishop or his representative, including supporting documents and paperwork. This may either be completed in hard copy format and via electronic means. Upon review by the bishop or his delegate, who may request additional details, the candidate can be accepted as clergy of any rank; or the bishop may postpone the incardination pending further conditions, such as the removal of canonical impediments. Alternatively, the bishop may reject the Application. The bishop, in whom rests all final authority, is not obligated to state reasons for his decision.
Every candidate is received on a probationary period of time of no less than three months. The bishop may extend this time period or terminate the candidate without stating reasons.
Ordination cannot be given or accepted (if determined as validly ordained), when a candidate has not completed the appropriate training or obtained the respective theological or ministerial credentials. The bishop or his delegate may make accommodations depending on the individual’s background, spiritual formation and achievements.
All clergy shall uphold the integrity of the church and its ministry at large. Confusion shall be avoided by referencing church publications, such the church website and the content therein, as representing the diocese rather than third-party hearsay or assumptions.
Everyone subject to these Canons shall endeavor to treat others, whether they are members or not, with utmost respect in regards to their personal arrangements and relations as consistent with the stated policies, its spiritual practice as set forth in the Articles of Incorporation or as contained within the By-Laws.
Right of privacy encourages fearless confession and therefore personal growth. Clergy may never reveal the confidence of their spiritual children or community members, shared within the Seal of Confession, except where these disclosures are authorized by the person involved. Confidences are those personal details of life and relationship that are revealed in one-to-one session in a private environment or specifically protected space, such as the Confessional. Disclosures that are discussed by the parties in other, non-privileged circumstances (i.e. outside the Seal of Confession) are not privileged in the ethical sense, but any communication should still be treated with discretion.
(a) Priests are permitted to administer the Sacraments to others upon request and under their respective canonical guidelines. Unless there are special circumstances, the format as approved by the bishop is to be used. The bishop will give further details and directions, if need be.
(b) Clergy are not permitted to administer the Sacraments outside their Diocese’s boundaries without prior consent of the bishop. A Celebret can be issued to a priest who may be on travel or elsewhere outside this jurisdiction, allowing him to temporarily celebrate the Liturgy at a place of worship outside this jurisdiction.
No parishioner or spiritual child may ever be required to give money or services to our clergy for receiving the Sacraments. No Parishioner or spiritual child shall be required to give time or labor that he or she deems to be detrimental to his or her well-being. This does not prohibit the exchange of money or services for value received (i.e., professional services provided by one member to another, payment for retreats, rent and such); nor does it prohibit the voluntary, free-will offering for services received.
The church shall never be held liable for any services provided by any of its clergy or lay members.
A sexual relationship is never appropriate between clergy and those in their care. Hence, such is prohibited for all members of the church. During retreats, formal teaching and pastoral care, any intimation by the clergy of romantic or sexual nature is therefore inappropriate and in violation of our Ethical Guidelines.
All members of each diocese are held to discuss possible breaches of these Canons promptly and directly:
(a) If the complaint is about a member of the diocese, who is not clergy or other position of authority, the individual should try to resolve it with the fellow member first. If the complaint cannot be resolved at this level, the matter should be brought to the attention of the immediate superior or the bishop, who will attempt to deal appropriately and reasonably with the issue or concern. The immediate superior will make a decision after either reviewing pertinent data and/or meeting with the parties involved.
(b) If the complaint is about a superior, and direct communication has not achieved a resolution, the matter will be brought to the bishop or the metropolitan, who will establish the complaint procedure and make a final decision upon careful investigation.
Code Of Conduct For All Clergy
1) All clergy are deemed to visit the Synod web site regularly in order to remain updated about pertinent information. As representatives of our Synod all clergy will be expected by others to answer questions about the Orthodox Church.
2) Clergy will avoid mixing the clerical office with organizations, entities or agendas that are incompatible with spiritual aims and those of this Synod in particular. Clergy may not use their credentials and status for monetary gain or to solicit funds of a group, whose purposes are different from those of their diocese.
3) Clergy should maintain regular contact with the bishop, who is available to support spiritual life by addressing any concerns and ministerial matters. If questions of starting a new ministry or leading a community arise, the bishop will direct.
4) Every member is advised to be very mindful when working with people. There may be serious liability issues to be concerned about when and if one gives life-altering advice. For instance: (a) We never suggest anyone to divorce their partner or to resign from employment; (b) We never give advice that is reserved to other professions (beyond suggesting to seek professional counseling, medical or legal advice).
5) Clergy should purchase clerical insurance, if they work with a high-risk group of people. There are several companies that handle this type of insurance.
6) Clergy are expected to attend to their postal as well as electronic emails, weighing carefully what to say or how to respond. They keep in mind that written words can be misleading and easily misunderstood. Different people may interpret the tone of an email in various ways. Clergy therefore should never write when struggling with anger, but meditate and pray until the mind is clear or calm. Additionally, clergy should refrain from using gadgets like texting, messenger and other Apps, deemed unsuitable when conducting business or professional pastoral work.
7) Clergy will keep their daily practice faithful according to the Canons and Statutes of this Synod. Each clergy person must keep a beneficial spiritual balance towards others, who are in their care, as well as to the respective environment of all people.
8) Clergy will not engage in politics. This does not mean they should not vote, but rather they are required to never mix their religious status with any form of political agenda.
9) Clergy are expected not to affiliate with another religious entity that is incompatible with the Orthodox faith and practice. There is no need to contrast our faith with that of another. They may adhere to different Bible interpretations or heterodox theology, which needs to be respected as such; but it is not appropriate to criticize or demean other belief systems. This applies to all Christian branches and even other religions. - Participation in Christian unity Services or Interfaith gatherings are permitted, so long they are only prayer oriented (i.e. non-sacramental in nature).
10) Sometimes, concerns may arise within the Synod as to the activities or behavior of its clergy. They will bring such issues directly to the Metropolitan and refrain from discussing matters with other clergy or individuals inside or outside the jurisdiction.
11) Any Synod member may choose to form their own legal entity in the State or country, where they reside, as a charitable, nonprofit, religious organization. This may give better means in recruiting tax-deductible donations to support their local congregation or ministries. It may also help to obtain licenses for performing weddings, funeral services or operating ministries, such as in prison or hospitals. Clergy are asked to reference their respective local and State laws for detailed information on how to set up a religious non-profit organization. Clergy are held to consult with their respecive bishop for resources and assistance before making an Application.
(12) This Synod has taken the following steps to reduce the chances of abuse and to lessen its impact on survivors.
(a) We insist that both, our married and monastic clergy, receive proper education. In our mobile society this is an important opportunity to vet candidates for ordination.
(b) We support the implementation of programs in our educational venues that are designed to teach candidates how to maintain appropriate boundaries and how to minister effectively to community members who have been abused.
(c) We ensure that complete background checks are conducted, before candidates are ordained or before clergy from other jurisdictions are received.
(d) We support educational programs that address abuse for clergy who are already serving.
(e) We educate parishioners and their children about the importance of appropriate boundaries, as well as how to maintain them. This is particularly important for those who have already been abused, wherever the harm may have occurred.
(f) We encourage discernment by listening to your inner voice. If something makes you uncomfortable or seems odd, pay attention to your feeling. Ask questions, and if you are not satisfied with the answers, bring it to the attention of the bishop.
(g) We ensure that children in a community are adequately supervised at all times when they are on the premises.
(h) We require mandatory background checks for those, who will be working with children, including volunteers.
(i) We remove or put under disciplinary action anyone, who is found engaging in physical, verbal or psychological abuse.
(j) Clergy have no choice but to immediately report sexual abuse to the authorities and their bishop.
(13) All clergy are expected to conduct themselves in a manner conducive to their office keeping in mind that their ministerial duties and availability can be beyond regular working hours. This includes proper attire when in public; and professional clergy attire in carrying out pastoral functions. While there is no particular day-to-day “dress code”, priests are expected to wear more formal clothing, preferably of darker hue while in public. However, when in their pastoral capacity, all clergy are held to wear appropriate clericals.