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EUROPE: Convocation of American Churches passes strategic plan

10/27/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  The Convocation of American Churches in Europe, meeting October 19-22 at the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity in Paris, France, for its annual convention, heard its Bishop-in-Charge Pierre W. Whalon call on delegates to "celebrate the rich gifts of the Spirit that define the Convocation's mission and ministry in Europe," according to a news release from the churches.

"The key factor is for us to understand that we are missionaries first and foremost," Whalon said. "We gather here to be in communion with God the Holy Trinity and with one another. It is from this essential unity that we are made strong, and that we are sent with a mission with the power to accomplish what God would have us do."

Convention delegates adopted Mission 2006, what the news release called a comprehensive strategic plan that represented the culmination of two years work by both the Convocation's leadership and Convention delegates.

The Rev. Bud Holland, ministry development officer of the Episcopal Church, led the delegates in an "asset mapping" session before they settled into the work of considering the plan itself.

The Mission 2006 strategic plan is meant to focus the work of the Convocation, lifting up projects and activities in six priority areas previously identified by the convention at its 2005 meeting in Frankfurt, Germany: youth; training and nurture of lay and clergy; building more mission churches including non-Anglophone ones; leadership development; innovative worship resources; and social and environmental justice.

"With the adoption of Mission 2006, we are not only considering how to make our Convocation programs stronger, but also employing creative strategies that will enable us to be more responsive to our circumstances in Europe," said Whalon.

The Convocation's second-largest parish, the Church of the Ascension, Munich, Germany, hosted a Youth Across Europe event at the same time as the Convention. It was the largest-ever youth event in the Convocation's history, according to the release. Fifty-five young people participated in "God, R U online?" to explore aspects of the incarnation by focusing on communications and spirituality in today's digital world.

The event will serve as a model for an annual rotating youth event, a feature of the 2006 strategic plan. The event received a partial grant from the Jeffery & Anne Rowthorn Fund for Mission and Ministry, the first money granted from this endowment created in 2001 to honor the Rowthorns' ministry in Europe.

Picking up on a theme of Paris cathedral Dean Zachary Fleetwood's homily at the opening Eucharist, Whalon emphasized that the Church is a family affair. In Baptism, he said, we are given unity with God and each other as a gift, part of our adoption as God's children. We do not get to choose our sisters and brothers in Christ any more than we can choose the members of our birth family, he said.

In both his opening address, and his sermon at the closing Eucharist on Sunday, Whalon said that the Convocation is in a unique situation, in which the essential unity of Christians is not just an abstraction, but lived out every day by the more than four thousand members in Europe, the release said. The Convocation in Europe is part of a complex ecumenical community in which significant grassroots collaboration is a daily reality. Moreover, the Convocation is also one of four Anglican jurisdictions in Europe that cooperate closely with each other, and that are in the midst of planning an even closer Covenant relationship.

"In a sense, we are a microcosm of the Anglican Communion," Whalon said, "and the unity we experience, the gift of God to us that reflects the unity of the Holy Trinity, is an example to the whole Communion."

In tandem with its strategic plan and the General Convention, the Convention reiterated its support of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), first agreed upon in 2003. The convocation urged all of its congregations and members to, by July 7, 2007, (07/07/07), give 0.7% of congregational or personal income in support of projects which help eradicate extreme poverty around the world.

During the Convention, the Rev. Carlson Gerdau, Canon to the Presiding Bishop, among others, received the Bishop's Award for outstanding service to the ministry of the Convocation.

The Convention adjourned at the close of the Sunday Eucharist. The Convocation's newest priest, the Rev. Dorothee Hahn of Munich, carried the Canterbury Cross out of the Cathedral and on its way to Germany, where it will reside until the next annual convention convenes in Munich in October 2007.

The Convocation, part of The Episcopal Church under the jurisdiction of the Presiding Bishop, is not technically a diocese, but functions like one in that it is self-governing. Like a diocese, it exists in order to provide services to its eighteen congregations across Europe, which they cannot provide for themselves -- including the ministry of a full-time Bishop.