203rd Annual Convention
The 203rd Annual Convention officially convened on Friday, November 17, 2018 at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Continuing the theme of “Becoming Beloved Community” set forth at the 202nd Annual Convention in 2017, this year the Diocese was challenged to go deeper, as we took up the mantle of truth telling and learning to live in The Way of Love as we continue our work toward Becoming Beloved Community.
Other highlights included a moving three-part program, “Truth Telling and Resilience in a Time of Injustice and Inequality,” that began at the Thursday Night Program, the Rt. Rev. Sam Rodman’s convention address, the Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple’s opening Eucharist sermon, a keynote presentation by the Rev. Melanie Mullen to help us live in The Way of Love, a record number of exhibitors and more.
Enjoy a photo album from the gathering.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15
‘Twas the night before Convention, and all through the Mariott…..
It was pretty quiet, actually, because everyone was in Hearn Ballroom in a standing-room-only audience for the Thursday Night Program, “Truth Telling and Resilience in a Time of Injustice and Inequality, Part I: All Saints’, Warrenton.”
The program was the first of an ultimately three-part program that will be shared throughout Convention as an affirmation to our commitment to form loving, liberating and life-giving relationships with one another.
Seeking to find ways to support and sustain the Historically Black Episcopal congregations in our diocese, at the 203rd Convention, the stories of three such congregations were heard. Thursday night’s program was the first, where those in attendance or watching at home heard the heart-wrenching story of All Saints, Warrenton, a once-flourishing congregation and community cornerstone that held its last service in 2015.
The Rev. Melanie Mullen, director of reconciliation, justice and creation care for The Episcopal Church, set the tone with thoughts on the importance of stories, emphasizing that stories – and more importantly, the people within those stories – matter. The Rev. Al Moore then provided a brief history of All Saints, the first black congregation in Warrenton, which was brought to life by All Saints members Mrs. Robin Williams and Miss Wilhelmina Radcliff and the stories they shared. With pride they spoke of the contributions to the community made by the church, including service as the only domestic abuse shelter in the county, and the beauty of watching the children of All Saints and nearby Emmanuel study, play and grow into adults in label-free relationships nurtured by both churches. And with searing honesty they shared the experience of closing their beloved church, ending with a clear call for the need to improve a process that follows less a protocol set for all and instead develop new approaches that address and recognize the needs of individual congregations, and hope in the form of the All Saints Project, a collaborative effort in development that will once again see All Saints contributing to its local community.
Before the close of the evening, the audience broke into small groups to discuss what they had heard and identify what had resonated within them. Facilitator the Rev. Javier Almendarez-Bautista provided questions to guide the conversations. Bishop Sam closed the evening with prayer, and everyone went to rest up for the start of Convention the following day.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16
The day began with the return of the procession of banners to lead the opening Eucharist. Dozens of churches proudly carried their banners until the convention hall was full of color and hope and the pride of being a part of The Episcopal Church.
The Rt. Rev. Sam Rodman was the celebrant for the bilingual service, and the Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple preached an inspiring sermon that spoke to our need to welcome all, including the stranger and those with less. “If it is not good news to the poor, it’s not God’s good news,” she said. “If it’s not news that opens our eyes to truth – even hard, painful truths - it’s not God’s good news. If it is not news that has the capacity to heal wounds and set people free, then it’s not God’s good news. This is God’s mission.”
She addressed the human need to gather in groups of the familiar – our tribes – but that to fear those who may look, sound or be otherwise different is to hurt ourselves. But, “there’s a power greater than fear,” she said, and that love is “a call to divine arms that gathers people from all nations, tribes, peoples, languages, into one great, diverse joy-filled, truth-telling and reconciling fellowship of love.”
Following the Peace, the Rev. Canon David Sellery was commissioned as the new diocesan canon for congregational mission, a new position dedicated to congregational vitality and creating resources and teams to assist those congregations that define themselves as feeling vulnerable. The Rev. Daniel Robayo was also commissioned as the new diocesan missioner for Latino/Hispanic ministries, where he will work to expand and enhance an already flourishing and growing community.
Sellery and Robayo were only the start of the blessings being commissioned Friday morning. After them, those serving in the coming year in the Johnson Service Corps were brought forward, followed last, but certainly not least, by 18 vergers to stand in ceremony for the commissioning of the Vergers Guild of North Carolina. The vergers then returned to their places to continue to assist with the Eucharist and help those in attendance participate with ease.
The offering for the Eucharist was dedicated to Episcopal Relief and Development to assist in the organization’s continuing work in helping those affected by Hurricanes Florence and Michael.
The Eucharist was followed by a quick break, and then Convention business began in earnest. Secretary of Convention Chuck Till launched the official business with an unprecedented piece of news: for the first time (or at least the first time in a very long time), every church in the Diocese filed their parochial report and paid their fair share in full on time! (Congratulations to all for a job well done!) Late nominations were heard and accepted, as were two late resolutions, and other matters of business quickly followed. Before the end of the brief morning session, a very special moment took place, when Christ’s Beloved Community, Winston-Salem, was admitted to Convention as the newest mission of the Diocese. Delegates from the new mission were led from their seats in the visitors section to their seats on the convention floor, where they now have voice and vote as well as seat.
Following a delicious lunch prepared by Benton Convention Center staff, the afternoon session began with a keynote presentation by the Rev. Melanie Mullens, who guided listeners in living The Way of Love in our work of Becoming Beloved Community. She expanded on the message she started to share Thursday night about the importance of stories. We live in times with a great flow of toxic information and toxic stories that infect to the point that children go hungry because our narrative of “poor equals lazy” shames their parents from seeking help. Consequences like these make it all the more important to share our stories – to hear the stories of others – to expand our understanding of ourselves and each other and truly open our hearts to live in The Way of Love. Those who sat listening were then encouraged to turn to a neighbor and commit to a step on The Way of Love as a starting point: Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest, Turn. It was yet another moment when those at or watching the livestream of Convention were asked not just to listen to what was presented, but to take a moment to reflect on it and absorb it. The 203rd Annual Convention was not a passive gathering but one that very much invited the participation of all involved.
After learning how to move toward becoming beloved community via The Way of Love, the Rev. Sarah Hollar and the Rev. Lisa Fischbeck of the Swindell Committee (officially the Ella and Leicester Swindell Major Speakers Fund of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina) stood to offer a gift: that of a graphic novel designed to help us with the “what comes next.” “More and More: A Bible Study to Expand the Tent” is a collection of nine chosen stories depicted in beautiful art that illustrates how to call and welcome the stranger. Accompanied by guiding text and questions for conversation, “More and More” was created to help us see how God – through our stories of faith – is calling us to a greater understanding of each other, whether stranger or old friend.
After a promise from Hollar and Fischbeck that every delegate and guest would receive a copy of “More and More” at Evensong, the first ballots were collected before everyone was encouraged to explore the multitude of exhibits before heading to legislative committee meetings.
The delegation regathered after the meetings for a stirring and soothing Evensong and finished the day with a reception hosted by Bishop Sam Rodman and Bishop Anne Hodges-Copple.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17
Saturday felt like Sunday morning when the Convention hall filled with early risers who gathered for Morning Prayer. Song and prayer rang out, setting a tone of joy, spirit and kindness for the day.
The inspiration continued early, as Bishop Sam followed Morning Prayer with his Convention address. In it, he spoke of our journey to become beloved community and how we need The Way of Love to do it. He reminded us of the priorities we committed to giving our attention in the last year while addressing why so much focus at Convention has been put first on the work of racial injustice and inequality. He likened it to the untangling of a knot – attention must be paid to the areas of greatest tension within the knot if it is to be untied, and so it is with the racial injustice. “Race, in this country, is the source of our greatest tension,” he said, “and if we are ever to find a way to resolve our other political differences and divisions, we are more likely to gain traction if we begin with racism and race.”
The work has to start with telling the truth, and hearing the truth even when it is painful. “This is hard work,” said Bishop Sam. “Let’s be honest about that. When we speak the truth to each other, some of what we share may not always be easy to hear. This is especially true when we are in conversations where we bring different perspectives, different experiences and different expectations.”
That’s why The Way of Love is critical to the approach. “This simple rule of life, this accessible discipline gives us the opportunity to immerse this work in prayer and spiritual practice,” he said. “This is not only hard work, it is heart work. So we need these practices, these disciplines to help anchor us, to hold us close to God and close to one another as we peel back the layers of history, as we dig up the truth that we might have left buried, as we bring to light the part of our shared journey that may have been hidden.”
After the address the second of the truth-telling sessions was presented. The Chapel of Christ the King, Charlotte, has a long history of being an integral part of its surrounding community, even though that community has always been drastically impacted by the economics of the region, going from working-class neighborhood to transient community to, finally, an area plagued by drugs. The area is now one of regeneration, as new life is arriving in the form of the city of Charlotte continuing to grow and new housing in development only blocks away. But whether in good times or bad, the Chapel of Christ the King has served its community with open doors, open hearts and whatever they had to offer to those around them.
Yet despite being an unwavering presence of God in all they did, the Chapel of Christ the King never attained the numbers to be recognized as a parish within the diocese. When he took the podium, the Rev. Reggie Payne-Wiens asked the question of why the focus is always on what a parish doesn’t have rather than what it does. It was a question listeners took with them into the groups they formed for conversation after the presentation.
With that open frame of mind, the reports and legislation session got underway. The proposed 2019 budget was adopted, as was the recommendation to reduce the fair share in the coming year. Debates on the resolutions relating to the Constitution and Canons were brief, as many were submitted to bring our own governance in line with General Convention, and all but two elected spots were voted in on the first ballot (see below).
Once the first ballot election results were announced, the third installment of “Truth Telling and Resilience in a Time of Injustice and Inequality” was presented. St. Titus’ has been a steady presence in Durham since it first opened its doors. Through the years it has had to deal with the changes in the community around them, years without a full-time priest and the challenges of integration. Yet through it all, its congregation remained a tight-knit core of determination, compassion and support, welcoming new members into a strong, intergenerational community dedicated to each other and the neighborhood around them. The presentation ended with the happy news that the Rev. Stephanie Yancy, who started at St. Titus’ as a part-time priest and then moved to three-quarter time, will this fall assume full-time status. She accepted the applause with grace before turning the credit and gratitude right back to the parishioners who have worked so hard for so many years to keep the vision of St. Titus’ alive and well and remain the strength of the congregation. As with the first two installments, conversation and reflection followed the presentation.
As we heard the stories of long-standing churches of the Diocese of North Carolina, the time came to welcome the newest mission, Christ’s Beloved Community, Winston-Salem. A church plant begun a few years before, the bilingual, multicultural congregation has grown steadily and quickly under the intentional and loving guidance of the Rev. Dr. Chantal McKinney.
As the applause receded after welcoming Christ’s Beloved Community, it leveled up again as seminarians, clergy new to the diocese, diocesan staff and deacons were recognized. It really got loud shortly thereafter, as Bishop Sam – with the Very Rev. Bill Joyner surrounded by his fellow deacons – began to reveal that Joyner was the very deserving recipient of the first Bishops’ Award. Joyner is retiring as archdeacon of the Diocese after 12 years of service, and he need never doubt how much he is valued as joy rang from the rafters in his honor.
The second recipient of the Bishops’ Award was no less valued or surprised, as Dr. Ayliffe Mumford has always preferred to work behind the scenes. But for this one day she was brought on stage by Bishop Anne to be honored for her tireless and incredible work for the School of Ministry, and in program and formation development for the Diocese. With a brilliant mind she seeks to connect the bigger pieces of the puzzle while never losing sight of the finer points. Her heartfelt “thank you” when asked to say a few words said it all. The Diocese is truly blessed to call people like Joyner and Mumford NC disciples.
With a morning of great work completed, the well-earned lunch break was called. When the third legislative session reconvened, the last of the reports were heard, including the joyous news shared by our pilgrims that the hospitality shown to them during this year’s trip to the Diocese of Botswana may be returned this summer, when our friends from Botswana come to visit us.
RESOLUTIONS AND ELECTIONS
Certified Acts of Convention are now available.
Voting on elected positions went as follows:
Standing Committee – Clergy Order (2)
The Rev. Jemonde Taylor – St. Ambrose, Raleigh
The Rev. Sallie Simpson, Saint Augustine’s Chapel, Raleigh
Standing Committee – Lay Order (1)
Kim Dockery – Trinity, Statesville
Diocesan Council – Clergy Order (2)
The Rev. Tyrone Fowlkes – St. Mark’s, Raleigh
The Rev. Miriam Saxon – St. Andrew’s, Haw River
Diocesan Council – Lay Order (3)
Alice Freeman – St. Mark’s, Wilson
Garland Homes – St. Timothy’s, Wilson
Gilbert Small – All Saints’, Concord
Board of Trustees, University of the South – Lay Order (1)
Emerson Bell, St. Martin’s, Charlotte
As the 203rd Annual Convention came to a close, the date and location of the 204th Annual Convention was set for November 22-23, 2019 at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem. Bishop Sam offered thanks for everyone who took part in making Convention happen, and announced one more piece of happy news: upon the retirement of the Very Rev. Bill Joyner, the Rev. Jan Lamb will step in to serve as the new archdeacon of the Diocese of North Carolina.
The final blessing was a bit different, in that everyone in attendance gathered in the center of the hall to bless Bishop Anne, as she prepares to begin her sabbatical at the beginning of December. With a final blessing from Bishop Sam, the 203rd Annual Convention was adjourned.