NAVAJOLAND: Bishop-elect presents plan to move church forward

June 13, 2010

Delegates to the 34th annual Convocation of the Episcopal Church in Navajoland affirmed their bishop-elect's plan "to move forward on the next part of our journey" toward preparing for the future election of a Navajo as bishop.

The Rev. Canon David Bailey, bishop-elect of Navajoland, presented a four-part plan for the ECN, during the convocation held June 11-13 at St. Christopher's Mission, Bluff, Utah.

The plan included:

• Creation of the Bishop Steven Plummer School. The school would offer training within Navajoland especially for those identified for ordained and licensed lay ministries. It would operate as part of the Hooghan Learning Circle, the education program of ECN. It is to be named in memory of the late Rt. Rev. Steven Plummer, the first Navajo to serve as Bishop of Navajoland. His dream, noted Bailey, was to have more Navajo educated so they could serve all ministries of the church, and especially at the altar.

• A "pro-active fund-raising program."

• Training for the "business of the church," including development of a new budgeting procedure for greater "responsibility to one another."

• Expanding the church in Navajoland by contacting lapsed members and by new efforts in parts of the Navajo Nation not currently served by ECN.

"I see a lot of new energy in the life of ECN. I see the desire to be different than we are now," said Bailey.

The convocation officially recognized the re-opening of one parish, St. Michael's in Upper Fruitland, New Mexico, and seated delegates from there.

Bailey also presented an award to several lay and ordained leaders. The award was in the form of a cross with the ECN logo on it -- the Episcopal shield surrounded by the four mountains sacred to the Navajo. Production of the crosses was made possible by a donation from House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson.

Anderson, who was at the convocation, explained that the crosses were provided as a way for Navajoland – "with its own selection process" – to honor those who have helped "Navajoland on its journey."

Bailey gave Anderson the first of the new ECN crosses, and told convocation that "we are truly honored and blessed that Bonnie Anderson has offered to come back to teach" in the Plummer School.

Alice Mason of the New Mexico region, a retired lay pastor who received one of the crosses, said "people are getting really excited" about the issues presented by Bailey.

Another delegate, Leon Sampson of the Utah region, said that ECN is "is taking the dreams of Steven [Plummer] and putting them into a reality."

Bailey noted his goal of having a Navajo prepared to serve as bishop when his term ends in "four or five" years. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has told Navajoland of her desire to consecrate a Navajo as bishop of Navajoland during her tenure as presiding bishop.

Bailey is scheduled to be consecrated as bishop Aug. 7 in a service at the Brooks/Isham Performing Arts Center in Kirtland, New Mexico, near Farmington where the ECN administrative office is located. The presiding bishop will serve as presider and chief consecrator at the service, which will begin at 11 a.m. The Rt. Rev. Rustin Kimsey, retired bishop of Eastern Oregon and a retired assisting bishop of Navajoland, will preach and serve as a co-consecrator. Bishop of Utah Carolyn Tanner Irish will also serve as a co-consecrator.

Navajoland is the only area mission in the Episcopal Church. Its boundary is contiguous with that of the Navajo Nation. It functions much like a diocese, but is under the oversight of the presiding bishop and House of Bishops. It consists of three regions – Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, or Southeast.

Next year's convocation is scheduled for June 10-12 at All Saints, Farmington.

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