Snowy weather and challenging resolutions didn't prevent delegates to the 86th Annual Council from completing the business of the diocese January 28-30.
Delegates passed a balanced budget of $1.05 million, acted on 12 resolutions and elected new deputies to General Convention and other diocesan offices.
In a departure from the way most other dioceses conduct their conventions, planners designed Southwestern Virginia's Annual Council to be primarily a time of learning and fellowship. Open to all parishioners, the largest part of "Saturday at Council," is given to 22 morning and afternoon workshops on a wide range of topics from a bishop's update on the Windsor Report to operating a parish endowment to discerning a call to ministry. Remembering the wider mission of the church, Council participants also donated 35 units of blood to the Red Cross and collected nearly $7,000 for outreach efforts including the United Thank Offering and Episcopal Relief and Development.
Parish pledges to the diocese for 2005 increased 7.5 percent. Total expenses are expected to be about the same as 2004, increasing less than one percent. Areas receiving increased funds include program (a category that supports various ministries including companion dioceses, prison chaplains and small church ministry), youth, campus ministry and staff compensation.
Of the 12 resolutions before Council, five related to the Windsor Report or matters of sexuality. Delegates voted to affirm resolutions calling for more study of the report but turned down a resolution that called on the bishop, standing committee and deputies to General Convention to accept the findings of the Windsor Report and take action to demonstrate commitment to the Anglican Communion.
The two Council-backed resolutions ask all diocesan congregations to study and discuss the Windsor Report and ask the bishop to appoint a study committee representing various points of view. The bishop was also asked to gather with the clergy of each convocation at least once for Eucharist and a time of "prayerful reflection and study on the interpretation of scripture" before the next General Convention in 2006.
"I think what Council was saying is that we want more time to think and pray and study before taking action on the Windsor Report," said Bishop Neff Powell. "Given the passion on the subject, I thought the debate was very gentle."
Following a Resolutions Committee recommendation, Council voted to table a resolution declaring opposition to any constitutional amendment that would define marriage within "the Judeo-Christian faiths." Also tabled was a resolution asking the Episcopal Church not to condone or sanctify blessings between same-sex couples.
In other action, Council passed a resolution calling on the Virginia General Assembly to rescind a General Assembly act that prohibits civil unions between people of the same sex. It also unanimously passed a measure setting aside September 3 as a diocesan-wide day of remembrance for the late Rev. Marc Nikkel, diocesan missionary to Sudan.
Visit http://www.dioswva.org/ for the final version of 2005 Annual Council resolutions, remarks by Bishop Neff Powell, photographs and more.