The Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina, meeting in its 85th annual Convention November 9-11 at Kanuga Conference Center, near Hendersonville, heard its bishop say that the church needs to confront the world's poverty and hunger.
"The greatest cause we must confront is not a difference over human sexuality; it's poverty and hunger," said Bishop G. Porter Taylor.
" I do not discount the differences in our church or our diocese over human sexuality," Taylor said, adding, "I simply say, instead of repeating the arguments we've been having for 30 years, let's get on with the work we can do together to change the world."
Taylor emphasized two diocesan initiatives, passed by the convention, to increase the diocese's intentional ministry to the wider Body of Christ:
- Adoption of the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals, and
- Entering into a formal companion diocese relationship with the Diocese of Durgapur in West Bengal, India. (This is the first companion relationship between an Episcopal Church diocese and a diocese in India, according to a news release from the Diocese of Western North Carolina.)
The convention also approved a new mission statement:"Our mission is to be disciples of Jesus, transformed by prayer, sacrament, scripture, and ministry, to continue to engage the world in the name of Christ."
Commenting on the mission statement, Taylor said, "We are called to be disciples of Jesus and to engage the world in His name."
"We are called to love as he loves; to go where he went; and to reach out our arms just as he reached out his. Being a disciple means being transformed and being agents of God's transformation."
California Bishop Marc Andrus was the convention's chaplain. Andrus pointed out that the Episcopal Church has declined by four percent over the past few years, as have all the mainline church bodies in the United States. The churches that will grow in the future, he said, are those who promote "justice" as their primary focus, that "simply see the face of Christ in all its people."
On conflict the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, Taylor told the convention: "I do not know what will happen to our Church and the Anglican Communion. But I do know this: God's deep desire is for us to allow the Holy Spirit to bind us together for the God's mission to reconcile all men and women to God and one another in Christ; God wants us to build bridges."
The convention also adopted resolutions to:
- restructure the cathedral covenant with the Cathedral of All Souls, Asheville, to allow a new pattern of representative membership on the cathedral chapter and to provide for different meeting requirements;
- reaffirm the diocese's commitment to increase the percentage of the diocesan budget for local, national and international justice and outreach ministries, with the goal being a tithe of the budget;
- embrace the goal of a tithe as the minimum level of parish giving to the diocese;
- set minimum guidelines for clergy compensation;
- recommend the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day as a date to designate loose plate offering to Thompson Child and Family Focus (formerly Thompson Children's Home);
- include the diocese's Hispanic/Latino Ministry Committee under the umbrella of the diocesan Justice and Outreach Ministries Commission;
- encourage the diocese's Gay and Lesbian Ministries to dialogue with the diocesan Commission on Youth Ministries in the next year regarding the development of "life-affirming strategies and resources."
The Diocese of Western North Carolina comprises 15,000 Episcopalians worshipping in 65 congregations.