202nd Annual Convention
The 202nd Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina convened on Friday, November 17, 2017, at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem. With a theme of “Becoming Beloved Community,” this year’s gathering was all about bringing together the work of the Diocese of North Carolina and the work of The Episcopal Church as together we follow a path focused on reconciliation, environmental harmony and, above all, listening.
This Convention was the first for the Rt. Rev. Sam Rodman as our bishop, but it was not the only notable first: The 202nd Annual Convention marked the first time in our diocese young adults had seat, voice and vote as convocation delegates.
Other highlights included a moving Thursday Night Program, the Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple’s Convention address, a panel discussion on working “Toward Becoming Beloved Community,” Compline at A Movable Feast, Bishop Sam’s first Pastoral Address, a multitude of exhibitors and more.
Enjoy a photo album from the 202nd Annual Convention.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 16
As has become a tradition, Convention’s unofficial start was the evening before, with the Thursday Night program. This year’s offering, “One Great Fellowship of Love?” began with a historical perspective by the Rev. Dr. Brooks Graebner, who encapsulated 200 years of tenets espoused by the Church and the realities of how those tenets were lived, how resources distributed and the rights of all upheld, especially in communities of color. (Almost needless to say, the execution of the guidelines we’re given has often fallen heartbreakingly short.) The Rev. Jemonde Taylor followed with stories of our history in action within our own diocesan borders, in both the recent past and today. He challenged those present that we need to get out of the mindset of “fixing;” instead of asking “what should we do?” or “what can we do for you?,” engage with actual listening by asking “what do you want, what do you need?”
The presentations alone would have been more than enough in any circumstance, but the power of the evening really came to bear in the discussion that followed. Shy at first, person after person stood up to share their thoughts and stories, calling on everyone in the room to focus on listening to each other, to respect the dignity of every human being, and to engage in the “messy” work of acknowledging the wrongs of the past while forging a new way forward.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17
Convention convened on Friday morning when the Rt. Rev. Sam Rodman called the 202nd Annual Convention to order. The Eucharist procession followed, and the tone of our gathering was set with a beautiful worship service that helped center and bring those in attendance together. The Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple served as celebrant, while Bishop Sam preached a homily that spoke of Becoming Beloved Community, a path that has at its heart reconciliation, especially racial healing. He spoke of it as a journey, one that organizes our efforts to grow a community of reconcilers and justice-seekers. As outlined by The Episcopal Church, it is comprised of four components: Tell the truth; Repair the breach; Proclaim the dream; Practice the way of love. For as we heard about the renewal of all things in the Gospel reading, Christian renewal is about telling our own stories and letting the light of the gospel shine through. It can be risky and painful, but it is essential if ever we are to move toward healing.
Following Bishop Sam’s homily, the new interns for the Johnson Service Corps / Abraham Project were introduced and blessed, called by Bishop Anne the “living embodiments of God’s love in the world.”
Before the Great Thanksgiving, the offering was collected for a new bilingual food pantry at Christ’s Beloved Community, a fully-partnered church between EDNC and the NC Synod of ELCA that started as a two-by-two knocking on a neighbors’ doors before blossoming into a beautiful missional community.
After the Eucharist, the Convention got down to business. After the usual appointments, nominations and acceptance of late nominations and resolutions, the assembly was treated to a special Convention Address by Bishop Anne.
Her address was a celebration of the ministry and people bringing God’s love to the Diocese of North Carolina. While we certainly celebrated the election and consecration of Bishop Sam, we also did an incredible amount of work on our road to Galilee: We celebrated a bicentennial, we enriched the relationship of the three dioceses in NC, the benefits of which was evident when we came together to help the victims of Hurricane Matthew. We celebrated the first confirmations of Christ’s Beloved Community; indeed, we celebrated the new collaborations among many community partners as we begin to move in a direction where there is less distinction between outreach and evangelism, and we find ourselves increasingly being “with” our neighbors instead of simply “doing for” them.
We saw bold new initiatives undertaken to return our environment to health, such as Nativity, Raleigh’s, carbon farming project. We saw evangelism enacted as diocesan staff introduced and guided Invite.Welcome.Connect workshops and supported stewardship with Project Resource. Racial reconciliation training was encouraged for all, and the Racial Justice and Reconciliation Committee offered subsidies for more than 30 Episcopalians to attend.
In other words, we made the priorities outlined by the presiding bodies of The Episcopal Church – evangelism, reconciliation and earth stewardship – our own. As Bishop Anne encouraged us in her closing, “may the North Carolina branch of the Jesus Movement continue to be a community knit together in the fellowship of God’s great love. May we move in Godly unity and God-given diversity to seek justice and show mercy. May we strive to tell our own truths, our own stories, as best we can, about the power of sin and liberating grace of Jesus. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, may we be a repairers of the breach, healers of the wounded, witnesses to the Light of Christ in a world of darkness.”
As the gathering broke for lunch, attendees moved from the business of Convention into the work of the Diocese. In preparation of the panel discussion taking place later in the afternoon, diners were asked to take part in conversations over lunch based on the “Go Speak: Reconciliation Edition” of cards released earlier in the year. The idea of Go Speak is, in the words of Bishop Anne, “a process to help each of us give voice to the quiet, ordinary places we meet and feel God’s divine presence as well as create deeper levels of community within our congregations.”
When Convention reconvened, the first order of the afternoon was a panel discussion on the subject of reconciliation. The Rev. Ollie Rencher served as moderator for “Toward Becoming Beloved Community,” during which the five panelists (Ingrid Nunez, El Buen Pastor; Tony Craighead, St. Peter’s, Charlotte; Lalor Smith, Good Shepherd, Rocky Mount; Morris Friedman, St. Paul’s, Winston-Salem; Larry Stroud, St. Ambrose, Raleigh) shared their own stories and experiences in answer to questions, revealing their own experiences with racism and other forms of prejudice, how they dealt with those circumstances and the results or effects on each of them.
While speaking of conversations with a dear friend with whom he agreed on almost nothing, panelist Morris Friedman said he came to realize a few common threads in their discussions: It’s okay to disagree; ascribe honorable motives to those who disagree with us; really try to understand the other person’s story; and leave enough room within your own reasoning for the possibility that you may decide later on you are wrong.
The panel wasn’t the only group involved with the discussion; when they had finished answering the questions, the audience broke into small discussion groups, where they, too, practiced deep listening with each other as they answered the questions posed earlier to the panel.
Following conversations both big and small, it was time to change the subject to that of resolution – or more specifically, the resolutions submitted to Convention. The seven submitted for consideration were assigned to five committees for review and discussion, revision and decision before concluding business for the day.
But just because business was done didn’t mean the festivities were. A beautiful Evensong was held in the early evening before Bishop Sam and Bishop Anne hosted a reception where folks could unwind and enjoy some fellowship before heading out to dinner. The day concluded with as it began, with worship. As has become tradition, Compline was held at the A Movable Feast trailer, which was once again on site offering hot drinks and hospitality to all who stopped to visit.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 18
With a successful first day completed, day two began with Morning Prayer and the start of the first Legislative Session. The first order of business was the voting in of Diocesan Council members; as the number of nominees matched the number of open spaces, a vote by acclimation was taken, and the nominees elected. Following the election of new Diocesan Council Members, ballots were then cast for open positions on Standing Committee and the Board of Trustees for the University of the South.
As votes were tallied, Bishop Sam Rodman took the podium to deliver his first Pastoral Address. He began by referencing a little-known document in the Book of Common Prayer called the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral that dates from 1866 and is a Statement of the Bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Though lengthy, the essential gist of is an “earnest desire that the Saviour’s prayer, ‘That we all may be one,’ may, in its deepest and truest sense, but speedily fulfilled.”
Applying that desire to today’s climate reveals that “speedy fulfillment” is easier said than done. “Unity,” quoting a bishop recently returned from the 2008 Lambeth Conference, “is very, very, very, very hard.”
It continues to be hard. At that conference almost a decade ago, the topics dividing those in attendance included conservative and liberal theological perspectives, differing understandings of human sexuality, economic fault lines between well-resourced and under-resourced churches and more. “Sound familiar?” asked Bishop Sam. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
WATCH BISHOP SAM’S PASTORAL ADDRESS
In looking for an answer, he referred the audience to Jesus’ living prayer for the full and everlasting power of his resurrection, and Bishop Sam sees this living prayer in the Diocese of North Carolina in its incarnation as part of the Jesus Movement.
“Jesus’ call to unity, his prayer, is a call to unity of purpose, a focus on mission and movement more than church structure and the institution,” said Bishop Sam. “You all have had the vision and wisdom to recognize that. The [Jesus] movement has been characterized by language that is not only missional, it is full of energy and life: Go to Galilee; be disciples who make a difference; Go Deep, Go Speak, Go Do.”
Bishop Sam emphasized the many ways the staff, clergy and people of the Diocese have worked together to build bridges across what separates us, and outlined diocesan priorities to continue that work toward Becoming Beloved Community.
Priority One: Engaging in deeper dialogue and multi-layered conversations around the dynamics of difference with particular attention to race, political tensions between left and right, and the economic divide. “In following Jesus,” said Bishop Sam, “in doing this work together, we will model for our state and for the wider church, the powerful promise of what reconciliation can look like.”
Priority Two: Support for vulnerable congregations. “Vulnerable congregations are defined as those who feel vulnerable,” Bishop Sam has explained in prior meetings and presentations. Work with these congregations will include visitations from the bishops, and support from teams being developed based on the gifts needed to uplift the congregations.
Priority Three: Missional collaboratives that will be regionally cultivated. These will be based in relationships, work to engage both secular and worshiping communities and focus on diversity in its leadership.
Priority Four: Lifelong Formation. We are actively working on developing approaches and resources that will support the work of lifelong Christian formation. These will be intergenerational, relationally based, creative and adaptive, and highlight the role of liturgy.
Priority Five: Reconnecting to the Land. This priority will include work in the area of eco-justice, carbon farming, legislative advocacy and the development of ecumenical and interfaith partnerships.
Bishop Sam closed with a heartfelt thanks to everyone in the Diocese of North Carolina for the warm welcome he and his wife, Debbie, have received since his election. He spoke of how much he is looking forward to the work we will do together. “The soil here is rich and ready for the gospel promise of becoming beloved community to take root and to grow up in us,” he said. “And we are being sent by God to share what we are discovering about ourselves, and each other, and the liberating love of Jesus to our state and to the church. Unity may be very, very, very, very hard, but unity is our call and becoming beloved community is our next step in responding to that call.”
After the crowd was reseated from the standing ovation it bestowed on Bishop Sam, he responded by introducing the diocesan staff, both on hand through the sharing of a video created for the occasion. Introductions continued as the deans of our seven convocations stood to introduce the clergy new to the diocese, and then the first of the reports was offered. The Rev. Jonah Kendall presented on behalf of Diocesan Council, and Jeanne Kutrow followed for the vote on the 2018 Diocesan budget. The budget passed unanimously.
Prior to the break, a second ballot was taken for the Standing Committee, Lay Order, as elections were reached on all other open positions on the first ballot (see results below).
As the gathering reconvened, the business of discussing and voting on resolutions began in earnest. Several passed as originally submitted (see all results below), while others passed in substitute form. Spirited, yet always respectful, debate took place around the resolutions that addressed how the diocese is approaching and supporting work in the area of immigration. While details such as how our resolutions will carry to the 79th General Convention to seek unity with the wider Church or the specifics of a word or phrase, what was apparent overall was the passion for social issues and standing with our neighbors.
Prior to asking for the third ballot, upon which Resolution 202.1 would be voted, the results of the second ballot were announced, thereby filling all elected positions.
In one last order of business before Noonday Prayer, Beth Crow, diocesan lead youth missioner, gave the report for Lift Every Voice, the three-year program whose grant cycle recently finished, but whose work will continue and be an indelible influence in the coming years.
At the Noonday Prayer, the necrology was read by Convention Secretary Chuck Till.
Upon reconvening for the last legislative session, it was announced that Resolution 202.1 passed in both the clergy and lay order, which means it will automatically be added to the resolutions to be considered at the 203rd Annual Convention.
Following that announcement, it was time for the Bishops’ Awards. The first was presented to Mary Ellen Droppers, the widow of the Rev. Tom Droppers, in posthumous recognition of the decades of work Tom Droppers did on behalf of the environment and his years of service to the diocese and leadership on the Chartered Committee on Environmental Ministry. Scott Evans Hughes was also awarded a Bishop’s Medal for her work on environmental issues, and a second Bishop’s Award in recognition of serving as a delegate to 40 diocesan conventions, in addition to being a seven-time deputy to General Convention and serving on countless diocesan committees.
As reports continued, the Chartered Committee on Environmental Ministry, as part of its report, announced the creation of an award in honor of Tom Droppers recognizing the work of a congregation in the area of environmental initiatives. Church of the Advocate, Chapel Hill, was the inaugural recipient.
After the reports were completed, the deputation to the 79th General Convention taking place this summer in Austin, Texas, were brought forward for a blessing. Elected at the 201st Annual Convention, the deputation representing the Diocese of North Carolina are: Clergy Order - the Rev. Kevin Matthews (University of Greensboro/St. Mary’s House, Greensboro); the Rev. Sarah Ball-Damberg (Holy Family, Chapel Hill); The Rev. Jamie L’Enfant Edwards (St. Clement’s, Clemmons); the Rev. Dr. Helen Svoboda-Barber (St. Luke’s, Durham); Lay Order - Alice Freeman, Martha Alexander, Joseph Ferrell and Athena Hahn; Clergy Alternates - the Rev. John Gibson (Grace, Clayton); the Rev. Deb Blackwood (Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina); the Miriam Saxon (St. Andrews, Haw River); Lay Alternates - Josephine Hicks, Marlene Weigert, Jeanne Kutrow.
Voting on elected positions went as follows:
Standing Committee – Clergy Order (1)
The Rev. Hector Sintim – St. Stephen’s, Winston-Salem
Standing Committee – Lay Order (2)
Richard Taylor – Chapel of the Cross, Chapel Hill
Reid Joyner – St. John’s, Charlotte
Diocesan Council – Clergy Order (2)
The Rev. Alicia Alexis – Redeemer, Greensboro
The Rev. Jamie Pahl – St. Stephen’s, Oxford
Diocesan Council – Lay Order (3)
Mary Long – St. Timothy’s, Wilson
Fritz Falkson – St. Mary’s, High Point
Robert Rinaldi – St. Mary Magdalene, Seven Lakes
Board of Trustess, University of the South – Clergy Order (1)
The Rev. Jane Wilson – Calvary, Tarboro; St. Luke’s, Tarboro
REPORTS, ACTS OF CONVENTION AND FINANCIALS
Reports of various diocesan committees and commissions, certfied acts of Convention and financials, and additonal information are all available in the Journal of the 202nd Annual Convention.
As the 202nd Annual Convention came to a close, the date and location of the 203rd Annual Convention was set for November 16-17, 2018 at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem. Bishop Sam offered thanks for everyone who took part in making Convention happen, shared the final blessing and adjourned the 202nd Annual Convention.