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Diocesan Digest

[Episcopal News Service]   
  • ATLANTA: Clergy helping with Mississippi recovery
  • CONNECTICUT: Parishes file suit against bishop
  • FLORIDA: Bishop finds Tallahassee parishioners 'hopeful, confident' after rector's departure
  • LOUISIANA: Services to resume at New Orleans cathedral
  • LOUISIANA: Weekly newsletter updates diocese on recovery progress
  • NEWARK: Gallagher welcomed as assisting bishop
  • SOUTHERN VIRGINIA: Bishop announces retirement
  • WESTERN LOUISIANA: Bishop comments on hurricane impact, personal injury assessing damage

ATLANTA: Clergy helping with Mississippi recovery

[ENS, Source: Diocese of Atlanta] Two teams of clergy from the Diocese of Atlanta have traveled on a parish bus and an 18-wheel truck to Coast Episcopal School in Long Beach, Mississippi, to distribute food and supplies to some 1,000 people left homeless after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.
        The clergy, 33 in all, decided at a recent conference that they would do what they could to help with the recovery. About half the group made the trip during the last week of September and the first week of October. Clergy who stayed behind for health or schedule reasons volunteered to cover for them while they were gone.
        The Rev. Clairborne Jones, vicar of Emmaus House in Atlanta, Georgia, her station wagon high with food, left prepared to feed 150 volunteers a Sunday dinner of fried chicken, coleslaw and potato salad. She returned to Atlanta September 30.
        "I'm elated by the relief efforts at Coast Episcopal School, where three paid employees manage, feed and house up to 150 volunteers, who in turn are serving 1,200 people a day who have no place or means to buy food, medicine, water, underwear, diapers, bedding, paper goods, pet food or cleaning supplies," she said, adding that scores of people also need medical care and prescriptions.
        The Rev. Paul Elliott, rector of St. Michael and All Angels, Stone Mountain, Georgia, who is still in Long Beach, phoned in a long list of supplies he wants Atlanta Episcopalians to collect and send to Mississippi: sheets and blankets for twin and full-size beds, pillows, bath towels -- preferably new ones -- shaving cream, canned foods, pet food, laundry detergent and cleaning supplies, especially bleach to combat mold.
        He described the operation, which was launched by the Very Rev. Joe Robinson, a Mississippi priest who lost his own home and church. "Every day," Elliott said, "people are invited to come and collect items they need from the kitchen supplies tent, the clothing tent, the bedding and towels tent or the medical services tent. Unlike other relief centers that allow people about five minutes to gather supplies, they are allowed to spend an unlimited amount of time to collect items they need.
        "Canned food is at the top of the list," Elliott added. "What most of the people do after they've come to the center for food and supplies is go back to the tent they've erected on the slab that was once their home, open up a can of food and eat right out of it."
        One of Elliot's parishioners owns the 18-wheel truck, which is being packed as quickly as it can be in the Atlanta suburb of Tucker with supplies for the Mississippians. After a trip to Long Beach, the truck is driven back to Tucker where it's refilled.
        "This operation is long-term," Jones reflected after her return. "Right now, it's about keeping these people safely and moderately fed and well. Eventually, it will be about gutting homes and churches where everything but the framing (if it still stands) is ruined, and helping to rebuild lives."
        "I'm still processing it; it was very intense," said the Rev. Bill Combs, associate rector at St. Thomas Church, Columbus, Georgia, who returned Saturday from Long Beach. "It was a lot of hard work; it was emotionally hard, too."
        Combs also helped clean out a house and built shelves in a storage shed that will hold tools and equipment collected from parishioners in the Atlanta diocese. "The area was utterly devastated, and it feels overwhelming," Combs said, "so much so that the entire (Columbus) convocation now wants to go down and help, too."
        Mississippians on the Coast School recovery staff are Van Bankston, Jennifer Knight, the Rev. Janet Ott and the Rev. Elizabeth Wheatley.

CONNECTICUT: Parishes file suit against bishop

[Episcopal News Service] Six Episcopal parishes and a number of their clergy and laity in Connecticut filed a federal lawsuit September 27 claiming that Connecticut's bishop, the head of the U.S. Episcopal Church and others have violated their civil rights.
        The suit stems from a dispute between clergy and laity in the six parishes and Bishop Andrew Smith of Connecticut over his 2003 consent to the election of Gene Robinson as bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire.
        Neither the Diocese of Connecticut nor the Presiding Bishop's office has issued any statement on the suit; there has been no report that the complaint has yet been served on either.
        The plaintiffs say in their suit that Smith has strayed from "accepted Anglican theological belief and teaching regarding human sexuality and the ordination of priests and deacons and the consecration of bishops in the Episcopal Church."
        They claim that they made their opposition and asked for the pastoral oversight of another bishop.
        Diocesan officials have said that the six priests refused an offer of delegated Episcopal pastoral oversight (DEPO) unless the assigned bishop was permitted to oversee future succession of clergy and future candidates for ordination in the parishes, instead of the diocesan bishop, provisions that are contrary to DEPO procedures. They also asked for release from the obligation to pay diocesan assessments.
        The Connecticut Standing Committee recommended inhibition of the clergy of the six congregations in April. Smith inhibited one of the six, the Rev. Mark H. Hansen, the rector of St. John's Church in Bristol, in July on a number of grounds which Hansen maintains are unsupported.
        The suit claims that the six parishes and their members are being deprived of their constitutionally protected freedoms of speech, religion, association, property and privacy. The suit also alleges that the six priests involved were denied their due-process rights because they have been threatened with being disciplined in a manner that will not involve a trial in ecclesiastical courts.
        The lawsuit alleges that Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold provided Smith with resources and support, and failed to intervene on behalf of the six priests.
        The lawsuit also names Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, alleging that the State has oversight of the use of the assets of charitable institutions. Blumenthal told the Associated Press that the State is not involved.

FLORIDA: Bishop finds Tallahassee parishioners 'hopeful, confident' after rector's departure

[SOURCE: St. John's Church, Diocese of Florida] The Rev. Eric D. Dudley, rector of St. John's Church in Tallahassee, told his congregation on October 2 that he has left the Episcopal Church.
        Dudley said he intends to found another church in Tallahassee where services will begin on October 9. He has been the rector of St. John's, a 175-year-old church in downtown Tallahassee, for 10 years.
        Florida Bishop John Howard was at St. John's most of the week of October 2. He met with members of the parish on the evening of October 4. On very short notice and with very little publicity, about 500 members showed up, Howard said.
        In a letter sent to all parish members on October 3, Dudley wrote that he had resigned due to apparent theological differences. He told parishioners that he had been advised to "wage a legal battle for the property of St. John's" and wrote that he would not do so "because to enter such a battle is not only unscriptural, but would leave us all losers spiritually."
        Howard said that he is encouraged and optimistic about the response of the parishioners remaining at St. John's, adding that they are looking towards the future and "willing to let the past be the past. He said he met with people who are "enthusiastic, hopeful and confident." The remaining parishioners are committed to the mission that a church in key spot in Tallahassee has, Howard added.
        "The future of St. John's is very bright," he said.
        Dudley said he is leaving, in part, to follow members of the parish who have already left. A group of people has purchased a near-by building that formerly housed a Church of Christ congregation and has made it available to him. St. Peter's Anglican Church will begin services there on October 9, Dudley wrote.
        Howard said he suspects that some parishioners will go back and forth between the two churches for a number of months.
        Dudley wrote that he has placed himself "under the authority of an Archbishop in the Anglican Communion" that he did not name.

LOUISIANA: Services to resume at New Orleans cathedral

[ENS, Source: Christ Church Cathedral] Holy Eucharist will be celebrated at Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans October 9, the first time services have been held at the church since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.
        The cathedral suffered some structural damage and flooding. The staff had been operating out of St. James in Baton Rouge.
        The services on October 9 include a 7:30 a.m. Eucharist in the cathedral's chapel and a 10:30 Eucharist. There will also be a 6:30 p.m. service in the chapel.

LOUISIANA: Weekly newsletter updates diocese on recovery progress

[SOURCE: Diocese of Louisiana] The Diocese of Louisiana's newly formed Office of Disaster Response has created a weekly newsletter to inform the people of the diocese about the work being done in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
        The first edition, published on September 28, reported on the hiring of Holly Heine of St. James, Baton Rouge. Heine is coordinating volunteers helping with disaster relief. The newsletter also reported that a number of agencies had loaned executives to the diocese. They include Brothers Timothy Solverson, Charles La Fond, and Mark Brown from the Society of St. John the Evangelist, Boston, Massachusetts; Sarah Bartenstein from Commonwealth Public Broadcasting in Richmond, Virginia, and Anson Burtch from McKinney and Silver, an advertising agency in Durham, North Carolina.

NEWARK: Gallagher welcomed as assisting bishop

[Episcopal News Service] The Diocese of Newark marked the beginning of its relationship with the Rt. Rev. Carol Joy Gallagher as its assisting bishop with Evensong and a reception on October 2 at Trinity and St. Paul's Cathedral in Newark.
        Gallagher, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the first Native woman in the worldwide Anglican Communion to serve as a bishop, was most recently bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Southern Virginia. She concluded that ministry earlier this year. Newark Bishop John P. Croneberger called Gallagher to the diocese this past summer. In April he announced in the spring his intention to retire in January of 2007.
        The service featured two works by Gallagher. The first was a Native American-style chant of Psalm 96 called "Declare his glory." Gallagher wrote the words and music along with Michael Plunkett. It is published in Voices Found: Women in the Church's Song. The second reading was Gallagher's "Chant to the Four Winds." The chant calls to God to be among the worshippers and it welcomes all the relatives who come from each direction bringing their gifts. It ends by welcoming Christ who completes the circle.
        During his homily, Croneberger said Gallagher shares in the incarnation of Jesus who "comes to give us what she has which is just maybe the living water and food that we need to grow."

SOUTHERN VIRGINIA: Bishop announces retirement

[SOURCE: Diocese of Southern Virginia] The Rt. Rev. David C. Bane, Jr. announced at a Special Council of the Diocese on October 1 his intention to retire as the Bishop of Southern Virginia at the 2006 Annual Council, set to be held February 10-12.
        Bane said he had sent a letter to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church informing him of this decision. The ecclesiastical authority of the Diocese will reside in the Standing Committee after the Bishop's retirement.
        Bane was consecrated bishop coadjutor on September 6, 1997 and became the ninth bishop diocesan upon the retirement of the Rt. Rev. Frank H. Vest in June 1998.
        Problems, including questions of management style, in the diocese during the past several years culminated at the 2005 Annual Council in February with the adoption of a resolution that called upon Bane to request that the Presiding Bishop appoint three bishops to come into the diocese to evaluate programs and relationships and recommend steps to move the ministry of the diocese forward. Bishops Chilton Knudsen of Maine, Charles Jenkins of Louisiana and Gordon Scruton of Western Massachusetts were selected.
        Scruton will present their report at a special meeting of the Diocese's Executive Board on October 17. Bane said he was "confident that their observations and recommendations will be honest and helpful and will provide healthy guidance for all of you. We will then begin this last chapter of our lives together with hope and love and great expectation. In the meantime I ask that you hold Alice and me in your prayers as you have remained in mine every single day over the past nine years."
        The Rev. Edward Tracy, rector of John's Memorial Church in Farmville, Virginia, and president of the Standing Committee, announced that they would meet with the Rt. Rev. F. Clayton Matthews of the Episcopal Church's Office of Pastoral Development on October 18 to review the canonical process for the transition in the Diocese. Tracy said that the Standing Committee intends to seek an interim bishop.
        Reflecting on his tenure, Bane said "I have loved serving as your Bishop and will always thank God for that incredible and unexpected privilege in my life. There are not words to describe how special you are to us and we have been blessed to have known you in this way."
        "However, as I enter this stage of my life and my ministry among you, I feel a different call within myself. It seems to me that my staying longer could actually prevent the next stage of the healing and reconciliation that is necessary for the new life God calls us all to. The key ingredient in successful ministry is to know when the work is done and the time has come for a different leader who has not been a part of the community to that point."

WESTERN LOUISIANA: Bishop comments on hurricane impact, personal injury assessing damage

[ENS, Source: Diocese of Western Louisiana] While assessing hurricane damage in the Lake Charles area of Louisiana October 3, Bishop Bruce MacPherson of Western Louisiana had an unfortunate accident after climbing over a fence, causing injury to his right leg. A visit to an orthopedic surgeon in Shreveport October 5 found that MacPherson had torn up the ligaments and soft tissue in his ankle and knee. Fortunately, no surgery will be necessary.
        A message from MacPherson concerning Lake Charles area hurricane damage, and news of the bishop's accident can be found online at: