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NORTH DAKOTA: Convention commits diocese to UN Millennium Goals

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
[Episcopal News Service]  The Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota, meeting in its 36th annual convention October 6-8 in Williston, North Dakota, agreed to work to achieve the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs motion encouraged the Diocesan Council to use a "meaningful portion" of the 2007 outreach/mission budget, which totals $5,000, to address one or two of the MDGs. It also encouraged the diocesan Finance Committee to include 0.7% of the 2008 budget to address the MDGs.

The convention also endorsed the establishment of an environmental stewardship committee and encouraged it to provide education for the diocese in environmental concerns. The motion asked that the committee recommend to the next convention action by congregations and the diocese.

The convention also made two canonical changes in the way General Convention deputies and provincial synod delegates are elected.

In his address, Bishop Michael Smith reviewed the work and recommendations of the Task Force on Reorganization for Mission, which was formed at the 2005 convention. The recommendations include:

  • "an historic and continuing mission with Native Americans; a new mission with Sudanese immigrants; and a future and potential mission on college campuses";
  • "a commitment to the deployment of canon missioners and to making available to every congregation a seminary-trained priest in order that every baptized member of our churches might be equipped for ministry";
  • a renewal of the diaconal order in the diocese with 25 people in the formation process and ordinations expected to begin next summer;
  • giving priority to youth ministry;
  • being "open to the possibility of the bishop contracting time/work outside the diocese in order to supplement the diocesan budget," as is now the case with Smith serving as interim dean and rector of the diocesan cathedral in Fargo;
  • reducing the current 8.5 percent draw on endowment by half of one percent annually until the draw is five percent; and
  • decreasing the diocesan assessment from 22 percent to 10 percent and increasing giving to the Episcopal Church from 8 percent to 10 percent "recognizing the tithe as the standard for giving in the Episcopal Church."

Smith also told the Convention that he was wrong when he said just after the end of the 75th General Convention that the Episcopal Church had given the Primates "enough of the 'spirit,' if not the 'letter,' of what the Windsor Report requested to enable them to declare our compliance."

He said he based his assessment on Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan William's letter to the primates of the Anglican Communion issued September 14. Williams wrote in part that "the resolutions of General Convention still represent what can only be called a mixed response."

Smith said that he expects the 2009 General Convention will be asked to consent to a yet-to-be proposed Anglican Covenant and so he said that the diocese's 2008 convention will need to state its mind on such a document.

Calling himself a "Windsor Bishop," Smith said: "As a bishop holding a 'moderate' position in the Episcopal Church I am trying to hold out for the middle course between the extremes of working to replace the Episcopal Church with a new Anglican province and 'walking apart' from the rest of the Anglican Communion as an independent denomination."

"This is all going to take a while to get worked out and sorted through," he said. "Between now and then, let's say our prayers and get busy working for the kingdom of God."