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NORTHERN MICHIGAN: Convention tempers B033, celebrates unique ministries

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
[Episcopal News Service]  Delegates to the 111th convention of the Diocese of Northern Michigan, meeting October 14 in Escanaba, affirmed a declaration made by the diocesan Standing Committee and Bishop James Kelsey opposing the General Convention's call for restraint to not consenting to the episcopal election of anyone "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church."

The "statement of conscience," signed August 12, said that Kelsey and the Standing Committee had decided that they "fully intend to keep in mind relationships with our sisters and brothers throughout the Anglican Communion as we deliberate requests for consent to the consecration of candidates to the episcopate as they are sent to us for consideration and we further acknowledge our canonical responsibility to avoid discrimination as we do so."

Under the canons of the Episcopal Church (III.16.4(a)), a majority of the bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan Standing Committees must consent to a bishop-elect's ordination as bishop within 120 days of receiving notice of his or her election.

The statement cites specifically the Episcopal Church's Canon III.1.2, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age.

The statement and resolution refer to Resolution B033, passed by the 75th General Convention meeting this past June in Columbus, Ohio. The resolution was meant to respond to the Windsor Report's call in Paragraph 134 for a moratorium on the election to the episcopate of people living in same-gender relationships.

In his address to the convention, Kelsey described the diocese, comprised of about 2,100 Episcopalians in 27 congregations on Michigan's Upper Peninsula as: "both meager and mighty -- and in both cases, it's even worse (and better) than we think."

"We are fragile and we are unbreakable and resilient. It's all true," he said.

Kelsey cited new Ministry Support Teams of laity assisted by clergy which serve many congregations, growing ministries both parochial and in partnership with other denominations and secular organizations, a companion relationship with the Diocese of Christchurch in New Zealand, new mission efforts, and the way the diocese's ministry models are being taught elsewhere.

Still, he said, "we have come to acknowledge, and we are acting upon the need to do more to attract new members to our congregations, to further develop our ministries of stewardship, to decrease our dependence upon our endowments, which we have drawn upon far too heavily in recent years and to adjust our budget to live more responsibly within our means."

Kelsey called the budget constraints "transformational adjustments which are destined to generate new levels of energy which we can use to make our contribution, to do our part to live into God's Dream."