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Diocesan Digest - February 9

020906 -03
[Episcopal News Service] 

EAST TENNESSEE: Convention supports youth presence
EL CAMINO REAL: Diocese ready to search for next bishop
GEORGIA: Three-year plan unveiled at convention
MISSISSIPPI: Convention affirms Communion membership, protests unauthorized episcopal visits
MISSOURI: Absalom Jones speaker wants to raise awareness of racism
NORTH CAROLINA: Transform the word, Curry urges convention
PENNSYLVANIA: Diocese will enter mediation in dispute with bishop
SAN DIEGO: Bishop responds to Oceanside parishioners
VIRGINIA: Missioner resigns position, quits Episcopal Church

- - -

EAST TENNESSEE: Convention supports youth presence

[SOURCE: Diocese of East Tennessee] The 22nd Annual Convention of the  Diocese of East Tennessee, which met February 3-4, wove business into a framework of worship.

Bishop Charles vonRosenberg, during his address, emphasized the Christian journey, which begins at baptism with the sign of the cross. “Indeed, baptism provides the mark of our identity," he said. "As  faithful, baptized Christians, we sow seeds of mission and we serve needs together ... the seeds and needs of the mission of Christ in the world. Responses to our baptismal commitments define the journeys of our Christian lives."

He described ways that needs have been addressed historically and recently, particularly through the Episcopal Commission of South EastTennessee, an association of churches in the Chattanooga area that hosted the convention, and through hurricane-relief activities.

VonRosenberg said that the Episcopal Church is currently experiencing something akin to getting stuck in the ever-crowded airport in Atlanta, Georgia.

"Atlanta is not our destination, but we have to go through it on our way. And the church is experiencing familiar complication, aggravation and challenge, as we try to get ‘out of Atlanta’ and get on with the journey," he said.

"Involved in this frustration of travel are gay Episcopalians and straight Episcopalians, conservative Episcopalians and liberal Episcopalians…all of us. We are experiencing the frustrations of the airport in Atlanta together ... all of us,” he said. “I am not suggesting that we leave anyone behind as we try to get out of Atlanta. Indeed, to add another analogy, I want to be very clear about our commitment to a 'No Child Left Behind' program ... and I mean that we intend that no child of God will be ‘left in Atlanta’ because of our current complications on the journey."

The 2006 diocesan budget shone a spotlight on diocesan emphases, bringing the part-time youth coordinator on full time; introducing a 0.7 percent commitment to global mission and the Millennium Development Goals, in response to a resolution approved by delegates two years ago; allowing the diocesan newspaper to add one issue in 2006 and convert three of its issues to "wraps" of Episcopal Life; increasing staff salaries five percent in a ongoing process to reach average Province IV levels; and responding, as is customary, to the diocese's Episcopal Church commitment at 100 percent.

Parish commitments came in at 81 percent of what the diocese asked. In order to achieve an 85 percent budget, the committee carried forward part of a 2005 surplus and a commitment that had been received after the 2005 books were closed. The budget passed without discussion.

Delegates received thanks from the Rev. Kedron Jarvis, Episcopal Relief and Development representative, for donating nearly $270,000 in 2005 to assist victims of the Southeast Asia tsunami, Pakistan earthquake, U.S. hurricanes and other disasters. East Tennessee churches were honored for their participation in the churchwide program, "We Will Stand with You," which links hurricane-stricken Gulf Coast congregations with those who can assist them in recovery. St. Paul, Chattanooga, and Good Shepherd, Lookout Mountain, were the first two parishes to step up, and St. James, Greeneville, also has been matched to a Gulf Coast parish. St. Andrew’s, Maryville, and Good Shepherd, Knoxville, have applied to the program and are awaiting matches.

The convention passed a resolution establishing a fund to subsidize youth ministers' salaries in parishes, as two-year grants to supplement amounts provided through parish budgets. A "minimum annual donation" will be requested of individuals across the diocese to fund the account. The Youth Action Council and the Bishop and Council will consider and recommend applications, and parish rectors will decide whether to hire an applicant.

Two additional resolutions were passed. One ratified the actions of the bishop and council in adjusting expenditures during 2005 while restricting disbursements to an amount less than that approved by the previous convention. The other ratified actions by the Standing Committee in regard to property of the diocese and its parishes.

Five churches —- St. James, Knoxville; Good Samaritan, Knoxville; St. Elizabeth, Farragut; St. Francis of Assisi, Ooltewah; and St. Andrew’s, Maryville -— responded to last year's resolution that lowered delegate age to 16, electing four young delegates and two alternates as members of their parish delegations.

EL CAMINO REAL: Diocese ready to search for next bishop

[SOURCE: Diocese of El Camino Real] A committee of the Diocese of El Camino Real told the 26th annual convention, meeting on January 28,
that it believes the diocese can issue a call for its next bishop.

A waiting period has been in place since Bishop Richard Shimpfky resigned in 2004. Delegates agreed with the Joint Process Committee's
recommendation and a special convention will convene in February or March of 2007 to elect a new bishop.

Also at the meeting, the Diocesan Funding Review Committee reported on its convention-mandated study of diocesan funding methods. The committee had earlier recommended to the joint leaders of the diocese the adoption of a "Ten-Plus" funding plan for the diocese. The joint
leaders then met several times to review the DFRC Report and arrived at their own recommendation. (The joint leaders are members of the Standing Committee, Diocesan Council, and Corporation Board who have been sharing the responsibility of running the diocese since Shimpfky's resignation in 2004.)

Ann Wright, president of the Standing Committee, told the convention that the joint leaders are in agreement that the Fair Share formula must be revised but also believe that while the diocese is still in the process of examining its vision and structure, there can be no definitive agreement on what should or should not be funded, or how.

The Joint Leaders recommended that convention defer a decision on funding, voting "no" on all current funding resolutions, until a diocesan vision has been agreed upon and structure revisions have been accepted. After some debate, the resolution on "Ten-Plus" was tabled until a previously scheduled second session of convention in October.

The convention also passed resolutions that:

+ recommend the inclusion of the Feast of the Martyrs of the Sudan in the calendar of the Episcopal Church and that the diocese seek ways to
support the rebuilding of the church and society of the Sudan,

+ affirm that, as Christian stewards and leaders of the Episcopal Church, "we are tithing, or have adopted a plan to work toward tithing as a minimum standard for our giving; and that, if we are not already doing so, we are committed to give priority to corporate worship, personal daily prayer and study, and Sabbath time in our own lives; and we invite all members of the Episcopal Church to join us in these holy habits" and commits to presenting the declaration to vestries for adoption and signature, and in turn to the people of the diocese's parishes, missions, and university centers.

The convention tabled until October a resolution about pay parity for clergy and lay employees.

The October session is needed because the diocese is the midst of changing its annual convention schedule from January to October. A special meeting of convention was held on October 29, 2005, which included the presentation of the narrative budget for 2006. Because there can be only one annual meeting of convention, the January 28 meeting was designated as the first session of the 2006 convention and the convention was recessed until October 21. The October meeting will consider the 2007 budget and other legislation.

GEORGIA: Three-year plan unveiled at convention

[SOURCE: Diocese of Georgia] Members of the Diocese of Georgia’s Strategy To Action Team (STAT) presented the results of their year-long study during the diocese’s annual convention February 2-4.

STAT member, Deacon Sandy Reinke explained, “Jesus said, ‘As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me’ (John 15:4). We cannot grow without Christ - and each other. And if we do not grow and bear fruit, we die. This vision statement guides and informs the strategic plan’s choice of a new mission statement, and the goals, objectives and strategies for the diocese.”
Based squarely on the Baptismal Covenant, and with input from across the diocese, the goals focus on building community, improving the effectiveness of diocesan administration, growing healthy congregations and empowering and educating all the baptized for ministry.
As a part of efforts to raise the profile of the diocese and improve communication, everyone who attended convention received a copy of the strategic plan. The intent was for each member of the diocese to know where the diocese is headed and decide what role he or she will play in turning the vision “Together, we grow” into reality.

“Jesus traveled extensively in Judea and Galilee but he never wandered aimlessly - or alone. As a diocese, if we want to follow Christ, we need to travel with purpose - and together,” Reinke said. 

MISSISSIPPI: Convention affirms Communion membership, protests unauthorized episcopal visits

[SOURCE: Diocese of Mississippi] The Diocese of Mississippi's 179th Council voted overwhelmingly February 4 to affirm its historic connections to both the worldwide Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church in the United States.

The council also adopted a resolution expressing concern to the Archbishop of Canterbury about bishops crossing international and diocesan boundaries to exercise pastoral oversight in American congregations.

The primary focus of the council was on the recovery work following the impact of Hurricane Katrina, and the council's theme of "One Church: In Mission."

The council discussed two resolutions addressing the developing split between Anglicans in various portions of the world over theological and jurisdictional issues.

The first resolution commended the work of a team of Anglican leaders who produced the Windsor Report in 2004. Mississippi Bishop Duncan M. Gray III said the report is "a roadmap by which we can maintain our communion as a worldwide body of faithful Christians."

The second resolution expressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury the council's "strong protest" of bishops from other areas of the Anglican Communion taking action "at odds with the recommendations of the Windsor Report." Those actions included unauthorized visits by two African bishops to the Diocese of Mississippi.

Gray also said "this diocese will not be sidetracked from its important work of mission by topics that may evoke strong emotions and conflict
but are not at the heart of what we are called by God to engage."

"Proclaiming the Gospel is our central purpose, and we do so when we recognize and live into the reality that we are one church, in mission, for the purposes of invitation, transformation, and reconciliation," he said.

Both resolutions were adopted by wide margins. The first resolution acknowledged the time required to implement fully the Windsor Report's
recommendations and that key components of that work will include "personal conversations, prayer, and Bible study, especially with those
with whom we differ."

It concluded with an affirmation of Gray's leadership through the conflict.

MISSOURI: Absalom Jones speaker will raise awareness of racism

[Source: Diocese of Missouri] Racism was cited in the wake of Hurricane Katrina when news reports of stranded storm survivors gave the impression that most of them were poor and black. But was it a problem of race or class? Maybe both?

Without an understanding of racism and how class interplays with race, it is hard to assign blame or to come up with answers to the calamity that befell New Orleans' poor and black residents. That is the message the Rev. Canon Edward Rodman will bring to St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Ladue on February 11-12.

Rodman will be the leader of a Dismantling Racism workshop that is part of the Diocese of Missouri's celebration of the lives of Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, the Episcopal Church's first African-American clergy. That workshop is set for February 11 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at St. Peter's and is titled "Moving Forward Faithfully: Becoming a Truly Inclusive, Open, and Affirming Church." Rodman will also preach at the Sunday services at St. Peter's on Feb. 12.

Rodman is professor of pastoral theology and urban ministry at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a post he has held since retiring in 2001 after 34 years as a diocesan priest. He is a member of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council, but more importantly, is the architect of the church's Dismantling Racism initiative.

That initiative grew out of an open letter the canon wrote to the church's leadership in 1996 in the wake of the O.J. Simpson trial, when
the divide between black and white America was laid bare by the disparate reaction to the jury's acquittal of the former football star of charges he murdered his wife and another man.

Rodman says there are two obstacles to overcoming racism. The first is an awareness that racism exists. The second is getting people to act
once they become aware.

"People will say, 'I'm not racist, so why should I take this training?' But in each part of the country there is racism, there are people who have been marginalized—and they are not always black," he adds.

"There are different histories in different localities and it is not just a black and white issue. It includes different cultural groups and
religious groups. It is fear of something they don't understand that underlies the one, that underlies the other. When people begin to
understand that, then they can take ownership of their particular part in the struggle."

The workshops offered by the Diocese of Missouri and about half of the other dioceses in the Episcopal Church are structured around using
participants' own experiences to explore racism. Rodman says the trainers who lead the workshops are not experts on racism and don't have the "correct" answers, but are trained themselves to enable others to explore their own experiences—"prime the pump," as he calls it.

At the February 11 workshop at St. Peter's, Rodman will be using a new model of teaching that he and others have developed that goes beyond
what the Episcopal Church's current program offers by "exploring the principle of restoring justice, creating an alternative value system
that allows people to come to terms with the dysfunction in the current system and to resolve the conflicts that arise from it."

He compares it to the fight to gain handicap access. "As people became aware of the problems persons with disabilities were having in gaining
access to public buildings and churches, there was a push to make buildings accessible that overcame the arguments that such changes were
too costly. They had to make structural changes, not just to the buildings, but to the institutions themselves.

"The principle is the same even if the solution is not as obvious with racism. The cost is maybe not as high in dollars, but maybe much higher
in privilege."

NORTH CAROLINA: Transform the world, Curry urges convention

[SOURCE: Diocese of North Carolina] Bishop Michael Curry urged his diocese during its 109th annual convention meeting to consider how it
might change the world by being "turned upside down by the Good News of  Jesus."

One step, he said, would be to participate in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals "as an act of discipleship and as a step in turning this world upside down, transforming it from the nightmare it often is into the dream of God it was intended to be." 

The diocese passed a resolution committing itself to the Millennium Goals in 2004. "I am now asking each of our congregations to do the same. And I am urging us as individuals to do the same in our personal giving and commitments," he said.

Curry told of representing the Presiding Bishop and the Episcopal Church at the enthronement of the Most Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi as the third archbishop of the Anglican Church of Burundi in east Africa. Once war-torn, Burundi is rebuilding and part of the work is begin done through Peace House, built with money from the United Thank Offering of the Episcopal Church.

The convention, which met January 26-28, passed resolutions that:

+ call for congregations to "educate and apply environmentally sound principles in the operation and maintenance as well as design and construction of church facilities, commercial structures, and homes by using green building design techniques and energy-saving technologies like solar energy and water conservation in order to end our overuse of nonrenewable resources and to prevent the destruction of God's creation [and] that will fulfill the mission which God laid upon us in the Genesis creation story"; 

+ affirm its "common bond in the Body of Christ with the Christians whohave suffered during the last twenty years of civil unrest in Northern
Uganda”; calls on the members of the North Carolina congressional delegation to work stop the genocide against the Acholis; calls the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Primates of Canada, Central Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, the Sudan, and West Africa to urge the Church of the Province of Uganda "to demand justice and peace for the people of Northern Uganda and to stand up in solidarity with the voiceless and vulnerable Acholi people, and "use their good offices in the world to stop the genocide”; and welcomes guidance from Ugandans about how the diocese might be supportive and urges all congregations to learn about the situation;

+ condemn humiliating and degrading treatment of prisoners and both physical and psychological torture, and call upon the United States government to renounce its use;

+ call upon North Carolina to abolish the death penalty;

+ "repudiate anti-Semitism in all forms and by all religious and political groups, " “affirms our debt to, and respect of, Judaism," encourages congregations to enter into conversations with Jewish congregations in their localities, and asks the 75th General Convention
to order "an educational report on the various scriptural texts used in liturgies of the Episcopal Church," and

+ express its gratitude for Curry's ministry and promises to take to congregations his challenge to participate collectively and individually in the Millennium Development Goals and affirms his decision to take a sabbatical in 2007.

PENNSYLVANIA: Diocese will enter mediation in dispute with bishop

[SOURCE: Diocese of Pennsylvania] Bishop Clayton Matthews of the Episcopal Church's Office of Pastoral Development has agreed to lead the Diocese of Pennsylvania through a process of mediation regarding the Standing Committee's request for Bishop Charles E. Bennison's retirement or resignation by March 31.

The Standing Committee voted unanimously on January 24 to request the bishop's retirement or resignation. A letter posted on the diocese's website ( called the decision "agonizing." It said the decision followed "years of repeated attempts at reasoning with the Bishop about fiscal management and trust matters,” beginning with mediation in the early days of his episcopacy in 1999. The most recent effort was held on January 5.

The letter said that it believed that "at least $11.6 million" has been spent from diocesan trust funds over the past few years, that some endowment funds are used up, and that the availability of endowment funds for balancing the 2006 budget is unclear. The letter notes that the diocese had to propose a mandatory assessment at its last convention in November. Deputies rejected the proposal and the $4.6 million 2006 budget.

The committee's letter said it believes it had been "misled about the basis upon which capital projects would be funded."

Bennison, in a January 29 letter, refused to leave. "In my prayer regarding this request on what is essentially for me a vocational question, I have come to the conclusion and decision that my resignation would not be a solution to the challenges we face," he wrote. "Rather, we need to pursue together a rigorous long-term process for addressing our problems."

"If you feel I'm not leading you effectively, tell me, and if I feel it is God's will, I'll resign. I love my work, and far more do I love you with whom I work,” Bennison told delegates to the diocese's 222nd convention in November. “But it's your diocese, not mine. I'm with Paul: it is fine by me that death is at work in me, as long as there's life in you," he said.

The diocesan Council of Deans requested the help from Matthews' office with Bennison's approval as well as that of the president of the
Standing Committee, according to a February 3 letter from the diocesan council of deans. The council met with Bennison on January 31.

"We know this is a difficult time, but also one of opportunity. Therefore, the Council of Deans encourages each member of the clergy to pray, not only to assure ourselves that God is present in our time, but to root and ground ourselves in the power of Christ to shape our words and actions, our present and future," the council wrote in their letter. "We call upon you to continue to be good pastors and stewards of the manifold grace of God. Continue to proclaim the Gospel, study the Holy Scriptures, teach and shepherd your congregations, serve the world in Christ's name, make Eucharist, and be thankful."

At the November convention, the use of unrestricted net assets in the budget was a major sticking point among the delegates who defeated the budget, 205-175.

Bennison told the convention that spending unrestricted net assets for funding mission churches or the purchase of property were "prudent entrepreneurial investments for the future." He told the deputies they should reject the budget if they do not support its use of $1.2 million
in unrestricted net assets.

SAN DIEGO: Bishop responds to Oceanside parishioners

[Source: Diocese of San Diego] Seeking to foster listening and reconciliation, San Diego Bishop James Mathes continues to respond to the January 29 announcement of St. Anne's Church in Oceanside, California, to "disassociate" itself from the Episcopal Church and San Diego diocese and to align itself with the Diocese of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Bolivia, led by Bishop Frank Lyons in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.  

In a February 3 letter, Mathes invited all parishioners to a February 8 open meeting at the city's Library Community Room. [Reports of that meeting were pending as the ENS Digest was posted.] The diocese will meet in Convention February 10-11.

"It is sad for parishioners to leave for any reason, or, more importantly, to stop the conversation around reconciliation," diocesan staff member Howard Smith, canon for administration, finance and communication, told ENS in an interview. "Everyone's presence is valued regardless of his or her perspective. Bishop Mathes was called here as a bridge-builder and to engage differing theologies in the Diocese. He's working to do that by meeting with AAC (American Anglican Council) clergy, the moderate-to-progressive clergy, and to make all groups feel heard."

The San Diego Union Tribune reported that the Oceanside parishioners' action is "part of an unfolding national rift over homosexuality, theology and biblical authority." Citing similar concerns, a group of parishioners departed from the diocese's Christ the King Church, Alpine, earlier this year and began meeting at a new location leaving Episcopal Church property intact.  

The St. Anne's parishioners, however, continue to occupy the Oceanside Church building.

In a February 5 memorandum to "any bishop, clergy or representative" of the Episcopal Church, St. Anne's declared "We welcome you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ! We invite you to worship with us if your sole purpose is to worship in the pews, like any other visitor to our church. We are not Episcopalians... your purporting to exert any authority here is unseemly and disruptive of the peace of our place of worship. The local police were informed of possible problems at the property."

Said to number some 250 members today, St. Anne's was founded in 1889. The church has been part of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego since the diocese was in 1974 formed out of the neighboring Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

"It is my deepest desire to be in relationship with Fr. [S. Anthony] Baron [St. Anne's rector], Fr. [Robert] Jepsen, and with you," Bishop Mathes wrote in his February 3 letter to all parishioners. "However, it is now clear to me that the leadership of the congregation is absolute in their intention not to have a conversation. It is not helpful to focus on property rights and police rather than the sheep of the flock, the shepherd, grace and call of Jesus for unity in His church. By their actions, the clergy have resigned as Episcopal priests, and the wardens and Vestry have abandoned their office. Any future actions by them, ecclesiastical or canonical, within the Church as Rector, Wardens and Vestry of St Anne's Episcopal Church are a nullity.

"It is now my pastoral obligation to provide for the sacramental and pastoral care of the parish. In continued consultation with the Standing committee, I will proceed to care for you, the people of St. Anne's Episcopal Church. I am now obligated to take decisive action in response to these in appropriate actions. This was the choice of the leadership of St. Anne's. As events unfold, the door remains open to them to reconsider and to be welcomed into our blessed fellowship. . . .

"Rest assured, the Episcopal parish of St. Anne's continues to exist and I am the bishop of the same," Mathes wrote. "I remain committed to the vows I made to God and to you at my ordination, 'serving before you day and night in the ministry of reconciliation.' Let us pray for our diocese and the clergy and people of St. Anne's Episcopal Church."

VIRGINIA: Missioner resigns position, quits Episcopal Church

[SOURCE: Diocese of Virginia, Church of the Holy Spirit] The Rev. Clancy Nixon, missioner of Church of the Holy Spirit in Ashburn,
Virginia, told Virginia Bishop Suffragan David Colin Jones February 6 that he was quitting the Episcopal Church and resigning his job as missioner of Church of the Holy Spirit.

"I have been received by the Diocese of Ruwenzori, Anglican Church of Uganda, in full accord with that Province's canon law, and that I am now under the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Right Rev. Benezeri Kisembo as a canonical resident of Ruwenzori Diocese," Nixon told Jones in a letter, a portion of which is quoted in a diocesan news release (

In his letter, Nixon said that on February 5 the congregation voted 88-0 to affiliate with the Diocese of Ruwenzori and disassociate from the Episcopal Church. According to parochial statistics for the year 2004, Holy Spirit's baptized membership was reported as 187, down from 209 the previous year, the diocese said. A press release posted to Holy Spirit's Web site claims membership of 230. 

Nixon stated that his resignation was not a renunciation of holy orders. In November, the Rev. Phil Ashey, former missioner of South Riding Church, South Riding, took similar action, and Bishop Peter James Lee of Virginia removed him from the ordained ministry of the Episcopal Church after concluding with the Standing Committee that statements Ashey made in a letter and to the Standing Committee constituted a renunciation of orders.

Lee said that Nixon's assertion that he can remove himself from the Episcopal Church and his bishop's authority is a misunderstanding of the canons under which Nixon was ordained.

"I will be taking up the matter of Mr. Nixon's status with the Standing Committee at the next opportunity," he said.

Church of the Holy Spirit was a joint effort of the diocese and Truro Church, Fairfax, and started as a parochial mission of Truro in 2000. In 2002, the Standing Committee granted Holy Spirit diocesan missionstatus. The congregation received more than $135,000 from the diocesan budget, the 5th Century Fund and support from the churches and people of the diocese. In 2003, Church of the Holy Spirit declined further financial support from the diocese.

In his letter to Jones, according to the diocese, Nixon declared that according to his understanding of diocesan canons, "our Founding Church, Truro Church of Fairfax, is ultimately responsible for the temporal obligations of its mission." He further declares Truro Church the "legal owner of all our assets and liabilities."

"I am saddened and disappointed by the decision of Clancy Nixon and his congregation. I do not believe that their departure is necessary," Jones said. "I continue to believe that there is room for Clancy Nixon and his congregation in the Diocese of Virginia and in the Episcopal Church."

On its website, Nixon is quoted as saying the congregation and the Episcopal Church "hold fundamentally different ideas of what the mission of the Church is. Some say the mission is to accept everyone just as they are, and we agree; but we also say that Jesus loves us too much to leave us as we are."

Nixon said the congregation plans a capital campaign to build a permanent home.