41st Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress
July 1-5 – Phoenix, AZ
Theme: “Chosen and appointed by God to go and bear fruit”
Over the past four months we have been preparing for our 41st Clergy-Laity Congress by reflecting on the Congress theme and its implications for our mission, service, and planning. Our theme, “Chosen and Appointed by God to Go and Bear Fruit,” affirms so much about our relationship with God, our identity as Orthodox Christians, and our calling to offer a witness of Christ.
Our witness of Him is the means and manner by which we are able to bear fruit in the lives of others. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). He is the source of the grace and truth that makes our lives spiritually fruitful. When we are connected to our Lord, the True Vine, we are connected to God and to His immense power. As we abide in Him, His presence and guidance creates the conditions for true creativity leading to a rich spiritual harvest.
When we are connected to Christ, we know that we are chosen and appointed by God to go and bear fruit in terms of promoting our Orthodox faith--a faith which affirms our dependence on God, our commitment to His will, our participation in the extraordinary sacramental life of the Church, and the spiritual nature of our lives and the reality of God’s kingdom and presence in our midst.
We also know that our appointment by God to go and bear fruit consists in promoting the absolute truth of the Gospel. As we are seeking to bear fruit in the lives of others, we are not only sharing the necessity of faith, but simultaneously we are helping others to see and embrace God’s truth. The source of truth is Christ. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Through the worship and witness of the Church, we celebrate the truth revealed by Christ or rather the truth which is Christ and which liberates us from the bondage of sin, evil and death (John 8:31-32). We sing, teach, and proclaim divine truth, exploring its implications for all aspects or our lives. Ultimately, with the truth of God we are able to overcome the deceptions and spiritual blindness of our world and help others find the superb light and freedom related to Christ.
As branches connected to the True Vine, we know that truth is shared in love. Thus, our fruit-bearing as a witness of faith and truth is characterized by the love we know in Christ. In the Holy Scriptures, we see that His ministry, Passion, and Holy Resurrection are filled with God’s love for us. In love, we have been connected to the True Vine. Jesus said, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9). God’s love inspires and motivates us to go and bear fruit. It is the source and seal of our appointment by Him. It is the content of the Gospel we share and the manner in which we offer it to others.
For our fruitful witness and work as Orthodox Christians, our relationship with Christ is essential and critical. It is essential, because the source, means, and message of our worship and ministry must be Christ. If we are to produce fruit in the lives of the many in need of compassion and salvation, we must abide in Him. This connection is also critical because we live in a world of great needs. Being appointed and chosen by God to meet these needs, we have the unique opportunity to bring abundant blessings into the lives of many people.
In a few weeks we will gather in Arizona for our Clergy-Laity Congress. We should continue our prayerful preparations for the presentations, evaluations and discussions of the work at all levels of our Church. I also ask each of you to consider the theme of our Congress and the various ways we have explored its meaning and application. In worship, fellowship, and spirit, we will affirm that we are chosen and appointed by God for a very special purpose and service in our communities, parishes, nation, and the world. To accomplish this purpose and to address the great needs before us, we need plans and resources. We need faithful who are committed to the work of God. May we pray that our Congress will be blessed with an atmosphere of potential and shared commitment, and most of all, by a willingness to dedicate all that we do to living in Christ, bearing fruit in the lives of others, and bringing honor and glory to God.
Archbishop of America