Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Disturb Us Lord, 161st Diocese of Texas Council Address

By The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle
Lay-delegates to the 161st Annual Council of the Diocese of Texas, members of the ECW, reverend clergy, fellow-bishops of the church, and visitors, I greet you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We all give thanks to the people of Killeen, and the area congregations who have joined forces to welcome us and provide for us last night and today. We are very grateful for your expertise and all your efforts on our behalf!

I am pleased to thank Bishop George Packard for his sermon last night, which was well received by all and honed our attention t the work of the church, and especially the work of this church in this place. I was also delighted to have Bishops Benitez, Payne, and Wimberly join us. What a gift each of them is to me and I treasure their wisdom and willingness to be present with our church family for the great celebration we had last night.

I, of course, also welcome Bishop James Tengatenga, Bishop of the Diocese of Southern Malawi and president of the Anglican Consultative Council, who joins us while on sabbatical. Bishop Tengatenga is waiting expectantly for our vote on the resolution that would partner our diocese with the good and faithful people of the Diocese of Southern Malawi.

Our prayers are with Bishop Dena Harrison and her husband Larry as they travel with Episcopal Relief and Development to Africa. Let me say though that I am grateful as ever for Bishop Rayford High and Harrison’s companionship in this journey of the Episcopate. I am also grateful for the work of Canon Ann Normand and Jaime Case.

These first eight months have been amazing. I love my job. I love my work and ministry. I love worshiping with you each Sunday. I love listening to you. I love seeing the great works of service and ministry you are taking up as Jesus’ hands and heart in this world. I love celebrating the birth of your children and it is humbling to share the darkest moments of your life. I love being an Episcopalian. I love being an Anglican. I love being your bishop, and I am proud to say so and proud to talk of your work and ministry with those outside the confines of this diocese. I am a blessed man, a grateful man, and a humbled man.

So it is that I begin simply with a word of thanks to you, the people of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, for the wonderful beginning I have experienced as your bishop. Thank you.

I found a business card of Bishop Quin’s, on the back it reads: “Drive safely, you might hit an Episcopalian.” Today I am ever more keenly aware that the Episcopalian in question might indeed be your bishop! It has been a busy year that found all three of us on the road quite a bit. I traveled more than 15,000 miles, with my duties completed as coadjutor and now fully engulfed in the work of diocesan; I am already on track to break 20,000 miles in 2010.

With your help, we have been about the work of visioning and goal setting. It has been busy with the politics of the church. It has been busy with the everyday work of the office of bishop: pastoral care, teaching, sacraments and administration.

This year I have provided a published Bishop’s Report that puts in your hands a tremendous amount of information about what I, the other bishops, and your diocesan staff have undertaken in the past year. Next year, you can expect us to cover the goals set forth by our vision work.

You should have received this report via email this week, and each delegation should have a copy to review today. It is also available on our epicenter website.

I am asking that the written report be included in the minutes of this council, along with the official acts, mission, and ministry of your bishops.

Sir Francis Drake was an adventurer and a legal pirate, raiding Spanish ships with permission out of Portsmouth. He was a friend of Queen Elizabeth and a strong Anglican. Optimistic and courageous he withstood storms of every kind as he circumnavigated the world.
He wrote these words:

Disturb us, Lord, when

We are too pleased with ourselves,

When our dreams have come true

Because we dreamed too little,

When we arrived safely

Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Staff Development

As we look back at the great work we have accomplished in the area of Christian Formation we cannot rest on our laurels but must dream greater dreams, we must venture further from shore.

The first initiative that I want to draw our attention to is the thinking through and reworking of our ministry in the area of Christian Formation.

Our vision states that we hold as a primary work the forming and growing of our diocese. We understand that those seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus are nurtured and equipped to share the love of Christ in the world. They find lifelong opportunities for spiritual formation and servant leadership grounded in scripture and our historic catholic faith.

We must be unambiguously Episcopalian, rooted deep in our Anglican ethos. We need leadership that will focus our efforts, connect our resources and build bridges of communication.

Using the Charter of Life Long Christian Formation as a guide to flesh out our own ideas, I will begin new strategic work with the Christian Formation Committee this year. The charter, written in part by our own Janie Stevens, missioner for Christian formation, is reprinted in part in the Bishop’s Report.

Following Council I will meet with the Executive Board Sub-committee on Vision and Mission to go over and review staffing in the area of formation. With Janie’s Steven’s retirement from the post of Christian formation missioner, the Christian Formation hire will be a major, strategic move for our common mission and ministry.

We must find some one with Janie’s passions, and someone with skills to take us into the future. We need someone who will dream dreams with us, such dreams as will engage our hearts and minds for the undertaking of this essential and expanded work. Someone who will help us sail into deeper spiritual waters further from shore.

I believe this reorganization and hire will be a cornerstone in continuing a strong tradition of leadership locally and nationally regarding Christian Formation; moreover, I hope it will not only help people become Christian disciples but help us form people in the unique and rich tradition of our Episcopal Church. We are about making Christian disciples who are particularly Episcopalian and members of a global family, the Anglican Communion.

Finance Development

Drake prayed:

Disturb us, Lord, when

with the abundance of things we possess,

We have lost our thirst

For the waters of life;
The diocese is a strong diocese, a wealthy diocese, and a healthy diocese in many respects. We are given abundant gifts. But we must be wise stewards of this abundance. We must seek to be disturbed to use our resources for ever greater good in the name of Christ.

Therefore, I have asked the Finance Committee of the Executive Board to begin work this year on the issues of denominational health care and how it will affect the clergy and institutions of the diocese. We will spend close to $17,000 on a clergy family’s health care this year. We may see that rise to $25,000 in five to ten years. We must take steps to curb this cost lest it be detrimental to our missionary dollars.

I have asked the Finance Committee to review the diocesan assessment and asking calculations and their missionary function. When congregations are struggling our formula is not helpful and this makes rebounding from financial stresses very difficult. Furthermore, we only receive half of what we ask for in the missionary asking budget. We have to look realistically at both of these formulas and move carefully into the future. We have had this formula since 1992.

All of this is maintenance work in my opinion. But if we do not undertake it, and undertake it well, we find ourselves managing instead of leading to greater health, wellness, and growth. We find ourselves resting on the assumed abundance of the past without a care for the stewardship of our future.

Church Planting

Drake prayed:

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,

To venture on wilder seas

Since I graduated from high school in 1984 we have managed to successfully plant: three parishes and eight missions; of which five, which were begun in the 80’s, today have less than 40 people each Sunday.

Our growth in the diocese has predominantly come from our transition and larger congregations over this same period of time. I believe this shows a successful mission to revitalize congregations through congregational development.

However, we, as a diocese, must revision strategies for church planting. In 2010, we will begin to develop a collaborative strategy for church planting that will combine the resources of leadership at the diocesan level with local leadership in the congregation to bring about long-term results. We have several new congregations underway. However, we must develop a long-term plan that will strategically allow for a new church start every year!

I will appoint a group to chart this course for us made up of leadership from around the diocese, from the foundations, and diocesan staff.
Proposed Anglican Covenant

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,

To venture on wilder seas

Where storms will show Your mastery;

Where, losing sight of land,

We shall find the stars.

We have been playing it safe in this diocese when it comes to the proposed Covenant and the issues of diversity. For a while we only heard from our bishop. For a while we did not talk about it. For some time now we have been talking about our problems in our separate camps. We are quick to scapegoat others in order to find relief, yet at the same time we fail to recognize our own stubbornness in not setting about doing the work God has given us to do.

It is time for us to venture more boldly into wilder seas; seas wherein we do not rely upon our own selves but upon God’s mastery.

For the remainder of this year, I am calling for a year of prayer regarding the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant and its meaning for the church and for our diocese in particular. I am appointing a task force to help the diocese focus our attention on the Covenant and will ask them to develop a study curriculum and resources. I also will be asking the task force to propose a model for congregations to engage in conversation around the proposed Covenant and its principles.

I hope the process will enable members of congregations to communicate to their leadership and make known to their delegates their mind on the proposed Covenant.

I also want the task force to work with the Committee on Order of Business and plan for discussion at Diocesan Council so that we may arrive at a statement on the mind of Council concerning the Covenant. This will mean our deputation will have listened to the people of the diocese prior to taking part in the national discussions expected at our next General Convention.

Furthermore, such a mind of Council will help me in my work as a leader within the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion.

My statements and work with the wider Church are strengthened when I am able to communicate, clearly capturing the position of this diocese (a bishop and his people listening and speaking in communion with one another).

Church unity in the midst of diversity

In 2010, I will also be putting together a special task force to review the issues that may arise from General Convention in 2012 and to create a strategy with a means of leading into the following Convention as opposed to reacting to it.

Such a strategy will help us navigate what is already a turbulent time, with a steady course. This will help us to live within a relationship of mutual affection for both the structures of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Moreover, we must discover how we in the Diocese of Texas are going to move through these next few years together for the sake of the Gospel, Christ, all of God’s people, for justice and for peace, and for the mission of the Church.

Let me be clear, we have got to learn to live together, how we discern the outward and visible signs of that life together, and the daily living out of Church, as our common work – not only the work of your bishop.
 We will be tempted by cynicism to say this work can’t be done; but the scripture reminds us of God’s desire to gather us all under his wing.

 We will be tempted by our ego to say we cannot work with the enemy; but the scripture tells us go with a friend to our brother and sister and be reconciled one to another before offering a sacrifice at the Lord’s Table.

 We will be tempted to say I have tried to speak but they will not hear, but we must be reminded of Christ’s model of listening first to the other.

 We will be tempted by our fear to say it’s just better if we don’t talk about it at all; but we know “to you all our hearts are open, all desires known, and no secrets are hid.”

 We will be tempted by our lack of trust in God to say it is impossible, yet the scripture tells us all things are possible with God.

 We will be tempted to say, I have already heard what they have to say, what else is there, and we will hear the words of Jesus to Nathaniel, “greater things than these you will see.”
Until we get these pieces worked out as a body of faithful people following Jesus Christ, we are going to have difficulty doing the greater work of mission and attracting people to our church.
A divided house cannot stand.
I would add to Drake’s prayer:

Disturb us Lord that we may see your hand at work in the world, that we may see your mastery, and help us to boldly lose sight of our own needs that we may see you face to face in our neighbor.

The Church’s Mission

Disturb us Lord, Having fallen in love with life,

We have ceased to dream of eternity

And in our efforts to build a new earth,

We have allowed our vision

Of the new Heaven to dim.

One church in mission is not simply a piece of our vision – it is not just a few words on a page. It is not an idea. It is not a dream. Such thoughts and the willingness to deny the sacramental nature of church unity rise out of our own love for the way things are and the way things have been. We are managing our selves into decline; rather than building upon the sacramental unity God’s reign.

The communion, or koinonia, of the Church is an essential doctrinal principal. It is a principle that runs throughout the scripture, creeds, early church fathers, the monastics, our prayers and liturgy. Oneness and unity are that quality of the sacramental life from which all acts of peace, justice, service, and dignity course out into the world.

Communion is a dominant theological building block that describes the very essence of what it means to be church. The church as one communion in mission is not dependent upon humanity. It is not a concept determined by how we feel about one another today.

There is an intimate theology between the sacramental unity of the body of Christ, broken for the world and celebrated every Sunday for the distinct, and I would say unique, purpose of being Christ in the world. This unique presence is lived out week after week from the Northeast to the Southwest, from Carthage to Palacios, and every where in between where a priest stands at the altar, and in the place of Christ and Bishop, makes bread and wine the sacrament of God’s very body and blood and transforms everyday people into the holy people of God.

As Saint Paul described it in his first letter to the Corinthians chapter 12 and in his letter to the Romans chapter 12, Christ and the people of his church are as one body. This image and mutual relationship between the church and Christ’s body is also found in John 15, Ephesians 5, Revelations 21, and 22. The Church in Texas exists as an extension of the human life of Jesus, concrete and with history. The Church is to be, and I believe meant by God to be, the fulfillment of God’s creative work through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Church exists as the vessel of the historic and apostolic faith. E. J. Bicknell wrote, “The church is…a school for Christian character. Fellowship in the church is a moral discipline…the modern idea of separate free ‘churches’ ministers to the desires of our fallen human nature by providing a means of escape from the need of self-control. The Church exists to carry on the work of Christ in the world, and that work is hindered by open divisions among Christians. Our Lord’s will is that Christians should be manifestly one, so that the world may believe in His divine mission (John 17:20-23).” (Thirty Nine Articles, 238)

Regardless of the parts of our church who believe this way or that way -- I believe in the Church that is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

I believe in the greater church’s witness to the Trinity, the uniqueness of Christ, the historic faith of our councils, the creeds, the scripture, the practice of apostolic worship and apostolic teaching.

No one person or council action may dilute or overturn the church catholic’s traditional and historic faith.

This is an important point because it means that for me, your bishop, the Church does not exist to have councils where it makes pronouncements that divide the body of Christ and weaken Christ’s mission to the world. Councils themselves exist to build the church catholic and universal. Councils exist to interpret that faith of Jesus crucified and resurrected to a world seeking divine intervention and to insure through stewardship that the Church does indeed undertake Christ’s mission and Gospel proclamation in word and in deed.

The church is one. It is unified. It is so by its nature. Such catholicity is a sacramental substance regardless of where we as individuals stand in relationship to it.

Our church exists because God makes it a gift to us by his own presence in the world and not by our own labors.

A great example of this is our vocational deacon Tracie Middleton who serves as chaplain to the volunteer fire department in Vidor. Through Christ’s sacramental presence in the community through Tracie, Bishop High baptized a child and several adults at the firehouse last week. The church is Christ in the world.

“The Church is an instrument for the realization of God’s eternal design, [the glory of God and] the salvation of humanity… It is within the Church, where the Holy Spirit gives and nurtures the new life of the kingdom, that the Gospel becomes a manifest reality. The church is therefore called to be, and by the power of the Spirit actually is, a sign, steward and instrument of God’s design. (ARCIC Statement, Salvation, 1987, 29)

The Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Texas exists as a unified church not out of our own work but the very work of Jesus Christ through the sacrament and through the presence of the Holy Spirit within it.

So we must pray faithfully:

Disturb us, Lord, when

We are too pleased with ourselves,

When our dreams have come true

Because we dreamed too little,

When we arrived safely

Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when

with the abundance of things we possess

We have lost our thirst

For the waters of life;

Having fallen in love with life,

We have ceased to dream of eternity

And in our efforts to build a new earth,

We have allowed our vision

Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,

To venture on wilder seas

Where storms will show Your mastery;

Where losing sight of land,

We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back

The horizons of our hopes;

And to push back the future

In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,

Who is Jesus Christ. Amen.

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  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball