UTAH: Convention dedicates diocesan center, calls for Lambeth Conference cancellation

October 29, 2007

Delegates to the 102nd annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah had a full weekend of activities and issues October 26-27.

At the opening Eucharist, they celebrated the New Jamestown Covenant and its rededication to recognition and reconciliation for all indigenous communities.

They participated in the dedication of the new diocesan center known as the Episcopal Church Center of Utah.

And they formally endorsed a recommendation from Utah Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish, that the 2008 Lambeth Conference be cancelled.

The convention was hosted by St. Mark's Cathedral in Salt Lake City and focused on the theme "Those who were before us."

The opening Eucharist had a strong Native American emphasis. A ceremonial drum used regularly as an altar at St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church in Whiterocks, Utah, was placed in the cathedral and used as the altar for the service.

Members of the Ute Nation participated in the liturgy. There was smudging at the beginning of the liturgy, and flute and drum music during it.

Bishop Steven Charleston, a member of the Choctaw National and dean of Episcopal Divinity School, preached at the Eucharist and said "it is time for a great spiritual awakening in the Episcopal Church" led by Native American traditions including a spiritual centering and a relationship with nature.

"Let the spirit of Native Americans beat like a drum in the Episcopal Church," he said. "It's time we rolled up our sleeves and do God's work. I feel a fresh spirit blowing in the church that is not timid. It will set free millions of people and bring justice."

Following the liturgy, convention-goers signed copies of the Jamestown Covenant which will be delivered to the All Saints Day service at Jamestown.

Tanner Irish presided at the Eucharist and at the dedication of the new diocesan center the next day. The center, which will house diocesan offices and should be ready for occupancy in early December, will include advanced technology in the meeting rooms and a retreat and conference center which can sleep 26 people, a resource center and bookstore, and a large commons. Its completion will create an "Episcopal Square" in downtown block Salt Lake.

Tanner Irish said that the building will cost $8.8 million, and that $8,645,000 of that has been raised -- "an incredible accomplishment," she said.

She blessed the building's cornerstone which, in keeping with the convention theme, said the building is dedicated "in memory of all who came before us" and is "a house founded upon the Rock."

The dedication takes places in Tanner Irish's 12th year as bishop and the 140th anniversary of the Episcopal Church in Utah.

In her address to the convention, Tanner Irish said the new building would be a place where "we want people to think that they have a place" where they can work "for the sense of justice that we have historically had in Utah."

"The new building will give us opportunity and energies" to fulfill the mission of the church, she added.

A second service of blessing and dedication of the new building will take place in April 2008 when Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will be visiting the diocese.

Delegates overwhelmingly approved Tanner Irish's letter to Jefferts Schori urging the presiding bishop to ask the Archbishop of Canterbury to cancel the Lambeth Conference planned for 2008.

Irish's letter said that the Anglican Communion is in "disarray" over "irregularly consecrated" bishops and that the Episcopal church is "leery about using" Lambeth "to present a covenant that is exclusionary, that centralizes authority, or adds to the core doctrine of our faith."

Her letter also cites the cost of Lambeth and suggests that proceeding with the conference "under the present circumstances is disproportionate to its benefits."

In other business, delegates reviewed a budget of $5,256,830 for 2008.