rejoice in the Lord always


Friday, Nov. 14

5 p.m.
Convention Eucharist
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
917 Lamar Street
Fort Worth

6:30 p.m.
Reception and Dinner
Ridglea Country Club
3700 Bernie Anderson Avenue

Saturday, Nov. 15

7:30 a.m.
Will Rogers Memorial Center
Round-Up Inn
registration begins

8:30 a.m.
Morning Prayer
on the convention floor

9 a.m.
Business Meeting begins


at the completion
of all business

NOVEMBER 15, 2014

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” (Phil. 4:4) These are the words of the Apostle Paul to the Church in Philippi that I have chosen as our theme for this year’s diocesan convention. They were written from a prison cell, where Paul was awaiting his trial before Caesar, so it is somewhat surprising that he calls for rejoicing. And then he goes on to say: 

“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)

Bishop Iker delivers his annual addressIt is a wonderful theme for us, gathered for this convention, and they are words that set the stage for the opportunities and challenges that await us as a diocese in the coming year. Rejoice – have no anxiety – pray with thanksgiving – and you will know the peace of God.

Rejoice in church growth. We began today by welcoming the newest mission congregation in our diocese – Christ Church, Waco – under the pastoral leadership of Fr. Lee Nelson. This is a vibrant, growing congregation, full of young adults, teenagers and children. In fact when I processed into the church for my visitation there last February, it felt like I was attending a youth rally of some sort! They are a teaching, learning church, with a very strong emphasis upon training for discipleship.  They focus on the new catechism of the Anglican Church in North America, and this leads them to focus on evangelism and church growth. God wants His Church to grow, and we rejoice that one place where this is happening is at Christ Church, Waco. May they serve as a model and an inspiration for all of us.

Rejoice in our ministry with young people. In addition to his work as Vicar in Waco, Fr. Nelson has also been charged to develop student ministries on the campuses of Texas A&M and Baylor University.  Exciting things are happening in both places, and the seeds being sown there are taking root and growing. Most of you have heard about the Anglican Aggies.  This is a student led group that originally was formed to minister to members of this diocese who were college students in College Station. But since then, the group has expanded their vision and reached out to others – some from the Reformed Episcopal Church, some from TEC, some from other Anglican bodies – and some who have no particular church background at all.  In addition, this ministry has attracted some families and residents of the area in around College Station who are looking for an orthodox church home. The future growth of this ministry has great potential, and we rejoice in this opportunity.

The same may be said for the Baylor Student Ministries in Waco. Not only students, but faculty and staff members as well, have been drawn to explore the Anglican Way. Regular worhip and study on campus is bearing fruit, and it is a sign of the commitment of this diocese to reach out to young people, and especially to college-age students, at a time in life when many people stray away from the Church, but which is also an opportune time to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that young adults are converted and make a faith commitment to Jesus as Lord.

Rejoice in the growth of diocesan youth ministry. One of the reports we will hear later on this morning will be from Megan Pearce, who joined the diocesan staff in June to serve as our first “Youth Animator.” She has been busy at work over the summer developing contacts among young people and youth leaders throughout the diocese. New programs, training events, and youth activities are at a new all time high for our diocese, and this is exciting to see develop.  There is nothing going on in the diocese that is more important than our youth ministry, and I strongly urge all of you – clergy and lay leaders alike – to give Megan your full support and cooperation. She works closely with Fr. Mark Polley as our clergy advisor, as well as with a network of other youth leaders, but we really need the active participation and promotion of every one of the 58 local churches that make up the Diocese. Please support the youth training events that will take place in each deanery in the next few weeks.

Rejoice in the ministry of Camp Crucis. What a wonderful blessing and spiritual resource Camp Crucis is to all the people of our diocese and to many others. Philip Craig is now in the second year of his leadership as Executive Director at Crucis, and things could not be better both in terms of our facilities and program.  On a regular basis I hear compliments of Philip and his staff about how clean and well maintained are the buildings and grounds at the conference center.  But this is not without a lot of hard work, and from time to time, some unexpected capital maintenance expenses.  A number on unanticipated expenditures this past year put the Crucis budget in “the red” beginning in August.  A special fund-raiser called “A Starry Night in Texas” helped offset some of the short-fall, but we still need to provide more diocesan funding for Crucis in 2015, and you see that reflected in the proposed budget.  Bear in mind that for several years in a row the grants to Crucis had been coming down in our annual budget, so it isn’t surprising that now the time has come to go the other way and for the grant to be increased.  You can be assured that Philip and his Board of Managers are being fiscally responsible and serving as good stewards of the gifts which God has given us.

A wonderful addition to the Camp facilities was completed this past spring when lovely new pavilion was built for outdoor events.  For those who have not seen it, the pavilion is roofed, with three open sides, and with one end wall that is a huge, stone fireplace.  The building is in memory of Scotty Geiger, one of the earliest Crucis campers, and is the gift of her children, family and friends.  We thank all of them for this beautiful new addition to Camp Crucis.

Rejoice in the progress we have made in our litigation.  This time last year we were rejoicing in winning our appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.  This year we are rejoicing that just recently the United States Supreme Court turned down an urgent plea from TEC to reverse that decision in our favor.  We are closer to the end now than we ever have been, but it is still some time away!  Judge Chupp has now set the date for the rehearing of our case on Friday, February 20th.  Please continue to keep him and our legal team in your prayers as that date draws near.

A few weeks ago I commented in an email to Shelby Sharpe, that I wondered what I would do with all my spare time when the lawsuits were concluded, and he replied with these words of wisdom:  “I do not know if we will ever get back to what was once normal.  The challenge of this culture is not going to permit this.” 

How right he is! Once the litigation has been successfully concluded the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged will surely continue and even intensify. As Shelby reminds us, we live in a secular society that is increasingly hostile to the Christian faith and where some believers are persecuted for their faith.  In the years ahead, it will become an even greater challenge to defend Biblical truths and values.  Secularism, atheism, and radical Islamists attack the Church and the Gospel we proclaim, and it is important that Christians in the United States unite and stand together in this assault on Christian principles. It is a reminder that this is what lies at the heart of our litigation, after all. We are not contending for the control of buildings; we are contending for Biblical authority. We are not struggling over assets; we are struggling over the truth of the Gospel. We are not fighting over church politics; we are fighting for the faith once delivered to the saints. “Blessed are you,” Jesus said, “when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:11-12)  Having taken a brave stand for the Gospel, let us not grow weary, but let us continue to stand together, to stand up for Jesus and for the authority of the Bible as the Word of God for all times.

Rejoice in the growth of our province. The Anglican Church in North America continues to grow in strength and numbers every year. Ours is a growing province, not a dying one.  Nowhere was this more evident than in our Assembly this past June in Latrobe, Pennsylvania where we elected a new Archbishop, the Most Rev. Foley Beach of Atlanta. He is a young, energetic, orthodox bishop, who will inspire and lead this Church in our mission to reach North America with the transforming love of Jesus Christ. As new congregations continue to be planted and more and more un-churched people are brought to faith in Jesus Christ, we thank God for this vision that was set before us by our first Archbishop, Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh, who has now completed his five year term. Without his selfless efforts and visionary witness, we would never have achieved what we have, we would never have been where we are as a new, young province, and this Convention will want to send formal thanks and greetings to him and to our new Archbishop at the conclusion of our meeting today.

Our challenge in the months to come is to grow the diocese numerically. When a small group of clergy met with me a couple of times this past year to talk about a strategy for planting new congregations, it became clear that we are not growing like we should. In looking at the demographics of this region, we were reminded that we are in one of the fastest growing areas in the United States, but that our membership statistics are not keeping up the population growth rate. In two or three areas of the diocese where there is significant growth in the number of new homes, we considered places where we might think about planting a new church. However in a few of these communities we already have existing churches that are not growing, but are even declining. This is a cause of great concern, and we must find creative ways of reversing that trend and of becoming more missionary and evangelistic in reaching the un-churched in the communities where we live and work.  We need to seek God’s guidance and grace to grow and to build up the Body of Christ by reaching out to others with the saving message of the love of Jesus Christ.

At the end of April, I will complete my 22nd year as your bishop.  And I am deeply grateful to the Standing Committee for agreeing to provide me with a three month sabbatical during the summer of 2015. I am now in the process of completing my plans for a well-balanced time away, for study, reading, rest and reflection. Thanks to the assistance of Bishop Wantland and Bishop Ackerman in my visitation schedule, only a handful of some of our smaller missions will not receive an episcopal visitation next year. In his role as assisting Bishop in the Diocese, Bishop Wantland will be in the Diocese for a visitation once a month during my absence and will be available by appointment as needed.  In addition, our Dean Emeritus, Fr. Bill Crary, will be in the diocesan offices each Wednesday to say mass at 10 a.m., meet with the staff, and for consultation with others on my behalf, as may be needed. I am confident that our dedicated and experienced diocesan staff will see that things continue to go smoothly, as they always do, whenever I am away.  It goes without saying that I will be available in the event of any emergency that may arise, and thanks to the marvels of iPhone technology, I will never be more than a text message or phone call away.

So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, be strong in the Lord.  Remain firm in your faith. Continue zealous in the Gospel and in the mission of the Church. May the Holy Spirit grant us good success in the year before us as we seek to glorify God, build up His Church, and serve Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Let me conclude as I began:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)










Oct. 1: Nominations, resolutions, budget materials, and meals form
will be posted here