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WEST VIRGINIA: Bishop calls for attention to Gospel, not conflict

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

Bishop W. Michie Klusmeyer of West Virginia.  

[Episcopal News Service]  The Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia, meeting as its 129th annual Convention September 15-17 at Pipestem Resort State Park, heard its bishop say it was time for the Episcopal Church to move forward.

"There are many bishops, as well as many lay people who are tired of the extremes battling it out," Bishop W. Michie Klusmeyer told the Convention. "I believe that new coalitions and new visions for the Church will be forthcoming, and that the various meetings taking place around the Church -- those known, and those unknown -- will help move us forward, together."

Saying the diocese is not overwhelmed with conflict, Klusmeyer said: "Certainly we have our struggles, but we struggle together. Certainly we do not all agree on all things, but we do agree that the Christ and the Church are important.

"Both extremes of our Church, the extreme liberals and the extreme conservatives (I’m sorry for these labels, but they are the easiest ways to describe them) have used inaccurate reports to spur emotions, and to further divide the Communion and our Church. Both sides are guilty," he said.

"For some, it is more important to rally the forces around these causes than it is to rally the faithful around the Gospel message -- and the message we are here to proclaim: Build my Church," Klusmeyer said. "They are more concerned with maintaining the Anglican Communion than they are about maintaining the congregation in which they worship. The mission of the Church is not to perpetuate it, or to correct it. That is God’s business."

Klusmeyer said it is time for the Episcopal Church to recover its strengths. "Today, it seems, rather than working to be the inclusive, via media, that was our strength, we are on the lookout to see who we can excommunicate next," he said.

"The people in the pews are, for the most part, tired of hearing of our internal fights and struggles. They want to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. They want to be fed. They want to know why Jesus should be an important part of their lives," Klusmeyer said. "If they are fed, they stay. If they are not, they leave, and with good reason."

The full text of the bishop’s address is available here.

Among the resolutions the Convention passed were ones to:

* endorse global reconciliation and 0.7 percent giving to international development in support of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and call on Episcopalians to urge the U.S. government to fulfill its spending commitments to the MDGs;

* authorize congregations through their governance to direct that the diocesan giving to the Episcopal Church be reduced by a portion of the congregation’s assessment and that the portion be given to a ministry of the Episcopal Church outside the diocese at the discretion of the Diocesan Council; and review its directive annually until the annual diocesan convention next following the 2009 General Convention.

* encourage evangelism and church growth; and

* request that the Diocesan Council and the Diocesan Trustees have a goal to refrain from investing in corporations that promote and profit from ongoing conflict in the state of Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and throughout Palestine.

The full texts of the resolutions are available here.

The Diocese of West Virginia comprises about 10,000 Episcopalians worshipping in 75 congregations.