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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Province V Synod in Chicago

What it is. The Episcopal Church has nine "associations of dioceses" known as provinces, and Missouri is in Province V. The synod meets at least once each triennium, at a time in the same year of, but prior to, General Convention. The synod's April 24, 2012 meeting included election of officers (Bishop Wayne was the vice-president and continues on for another term), budget review and several "ministry moments' similar to our convention's Diocesan Council vignettes, that explained provinicial ministry networks to the gathered.

70% of the province's budget comes from the 15 dioceses, and the province intends to support dioceses in their work, "particularly in those areas that because of economies of scale they are not able to do as well or at all by themselves."* The 13 ministry networks which Province V currently supports are: Campus Ministry, Christian Formation/Education, Church Periodical Club, Communicators, Companions in Mission, Congregational Development, Episcopal Church Women, Episcopal Relief and Development, Health Minstries, Ministry Development, Peace and Justice, United Thank Offering, and Youth Minister's Network. Each of these ministries has an area coordinator and some budget.

Success stories. Of particular health in the life of the province are the campus and youth minister networks. YM network chair Genevieve Callard had one of the best lines of the day, "Young people are not best kept in the church basement eating pizza. This is an experiment we tried in the 80s and 90s that didn't work.--The church needs to do a better job creating mature Christians." The youth ministry network maintains a page of resources and also offerend another website to explore: Study of Exemplary Congregations in Youth Ministry (EYM). "It's always been strong," Joe Chambers, diocesan priest and chaplain at Rockwell House, Washington University in St. Louis, said of the provincial campus ministry network. There are two yearly gatherings, the chaplains meet in the fall and there is a student gathering in the spring. CM chaplains also meet in the summer at a national conference--now called into question with the proposed budget which severely cuts funding for campus and youth ministry. The provincial chaplains have been talking on the phone every couple of weeks since the budget came out to discuss possible ways to address the proposed cuts.

Imagining a divine leadership community. Presiding Bishop Katharine welcomed the deputations to imagine how the church and its structures might change. She outlined just a few of the radical cultural and technological changes in the past decade and added "even with all of the changes in this life, many people expect that the church is the one place that doesn't change." Change in the church and the world can be disorienting, and for some it creates anxiety. "God is still creating," she continued. The church is experiencing growth in unexpected places, such as immigrant communities. New occasions create new opportunities, not just on Sunday mornings, not just in church buildings. "We have to learn to turn outward. If the living water is hoarded, it turns to death." Current church structure and measurements focus on inward tallies, like numbers of members in pews on Sundays. "How do we measure not what we take in, but what we give away?"
The bishop spoke about the impossibility of governance by either complete freedom or complete structure, but how living gracefully in their balanced tension was vital. She also spoke about our binary approach to voting that creates winners and losers at each turn. "There are other democratic ways of decision making," she continued, "more than simple up or down votes-- community decision making based on discernment, prayer, conversation." The Moravian church, for example, uses a consensus model in governance. The bishop noted the world is moving to a less linear conversation and invited us to imagine a divine leadership community where "all the baptized are gifted, sent into the world as God's own."

"Local communities of Godly intent, networked, to change the world--this is how the church got its start. Crowd sourcing the Holy Spirit. If we want to save the life of this church, we're going to have to lose it, to let go of our idols and turn to God."

Questions and conversation followed. Bishop Katharine had begun and woven the image of our dance with the Holy Spirit through her talk. One deputy said bluntly, but what if we don't dance? She introduced an alternate image of upwelling as a different kind of "dance": the change in direction of air current that pulls up from the depths the cold and nutritious water."A different kind of dance of water and breath."

On to General Convention. Wednesday morning was filled with orientation to general convention and a presentation by Bonnie Anderson and Gregory Straub, president and secretary, respectively, of the House of Deputies. Provincial by-laws allow voting at synod by bishop diocesan and three members of the deputation (one clergy and two lay) from each of the 15 dioceses. Attending from Missouri were Lisa Fox (L4), Doris Westfall (C3), and Kathryn Dyer (L1). Fox and Dyer are parishioners from Grace-Jefferson City and St. Tim's-Creve Coeur, and Westfall is rector of St. Matthew's-Warson Woods. (The parens indicates either L for lay or C for clergy, and order deputies by some formula of votes received at diocesan convention. This becomes important if one of the deputies is unable to attend, the alternates 5, 6, etc. would fill in.)

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