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Diocesan Digest - May 18

[Episcopal News Service] 


  • FLORIDA: Convention will help rebuild Mississippi church
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE: Flooding closes St. Paul's School, sends students home
  • SOUTHERN VIRGINIA: Retired bishop joins diocese as assisting bishop

FLORIDA: Convention will help rebuild Mississippi church

[SOURCE: Diocese of Florida] The 163rd Convention of the Diocese of Florida unanimously agreed to offer a $250,000 matching gift program to help rebuild St. Patrick's Episcopal Church in Long Beach, Mississippi.

The Rev. David Knight, St. Patrick's rector, was at the convention to tell the congregation's story and accept the gift. On August 29, 2005, the congregation's facilities on U.S. Highway 90 were one of six Mississippi Episcopal church facilities destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The storm left between a third and half of the congregation's families without homes.

The Florida convention gathered May 5-6 at Camp Weed and the Cerveny Conference Center in Live Oak, Florida, for its 163rd annual meeting.

Bishop John Howard, acknowledging that the "last two years have been a difficult time in our life together," told the convention that the diocese has responded with love to those people and congregations who are angry with the Episcopal Church.

Howard continued to emphasize reconciliation and dialogue within the diocese, where parishioners of 10 of its 77 congregations have voiced disagreement with issues including the General Convention's 2003 approval of an openly gay man as bishop of New Hampshire.  
"Sometimes tough love, it's true, but love nonetheless and God is rewarding the love, the patience, and forbearance, which we are showing," Howard said. "A good friend of mine refers to the approach we have taken as 'gentle rain.' The 'gentle rain' is the water of our baptisms into the death of our Lord and his resurrection, and over the past two years we have become, perhaps more than ever, truly the Body of Christ in this time and place."

"The gentle rain continues to fall and God willing, long before we meet again at convention, these issues will have been satisfactorily resolved and new life, mission, and ministry will have begun in these churches," Howard said of the congregations that are in conflict.

Howard also emphasized the diocese will continue to support youth ministry and its ministry of education through the 13 Episcopal schools in the diocese. The convention listened to Howard's address in a newly dedicated youth pavilion, which he said is "the very icon of our diocese, of a new spirit of collaboration and collegiality, a sign of the renewal of a commitment to mission and ministry and to changing the lives of those whom our Lord has called us to serve: the youngest, the oldest, the weakest, the poorest, the most vulnerable."

The convention's only resolution, a commitment to strengthened parish support for the diocesan mission budget, was withdrawn by St. John's Cathedral, Jacksonville, and St. Peter's, Fernandina Beach, after the convention discussed it in detail. The resolution asked that "the minimum standard for financial support of the Diocese of Florida be established at 15 percent of a congregation's annual operating revenues based upon the prior year's parochial report" and outlined a plan for congregations to reach that level by January 2010. The convention agreed that the diocese should continue to discuss the issue, according to the diocese's website (

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Flooding closes St. Paul's School, sends students home

[SOURCE: Associated Press, St. Paul's School] Flooding closed St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, May 15 and the school was forced to send its students back to their homes around the world on short notice.

"It is a challenge, particularly when have 90-plus international students in a school of 530," said Rector Bill Matthews.

Rain pounded New England on May 15 for the fourth straight day. The National Weather Service reported more than a foot of rain had fallen in some places by that night.

Flooding from Big Turkey Pond and the Turkey River knocked out the school's heating plant and sewage pumping station and affected some dorms, the library, the health center, post office and performing arts center. In addition, the normally calm river rushed through the sprawling, scenic campus.

"We have very, very fast-moving currents running right through the middle of our campus right now," Matthews told the Associated Press on May 15.

There were 2 1/2 weeks left in the school year when the evacuation began. The school still hopes to hold graduation and reunion weekend on June 4.

On May 17, Matthews issued a statement on the school's website saying the school was assessing the damaged caused by the flood.

"One area of concern is Ohrstrom Library. While there was a truly heroic effort, orchestrated by the library staff and volunteers, to save volumes from flooding on the lowest level of the building, moisture and mold still threaten the entire collection. Saving this critical resource has our full attention right now," he wrote.

The three Kittredge Houses and Nash House were damaged. The Art Center in Hargate remains inaccessible, but its condition will be evaluated as soon as it is deemed safe to enter. Roads on the campus will have to be rebuilt and some parts of the grounds are impassable but, Matthews said, "I am confident that we will have a fully functioning and fully restored school by the time our new and returning students arrive in September."

SOUTHERN VIRGINIA: Retired bishop joins diocese as assisting bishop

[SOURCE: Diocese of Southern Virginia] The Diocese of Southern Virginia will take the next step on its transition in September when the retired Bishop John Clark Buchanan of West Missouri becomes the assisting bishop of Southern Virginia.

Buchanan will assist Bishop Robert H. Johnson, who was been selected by the standing committee in late January to become the diocese's interim bishop after the diocesan bishop, the Rt. Rev. David C. Bane Jr., retired at the 2006 Annual Council in February.

Problems, including questions of management style, in the diocese during the past several years culminated at the 2005 Annual Council with the adoption of a resolution that called upon Bane to request that the Presiding Bishop appoint three bishops to evaluate diocesan programs and relationships and recommend steps to move the ministry of the diocese forward.

The report by bishops Gordon Scruton of Western Massachusetts, Chilton Knudsen of Maine and Charles Jenkins of Louisiana recommended, among other things, a three-year interim with the search for a new bishop to begin in the third year "to allow for the grace of an interim period to unfold fully."

Buchanan is serving as the Bishop-in-Residence of the Diocese of Texas. He was selected by the diocesan standing committee earlier in May. The details of the transition are still being completed.

Buchanan told the Jamestown Cross diocesan newspaper that his work in Texas was winding down with the recent election of the Very Rev. Dena Harrison as a bishop suffragan for that diocese. Her consecration is planned for October.

Buchanan was born in Laurens County, South Carolina in 1933. Prior to his ordained ministry, he was an attorney in private practice and in the insurance industry.

He and Johnson became bishops around the same time. "I've known John for over 18 years. He is a trusted and respected colleague and friend. I know that he and his wife Peggy will bring their insightful and gracious style of ministry to Southern Virginia and they will be well received here," Johnson said.