Extraordinary session held in New Gracanica

An extraordinary session of the New Gracanica - Midwestern American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America was held at the New Gracanica Monastery on Saturday, July 11, 2009. The agenda was completed successfully.

The session opened with the introductory greeting by His Grace Bishop Longin of New Gracanica-Midwestern America which we are publishing here in full:

To the participants in the Extraordinary Diocesan Assembly
of the Diocese of New Gracanica - Midwestern
at the Monastery of the Protection of the Mother of God

Reverend fathers, dear brothers and sisters,

Holy Apostle Paul in speaking about apostolic service in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, says, "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4: 1). We also, in greeting you for the first time today as representatives of our newly formed Diocese, bring to mind these words of the great Apostle who has forever paved the way for all true followers of Christ by his own work and missionary service. We are grateful to God first and then to our Holy Church that she has entrusted us with this apostolic service. Today, we stand before you in the role, not of one who gives orders, but of one who strives to be a servant of Christ. We truly have no greater ambition than this. On our path to eternity, the safest and the best path is that of serving.

The reorganization of the dioceses of our Church in North and South America by the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church has brought a slight change on the territory of the Midwestern America. A new Diocese has been created here: The Diocese of New Gracanica - Midwestern America. Today, the representatives of this Diocese are assembled for the first time in order to define the diocesan bodies so that we may successfully, within the boundaries of our new Constitution, begin the work on the vast territory which our Diocese encompasses.

The decision of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, along with all of its consequences, is of historic importance. It finally puts an end to our misfortunate division. A sad epoch in the history of our Church in this part of the world is over, and the dawn of a new day is announced, which we believe will be brighter and better, more fruitful and more salvific for our people and our Church in this part of the world. A lot has been accomplished thus far in our Dioceses in America and Canada, and not only in the realm of construction. But imagine now how much better and more blessed things will be from now on, now that we are one, as brothers of the same faith ought to be. First of all, peace which we all need will be in our hearts - peace from God which surpasses all reason and unites us with God. That peace makes one able to disregard his own earthly troubles and sufferings, it extinguishes one's exaggerated ties to this world, it draws one to heaven, and creates love for all in one's heart. That love covers the shortcomings of the near ones so that one does not even notice them, but is compelled to always show more empathy for those near ones than for oneself. All people are called to live by that peace, and especially we, the Orthodox Christians.

United, we can do a lot, under the condition that we not be selfish and that we don't put ourselves in the first plan. Let us fear being high-minded, because pride and high-mindedness are man's perdition. Bear each other's burden and thus fulfill the law of Christ - those are the words of Saint Paul. Let us strive to set our labors into accord with the Gospel of Christ the Savior. Whatever cannot be placed in the context of the Gospel is not good for our souls; it is not profitable, and what is the worst, is can seriously diminish our chance of standing "to the right of the Lord" in that fateful day in which we will meet the Righteous Judge "face to face".

It is important to point out that the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church does not require anything of us except that we be good members of our Holy Church, that we labor on the common field of the Lord, and that we contribute to our own salvation and the salvation of our surroundings in this part of the world by our living here. The last thing on the minds of the Fathers of the Holy Assembly is our property. Serbian Orthodox Church has through the centuries successfully cared for both spiritual and material goods, and nothing has changed in the nature of the Church during that time.

Since the Eucharistic union of 1992, nothing more important has happened than this event, which signifies the new beginning in the full canonical and administrative union. Therefore, let us thank God and His most faithful servants in our nation, headed by Saint Sava, for this great blessing - that we can be united and saved together in one indivisible, holy, Serbian Orthodox Church as true followers of Christ. If there is still a reason to ask some of the brethren for forgiveness - forgive me! If there is a reason for some of the brethren to ask for forgiveness - do so! Let us humble ourselves before each other and before the Lord, healing through brotherly love all wounds of sin. Let us show by our own example of sacrificial serving that we are worthy followers of Saint Sava in all things - that we are worthy followers the teaching which is framed in the Orthodox confession of God and His Church.

Let us show brothers and sisters, by our life and work, that the Gospel of Christ is our Constitution, our ordinances and statutes. Thus, there won't be much need for us to rely on administrative decisions. Respect your clergy, and you clergymen who are entrusted with this high service, care for the souls which have been placed under your care, because great is the burden and great is the responsibility before the Lord of both ones and the others.

Today, we will choose Diocesan bodies. Let this election pass in brotherly accord and understanding, and let our approach to this important work be inspired only by the genuine care for the Church of God. May God grant that this most beautiful church, erected by the Metropolitan Irinej of blessed memory and the honorable Serbian people, the center of our new Diocese, continue to serve as an important spiritual center in which all Orthodox Serbs will feel at home.

We welcome all of you and wish a happy and blessed beginning of work in the new Diocese, and may God's blessing be with all of you, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen!

+ L O N G I N
Bishop of New Gracanica - Midwestern America

After the Bishop's address, the assembly proceeded with the points of the agenda. A new Diocesan Council and a new Auditing Board were elected.

The new Diocesan Council will be comprised of the following members:
V. Rev. Marko Todorovic
V. Rev. Nedeljko Lunich
V. Rev. Dr. Milos Vesin
Rev. Milorad Loncar
Rev. Aleksandar Novakovic
Dennis Svilar
Ostoja Grabovac
Jovo Balach
Milos Saravolatz
Brane Brankov
Nick Malinovich
Ray Vukas

Alternate members:
V. Rev. Dragan Veleusnic
Rev. Marko Matic
Andrew Nygren
Dawn Pilja
Zoran Djordjevic
Cvetko Balach

The Auditing Board is comprised of the following members:
Paul Bajich
Ryan Dorsey
Peter Samardzija

Source: Diocese of New Gracanica and Midwestern America