After my trip to Kanuga, I headed down to Atlanta to the Cathedral for our annual Diocesan Council. Council is the great gathering of all the churches in the Diocese of Atlanta. For me, Council is like a giant family reunion, where the many tribes are gathered to hear all that is going on in the life of our many churches.
As I reported in church, what is wonderful about Council is that you really feel a wider connection to the Church as a whole. Whereas in Harris County, we feel like we’re in the minority, at Council, you feel really quickly that we are never alone. We are a part of a much larger community who care about the things we care about, who worship like we do. Going to Council always makes me excited to be an Episcopalian. This Council was special, as we were visited by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts-Schori.
I was joined in Atlanta by our two delegates from St. Nicholas, Peggy Martin and Michelle Moody. When we arrived on Thursday night, we met our friend Trey Clegg, organist at St. Paul’s in Atlanta, who was also doing the music for the Council Eucharist on Friday evening. We all went to dinner and rekindled our friendships.
The next morning, we got to the Cathedral early. After perusing the many displays in the atrium for various ministries and fund-raising opportunities for outreach, we began the business session. Council began with declaring the new, multi-ethnic congregation Christ the King, Lilburn a parish, the street ministry congregation Church of the Common Ground a worshipping community, and St. James, Cedartown an unaided parish. New clergy were introduced. Then, we were delighted to hear from Bishop Katharine, who answered many questions that the Council had for her. Hopefully, a transcript of that session will be online soon.
In the afternoon, we had more official business, including many elections to many committees and commissions within the diocese. In fact, I was elected to the Camp Mikell Board of Directors, which was quite an honor!
After more reports, we broke into committees to discuss the many resolutions offered to Council. Resolutions are non-binding in the Episcopal Church, but tend to be good suggestions for our common life. Among the legislation, the Council did the following on Saturday morning:
1. Voted in favor of creating a Commission on Environmental Stewardship.
2. Voted in favor of requesting that parishes have energy assessments done in the next year.
3. Voted in opposition to a resolution to affirm the tithe as the minimum standard of giving.
4. Voted to encourage congregations to have an “Adoption Sunday” in November to promote adoptions.
5. Voted to encourage each parish to have a representative for the Episcopal Charities Foundation.
6. Voted to oppose and prevent sexual trafficking in our state.
7. Voted to train and advocate against domestic violence.
8. Voted to support our young adults (18-35) in leadership roles and support ministries to them.
We also approved clearer canons (church laws) to elect a Suffragan Bishop (a bishop who is elected by Council to serve under the Diocesan Bishop).
Speaking of bishops, we got wonderful reports from both Bishop Alexander and Bishop Whitmore. Here is Bishop Alexander’s address:
After all the business on Friday, we gathered in the Cathedral for a glorious worship service at which our Presiding Bishop preached and celebrated. Here is a link to her sermon. The music was inspiring and moving. I literally cried hearing everyone sing Alleluia, sing to Jesus at the top of their lungs. It just felt like that really must be a foretaste of heaven.
Afterwards, Peggy and Michelle got pictures with the Presiding Bishop. It was wonderful to see them both so in awe of Bishop Katharine. I think all three of us were moved by the whole experience.
Saturday morning concluded the business of the Council, including the voting on all of the above resolutions and canonical changes. We then gathered on the lawn for a wonderful barbecue in honor of the Presiding Bishop.
Overall, it was just a great weekend. I am so proud of our diocese and the many thing the Holy Spirit is doing through our ministries. It’s a good time to be an Episcopalian!