Saturday, January 22, 2011

A few final impressions from Diocesan Council

Diocesan Council is ended, and Lori and I are back in Charlottesville. There were several milestones at this Council, particularly on same-gender blessings.

Bishop Shannon Johnston said he would move ahead "immediately" on such blessings with those congregations that are ready to proceed with such blessings.

The Council approved a resolution thanking our bishop for his work in this issue, and urging him to go forward with the issuance of guidelines for such blessings.

That it won approval overwhelmingly was a bit startling, especially for those in the diocese who have been rebuffed on this issue for years.

That was the big news item. But I'd also like to share a few other impressions.

First, I came away with a deep appreciation that this diocese trusts its bishop. The votes on same-gender blessings were an affirmation that he has gone about this in the right way, and that the leadership of the diocese is overwhelmingly committed following his pastoral leadership on this and other issues.

Second, the presence of people from St. Paul's Memorial Church was impressive, and showed us at our most vibrant and committed to ministry at every level. A group of our Canterbury students were there to support campus ministry. They not only showed that by their presence but by speaking up that they need to be included in the election of the next suffragan bishop.

Our Integrity booth was staffed by St. Paul's folks, led by Wayne Nolen and Buck Smith. I was impressed by how many St. Paul's people were there to help with the booth, including members of our Shalom Group of young adults, many of whom are also active with Integrity. Megan Brett, Janice Dean and Danny Dean staffed the table and I am grateful for their presence at the Council

Our delegates, Buck Smith, Bruce Carveth, and Joan Burchell were present and voting throughout. Mildred Robinson was elected 4th alternate deputy to General Convention amidst a crowded field of candidates. Canterbury students Megan Tiller and Olivia Hutton served as University Commission delegate and alternate.

We had an impact. I am very proud of everyone who came.

I am especially admiring of our own Paul Brockman, who many of you know is battling cancer and is having a difficult time. Paul is a member of the Standing Committee, an important governance body of the diocese. Athough clearly weary, Paul was present at every floor session and hung in there throughout the Council.

As you may also remember, I proposed a resolution, BR-1, to double the diocesan financial support for campus ministry. The proposed budget of $4.6 million would have cut nearly $5,000 out of the $135,000 budget. The resolution gave voice to our position that cutting campus ministry is short-sighted.

The final agenda item of the Council was the budget. The Budget Committee recommended restoring the campus ministry funding back to $135,000. Although restoring the cut represents the status quo -- and not a move forward -- it was a good faith effort by the budget committee to at least acknowledge the importance of campus ministry. So I withdrew the resolution with thanks to the budget committee for their effort.

Although we did not get all that we wanted -- far from it -- I believe we got the conversation going at the diocesan level and we were heard. The conversation will continue only if those who are committed to campus ministry keep this front and center.

One last item: The bishop appointed me the Dean of Region XV. The duties are a bit unclear to me, but I will be asking my clergy colleagues in our region how they would like to proceed as a clericus. I am honored to be appointed, and look forward to the days ahead.

This was my second Council of the Diocese of Virginia (I missed last year's because the Presiding Bishop was visiting us). I am pleased to have participated, I am impressed with how delegates were respectful of each other and conducted business, and I am glad it is over and I am home.

Photo by the Rev. Peter Carey.


Susan said...

In the Bishop's pastoral address at Council it was announced that the first class of vocational deacons will be ordained.... yes, the blessing of the order of deacons (except as transitional to priesthood) has not been present in Virginia...

The above is from the blog “leave it lay where Jesus flang it,” at

The Rev. James Richardson said...

Thanks for mention the diaconal ordinations coming up Feb. 5. I did not mention that as a highlight of the Council because the ordination invitations have been "in the mail" for some time and this was not news at the Council. I am a member of the Committee on the Diaconate, and I am very proud that our first class of five will be ordained and more a year or so later. I will be writing more about this at a later date -- we will be involved in the next year in reviewing how the process went, and likely revamping some of the preparation. And I hope our first class of deacons will be heavily involved in that review. I think of myself as an "interim" member of the committee because I think it needs to be transitioned to the deacons.