The climate crisis, racial justice and a renewed mission strategy were among the top agenda items at the annual Diocesan Convention, held online Nov. 12-13 under the theme “Members One of Another,” taken from Romans 12:5 and an invitation to celebrate and explore interdependence as members of the Body of Christ.
In his annual address to the convention, Bishop Alan M. Gates said the convention theme was an affirmation "as old as Paul's letter to the Romans" and "also fresh and new as any way in which we defy our illusions of separateness, and bind ourselves together in community. We are members one of another when we gather, even virtually; when we offer our common prayers, even in our separate churches; when we expand collaboration with our Western Massachusetts companions; when we wear those infernal masks; when we sacrifice our comfort for the security of another; when we commit to our common-share assessments; when together we face our past, for the sake of our future; when together we are agents in the search for our humanity."
About 440 participants logged on for Saturday’s business sessions, which followed a Friday line-up of guest speakers and workshops delving into the theme of interdependence and attended by about 240 people across the sessions. Friday guest presenters included the Rev. Lydia Kelsey Bucklin, Canon to the Ordinary for Discipleship and Vitality in the Diocese of Northern Michigan, and Dr. Catherine Meeks, Executive Director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing in the Diocese of Atlanta.
Bishop Douglas J. Fisher of the neighboring Diocese of Western Massachusetts was the preacher at the Friday evening service of Holy Eucharist, livestreamed from the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston. Convention heard more about ongoing exploration of collaboration potential between the two Commonwealth dioceses during a video presentation on Saturday highlighting the work over the past year of the joint Exploring Common Mission Task Force.
New mission status for Christ the King, Lynn
The convention voted to admit Christ the King Anglican Community Church in Lynn as a mission in union with the diocese, pending final approval of its bylaws. Though new in terms of its official mission status, this worshiping community of Anglicans from Kenya is itself not new, having got its start in 2004 at St. Stephen's Memorial Church in Lynn. A video presentation narrated by Christ the King's priest, the Rev. Joseph Ngotho, brought an uplifting and celebratory introduction of the congregration to the convention proceedings.
Four proposed resolutions were adopted with little debate and no amendments. Two focused on the climate crisis, calling for carbon drawdown commitments and the embrace of sustainable burial practices.
A third resolution charts a course for accountability and action on the diocesan commitment to repentance and reparations for the sin and legacy of slavery, including the creation by 2024 of a diocesan reparations fund. The diocesan Racial Justice Commission launched a "Reparations Toolkit" at the convention to support congregations' participation in reparations work.
The convention also approved a request to the 80th Episcopal Church General Convention in 2022 to add the late Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, first female bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion, to the church calendar for commemoration on March 13.
Convention approved a revised mission strategy to replace the five-year-old strategy that has been the guiding plan for diocesan mission priorities since 2016. Diocesan canons require that the diocesan mission strategy be reviewed no less frequently than once every five years.
The revision draws on the core themes of discipleship, justice seeking and care for creation that emerged from survey and conversation responses collected from congregations and groups earlier this year by the Mission Strategy Committee of Diocesan Council. The revised strategy, summarized in this video by the Mission Strategy Committee, lays out goals and actions for individuals, congregations, the bishops and Diocesan Council across eight areas of commitment.
Convention also approved the $9.4-million diocesan budget proposed for 2022.
Jack Wolfe, a Diocesan Council member from the Church of the Advent in Medfield, proposed an amendment to create a new committee devoted to reversing membership decline, funded with $100,000 of the proceeds from the sale, earlier this year, of the diocesan property at 40 Prescott Street in Brookline; the amendment generated discussion, pro and con, but failed to pass.
The budget as adopted restores to pre-pandemic levels the congregational development and deanery grants that were redirected for pandemic and assessment relief in 2020-2021, and it includes a five percent increase in mission initiatives grants. Also of note for 2022 is a new income-based, graduated assessment formula for calculating the contribution that each congregation makes to the annual diocesan budget in support of common mission and ministry.
Find video links and convention resolutions, materials and election results at www.diomass.org/diocesan-convention-2021.
--Tracy J. Sukraw