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WEST MISSOURI: Convention supports stem-cell research, hears bishop's call for unity, evangelism

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
11/13/2006
[Episcopal News Service]  The Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri, meeting in its 117th annual Convention October 27-28 in Kansas City, went on record supporting stem-cell research, saying that such research -- both embryonic and adult -- is "consistent with the theological teaching and moral practices of the Episcopal Church."

The convention heard West Missouri Bishop Barry Howe call it to the "purposeful work" of evangelism.

"We do not live in an era when people are going to break down the walls of
our sanctuaries in order to become members of our communities of faith," he said. "We must have a plan for evangelism that is created and carried out in accordance with the unique characteristics of each congregation."

Howe also spoke about current conflicts in the world and in the Episcopal Church, noting that both arenas include people and groups who are "very intent upon separation and disunity."

"The fear that has gripped so many in the world as a result of extreme terrorism has led more and more people to seek a ‘purity of truth' that does not exist, but yet becomes very real in the minds and hearts of so many. This attachment to a ‘purity of truth' breeds fundamentalisms that are translated into new nationalisms, new militarisms, new spiritualisms, and new moralisms -- all ‘isms' that claim to possess the only path to salvation," Howe said. "Our own political system has been co-opted by one such fundamentalism -- the religious right -- and the result of this dominance in all branches of government tears away at the fabric of our society."

Howe said a similar quest for "purity of truth" is at work in the Episcopal Church.

"In our House of Bishops, there are several members who will no longer come to the communion table and share the Body and Blood of Christ with the rest of us," he said. "Their quest for a ‘purity of truth' has convinced them that submission to a prescribed doctrine and scriptural interpretation is what drives God to select who enters the divine Kingdom and who does not. They are leading a very concerted effort to convince faithful people to join with them, proclaiming all others to be out of favor with God."

Observing the "very strident and judgmental voices being raised especially in many Anglican Provinces of the Southern Hemisphere," Howe said, "their cries are not for reconciliation -- but for separation."

"Their mantra is one that subscribes condemnation for those who are not the righteous in their eyes. It is a very difficult time in our Church as we try to rise above such condemnation and disunity, and live out our baptismal vows," he said. "But I submit that it is in such difficult times when the ministry and mission of Jesus Christ, carried out by you and by me, still bears the saving grace of God that transforms lives."

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

The Convention also passed resolutions that:

  • called for the development of strategies for increasing membership across the diocese;
  • called for a budget increase for communications initiatives;
  • would change an article in the diocesan constitution, if also passed by next year's convention, governing how membership is counted, striking the word "adult" from the definition "adult communicant" so that children can be counted;
  • called for the re-evaluation of the diocese's church-planting strategies; and
  • approved a nearly $1.7 million budget for 2007.

More information about the resolutions is available here.

The Diocese of West Missouri comprises about 11,823 Episcopalians worshipping in 52 congregations.