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President of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Jennings, and the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. [Photo by Ann Ball]

by Ann Ball, General Convention Deputy

The Diocese of Louisiana was well represented with a full slate of deputies and representatives at the Province IV Synod and other meetings held at the Kanuga Conference Center in early June.

Events prior to Synod

The events began with a meeting of Province IV bishops, June 3. Bishop Morris Thompson attended this gathering along with other bishops resident in Province IV. Bishop Thompson also took part in the Synod meeting, which followed on June 6-8.

Province IV contains 20 dioceses in nine states of the southeast portion of the United States. There are nine provinces in the Episcopal Church and Province IV is the largest. Synod participants are never shy to say Province IV is the “best” province.

The bishops assembled at the same time as the Province IV Diocesan Altar Guild Directors meeting at Kanuga. Bishop Thompson appointed a new diocesan Altar Guild director for the Diocese of Louisiana in May – Carol Cook, of St. George’s, New Orleans. She will serve a three-year term. Cook attended the Province IV Altar Guild Directors event and brought home new ideas and information to share with local Louisiana congregations.

The Province IV ECW Retreat, June 4-6, followed the bishops and altar guild events.  Diocesan ECW President Ann Ball of All Saints, River Ridge, and ECW Interim Vice President Reba Mackey of St. George’s, New Orleans, attended this retreat, which focused on “Building Bridges of Peace and Reconciliation in our country and in our world to transform unjust structures.” The retreat welcomed the national ECW President Lisa Towle who spoke about events planned for the national Triennia Meeting, which will be held concurrently with the General Convention in Austin, July 5-13.

The ECW’s keynote speaker, the Rev. Canon Sandra McCann, M.D., gave an inspiring presentation about her mission work in Tanzania, which she performs with her husband, Dr. Martin McCann and Margaret “Magi” Griffin. They offered a wealth of resources concerning mission work and medical missions, encouraged long-term commitments to international partnerships, spoke about the importance of thorough preparation before mission trips and gave information about “healthy” mission ventures that do not cause unintentional damage to the indigenous community. Mutuality was a watchword.

Provincial Synod gathers

All of Louisiana’s eight deputies to General Convention attended the Province IV Synod, which elected provincial officers, heard reports about the work of Province IV and offered resolutions to be presented at General Convention. The Synod also elected a representative from Province IV to the church’s Executive Council, Alice Freeman of the Diocese of North Carolina.

The Louisiana deputation has four clergy and four lay deputies. The clergy deputies are: the Rev. Sharon Alexander of Trinity, Baton Rouge; the Rev. A. J. Heine of St. Augustine’s, Metairie; the Rev. Anne Maxwell of Christ Church, Covington; the Rev. Richard Easterling of St. George’s, New Orleans. The Rev. Tommy Dillon of St. Margaret’s, Baton Rouge, clergy first alternate, also attended the Synod. The lay deputies are: John Musser of Trinity, New Orleans; Lindsey Ardrey of St. George’s, New Orleans; Carolyn Harris of St. Luke’s, New Orleans; and Ann Ball of All Saints, River Ridge. David Warrington of St. James, Baton Rouge, lay first alternate, was unable to attend the Synod,

The Synod welcomed the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Jennings.  Both gave stirring addresses during business sessions on June 7.

Presiding Bishop Curry said, “We will gather in a holy congregation” at General Convention, a reference to the Prophet Joel calling the people a holy congregation in the Old Testament.  “We gather for inspiration. We gather for education. We gather for formation. We gather for transformation,” Curry said. “We gather because Jesus Christ is calling us. We will gather in his Name. He will be there.”

“I pray that the Spirit of God will breathe upon us,” he continued. “We are about Jesus. KFC is about chicken. McDonald’s is about burgers…We are the Church of Jesus of Nazareth. That’s what we are about!”

President Jennings bemoaned her fate of following Curry’s spirited address but added, “We must carry the presiding bishop’s loving, life-giving, liberating message of Jesus.” She noted that this will be the first General Convention of the Episcopal Church to have women as a majority in the House of Deputies.

Several General Convention committee chairs presented overviews of their work leading up to the convention in Austin. The Rev. Sharon Alexander has served on two Episcopal Church committees for the past three years: the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons (which submitted 50 resolutions to General Convention) and the Task Force on the Episcopacy (which submitted 33 resolutions to General Convention). She called attention to the number one success story in dioceses: outreach ministries.  She will serve as Vice Chair of the General Convention Committee on Churchwide Leadership, which will review and make recommendations on the Task Force on the Episcopacy’s resolutions, and will also serve on the Resolution Review Committee.   Lindsey Ardrey will serve as Assistant Secretary of the Racial Justice and Reconciliation Committee.  John Musser will serve on the Social Justice and United States Policy Committee.  The Rev. AJ Heine will serve on the Church Pension Fund Committee.  More information about General Convention can be found here https://www.generalconvention.org/home.

A video concerning the church’s draft budget for the 2018-2021 is available here: https://www.generalconvention.org/budgetvideo2018  and a copy of the draft budget is here: https://extranet.generalconvention.org/staff/files/download/20857.  The assessment for dioceses in this triennium is 15 percent, which reflects a drop from the 2015-2018 triennium. The church is presenting the convention a balanced budget. Eighty percent of the church’s dioceses are giving their full assessment.

The synod also heard presentations from: the Church Pension Fund, Province IV Youth Ministry, Campus and Young Adult Ministry, Province IV representatives on the Executive Council and other areas.

The Synod passed two resolutions that will be presented to General Convention for approval. One proposes per diem compensation for the President of the House of Deputies. Attempts at other General Conventions have failed to pass compensation for this office.

A second resolution proposes to add the Youth Presence at General Convention to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, ensuring their seat and voice at convention. Two representatives attend convention officially from each of the nine provinces.

New officers were elected and installed for Province IV. The new Province IV president is Kathryn McCormick of Jackson, MS. The next provincial meeting will be held in June of 2019 at a conference center on the North Carolina Atlantic coast.

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