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OHIO: 'Grow, give, and serve,' bishop tells diocese

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

Bishop Mark Hollingsworth of Ohio  

[Episcopal News Service]  The 190th annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, meeting October 27-28 at Trinity Commons in Cleveland, Ohio, made a series of canonical changes, addressed issues of hunger and homelessness, and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and heard Bishop Mark Hollingsworth challenge delegates to "grow, give, and serve."

"I offer this simple and challenging plan to you as individual Christians, as households and families, as Episcopal parishes, and as the Diocese of Ohio, and I invite you to be active participants in the process of living into it together," he said.

Hollingsworth described the three-prong plan as: grow in faith, numbers, and resources for mission; give sacrificially as a spiritual surrender of self to God; and serve the world together as the risen body of Jesus Christ.

"Our challenge is to seek together what God is imagining us to be tomorrow -- ten, twenty-five, fifty years from now -- and to begin growing into that today," he said. "It means having the humility to accept that how we have been the church up until now might not be what God needs of us in the years ahead. It means having the courage to let go of the familiar so that we can be freed to try the novel."

Recalling the shooting of Amish schoolgirls in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, Hollingsworth said that community's ability to forgive the girls' killer grew out of its spiritual discipline.

"The Amish employ none of the technology with which we claim to communicate better and build greater community -- automobiles, telephones, cell phones, Internet, e-mail. Ironically, these are often the very tools by which we, in our denomination, foster domestic and global division," he said. "While the Amish appear to build a community that is isolated from the contemporary world, they in fact practice an inclusiveness and forgiveness that connects them more intimately with others than we might be able to imagine."

Speaking of conflicts in the diocese, Hollingsworth expressed confidence in finding a resolution.

"We may not be able to talk our way through our differences, but we can surely serve our way through them," he said. "I continue to appreciate your patience as I attempt to find a generous and reasonable resolution in response to those congregations who almost a year ago informed me of their disassociation from this diocese and The Episcopal Church. I maintain a realistic hope that such a resolution is possible."

Hollingsworth said that people in the diocese despite "all of the challenging abundance of our differences" desire a "deeper unity borne of serving together that will help us reclaim our common mission as the body of Christ in service to the world.

The complete text of Hollingsworth's address is available here.

Among the resolutions passed by Convention were ones that:

  • change diocesan canons to reflect structural changes in the Episcopal Community Services Foundation;
  • expand the list of people eligible to propose diocesan convention resolutions;
  • set minimum clergy compensation levels for 2007;
  • make minimum clergy compensation standards apply to all parochial clergy;
  • call for a strategy and a model to be used in planting or restarting congregations that "preach the message of the Gospel and evangelize among economically and socially marginalized communities across lines of race and class" to acknowledge their unique financial challenges;
  • urge the use of diverse worship resources in diocesan worship and to expand the use of languages beyond English in diocesan liturgies;
  • charter a commission to support and encourage the achievement of the MDGs throughout the diocese and committed to that commission a second resolution to commit the $25,000 set aside in the 2007 diocesan budget for international development to the work of the Anglican Diocese of El Salvador to establish learning centers in every church there; and
  • charter a 12-member task force on hunger and homelessness.

Delegates rejected a resolution that would have suspended congregations from union with the Convention if they failed to provide pensions to lay employees who work at least 1,000 hours a year.

Information about all the resolutions is available here.

The Diocese of Ohio comprises about 30,000 Episcopalians worshipping in 100 congregations.