Many delegates to the Annual Council of the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, held at the Hotel Roanoke, January 30-February 1, were prepared for what was predicted to be lengthy debate on both the diocesan budget and several contentious resolutions. But lengthy debate did not materialize.
While the results did not please all, compromise was accepted on the most controversial resolutions and a balanced but markedly reduced budget was passed.
In spite of the tension surrounding the business portion, the enriching aspects of Council— including the keynote speaker, the Saturday workshops and the youth's presence— were uplifting during a troubled time for the church.
While 20 churches increased their pledges, 12 churches kept their pledges at the same level as 2003 and 24 decreased their pledges. Total pledges and other income to the diocese are down nine percent.
In his Council address, Bishop Neff Powell emphasized the largest part of the decline in income is due to the economy and not to dissent from General Convention action.
"It's obvious this is not the budget we had hoped to present to Council," said Bud Hooss, St. Stephen's—Forest, finance committee chairman.
During the Sunday business session, the Rev. Scott Russell of Christ Church, Blacksburg, said that campus ministry was cut 26 percent.
"The truth is that when parishes decide not to pledge to the diocese it is primarily ministry that is hurt and the spread of the gospel that is hindered," said Russell, who is chairman of the Commission on Ministry in Higher Education.
Significant cuts to other areas of the budget include the Program Committee that includes the Companions in Mission and Whitewater Adventure programs. Also reduced were the youth budget and the production budget of Epiphany, which will change to a bi-monthly printing schedule as a result.
No amendments were made to the balanced $975,815 budget and it passed on a nearly unanimous vote.
In lieu of four resolutions on sexuality resulting from General Convention action, Council delegates supported a substitute that sought to find common ground. The resolution calls on all church members to continue to meet at the communion rail, to pray for the bishop and to "try to hear and understand the positions held by those with whom we disagree in our parishes and diocesan-sponsored gatherings."
Council supported a resolution carried over from 2003 regarding clean air on a close vote. It urges action to close Clean Air Act exemptions for electric utilities in order to curb mercury and carbon dioxide emissions.
Former diocesan staffers Barbara Woodson and Cindy Foster and the late Purnell Eggleston, former diocesan chancellor, were all recognized with honorary resolutions at the Saturday night banquet.
As it has increasingly become known for its educational opportunities, workshop participation and interest in the keynote address has grown. This year's keynote speaker, the Rev. Dr. John Hooker, highlighted how music can carry theology. His workshops were two of the 24 offered at Saturday at Council. In addition to the 322 people registered, 100 more registered for Saturday at Council workshops.
New to Council this year was a special program for young adults age 18-30. The retreat focused on seeking vocation and having community with peers. It joins the other successful programs for youth and children that were again filled to capacity.
In other action:
…a check was presented to the Rev. Hilda Kennedy of the Highland Educational Project for $19,058 as a result of the St. Nicholas Day fundraiser. The money will be used for educational support for several communities in flood—devastated McDowell County, West Virginia.
…Trinity Church, Buchanan transferred back to the Roanoke Convocation after several years in the Augusta Convocation.
…Council participants donated over 45 units of blood to the Red Cross.
…Council participants donated $884 to Episcopal Appalachian Ministries; $2156 to Episcopal Relief and Development and $1161 to the United Thank Offering.