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MONTANA: Bishop calls diocese to transforming vision of community

By Mary Frances Schjonberg


[Episcopal News Service]  The Episcopal Diocese of Montana, meeting in its 103rd annual convention September 30-October 1 in Great Falls, heard Bishop Frank Brookhart say that he envisions the diocese as "a transformational community powered by the Risen Lord Jesus Christ."

Explaining that vision, Brookhart said transformation is a Christian's calling.

"The book of Ephesians tells us that we are all to grow up into the future stature of Christ, that is, we are to change, be transformed, so that we appear more and more like Christ," he said. "Clearly, this is a life-long process, a matter of conversion every day of our lives. That old model of 'giving your heart to Jesus' is inadequate; we are to be giving more and more of our hearts, minds, feelings, ideas, resources every day and all the time. All of us should be changing in whatever ways the Lord calls us, so that people around us get the idea at least once in a while that we are disciples of Jesus."

Calling a diocese the "basic unit of the church," Brookhart said, "It is not a matter that it is a nice idea that we work together; this diocesan reality is part of our basic being and identity."

The basis of the community, he said, "is not agreement, common interests, nationality, socio-economic status, or even common Myers-Briggs types."

The New Testament view of community as "koinonia" is, instead, "based on the fact that we together are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, and that we share the Body and Blood of Christ," Brookhart said. "Our community of the diocese is based on the fact that it is all about Jesus."

Brookhart said that the Resurrection means that "we can pray big prayers. We can dream big dreams."

"We can sing new songs. We can do big things -- as persons, congregations, and as a diocese," he said. "And we can do that with the confidence that what stands in the way of our resurrection mission will be knocked down, defeated, and rolled away. "

"The task now is to explore what this means, what shape it takes, what actions and programs we need, what values lay under it," Brookhart acknowledged. "For me, this might mean that we are able to move from a scarcity mindset to an assumption of abundance, from a knee-jerk reaction of suspicion to the gift of mutual trust, and from a value of 'what's in it for me,' to 'how can we give and care,' from what happened in the past to what the Risen One wants us to do in the future."

Convention delegates passed resolutions asking:

the leadership of the diocese's Camp Marshall to restore the camp's previous name of Lindisfarne Camp Marshall, and

the Diocesan Council to consider how diocesan finances apportioned in terms of  assessments to and from assisted and non-assisted congregations versus the diocesan administration costs.

The Diocese of Montana consists of about 6,000 Episcopalians worshipping in 44 congregations spread across the United States' fourth-largest state in terms of land mass.