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VERMONT: Bishop calls diocese to continue 'this spirit of koinonia'

By Anne Brown
[Episcopal News Service]  The 174th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont, meeting at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Burlington, October 27–28, celebrated the mission of the Cathedral as a "public church" and its varied ministries aimed at "connecting communities."

Bishop Thomas C. Ely addressed the convention at the conclusion of Evensong on October 27. "I believe that one of the reasons we in Vermont have not experienced the turmoil currently embroiling the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion to the degree that some other dioceses have is that this spirit of koinonia, community, fellowship, friendship has been cultivated within the life of this diocese for a long time," Ely said. "I say that not to dismiss the differences among us, for surely they exist, but to acknowledge the gift of the 'Word of Life,' the 'Christ-life' among us."

Recalling the resolution passed at the 2005 convention committing the Diocese of Vermont to the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, Ely said: "I have been tremendously impressed by the way this resolution has sparked increased attention to global mission in our diocese. Maybe it just uncovered the commitment that was already there, or maybe it just awakened a 'sleeping giant.'"

"It is my conviction that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion need to reclaim participation in God's reconciling mission as a defining mark of our koinonia -- our communion and community," Ely said. "Narrowly defining what it means to be Anglican on the basis of one or two wedge issues is not the work of koinonia. A communion-wide Covenant for Mission, like that proposed by the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism, would serve our koinonia and God's reconciling mission far better. Let mission be the agenda of the church. Let mission be the agenda for General Convention. Let mission be the agenda for the Primates. Let mission be the agenda for Lambeth 2008. Let mission be our agenda."

Ely also announced that the diocese would begin an 18-month celebration of its 175th anniversary beginning in June 2007. An audible "wow!" from around the Cathedral followed his announcement that then-Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori would join delegates at the 2007 Diocesan Convention.

Ely will begin a sabbatical on December 2, during which he will explore the global mission vocation of the bishop. He will spend time in both Sudan and El Salvador. The convention Eucharist included the commissioning of the bishop, the Sabbatical Planning Team and the congregations of the diocese for a time of renewal, learning and growth.

The Very Rev. David A. duPlantier, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans, spoke at dinner October 27 and preached at the convention Eucharist on the morning of October 28. As one delegate said, "He really put skin on the Katrina story for us."

DuPlantier described the work of Christ Church Cathedral following Katrina and told the story of the commissioning of Irvin Mayfield's "All the Saints," which, he said, "changed the image New Orleanians have of the Episcopal Church and Christ Church Cathedral. Ironically, he said, the storm freed him and the Cathedral from the old line, "But we've always done it this way."

"As our foundations were shaken, what I was most struck by was new possibilities that emerged," he said.

DuPlantier's sermon centered on a comment Louisiana Bishop Charles Jenkins made in the early days after Katrina: "Where the world sees death, the church sees resurrection." DuPlantier said this attitude is a fundamental reason the church was able to respond so quickly and to maintain its focus over the long term. "We are the seeds of hope," he said.

Delegates approved resolutions that

  • asks the diocesan Dismantling Racism Commission to take the lead in initiating "a comprehensive program of collecting and documenting the extent to which (a) the Diocese of Vermont may have been complicit in the institution of slavery and in the subsequent history of segregation and discrimination, (b) Scripture may have been used by members of the Episcopal Church in Vermont to support the institution of slavery, and (c) the Episcopal Church and its parishes in Vermont derived economic benefits from the institution of slavery." The resolution is modeled on General Convention Resolution A123;
  • urges the Vermont legislature to adopt the concept that ground water is a public trust resource;
  • urges members of the Abrahamic religious traditions to work for the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East;
  • adopts a new method of determining parish assessments;
  • establishes a process for determining minimum clergy compensation;
  • sets minimum clergy compensation for 2007.

In the business session, Convention delegates adopted a balanced budget of just more than $1.1 million. The diocesan commitment to the Episcopal Church will increase one percent over the previous year to 15 percent. The increase represents a determination to increase each year until the full asking of 22 percent is reached. Total funding from congregations remains at the 2006 level for 2007 to permit a transition to a new method for calculating congregational support. A tiered method will give way to a flat asking of 15 percent from all congregations, with a 10 percent cap on increases in any given year.

The Diocese of Vermont comprises about 8,700 Episcopalians worshipping in 48 congregations.