31st Annual Diocesan Conventio
Amendments & Resolutions
November 16, 2013

The Bishop’s Address

“Faith, hope and charity abide…”  This is the theme of our Annual Diocesan Convention, and we recognize it as the closing words of the 13th chapter of St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians. It is sometimes called “the love chapter,” for in it the Apostle poetically describes the nature of God’s love, as we have experienced it in Jesus Christ. As Christians, we are to mirror that divine love in our interactions with one another. 

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (I Cor. 13:4-8)

He is discussing the way of love as he gives his teaching on spiritual gifts in the life of the believer. And here he underscores the importance of love over all the other gifts of the Spirit when he says, 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.  And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (I Cor. 13:1-3)

Then he concludes the chapter with the words of our Convention theme: “So faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (verse 13)  Most of us hear this teaching of St. Paul on love when we attend weddings, for it is a favorite passage for the bride and the groom to select for their marriage ceremony. But it applies to much more of the Christian life than the relationship between a man and a woman in Holy Matrimony.  It is meant to be the measure of our discipleship. It is the evidence of our faith as believers, for as Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

May the theme of this Convention be our fervent prayer as members of this Diocese, as we move forward together in the mission and ministry God has placed before us. May He increase our faith, strengthen our hope, and deepen our love. All else is of less importance; all else is passing away.  “Faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (verse 13)

Surely the high point for us this past year came on August 30th, when the Texas Supreme Court granted our direct appeal and reversed the trial court judgment against us, which would have deprived us of all our church property and assets.  We all breathed a great sigh of relief when we received the news, and we continue to be grateful to Almighty God for this wonderful ruling.  We will soon be back in the original trial court here in Tarrant County with the mandate from the Supreme Court that the lawsuit brought against us by The Episcopal Church must be decided on neutral principles of law – not deference to the church - and under that standard, we are confident that we will win the case.  Let us say once again how deeply grateful we are for the guidance and expertise of our fabulous team of attorneys – Scott Brister, Shelby Sharpe and David Weaver.  May God bless and prosper them in the days ahead.

With each passing year, we rejoice at our Convention in the new clergy who have been brought into our Diocese since the last time we met.  Following this address, it will be my pleasure to introduce them to you one by one. We are delighted to have new Rectors at St. Andrew’s in Breckenridge, Christ Church in Midland, St. John’s in Brownwood, and All Saints’ in Weatherford. They are a gifted group of new clergy whose presence will enrich and bless our life together as a Diocese, and we welcome them to Fort Worth. You should also know that in all of these parishes, except for Midland, the Rectory is owned by the church.  These three brave priests accepted their new calls prior to the decision of the Texas Supreme Court being announced. This means that they came knowing that if the ruling went against us they would not only be without a church building – they and their families would also be without a house to live in as TEC took control of their rectories and evicted them.  I salute the courage and back-bone of these new rectors. They are examples of faith and hope, as they stand with us for the sake of the Gospel and in defense of the authority of the Holy Scriptures.

We have also transitioned into new leadership at Camp Crucis this past summer, with the resignation of Jason Bontke to return to the business world and the calling of the new Executive Director, Philip Craig. You will be hearing from him for the first time later on in this Convention.  This change of leaders has caused us to realize once again what an incredible blessing and resource Camp Crucis is our diocesan ministry.  It is a place of transformation and spiritual renewal not only for our young people in the summer camp and horse camp programs, but also for men and women of all ages who discover a deeper relationship with God through the unique Camp Crucis experience. Thanks be to God for this great treasure entrusted to us in this Diocese.

I am pleased to report that two of our growing congregations have moved into larger facilities in recent months. The Cross of Christ Church in Glen Rose, under the leadership of Fr. Bill O’Connell, has moved into a former Baptist Church, which greatly increases their worship and fellowship space.  And just two weeks ago, the Church of Christ the Redeemer in southwest Fort Worth moved into a much larger facility for worship, complete with offices, child care areas, a youth meeting room, a kitchen and much more.  We commend the Rector there, Fr. Chris Culpepper, his assisting priest, Fr. Mark Polley, the Wardens and Vestry and all their people, for the growth they are experiencing, and we congratulate them on achieving the goal of having a place they can call there own, rather than sharing it with regular coin shows, train shows and other community events at the Lockheed Martin Recreational Center where they have been meeting for the past 4 years or so. May God continue to increase and multiply this disciple making ministry of Christ the Redeemer.

On the international level this past year, by far the most important event was the second meeting of GAFCON – the Global Anglican Future Conference – which met for a week in Nairobi, Kenya. The first had been held in 2008 in Jerusalem to confront the revisionism and secularism that were attacking biblical orthodoxy in certain Provinces of the Anglican Communion. I have already written and posted on our website a brief report on the significance of GAFCON 2, and there is no need for me to repeat any of that in this address.  In addition, we will have another report later today on this great event from the delegation that attended with me – Dean Ryan Reed, Debbie Petta and Fr. Chris Culpepper. I will simply underscore that GAFCON represents the vast majority of the word-wide Anglican Communion, that it is biblical, missionary, uniting and orthodox, and that it has recognized the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as the authentic Anglican Province in the United States and Canada.  The GAFCON movement is a new instrument for unity in Anglicanism, and we can expect it to exert more influence and leadership in taking a stand for the Gospel of Christ and the authority of the Holy Scriptures in the years ahead.

From the earliest days of this diocese, we have supported Habitat for Humanity in their mission to provide homes for needy families in our communities. In the past this has meant sending grants to the local Habitat programs in several counties in our diocese. However, this past year, due to the devastating tornadoes in Granbury, all of our funding was sent there to assist with a new home for a needy family. Our diocesan grant was channeled to this project thru the Church of the Good Shepherd in Acton. This provided more of a local church involvement than in years past, and we are grateful for the participation of Fr. Stuart Smith and his parish in making this work possible. The Executive Council has decided that this is the policy we would like to follow in the future. Instead of simply sending a check to the Habitat for Humanity office, in the name of the Diocese, we will make matching fund grants to any of our parishes that wish to get involved in a project in their local community.  If your church raises $5,000 for Habitat for Humanity, the Diocese will match that amount and will send a check to your church for this purpose.

As we look to the future, there are two priority items I would like to place before us for the coming year.  The first is the further development of our youth ministry, and the second is the need to plant a new church start. 

We have been informed that the Diocese of Dallas has decided to start doing their own Happenings and New Beginnings for their young people, instead of having joint events with our Diocese as in years past.  I am asking Fr. Mark Polley, our diocesan youth coordinator, to form a small group to analyze this development and to let me know how it might affect our budget needs in years to come.  This is the time for us to look at the possibility of hiring a part-time director of youth ministries for our Diocese.  We have a fantastic program of ministry with young people, not least of which is the St. Michael’s Conference and our summer camping program at Camp Crucis.  We are proud of what we have accomplished in this area, but we can do more in this vitally important area of our mission as a Diocese.  Let’s continue to make our youth ministry a top priority in the years to come, and let’s budget for it as needed.  There is nothing that we do that is more important than our work with young people.

Our second priority is to explore the planting of a new congregation in a growing area of the Diocese.  Several years ago, Fr. Vance Page did a very helpful demographics study for us, pointing to three areas where we could successfully start a new mission church.  We need to update that data and come up with a definite plan and time-line to move ahead with this.  It will have to be included as a significant line item in our budget, beginning in 2015, and it will have to be planned in such a way that the new plant will grow to parish status within 5 to 6 years.  As a disciple making diocese and as a missionary diocese, we must also be a church planting diocese in the years to come.

In closing, let me say how grateful I am for all of you, for your love and support and encouragement over the years.  Donna and I want to especially thank you once again for the wonderful celebration of the 20th anniversary of my consecration that was held at St. Vincent’s in April.  It was a truly memorable event that has blessed us and our family in many ways.

And now dear friends, let us move forward together in mission, and may we continue to be guided and inspired as a Diocese in the years ahead by the theme of this Convention.  “Faith, hope and charity abide, these three – but the greatest of these is love.”