SSJC–WR General Meeting Oct. 5, 2013
St. John Maron (Maronite) Church, Orange, CA
Present: Fr. George Morelli, Pres.; Bob Greenwell, Treasurer; Anne Petach, Admin. Secretary; Diane Alves, Rec. Secretary; Fr. James Babcock, Chaplain/Newsletter; Members: Gloria Brissette, Fr. John Monestero, Victor Vallejo. Visitor: Bishop Nicholas Samra. Excused: Frank Scialdone, Msgr. Dennis Mikulanis, Fr. Ramon Merlos, and Fr. Cavána Wallace.
The meeting opened at 12:15 p.m. following a prayer offered by Fr. James Babcock
President’s Announcements: Thanks offered to Fr. Antoine Bahk and St. JohnMaronChurch for their hospitality and to speakers: Bishop Nicolas Samra (Melkite), Chorbisop Samuel Dinkha (Chaldean) and Rev. Mitri Raheb (Lutheran) for their presentations on “The State of Christian Churches in the Middle East.”
Secretary’s report – Anne Petach. Copies of the previously e-mailed June 2013 meeting Minutes were distributed to those present. Minutes accepted as presented.
Treasurer’s report – Bob Greenwell: Present balance: $1,481.11; (includes $50.00 dues payment + $20.00 contribution, both received at the meeting), and that at the Sept. 30, 2013 Ex. Bd. Meeting, a motion had been passed to set aside $800 to defray our share of the cost of Light of the East Conference, 2014.
Newsletter Report: Fr. James. Deadline for submissions for the Winter 2014 issue is Dec. 1. 2013. Fr. George noted that at the last Ex. Bd. meeting, which Fr. James had been unable to attend, a motion had been passed for a thorough review of the costs of printing and distributing the newsletter.
Historian/Librarian’s report: Anne Petach. The Member Library is not being used at all. The catalog is listed on the website. Resolution after discussion: Anne will prepare a one-page list of selected titles for the next newsletter, highlighting the specific URL for the catalog and how to request materials.
Nominations for election at the November 2013 meeting: Vice-President: Fr. Ramon Merlos for Vice President, Fr. James Bankston had also been nominated for Vice President but turned down the nomination. Anne Petach for Admin. Secretary, and Diane Alves for Recording Secretary. No opposing candidates. Nominations were opened from the floor, but there were none.*
November 16, 2013. Topic: Spirit of Fasting in Catholic and Orthodox Spirituality. The Eastern speaker: Fr. Antony Bahou, the new pastor of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in San Diego. The location and Western speaker still undetermined. Fr. George is waiting for Fr. Cavána to reply with suggestions for these.
January, 2014. Date TBD. Program topic: Monasticism. However, it was suggested that if: we are unable to find an Orthodox monastic to speak, the topic of the Holy Land (Msgr. Dennis Mikulanis) might be transferred from the proposed June date, since the Light of the East Conference is now set for mid-May. Msgr. Dennis returns from the Holy Land at the end of November.
March 2014. Topic: Gloria Brissette reminded of the previously suggested topic of Evangelization as viewed by local Eastern bishops, especially in regard to ethnic parishes. Bishop Samra was asked if he could be a speaker, but he said he would not know for two more weeks if his schedule would permit. Other suggested speakers: Bishop Serapion (Coptic), Bishop Maxim (Serbian), and Bishop Benjamin (OCA).
Light of the East Conference, 2014: co-sponsored by SSJC-WR and St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church, Irvine. Fr. George announced the dates, May 16 and 17, 2014.Location: St. Paul’s, Irvine (Fr. Steve Tsichlis). Topic: Islam and Christianity – Christian Perspectives, Registration cost: $20, and speakers: Rev. Ronald Marshall (Lutheran, Seattle), Fr. Steve Tsichlis (GO), Fr. Quan Tran (RC. OrangeCounty, Specialty: Religious Freedom and Islam), and a Coptic speaker (TBA,) possibly accompanied by lay convert from Islam.
Discussion ensued about Islam and about speakers for the conference. Fr. George remarked that the speakers today had a different slant on Islam from Fr. Tsichlis. They consider Islam a legitimate religion that we should be in dialogue with (the Catholic position). Bishop Nicolas and Fr; John Monestero added that because it has no hierarchy, imams, and “self proclaimed imams,” can interpret the Koran in countless ways – including the interpretations of extreme Islamists. Fr. Tsichlis, at the executive board meeting, had said that the later parts of the Koran take precedence over the earlier parts, and that means violent passages about “kill the infidels” are interpreted literally by Muslims. He had also stated that he didn’t want a Muslim speaker at the Conference. Gloria mentioned that the Chaldean bishop [Dinkha] seemed to agree with Fr. Steve.
Fr. John noted that it is possible to have a symposium without a Muslim speaker (as Fr. Steve seems to prefer) if the presenters are recognized scholars of Islam, e.g., professors from one of our State universities or “our own” [RC] Fr. Quan (Masters Degree in related subject matter). The discussion moved to the idea that we could get an Islamic speaker if the person is a real scholar. Islam has no hierarchy and therefore many less than well educated people form their own opinions about passages in the Koran. A scholar would know that the passages about killing infidels were written during a time of war and not to be applied to peace time. The discussion moved to a Deacon named Robert Spencer who wrote a book on Islam. It was agreed that he and his book are too one-sided against Islam. Fr. John added that if there was a commitment to having a Muslim presenter, he recommended Dr.Muzzamil Siddiqi, imam at the Islamic Society of Orange County. Diane mentioned that Fr. Tsichlis was hosting the conference implying that maybe we had to abide by his decisions, but Anne reminded that SSJC is co-hosting. Fr. John also mentioned Fr. Al Baca [Diocesan Ecumenical Officer, Diocese of Orange] as a Roman Catholic speaker. No motions or resolutions were made based on this discussion.
Victor Vallejo [Roman Catholic] described preliminary efforts to plan and promote an event for students of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles (of which he is an alumnus) at the campus CatholicNewmanCenter. Ideally, the event will take place in January 2014 and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the in-person meeting in Jerusalem of Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I on January 5, 1964, at which the excommunications of 1054 were mutually lifted. Such an event would also serve to make students aware of the EasternChurches and the need for “reunification.” SSJC-WR was not being asked to be a sponsor. He was cautioned about using the term “reunification.” as it can be misconstrued.
Next Meeting: November 16, 2013, following the Program. Location: TBA**
The Meeting adjourned at 1:20 p.m. after a prayer by Fr. John Monestero.
Respectfully submitted by Anne Petach, Admin. Sect’y and Diane Alves, Rec. Sect’y.
* Nominations. Note from Anne Petach: There not being another candidate at this time, I have agreed to continue, but will not be able to give the job the time and energy as heretofore. I look forward to a replacement being found soon. It will help to have an overlapping period for a smooth transition. I am very grateful for Diane Alves volunteering, but she can only spare time for Recording Secretary duties.
** Program location was thereafter set for Our Lady of Kazan Patriarchal Orthodox Church, San Diego