Following a historic opening worship service for the Episcopal Diocese of Texas' 158th annual Council meeting February 9, at which the diocese’s first permanent deacons were ordained, Bishop Don Wimberly called the diocese to continued growth and a focus on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The service's offering of $4,702.57 was designated for the MDGs.
In his sermon to more than 1200 people in the Hilton Austin's ballroom, Bishop Wimberly gave a charge to the eight new deacons: "God has granted you three special gifts: a voice to speak the truth, a heart to feel the pain and hands to help and heal . . . Love that serves through hands that work, that is the mark of a deacon."
The eight bring a third ordained order to the diocese, and will serve to bring the concerns of the world to the Church and encourage the ministry of the Church in the world. The deacons are assigned to congregations throughout the diocese and will maintain their secular employment while serving in their unique ministries. More information about the Texas deacons is available in "Deacons will be Icons of Ministry" in the February 2007 edition of the Texas Episcopalian.
In his address to clergy and council delegates from the diocese's 156 congregations on February 10, Wimberly recounted his first Council address four years ago, pointing out goals that had been reached in leadership development, continuing education for clergy (88 percent of active clergy participated in 2006) and congregational development. The Iona School for Ministry began its third academic year with 32 students and Crosspointes, a leadership formation experience will hold three charter weekends this year for prospective lay and clergy students, and fifteen congregational coaches continue to help congregations in vestry retreats, core value, vision and strategic planning.
Wimberly called for two new congregations to be planted, one of which would be specifically multi-cultural. He announced a vision-planning project, headed by Reb Scarborough of Calvary, Richmond, which would identify core values, a new diocesan vision statement and lead to the development of a profile for the next bishop of Texas.
"We are forming the future of the diocese and discerning the future of the Church," he said. "We must endeavor to hand down to those who come after, a stronger and ever growing Church, beyond brick and mortar."
While two Hispanic missions (Santa Cruz and Cristo Rey) that were consolidated into nearby congregations in Southeast Houston earlier in the year were officially dissolved, Epiphany in Burnett was recognized as a parish. First organized in 1891, Epiphany's worship lapsed after the Great Depression and during World War II but the congregation was readmitted as a mission in 1947 using a relocated, former POW chapel from Camp Swift for their worship space. They built a new church in 1958, and merged with Trinity, Marble Falls until 1989, when Trinity became a parish on its own. Epiphany reverted to mission status tended by interim clergy until, in 1994, a bi-vocational priest was assigned to Epiphany and the mission began to grow. The congregation dedicated a new church building in 2003 and members currently serve more than 8,000 people annually through their food pantry. Additional outreach supports tutoring, adult literacy and GED classes. Many of the average Sunday attendance of 102 celebrated their parish status at Council wearing Epiphany green shirts and singing "Go Tell it on the Mountain," led by their rector, the Rev. Ted Hervey.
Council adopted an $8.985 million diocesan budget. More than $4.3 million of the budget pays for health insurance. The missionary budget of $3.531 million includes support for mission congregations, college ministry on 15 campuses, cooperative mission and outreach work and diocesan support ministries including youth ministry, Christian formation, Black and Hispanic ministries and the Iona Center for Leadership development.
The Council sent greetings to Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. A resolution calling for a detailed financial statement with separate accounting for each revenue and expense center for the diocese’s Camp Allen Conference and Retreat Center was defeated. The cost of summer camp drove the request for more detailed information. Council delegate and Camp Allen board member, Pam Nolting, said the board was more than happy to make the information available and in fact, it was available at Camp Allen’s Council booth.
A proposed repeal of diocesan Canon 43 on moral discipline for clergy generated some animated comments from the proposal’s author, the Rev. James Stockton, rector of Resurrection, Austin.
"It seeks to define at a diocesan level that which is defined at the national level." He said the canon, which calls for clergy to abstain from sexual relations outside of Holy Matrimony, claimed authority and jurisdiction it does not have.
The Rev. Larry Gipson, rector of St. Martin's, Houston, said the canon "states the moral expectation of the clergy in this diocese."
The repeal was defeated in a vote by orders.
The Diocese of Texas comprises about 85,600 Episcopalians worshipping in 156 congregations.