The Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, meeting as its 129th Synod October 20-21 at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Peoria, Illinois, heard its bishop call for growth in church membership and in giving.
The Synod also heard from the Rev. Jerry Kramer, rector of the Free Church of the Annunciation, an Anglican parish in inner-city New Orleans in the Diocese of Louisiana that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Kramer described how his parish has continued to meet the needs of those impoverished by the storm, even though its own meager resources were inadequate even before Katrina struck, the release said.
"It has been only by the grace of God and the generosity of friends like you here in Quincy that we have been able to meet the needs," Kramer said.
Members of the Quincy diocese gave $35,000 in one week last fall after Katrina, all of it going to direct relief in the New Orleans and Gulf Coast region, the release said. At the Synod, Bishop Keith Ackerman presented Kramer with an additional check for $10,000.
In his synodical address, Ackerman challenged every church in the diocese to increase its overall pledged giving by 15 percent in the coming year, and to increase its membership this year by 10 percent "in spite of whatever chaos you may perceive is happening due to General Convention fallout."
Ackerman also told Synod members that they must act as did St. Paul, whom Ackerman described as the diocese's "patron," when he loved those people he evangelized, but still called them to task for their capitulations to the surrounding culture's mores.
"If we accept every element of a person's life, as if to say that opposition to one element of that person's life is a complete rejection of them, then we have missed the whole point of conversion, repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration," he said.
Ackerman said he'd much rather retire to Texas where he could play with his grandchildren than be involved in the conflicts in the Episcopal Church, "but I have not been given that luxury anymore than when St. Paul was shipwrecked or under house arrest and perhaps thought about retiring early to a condo in Tarsus, with a small apartment in Jerusalem."
"I am heartbroken that the very things that I thought God had called me to do as a deacon, priest, and bishop are all too often subservient to the agendas that are thrust upon us by a war that is being fought between the culture and the Church and within the Church," Ackerman said. "I am heartsick that some of the various programs that I believe I was sent here to implement have not taken place because all of us are involved in just trying to survive. I am brought to tears when I realize that more and more divisions are occurring because far too many people have blindly said, 'Love me – love my dog.' When we begin to define our very identities in ways other than 'I am a child of God and I am a Christian' then we may be guilty of having extracted one segment of our personhood and elevated it to an immutable identity."
The full text of Ackerman's address is available here.
In other action, the delegates to the Synod:
It is not clear how a diocese would leave a province on its own accord. The Church's Constitution Article VII says that "no Diocese shall be included in a Province without its own consent." Section I.9.1 of the Canons describes the membership of each province and only sets up a procedure for a diocese or mission area to switch its membership to another province with the consent of both provinces and the General Convention.
Quincy is one of eight of the Episcopal Church's 110 dioceses that requested a relationship with a primate of the Anglican Communion other than the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, citing 2003 and 2006 General Convention actions. The process is being called alternative primatial oversight (APO). The others are Central Florida (Orlando-based), Dallas (which has requested a relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury), Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin (California), South Carolina and Springfield (Illinois). The bishops of Fort Worth, Quincy and San Joaquin will not ordain women to the priesthood.
None of the other dioceses' conventions has yet ratified the APO requests. The APO issue did not surface at the recent Dallas convention. Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, South Carolina and Springfield all have annual conventions later this fall. Central Florida's convention is set for late January.
The constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, the Anglican Communion's main policy-making body, makes no provisions for alternative primatial oversight. Neither do the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.
The Diocese of Quincy comprises 2,200 Episcopalians in 21 congregations in south-central Illinois.
Together, the APO-requesting dioceses account for approximately 7.3 percent of the overall membership of the Episcopal Church, according to statistics in the 2006 Episcopal Church Annual. Not all Episcopalians in those dioceses agree with the request.
The Episcopal Church is made up of more than 2.4 million worshipers in about 7,679 congregations across the United States and elsewhere, including Europe, South America and the Caribbean.
The issue of how to handle such requests was discussed by a group of bishops meeting in New York September 11-13. Despite what were described as "honest and frank conversations," the group was unable to reach an agreement on how to meet the needs of the requesting dioceses.
Jefferts Schori said after the meeting that another session may be called later this year, possibly with additional participants.