Missouri convention focuses on mission, avoids rancor

November 24, 2003

The 164th meeting of the Convention of the Diocese of Missouri wrapped up two days of work here with none of the rancor over current controversies in the Church feared by some.

Meeting Nov. 21-22 at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis, the Convention was under a new format with a greater emphasis on workshops and worship and a streamlining of the business portions of the Convention.

The highlight of the Convention may have been Bishop George Wayne Smith's address to the more than 175 lay and clergy delegates gathered on Saturday morning. In his address, the Bishop called for an end to hatred against gays and lesbians and for the Church to return to the mission given to it by Christ.

The controversies racking the Episcopal Church over the ordination of an openly gay man as a bishop and the acknowledgement by General Convention that some dioceses perform blessings of same-sex unions did make its presence felt at Diocesan Convention. "The issue" as it has come to be called in diocesan circles, was dealt with head-on in a Friday afternoon panel discussion featuring six clergy from disparate backgrounds talking about how they have resolved crisis in their spiritual journeys in the Episcopal Church, including the current crisis.

The issue was also felt in hearings about the 2004 Program Budget, which assumes revenues will return to pre-2003 levels following a year of drastic cuts of 20 percent or more precipitated by the failure of the Diocese's two largest congregations to meet their assessments. Despite indications that the two congregations will again fail to meet their assessments in 2004, the budget passed without serious opposition.

In resolutions, the issue surfaced twice: First in a resolution commending Bishop Smith for his willingness to talk about the controversy and asking that further conversations on the issues surrounding homosexuality be held. The resolution was co-sponsored by the Rev. Anne Kelsey, rector of Trinity/St. Louis, an Oasis
congregation; and the Rev. Bill Luley, rector of St. Luke's/Manchester. Luley has been an outspoken opponent to this summer's actions by General Convention.

A second resolution that would have put the Convention on record as affirming the traditional definition of marriage failed to receive the two-thirds vote needed for consideration.

Other resolutions before the Convention included publication of a list of all diocesan-funded grants available and those receiving them in the Diocese, publication of a yearly and quarterly calendar by the Diocese, minimum compensation levels for clergy, and proclamation of March 14 next year as Episcopal City Mission Sunday,

The Convention also approved a resolution asking the Diocese to move toward a goal of setting aside seven-tenths of one percent of its budget for international development programs. It also approved a resolution committing the delegates to move toward a practice of "holy habits," including daily prayer and tithing.

Another resolution passed by Convention calls for the development of a ministry of advocacy for youth. All of the resolutions passed with little or no opposition and little comment.

In elections for diocesan-wide offices, the Rev. Catherine Hillquist, vicar of St. Paul's/Ironton, and Bev Jipp, a member of Transfiguration/Lake St. Louis, were elected to the Cathedral Chapter. They ran unopposed.

The Rev. Brooke Myers, rector of Holy Communion/University City; the Rev. Peter Van Horne, vicar of All Saints/Farmington; and Jim Rode, a member of Advent/Crestwood were elected to Standing Committee.

Virginia Benson, a member of Trinity/St. Louis, and Ray Figueroa, a member of St. Martin's/Ellisville, were elected to Diocesan Council.

Next year's Convention will be Nov. 19-20 in Jefferson City.

[The full text of the Bishop's Address and the resolutions will be posted on the
diocesan Web site by Nov. 26.]

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