17 Episcopal dioceses gather during Oct. 23-25 weekend for convention, celebration, connection

October 27, 2009

From California to Connecticut, Puerto Rico to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, thousands of Episcopalians who gathered in 17 dioceses across the Episcopal Church for annual convention meetings elected diocesan leadership, approved operating budgets, recommitted to mission and ministry, and engaged the Gospel, Scripture study, conversation and each other.

Future leadership and direction were very much on the minds of Connecticut Episcopalians, who elected the Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas as the 15th bishop of the Hartford-based diocese on the second ballot. (See related ENS story.) Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori helped celebrate the old and the new as keynote speaker during "An Anchor of Hope," the 150th anniversary celebration of the Diocese of Kansas in Topeka. Among other things, the Presiding Bishop challenged congregations to regard multicultural inclusivity as key to growth.

The Diocese of Puerto Rico welcomed three new congregations and a new organized mission Oct. 24 during its 102nd annual convention, meeting in Trujillo Alto.

As is usual, convention actions varied. Delegates in the Diocese of San Joaquin in Central California affirmed General Convention Resolutions D025 and C056, which focused on human sexuality and reaffirmed the Episcopal Church's commitment to the Anglican Communion.

A majority of delegates who attended a special convention held Oct. 24 in the Diocese of South Carolina rejected those same resolutions.

Following is a partial summary of diocesan actions at annual convention meetings and Synod gatherings or convocations during the Oct. 23-25 weekend.


Diocese of Connecticut. In addition to selecting Ian Douglas as their next diocesan bishop, delegates approved six resolutions during the 225th annual convention Oct. 23-24 at Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford.

Convention approved sending a resolution addressing peace between Israel and Palestine to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. A resolution supporting research into historic complicity with slavery and its aftermath and calling for a diocesan Day of Repentance Nov. 7, 2009 was also approved.

Delegates also approved a zero percent clergy salary increase recommendation for 2010; a three-year renewal of a formal companion relationship with the Diocese of Colombia and a resolution reaffirming the tithe as a minimum standard for giving, with an amendment removing a time constraint.

A resolution endorsing a proposed 2010 budget of about $5.2 million was amended to direct more funding to certain mission areas. The budget will be sent to various diocesan committees and then to the diocesan executive council for final approval.

The diocese represents about 60,000 Episcopalians in more than 170 congregations.


Diocese of Eastern Michigan. Some 200 lay and clergy delegates met Oct. 23-24 at Grace Church in Port Huron for "Will You Proclaim by Word and Example?" the 15th annual diocesan convention gathering, according to Barb Meikle, secretary of convention.

Keynote speaker was the Rev. Peter Rood, rector of the Church of the Holy Nativity in Los Angeles and co-founder of Environmental Changemakers, a grass-roots group dedicated to sustainable living. He is also co-author of Environmental Change-Making: How To Cultivate Lasting Change in Your Community (Cathedral Center Press 2008).

The diocesan budget for 2010, about $875,000, represented a decrease from about $1 million the previous year, but did not require convention approval.

Nevertheless, mission and ministry figured prominently. Convention approved a single resolution, to establish a companion relationship with the Episcopal Diocese in the Dominican Republic in cooperation with other Michigan dioceses.

Delegates also learned that youth enrollment increased by 35 percent at Camp Chickagami and that the 80-year-old diocesan institution held its first family camp in 2009.

Diocese of El Camino Real. "Deeper Simplicity, Broader Generosity" was the theme as about 200 clergy and lay delegates met Oct. 23-24 for the 29th annual diocesan convention at Sherwood Hall in Salinas, California.

Delegates approved a resolution suggesting Sept. 13 be included in the church calendar to commemorate the Rev. Peter Cassey and his wife Annie Besset Cassey. He was the first person of color ordained in the Episcopal Church west of the Mississippi River, in 1866. The resolution cites, among other contributions, the Casseys' efforts to educate African American, Mexican and Chinese students who were not allowed to attend public schools at the time.

Another resolution approved giving seat, voice, and vote to Lutheran clergy serving in the diocese, in lieu of issuing yearly invitations. A $1.5 million budget, representing a slight increase over last year's $1.45 million, was unanimously approved without discussion, according to diocesan communications officer Edy Unthank.

Diocesan bishop Mary Gray-Reeves announced the launch of a leadership training institute and the beginning of "deeper conversations around the matter of culture and the very real barriers to full citizenship that exist for some in our diocese, in our state." Delegates also viewed a video about the triad companion relationship between El Camino Real and the dioceses of Gloucester and Western Tanganyika (see related ENS story).

El Camino Real's first bishop, Shannon Mallory, presented Gray-Reeves with the ring crafted for him when the diocese was first formed, pre-Silicon Valley days when it was mostly agricultural. At that time, congregants contributed jewelry and other items to be melted down to make the gold ring.

Diocese of Fond du Lac. About 216 visitors and delegates met Oct. 23-24 for the 135th annual convention, hosted by both St. Matthias' Episcopal Church and Holy Family Roman Catholic Church in Minocqua, in northeastern Wisconsin.

Convention approved a $650,000 budget, representing a slight increase from the previous year, which awaits final approval by the diocesan executive council in November, according to diocesan office secretary Vicky Stauber-Pufall.

Delegates approved two resolutions, allowing individuals to restrict giving to the wider Episcopal Church and affirming support for the House of Bishops and Bishop Russell Jacobus for recognizing and respecting differing viewpoints.

Voting on a third resolution, which affirmed Jacobus's vote against General Convention Resolutions D025 and C056 and signing of the Anaheim Statement was postponed indefinitely.

Diocese of Idaho. About 146 clergy and lay delegates attended "Who Do You Say I Am?" the 42nd annual diocesan convention Oct. 23-25, held at the Best Western Inn in Burley.

Delegates approved a $602,000 budget, a $2,000 decrease from the previous year, according to Carrol Keller, diocesan coordinator and assistant to the bishop.

A resolution proposing formation of a committee to study cost reductions associated with bishop elections was withdrawn. A late resolution, affirming the inherent integrity and blessedness of committed Christian relationships between two adults, "characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love" did not receive the two-thirds approval necessary for it to be considered by convention.

Idaho bishop Brian Thom commented about an "Episcopal branding" presentation to convention: "This is the right time for this kind of awareness and commitment. In a country that has been rocked by financial trauma, where institutional confidence has been dealt a serious blow, and when so many must rethink their futures, it is the right time for the Episcopal Church to repent of hiding its light under a bushel basket.

"This is not about denominational aggrandizement, but rather an acknowledgment that our Anglican way of searching for and encountering God would likely appeal to many more people than are currently in our pews. For a few of these broken ones, the Episcopal way could be a path to personal healing, redemptive relationships, and nurturing community."

Diocese of Kansas. As convention keynote speaker, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori helped celebrate "An Anchor of Hope," the 150th anniversary of the diocese in Topeka, and welcomed St. Clare's, a new suburban Kansas City congregation.

Bishop Dean Wolfe echoed the Presiding Bishop's call for deeper inclusivity, and requested that at least ten people learn to speak Spanish or teach it to others, to jump-start new diocesan initiatives to Spanish-speaking parishioners and potential members.

Recalling the diocese's 1896 frontier beginnings (chronicled on YouTube), he called for at least ten families to serve as modern-day "spiritual pioneers" and to make a three-year commitment to St. Clare's.

No resolutions were offered; 89 clergy and 109 lay delegates approved a budget of about $1.8 million, representing a 6.74 percent decrease from the previous year, according to Melodie Woerman, diocesan communications director.

The diocese represents 12,000 Episcopalians in 45 congregations.

Diocese of Maine. The theme of the 190th annual convention meeting, "The Heartbeat of the Church is Mission," reprised Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori's sermon delivered at the General Convention July 8 opening Eucharist.


Delegates viewed a new diocesan video, "Finding our Deep Gladness," which featured opportunities for mission, including Hispanic ministry; a companion relationship with the Diocese of Haiti; and a Seeds of Hope Jubilee Center in Biddeford. Also featured were St. Elizabeth's Essential Pantry, a ministry of eight regional parishes that assists the newly arrived and low-income families with necessities not covered by food stamps; and a diocesan-wide youth ministries mission trip to the Dominican Republic.

Convention approved a $2 million budget, representing a slight decrease from $2.1 million in 2009. Delegates also approved a resolution urging renewed peacemaking efforts by the government to work with other nations toward world nuclear disarmament, after adding an amendment directing Maine's bishop, Stephen Lane, to disseminate the resolution to elected officials.

During his convention address, Lane announced creation of groups to study mission strategy and mission priorities, and invited delegates into conversation to brainstorm about their hopes and dreams for mission. He also announced formation of a group to study clergy compensation.

The diocese represents about 17,000 Episcopalians in 67 congregations and 18 summer chapels and various chaplaincies across the state.

Diocese of Michigan. About 300 clergy and lay delegates representing some 86 churches and two university chaplaincies focused on 3 R's: "Repentance, Renewal and Revitalization" during the 175th convention meeting at the Causeway Bay Hotel in Lansing.

During the Oct. 23-24 gathering, convention approved a $2.2 million budget for 2010, representing a decrease from the $2.5 million budget the previous year. Delegates also reverted to a three-year-average formula for assessing congregational support.

Delegates rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that could have suspended the rights of lay representatives to Diocesan Convention in congregations that do not pay all financial support for the diocesan ministry or church pension premiums. The measure passed a year ago, but amendments to the constitution require approval at two consecutive annual conventions; it received only half of the necessary votes by orders.

Bishop Wendell Gibbs noted during his convention address that, "Michigan is clearly at the epicenter of this current recession and will most likely lag far behind any recovery experienced by the rest of the country." But, he added that, despite the current economic climate, the diocese has embarked upon new ministries and a Revitalization and Strategic Visioning Project.

Diocese of Nevada. The "I Love to tell the Story" theme focused delegates to the 39th annual convention on more and deeper conversation and less business-as-usual during the Oct. 23-25 gathering near Lake Tahoe.


About 170 delegates shared stories, worship and Bible study, according to Bishop Dan Edward's blog. "We spent less time with the whole gathered assembly listening to individuals give reports (talking at) and more time for small groups with common interests to network with each other (talking with)," he said.

Convention approved resolutions to form a companion diocese relationship with the Diocese of Santiago in the Philippines and another to work to establish worshipping communities in eight correctional institutions.

Delegates also approved an $800,000 budget including $120,000 allocated for development of Hispanic ministries. Additionally, delegates offered personal contributions to sponsor 40 at-risk youth to experience the diocesan Camp Galilee for one week.

The diocese represents 6,000 communicants in 33 congregations.

Diocese of Northern Indiana. Inspired by General Convention's Strategic Vision for Latino Ministry, about 90 delegates gathered Oct. 23-25 for the 111th convention, hosted by the congregations of St. Thomas Church and la Iglesia Episcopal de Santo Thomas in Plymouth, Indiana.


Convention approved a $746,000 budget for 2010, roughly about the same amount as the previous year, and a resolution commending the Boy Scouts on their centennial anniversary, according to Jon Adamson, secretary to the bishop.

Forward-looking and mission-minded is the way the Rev. Canon SuzeAnne Silla, diocesan canon to the ordinary, described the gathering. Delegates also approved resolutions to restructure deaneries to enable more congregations to gather for deanery meetings.

Diocesan bishop Ed Little noted decline over the past decade during his convention address but vowed not to "let statistics have the last word." Despite challenges, diocesan response has been "faithful, hopeful, positive and proactive," he said. He cited as examples diocesan participation in the Congregational Development Institute and convention's approval of a third and final resolution to develop a mission strategy for the diocese.

He also cited growing evangelism and outreach to college students who are "looking for something with deeper roots, a church whose worship is grounded in that of the earliest Christians, a church where they can ask question and find answers, a church that will teach them how to pray and how to encounter Jesus in Word and Sacrament."

The diocese represents about 36 congregations and about 2,500 Episcopalians.

Diocese of Puerto Rico. Delegates welcomed three new congregations and a new organized mission Oct. 24 during the 102nd annual convention meeting of the diocese in Trujillo Alto.


Convention publicly opposed the government's handling of "the termination of over 20,000 public employees of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" and expressed solidarity with all those "displaced from the government and private industry." All congregations were asked to maximize all possible efforts to help the displaced.

During his convention address, Bishop David Andres Alvarez-Velazquez called upon some 89 lay and 64 clergy delegates to "face the new and great challenges and opportunities of today's ministry. To respond, each congregation needs to have something that differentiates it from others, something that attracts new people and help them persevere as expressed in our baptismal vows.

New mission congregations received were: Los Santos Apóstoles, Utuado; Espíritu Santo, Aibonito; San José de Arimatea in Añasco. A fourth congregation, San Lucas Evangelista in Ponce was accepted as an organized mission and members expressed intentions of becoming a parish within two years.

The diocese represents at least 45,000 Episcopalians in 49 congregations.

Diocese of Rhode Island. Delegates met Oct. 23-24 at the Cathedral of St. John in Providence for "Shared Blessings," the 219th annual convention meeting of the diocese.

Bishop GeralynWolfe cited tough economic times during her convention address. The state's 13 percent unemployment rate that has forced downsizing of some church staffs and budgets is part of "living into the throes of a corporate Holy Saturday," she said. She invited delegates to have "generous spirits, thankful hearts, and works of mercy, so that our Holy Saturday will lead to the Feast of Resurrection."

Delegates approved a companion relationship with the Diocese of Ezo in the Sudan, and ratified another one with the Diocese of Louisiana. Other actions included affirming diocesan programs for prison ministry, for formation and ministerial support, children, youth and college students and for the affirmation of General Convention Resolutions D025 and C056.

Convention also adopted resolutions to form a task force to review diocesan priorities, to adopt the Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation, to endorse the Earth Charter, and to urge the support of community gardens and providing fresh produce for those in need.

The diocese represents 22,455 Episcopalians in 56 congregations.

Diocese of San Joaquin. Delegates arrived for the 50th anniversary celebration, "Episcopal Gold: 50 Years of Presence, 50 Years of Promise," Oct. 23-25 at St. Paul's Church in Modesto, California, with photos, memorabilia and videos telling the story of their congregations as a way of envisioning future mission and ministry.


Provisional bishop Jerry Lamb said convention focused more on fellowship, evangelism and less on business-as-usual. Delegates approved a $420,000 budget for 2010, plus a $125,000 line of credit loan from the Episcopal Church.

Delegates approved a resolution which supported continuation of an equality commission, charged to make specific recommendations for supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons, and other "marginalized" lay and ordained persons in full and equal participation in the daily life and work of the Church.

Convention also approved resolutions affirming commitment to establish a jubilee ministry to the poor; support and renew congregational evangelism; the millennium development goals as a mission priority; become a welcoming and inclusive diocese; including youth 16 to 18 years of age on congregational vestries and to using additional church calendar commemorations.

Two other resolutions approved authorized development of a strategy for lifelong Christian formation and creation of a committee to study diocesan reorganization.

During his convention address Lamb cited five ordinations as signs of the continuing diocese's vibrancy, including the ordination of the first woman to the priesthood, the Rev. Suzy Ward. "We are now able to set our own direction, rather than being pushed from outside," he added.

Diocese of South Carolina. About 300 delegates who gathered at an Oct. 24 special convention at Christ Church in Mt. Pleasant in suburban Charleston distanced themselves from the wider Episcopal Church. Delegates approved four of five resolutions (see related story) including one authorizing them to seek missional relationships with isolated orthodox congregations across North America.



Diocese of Springfield. The 132nd annual Synod gathering was held Oct. 23-24 at St. Paul's Cathedral in Springfield, Illinois. Diocesan officials did not respond to several ENS requests for information about their annual Synod.








Diocese of Utah. "For God's Good Gifts" focused delegates on stewardship at the 91st annual convention meeting Oct. 24 at St. James Church in Midvale.



The Episcopal Church Media Hub, used at General Convention, webcast the convention and was a "fantastic experience," according to the Rev. Canon Mary June Nestler, canon for formation for the diocese. "It was great. I've heard from people as far away as Aberdeen, Scotland, who watched parts of our diocesan convention."

About 225 clergy and lay delegates honored retiring bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish with an eight-minute video chronicling her accomplishments. Irish's first convention was in 1996, also held at St. James, Midvale. She has announced her intention to retire after her successor is consecrated Nov. 6, 2010 at Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah.

The business portion of the gathering included approval of a $4.5 million budget, which represented a decrease from the previous year, Nestler said. Convention approved a resolution encouraging congregations to obtain energy audits. Another resolution, which would have given retired clergy a vote in bishop's elections, was referred to diocesan council for further study.

Diocese of Western Massachusetts. More stewardship, less business-as-usual highlighted the 108th annual -- and first paperless -- convention meeting, said Steve Abdow, diocesan finance officer. The gathering, held Oct. 24 at the Sheraton Hotel in Springfield, was also downsized from two days to one.


Diocesan bishop Gordon Scruton invited some 252 delegates to embrace God's invitation to a future that "will require letting go of many habits and things we have treasured. It will also involve discovering new and more sustainable ways of living as Americans and as congregations and dioceses."

Several congregations shared inspirational stories of rediscovering their identity and mission in light of tough economic realities. Convention approved a $2.165 million budget, representing a 15 percent decrease from the previous year but also launched a new regionalized, more comprehensive structure for campus ministry.

Convention delegates also heard via long-distance telephone call from missioners Doug and Elaine Culver, who have served for the past eight years in China's Kunming Yunnan Province.

"It was a great spiritual connection. They're on the other side of the planet, and we pray for them all the time, but to have that conversation, it really hit home that they're members of our diocese, out there doing this work," Abdow said.

The diocese represents 18,000 baptized members in 67 congregations.

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