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MICHIGAN: Bishop calls diocese to faithful, bold stewardship

By Mary Frances Schjonberg


[Episcopal News Service]  The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, meeting October 27-28 in its 172nd annual Convention, heard its bishop call on the diocese "to challenge ourselves and our concept of what it means to be stewards of the legacy of our forbearers."

Bishop Wendell Gibbs said, "I do not believe the answer to our financial questions is to whittle away at our resources."

He called for the Diocesan Council to work with his staff "to outline a clear strategy that effectively utilizes our available financial resources to strengthen our common ministry in this and succeeding generations."

"I call upon all members of our diocesan household to be faithful and bold in their stewardship, that the work we have begun will not be lost to fear and uncertainty," he said. "In the process of discerning and implementing this strategy, we must recommit ourselves to Gospel mission rather than occupy ourselves with governance."
Gibbs spoke during his address of the convention's theme of "respecting the dignity of every human being."

"Respecting human dignity is a sacred responsibility that finds expression within and outside of the faith community," he said. "As a baptized member of the body of Christ, I believe we who find ourselves within the Church must be held to an even greater standard: rooted and grounded in God's grace. It is precisely because we are a community of faith that all we do and say must reflect a commitment to upholding the worth of every member of the human family. This is as true in those times when such worth is hard to acknowledge or afford as it is in those times when such worth is freely and easily recognized. To do otherwise is quite simply and unequivocally sin."

Gibbs said he came to the Episcopal Church because it was a community where all were welcomed. "Having my human dignity honored first and foremost because I am a child of God rather than having to earn it was appealing," he said. "I was not naïve enough to think that life in the Episcopal Church would be free of disagreements. I have been ever hopeful that the Church can continue to live into its history of being broad enough to find unity in celebration of its diversity."

He told the convention that he voted in favor of General Convention Resolution B033 "to allow us a time to pause in the midst of this heated debate where we might listen more carefully to one another."

"It was my attempt to respect the dignity of all those who have an opinion and a stake in the outcome of the conversation. To anyone who was angered or disappointed by my vote on this resolution, I apologize and assure you of my continued respect for where you feel called to be and your right to disagree," he said. "My hope is that we are willing to speak the truth to one another in love that we might learn to live in harmony with our diversity, respecting one another's dignity."

The complete text of Gibbs' address is available here.

The convention approved a 2007 budget of $2,836,484. 

The convention approved canonical changes focused on authority and accountability across the diocese, including:

measuring appropriate support from congregations for the diocesan ministry, and what to do when a congregation does not meet the agreed upon level of support;

  • clarifying that investments, gifts, and endowment income that are used for normal operating expenses of churches are to be included in the formula for calculating the diocesan funding formula; and
  • providing that when a congregation is unable to pay its apportionment, it shall state its reasons in an appeal to the Diocesan Council, which has the authority to make an adjustment.

The convention referred back to the Committee on Constitution and Canons a report on the issue of whether Convention or Diocesan Council has overarching authority on the decisions of the diocese. The committee's report is available here.

The Diocese of Michigan comprises about 27,100 Episcopalians worshipping in 93 congregations.