An invitation to "grow in all ways into Christ" awaits participants in the Episcopal Church's 75th General Convention, set for June 13-21 in Columbus, Ohio.
"A message for individuals, congregations and the wider church is found in the theme for the 75th General Convention," Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold told members of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council meeting January 12 in Des Moines.
"The Church is constantly in the process of becoming," Griswold said. "Together we seek openness to this transforming work of the Spirit."
The Presiding Bishop underscored his point by quoting the French Jesuit scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: "For us God is eternal discovery and eternal growth."
Griswold said the theme selection was inspired by the New Testament text of Ephesians 4:15, in which St. Paul calls believers to seek full Christian maturity: "…[S]peaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ."
Established in 1785 as the Episcopal Church's chief legislative body, General Convention will – throughout its Columbus meeting – encourage reflection upon four thematic dimensions: "Grow in the Spirit," "Grow in Love," "Grow in Hope," "Grow in All Ways into Christ."
The theme statements support the wider invitation "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You: Come and Grow" – also the focus of the churchwide visitors' website: http://www.comeandgrow.org
In addition, the theme reminds the Church of its ongoing work in evangelism, including the "2020" movement that seeks to strengthen hospitality and membership in local congregations well into the next decade and beyond.
Convention liturgies, forums, banners and digital presentations will reiterate the theme throughout the nine-day meeting, during which both the church's House of Bishops and House of Deputies will be in session. Deputies are more than 800 clergy and lay representatives elected by each of the Episcopal Church's 110 dioceses, which also elect alternate deputies.
"My prayer for this Convention is that at a moment of history when the world needs Christ desperately, we will leave Columbus with this part of the Body of Christ better able to do mission and witness in Jesus' name and on his behalf," said the Very Rev. George L. W. Werner, president of the House of Deputies.
"In Columbus we will bring together a core group of 1,000 Episcopalians to think – every day -- about mission and witness of Jesus Christ," Werner said. "We will build fellowship and koinonia through discussion, worship, singing, Bible study, building relationships among participants from some 20 sovereign nations and speaking several languages."
Werner underscored the process of shared learning and growing in understanding: "With scripture, there's always more; with God, there's always more," he said.
General Convention highlights will include the June 18 election of the 26th Presiding Bishop, who will succeed Griswold with a nine-year term beginning November 4, 2006. The churchwide nominating committee, elected by General Convention in 2003, is expected to announce candidates in late January.
Elections will also include balloting to elect a successor to Werner as president of the House of Deputies. His term will conclude with the adjournment of proceedings in Columbus. Werner -- who has been a deputy for 36 years, beginning at Convention's 1970 meeting – was elected president of the House in 2000.
Local host for the Convention meeting is the Diocese of Southern Ohio, based in Cincinnati with nearly 30,000 baptized members in 85 congregations. Leading the diocese as ecclesiastical authority at this time is the Rt. Rev. Kenneth L. Price Jr., Bishop in Ohio, who has followed longtime Diocesan Bishop Herbert Thompson, who retired in 2005. More information about the Diocese of Southern Ohio is online at www.episcopal-dso.org.
"As we enter the year in which the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church will convene," said its executive officer, the Rev. Dr. Gregory S. Straub, "I am hopeful that our forthcoming gathering will celebrate and strengthen the ties that bind the church together at all its levels: worshiper and parish; parish and diocese; diocese and the Episcopal Church; and the Episcopal church and the Anglican Communion.
"I expect our debates to be prayerful, thoughtful and respectful," Straub added. "And I dream of a General Convention that will be remembered as one from which deputies left with enthusiasm and energy, united in mission."
The General Convention meeting is expected to draw some 8,000-10,000 persons to Columbus, said longtime convention manager Lori Ionnitiu of the Episcopal Church Center. "Columbus is an excellent venue, and we look forward to a welcoming and productive time there."
Further information about the work of General Convention is available online at www.episcopalchurch.org.
General Convention news from Columbus will be carried daily by the Episcopal News Service through its Convention Daily newspaper and Convention Nightly newscast/webcast, and through a series of regular electronic-mail releases in English and Spanish.