The 159th Annual Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas recessed mid-afternoon on February 16 so that it can reconvene at Christ Church Cathedral in Houston on May 24 to elect the ninth Bishop of Texas.
As storms threatened outside, 453 lay delegates and 224 clergy elected representatives for General Convention, considered proposed legislation and approved Bishop Don Wimberly's request for the election of a bishop coadjutor. Wimberly must retire at 72 and wanted to provide a time of preparation for the next bishop from the tentative consecration date in the fall of 2008 until his retirement in June 2009.
Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Houston-Galveston, was the preacher on the evening of February 15 and told more than 1,000 people gathered for the service that he found the diocese's focus on mission exceptional.
"No one meets the risen Jesus without getting a job," he said. "Witnessing is your job, whether it's in ministry or in some other way." Noting the journey of many in Luke's Gospel, he said, "we are all on a journey…it is rough, it is not easy…so travel light."
"If you have the risen Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, you get to work. It means you are called, and if you are called, you are sent…to witness," he said.
Council conducted its business on February 16. In his address to council, Wimberly underscored his commitment to unity within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. He cited the diocese's first bishop, Alexander Gregg, who wrote in a pastoral letter in April 1861: "The thought of a violent rending of the Church, or of a separation…is not for a moment to be entertained."
"I believe that the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Texas are truly a gift of God to the wholeness of Christ's Church," said Wimberly. "I believe that it is my responsibility as bishop to bear witness to you of our common work, which is unity for the cause of Christ. In the office of bishop, I am called to protect the Church's unity."
Wimberly said he would sign what is now a proposed Anglican covenant, saying such an agreement would strengthen the Communion.
Wimberly encouraged diocesan congregations to engage in ministries supporting the Millennium Development Goals, increasing their efforts to fight global poverty.
He documented work done in support of clergy health and well being, the focus on lay leadership development, goals in Christian formation and youth and young adult ministries and outreach. Wimberly challenged congregations to participate in training opportunities for congregational development, outreach ministry and praised the work of the diocese's Mission Funding effort, a process by which congregations choose what ministries they support with their voluntary giving dollars.
Delegates approved a diocesan budget of $9,309,000 (which includes $4.4 million in insurance costs) and a missionary budget of $3,600,020. The missionary budget includes college ministry, mission congregations and outreach programs among other items.
In legislative decisions, delegates:
- Withdrew a resolution urging the Episcopal Church's General Convention to accept the proposed Anglican covenant as part of the Windsor process;
- Defeated for the second time in two years a constitutional amendment which sought to define the Episcopal Church "as set forth in the Preamble to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church." Opponents said the change could be used to secede from the Episcopal Church.
- Approved canonical changes altering remaining references to St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in the current version of Canon 10, Sec. 10.1 to read "St. Luke's Episcopal Health System," changing the makeup of and process of selecting members of the St. Luke's Episcopal Health System board, increasing the number of members on the Dispatch of Business for Council committee, and reducing the size of the board of the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest to increase efficiency and effectiveness.