The 1st All-American Sobor
How to Expand the Mission
When Saint TIKHON (Belavin), Enlightener of North America, became ruling bishop of the North American Diocese of the Russian Church in 1898, diocesan administrative authority in the Russian Church was largely vested in the person of the ruling diocesan hierarch. However, in his archpastoral ministry in America, Saint TIKHON increasingly sought the participation and input of all clergy and laity in the governance of the diocese. This remarkable style of diocesan administration engendered various regional ecclesiastical gatherings over several years to discuss and develop church life. Eventually, this led to the idea of a gathering unprecedented in North America - a council - comprised of clergy and laity to deliberate a most crucial topic: “HOW TO EXPAND THE MISSION.”
Hence, this became the theme of the First All-American Sobor convened in Mayfield, PA on March 5-7, 1907. Several weeks before the council, Saint TIKHON had received news of his transfer to another see. Thus, he no longer possessed the authority to preside over the council. However, as he had not yet departed to his new assignment in Russia and his successor, Archbishop PLATON (Rozhdestvensky), had not yet arrived in America, Saint TIKHON was asked to supervise the deliberations of the council which his vision had conceived. Along with Saint TIKHON, the key participants in this council included three priests who are now also canonized saints: ALEXANDER Hotovitzky, JOHN Kochurov and ALEXIS Toth. While this council laid out guidelines and direction for various aspects of missionary work and decided to draft a statute outlining the administrative structure of the diocese, its primary significance was the precedent it set by its very convocation for the future councils of the American Church.
Written by Alexis Liberovsky
OCA Archivist, Director of the Department of History and Archives.