Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Last Day Reflections

Today we closed out our time by hearing from our Primate observers, those primates who had joined us for our time at Kanuga.

We also had a very good business meeting. We then finished with a town hall meeting and Eucharist.

It was a good meeting. While called a retreat there was not a lot of "retreat" to it. Your bishops work very hard from 8 in the morning till 9 at night. The day as you can read about below is filled with meetings and gatherings undertaking the work of the church in its various incarnations.

The Spirit of the House was good. It is my perception that we are committed to one another beyond our divisions. The spirit of collegiality and common work is very high. I feel as the Bishop of Texas that I am finding my way within the wider community of the House. I am finding my voice and participating in areas of our common life that are of interest to me.

Bishop High was missed. As he is drawing near to his time as our Bishop Suffragan he thought it best to tend to matters at home. It is clear that he and Pat are as beloved within the wider community of Bishops as he is in our own Diocese. I assured his many friends that he would be with us again in time.

I was proud to stand next to Bishop Harrison who is well regarded and sought after within the wider House for her insight, truthfulness, and leadership. She is not only a very important member of our diocesan life, she plays a leadership role within the wider church that should make all of us in the Diocese of Texas very proud. I continue to be grateful for her partnership and friendship. I assure the wider church is grateful for her ministry!

She is on her way home to host an IONA meeting between 7 other diocese and the Seminary as we share the resources of our school throughout the wider church. I leave tomorrow morning to join our administrators in San Antonio for the BEST conference. I will be serving on a panel of other bishops. Stephanie, Alice, and Martha are leaders within this community of Bishops' administrators and I am going to support them in their wider community. Then I will be at a gala for St. Mark's Episcopal School Houston Friday night, and at Palmer on Sunday. Sunday night we have a fundraising dinner for Camp Allen - then after long last I can have a day with my family.

Texas...I am proud of our diocese, grateful to be your bishop diocesan. We are doing good work in partnership with many around the Episcopal Church in the 17 different countries and the wider communion. I am looking forward to coming home and rejoining the local effort! This has been a good meeting of the House of Bishops.

Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, D.D.
IX Bishop of Texas
Sent from portable while out of office.

Daily Diary from the House of Bishops Meeting at Kanuga 2011

House of Bishops Daily Diary for Friday, March 25, 2011
These are the notes from the media briefing including my own remembrances and thoughts.

Thursday was a travel day to Kanuga Camp and Conference Center in North Carolina. I arrived late in the evening and moved into my room. I enjoyed passing the evening with friends from Dallas, Kansas, and Utah. On Friday morning I had several meetings, and went into town to purchase my share of hospitality supplies.

Each day we have a different emcee. Bishop Nedi Rivera was our MC for our first session. Bishop Katharine opened us with prayer and introductions. We began with introductions to our new bishops across the Episcopal Church Martin Field of West Missouri; Scott Hayashi of Utah; Dan Martins from Springfield.; Michael Milliken of Western Kansas; Michael Vono of Rio Grande; Terry White of Kentucky. We also had with us the new Bishops-Elect: William Franklin of Western New York; Rayford Ray of Northern Michigan.

The House of Bishops always has a number of visitors. This session we were blessed to be joined by Archbishop Fred Hiltz of the Anglican Church of Canada; Archbishop Henri Isingoma, Primate of Congo; and Archbishop Bishop Paul Kim, Primate of South Korea.

We sit in table groups in the house. There are seven bishops assigned to my table: Bishops Neil Alexander, Georgia, Gene Robinson, New Hampshire, David Bowan, resigned Ohio, Luis Ruiz, Central Ecuador, Sean Rowe, Northwest Pennsylvania, and Wayne Smith of Missouri. I was a table facilitator so I led our table in a time of checking in and reconnecting.

Our theme for the week was "Proclaiming the Gospel in the World."

The Presiding Bishop then spoke to us about the connections between the HOB meeting schedule and the announced topics: Proclamation of the Gospel to Young Adults, Islam and Christianity, The Proposed Anglican Covenant, Recruiting and Preparing Young People for Church Leadership. She focused on leadership in a changing world, urging the Church to raise up leaders to be agents of change for the sake of God's mission.

HOB Vice President Bishop Dean Wolfe of Kansas talked about the seven core values of HOB. Following that, there were discussions about the use of Facebook, texting and tweeting during the HOB meetings, and a consensus was reached among us that while we would communicate public news we would keep conversations between the bishops private in order to provide a safe place where we might be in relationship and speak freely and openly with one another.

During a Town Hall meeting, the bishops discussed various topics of interest. This tends to be a list of short announcements on committee/commission and task forces from around the church. It also includes a time for us to speak with one another openly in guiding the work that is constantly before us.

The session concluded with Eucharist; the Presiding Bishop celebrated and preached. The Town Hall session will continue after dinner. That night I made my way to the back porch during the hospitality hour and visited casually with many friends while we rocked our conversations into the evening. This is very important time for us and helps to build our communion through fellowship.

House of Bishops Daily Diary for Saturday, March 26, 2011
These are the notes from the media briefing including my own remembrances and thoughts.
Today our Emcee of the Day was Bishop Tom Shaw of Massachusetts. Following Morning Prayer and Bible Study, the bishops surprised Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on her birthday by singing Las Mananitas.

The topics and focus for the day was Proclamation of the Gospel to/with Young Adults: How can we be church in the 21st Century. Presenters were Lisa Kimball of Virginia Theological Seminary, and the Rev. Arrington Chambliss and Jason Long from the Diocese of Massachusetts. They are doing very good work in these places and I thought of how proud I am of the Diocese of Texas and the varieties of ways we accept the leadership of young adults. There is much we can offer the wider church AND there is much we can learn from the rest of the church around the country regarding mission and ministry to and with young adults. Please look at my facebook page for this day to see the online conversation and the resources that I shared during the conversation in the House of Bishops.

Lisa shared personal vignettes which illustrated work needed to be done with the Episcopal Church and young adults. Defining "young adults" is very complex and depends on context, but she focused on 19 -35 years old. She shared stats and facts about this age group.

Lisa presented discussion questions for the bishops: What are the challenges facing the young adults you know? What are their strengths? To what extent is the Church in your diocese reaching people like this? The bishops shared reactions and comments.

Lisa noted: there is a deep need in the church for faith formation in the home; "sadly" young adults are missing from our worship service; and those in 20s and 30s want to be in relation with the Episcopal Church.

The morning was a very long session of listening and digesting information. It was interesting to listen and speak with members of the House about how we think about and relate with those who are younger than ourselves.

Noon Eucharist was celebrated by Bishop Wendell Gibbs of Michigan. Preacher was the Rev. Stephanie Spellers of the Diocese of Massachusetts and one of the chaplains for HOB. Stephanie is our new chaplain to the House and did a wonderful job. She is a fine preacher and has been well received within the wider House.

In the afternoon session, Jason spoke about the Episcopal Service Corps. He shared his story of being evangelized, which was a transformational experience that also transformed the worshiping community. In speaking about Episcopal Service Corps he identified programs that will exist in Massachusetts and 16 other dioceses by this fall.

Arrington spoke about evangelism, and believes that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are poised to be the most transformative institutions in the 21st century. Arrington stated that evangelism is not a program, it's a spiritual practice; it's not institutional but individual; it doesn't start with telling but starts with listening.

She led a meditation on remembering a time when someone took you and your gifts seriously. As facilitator I lead our small group discussions exploring themes and needs, and to brainstorm on what might occur in the next year to partner with young adults in creating fresh expressions of Church.

Our sabbath time began after dinner. I spent the evening with Gary Lillibridge and David Reed of West Texas.

House of Bishops Daily Diary for Sunday, March 27, 2011
These are the notes from the media briefing including my own remembrances and thoughts.

I spent my time off with Bishop Wimberly and Harrison, read, and visited with a number of different bishops. I had a number of meetings (despite that this was supposed to be a time of rest). The meetings were good and I was able to catch up with a number of bishops and our common work on different work.

As some of you know we are now in full communion with the Moravian Church.

So we ended our sabbath time by gathering for Moravian Service of Holy Communion in the Kanuga Chapel. The Liturgy for Christian Unity was taken from the Moravian Book of Worship. The Bishops of the Moravian Church participating in the service were: The Rt. Rev. Dr. D. Wayne Burkette, who welcomed HOB to the service, thanking HOB "for the invitation to be part of the meeting of HOB and for the opportunity to worship," noting that he looks forward to "future times of worship and fellowship and common mission as expressions of our full communion."

He was joined by The Rt. Rev. Graham H. Rights, who provided the meditation. "I hope you will seek out Moravian partnership wherever you are," he said, bringing greetings from the 17 Moravian bishops (10 bishops in the Northern Province and 7 in the Southern Province).

He continued, "The Eucharist is a service of thanksgiving and tonight our thanksgiving is for this coming together. We have taken a step to answer the Lord's prayer that we all may be one."

He talked about an early bishop of the Unitas Fratrum, John Comenius, whose birthday was March 28, 1592. Comenius proposed a world assembly, and his early writings included those about the Anglican Church.

Bishop Rights pointed out that now, three different reformation churches are in communion with each other: the Episcopal Church, the Moravian Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. "It is an exciting time in the history of our communions," he said. "It is an exciting time for the universal church." The Rt. Rev. Lane A. Sapp also presided at the service.

We sang quite a bit which was a lot of fun, as you know I love to sing and there are many good voices in the House. For this particular service the music was prepared by the Director of Moravian Service Foundation Nola Knouse; organist was Paul F. Knouse.

I stayed up way to late enjoying the company of friends.

****From the Office of Public Affairs: Full communion between the Episcopal Church and the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church in North America was celebrated in February. The relationship of full communion was approved by the Episcopal Church General Convention in 2009 and by the 2010 Provincial Synods of the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church in North America.

House of Bishops Daily Diary for Monday, March 28, 2011
These are the notes from the media briefing including my own remembrances and thoughts.

Most mornings I met with the other table facilitators. Lunches typically were for meetings of Province VII or some such group. Following Morning Prayer and Bible study, the session was opened by Emcee for the Day Bishop Julio Holguin of Dominican Republic. He did this in Spanish.

Today our topic was: Who is my neighbor? Islam and Christianity.

Bishop Skip Adams of Central New York set the tone for the day and spoke about the realities of Muslims living in our society. He referred to practical, theological and religious aspects. The Rev. William L. Sachs, Ph.D, Executive Director of the Center for Interfaith Reconciliation in Richmond, VA, author and parish priest was our moderator. He introduced our guest speaker, author and leading authority on Islam in America, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University in Washington DC. He was fantastic and really challenged us to stand against prejudice and to recognize our own fear and realize the breast of Islamic expressions around the gold. The conversation from the House with Ambassador Ahmed was very interesting. He was followed by Eliza Griswold, author of the book The Tenth Parallel, an examination of Christianity and Islam in Africa and Asia. She was very captivating and I have ordered the book. I read the article in the New York Times and was interested. I thought she did a wonderful job and had a few minutes to walk with her in the afternoon. She offers us an interesting world view and challenges us to see our neighbor differently.

Sachs talked about the global clash of religions and way of life, referring to the "Clash of Civilizations" that has occurred since 9-11-01. He noted that the day's goal was to examine the complexities between Islam and Christianity occurring throughout the world, and to see who is our neighbor today

Among the points that Ahmed cited was that most converts to Islam are women. In talking about Islam, he said, "We share Jesus. We look at him differently but we share Jesus." He presented an overview of stats and info about Muslims in the USA and the rest of the world.

Griswold has travelled to areas "where Christianity and Islam meet." She said much of the divide of the "Christian south and Muslim north" is based on weather patterns, land, and trade routes, noting that "Islam spread through trade and marriage." She noted that faith and foreign policy are often intertwined in other countries. Local identity and global identity are interlinked.

The noon Spanish Eucharist, in commemoration of Bishop James Theodore Holley, the first bishop of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, was celebrated by Bishop David Alvarez of Puerto Rico. Preacher was the Rev. Simone Bautista of the diocese of Washington and chaplain for HOB.

In the afternoon, the conversation about Islam and Christianity continued with Bishops Joe Burnett of Nebraska and Tom Shaw of Massachusetts telling of activities in their dioceses.

Burnett presented a film and spoke about the Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha, NE, a five-year initiative calling for the sharing of a campus for an Episcopal Church, a Muslim mosque, a Jewish synagogue and a shared, multi-service educational building. The project is "on the verge of taking giant steps forward."

Shaw talked about the Boston cathedral opening its basement to allow space for Muslims to adhere to their prayer order. He shared that he met a Muslim man who has prayed at the Cathedral since before September 11, 2001, and how the community felt protected in the aftermath.

The bishops discussed three questions:
- The last two promises of the baptismal covenant ask us to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves; and to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. How might these promises be fulfilled in efforts to deepen relationships with members of other faith traditions, particularly Islam?
- Given the fact that polls show a sharp increase in prejudice toward Islam and persons of Islamic faith in this country, what specific steps might you take in your diocese to combat this prejudice, and also to support, affirm and partner with other faith traditions, especially Islam, in a way that would further God's mission in the world?
- How can we "seek and serve Christ in all persons" in such ways that would lead us to understand increasing religious diversity as a gift and a promise, rather than as a threat or a challenge?

Various bishops shared experiences in this own dioceses. I am speaking at the Abrahamic Faiths dinner in Houston this next week on the need for virtuous citizenship among our faith family. I was also mindful of the immigration work, the compassion work, and the interfaith dialogs we are having throughout the Diocese.

I went out for dinner with the bishops of my class. We had a lovely night in a little town called Saluda, North Carolina.

House of Bishops Daily Diary for Tuesday, March 29, 2011
These are the notes from the media briefing including my own remembrances and thoughts.

Following Morning Prayer and Bible Study, the session was opened by Emcee of the Day Bishop Victor Scantlebury of Chicago. Victor is one of my favorite Emcees because he always tells jokes. Here were his joke for the day:

An old man lived alone in Idaho. He wanted to spade his potato garden but it was very hard work. His only son, Bubba, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and mentioned his predicament.
"Dear Bubba, I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my potato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. If you were here, all my troubles would be over. I know you would dig the plot for me. Love, Dad"
A few days later he received a letter from his son.
"Dear Dad, For heaven's sake, Dad, don't dig up the garden! That's where I buried the bodies! Love, Bubba"
At 4 A.M. the next morning, a dozen FBI agents and local police officers showed up and dug up the entire area without finding no bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.
That same day the old man received another letter from his son.
"Dear Dad, Go ahead and plant the potatoes now. It's the best I could do under the circumstances. Love, Bubba"

Another fun announcement came from Bishop Russ Jacobus of the Diocese of Fond du Lac and Bishop Ken Price of the Diocese of Pittsburgh made good on their pledge from the recent Super Bowl (Green Bay won and Pittsburgh lost). They had decided to pledge aid for the shelters of each diocese no matter what the outcome of the big game. As a result: Price reported that Heinz (the Steelers play at Heinz Field) sent soup for 400 people, Eaton Park sent smiley cookies, and the Diocese of Pittsburgh sent 100 perogies to a shelter in the Diocese of Fond Du Lac. Jacobus said the Diocese of Fond Du Lac sent cases of bratwurst to a shelter in Pittsburgh. On a personal note, Jacobus presented Price with a Superbowl T-shirt; in return, Price reciprocated with a Steelers AFC Champions shirt. Both promised to wear their new attire. He did indeed wear the "attire" all day.

The topic for the day was The Anglican Covenant: A New Perspective.

Bishop Neil Alexander of Atlanta introduced a conversation on the Anglican Covenant which included the three Anglican Primates in attendance: Archbishop Fred Hiltz of the Anglican Church of Canada; Archbishop Henri Isingoma, Primate of Congo; and Archbishop Bishop Paul Kim, Primate of South Korea.

Their websites are here:
Anglican Church of Canada:

Anglican Church of Congo:

Anglican Church of South Korea:

The panelists spoke frankly about the Covenant and their provincial context. Each expressed their commitment to continued conversation internally and externally on the topic of the Covenant. Everyone affirmed their relationship with the House of Bishops as friends and fellow Anglicans. We were able to discuss the Covenant and there was a very good conversation with the primates.

I believe that both the presentation made at clergy conference in our own diocese by The Rev. Dr. Robert Pritchard on Communion and the presentation today by Bishop Niel Alexander are very good pieces to read and meditate upon as we look at he Covenant. Both are challenging reads.

It was very clear from the discussion that the wider communion is taking time in reading and discerning the reality of mission and ministry the covenant will bring.

It was very good to have the the primates with us. Their statements will be available and I will post the link to those once they are available.

I served as the media briefer today and work with Bishop Nathan Baxter and Neva Rae Fox.

Noon Eucharist was celebrated by Bishop Dena Harrison. Preacher was the Rev. Stephanie Sellers of the Diocese of Massachusetts and chaplain for HOB - another very good sermon!

Bishop Neil Alexander of Atlanta introduced a "historic occasion" as the deans of the seminaries joined the bishops:

Bob Bottoms. Seabury-Western Theological Seminary
The Very Rev. Joseph H. Britton, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale
The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Virginia Theological Seminary
The Very Rev. Robert S. Munday, Nashotah House
The Rev. Dr. Katherine Ragsdale, Episcopal Divinity School
The Very Rev. Joseph Britton, Bexley Hall Seminary
The Very Rev. Mark Richardson, Church Divinity School of the Pacific
The Very Rev. Dr. William S. Stafford, School of Theology – University of the South
The Very Rev. Dr. Justyn Terry, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry
The Very Rev. Douglas Travis, Seminary of the Southwest
Bishop Peter Lee, interim dean of General Theological Seminary, is a member of HOB

Bishop Dabney Smith of Southwest Florida introduced the topic for the evening: Selection Recruitment and Formation of Young Leadership. Again I shared with Bishop Harrison that I was proud of the work we do in the Diocese of Texas. We have a lot more work to do in shaping vocations (both lay and ordained) that reflect the ethnic and age diversity of our missionary context in Texas.

Doug Travis did a wonderful job in representing our seminary. We had a very good discussion on this topic which included very good and supportive comments about our own IONA school for ministry.

I spent the evening with a number of bishops who are on the "young" end of the age spectrum of the House for fellowship.

Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, D.D.
IX Bishop of Texas
Sent from portable while out of office.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lenten Invitation

Engaging the Call of Lent
God’s providence is total, unconditional, absolute and forever. We might speak of such providence as love or blessings or grace. What is clear throughout our faith history is that we understand that God’s attitude towards us is eternal. Richard Rohr, the Roman Catholic priest and theologian, reminds us of this fact in his book The Great Themes of Scripture. He also reminds us that we are the ones who change and who have the potential to change.[i]

We do pretty well when we are able to remember God’s constant gift to us and creation. When we forget, we tend to move into darkness and sin. The Bible tells us that, as humans, we will constantly go wrong when we forget this providence. We will stray; we will wander. We will be like sheep without a shepherd. When we forget God’s providence, we lie to ourselves and believe we in charge. When we forget, we consume rather than provide. When we forget, we become selfish and egocentric rather than caring, giving and “other”-centered. Truth is we forget a lot.

We forget that we have a vocation of tending and cultivating the garden within us and around us. We tend to overindulge ourselves either tending the inner garden of the soul to the detriment of the created world around us, or we do the opposite. The vocation of human beings is to do both equally well. We are to journey with God toward the fuller participation in God’s life inwardly. And we are to engage the world around us in restorative works that sustain and build community and creation itself.

The sin we talk about, the ego driven and narcissistic life of human beings, obscures and hides the true purpose of our created nature. We disregard one another for the very real needs of life (food, water, shelter and health) or for the ideal of wealth and prestige. We become “estranged” from one another and creation. Our communion (koinonia), provided by God, is broken as we focus on our own needs rather than the needs of others.[ii]

It is important as a spiritual discipline not only to acknowledge our brokenness but to amend and change our life. We must constantly make mid-course corrections both in our spiritual life and in our life of service. This corrective formation begins with acknowledging the person and purpose of Jesus Christ.

Historically we, as Christians, have believed that the correcting action in the world was the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ; that is specifically the unique “self-emptying (kenosis) of the Person of the Word of God. It is a fundamental point of patristic anthropology that the eternal Word of God of His own free will dwelt among us in order to realize in His incarnate person the restoration of humanity.”[iii]

We believe as Christians that we have the opportunity to change and be transformed by the incarnation of God and the coming of the Holy Spirit. We believe that in and through community life we may be reformed by the Holy Spirit and can “live a life of love and obedience to God, and bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).”[iv] By recognizing our vocation given to us by the Father, claiming the new creation provided by Jesus Christ and living in communion and community through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are each able to clarify our mission and our ministry. When we set our lives to the work of unity with God, our unity with the community and creation around us is reborn. We are freed from the bondage of sin to a restored life free from nurturing our own desires.

Lent is a season to focus intentionally upon this re-forming, re-creating work.

We are reminded of this work in our liturgy for Ash Wednesday. We remember that Christians have observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection. We remember that this is a season of penitence and fasting. We remember that Lent is a time to prepare new converts and to be transformed by their faith and the work of formation one to another. It is a time when those who have been far away from the church because of sin are returned, through their repentance, to the body of Christ. People in Lent are restored and renewed, reformed and recreated. This Lenten season is a season which makes the whole of the Church (Christ’s Body) refreshed.

“I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”[v]
I invite you to re-engage with God in all your believing and even in your unbelieving. I invite you to re-engage in your community and church; make amends and rebuild your relationships. Be accountable for your actions more than holding others accountable for theirs. Come to terms with God’s vision for your life, how you believe you have failed, and then receive the healing gifts of Christ. Make this a holy Lent for you, for your friends, for your family and for your church. Let us together, bound by the Holy Spirit, be transformed as we make our pilgrim way of Lent. Help us to see that God provides, God loves and God recreates us for divine work.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Presentation to Wardens/Vestry 2011

I travel. I do about 30,000 miles a year in my car, more or less, as I make my way around. And one of the things I enjoy doing is to listen to books on tape. And so my wife suggested that I listen to a book called Lonesome Dove that some of you know. Evidently it’s going to take about 30,000 miles to get through that book.

As you know, in 1985 it was the Pulitzer Prize-winning western novel written by Larry McMurtry. It’s an earthy book, and I’m sometimes shocked by what happens in it, but I am enjoying it. In the very beginning of the book, a key character named Gus, Captain Augustus McCrae, an ex-Texas Ranger and cattleman and wrangler, Gus decides that the Hat Creek Cattle Company needs a sign out front. And so he begins this process of negotiation.

Now, those of you on a vestry who have ever decided you needed a new sign know exactly the kind of negotiations that Gus had to go through. They argue and argue about all the different things that can go on the sign, what the sign should say, and even where the sign is to hang.

When it’s all said and done, the politics are over, Gus proudly goes out and he hangs the sign up. It says, “The Hat Creek Cattle Company, a Livery Emporium. Captain Augustus McCrae and Captain Woodrow F. Call, Proprietors. P. Parker, a Wrangler. Deets, Joshua”— They didn’t know what Deets did so they didn’t give him a description. “For Rent: Horses and Rigs. For Sale: Cattle and Horses. Goats and Donkeys Neither Bought Nor Sold.” And this very controversial piece: “We Do Not Rent Pigs.”

We do not rent pigs. There was a lot of discussion about this addition to the sign, and Gus said, “Look, pigs are good for lots of things. They’re good if you want something to come over and wallow and soak up a mud puddle. They’re good for keeping snakes out of your cellar.” But he said, “I don’t want to have anything to do with any man who thinks renting a pig is a good idea. And so by putting that up there, ‘We Do Not Rent Pigs,’ we will avoid all kinds of business that is not our own. We do not rent pigs.”

Now, the sign hung there for quite a while but something, according to Gus, was missing—a little bit of Latin, he thought. So he dug through his belongings and found an old Latin book that his daddy had given him, and he found a phrase, “Uva Uvam Videndo Varia Fit.” It added something that was needed, a proverb, a tribute to an ancient Greek philosopher. It literally means “a grape or other grapes see changes.”

Changed by the world around us
Now, what’s interesting if you know Latin, which I don’t, but according to Wikipedia, if you know Latin, Gus has misspelled one of the words. And so there is a great literary debate. Did McMurtry make a mistake or is it intentional? I believe McMurtry was being intentional, for the mistake he makes changes the phrase to mean, “a grape is changed by living with other grapes.” A grape is changed by living with other grapes. You and I are changed by living with one another. You and I are changed by the world around us, and we have the opportunity to be about the work of transformational change in other people’s lives.

The Church Economy
As vestries, it is important to understand there are some things we do not do. We do not rent pigs, but we do change the lives of those with whom we serve, and we have the opportunity to change the world around us. But right now the world around us is having more influence on us than we are on it. We must be clear that the world and church that we thought would carry us forward is no longer systemically viable.

As a church, we have an economy. It’s like any other, at its very basic, one that is dependent upon income and expenditures. Our current economy, our way of doing things, though, no longer works. It has been forever changed. When it happened, I don’t really know. It is probably an event that has occurred over many, many years and only when we look back will we be able to say, “It happened then.” But we as leaders of our church have been treating this event, this change, this change in our economy, how things work in our churches, we have been treating this by dealing with the symptoms instead of realizing that the system itself is crumbling around us.

We have consistently believed some very basic things about life in the Episcopal Church. The first one is that those who are called by God to be Episcopalians will find us and come to our doors. It’s funny and then it’s not. Once they come inside our doors, we believe this:  that once they come inside our doors that they will stay because we have the most awesome liturgy. We do have an awesome liturgy. And someday, we say to ourselves, we will grow again. And when we grow again, that is the day we’ll take care of all of that deferred maintenance, that all we need is the right clergyperson.

You see, it’s not our communal responsibility, it’s simply the person with the funny collar’s responsibility, and if we could just get the right clergyperson, everything would be better. And then there is that one that if we just solve the issue of the day, whatever that issue is, we would surge in growth. If we were just true to the past or if we were just true to the future, either way, everything would be taken care of.

No corner on the market
The problem is that fewer and fewer people every year are actually looking for us. And when they come in, they do not necessarily react favorably to what they find. Meanwhile, our congregations are outperformed by the culture around us. We no longer have the sole market cornered on community life, on networking, on social services, on weddings or even funerals. We are outperformed by social media, bars, gyms, sports clubs, funeral homes, JPs, hospitals, and friends.
Think about your budgets for a moment. Our budgets themselves reveal this economic reality and what’s happening in our ministry, that our budgets are no longer sustainable. In 1997, a congregation with 50 people could support itself with a budget of about $100,000. Today it takes a congregation of more than 100 and a budget upwards of $150,000 to $180,000 a year without any debt—without any debt.

This congregation, depending on the health of its buildings and the deferred maintenance I mentioned a minute ago, might be able to afford a full-time minister and the cost of keeping the facilities open. However, this congregation, as you and I both know, has no money to do anything else. By the end of 2011, we expect that inflation itself may indeed grow to 2 percent. Maybe it won’t, but let’s just say that it does, just as an example.

So by the end of 2012, a congregation will see its expenses jump some $3,000 without doing anything. That means that the church will have to add one family who immediately is overcome by our liturgy and welcoming, who has felt called to be an Episcopalian their whole life but didn’t know it, and they are going to write a check for $3,500, the diocesan average, right then and there to take care of that inflation. And you will have to add that same family with that same commitment and understanding every year to break even and never add a dollar to mission, evangelism, or new ministry.

An old model
We are operating out of a model that depends upon assumptions about our culture that date back to the midcentury of the last millennium. I know. I have visited you all. I come and I see you in your congregations struggling with this. This is a painful acknowledgement, but we have got to get real. We must face this reality as a church. You and I did not do a whole lot to create this situation. I recognize that.

Most of us have been bumping along just trying to be good, faithful Episcopalians doing what we thought we were supposed to be doing. But I will tell you, no matter how many times we go back to sleep or close our eyes or hope for something different or try to fix a symptom, this dream is over. Continuing to do church the way we have been doing it leads to only one thing:  death.

God has expectations: A missionary economy
And I will tell you that I believe that God expects something different of us and that God will recreate God’s church without us because God’s mission is sure. God’s intention in recreating this world is certain, and God does not depend upon us to see his vision of this creation through. But God has invited us to change who we are and how we are in the world to meet the challenges that are before us, to accept the invitation of his grace and wisdom and to be partners in God’s kingdom.

We must be about changing the world around us. Our new missionary economy must add value to the culture around us. We must be about missionary work of transforming the world around us—the environment, the economy itself—and the societies—our neighborhoods and our cities. People’s lives must be better tomorrow because our Episcopal Church is proclaiming the good news of salvation in work and word today.

Everybody says, “Oh, let’s look at Africa.” Well, let me tell you, in Africa, yes, they are preaching the gospel, but they are changing the world around them. That is why they are growing, because the people in those churches care and are part of the community and help the community be better tomorrow than it is today.

The economies that will flourish globally and in the United States in the 21st century will be ones that give life to people, to their community, to the environment in which we all live. We have to invest in relationship-oriented community and individual and environmental transformation. We must change the world around us.

We have an opportunity in a new missionary age to claim a sustainable mission deeply rooted in our values as Anglicans who are unabashedly Episcopalian. The world around us is actually waiting for us. They are hoping for partners who will join in providing healthy, fulfilling, life-giving, dignity-bound ministry to their communities. The world is looking for partners interested in building a more sustainable creation. The world is looking for partners who will nurture the relationships for better and more wholesome lives.

A moment of transformation
You and I stand at a moment of decision, and I as your bishop stand there with you. I am not going to stand up here and force you to live and do this new model, but I am not going to be quiet about what I see we as the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Texas must do to inherit the kingdom of God that is being offered us.

Now, lest we think we do this untethered from our scripture and our theology, lest we think that somehow we are just supposed to be a new social network, let us be clear that God calls us to build the kingdom of God together through worship, witness, and ministry. In the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, we are one church who is reconciled by Jesus Christ, and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit through worship, witness, and ministry. That is scriptural.

Our mission is oriented and deeply grounded in our theology. We understand that God provides—God, that united being, that holy community that we call trinity—creates all of creation and provides all things for us, that this community that we have as church is intentionally supposed to reflect all of God’s glory back to God’s self and to be about a sustainable creation that provides for every human creature around us.

You and I are responsible, as the scripture says, for the Lazarus at our gate. The scripture is very clear. We cannot turn our eye or our back on the communities around us, and we are to be about showing God’s glory out in the world. But you and I also both know that grounded deep inside of that scripture that you and I are broken and that we have a hard time doing it because when fear and anxiety and our basic needs are threatened, you and I together only want one thing, and that is what we want, that when we get into conflict and when we get off track, we immediately start becoming the narcissistic human creatures that we are.

There is a little story in the Bible called the fall that has to do with that, you see. And that’s why that reconciliation of Jesus Christ is so important, that Jesus came to help us, provide for us, the freedom through his death on the cross and resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit to do the work we’ve been given to do, that we are given through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice the opportunity to join as partners with God in changing the world around us, which is what we were created to do originally, to be good stewards of God’s creation.

A vestry’s response
Now, what is your purpose as a vestry? The canons are really clear about your work. You are to take care of the temporal concerns of your parish or mission if you’re a bishop’s committee or vestry. That’s your job.

Property:  You are responsible for the construction, care, security, and maintenance of all property, buildings, and furnishings of the parish.

Stewardship:  The vestry is responsible for providing the resources necessary for the mission and ministry of the parish. Surely something is missing in that. It doesn’t have the word priest in there at all. The vestry is responsible for providing the resources. Okay, maybe that’s right.

Budget:  The vestry adopts and administers the budget and capital campaigns, endowments, etc. And legally, the vestry has legal responsibilities for the parish. In our current system, we think the canons tell us what we’re supposed to be doing. The canons ensure that the mission and ministry of the church are cared for.

This, my friends, is your minimum responsibility, not your maximum. The only reason to have a vestry in a community is so that the community may be intentionally focused on the mission of building God’s kingdom. These are the beginning points for you to lead your congregation out into the world, proclaiming the gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ. It is your responsibility—your responsibility along with the clergy in your congregation—to realize God’s expectations given your missionary context.

What does success look like?
We know what success is going to look like. We will know that we are accomplishing God’s mission in our congregations when we are involved fully in ministry that transforms and restores, when we are changing the world around us, when your neighbors know you’re there.

Do your neighbors know that your church is there? Or after 20 years, do they pass by the sign and think nothing of it? We will know that we are making strides when we have exceptional stewardship, the stewardship of resources, time, and money that is entrusted to us. Exceptional stewardship, not the diocesan average stewardship. That’s not the goal.

When did the goal become the average? Did God say, “I will give you some of creation, just a little bit?” No. God gave you all of it. God made you and gave you everything that you are and everything that you have. God has given you your friends and your family. God has given and blessed you with everything. The average is not the goal, exceptional stewardship is. And then we will have excellence in mission, excellence in mission.

You and I are responsible for changing the world through our gifts and the resources given to us and by looking outside of ourselves to the world around us. You and I will know that we are making strides towards this not just when we have these big categories, but I actually believe that you and I will know because we will have more people in our churches on Sunday, for instance.

But that’s not the only goal. It’s not just that our average Sunday attendance in this church will grow but our attendance throughout the week will grow, that there will be more people, there will be more people who affiliate with our church every day of the week. That’s how we’ll know.

We will know that we are making progress when evangelism, the proclamation of the good news of salvation, and caring for others is the hallmark that we’re known for. When we talk to people in our communities, they will say, “That congregation knows the good news, and they make a difference in the world around us. They helped us with this.”

I mean, do you even know what your neighborhood is struggling with? Do you have a sense? We will know that we are making progress when we see baptisms and confirmations and receptions increase in the Diocese of Texas. But, more importantly, we’re going to know that we are making progress when more people are participating in evangelism and mission and discipleship in our communities.

We will know that we are making progress when every one of our congregations has the most welcoming, the most hospitable front door in their city.

We will know that we are making progress when the median age of our membership decreases to reflect your mission context in the world around you.

We will know that we’re making progress when our leadership, our clergy and laity, are younger and more diverse ethnically, when they reflect the diocese that is around us.
We will know we are making progress when existing congregations take the initiative for planting new congregations instead of believing somebody else is going to do that job.

We’re going to know that we are making progress when we see flourishing in the Diocese of Texas new fellowships, new missions, new parishes every year we’re able to talk at our gatherings about the new work that is happening, the entrepreneurial work that is happening, when we take more time in our diocesan council celebrating the good work that is happening in our diocese rather than arguing over the issues of the day. That’s when we’re going to know that we are making progress.

We will know that we are making progress when all of our organizations, congregations, institutions, and foundations are working together on healthy stewardship.

We’re going to know when we have an intentional diocesan-wide planned giving program that focuses its attention on providing for the stewardship of God’s gifts in every one of the congregations, that we understand our work isn’t to accomplish the stumbling blocks of today but build for the future of God’s kingdom tomorrow.

Have you in your wills made a planned gift? You’re investing Saturday at least, right? But you’re going to invest three years as leaders of this congregation, or how committed are you to seeing that your congregation lives long into the future, undertaking God’s program in this world? How committed are you?

Have you made a life gift, as I have, to this diocese and to your church? That’s when we’re going to know, when we all can say, “Yes, we have done that.” We will know when our congregations and diocese are willingly funding and supporting new emerging initiatives, crazy ideas and new ideas and dreaming about what we could be doing in our community, when there are more churches and more emerging communities, more schools and more clinics, more outreach ministries, more opportunities that we’re engaged in day in and day out.

We’re going to know when we have funded for the future as a diocese leadership training, when we have funded dollars to go into funding and helping provide partnership for new communities through a Great Commission Fund and when we care for our clergy and lay leaders through a Wellness Fund. That’s when we’re going to know that we’re making progress.

How do we get there?
We have to do some basic things to do that. We’re going to have to be very clear. We must be about formation. We have to form people who know and understand God as trinity. We must be about forming people who know and practice a healthy spiritual life.

We must form people who invite, welcome, and build community. We must form people who care about the world in which they live and are integrated into the life of the community. And we must form people who make a difference. That doesn’t happen naturally. As congregations, we must be forming people, as CS Lewis said, to be little Jesus Christs out in the world around them.

We must lead and be about leadership, not just clergy leadership but all leaders, lay and ordained, so that they are able to see the challenges as opportunities, to see the opportunities through the lens of an entrepreneurial leader who has a sense of how to take our excellence and stewardship and make a difference in the mission and ministry of the church.

We have also to be people who make connections, because we know that’s where the change happens. We must connect people with people, and this is your responsibility:  to build healthy networks of mission across your congregational boundaries and out in the world, building healthy networks that support individual vocations, building healthy networks between institutions and congregations, connecting people with resources that change their lives, connecting people with resources that change the communities around them.

The people called to be the Episcopal Diocese of Texas must do this work. It is perhaps our greatest challenge. We have not seen a missionary age of this magnitude since the very earliest days of this diocese when we looked outside our doors and our cabins and saw simply frontier land. That is the world outside of our church doors. We have a mission, and we know what we must do to get there.

In closing
I’m going to close with this. It’s a little piece of scripture. Some of you may remember it. It’s from Joshua, chapter 24. Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel—they make it pretty clear—from everywhere. There’s a long list of from everywhere. And Joshua gets them all together, and he summons the elders and the heads and the judges and the vestries.

He didn’t have vestries and bishop’s committees, but if he had, it’s clear he gathered them too. And he got them there, and he presented all of them and he said, “Here they are, God. Here are your people and the leaders of your people. They’re all right here, and we actually have a list. It’s a registration list, and we know who they are and where they belong.”

And Joshua said to all the people, “Listen to what God said.” We would say, “Look at what the scripture reminds us.” “God, our God, our God is the God of Israel, for long ago, back when our ancestors were wandering around, God took one of them, a man by the name of Abraham, from beyond the river and led him through all which way.

Do you know what Abraham did along the way? Every place he stopped he built an altar and worshiped God as he made his journey. And then he gave him a lot of offspring—lots. And Jacob and his children, they went down to Egypt. And then God sent Moses and Aaron and God brought them out, and then they lived in the wilderness for a long time.”

We won’t get into that journey, but it was a long time. And God provided for the people in their wilderness, just as God has provided for us in ours.

“And then God brought you to this land and God upheld you and God supported you in your mission and in your ministry and God gave you a land,” Joshua says, “that you did not labor for and towns that you did not build. But you live there now. You, leaders, have received the blessing of God, his vestries and bishop’s committees of churches you did not labor for in which you sit and you worship but you did not build. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive yards that you did not plant. God made way for you.”

And Joshua said to the people, all those leaders, he said, “You know all this. I’m not telling you anything new. And if you believe these things, you have to understand that you must be very fearful of the challenge that is before you. You should be concerned about this kind of God that you choose to worship and work for. In fact,” Joshua says, “you probably should not serve this Lord. You shouldn’t. It’s just too hard.”

Joshua says, “But as for me and my household, I will serve this Lord. I will serve this Lord.”

And the people answered, “No, no, no. No, wait. Joshua, no. We will. We’re going to serve this God. We promise we will.”

And Joshua said, “No, no, no, no. That’s nice of you. No, don’t really. You don’t really mean that, you see. You don’t understand what is at stake in the mission that you are accepting.”

The people said, “No, we’re serious. We will serve this God.”

You and I have a choice to make. We must choose in this moment and in every moment as we go forward to serve this God and this God’s church. We must not fear, we must not be anxious, we must not set our personal agenda above the transformative and creative and re-creative agenda of our God whom we know through the person of Jesus Christ. You and I have a choice. I’ve made mine. I’ve made mine. I will follow Jesus, and I intend to lead us forward.

But it is my dream—it is my dream and it is my daily prayer—that you and I shall be known as a generation who also chose to serve this God in mission, who at a time of great trial and a changing economy and a changing culture chose intentionally to follow God and were freed by God to change the world around us. We have an incredible opportunity as vestries and bishop’s committees of the Diocese of Texas.

We have an opportunity to beat our swords into plowshares and to sow the fields of the Lord with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ so that when our time is over and we have labored in God’s field, we may hear his words to us, “Well done, good and faithful servants.” May we come to the end of our time as leaders with confidence and say, “As for me and for my house, I have chosen to serve the Lord.” In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


  • "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