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Feb 07, 2015 | Carol E. Barnwell

Bishop Calls Church to Reconciliation, Service and Evangelism


By Carol E. Barnwell

(Ed note: Video of Bishop Fisher’s sermon and Bishop Doyle’s presentation to Council will be available on the website at on Wednesday, February 11, along with a photo gallery. Full budget reports, and explanation of proposed amendments to the Constitution and Canons are included on the same page.)


Calling all Episcopalians to focus on evangelism, service and reconciliation, Bishop C. Andrew Doyle left no doubt there is work to be done in the congregations of the Diocese of Texas and beyond the walls of the Diocese’s 153 congregations.


“Diversity is not a core value, it’s the reality of the kingdom of God,” Bishop Doyle told the 431 lay delegates, 201 clergy, alternates and guests gathered in The Woodlands for the Diocese of Texas’ 166th annual Council, February 6-7.


“The Diocese is a place where we love and honor all people,” Bishop Doyle said in his address, describing his vision of a system of ministry to grow the Church through new church plants, second campuses and missional communities with a focus on evangelism, service and reconciliation. He called on congregations to “raise up clergy and lay leaders to lead, plan, renew and grow Christian communities.”


Bringing people and resources together will energize growth, he told those gathered. “It is better to see the assets in our community – the human and financial abundance we have-- rather than scarcity.” In next five years, instead of clergy led and lay supported churches, Bishop Doyle said the Diocese would become a lay led and clergy supported church. He called for initiatives focused on inclusion of community members in ministries, efforts that strengthen neighborhoods, and which “recognize the dignity, contributions and assets of all participants, providers and recipients alike.”


The Bishop went on to say he was “committed to the full inclusion of all people in the life and ministry of the Diocese” and called on church members to become a community of reconciliation. Evangelism or service will be held back without reconciliation, he said.


“Reconciliation is dependent upon our relationship with God first, on honest acceptance of personal brokenness and sin … We are to outdo one another in honor,” he said, adding that he would deal with disagreements on the issue of Canon 43 “honestly without dividing the Diocese” and bring the matter before Council in 2016 for conclusive action.


He also spoke of a long-term approach to racism in every form. “We cannot ignore it. We have some work to do. We are going to figure out how we can change our behavior because it affects the culture we live in,” he said.   A full audio of the Bishop’s presentation will be linked here by Tuesday.


Congregational Development

Canon Mary MacGregor encouraged delegates to raise up bi-vocational clergy from their congregations in her report on congregational development. “How are you empowering people to share the good news? How are you thinking creatively? What risks for the sake of the gospel are you taking?” she asked.


MacGregor reported that 14 dioceses have formed formation programs modeled on the Iona School for Ministry with 60 students currently studying to become deacons or bi-vocational priests. She noted a number of new church starts in different states of development, some with land, some with bricks and mortar, some that will take new and unique shapes.


Grace, Georgetown; Christ Church, Tyler; Good Shepherd and St. Michael’s, Austin have all organized second campuses. St. Andrew’s Pearland has opened an extension called Mosaic, MacGregor reported.


Constitution and Canons

Delegates considered 29 amendments written to make the Canons more usable. Two constitutional amendments were approved and five additional ones had a first reading. Delegates will vote on these after a second reading next year.


Article 9, enabling Episcopal Health Foundation and the Great Commission Foundation to enter into real property transactions and manage investments, was approved. Article 10, which eliminated references to St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System was also approved. The Health System was sold in 2013.


All of the amendments were supported by the Governance Committee of the Executive Board. “The vast majority of these were made to delete obsolete language and provisions that no longer reflect our current practices,” Maria Boyce, chair of the committee, explained in her presentation to delegates. Boyce’s report from the pre-council meetings can be viewed here.



Secretary of the Diocese: The Rev. Canon John A. Logan, Jr.

Treasurer of the Diocese: Robert Biehl, Diocese of Texas

Standing Committee

Rhonda Fanning, St. Martin’s, Houston

The Rev. Pedro Lopez, San Pedro, Pasadena

Executive Board

John Hancock, Christ Church, Temple

Ellen Mallay, St John the Divine, Houston

Ed Ziegler, Holy Comforter, Spring

The Rev. Beth Magill, UT Student Center, Austin

The Rev. Mitch Tollett, St. Francis, Tyler

Church Corporation

Jolynn Free, All Saints, Austin

Trustee, University of the South

Seth Hinkley, Christ Church Cathedral, Houston


Treasurer’s Report and Budget

All diocesan assessments had been received prior to Council reported Bob Biehl, diocesan treasurer. “This is a remarkable event and speaks to the space we have been able to give our congregations by reducing the insurance assessment with help from the Episcopal Health Foundation,” Biehl said. He reported a strong financial condition with more than $1 million in assets at the end of 2014. Biehl's pre-council report can be viewed here.


According to Sam Dodson, chair of the Finance Committee of the Executive Board, assessment rates were reduced by 22% in 2013 and 2014. Episcopal Health Foundation covers five million dollars of the diocesan health insurance costs, which helps lower assessments substantially. The $439,000 increase in insurance reflects, in part, an increased number of clergy in the Diocese, Dodson said.


Additionally, “We had nearly a three percent increase in our support of The Episcopal Church to $776,593 and continued support of the Anglican Communion of $250,000 representing a tithe of our income,” Dodson explained. Council approved the $9,014,000 budget recommended by the Executive Board.


The Bishop’s Award for Ministry

The Council offering from Friday night’s worship service of more than $6,000 was given to the Hope Project, a health and dental clinic in Tenaha, 45 miles northeast of Nacogdoches. Hope Project’s director, Jean Diebolt, a delegate from Christ Church, San Augustine, received the Bishop’s Award for Ministry, for her work in establishing and expanding the health care available in one of the poorest parts of Texas.


Diebolt, a former combat nurse in Vietnam, established the clinic with funds from the Diocese, Mission Funding and later Episcopal Health Charities after the doctor she worked for in Nacogdoches turned away a mother with a critically sick child because the woman had no insurance. The clinic serves 5000 people annually and the dental clinic will have more than 2000 patient encounters annually. New clinics are proposed for San Augustine later this year. Read a full account of the Hope Project in the March issue of Diolog magazine.


“She and three fellow nurses from her days in Vietnam were diagnosed with breast cancer within same week, which they attributed to agent orange,” said Bishop Doyle in presenting the award, “but since US Government said women didn’t go into combat, there are no records of their working in that environment. ‘We were ghost people,’ Jean said. Well, you are not ghost people to the people of East Texas or to the Diocese of Texas,” the Bishop said, handing Diebolt a crystal obelisk engraved with her name and the diocesan seal.



Bishop Doyle quoted a 1997 Apple ad in his closing remarks, challenging delegates to think creatively and to approach their ministry as transformative, for themselves, their congregations and their communities.


“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the trouble makers, the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”     Apple Ad


“Texas is a leader in this Church,” Bishop Doyle said. “We are vulnerable, creative, we are changing lives for God, transforming the world around us. And I can promise you that if we are faithful, our work will not be overcome. It is God’s work, nothing can prevail against it.”


The 167th Council of the Diocese of Texas will be held at The Woodlands, Feb 12-13, 2016.