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Diocesan Digest - January 12, with Iowa Mission Focus

[Episcopal News Service] 
  • IOWA (Mission Focus): Episcopalians connect to each other and the world
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE: Diocese asks churches to turn down the heat
  • SOUTHEAST FLORIDA: New dean begins ministry at Trinity Cathedral
  • VIRGINIA: Bishop disagrees with Ugandan archbishop’s interpretation of actions

Editor's Note: With this edition, Diocesan Digest launches a new feature, Mission Focus, a series of ministry profiles of the Episcopal Church's 110 dioceses. The series begins below with Iowa.


IOWA (Mission Focus): Episcopalians connect to each other and the world

[SOURCE: ENS] Episcopalians in Iowa are finding new ways to live out their vision of being “in mission with Christ though each and all,” Bishop Alan Scarfe told the wider church's Executive Council, meeting in Des Moines, on January 11.

The most recent example developed literally overnight as the diocese’s distance-learning program, E-Seminary: Iowa School of Life Long Theological Education, went live on the evening of January 10. Using the state of Iowa’s unique fiber optic network, students can participate in distance-learning courses. The effort took two years to devise and was needed because distance learning is important in a state of between 56,000 and 57,000 square miles.

“Iowa supported a renewed vision of theological education” and the school aims to “inspire all Iowans in our congregations to be theologians,” the Rev. Thomas Gehlsen told the council.

The diocese has 62 congregations spread over the state. One third have full-time paid priests, a third have part-time paid priests and a third use supply clergy. Most congregations are family- or pastoral-size. Scarfe said the diocese is developing ministry teams in congregations. The preparation involved three years of training before the team is commissioned and another two years of learning afterward.

Scarfe said that the diocesan staff wants to be a resource to congregations and hopes to model a vision of shared ministry. As the staff disperses information and resources to the regional and congregational levels “we become almost obsolete,” he said.

Ellen Bruckner, of the diocesan ministry development team, told the council that the team is committed to modeling how a team of ministers makes decisions in a system that has traditionally been hierarchical. Teams members pray together, learn about each other’s lives and beliefs, learn about how systems work and try to practice a “spirit of openness” to counter turf issues.

She said the team is living out a transition from a smoothly running hierarchical model to a “more chaotic but more creative shared-ministry model.”

“I believe we’re doing what we’ve been called to do,” said Bruckner, who also brought greetings in her capacity as coordinator of the Episcopal Church's Province VI, which also includes dioceses in the states of Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Scarfe said the diocese -- which has some 11,000 baptized members and dates from 1853 -- is not focused on itself. Its 31 deacons keep the church in touch with the world, he said. The diocese has companion relationships with the Diocese of Swaziland and Diocese of Brechin in northeast Scotland. Iowa's global mission officer, Karen Nichols, told the council of the reach of these international ties.

Scarfe introduced a number of diocesan members during the presentation he led. He ended by introducing Maggie Tinsman who serves on the Standing Commission on the Structure of the Church. She is also a state senator who had joined colleagues when the Legislature reconvened at the capitol down the street the day before. Tinsman, Scarfe said, considers the issues of the church and of the wider society everyday. She shows, he said, that “our ministry is truly in our daily life.”


NEW HAMPSHIRE: Diocese asks churches to turn down the heat

[SOURCE: Associated Press] The Diocese of New Hampshire is asking its churches to turn down the heat, following the lead of a congregation in Keene that plans to help families that are having trouble paying heating bills.

The Rev. Peter Coffin will turn off the heat in the sanctuary of St. James' Episcopal Church during February. He plans to hold services in  a common room that would be heated anyway.

When he heard of Coffin's plan, Bishop V. Gene Robinson suggested that other parishes follow his lead. A spokesman for Robinson said he did not know immediately whether any other parishes had done so.

Coffin estimates the church will save up to $1,000, which it plans to donate to families in need. But money was not the only factor in the decision, Coffin said.

The war in Iraq also plays a part because the politics of the Middle East are driven by oil, said Coffin, who drives a hybrid car with a bumper sticker linking gasoline use to Osama bin Laden.

Since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he said, there has been at least one person serving in the military there or in Iraq who has connections with the church.

"In theory, we're all supposed to be conserving here at home so we're not as dependent on energy from outside sources," he said.

Though the move is new for St. James', Coffin said holding services in a space other than a sanctuary has historical roots in early Christianity when worshippers gathered in homes.

He said the move also will remind people that the physical space where they worship is not of great importance.

"The church is what you have after the building burns down," he said, quoting a friend.

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA: New dean begins ministry at Trinity Cathedral

[SOURCE: Diocese of Southeast Florida] The Very Rev. Douglas W.  McCaleb began his ministry as the dean of Trinity Episcopal 
Cathedral, Miami on January 1. His formal installation is scheduled for February 25.

Selected through a two-year search process following the retirement of Dean Donald Krickbaum in 2003, McCaleb, 56, is the third dean in the cathedral’s history. He comes to Miami from Christ Church in Winchester, Virginia, a congregation that grew from 800 to 1200 
members during his 10 years in the parish.

A native of California , McCaleb earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Berkeley in 1971 and did graduate work at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

He received the Master of Divinity degree from the General Theological Seminary in New York in 1987. Before beginning his seminary studies, McCaleb served for three years as a lieutenant in the United States Coast Guard and seven years as a foreign affairs officer with the United States Department of Commerce.

Prior to coming to Christ Church as priest-in-charge in 1995, McCaleb served for two years as assistant at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, in Washington, D.C., the historic church often called “the church of presidents” because of its location directly across the street from the White House.

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral was founded June 10, 1896, as Trinity Church. In 1970 it became the cathedral for the newly formed Diocese of Southeast Florida. The present building at 464 NE 16 Street was completed in 1925 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For additional information on Trinity Cathedral, go to:


VIRGINIA: Bishop disagrees with Ugandan archbishop’s interpretation of actions

[SOURCE: Diocese of Virginia] Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia told Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda in a recent letter that Orombi had exercised his episcopal authority in Lee’s diocese without collaborating with him.

The action, Lee wrote, is contrary to his understanding of “traditional Anglican principles.”

Lee’s letter came in response to one Orombi had emailed him the previous day and that had circulated widely on the Internet.

Orombi wrote that the Bishop of Ruwenzori, the Rt. Rev. Benezeri Kisembo, had received the Rev. Phil Ashey with his “full blessing and  support” and that he had asked Ashey to continue his work of planting a church in Fairfax, Virginia.

On November 13, the majority of the congregation of the South Riding Church plant in Fairfax, Virginia voted to end their participation in  that plant and form a new congregation by the same name under the auspices of the Diocese of Ruwenzori.

Ashey met the next day with Bishop Suffragan David Colin Jones and gave him a letter informing the bishop of the congregation’s decision and also of his own decision to resign his position as missioner, quit the Episcopal Church and place himself under Kisembo’s authority.

He also gave Jones an inventory of church property noting that all assets purchased with church money are the property of the Diocese of Virginia and surrendering all remaining funds in the congregation’s bank account.

Ashey met with Lee on November 28 and on the next day with the Standing Committee to explain his action. Lee received the advice and consent of a majority of the clerical members of the Standing Committee to remove Ashey from the priesthood of the Episcopal Church.

On December 19 Lee accepted Ashey’s written statement of departure from the ordained ministry of the Episcopal Church as a notice of renunciation of the ordained Ministry of the Episcopal Church under Canon III.13.

Orombi said that Lee had misinterpreted Ashey’s letter. “Even those of us for whom English is a second language understand his plain English to mean that he has resigned from the staff of the Diocese of Virginia, but not from his priestly order,” Orombi wrote.

“I take no pleasure in this action,” Lee had said in a previous diocesan news release. “By his letter and statements, however, Phil has stated his clear desire no longer to be part of the Episcopal Church, and the path, then, is clear. Phil is no longer a priest of the Episcopal Church.”

To read Lee’s and Orombi’s letters, go to