The Standing Committee delivered part of its report through music. The meaty resolutions produced vigorous debate but not division. And by the time the one-day, rescheduled Council adjourned (almost an hour early), the annual gathering had renamed itself for the first time in over a century and a half — as the Annual Convention of the Diocese, a change heavy with symbolism that was greeted with hearty applause.
With nary a snowflake in sight, the Council rebooted from its snowed-out dates in January. The almost 500 lay and clergy delegates filled the halls and meeting rooms of Epiphany Episcopal Church in Herndon as they approved a 2016 $5 million-plus diocesan budget; OK’d resolutions dealing with gender pay equity for clergy, gun violence and refugee resettlement; and heard Bishop Johnston talk about the special contributions Anglicanism can make in a polarized world.
Reactions to the one-day format, organized around the theme of “Connected in the Kingdom,” were diverse. Some delegates said they appreciated the cost savings that resulted from the shorter meeting, while others said they missed the time normally available for interacting with others and for learning about exciting new ministries through the “Stories of the Diocese” presentations.
A few of those “Stories” still made it on the agenda. Young adult missioners from the Diocese reported in from all over the globe through a video that was enthusiastically received. The delegates texted their verb choices for the Convention logo for next January’s meeting. And, as noted above, the Standing Committee flavored its report with singing that emphasized the “connectedness” theme of this year’s meeting.
As a result of the resolutions, Bishop Johnston will appoint a task force to study and make recommendations on dealing with gender pay and pension disparities for clergy. Though some argued that making worship services and meetings at churches “gun free” (with some exceptions) could exclude parishioners, particularly in rural areas, the Council approved that designation. It also called for strengthening the Diocese’s response to the needs of Syrian and other refugees.
The three bishops’ reports covered a wide range of topics. Bishop Susan Goff talked about the spiritual rhythm of our lives that calls us, not only to “come in” to our churches, but to “go out” to the places where we do ministry. Bishop Ted Gulick addressed the polarizing issues of our world and called on Council members to live into a “Eucharist of the marginalized.”
Bishop Johnston delivered an optimistic assessment of a growing Diocese that is poised for future ministry growth. He referenced the array of racial reconciliation initiatives under way in the Diocese — an assortment that reflects the needs of individual parishes and communities. That theme was reflected in the name change from Council to Convention. The term Council has historic connections to the Diocese’s time as a member of the Confederate Episcopal Church — a connection now removed by the title of Convention.
After the final vote of the two-year process to change the name, Bishop Johnston reached high to pull away the overhanging poster at the front of the meeting space that said Council. Beneath it was another big poster that said Convention — a change greeted by prolonged applause.
By: Ed Jones, Secretary of the Diocese
Photos: Kendall Martin, Ashley Cameron, Ed Keithly