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WESTERN NEW YORK: Diocese readjusts its constitution and canons, looks to future

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

The Rt. Rev. J. Michael Garrison  

[Episcopal News Service]  The Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, meeting in Cheektowaga in its 169th annual Convention October 27-28, heard a report about its present and future, and approved a series of canonical changes.

A diocesan Futures Committee, appointed by Bishop J. Michael Garrison to explore the diocese's present tense and to plan for its future, began its work early in 2005. The committee hosted five listening events, followed last September by a daylong diocesan discussion involving nearly 200 individuals. Using the information gained from these events, the committee forged the vision, mission statement, and goals that they will be proposing to Convention for the next phase of the life of the diocese, according to a diocesan news release.

Convention delegates were asked to take lead roles in involving their respective congregations in the ongoing development and implementation of this plan.

"For me one of the ongoing sad dichotomies of our life together has been a failure to affirm and live the following: 'We are the Diocese of Western New York.' The diocese is too often seen as the office on Delaware Avenue, or maybe the diocesan staff, or sometimes even just me, your bishop," Garrison said during his address. "Friends, none of these are the Diocese of Western New York. We, all of us here today in this room along with all other members of our 63 parishes and missions, are the Diocese of Western New York. If we are ever going to move into the deeper realms of 'community,' that must be our entry point. For any vision, mission, or goal to be implemented, it will take the commitment of all of us."

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

Convention considered 18 resolutions proposed by the Constitution and Canons Review Task Force. This group was charged by the bishop with the task of updating the Diocesan Constitution and Canons so that they are consistent with both national and diocesan practice and the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.

The only one of those resolutions that did not pass was one that would have amended a portion of the canons to read: "As soon as may be practicable after the hearing and upon consultation with the Diocesan Council and the Standing Committee, the Bishop shall either give or refuse consent to the establishment of the proposed new work. New work established under this Canon shall be reported by the Bishop to the next Annual Convention." The amendment would have added the Standing Committee to the existing wording of the canon.

Other resolutions concerned the diocese's ongoing support of the Millennium Development Goals and the issue of health insurance for clergy and other employees of the church.

Information about all the resolutions is available here.

The Diocese of Western New York comprises about 15,300 Episcopalians worshipping in 63 congregations.