In his first convention as bishop, the Rt. Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal invited the delegates of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio's 133rd Convention to "listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches." The agenda and structure of the Convention, which met November 9-10 in Dayton, Ohio, differed considerably from past gatherings, with the intention of giving delegates the space and time to listen and engage in the spirit of discernment.
The Convention opened with a period of silence -- a moment for the nearly 500 delegates to center themselves on the work and mission of the Church. Taize chants connected the silence to the business session. Delegates spent an hour in small-group Bible studies, weighing the words from Ephesians 4:1-16. They also divided into break-out groups to consider the issue of formation as well as the values of transparency, leadership and connection -- all of which emerged as priorities for the diocese after months of listening sessions, systemic reviews and other meetings.
"We are embarked on the adventure of discerning and acting on a vision which belongs to all of us," said Breidenthal in his convention address. He called for two gatherings in 2008 to articulate further the vision of the diocese: a Formation Conference on February 23 to develop specific goals for the coming years and a Mission Convocation on May 3 to explore the link between formation and mission.
In addition, delegates considered 11 resolutions. Some passed with wide support, including a measure calling for legislators to end the predatory practices of payday lending and another that endorsed the formation of an Ohio Interfaith Power and Light organization.
Through the resolutions, delegates voted to establish three task forces, one to explore sustainable economic development in Appalachia and other impoverished areas and another to develop a coordinated response to assist veterans. By a margin of one vote, delegates established a third ad hoc committee, whose charge is to provide resources for congregations to develop outreach programs for pregnant women. A measure calling for members to work for immigration reform failed.
Delegates voted not to consider a resolution that asked bishops and dioceses to refrain from engaging in property disputes and to refuse from deposing orthodox clergy. A substitute resolution commended the House of Bishops and the ongoing dialogue in the Anglican Communion and endorsed the listening process, as called for in the Windsor Report. The initial resolution had asked for the diocese to accept the Windsor Report and comply with its proposals and expectations.
Delegates approved a $3.77 million budget for 2008, which includes the full asking for the Episcopal Church pledge. Delegates also elected several people to leadership positions, including the lay and clergy deputies and alternates to the 2009 General Convention.
In his first address to convention, Breidenthal thanked the people of the diocese. "I never thought of being a bishop. If you had not cast your net extraordinarily wide in seeking candidates, I would never have been part of your process," said Breidenthal. "If I had not fallen in love with this diocese, I would not have remained in the running. But you did win my heart, and God gave me the extraordinary blessing of giving me my heart's desire -- to serve Jesus in this place, with you, as your bishop. I am grateful beyond words."