"All-American Councils and Sobors"

These are “the highest legislative and administrative authority within the” Orthodox Church in America (OCA) – “sobors” from before its 1970 autocephaly, “councils” thereafter. They are comparable to the Greek Archdiocese’s Clergy/Laity Congresses, as well as the national or binational conventions of bishops, clergy, and laity, of the other jurisdictions.

I mention them because the name sounds a little funny in convert ears! For a better understanding, one needs to look to their background in the Russian Church. First, sobor is simply Russian for council, but the OCA decided to differentiate between the earlier and later gatherings by the different terminology. (I believe the Serbs use a similar word, spelled sabor.) As for All-American, it’s not at all an attempt to wave the flag, as far as I can see – in fact, since it gathers bishops, clergy, and laity from not only the United States but also Canada and Mexico, it’s using “American” in the continental, North American sense, common not only in Russia but throughout Eastern Europe. In fact, sometimes the All-American Council has been held in Canada! As for the All part, that stems from the usage of the phrase All-Russian over there, and possibly other Eastern European usages of All- phrases, to simply indicate “from throughout the designated territory or constituency.” (Four times during its separate existence the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia [ROCOR] has convened All-Diaspora Councils, too – though these only pertained to their own specific jurisdiction, like all the others.) This isn’t limited to the Church: during the Soviet era several government organs and civil organizations contained the phrase All-Union in their names (as in Soviet Union or Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) as a substitute for or extension of the historical All-Russian designation, and I believe this too is the case outside the Church, in some other places in Eastern Europe, even in the post-Communist era. This usage of All is not unlike usages of the Greek word/prefix Pan.


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