meeting in convention
Friday and Saturday, Nov. 5 & 6, 2004
at St. Vincent's Cathedral Church and School, Bedford

Bringing Forth Life and Giving Growth


The Bishop's Address to the Convention


Greetings and welcome to this the Twenty-second Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. It is a great joy to be holding our meeting this year here in this marvelous new facility for St. Vincent’s School. Thank you, Dean Reed, and the people of your congregation and school for hosting us, and congratulations on this exciting new development in your school.

The theme for this year’s convention comes from the 55th Chapter of the Book of the prophet Isaiah:

For as rain and snow fall from the heavens and return not again, but water the earth,
Bringing forth life and giving growth, seed for sowing and bread for eating,
So is my word that goes forth from my mouth; it will not return to me empty;
But will accomplish that which I have purposed, and prosper in that for which I sent it.

As I was sitting in St. Leo’s Chapel one morning, praying about the ministry of our diocese and thinking about this convention, it is this phrase that jumped out at me as a wonderful description of what our work together is all about: "bringing forth life and giving growth." It is not something we are doing by our own efforts and programs, but rather it is something God is doing through us and in us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, as we faithfully proclaim, obey and spread His holy Word. For the Word of God is powerful and active and life giving. And where God’s Word is sown, like the rain from heaven, it brings forth life and gives growth.

So today I would like us to reflect upon our ministry, on the local level, on the diocesan level, and internationally through this lens: Where is God bringing forth life and giving growth?

First and foremost, it is happening in every parish and mission represented here today. It is happening where you gather for worship Sunday by Sunday, through the life giving Sacraments of the New Covenant, Holy Baptism and the Eucharist. It is happening in much that we may tend to take for granted – in the preaching of the Word Sunday by Sunday by faithful pastors and priests, in the teaching of the Christian faith to our young people in Sunday school and confirmation instruction, in numerous Bible studies and prayer groups, in outreach ministries in your community, in uniting newly weds in the bonds of Holy Matrimony, and all the rest that make our churches places where God the Holy Spirit is continually bringing forth life and giving growth. Let us begin today by thanking God for His grace and goodness towards us. He has blessed us and prospered us in numerous ways, and even in the midst of adversity and trying times in the national life of our church, the Lord Jesus Christ has sustained and strengthened us to serve Him and to witness to Him in ways that give life and growth to us and to those whom we serve. While the national figures of the Episcopal Church for last year indicate another loss in membership of over 30,220 people (which is like losing two entire, midsize dioceses like Fort Worth in one year), this diocese showed a small increase in membership at year’s end, and we recorded an increase of 17% in the number of people confirmed or received. In light of this, I think all of us would want to commend and thank God for the clergy of this diocese, for their faithfulness, for their sacrifice, and for their courage in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. I am proud to be your Bishop, and I am inspired and encouraged by your example and your support. God bless you for it!

Later on this morning, you will be seeing a demographics presentation by Fr. Vance Page entitled "Opportunities for Growth: Mission Development in the Next Decade." You will be excited, as I was when we first reviewed these figures, with the population growth we are experiencing in several regions of our diocese. We have at least three specific areas where we could start a new mission church, right now. The only thing preventing us from doing so is the start-up costs of buying land, building buildings, and paying for mission planting clergy. But make no mistake about it: the opportunities before us for church growth are remarkable, and we must not hold back from pursuing them, as God enables and guides us. It is something we must do together, as a diocese.

Already He has brought forth life and given growth in the three newest missions in our diocese, and the coming year will be a significant time of continued development for each of them. St. Philip the Apostle in Arlington already owns land for a new church, and Fr. Felix tells me they have successfully completed a capital fund drive, raising over $240,000 in three to five year pledges, and that plans for the construction of a new, permanent church home of their own are nearly complete. We will break ground for their new church at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 19th.

This past Spring the diocese purchased a wonderful piece of property for Iglesia San Miguel in an Hispanic area of east Fort Worth, where existing buildings were renovated for use as a church, and where they too plan to build a suitable sanctuary in the coming year. It was a wonderful experience just last month, when I made my first visitation to San Miguel since their relocation to the new church site. We had over 225 people present for an outdoors mass, and forty people were confirmed or received. They have every reason to be excited about their future growth potential. In addition to serving as the vicar there, I am grateful that Fr. Diaz also continues to pastor the growing Hispanic congregation at St. Anne’s in Lake Worth.

And last but not least, the Church of St. Barnabas the Apostle in northeast Tarrant County continues to grow and to plan for their future development under the leadership of Fr. Louis Tobola. What a blessing God has given them in providing a bequest to the diocese in the amount of $750,000 over the next five years, for land and their first church. We are indeed grateful to the trust officers at Bank One who have custody of the estate of Martha Sue Parr, for honoring her stated intentions to do this when she died unexpectedly before she was able to amend her will. May her example be an inspiration to many others to remember the diocese in their estate planning.