The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth
Equipping the Saints for the Work of Ministry
         

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The 28th Annual
Diocesan Convention
November 12 & 13, 2010 • Hosted by the Western Deanery

 
The Lord has done great things for us

The Bishop’s Address


 

“The Lord has done great things for us.”

This is the theme of our 28th Annual Diocesan Convention. Most of you probably recognize it as a quote from Psalm 126, and I hope you know the second half of verse 4: “and we are glad indeed!” 

“The Lord has done great things for us; and we are glad indeed.” As we receive various reports and do the business of this year’s convention, may we above all else recall the many great things that God has done for us as a diocese, and may we rejoice and give thanks for His goodness and love. It is not all about us or anything we have done. It is all about Him and the great things He has done for us. As we look about us, we must be impressed by the numerous ways that the Lord has provided for us, and for the reminders of His grace and loving kindness that surround us on every side.

Sometimes when we face hardships or struggles of various sorts, we tend to take our focus away from the Lord and turn our attention upon ourselves. We may become fearful and complaining. We are filled with anxiety and worry. We begin to act as if everything depended upon us and how we respond to the challenges and problems that confront us. But this is wrong-headed. It is of the flesh. In fact, everything depends upon Him, not us, and the faith response is to “let go and let God” – to trust in Him to provide and to have confidence in the Holy Spirit as our advocate and guide.

The Apostle Paul exhorts us in I Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” May this convention be a time to rejoice and give thanks to God and thus show ourselves to be a people glad to do His will.

I am told that there is a basic difference in how African Christians differ from Western Christians in presenting the Gospel. While Africans declare the saving acts of God in Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us, Westerners tend to talk about our responsibilities and what we should be doing in the Name of God. It is a subtle but important distinction. Is it all about what He has done, is doing and will continue to do? Or is it all about our plans and actions and efforts? Hear the words of the Psalmist: “The Lord has done great things for us; and we are glad indeed.”

One of the blessings God has consistently provided for us in this diocese is good solid clergy leadership and a continuing supply of new vocations to the ordained ministry. At this convention, we not only note the addition of new clergy the Lord has brought to us, but we also want to express our thanks and gratitude for the service of our regional deans who have served so faithfully over the years.  Three of the longest serving deans in the history of the diocese complete their terms of service at this convention, and we want to thank them for their faithful leadership and service over the years: The Very Rev. Fr. William Crary, the Very Rev. Christopher Stainbrook, and the Very Rev. Christopher Cantrell. They have been good friends and advisors, and I am grateful for the many ways they have assisted and encouraged me as your Bishop. Those appointed to continue their work are Fr. Tom Hightower in the Eastern Deanery, Fr. David Klein in the Fort Worth East Deanery, and Fr. Roger Grist in the Fort Worth West Deanery. Thank you, my brothers, for agreeing to undertake your new responsibilities as deans.

And speaking of the blessings God has given us through faithful clergy over the years, let us take note that on the last day of September Bishop William Wantland celebrated the 30th anniversary of his ordination to the episcopate. Three decades is a long time for any term of service, but especially in the ministry of a Bishop. As you know, Bishop Wantland has served as Assisting Bishop of Fort Worth for the past several years, and we are indeed grateful for the presence of Jan and Bishop Wantland as a part of the life of this diocese.

As we look to the future, one of our greatest challenges is to raise up new leaders for the years ahead. Both in elected offices and in appointments, we need to find new, younger leaders, both among the laity and the clergy, to take on the roles of leadership for the church of tomorrow. On the diocesan level as well as on the local parish level, the recruiting and training of new leaders in crucial, not optional. This is one of the reasons that I am so pleased that Liz Jordan has agreed to accept my appointment to serve as Coordinator of Youth Ministries for the diocese. There is nothing we do that is more important than our work with young people. We have been blessed to have Liz heading up the summer program at Camp Crucis, but our youth work does not stop at the end of the summer. We will now have her working on a part time basis to strengthen our youth ministry throughout the rest of the year, in conjunction with the Youth Ministry Advisory Committee. So pray for her as she undertakes the new work.

The Hispanic ministry of our diocese is another great example of how God has blessed and enriched us over the years. The largest Sunday morning attendance of any congregation in our diocese is at Iglesia San Juan, under the leadership of Fr. Javier Loyo. This church was founded in 1985 and now averages around 575 to 600 in attendance every week. The fastest growing mission in the diocese is Iglesia San Miguel, founded by Fr. Sergio Diaz in 1999. They consistently report about 275 to 300 at mass every Sunday and continue to present some of the largest confirmation classes of any church in the diocese. On the last Saturday of October, we celebrated an historic occasion with the first Hispanic ordination in the history of the diocese with Deacon Salvador Ordonez at St. Anne’s Church in Fort Worth. May his be but the first of many more Hispanic ordinations in the years to come.  If we want our diocese to grow, then we must continue to focus on the rapidly growing Hispanic population in this part of Texas. Thanks to the hard work first of Fr. Diaz and then of Fr. Grist and Deacon Ordonez, the Santa Ana Sunday service now averages over 100 people every Sunday. We rejoice that this Convention has welcomed yet another Hispanic congregation, Mision Santa Cruz, as the newest mission station in the Diocese. May Fr. Villareal and his flock be blessed with continuing growth in the coming year. “The Lord has done great things for us; and we are glad indeed.”

A continuing emphasis in my leadership as your Bishop over the years has been to focus on being a missionary church. Critical to this has been our companion relationships with both the Diocese of Northern Malawi and the Diocese of Northern Mexico. We have been guided and enabled by the hard work and dedication of the members of our World Mission Committee. Our on-going focus on mission has gained us recognition in other parts of the church, both here and abroad, as a missionary diocese. It is not just something we do; it is a part of who we are. A big step in furthering the mission of the church has been the selection of Fort Worth as the new headquarters of SOMA, Sharing our Ministries Abroad. As you know, one of our most ardent lay missionaries is Dr. Glenn Petta, who was chosen as the new Executive Director of SOMA this last spring. His new work takes him to various mission fields in the world, where he meets a host of Anglican leaders, including Archbishops and Primates of the Anglican Communion. And likewise his involvement in international missionary work brings a number of key leaders here to Fort Worth for meetings and conferences. In large part due to the work of SOMA, Fort Worth is now synonymous with mission, and we give thanks to God for this recognition.

An indication of this recognition came this past September, when the Board of Trustees of the Anglican Relief and Development Fund chose Fort Worth as the site of its annual meeting. This brought a number of important mission leaders to our Diocese, including six or seven Primates and several other noted Bishops from around worldwide Anglican Communion. Thanks to the good efforts of several parishioners at St. Andrew’s in Fort Worth, including Alann Sampson and Dennis Ward, we hosted a highly successful fund-raising, awareness-raising banquet, with nearly 250 of our people in attendance. Through the work of the ARDF, God has given us yet another opportunity to share in the missionary work of His church, both near to home and abroad.

I am pleased to tell you that a missionary team of Nashotah House seminarians will be going to Malawi this coming January. Our clergy learn what it is do have a heart for mission during their theological education studies. Not only will some of our seminarians be on this trip, but also it will be led by our own Fr. Christopher Culpepper. We give thanks for this Gospel based initiative, and I ask that you support them in your prayers in January.

We are blessed to have with us as our special guests at this Convention Bishop Bill Godfrey of Peru and his wife, Judith. They are true missionaries, who have made significant and lasting contributions to the development of the Anglican Church in South America over the years. They are examples of how to model ministry as mission, and we look forward to having Bishop Godfrey bring us greetings later this morning from our brothers and sisters in the Province of the Southern Cone. As you know, they recently elected a new Presiding Bishop, Tito Zavala of Chile, to succeed Gregory Venables as Primate, and I want to take this opportunity to say how very, very grateful we are for the bold leadership of Archbishop Venables in the life of the Anglican Communion over the past several years, and for the way that he has offered pastoral care and encouragement to this diocese in difficult times. Thank you, Bishops Godfrey, Zavala and Venables, for your friendship, support and partnership in the Gospel.

In order to further develop the missionary thrust of our diocese as a whole, I am pleased to announce today that plans are well under way for the Bishop’s Conference on Mission, to be held at St. Vincent’s Cathedral on Feb. 25 & 26, 2011. It is intended for all members of the diocese, and its purpose will be to enhance mission awareness among all our people, to energize us for mission work, and to awaken new opportunities to engage in mission. The conference will provide workshops and forums on three concurrent tracks. The first will focus on young people, “The Mission of the Church With Youth.” It will be designed especially for the youth of our diocese and for adult advisers who work with them. The second track is “The Mission of the Church to Families,” and it will focus on family life and spirituality in families. And then the third track is “The Mission of the Church to the World,” and it will address both domestic and foreign missionary opportunities. It is my sincere hope that we will have a good participation from every congregation in the diocese, both from the laity as well as the clergy. Please mark it on your calendars now and encourage others to attend with you.

This address would not be complete without a few words by way of update on our response to the several lawsuits that have been brought against us by the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America and its local supporters. Vice chancellor David Weaver, who also serves as the legal counsel for each of our congregations in this litigation, has given a helpful summary as to time-line expectations:

“Motions for Summary Judgment have been filed by the minority faction and PECUSA, and Motions for Summary Judgment are being prepared on behalf of the Diocese, the Corporation and the several Congregations … that have intervened in the lawsuit.  These Motions will be heard on January 14, 2011. A decision by the trial court will be rendered on or shortly after Jan. 14, 2011, and it is a certainty that the party against whom summary judgment is rendered (if the Court grants any of the Motions that it will hear on the 14th) will file an appeal. The case likely will be on appeal in the Court of Appeals for a period of not less than nine months nor longer than two years. Afterward, the loser on the appeal will a petition for review by the Texas Supreme Court, and the case could linger in that Court for up to two additional years.”

The Federal Suits that have been brought against me personally by the TEC folk and All Saints’ Church in Fort Worth will not be ready for a Summary Judgment hearing until at least the end of August. So, sad to say, the bottom line is that there is no expectation of a resolution to our legal battles for at least three or four years from now. The need to provide adequate funds to defend ourselves in the courts will be with us for a long time to come.

I am grateful for the many families who have already responded to our appeal in September for contributions to our legal defense fund.  To date we have received over 450 gifts for a total of around $140,000, with some saying they would continue to give on an annual or quarterly basis for some time to come. However, as you can see, this is but a modest beginning when compared to the anticipated expenditure of an additional three or four million dollars before the suits are resolved. This amount covered only about six weeks of our legal expenses. At this point, we need to at least triple our number of donors in the general campaign and to solicit six figure, major gifts from a select number of prospects who have the ability to do so, if properly motivated. It is part of the strategy of our adversary to try to outspend us and bankrupt us in this process, in hopes that we might simply accede to their demands. As time goes by, they will come to understand that this simply is not going to happen. We will not give up, and we will not simply go away. Our resolve to do what we must do in defense of the Gospel is as firm today as it ever has been. This battle is not essentially over property, but over the faith – the faith once delivered to the saints. We are under attack not because of buildings, but because we have taken a stand for the authority of the Bible as the revealed Word of God and because we will not compromise the historic faith and order of the catholic church. Stand firm, my brothers and sisters, for He who has called us is able to prevail and He will not forsake us in our time of trial. Pray for Him to provide the funds that are needed over the long haul, that we might not only persevere, but prevail.

Our future is full of challenges and wonderful opportunities. Our mission statement remains the same: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ.” As a missionary diocese, we seek to grow God’s church by evangelism, church planting, ministry with youth, and reaching out to the growing Hispanic population in this area of Texas. Standing shoulder to shoulder with other Biblical Anglicans from one coast to the other, we are “reaching North America with the Transforming Love of Jesus Christ.” May Lord who has given us the will to do these things, give us the grace and power to perform them.

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad indeed.”

 

 

In Bishop Iker’s absence, the address was delivered by Canon Charles A. Hough III.

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