Diocesan Convention adopted two measures on financial investment policy and fossil fuel divestment and another on multifaith education. It also approved the $8.2-million diocesan budget for 2015 and elected alternate deputies to the Episcopal Church's triennial General Convention in July 2015.
About 550 clergy members and lay delegates elected from the diocese's congregations gathered for the convention on Saturday, Nov. 8 at St. Stephen's Memorial Church in Lynn to conduct the annual business of the diocese as well as worship together and celebrate the shared ministry of Episcopal churches across eastern Massachusetts.
In his first convention address, the diocese's new bishop, the Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, declared the Diocese of Massachusetts "dramatically more healthy, more vibrant and more mission oriented than I experienced it to be 25 years ago." He cited as examples "a deep and energetic culture of call for church leadership, including a revitalized diaconate," broader collegiality among the clergy and parishes engaged "in far more collaborative ministries than they once were."
"From the perspective of one who was ordained here, has been gone and has now returned, I am eager to say that the Diocese of Massachusetts, for all our many challenges, is a place where Christian fellowship is evident and the movement of the Holy Spirit is palpable."
In homage to his predecessor, the late Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, who died of brain cancer on Oct. 17 and whose funeral had taken place just a week before the convention, Gates said that, while "positive changes in health, tone and spirit" in the diocese are the work of the Holy Spirit, "they cannot be separated from the leadership of Tom Shaw as an agent of that Spirit."
"Last week we proclaimed Tom's resurrection in Christ and we prayed that he might go from strength to strength. This week we assert that our diocese is poised in its own continuing life in Christ to go from strength to strength," Gates said.
He said that instead of outlining a new vision or launching new initiatives, his agenda for his first year in office would be "that of historian and companion," taking as much time as needed "for us to get to know one another and our mutual passions and yearnings."
He said that such a "listening tour" was not a period for sitting idle, however. He noted current diocesan mission priorities involving congregational vitality and viability, creation care, raising up new generations in faith and leadership, and joining God's mission through local and global mission partnerships.
"We have no shortage of work to do," he said, "and I am thrilled to be joining you in that work as it continues."
At midday, during the service of Holy Eucharist, the convention heard from the Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Bishop Suffragan, about the consequences of war and the Christian imperative to wage peace. Her presentation, given with the Rev. Dr. T. James Kodera, was informed by her recent trip to Japan in connection with the September House of Bishops meeting in Taiwan, and her message anticipated the upcoming 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Learning and celebration
The Mission Institute--a collaborative effort between the Diocese of Massachusetts, Episcopal City Mission and Episcopal Divinity School which is being funded through proceeds from the diocese's Together Now campaign--showcased its newly produced "Being Church" video parable study series.
This year's Mission Tithe Council Grant of $25,000, the third of four annual grants funded by the Together Now campaign, was awarded to El Hogar Ministries. It partners locally with the Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester, among others, and provides housing and schools for abandoned and poverty-affected children in Honduras. (Watch the presentation here.)
The convention heard presentations from members of the diocese's two newest mission hubs--also funded by the Together Now campaign: one ministering with the Brazilian immigrant community in Boston's Metrowest suburbs and another forming to serve needs on the North Shore.
Convention also recognized two newly configured congregations that are the result of mergers: Bristol Trinity Episcopal Church in North Easton and All Saints' Church of the North Shore in Danvers.
And, convention-goers learned more about Episcopal Relief and Development's disaster relief and public health and economic development initiatives, during a presentation on the $7.5-million campaign the organization is launching to celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2015. An offering of $6,540 was collected for Episcopal Relief and Development during the midday service.
The convention approved two resolutions having to do, indirectly and directly, with financial divestment.
Convention voted 258 to 118 to adopt a resolution recognizing “that there are a diversity of approaches to sustainable and responsible investing” and endorsing “a broad, inclusive approach” that is “consistent with diocesan investment policy.”
While the resolution itself didn’t mention divestment, its proposers said in their accompanying written explanation that it was “a specific response to the recent and current proposals to divest fossil-fuel related stocks,” and one that favors “local action as opposed to top-down directives.”
Convention then went on to adopt a resolution calling directly on the Episcopal Church's pension and endowment funds to divest from fossil fuel companies--specifically those identified by Fossil Free Indexes LLC on its "Carbon Underground 200" list--and to reinvest in clean, renewable energy.
The convention approved the measure after removing from it a request for specific percentages of clean energy sector investment.
The amended measure, as adopted, also puts the divestment-reinvestment call before the Episcopal Church's triennial General Convention in 2015 in the form of a "memorial"--a statement of concern about a particular topic that gets referred to a legislative committee with the intention of informing its work.
The resolution was adopted by the required majority on a show-of-hands vote, with no count taken.
The convention rejected a proposal, by a vote of 209 to 160, that the diocesan Trustees of Donations divest from Caterpillar, Hewlitt-Packard and Motorola Solutions, companies identified by the resolution's proposers as "contributing to non-peaceful pursuits in Israel/Palestine."
The convention also voted to send an additional memorial to the Episcopal Church's General Convention, this one highlighting the need for multifaith educational resources.
"We want to assure that the church is hospitable to visitors and spiritual seekers who come from diverse backgrounds, and to interfaith families, so we don't diminish the church's credibility for a generation of seekers coming of age in culturally diverse communities," the approved memorial states.
Convention elected alternates to serve as needed in place of deputies elected last year to represent the diocese at the Episcopal Church's General Convention in 2015: William Boyce of Grace Church in New Bedford and the Rev. Holly Antolini of St. James's Church in Cambridge (first alternates); Julie Shea of St. John's Church in Winthrop and the Rev. Karen Montagno, Director of Congregational Resources and Training on the diocesan staff (second alternates); Betsy Ridge Madsen of the Church of the Advent in Boston and the Rev. Julie Carson of St. Andrew's Church in Framingham (third alternates); and Michele Griffin-MacGregor of St. Andrew's Church in Framingham and the Rev. Canon Connie Ng Lam of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston (fourth alternates).
The Rev. Chris Wendell of St. Paul's Church in Bedford was elected to serve on the diocesan Standing Committee. (Results of uncontested elections are listed here.)
In other business the convention:
Approved postponement until 2016 of the adoption of a diocesan mission strategy, at the request of Bishop Gates in his address;
Approved clergy compensation guidelines for 2015; and
Appointed members to the Commission on Ministry, the body with responsibility for the ordination process.
--Tracy J. Sukraw