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Diocesan Digest - March 9

[Episcopal News Service] 
  • KENTUCKY: Communion lives in diocese, bishop tells convention
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE: Bishop returns to work
  • NEW JERSEY: Convention affirms inclusion
  • ROCHESTER: Diocese sues former rector, congregation members


KENTUCKY: Communion lives in diocese, bishop tells convention

[SOURCE: Diocese of Kentucky]

Recalling a parish visitation made last year in rural Kentucky with the Rt. Rev. Onesphore Rwaje, the diocese's companion bishop from Byumba, Rwanda, Bishop Edwin F. Gulick Jr. told delegates to the Diocese of Kentucky’s 178th Convention February 25 that "in that lovely little church on that morning, Communion was our reality. It was our divine gift as it always is."

"Onesphore and I are in real communion because communion is the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are also in imperfect communion because through human weakness and sin we misjudge situations, misunderstand one another, and tend to believe that agreement and Communion are the same thing," Gulick said.

"We strive for the deepest communion that is possible, we try to be good and wise stewards of God's gift of communion . . . a black hand from Rwanda and a white hand from Kentucky on the head of a Christian while prayer is being made for strength, empowerment and sustenance were very powerful . . . Differences remain, but Communion defined that morning," he added.

Gulick announced that a new approach to ministry, spearheaded by the Rev. Jay Magness, canon to the ordinary, and other regional diocesan leaders, is being developed in the Mississippi Delta Region, which includes western Kentucky, western Tennessee, eastern Arkansas and eastern Missouri. The region has many households headed by a single parent, mostly women, and a great deal of underemployment. The ministry will address "a real evangelistic opportunity to preach the gospel . . . to folks beaten up by life experiences and by religion that has told them they are not loveable," Gulick said.

He said he was "profoundly saddened" by the decision of a former rector and many members of his parish to separate from the Episcopal Church and align with the Diocese of Bolivia. Gulick said he "made every attempt within canon law to protect [the rector's] conscience."

Gulick concluded addressing the "two elephants" in the room, referring to Magness's nomination for bishop of Tennessee and Gulick's nomination for presiding bishop. Gulick said he allowed his name to be put forward for purely theological reasons and "will be elated if one of the other official nominees is elected."

The convention delegates approved a $1.3 million operating budget. Among other action the delegates approved canonical revisions to clarify the standards set for congregational pledging, requiring congregations to explain any pledge that is less than 15 percent of canonical income.

Three deacons were ordained during the convention on February 24. They are Navy Capt. Brad Ableson, an ordained Presbyterian minister who is currently the command chaplain adviser to the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska and two seminarians, Amy Coultas and Ellen Ekevag.


NEW HAMPSHIRE: Bishop returns to work

[SOURCE: Diocese of New Hampshire] New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson has returned to work after spending time at an alcohol-dependency treatment center in Pennsylvania.

Robinson, who wrote to the diocese on February 18 to say that he had entered treatment on February 1, wrote again to the diocese March 7 to say he had returned from the Caron Foundation treatment center in Wernersville,  Pennsylvania, on March 2.

"I return to you in a very good place indeed -- refreshed, focused, clear-headed and happy," he wrote. "The unimaginable grace given to me by God fuels my passion for bringing that Good News to all who are desperate to hear it.

Robinson said he would be "taking steps to continue my own recovery over the next weeks, months and years," including attending Alcohol Anonymous meetings and working with an "addiction coach."

The full text of Robinson's letter is available at


NEW JERSEY: Convention affirms inclusion

[SOURCE: Diocese of New Jersey] The Diocese of New Jersey said during at its annual convention March 3-4 that it welcomes all people regardless of their sexual orientation, and that it will allow no "overt or implied" condition or requirement based on, among other things, race, gender or sexual orientation for church-related lay positions or ordination.

Delegates rejected two resolutions calling for moratoria on blessing same-gender unions and on the ordination or consecration of "any person who is in a sexual relationship other than Holy Matrimony."

Several young people stood to defend gay clergy during the debate, citing the example set by Jesus.

Bishop George E. Councell said the diocese debates its differences about human sexuality and wants the Episcopal Church to remain in the Anglican Communion "for the sake of a suffering world."

Citing the "Passion Lives Here" slogan of the recent Olympics, Councell said "the Episcopal Church could stand to be a little more passionate."

"These are hard times," he said. "The world is hurting and the Church is hurting and many of us are hurting. But passion lives here. Jesus lives here. And because Jesus lives, we, too, shall live."

Among other actions, the delegates:

  • commended the Windsor Report for study and encouraged diocesan members to make their views known to the diocese's General Convention deputation,
  • approved a resolution opposing and condemning torture and other abuse of persons detained in the name of the United States, and
  • criticizing global economic and social disparities that they called sinful and "unacceptable in light of the Gospel" and calling on diocesan members to learn about the disparities, reflect on how they benefit from those differences and live a simpler lifestyle.

ROCHESTER: Diocese sues former rector, congregation members

[SOURCE: Diocese of Rochester] The Diocese of Rochester filed a civil lawsuit March 6 "to redress the wrongful conduct of former colleagues and church members."

The suit names the Rev. David Harnish, former rector of the parish known as All Saints Protestant Episcopal Church in Irondequoit, New York, and the former wardens and members of the vestry of that church, according to a statement released by the diocese.

The diocesan convention in November 2005 dissolved All Saints' "because of its refusal to live by the norms, or canons, of this diocese," the statement said.

"We had hoped to come to an arrangement for receiving keys to the property and the records of people lives - baptisms, confirmations, marriages, burials, and financial records - without taking the action we have today. But after repeated requests, the former rector and leadership continue to deny us access to both property and records, while continuing to meet in the space without our permission," the statement said.

Harnish and the former lay leadership of All Saints' now claim allegiance to the Church of the Province of Uganda.

The civil action seeks a court order requiring Harnish and the others to immediately return all of the property because they hold it in trust for the Episcopal diocese and the national Episcopal Church as spelled out in national and diocesan canons, and New York law. The action also requests an order dissolving the legal entity known as All Saints' Protestant Episcopal Church, Inc.

The diocese also sent a letter to Harnish and the former wardens and vestry members of All Saints' asking that they turn over the property and records, and that they take responsibility for dissolving the secular corporation. If they do this, the civil complaint will be withdrawn, the statement said.

"For the last four years I and other leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester have worked hard to reconcile and resolve the concerns of the former All Saints' Protestant Episcopal Church leaders and members," Rochester Bishop Jack McKelvey said in the statement. "I have spoken of the Episcopal Church as a very large tent that embraces a wide range of viewpoints on a wide range of subjects. Regrettably, the  Rev. David Harnish and his followers have chosen to chart a different path, one that is entirely outside the Episcopal Church. The Diocese of Rochester holds no ill will towards the people of the former All Saints' Protestant  Episcopal Church. However, they must abide by the law and return property that does not belong to them. And once again, we urge them to honor the legal obligations that flow from their voluntary decisions."