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Feb 09, 2013 | C. Andrew Doyle

Bishop's Address to 164th Council

Bishop Andy Doyle’s 164th Council Address


“God Made a Farmer” was a speech given by the legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey at a 1978 Future Farmers of America convention.  The powerful words were accentuated by a two-minute series of gorgeous still images from 10 noted photographers.


The advertisement last week earned widespread praise, it tapped into the legacy of the America’s Breadbasket and hard lives lived through the last century.


It also received criticism as it forgets the slaves and Mexicans who worked the fields and featured almost no Hispanics or minorities — though they made up nearly half of all hired farmworkers in 2010.


Yet as I sat there and viewed the combination of art and poetry it touched something inside of me – in my heart.


It resonated with the powerful images of modern day farmers and migrant workers who are our parishioners.  It reminded me personally of grandfathers and mothers, and a dust bowl generation past who toiled hard in Nebraska, Texas, and South Carolina.  But more than anything else it resonated because the images and words tap deeply into the well of scripture and its imagery – of Godly work.


Yes, God made farmers to watch over and care for his creation. God made farmers to fertilize the world with God’s love; and to do so in word and example.  God said follow me and watch how I sow; now you sow seeds of love with abandon on all kinds of soil.  He did not make particularly efficient farmers, but he made good ones.


God made his farmers to persevere against evil and to work against those things with corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.  God called us to tend his garden and to help make it grow.


God made farmers to labor on behalf of one’s neighbors. …To toil and work for justice and peace among all people.  …To raise up every human being as a child of God.


God invites us to get our hands dirty in the soil and dirt of life; and to be his hands at work in the world.


God sent farmers out to find the lost sheep and to save them and care for them.


To be sure - God made us farmers.  And, God is praying and hoping that more will join him in the fields and valleys of his creation laboring for the cause of love.


For when he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Indeed God made us farmers.


Bishop Texas George Kinsolving once quoted Mordecai to a group of seminarians with their missionary lives in front of them, “You have been called to just such a time as this.” 

We are called to lift high the cross and the banner of God in Christ Jesus and his church.  For as Texas George said, “The Kingdom of Heaven, in a very deep and real sense, cometh not with observation.”


We believe in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas that God’s Mission has a church (the Episcopal Church) and we are his faithful people; his good farmers.  Our mission is clear: to love the people of God and cling to the banner of God; come what will -- cost what it may.


This is our faith, this is our witness, this is our story and this is our time.  And, there is no better time, right here, right now, to be in Texas.


I would prefer no simpler time, nor a time of rest. I would prefer not a time from our past.  I prefer this time. For this is the season to give birth, to plant, a season to harvest, a season to heal, and build up, a time to dance and to gather stones together, a time to embrace, a time to sew, to speak to love and a time for peace.


Yes, it is a time of change.  Life, children, technology, work place, and the church are all environments of change.  Almost like sand moving beneath our feet it may seem as though everything is up for grabs.  But not for the Christian and not for the Episcopalian for our foundation is not built upon sand but upon the foundation of God in Christ Jesus.


Christian mission thrives in a time of change, and in Texas we relish the charting of new courses and the mapping of new territories.


In the diocese of Texas we seek out our own personal change believing that we are transformed by the love of Christ.  This reconciliation with Christ and one another enables us to move outside of our church buildings and work for change in the neighborhoods, communities, cities and counties of our diocese. It is what energizes us locally to do mission and sends us out to be at work in the wider world with over 45 different relationships with dioceses and provinces within the Anglican Communion.


We are at work changing the churches in which we minister and the world we live in. Sometimes the transformation we bring happens between two people; sometimes a whole city can be changed.


We believe we have been given the charge over sacred things, sacred plantings, and that we are invested in nothing less than the hands-on-harvesting work of transforming the world.  The people in Texas have to be better off tomorrow because the Episcopal Church is here today.  This is our field to plow, sow, tend, and harvest.


This is a railroad map from 1907.  Texas George Kinsolving sat down and looked at where the railroad was going and decided to plant churches along that route. As the diocese of Texas what we have said is that no matter how hard it is, no matter what the conditions are, no matter the stumbling blocks… we are investing in new church plants.


We will plow fields unplowed, and the ground will be rocky and weedy and hard and we will do it anyway; because we are the Diocese of Texas, we are God’s farmers, we are the Episcopal Church in this state and we have work to do.


It is a good time to sow because the reality is that most of the world is moving between Marshal and Longview, Waco down I35 to Austin around Victoria to the bay and up into Houston and Galveston.


Dense population centers ebb and flow over time and over the years. As we move through the decades, the movement comes back to our diocese; and some of the areas grow dark green again.


What this shows is that Harris County will gain 2 million people by 2040. In the same time period Travis County will gain 428,000; 54,000 new people in Waco in the next 27 years.  Bryan/College Station 53,000; Tyler will gain 52,000; and Beaumont/Jefferson county will gain 52,000.


It will be as if our diocese will grow by two cities the size of Austin. We are becoming the new millennium’s giant melting pot of languages, ethnicities, experiences, and narratives.  We are the new world, and God needs us, and people need us.  People are waiting and hoping for some good news.  And God’s mission has some good news to share.


We might question what kind of assets do we have?  We are 80,000 members strong, every Sunday over 25,000 people worship in our congregations. We have 150+ congregations, 64 schools, institutions, and foundations.


People who call the Episcopal Church home are people who lead corporate America, who farm the land, who teach in our schools, who work in restaurants and yards. We are people who fix cars, raise cows, and alligators, we are people who sell furniture and run banks.  Episcopalians are people who bury the dead, help moms birth the living, and sit with the suffering.


We are a giant web of life, of jobs, of ministries, of missionary outposts. We are a giant web of delivery points for the gospel of Jesus Christ where we can share the unique story of Jesus, the good news of salvation, in word and deed.  We do this by evangelism and mission. 


We as individuals are the ministers of this work. There is no one else but us. We are the called. We are sent out into the world. We are God’s farmers to til and work this land, our land, God’s land.


Our time requires of us innovation: innovation in evangelism and innovation in mission.


The manner in which the church used to do ministry to the poor was a little box which collected coins from those coming in and out of worship.  People came to the priest for handouts.  We know that in the 19th century, during the industrial revolution, we began to engage the world.  The Episcopal Church started ministries that fed people, Sunday schools where people learned to read and write, and we offered medical care. 


We sent foreign missionaries out to foreign lands.  We sent them to places where there were no other Christians for the most part. 


We have to rethink how we do mission today in our world and in our time.


Stewardship is not the business of redistributing wealth; we are in the business of giving grace.  We do this in church; yes.  But we do this through our health mission, our work with the poor, the undocumented worker.  We do not forget the laborer or lost.  We help people in our community.  This is the work of God’s mission.


We have to go out. We have a foreign mission field in our own back yard.  The neighborhoods and communities that exist outside the doors of our congregations are farther away than the foreign cultures we send hundreds of missionaries to every year.


We have a mandate from God to tend the fields at home; to walk out of our congregation and find out the needs of our neighbor; introduce ourselves; say we are here to help you; and ask what does this community need?


The vast migration will bring with them the modern problems of the world and we, the Episcopal Church must be here to help.  We are here to make the neighborhood better, healthier, and safer.  These are the things that matter to our communities so they matter to us. 


On our watch:

Today there is a care vacuum that must be addressed across our 57 counties.  This vacuum includes: access to health care, prevention, community and environmental health, poverty, education and health disparities.


Today, 30% of the population, or 1 million people, in Harris County alone have no health insurance.


Today, 40% of all emergency department (ED) visits are for conditions that could have been treated in a primary care setting


In Harris County, African American women’s rates of breast cancer mortality are 70% higher than White because these women are less likely to be diagnosed at a later stage of cancer.


Today, Half of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by age 14, 75% by age 24. Nationally one in five children suffers from mental, emotional or behavioral disorders but only one in eight of these are currently receiving treatment. Texas has more need but less access to child mental health services.


Today, Houston has more “food deserts” than any other major metropolitan area in the U.S. That means more than 440,000 people in our community can’t get easy access to healthy food.


Today, 25% of Harris County children live in “food insecure” households. That’s more than 280,000 children at risk of hunger every day.


Dream with me about a health mission that understands that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being; not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Dream with me about lowering breast cancer deaths for the poor and helping children find the mental health care they need.


Dream with me about creating onsite clinics in the poorest of our 57 counties; to bring health care to the poorest of the poor; health education to our neighborhoods.  We are our public schools best partner. Their problems and struggles are our own.


Dream with me about food programs that help provide healthy choices in food deserts, feeding programs for the hungry, and food education for those who don’t have many choices.


This is the time to dream dreams.


From Acts 2:1 when the Holy Spirit was upon the people, the scripture says, “All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”  And Peter said, “these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.  Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”


God is praying to send laborers into his fields for the harvest is great laborers are few.  We in Texas say, “Here I am lord.”


We must also innovate in evangelism.


When I showed the growth charts to my staff, one of them said, “It is hard to imagine our infrastructure will support such growth.”  This is true. We must undertake to build churches and communities throughout our diocese.   To do this we need a thriving congregational development plan.


After all, it is in Episcopal communities that worship, formation, and mission work together to connect people and offers a vision of the kingdom. We help people discover their place within the sacred family of God; and their ministry as unabashedly Episcopalian missionaries.  We empower baptismal ministry, which changes the world. 


Yet over the past two decades we have not yet changed our model for how we engage in church planting.  It has taken us 10 years and 10 million dollars to start each church.  And we have very few to show for the work.  That is a lot of money and a long time to work out a mission strategy in a local context.


We are hoping that you in the existing congregations will begin to think with us about possible opportunities; Dream with us about satellites, second sites, new communities. We need to crowd source our future sites for congregations and new communities of all kinds. 


We have been able to bring in our Strategic Mission Grants to help underwrite critical newcomer ministry for existing congregations. We must be sure that as an Episcopal church we keep our promise to be welcoming.


Second sites like St. Mark’s Between the Bayous have the opportunity to spring up.  Other congregations have planted new emerging communities without grant funding: The Front Porch in Austin, St. Basils in Austin, and The Epiphany Community in Tyler.  With our migration of people we need to seed one on South Congress in Austin; on college campuses throughout our diocese; and in any other area where we find young adults and communities where we might find a foothold and learn from the emerging culture.


We are also closing the gap on 10 years with new plants: through strategic funding with the Quin foundation we have been able in two years to move a congregation from its first days in a living room to a new building within its target mission area.

By purchasing the building but not the land, we were able to move from a 10 year 10 million dollar start to a 3 year 1.8 million dollar start – with a mission savings of 8.2 million dollars.


Yet it is still too expensive and our processes move to slow.


So, I have turned on the heat appointing a real estate group which will initially target 14 new church sites throughout the diocese; along with 4 new initiatives for Spanish speaking congregations.


Then, I asked David Fisher to find me an architect. I believe we need to be able to have a piece of property in our target mission area, hire a vicar to evangelize the area, and in six months get on the site in a church building.


I believe most people attracted to the Episcopal Church are attracted to a brand which incorporates good worship and liturgy, with a beautiful church buildings, with mission and service within the community.


We know how to do the latter now let’s get the building right. I told David I had some guidelines:

1.         It needed to be standard (we can build it using materials from Home Depot. 

2.         Moveable; we may want to move it on site or to a new site.

3.         It needs to seat 165 people; with possibility to expand to 190.

4.         It needs to come with basic parking and air conditioning

5.         It has to look like an episcopal church

6.         It can’t cost more than 1 million dollars to build


I told him I liked the porch addition at Bishop High’s home and so David went to see our man Logic Tabola.


Logic came back after talking to people; said he had a plan that met our design, was all natural, would last hundred years, and included a bell tower.  He said he couldn’t meet my million dollar mark; and that it only was going to cost in the neighborhood of $500,000.


Today we are in conversation with a number of sites that may be ready to go by the fall, we are looking at two missions ready to build plus  5 other congregations who are interested.  The architects are designing the project as we speak.  We will be able to begin within the year; and offer the drawings to the wider Episcopal Church.


We are bringing down the cost of being a missionary church, a farming church, a church willing to answer the call to be laborers in the fields of the Lord.  Bringing down our cost to get us into the neighborhoods and communities where we can undertake God’s mission.


There is a written report on line with a great deal of detail on everyone of our strategic initiatives; the journal will provide reports on all our ministry as a family.  From multicultural work to diaconal mission, from goals achieved to challenges that still lie ahead.  So, take a look.  Let me spend a few more minutes with you on the initiatives that are essential in 2013.  Then we will take a break. I will then present the second half of my address to you the topic of which is our St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System.


Major 2013 Initiatives

THE Conference:  I have been meeting with my staff to discern how we might be more faithful stewards of your time as we seek to offer you the tools you need to be faithful in your work.  We need to give more time back to the local ministries.  As a result 2013 will mark a significant change in how we do conferences.  In year’s past we have held a big formation conference and a big stewardship conference and a big evangelism conference and a big conference on how to deal with all the time and monetary pressures you must feel when asked to go to our many diocesan conferences but in 2013 we will do something truly revolutionary: we will have ONE conference.  We will have THE conference.


“The” Conference will be held at Camp Allen May 3rd – may 5th and will focus on stewardship, formation and evangelism.  We have incredible plenary speakers lined up, including Bishop Greg Rickel and Bill Miller, both of whom previously served in the Diocese of Texas along with me and others.  Our vision is to have significant representation from the laity at this conference, irrespective of whether or not they are currently serving in a leadership position. 


I invite you to make THE Conference a priority.  Be present.  Bring a team from your parish.  It’s going to be fun and above all else an inspiring weekend.  I want to see you there.


After Council I will be appointing a Real-estate Group to focus on the 14 new sites across the diocese where we might consider new initiatives.  I will be seeking funding/underwriting for the project from our foundations.  We will be looking for realtors and city planners who are Episcopalians across the diocese to help with this initiative.  It is important to be in conversation locally so as the work progresses we will offer three regional conversations call Greenfield Commission Summits across the diocese.  This will be an opportunity to envision together where churches and communities might be planted and grown throughout the diocese.


We will continue our search and hire a Canon for Common Mission to help fully develop our vision for innovative mission where our congregations across the 57 counties become missionary outposts to change the world in which we serve. A new budget structure that is missionary and connected to our strategic plan is now necessary. I am moving this up a year from 2014 because of economic realities and mission budget responses.  We need to simplify and reorganize our budget.  This will be one of the last major strategic plan goals set forth five years ago.


Therefore, in 2013 I will do a third party analysis of our strategic plan and evaluate the goals we set five years ago.  We need a road map that acknowledges where we have been and points us continually forward.  I will present this to you in 2014 as we begin our sixth year together as bishop and diocese. 


So, let me end this first section with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech entitled, “Citizenship in a Republic,” from April 23, 1910, said:


It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.


Together, let us Dare Greatly.  Let us dream together of a time of great innovation and creativity; let us dream of new mission and outreach. Let us dream of new evangelism strategies. 


Let us not be observers and cynics.  Let us instead return to the work of tilling the field, preparing the soil, sowing the seeds, watering and nurturing the crops, let us remember we are made to be farmers and our yield is nothing less than the Kingdom of God.


There is no greater cause and no greater family than I would rather serve with than you my friends.  Thank you Diocese of Texas.


St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System Direction

As you know I have appointed Bishop Harrison to be the Chair of the Board of the Health System.  She has done an excellent job.  During her time as chair I have attempted to understand the inner workings of the Health System, the Medical Center, the Health Industry in the City of Houston, and the coming Health Care changes.


I have met with leaders across the spectrum, interviewing them, and seeking to understand the vision needed for our future health mission of the diocese. I have sat and been tutored by the late Chester Jones, who served St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and Health system for 25+ years. I have served as chair of the Episcopal Health Charities. I have served on the Hospital board and I have attended the St. Luke’s Hospital joint committee meetings in order to understand the inner workings of a hospital. I have studied the emerging changes in health, tried to understand the change in leadership and structures needed to do this work into the next two decades.


It became clear to a number of us, as it has been clear for some time, that we need a new hospital in the Medical Center.  I pressed the leadership and they immediately went into an analysis of our current institution, an analysis of our future prospects, along with the need to envision the strategic direction that is needed to chart our course into the future.


What is clear that in the time of our birth, some 60 years ago, as a faith based hospital, there was a scarcity of inpatient beds; today we find ourselves in an era that has somewhat reversed itself and what ails us as a diocese spread out over 57 counties is the scarcity of primary care.


We have progressed over these many years and are proud of what we have accomplished. 


We are healthy and thriving. We have had special attention brought to our 10 specialties and our ranking of being one of the best U.S. Hospitals is something to be proud of.  St. Luke’s Patients Medical Center was recently featured on national television. Additionally, a lengthy, front page feature story in the Houston Chronicle described the extraordinary clinical work and research of a number of surgeons on the professional staff of The Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and underscores our continuing, mission-based success. We remain one of the finest systems in the country.


That being said, such a large organization must continually have its leadership looking at the horizon and visioning for the future.  Therefore, let me also provide you with a progress report on the work of the System Board’s Special Committee on Strategic Repositioning.  The Committee has been very busy.  It is clear that we must think intentionally about our future goals and how to get there.


At the Committee’s direction we are engaged in conversations with a wide variety of local and national healthcare organizations to discuss a range of relationship opportunities.  These include mergers or sales.  At the Board’s direction, Management is also charged with assuring the System’s ability to continue operations as an independent health system should that be the best alternative for the Diocese of Texas and this is the reason we continue to invest so heavily in a growing workforce and an ambitious program of capital investment. The independent strategy is, of course, the route chosen by our former Diocesan Bishop when the Board last pursued a new strategic plan in 2005/2006.


Nevertheless, we are at a critical crossroads in time as a Health System and as a Diocese with a Health System. We have a clear vision of the choices before us. Over the last five years Chester Jones like Lee Hogan before him, Bishop Wimberly, Bishop Harrison and I have worked to recruit the very best leaders to serve as your Health System Board, this council has elected them.


We are coming to a time that requires courage, a timely process, quality discernment, and initiative.  I believe it would be time consuming, expensive, and potentially damaging to the process for us to call a special council in order to make a decision. It is my firm belief that this Council should affirm the findings of the Board: that the health mission of the Diocese of Texas may be best served by a merger, sale, or realignment and restructuring of the Health System.


We must deal with the reality that Canon 27.1 requires the approval in principle by a Council. Therefore I propose to you that this 164th Diocesan Council affirms its faith and trust in the Health System Board and encourages the Board to timely complete its strategic review.


I propose that, in the event that the Health System Board determines in good faith that the health mission of the Diocese of Texas is best served by a Change of Control Transaction, this 164th Diocesan Council approves in principle such Change of Control Transaction as may be authorized by the Health System Board as long as it is approved in writing by the Bishop Diocesan, the Standing Committee, the Church Corporation, and the Executive Board.


And lastly that this 164th Diocesan Council requests that, in the Event of a Change of Control Transaction, the Bishop Diocesan make a report to the Diocese of Texas regionally; appoint a Task Force (whose membership will be approved by the Executive Board) to guide, along with the Health System Board, the process of revising the health mission of the Diocese of Texas; and report to the 165th Diocesan Council on the work of the Task Force and any necessary canonical changes.


It is my firm belief that this is the best way forward. We will have some time during the business session to sit at tables to discuss and we will take time today to speak together about the proposed resolution.  The resolution, the only resolution coming from my address, will be distributed to your tables at this time.