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OKLAHOMA: Hold to Episcopal Church's uniqueness, bishop tells convention

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

Bishop Robert Moody of Oklahoma  

[Episcopal News Service]  The Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, meeting November 10 and 11 at the Reed Center, Midwest City, in its 69th Annual Meeting and Convention, showed "a sure and certain hope for the Church in Oklahoma and a gentle spirit of gratitude for the 19 years of leadership of Bishop Robert Moody," according to the diocesan news release.

Moody was one of the youngest bishops in the church when he was elected on the first ballot in 1987 and is now a senior bishop.

During his address, Moody commended the Baptismal Covenant to the convention as a way forward through the Episcopal Church's current conflict.

"Baptism brings us into a hallowed and sacred relationship with God and with one another. The Church is the community of the baptized. In our present struggles, let us not forget that," he said. "Let us treat one another in such a manner that we honor the promise to respect the dignity of every human being (regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation). Let us also strive to honor the dignity of those who are within the faith but have broken fellowship because of their disagreements with the actions of General Convention and/or their bishop. That is not easy, I admit. But it is important and essential if we bear the baptismal mark of Christian disciple and follower of Christ."

Moody also praised the Episcopal Church's diversity.

"We are an interesting expression of Christianity, we Episcopalians," he said. "We are the latest chapter of what happens when you mix Celtic and Mediterranean streams of Christianity to form an Anglican expression of Christian faith that is mixed vigorously with the American experiment of democracy and the separation of church and state. Do that and you get us, the Episcopal Church."

He said people must trust the church these days and understand its unique United States-formed characteristics. Moody listed some of those characteristics as "the importance of recognizing that all baptized people, lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons are the ministers of the church; that bishops should be elected and not appointed; that dioceses and congregations should be responsible for the financial stewardship that enables the exercise of mission and ministry; that there is an important difference between the church and the state; that professing a religious belief is a freedom and a privilege and not an obligation/compulsion imposed by an earthly power.

"When we understand the unique freedoms and responsibilities that the American democratic experiment provides, then we can begin to appreciate the opportunities and the responsibilities that are ours as members of the Episcopal Church," he said.

"We have certainly exhibited and experienced our clumsy, untidy and broken nature in recent years. For some this has been unbearable," he said. "Some have chosen to abandon the good ship Episcopal Church and sail away to safer harbors in dinghies flying an Anglican flag and singing 'Nearer my God to thee.' Those of us who remain on the ship know that the situation is perilous/difficult but we trust our vessel. We trust the Episcopal Church - its historical and theological foundations, its democratic polity, and the integrity of its clergy and lay leaders."       

Moody's address has not yet been posted on the diocese's website.

This year's convention approved a budget of just more than $4 million dollars.

Convention considered only two substantive resolutions and both passed without amendment.

The first committed the diocese to help in the implementation of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by designating 0.7% of the annual budget of the diocese to the goals. The resolution also challenged congregations and individuals in Oklahoma to pledge a like amount of their income.

The second resolution congratulated Katharine Jefferts Schori on her election as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and pledged the diocese's support during her tenure.

The Diocese of Oklahoma comprises about 20,000 Episcopalians worshipping in 72 congregations.