The Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, meeting on the campus of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa February 15-17 in its 176th annual Convention, heard that the diocese's capital campaign is near its goal.
Bishop Henry Parsley also called for the election of a bishop suffragan later this year. The previous bishop suffragan, Marc Andrus, became bishop of the Diocese of California in 2006.
More than 40 college students from 14 colleges across the diocese helped lead the convention, for the first time in its history. The diocese has one of the largest campus ministry programs in the Episcopal Church, according to a report on its website, including four full-time campus chaplains in Tuscaloosa, Auburn, Birmingham, and Montgomery and four part-time chaplains in Tuskegee, Montevallo, Florence, and Jacksonville.
It was announced that the ACTS 2: Living the Vision Together capital fund campaign had reached $5 million in pledges toward the goal of $5.5 million, as the parish phase is beginning. According to a summary of convention action, ACTS 2 will pay for land for seven new churches, a new chapel and conference facility at Camp McDowell, resources for Hispanic and African-American ministries, an integrated communications initiative, a lay ministry certification program, and renewal of the campus center at Montevallo.
Parsley said that the good progress of ACTS 2 "is a wonderful witness to the strength and generosity of our diocesan community…showing that when we Episcopalians are focused on doing Christ's work and providing ministry that impacts the lives of people, our church steps forward in commitment and sacrificial giving."
Parsley's request for a new bishop suffragan was approved and a nominating committee, selected by the Standing Committee, was announced.
The convention theme "Reaching Beyond Ourselves" emphasized the diocese's relief work in Mississippi and New Orleans, a new companion diocese relationship with Haiti, a special camp for persons with disabilities at McDowell, and campus ministry. The convention learned that $500,000 has been given by the diocese, directly or through Episcopal Relief and Development, to relief and rebuilding efforts along the Gulf Coast, according to the diocesan summary of convention.
Mississippi Bishop Duncan Gray said in his sermon at the convention's opening service that "God is giving us something new as a broken and vulnerable people."
"We are not as isolated or perhaps as strong as we thought we were, but we have been transformed," he said.
Parsley spoke in his address about the tensions in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, emphasizing that "how we deal with our differences says a lot about our faith."
He said that "the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism in this country are one and the same, and I believe we must be resolute in seeing that this remains so."
"There is a place in this church for all of us, the great catholic, evangelical and liberal traditions, which woven together as a rope make a strong and resilient community of faith known as Anglican Christianity," he said. "We are the church of reconciliation. Let us remember that our children are watching us, seeking a church that shows forth the love, mercy, and forgiveness of Christ. Let us remember that the world is watching us, seeking light and hope. Let us not give them a scorpion."
The text of his address is available here.
The Convention approved a $2.6 million diocesan ministry budget which includes full .7% funding for the Millennium Development Goals, for planting a new parish in Shelby County later in the year, for campus ministry, and for the companion relationship with Haiti. Resolutions were passed urging the writing of a new constitution for the State of Alabama and in favor of a living wage. Information about the resolutions is available here.