Busy Month for Professor of Canon Law
22 April – 11 May, 2014 • Faculty Travels • The Very Rev. Alexander Rentel
From the end of April to mid-May, seminary faculty member The Very Rev. Alexander Rentel participated in three different events regarding Canon Law, in his capacities as assistant professor of Canon Law and Byzantine Studies at St. Vladimir’s Seminary and as secretary of the Statute Revision Task Force of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). His work at the three events exhibited the range of his expertise and experience—from academic support to careful consideration of the pastoral application of the canonical tradition.
From April 22–25, he met with the Statute Revision Task Force at the Dormition of the Mother of God Orthodox Monastery, Rives Junction, Michigan, under the presidency of His Eminence Archbishop Nathanael of the Romanian Episcopate, OCA. At their Spring 2013 meeting, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the OCA had charged the Task Force with a revision of the OCA Statute, and the Task Force had met once before, in Phoenix, Arizona, to initiate that work. At this more recent meeting, the Task Force continued the painstaking work of reviewing and revising the current statute.
Father Alexander remarked, “Such work poses enormous challenges, not the least of which is how to articulate canonical concepts in statutory language. For example, how do you define a parish in a way that satisfies the Church’s understanding and legal expectations?”
Then, on May 6, Fr. Alexander traveled to Sweden to participate in a final dissertation seminar at the Center for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University, which centered upon a thesis by Ph.D. candidate David Heith-Stadte, “The Rudder of the Church: An Eighteenth Century Greek Orthodox Theology of Canon Law.” Father Alexander served as an outside reader and examiner for the dissertation, which considered the great canonical compilation of St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, The Pedalion, or, The Rudder. The two-hour long seminar was convened by Mr. Heith-Stadte’s advisor, Prof. Stephen Borgehammar, and it included other students and recent graduates from the Center.
“David has already done wonderful work,” said Fr. Alexander, “in placing the compilation of The Rudder in its contemporary context, which has enabled him to uncover and explain the theological presuppositions of St. Nikodemos.”
“Mr. Heith-Stadte’s next step will be to revise his dissertation further, publish it in a limited edition, and then make a public defense, where those who acquire a copy of his published text can also attend and ask questions,” explained Fr. Alexander.
From Sweden, Fr. Alexander traveled to Volos, Greece to participate in an international conference entitled, “Orthodox Canonical Tradition and Contemporary Challenges,” held at the Thessalia Conference Center, in Melissatika, May 8–11. While there, Fr. Alexander presented a paper, “Thoughts on the Canonicity and the Ecclesial Status of non-Orthodox Churches from the Perspective of the Canonical Tradition”; he also had the opportunity to greet The Rev. Gregory Edwards, newly appointed sessional professor in St. Vladimir’s Doctor of Ministry program, and parish priest in the Diocese of Volos.
Organized by the Volos Academy for Theological Studies, and under the leadership of Dr. Pantelis Kalaitzides, director of the Academy, together with the staff of the Academy, the conference dealt with a number of canonical issues in the modern world, including the interpretation and application of the canons. His Eminence, The Most Reverend John (Zizioulas), Metropolitan of Pergamon, opened the conference and conveyed the greetings of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. His Eminence, The Most Reverend Ignatius, Metropolitan of Volos and Dimitriades, in whose diocese the conference was held, attended most of the sessions and frequently contributed to the lively comments after presentations.
The conference also was notable for its international participation of canonists and scholars. Among the leading modern scholars were Dr. Spyridon Troianos, The Rev. Grigorios Papathomas, Dr. Theodore Yangou, Dr. Vlassios Pheidas, and Dr. Ioannis Konidaris.