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Diocesan Digest - July 27


Grace Cathedral photo
Bishop Andrus' family – wife Sheila with daughters Pilar and Chloe – joined him on the altar after the ceremonial passing of the crozier, indicating his official investiture as bishop.   (Grace Cathedral photo)

[Episcopal News Service] 
  • ARKANSAS: Bishop allows same-gender blessings as pastoral response
  • BETHLEHEM: Congregation gets flood relief
  • CALIFORNIA: Diocese, new bishop begin shared ministry
  • CENTRAL FLORIDA: Diocese makes official request for 'alternative primatial oversight'
  • FORT WORTH: Standing Committee wants to leave Province VII
  • SAN DIEGO: Bishop promises to help people hurt by congregation's split
  • TENNESSEE: Pastoral letter makes no mention of 'alternative primatial oversight'

    ARKANSAS: Bishop allows same-gender blessings as pastoral response

    [Source: Associated Press] Arkansas Bishop Larry Maze has written to the diocese's clergy telling them that congregations in the diocese may honor the request of same-gender couples to have their relationships blessed.

    "It is my belief that seeking ways of recognizing and blessing faithful, monogamous same-sex relationships falls within the parameters of providing pastoral concern and care for our gay and lesbian members," wrote Maze in the July 19 letter.

    Maze's wording echoes that of the fifth resolve of Resolution 2003-C051, passed by General Convention in 2003, which states that "we recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions." The full text of the resolution is available online.

    The recently concluded General Convention took no action on same-gender relationships, other than to state in Resolution 2006-A095 that it opposes any state or federal constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex civil marriages or civil unions. The full text of the resolution is available online.

    The state of Arkansas has banned marriage between people of the same gender, so same-gender couples who have their relationships blessed there will have no legal standing.

    "No congregation, vestry, or priest is expected to interpret the pastoral concern and care of the Church for gay and lesbian persons in a way that includes the possibility of formal rites of blessing," Maze wrote.

    He added that congregations have "permission to proceed to work as a congregation to come to clarity around the issues involved when the Church blesses anything or anyone. If a couple seeks blessing in that congregation, they will join in that exploration much to the benefit of the congregation and the couple. This is a pastoral response and it is expected that each case will reflect the uniqueness of the congregation and the couple involved."

    Maze says he expects to be kept informed of such explorations and review any liturgy before it is used.

    "We have much to learn from one another, knowing that the Spirit has led us into quite different places and that the truth about all this is still emerging," Maze wrote, concluding his letter.

    Two churches -- St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Little Rock and St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Fayetteville -- plan to offer the ceremonies.

    At St. Michael's, the Rev. Ed Wills told the Associated Press that a same-gender couple is planning a blessing ceremony tentatively set for September.

    The Rev. Lowell Grisham of St. Paul's said no one has requested a blessing yet, but that he expects a ceremony before the next General Convention in 2009.

    "My gay friends are very sensitive about the notion that we've been blessing animals for years and find it so difficult to bless their relationships," Grisham said.

    BETHLEHEM: Congregation gets flood relief

    [Source: Diocese of Bethlehem] St. Mark's Church in New Milford, Pennsylvania, which sustained substantial damage to its three buildings during the late-June floods which struck the area, has received help from a number of congregations in the diocese.

    Furnaces in the church and the rectory were under water, and considerable cleaning was necessary to the interior and exterior, according to a diocesan email list. St. Mark's also faces gathering its insurance deductible of $12,328.

    Among those congregations offering help are Church of the Epiphany, Clarks Summit; Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem; St. Paul's, Montrose; St. Paul's, Troy; and Trinity Church, Easton.

    Trinity Church, Mount Pocono, has pledged support and St. Francis of Assisi in Gulfbreeze, Florida, plans to offer relief as well. St. Stephen's, Wilkes-Barre, will give its July 28 Evensong offering during the annual Royal School of Church Music King's College Summer Choir Training Course, along with other funds.

    Prince of Peace, Dallas, began last Sunday and will continue through August to take a second offering each Sunday for St. Mark's. Former Presiding Bishop Ed Browning and his wife, Patti, have pledged their support. They owned a cottage nearby while Browning served as Presiding Bishop, and attended St. Mark's when they were in New Milford.

    CALIFORNIA: Diocese, new bishop begin shared ministry

    [Source: Diocese of California] On his first full day of ministry as eighth bishop of the San Francisco-based Diocese of California, Marc Handley Andrus joined three ministry activities that reflect his "ongoing care and concern for those on the margins of church and society, and for the oneness of all creation."
    Andrus and his wife, Sheila, began their Sunday visits by serving breakfast to residents of The Sanctuary, a program of Episcopal Community Services (ECS), which provides shelter, hot meals, housing, and social services to 200 homeless individuals nightly. The Sanctuary was founded in 1982 in the basement of Grace Cathedral and was ECS's initial project. Today ECS manages 13 different facilities serving more than 4,500 people annually with a continuum of programs: two large shelters, 11 permanent supportive housing sites, senior services, and a skills center offering adult education and vocational housing.
    The Andrus family then attended morning services at the mission congregation of Holy Child and St. Martin's, Daly City, whose members are predominantly Filipino. Vicar Bayani Rico led the congregation in welcoming the new bishop to the church, where construction and repairs are nearly complete after a fire on Good Friday 2005.
    Held in Oakland's Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline Park, the afternoon event featured picnic fare, relaxation and a presentation titled "Cosmic Walk: California Story,"  a chronicle of the history of the universe, inspired by the writings of cosmologist Brian Swimme and led for the gathering by Eleanor DelBene.
    In the 81-congregation California diocese, Andrus -- who is the former Bishop Suffragan of Alabama -- succeeds Bishop William Swing, who has retired after some 28 years of episcopal ministry in the Bay Area.

    An online audio stream of Andrus's July 22 investiture in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral.
    Video streams will follow soon at the same location.

    Photos and a full report on the Investiture is online

    A copy of the service booklet

    CENTRAL FLORIDA: Diocese makes official request for 'alternative primatial oversight'

    [Source: Diocese of Central Florida] Bishop John W. Howe and Central Florida Standing Committee president John Liebler have sent a letter to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams asking for "alternative primatial oversight."

    The July 17 letter makes formal a June 26 announcement by Howe, the Standing Committee and the Diocesan Board.

    The letter cites "actions, inactions, and errors of our 74th and 75th General Conventions."

    "The Diocese of Central Florida has made every effort to be reconciled to our Province," the letter says. "We have consistently called the Episcopal Church to its Constitutional commitments to the Lord, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and the Anglican Communion. . . . All of our efforts have been to no avail."

    The letter says that the diocese faces "a pastoral emergency."

    "We are losing members in all orders of ministry and we have even lost one entire congregation, approximately two-thirds of another, and one-third of still another. Our ability to carry out the Great Commission is hindered as many members withhold financial contributions due to uncertainty regarding the future of the Episcopal Church," the letter says. "The focus, time and energy of our most gifted clergy are being diverted away from mission and ministry by this crisis. Our witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is strained by these errors, and the controversy and conflict they have produced."
    The full text of the letter is available.

    When Howe and the Standing Committee announced its intentions in June, Episcopal Voices of Central Florida said it opposed the move and issued a letter to that effect signed by at least 32 clergy. The Via Media USA-affiliated group has scheduled a meeting of clergy and laity who disagree with Howe and the Standing Committee for July 29 at St. Richard's Episcopal Church in Winter Park, Florida.

    The dioceses of Central Florida, Fort Worth (Texas), Pittsburgh, Springfield (Illinois), San Joaquin (California) and South Carolina have announced they are seeking "alternative primatial oversight." The Diocese of Dallas recently announced it had asked the Archbishop of Canterbury for "direct primatial oversight."

    No diocesan convention has yet ratified these actions.

    FORT WORTH: Standing Committee wants to leave Province VII

    [Source: Diocese of Fort Worth] The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Fort Worth has drafted a resolution for its diocesan convention November 18 that would ratify a decision to withdraw the diocese's consent to be a member of Province VII of the Episcopal Church. The text of the July 24 resolution is available online.

    The decision follows one made by the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, announced June 28, to ask its diocesan convention to ratify its desire to withdraw from Province III. The standing committee said at the time that it envisions "the drawing together of a new Windsor-compliant Tenth Province in the Episcopal Church." The Pittsburgh convention meets November 3-4.

    Under the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, the formation or elimination of a diocese or province is a matter decided by the General Convention, not by a diocese or group of dioceses. General Convention also decides the specific diocesan provincial membership, with the consent of the dioceses.
    Fort Worth's move came just more than a month following the diocese's announcement during the General Convention that it would seek what it called "alternative primatial oversight."

    The Standing Committee made that decision on the evening of June 18, after Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori had been elected as the 26th Presiding Bishop. The next day, Fort Worth Bishop Jack Iker read the Standing Committee's resolution in the House of Bishops, and Senior Deputy Judy Mayo read it in the House of Deputies.

    Not all Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth are in favor of the Standing Committee's action. The group Fort Worth Via Media is committed to continuing membership within the Episcopal Church. More is online at

    Among the Episcopal Church's 110 dioceses, Fort Worth is one of three in which bishops refuse to ordain women, despite the General Convention's 1976 authorization to do so churchwide. This has been the longstanding position of the Fort Worth, Quincy and San Joaquin (Fresno, California) dioceses.

    Since Fort Worth's June 19 announcement, five other dioceses -- Central Florida (Orlando-based), Pittsburgh, Springfield (Illinois), San Joaquin (California), and South Carolina -- have announced they were seeking "alternative primatial oversight." The Diocese of Dallas recently announced it had asked the Archbishop of Canterbury for "direct primatial oversight."

    No diocesan convention has yet ratified these actions.

    SAN DIEGO: Bishop promises to help people hurt by congregation's split

    [Source: Diocese of San Diego] San Diego Bishop James Mathes has pledged to help the congregation of St. John's Fallbrook, California, recover from the recent decision of some of its members to align with the Anglican Province of Uganda.

    "Regrettably, it appears that a number of parishioners plan to leave St. John's," said Mathes in a statement on the diocesan website. "But we know that while some people may leave a church, a congregation may not leave a diocese. I'm deeply sad for those members of this parish who have been hurt by this decision to split the congregation, but we'll do what we do best… we'll take care of the church and we'll continue to build the kingdom of God."
    Mathes' statement said that the parish had been "plagued by financial challenges in the past few years." He said that the diocese had waived its minimum financial contribution to the diocese to aid in its recovery.

    TENNESSEE: Pastoral letter makes no mention of 'alternative primatial oversight'

    [Source: Diocese of Tennessee] Tennessee Bishop Bertram Herlong wrote in a recent pastoral letter that it will take time to sort out questions raised by actions of the 75th General Convention.

    "Do not expect immediate responses or solutions," Herlong wrote in a letter meant to be read to congregations on either July 16 or 23. "As I have said many times, it took us a long time to get where we are and it is going to take a long time to work out ultimate solutions."

    Herlong joined a group of bishops in disassociating himself from the actions of the 75th General Convention in response to the Windsor Report. He also wrote in the letter that he did not agree with Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori's decisions to consent to the 2003 election of an openly gay man as bishop of New Hampshire and to allow same-gender blessings in the Diocese of Nevada.

    "We should not make premature judgments about what will happen, but should wait and see how her performance affects the program and direction of the National Church. Bishop Jefferts Schori is our Presiding Bishop and we must respect the office even if we do not agree with the performance of the individual who holds that office," Herlong wrote.

    It has been reported elsewhere that Herlong and the Standing Committee have discussed suggestions that the diocese seek "alternative primatial oversight," but decided that such a move would not be prudent for the diocese in light of its failed attempt to elect Herlong's successor earlier this year. The electing convention will reconvene October 28 for its fourth session.