Convention was one for the books
There have been plenty of “firsts” in 28 years of conventions in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, but never before have the clergy and lay delegates been obliged to conduct the business of the diocese without the diocesan Bishop in attendance.
However, illness prevented both Bishop Jack Iker and Mrs. Donna Iker from attending this year's convention, held Friday and Saturday, Nov. 12 & 13. Assisting Bishop William Wantland presided and preached at Friday evening’s opening Eucharist. In compliance with Article 7 of the diocesan Constitution, Saturday's business meeting, at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, was chaired by the President of the Standing Committee, the Very Rev. Christopher Cantrell. At the Bishop's request, the text of his annual address was read by the Canon to the Ordinary, the Rev. Canon Charles A. Hough III. Mrs. Kathy Reed stood in for Mrs. Iker at the annual Coffee for the priests' wives. Saturday’s plenary meeting was live streamed by volunteers Tony Clark and David Peet, allowing Bishop Iker to observe the proceedings as they occurred.
The Very Rev. Scott Wilson, Dean of the Western Deanery, which hosted the convention, welcomed the clergy, lay delegates, and guests on Saturday morning and led Morning and Noonday Prayer.
Almost the first item of business was the admission of a new congregation, Mission Santa Cruz in Houston, led by Fr. Raphael Villareal. Santa Cruz joined the diocese as a mission station.
Balloting went on throughout the morning, culminating in the election of Fr. Scott Wooten and Larry Votto to positions on the Standing Committee and Fr. Jay Atwood to the Ecclesiastical Trial Court.
In his address to the convention, Bishop Iker emphasized the convention theme from Psalm 126: The Lord has done great things for us. “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,” the Bishop said. He affirmed the diocese’s commitment to stand for the Gospel and called upon a number of new leaders to take up ministry. He thanked three regional Deans for completing their service in office and welcomed their successors.
Saying that “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,” and calling ours a missionary diocese, the Bishop announced the recent appointment of the first diocesan Youth Coordinator and ordination of the diocese’s first Hispanic clergy member. He urged every congregation to send several members to the Conference on Mission, which is scheduled for Feb. 25 & 26, 2011 at St. Vincent’s Cathedral in Bedford. Finally, he shared an anticipated timeline for litigating the suits that have been brought against the diocese, saying the appeals will span several years and require a financial commitment of perhaps another $3 million. “Stand firm, my brothers and sisters,” he said, “for He who has called us is able to prevail and He will not forsake us in our time of trial.”
Following the Bishop's address, the President of convention introduced the new clergy some of whom were not able to be present. New to the diocese by ordi,nation or by transfer are Deacon Gail Kleinschmidt, Deacon Bill Holder, Deacon Samuel Keyes and Deacon Salvador Ordonez, Fr. Andrew Petta, Fr. John Slavin, Fr. Andrew Powell, Fr. Peter Geromel, and Fr. Raphael Villareal.
The Rt. Rev. William Godfrey, Bishop of Peru, the special guest of the convention, assisted at Friday’s worship service and addressed the convention Saturday, inviting the diocese to deepen its relationship with the Diocese of Peru.
Fr. Joseph Fester, an ecumenical guest of the convention, brought greetings from Metropolitan Jonah, leader of the Orthodox Church in America, and praised Nashotah House Seminary for its unswerving commitment to pass on the faith once delivered from the saints.
Fr. William Crary, the senior active clergyman in the diocese, was surprised by the convention organizers with a special honor. As Fr. Crary retires in January 2011 as both Rector of St. Laurence Church in Grapevine and Dean of the Eastern Deanery, he will now bear the title of Dean Emeritus in recognition of his decades of loving and devoted service.
The morning moved on with the report of the Constitution and Canons Committee by vice chancellor David Weaver. Four constitutional amendments were presented for a second reading and ratification, along with two canonical changes. Each of the items passed overwhelmingly in both orders, though one or two “nays” were heard in objection to a canonical change in the date when parochial reports must be submitted. Fr. Cantrell reminded the convention that the change was made to accommodate the administrative need of the Anglican Province in North America for accurate and timely reporting of parish statistics.
Other reports included an introduction to Exodus International, a ministry assisting those who struggle with homosexuality, by Cora Werley; and a presentation on Sharing of Ministries Abroad (SOMA), a mission agency now located in Fort Worth, by its national director, Dr. Glen Petta. Dr. Petta announced that Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali will visit the diocese in May 2011 to lead a program on sharing the Gospel with followers of Islam.
Walter Virden III, Treasurer of the diocese, presented the proposed 2011 budget and assessment formula, both of which were adopted without objection. The convention completed its business with courtesy resolutions presented by Fr. Edward Kresowaty. The 28th annual Diocesan Convention was adjourned just before 2 p.m., and the 29th annual convention was set for Nov. 4 & 5, 2011. It will be hosted by the Southern Deanery at the Conference Center in Granbury, TX.