For a rough audio of Bishop Doyle’s Council address, click here:
There is so much to be excited about and hopeful for in this address. I have drawn out some of the points that are most interesting to me in case you don’t have time to listen to the whole one hour speech (though I recommend it).
First, a little bit of background:
This was an exciting Council address in what has been a banner year for the Diocese of Texas in terms of the reshaping and development of its various institutions. In 2014, the Diocese moved to unified budget, which combines the Diocesan Assessment and Missionary Asking budgets in a way that is more reflective of a diocese united in mission. Various parts of these budgets have been absorbed by associated foundations. For more information on these foundations, click here: http://www.epicenter.org/resources/office-of-financial-services/foundations/. As a result, assessments have fallen from 17% to 10%. How can this be? The sale of the St. Luke’s Health System to Catholic Health Initiatives has resulted in two new foundations: The Episcopal Health Foundation and The Great Commission Foundation. The Episcopal Health Foundation, with its corpus of $1 billion, will provide $31-35 million yearly for health initiatives focusing on primary care for underserved populations in Texas. The Great Commission Foundation will begin providing funding for a bold program of church planting (see below) in 2014.
A Unified Evangelism Strategy:
Bishop Doyle noted the good work of six existing congregations that have started new worshipping communities, such as St. Mark’s Between-the-Bayous, Houston. With the resources from The Great Commission Foundation, plans for 15 new church starts are in the works by 2016 and, by 2020, 20 more new plans will have been developed.
Campus missions will also be fully funded and expanded with a new start on the UH campus and new attention paid to community colleges.
Some of the diocese’s multicultural congregations have seen amazing growth (3 congregations have grown by 27% in the last year). The diocese is looking to foster a greater diversity among its clergy.
New Focus on the Development of Lay Vocations:
Bishop Doyle highlighted the work and dedication of our 27 bivocational clergy, and he called for new efforts in the area of lay vocations: raising up lay preachers and lay evangelists and establishing new practices and structures for lay discernment within congregations.
Continued Work in the Area of Service:
Doyle highlighted the admirable work of the diocese in responding to natural disasters, from hurricanes to forrest fires. Over 90 homes in Galveston were redeveloped through its efforts in partnership with Episcopal Relief and Development following Hurricane Ike, and the diocese has been called upon to advise other dioceses facing natural disasters. In the Diocese of Texas, there are over 1400 service organizations linked to the Episcopal church. But, in the area of service, greater efforts to foster communication and cohesion are necessary. The new Episcopal Health Foundation will contribute $31-35 million annually to efforts to improve the health of the underserved in our communities.
Episcopal and Anglican:
In many ways this was the climax of the address. Doyle revisited the struggle within our diocese to remain a diverse church united in mission. He spoke of the important ties forged within the larger Anglican communion (relationships with over 75 dioceses across the global communion). But then he called upon the diocese to recognize the ways in which it had become isolated and inward-looking over recent years. Now is the time for a new era, to once strive side-by-side alongside our brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church. “We will NOT vote with our money,” vowed Doyle as he explained why the Diocese is increasing its giving to TEC after many years of falling far short of its giving potential. Upon his announcement that Texas would host General Convention 2018 in Austin, he called for a new openness to the life of the larger church and a greater generosity in sharing our gifts for ministry in Texas.
Reconciliation and Canon 43:
Prefacing the next part of the address with a call to be “reconciled reconcilers,” Doyle waded into the perennial debate over Canon 43. He noted, “Canon 43 has become the identified patient of our diocese … an identified patient being the person in a dysfunctional family that has been unconsciously selected to act out the family’s conflicts as a diversion.” Acknowledging the depth of conflicts around issues of sexuality, he called for some patience and an openness to bringing people together for earnest discussion. Doyle promised that, he as bishop, with the help of the diocese, would revisit the issues around Canon 43 after his sabbatical. The efforts that brought about the Unity in Mission document, which made a way forward for same-sex blessings to occur within the Diocese of Texas, will serve as a model for this new dialogical effort with reconciling intent.