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Diocesan Digest - San Diego, Rio Grande bishops affirm collaboration

[Episcopal News Service] 


  • BETHLEHEM: Diocese can now meet live via digital/video technology
  • LOS ANGELES: Bishop responds to parishioners' alignment with Uganda 
  • LOUISIANA: Bishop moves Coalition of Clergy Leadership statement into action
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE: Standing Committee affirms bishop in alcohol-dependency treatment
  • NEW YORK: Bishop is 'disappointed' by Church of England divestment vote
  • SAN DIEGO: Reconciliation is focus as diocese meets in convention

BETHLEHEM: Diocese can now meet live on via digital/video technology

[SOURCE: Diocese of Bethlehem]
The Diocese of Bethlehem has begun to conduct digital/video conferences and meetings held at one time in several locations.

The first use of this capacity took place in January. Before beginning his sabbatical, Bishop Paul Marshall selected, uncrated, booted, installed the appropriate software, and then crated and delivered computers during his most recent round of clergy bible studies to the rectors of parishes that will be the remote sites of video conferences in the diocese in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Those parishes are St. Gabriel's in Douglassville, the Church of the Epiphany in Clarks Summit, and the Church of the Redeemer in Sayre. Diocesan House will conduct video conferences in the Lehigh Valley and house for the main computer.

The Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, rector of Trinity Church in Bethlehem and chair of the Standing commission on Episcopal Church Communication, has been in touch with the "designated geeks" at the remote sites to complete the final steps in the electronic connections.

Funding for the hardware and software has come from a diocesan endowment and the diocese says it makes possible a concrete realization of Marshall's vision that the diocese's mission and ministry be proclaimed and undertaken with communication that is clear, direct, and simple.

"Bad weather and rising gasoline costs can affect our work together less and less. While we will want to continue to meet face to face when we can, we are free to enjoy each other's company and to place more and more attention on 'the main thing,' proclaiming in Epiphany and all the year that the glory of God shines in the face of Jesus Christ," Archdeacon Howard Stringfellow wrote in his column in the February edition of the diocese's newspaper.

LOS ANGELES: Bishop responds to parishioners' alignment with Uganda

[SOURCE: Diocese of Los Angeles] Los Angeles Bishop J. Jon Bruno has replied to members of the congregation of St. Luke's-of-the-Mountains Episcopal Church, La Crescenta, California, who voted on February 13 to sever their ties with the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Episcopal Church, and align with the Diocese of Luweero, Uganda.

Bruno, who has also implemented the process to inhibit the clergy involved, wrote to the diocese about the vote on February 14, saying he was "deeply disappointed in the actions taken by the congregation and its clergy."

He said that his office had worked in the past to resolve differences between the rector and parishioners of St. Luke's and the diocese and the Episcopal Church. "It is a painful matter to me to know that they have abandoned all attempts at reconciliation, which is at the heart of our Christian witness," he wrote. "We still hope and pray that we may come together again with our brothers and sisters of St. Luke's Church."

Bruno wrote that the congregation's claim to St. Luke's property is "clearly illegal" according to diocesan and Episcopal Church canon law and to California state law. He said the diocese would pursue the matter.

"The Episcopal Church is a church of thinking people, and it is inevitable that its members will think differently about many matters of faith and practice," Bruno wrote. "Dissension will not undercut the great work being done by Episcopalians here in the Diocese of Los Angeles, which is a vital and growing branch of Christ's kingdom, bringing abundance to the people of Southern California."

LOUISIANA: Bishop moves Coalition of Clergy Leadership statement into Action

[SOURCE: Diocese of Louisiana] Building on the energy initiated by the Coalition of Clergy Leadership statement presented February 2, Louisiana Bishop Charles Jenkins invited an interfaith group to an interactive planning session at Trinity Episcopal Church in New Orleans on February 15.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, people of all faiths have joined with community and service organizations to address urgent human needs. Jenkins believes that it is the time to coordinate these efforts. Several major national service organizations, many who helped build similar alliances in New York after the attacks of September 11, 2001, led workshops and helped build important partnerships. The meeting aimed to develop what is being called the Alliance for United Leadership in Recovery and Renewal.

The faith traditions represented included Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Standing Committee affirms bishop in alcohol-dependency treatment

[SOURCE: Diocese of New Hampshire] The Standing Commission of the Diocese of New Hampshire issued a February 13 letter affirming the action of its bishop, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, to seek treatment for alcoholism.

Robinson sent a letter to the diocese the same day announcing that he had entered an alcohol treatment center on February 1.

He wrote that he would be at the center for 28 days in order "to deal with my increasing dependence on alcohol."

"I will be dealing with the disease of alcoholism -- which, for years, I have thought of as a failure of will or discipline on my part, rather than a disease over which my particular body simply has no control, except to stop drinking altogether," he wrote.

"During my first week here, I have learned so much. The extraordinary experience of community here will inform my ministry for years to come," he wrote. "I eagerly look forward to continuing my recovery in your midst. Once again, God is proving His desire and ability to bring an Easter out of Good Friday. Please keep me in your prayers and know that you are in mine."

In its letter to members of the diocese, the Standing Committee wrote to say it "fully support[s] and stand[s] with our bishop and his family as he confronts the effects of alcohol on his life, and we commend him for his courageous example to us all, as we pray daily for him and for his ministry among us."

The committee's letter noted that "the Episcopal Church, through its General Convention, has long recognized alcoholism as a treatable human disease, not a failure of character or will."

NEW YORK: Bishop 'disappointed' by Church of England divestment vote

[SOURCE: Diocese of New York]  In a statement released February 13, New York Bishop Mark Sisk said he was disappointed by the recent decision of the Church of England's General Synod to divest from companies that support Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

The General Synod's decision differs from the 2005 action of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church's Executive Council directing its own Social Responsibility in Investments committee to use the church's investments to encourage positive change in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians (full text available through online link below).

Sisk said that constructive engagement is called for, rather than divestment. The Episcopal Church as a whole has taken a similar stance.

"As much as I sympathize with their stated reason 'To heed the call from our sister church, the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the 

Middle East,' I find that an inadequate response to the enormous, and increasingly, complex situation in the Middle East," Sisk said.

Sisk reiterated his support of a two-state solution. "That solution requires there to be a viable Palestinian state living as a respected and responsible member of the community of nations, alongside their neighbor Israel," he said. Sisk added that he believes the international community needs to "bring pressure to bear on all parties to find a just and lasting peace."

"However, I disagree with those who propose divestment as a method to achieve this end because, though it does have the good effect of focusing attention on the plight of ordinary Palestinian, as a tactic it is simplistic and fails to recognize the plight of the ordinary Israeli as well," he said.

Sisk added that he agreed with Michael Whine, defense director for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who reportedly called the vote "simplistic and unbalanced." Sisk also said he agreed with comment made by the retired archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt. Rev. & Rt. Hon. Lord Carey of Clifton, who said that the resolution was "a most regrettable and one sided statement" that ignored "the trauma of ordinary Jewish people" living in Israel.

Full text of the Episcopal Church's Social Responsibility in Investments report to Executive Council is available online at: http://

SAN DIEGO: Reconciliation is focus as diocese meets in convention

[SOURCE: ENS/Diocese of San Diego]  "We are the church of reconciliation," San Diego Bishop James Mathes declared February 11 in his sermon during the 32nd annual meeting of the Convention of the Diocese of San Diego.

"Let us be the church of reconciliation to each other in the world in this extraordinary age of mission," Mathes added in his homily to Convention participants who filled St. Dunstan's Church in the San Carlos district of San Diego. Mathes underscored the "Lordship of Jesus Christ" as the source and impetus for the church's mission and ministries of reconciliation.

Leading his first Convention meeting since becoming bishop last year, Mathes welcomed as "honored guest, friend, colleague and mentor" the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey N. Steenson, bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande, who offered a keynote reflection to open the Convention on the evening of February 10. Both bishops said they have pledged an ongoing partnership in mission between themselves and in service to their dioceses (ENS plans a future story on this collaboration).

Underscoring themes of Christian love, humility and understanding -- and the integrity of faith rooted in historic catholic and evangelical traditions -- in his keynote talk, Steenson called upon listeners to join him in this process, especially while addressing deep differences: "Learn to express regret; learn to show mercy. When you have made a mistake, when you have failed to love your brother, go to him and say, 'I'm sorry.' Guard your tounge. Never, ever shut the door on anyone; never irretrievably break a relationship."

The bishops' remarks came days after parishioners of St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Oceanside voted to leave the San Diego diocese to align with the Anglican bishop of Bolivia. While 117 parishioners of St. Anne's voted to leave the Episcopal Church and have continued to meet on the parish property, Convention seated and applauded delegates appointed by Mathes to continue to represent the Oceanside parish community in the life of the diocese. A core group of some 35 parishioners continue to organize steps forward, according to diocesan officials. Similarly, the Convention seated and applauded delegates and an interim pastor from Christ the King, Alpine, where a number of parishioners recently departed from the congregation leaving the buildings for continuing ministry of the Episcopal Church. In both congregations, Mathes continues to emphasis reconciliation. 

In his Convention Address, his first since becoming San Diego's bishop last year, Mathes underscored three "challenges and opportunities" for the diocese: affirming and living into "theological diversity," improving stewardship, and bolstering Christian formation. Mathes' address is posted online ( on the website of the diocese, which encompasses 51 congregations.  

Mathes and Steenson led Convention participants in a Saturday-morning dialogue session on the Windsor Report, the subject of a resolution adopted later in the day.

Delegates altered the wording of that resolution so that the convention agreed to endorse the Windsor Report and pledged "to comply fully with its proposals and expectations." The original wording said the convention would "submit" to the report. The resolution also expressed its desire for the Episcopal Church to remain within the Anglican Communion and urged the General Convention to express the same desire.

The Convention also passed resolutions to:

  • recommit to "A Children's Charter for the Church" and revise current policies, and develop and adopt policies and procedures, for protecting children and youth from abuse;

  • revise diocesan policies and training, and "develop and adopt policies and procedures for the avoidance of misconduct which comply with the [anticipated] Title IV revisions of the Canons of the National Church adopted at General Convention 2006";

  • instruct Mathes to appoint a "theologically diverse" commission of clergy and laity to study the practice of clergy who invite everyone to receive at the Eucharist, as opposed to the canonical requirement that only baptized Christians shall receive the sacrament;

  • request that the 75th General Convention "vote to confirm or deny the action of Executive Council approving the Episcopal Church's membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice"; and

  • express the convention's continued support of Mathes' "responsible management of the diocese," encourage him "to continue to affirm, support, embrace and enact the various expressions of Christian faith and tradition that enrich our common life," and join him "in developing the vision, plans, and collegial commitment in advancing the work of our diocese and the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ."

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