The Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky held its 180th convention February 22-23 at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Louisville.
The Rev. Dr. A. Katherine Grieb, a Virginia Theological Seminary professor and Anglican theologian appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Design Group charged with developing an Anglican covenant, was invited by Kentucky Bishop Edwin F. "Ted" Gulick Jr. to deliver the homily at the opening Eucharist and offer a Bible Study on New Testament ecclesiology during a session of the full convention.
During the extended Bible study, which followed the bishop's annual address, Grieb examined Paul's epistles and other New Testament scripture, commenting on ecclesiological approaches that have been useful in dealing with difference and conflict within the Church.
In particular, Grieb described Paul's epistles and Matthew 13 as offering excellent models for Anglicans and their leaders to follow. Paul, she noted, urged the Corinthians, for example, to view all of their members as equally important when he likened the church to the body whose members cannot say to one another, "I have no need of you" (1Cor. 12: 21).
The parable of the weeds growing in the wheat field, Grieb said, expresses a similar ecclesiology, urging Christians to "let both grow together and let God do the sorting out." That ecclesiology, she said, recognizes that "one person's wild flower is another person's weed" and is a reminder that "we do not have God's point of view so clearly as God does."
Casting her vision toward the churches in the Anglican Communion today, Grieb told those gathered that, as in the early churches, "we are having a family argument, and our family ties, the bonds of affection that unite our Communion, are being tested." Anglicans, she said, must decide what ecclesiology they will follow in dealing with difference and conflict within a church in which "the traditional, English model of being an Anglican is no longer the only one."
Describing the typical, 21st-century member of the Anglican Communion as an African woman, she said that when the bishops gather at Lambeth Conference in England this July 16-August 3, they "will have to decide how to relate to that woman and the millions of other Christians who make up our far-flung church family."
Grieb concluded by urging Kentucky Episcopalians to let their bishop know the approach they feel the worldwide Anglican Church should take.
In response to a question after her talk, Grieb elaborated on why she feels "it is a good idea to have a covenant" while acknowledging there is a "tremendous amount of debate about that.
"It seems like a good idea for having procedures for dealing with disagreements," she said. "We need to be a little more intentional, have a little more clarity up front so expectations will be met. This conversation is still very much in process and very much the question of the day."
This year's convention, through Grieb's sermon and Bible study, the bishop's annual address and its workshops, was thematically organized to spotlight the diocese's mission "to engage the world as a witness to Christ, through worship, study, fellowship, evangelism, social justice and service."
Unlike the four previous convention addresses, Gulick focused this one entirely on the state of the diocese without reference to the tensions besetting the wider Church. The year has brought joy and a "shower of blessings," he declared. "Like Joseph, I have observed lean years and fat years, but never -- and I want you to hear this -- never have I felt so lavishly blessed, so joy filled, so humbled by grace upon grace as this past year as bishop of this amazing diocese."
Among the blessings Gulick cited were the opening of the new inn and lodge at All Saints Episcopal Center, the diocese's camp and conference center; the ordinations of six new, "amazing" clergy members, including the youngest ordinand, Matt Bradley, age 24, in "my time as bishop"; an $85,000 increase in congregational pledging to the diocese; a 25 percent increase in baptisms and a 15 percent increase in confirmations in our congregations; and a host of new, revitalized ministries being offered by diocesan departments and our congregations.
Gulick also outlined actions the diocese is taking or needs to undertake in order insure blessings in the future, including buying land and hiring a missioner to start a new mission and helping a congregation in rural Kentucky that has outgrown its building to buy property so it can continue to grow.
After celebrating the ministries of the diocese's many second-career clergy members, Gulick spoke about the need for the diocese to develop "a focused ministry" for Episcopalians under age 35 and had the four clergy members from this generation to stand. "Look at these icons," he told the convention. "They look a lot like the people that I don't see on my visitations to your congregations." Because the people of this generation "do not seem to be in church in large numbers," he said, the church needs to have "these living icons of committed service under 35 as an intentional evangelical strategy to our diocese."
During the business session, the convention approved resolutions to:
- reduce the number of people and organizations receiving the Journal of the Diocese of Kentucky in order to reduce printing and mailing costs;
- set out the requirements a local non-profit organization must meet in order to be officially affiliated with the diocese;
- support a legislative proposal (House Bill 211) before the Kentucky General Assembly that will strengthen the protections of young people from sexual predators and increase the criminal statute of limitations for reporting sexual abuse incidents against minors.
A proposal to revise another diocesan canon would have allowed "youth" to be included in the annual parochial report's total of a congregation's communicants in good standing, but it failed because of a tie vote. This parochial report total is used to calculate the number of lay deputies and alternates who may represent a congregation at diocesan conventions. Objections to the resolution were made over the wording of the resolution, not the intention to include children and adolescents under age 16 in the calculations.
The convention approved a 2008 budget of $1,541,659, which reflects a 4.3 percent increase over the 2007 budget.
The Diocese of Kentucky has approximately 10,000 members worshipping in 36 parishes.