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UPPER SOUTH CAROLINA: Diocese called to continue ‘healthy church initiative’

By Mary Frances Schjonberg


[Episcopal News Service]  The Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina, meeting for its 84th annual convention October 20-21 in Spartanburg, was called to continue the "Healthy Church Initiative" it began at the spring session of its convention.

The initiative's purpose, according to Diocesan Bishop Dorsey Henderson, is "to assist congregations in effectively changing lives, by bringing people into relationship with God through Jesus Christ."

Henderson said that through a "generous gift" to him as the diocesan bishop, the diocese can provide free consultation "with a church professional regarding every aspect of congregational life, in order to promote the congregations health and, therefore, vitality for mission."

He said he expects every congregation in the diocese to have had such a consultation by the next convention, something that 28 of the diocese's 65 congregations have already done.

Henderson also reported that he, his staff and the Diocesan Executive Council have reorganized the way they work together using "the vows of our Baptismal Covenant as a foundation for our life together as the Body of Christ -- for becoming healthier in order to do our work of ministry."

"It requires a broader and deeper level of consultation and decision-making between the Bishop and the Council -- but, equally significant, it provides space and opportunities for all of us -- you and me -- to participate in the discernment and implementation of God's call to us," he said.

The full text of Henderson's address is available here.

The convention delegates passed resolutions to:

  • call upon the clergy and people of this diocese to reaffirm their commitment to "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" (BCP, pg. 236) the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in such a way that they may "be ready to make a defense for the hope that is within us" (1 Peter 3:15), to "do the work of an evangelist and to carry out our ministry fully" (2 Timothy 4:5b);
  • reaffirm the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral as a "sound expression of the diocese's unity in mission, generosity of spirit, and joy in its common life;"
  • affiliate with the ONE Episcopalian campaign, and instruct the Diocesan Executive Council (DEC) to develop appropriate programs, in concert with parishes and persons, to support the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and have the DEC report annually at convention through the 87th convention on implementation of the resolution;
  • continue the goal of increasing leadership and involvement among young adults, on vestries, in mission, in worship leadership, as convention delegates, "in all other appropriate and creative ways that acknowledge our mutual ministry as the baptized people of God," and to "seek out young adults and listen to their questions, experiences and insight, even as we commit our prayers, skills, and financial resources to our shared ministry with them or making disciples and passing on the faith";
  • call upon convocations with mission churches to develop comprehensive plans to carry out the responsibilities imposed by the diocesan constitution and canons of the diocese as regards the nurture and growth of the missions into parish status, and to call upon the diocese to establish guidelines for support, both monetary and in-kind, of missions and to recommend the appropriate changes to the constitution and canons to ensure future missions have the support and assistance necessary to succeed;
  • call upon the DEC to construct the numbers, graphs, charts, and illustrations to communicate the diocese's "total fiscal story from Statement of Mission 2000 through proposed Statement of Mission 2007"; and
  • direct the DEC to spend the next year studying the role and function of the Standing Committee and Diocesan Executive Council, especially in terms of the "potential scenario for a conflict among two bodies with quite different purposes" and report to the next convention.

More information on the adopted resolutions is available here.

The delegates rejected resolutions that would have:

  • funded the "full monthly allocation of mission projects" before funding the "internal functions of the diocese" and the "National Church pledge" and
  • directed the DEC to construct a plan to reduce administrative cost in the diocese by 25% as a "plan B" to the 2007 budget due to concerns that "fiscal fallout from General Conventions '03 and '06 may affect our diocese over time in a negative way."

"I'm convinced the convention sends a two-pronged message," Henderson said after the meeting. "We are committed to the orthodox faith of the Church -- its study and practice -- and while we continue to be involved in the prayerful study of the pressing issues of our time, we will not be deterred from the mission of the Church. For us that means growth in faithfulness to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission."

"And by means of restructuring the way we do ministry, we are empowering and enabling the ministry of the baptized in new and more effective, more widespread involvement. The resolutions which were presented to the convention -- those which passed and those which failed -- all reflect that dual message."

The Diocese of Upper South Carolina comprises about 26,000 Episcopalians worshipping in 65 congregations.