223rd Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia “To You All Hearts Are Open”

Christ Church Episcopal, 5000 Pouncey Tract Road, Glen Allen, VA 23059.
Saturday, November 4, 2017

 

Annual Convention Recap 

Use the links below for quick navigation to each section: 

Summary of the 223rd Annual Convention
Bishop Johnston's Pastoral Address
Bishop Goff's Report
Resolutions
Elections
Video Links: Bishop Johnston's Pastoral Address, Bishop Goff's Report and more

Summary of the 223rd Annual Convention

More than 330 lay and clerical delegates from across the Diocese gathered at Christ Church, Glen Allen, Saturday for the 223rd Annual Convention of the Diocese of Virginia.

The Convention delegates voted to approve Bishop Shannon Johnston's call, with the consent of the Standing Committee, for the election of a second Bishop Suffragan. The election of the new bishop is expected to be held within the next 18 months. The new suffragan will succeed Assistant Bishop Ted Gulick, who is retiring at the end of this year. 

The new Bishop Suffragan will maintain a primary office in Northern Virginia and will become the third full-time bishop, joining Bishop Johnston and Bishop Goff.  

The Convention delegates passed 10 additional resolutions addressing a broad range of issues including combatting wage theft; prevention of opioid addiction; improving public transportation; and family leave for church employees. To read more about the resolutions, click here.  

In elections for Standing Committee, for the clerical order, delegates voted to elect the Rev. Phoebe Roaf of St. Philip's, Richmond, and the Rev. David Niemeyer of St. Mark's, Richmond. Steve Walker of Cople Parish, Hague, and Diane Wright of St. Mary's, Arlington, were elected in the lay order.

Delegates passed a balanced budget which includes increased funding for campus ministries. In his Pastoral Address, Bishop Johnston made a special appeal to each of the churches to increase its pledge to the diocesan budget by 2.5% or $25 per $1,000 currently given to the Diocese. Bishop Shannon pointed to three specific needs: employing college chaplains for all universities in the Diocese; supporting fledgling and small mission congregations; and improving compensation to attract and retain diocesan staff.

Also in his Pastoral Address, Bishop Johnston spoke about the role of the Church in racial reconciliation. "We learned from Charlottesville that when the Church shows up and takes a stand, people notice and are themselves strengthened to oppose any form of injustice or inhumanity." To read the full Pastoral Address, click here.

The Convention closed with a tribute to Bishop Gulick, who was also the homilist at the Holy Eucharist. Bishop Gulick will retire to his farm in Fauquier County and looks forward to continuing in an active role with the Diocese.

Bishop Johnston's Pastoral Address

To view the video of his address, click here

Having published a full-scale, “state-of-the-diocese” form of Pastoral Address when we met in Convention this past January, it is not my purpose to deliver yet another one for this address. Rather, I shall take up a few topics that have particular importance for this Convention, events and subjects that have arisen this year since that January meeting.

Still fresh in my mind is the awful—and, indeed, tragic—day of rioting in Charlottesville on August 12, the result of a rally held by self-avowed White supremacists (prominently including uniformed neo-Nazis). The worst violence erupted in the afternoon after several hours of tension between that group and a faction of counter-protestors, the two sides engaging in hand to hand fighting using various club-style weapons, improvised projectiles, and shields. It all finally dissipated shortly after a Nazi sympathizer deliberately rammed his car into a non-violent crowd, killing one young woman and causing serious injury to numerous others. Not only was this big news nationally but also it was covered extensively in international media. Sadly, throughout the world, the very name “Charlottesville” is now a kind of shorthand for racial unrest and deadly violence.

Bishop Ted Gulick and I had arrived in Charlottesville early that morning to join a large group of counter-protestors, including some 25 to 30 of our Diocese of Virginia clergy who had responded to my public letter calling clergy to participate in peaceful demonstrations. The White supremacist rally was scheduled to begin at noon at the newly re-named Emancipation Park (formerly Lee Park), but their day actually began around 9:00 a.m., following an evening of a torch-lit and menacing protest held on the lawn in front of the University of Virginia’s iconic Rotunda. That next morning, several small groups of White supremacists arrived early and gathered in the park, acting as a kind of “warm up” for the main-event speeches. They shouted the most vile and obscene slogans while waving various flags (including swastikas and the familiar Confederate battle flag) as well as signs with messages of racist, anti-Jewish, Islamophobic, and homophobic hatred. Make no mistake: although the stated purpose of the rally was to protest the decision to remove a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee and to rename the park, these groups of rallyers were all about their hate-speech, White triumphalism, and secession from the United States. The park’s statue and name were only a pretense to exploit so as to promote the supremacist platform. They showed up armed and armored to the teeth, obviously itching for a fight, equipped with military-grade weapons and gear that both state and local law enforcement admitted outclassed what they themselves carried. Certainly, at no time did I ever see or sense any evidence of  even a bit of reasonable restraint among the White supremacist demonstrators. All I saw was raw hatred, and it chilled me to the core.

The significance of “Charlottesville” for the Diocese of Virginia is deep. First of all, the presence of two bishops and a significant number of our clergy served notice to all that our Church will stand up to oppose the evils of racism and all hate-speech that categorically de-humanizes people. Our widely noted participation in the counter-demonstrations on August 12 was a strong witness to our commitment to “faith in the public square.” I simply cannot conscience silence or inaction in the face of hateful bigotry of any kind. Moreover, I shall not become complicit in it by failing to call-out political speech that refuses to condemn it straightforwardly for exactly what it is. Ideologies which promote hatred of entire groups simply because of their racial, religious, or sexual identities are utterly incompatible with the gospel of our Lord and thus should not in any way be glossed over by His Church. If that is “mixing religion and politics” then I say so be it. After all, it is an incontrovertible fact that Jesus condemned the inhumanities of the political and religious order in His own ministry. Consider, too, that the Church has learned hard lessons from its complicity with such harsh political evils as Nazi Germany and the “Jim Crow” disenfranchisement of Black Americans which was enshrined into law in our own country. No, we must lead with the light of Christ, being grounded in the vows of our Baptismal Covenant, namely, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to respect the dignity of every human being.

The events in Charlottesville also bring a true urgency and pointedness to our own efforts toward racial reconciliation, not only in society at large but also in the Church itself. At our Annual Council (as it was then called) in 2015, I called upon every congregation to conduct an internal inventory, a self-assessment, and then to take up something to address the facts of racism, both the overt and the more subtle, in the congregation and in the local community. I envisioned ongoing efforts that would continue for years. Since then I have been impressed with the resolve and continuing commitments in many of our churches—often with transforming results. During the same period, however, I heard reports from some places that it was difficult to get people to accept that racism was, in fact, still such a pressing matter besetting the Church. The illusion of now living in a post-racial society has been growing some roots. But if Charlottesville taught us anything, it exposed just how critically needed our best efforts are to lead our culture and greater society in building up what Dr. Martin Luther King called the “beloved community.” That means living together in a close-knit mutuality and unity for all of God’s people, all races, ethnicities, and identities: White, Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, Native American, and LGBTQ (to name only the most prominent communities on the diversity spectrum within our Diocese of Virginia, not to mention both Democrat and Republican, Liberals, and Conservatives). I say again that such reconciliation must begin at home, but no less important in our day and age is to take our witness for the transformation of relationships beyond our own four walls and into our local communities. If the Church is right to stand up to bigotry and hatred then we must have the credibility that is built up by showing others the true way—what that “beloved community” looks like in real-life and how it is achieved. We learned from Charlottesville that when the Church shows up and takes a stand, people notice and are themselves strengthened to oppose any form of injustice or inhumanity. That is what people expect from the Church, even those who do not claim a church of their own or, I should say, especially those who do not have a church of their own. Today’s crises of racial, cultural, and religious divisions mean that we the Church have the opportunity to shape what is happening in our communities and to make a difference for the benefit of all. I am convinced that we can—and must—seize this moment.

Another moment the Church across the United States must face squarely is an internal matter, but it is of existential importance. Congregations are changing rapidly in terms of numbers, personal commitment and involvement, and with respect to the clergy who will—or won’t—be available to serve them. We see that these changes are just now beginning to affect us here in Virginia, and demographic studies show that the disturbing trends extend through the next twenty to thirty years. And what happens after that is anybody’s guess.

In my judgment, the Diocese of Virginia remains quite strong and healthy, generally speaking, both in terms of congregational viability and in the recruitment, education, and ordination of clergy. I note especially our numerous younger ordinands. What this means is that, more than most other dioceses, we could continue to conduct “business as usual” for the foreseeable future. But that begs the question: “Should we continue with institutional business as usual right now, when we know that we will indeed face hard times within the next generation?” I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but I do mean that these are issues and questions that really should be dealt with from a position of strength rather than one of necessity.

Even though we remain a strong diocese, over this year we have been experiencing an unusually high number of congregations in transition, with respect to clergy leadership and/or budgetary sufficiency. Even more transitions are in store as “Baby Boomer” priests begin to retire in greater numbers. All of this means that the ways in which we, as diocesan leadership and staff, support our congregations is changing as well. We are trying to be creative and flexible in how we work with all of our congregations. We also make a point of coming to understand special circumstances which might call for exceptional processes. All of this is particularly true regarding our smaller churches, some of whom are finding that it is becoming difficult, if not impossible, to call and sustain a full-time priest. It is my intention as bishop—and my direction—that in light of these new realities we are coming to face more frequently we must focus primarily on the missional aspect of the community of faith. The traditional matters of institutional concern—calling and supporting full-time, resident clergy, buildings and grounds, etc.—then become secondary questions, issues that must go to the support of the mission and ministry of all the baptized. While I am deeply sympathetic to congregations that are undergoing profound change in their ways of life and ministry, I am convinced that this primary focus on mission is the most faithful course, rather than trying to find ways to prop-up fading models from the past years.

But let me be clear: such a “missional” focus must, in my view, provide adequately for every congregation’s ministry of worshipThis is not the same question as to whether or not a congregation can afford its own priest. But it is a question of the rites and sacraments of the Church being available to our communicants. And it is likely more and more to become also a question of identifying and training laypersons to lead appropriate services of worship. 

We do not confuse the Christian life of worship with those aforementioned “institutional concerns” that in some cases may become second-tier. No, worship is the very “DNA” of the Christian life; it is how we are formed and nurtured in right relationship with God and one another. I maintain that worship is “missional,” being the heartbeat of how Christians are called and equipped to go about mission faithfully in the first place. Otherwise, congregations are little distinct from a social-services agency, and the Church of Jesus Christ is surely different than that; indeed, we are more than that.

One way that our diocese will not continue “business as usual” concerns the fair compensation of all of our clergy. Specifically, we have noted that there is a significant disparity in compensation that is based primarily on gender. We cannot run away from the plain facts: female clergy are paid less than male counterparts in similar positions of responsibility. I am grateful for the work of the Pay Equity Task Force, which has been documenting this problem. I look forward to the ongoing work that is seeking solutions that balance the financial realities of our congregations with the ethical requirement for just principles in how compensation is calculated for women. Moreover, it is also evident that women do not enjoy the same level of competitive access to more prominent—and higher paying—roles of responsibility. It seems to me that the exceptions here only serve to prove the rule. And so I am committed to continue working with all search processes to ensure that women, both ordained and lay, are given truly equal opportunity for such positions of leadership in the Church.

Stewardship in numerous places across the diocese has been seeing something of a revitalization over the past couple of years, thanks to the popularity of the workshops conducted by Julie Simonton, Director of Congregational Development and Stewardship. Also spurring this renewal of interest has been the remarkable enthusiasm for Julie’s coordinated, diocesan-wide stewardship campaigns, “Walk in Love,” last year’s theme, and this year’s “All Hearts Open” program. Of special note is the fact that the “All Hearts Open” materials are being used not only by congregations throughout our diocese but also in several dioceses in other parts of the nation. Reports have raved about how well-received these campaigns have been and so it would be logical to hope that this success would translate into meaningful increases in proportionate giving from our households and thus in actual dollars pledged to support the budgets of our congregations. With that hope in mind, I have sent a letter to each of our churches—and especially those not meeting the guidelines of our “Virginia Plan for Proportionate Giving”—asking for an increase in the amount of 2.5% over the dollar amount of their pledge last year to the diocesan budget. This is a modest request, only $25 for every $1,000 currently pledged to the diocese, and so it is my hope that certainly most churches will be able to afford this increase which, given our large pool of contributing congregations, will make a very big difference in our diocesan budget’s ability to increase funding for vital ministries that make our life together as a diocese stronger.  

This is the first time in my eight years as your diocesan bishop that I have made such an asking, so this was an “unusual” thing to do—to make such a specific ask—but the time is ripe because of the unique opportunities and challenges that are now before us. To begin with, many of you will remember that raising the bar for every one of our college campus ministries is a dear priority of mine. Currently, we have only one full-time campus ministry chaplain (at James Madison University), so there is certainly much to give to support our ministries and programming at the other schools. I have an ambitious vision of the Diocese of Virginia employing a full-time college Chaplain at every one of the universities where, thanks to the commitment and generosity of the local congregations, we now offer part-time ministries. This area of ministry is absolutely crucial to the life of our Church, not only now but also to meet the challenges of “Baby Boomer” decline in our churches over the next generation. In my estimation, campus ministry is the single most important investment we can make right now.

Further developing the life and ministry of our mission congregations is another priority. Remember, these churches are largely dependent on the diocesan budget. They are a major ministry of every one of us together. I worry that we support them only enough for them to “survive.” But it is our responsibility that they should thrive. I want our mission churches to become more missional, to increase the scope and effectiveness of their ministries so that they make a bigger difference in their local communities. It is in having such an increased impact that they will be able to grow numerically and thus realize more life for the Gospel of Jesus.

We must also have increased funding for our diocesan budget so that I am able to compensate our dedicated and accomplished diocesan staff more adequately, more fairly, more effectively. Compared to other dioceses and to the non-profit sector we are significantly underpaying our employees, and our current budget doesn’t even allow for a simple cost-of-living raise in compensation. This is a very serious issue for me in my responsibility to recruit and keep talented and accomplished staff members. As I speak, I very much fear that we will be losing key staffers to a better-paying market. 

Given the fact that we are sorely understaffed as things are now, we cannot realize more cash to go around by cutting staff; there simply is no more staff to cut if we are to continue to operate in the ways a diocese of our very large size requires. I urgently ask you to provide the resources to pay our staff fair wages. I can attest that we cannot pay them what they are worth, so at the least we should be able to pay them what they can accept.

Moving now to one of the real marquee topics of this Convention, with the impending retirement of Assistant Bishop Ted Gulick at the year’s end, I announced some time ago that I am calling for the election of a second bishop suffragan. That resolution is filed as R-4 on our agenda, and so this matter will come up for discussion following this address. Perhaps, also, you have had the opportunity to read my letter which outlines the case for electing a third full-time bishop in the most recent Virginia Episcopalian magazine.

The bottom-line is that this diocese, like other dioceses of comparable size, not only needs a third bishop but also needs that bishop to be full-time. I know that many of you were surprised to learn that Bishop Ted, who I appointed in 2011, was supposed to serve in a part-time capacity. His remarkable ministry has been anything but part-time! As things quickly proved, the need was considerably more than strictly part-time hours allowed. For all of these years, +Ted has been working very much overtime every week.

With the advice of the Standing Committee, I decided that if we were to have a full-time third bishop it is better to elect that person rather than to appoint another assistant bishop. An appointed assistant bishop must, by canonical definition, already be a bishop who is either willing to work after formal retirement (as Bishop Ted has done) or who will transfer as an active bishop from one’s current ministry. The vast majority of bishops who are willing to accept a call as an assistant have already retired, and therefore wish to work part-time for part-time compensation. At any given time, there are very few active bishops who would be willing to work full-time as an assistant, and so our field of options would be very limited.

Thus, electing another bishop suffragan is clearly the better option, all the more so since I will be specifying from the beginning of the search process the particular areas and responsibilities of ministries that our third bishop will undertake. So, we will be able to elect a person from a set of nominees who all feel called to those ministries. This will help to ensure the selection of a new bishop who would be the best match for our specified needs, including the responsibilities for our Northern Virginia office, as with Bishop Gulick. It is also important to consider that an elected bishop has more of a mandate, reflecting the will of the diocese in a way that an assistant, being appointed by the diocesan bishop, cannot fully do.

Of course, we will have to cover for the vacancy that will exist upon Bishop Ted’s retirement until the new suffragan is elected and ordained to the episcopate, no more than eighteen months. Here is the right opportunity to appoint an assistant bishop, who would take up that ministry as soon as possible in 2018, and serve only until the new suffragan is in place, most likely sometime during the first-half of 2019. I have already been discussing such a possibility with two retired bishops, and there are other possibilities as well.

But, how can we afford a second bishop suffragan? Having just made the case that we are not adequately paying our current staff, surely this is a question that must be answered here. I put this question to our treasurer, Ted Smith, and his conclusion is that we will be able to afford a third full-time bishop with our current resources: Specifically, from Bishop Gulick’s current salary, reduced administrative overhead, and savings we are realizing from a recent realignment in our current staffing structure. Primary in this realignment is the merging of the Mission and Outreach office (formerly headed by Buck Blanchard, who resigned last month to move to Colorado) with our Office for Intercultural Ministries, which has been directed over the past two years by Aisha Huertas. Aisha will now lead the new Office of Mission, Outreach, and Intercultural Ministries. She will be working with twenty-year staff veteran Mary Anne Bryant, who has for many years been the ace assistant to Buck Blanchard. This combined office will become one of the “hands-on” responsibilities of either the newly elected bishop suffragan or Bishop Suffragan Susan Goff. This new structure will result in significant savings which will be allocated toward support of the third bishop’s compensation.

Treasurer Ted Smith, Chief of Staff Ed Jones, and I are confident that these combined resources will adequately support the new bishop, while having only a neutral impact on money available for staff compensation. According to our best estimates and projections, we have a solid and responsible pathway to bring a second suffragan on board. 

I am calling for the election of a second suffragan because I strongly believe that this addition will greatly enrich our diocesan ministry. The need is obviously there (as has been amply demonstrated in this diocese since the mid-1990’s) and the added capacity of a third full-time bishop will build strength on strength. A second bishop suffragan will certainly be a strong benefit to our whole staffing structure because the stability inherent in an elected suffragan will help the whole staff to be more consistently cohesive. Moreover, a second suffragan will provide the time and room to continue to move the ministry of the episcopate closer still to our congregations in more meaningful and more knowing support of both our clergy and laity. The timing for such an election is exactly right, being very much in step with the very well-received promise of our new schedule for the bishops’ Sunday visitations to our churches. We will be able to live into that new model even more fully and successfully, particularly with mid-week evening visitations to congregations during their “off-year” for a Sunday visitation. We bishops are seeking to support your congregations more and more personally and fulsomely, and I have no doubt that electing a second bishop suffragan will prove to be a major step in that progress.

Finally, I conclude with my deepest thanksgiving, respect and affection for our beloved assistant bishop, The Rt. Rev. Edwin F. Gulick, “Bishop Ted.” As he will continue his ministry until the year’s end, there is good time available for our more personal and specific expressions of gratitude, but we would surely be remiss if we didn’t show our appreciation here in this Convention. As Bishop Susan and I have written in the most recent Virginia Episcopalian, we have indeed been richly blessed in having +Ted as such a close colleague and great friend. 

Of course, we would count Shrine Mont as a particular beneficiary of +Ted’s boundless energy and commitment, but I shy away from trying to point out all of the many ways that +Ted Gulick has served the Diocese of Virginia with great distinction. And I know from so many of you, through your various stories and smiling memories of +Ted’s ministries and presence, that there must be thousands upon thousands of examples of what a gift he has been to all people who have crossed paths with him. Fortunately for us, +Ted won’t be going away as he retires to his farm, and after some months of rest and reorientation he will still be serving from time to time in a few of his signature ministries, including pastoral care and holy conversation at his homestead, working with clergy and vestries in congregational life, and the occasional church visitation. If we all had champagne right now, I’d ask us to raise our glasses in a toast of tribute to our most faithful assistant bishop, but since we don’t I’ll simply ask us to raise our hearts and hands instead. Thank you and God bless you, +Ted Gulick!

And we also express our great thanks and affection to Barbara Gulick for her uniquely loving role in sharing +Ted with us in this diocese. Barbara has been selfless in supporting +Ted’s wide-ranging ministry, and has herself been a most gracious hostess for the many guests who have spent time at the Gulick’s farm. Thank you so very much, Barbara! Thank you for the gift that you are to the Diocese of Virginia. Now may you enjoy “real” retirement together with Ted.

My last word is one of thanks to all of you: thanks for your time and effort here at today’s Convention, and thanks for your commitment to your church congregation. You are making a real difference by being part of the life and ministry of our iconic diocese. Thanks for the many ways you bless me in my ministry as your bishop. And so I say, God bless each one of you, and may God continue to bless the Diocese of Virginia.

Bishop Goff's Report

To view the video of her report, click here

“To you all hearts are open,” we pray at the beginning of the Eucharist service. To God, each heart is an open book. That’s why God, who reads our hearts, invites us on a journey of opening more and more - as individuals and as congregations - to the wonders of God’s love. We have seen God’s love breaking in and breaking hearts open in our very midst, right here in the Diocese of Virginia, since we last met in Convention in January. 

We have seen God’s love open hearts in our mission congregations. In the Diocese of Virginia, a mission congregation is one that receives financial support through the diocesan budget. Diocesan financial aid, supplemented by a close relationship with the Committee on Congregational Missions, is the only defining characteristic of a mission, as distinct from a congregation with parish status. This is a change, a change we made six years ago in light of changing realities in congregational life. Our custom used to be that parish status was possible only for congregations that had services every Sunday without exception and that were served by a full time rector. That was our custom, not our canons. We changed our custom to allow parishes to explore the full range of options for their future ministry, without an automatic change in their status. The bottom line is, if you receive financial aid on an ongoing basis through the diocesan budget, you are a mission congregation. If you haven’t received financial aid in three years or more, you are not a mission. A couple of congregations are now in the midst of that transition from mission to parish status. If you are uncertain about your congregation’s status, talk with me or with any member of CCM. CCM members, would you please stand so that delegates will know whom they should seek out. 

One of our faithful mission congregations that has experienced an opening of their heart this year is Holy Cross Korean Church, which worships in the chapel at Truro in Fairfax. Holy Cross has been a mission congregation of the Diocese since its founding. In recent years, the congregation, like many others, wondered about its long-term viability. So they began to think creatively and openly, and to consider new possibilities. To make a long story short, Holy Cross has found renewed vitality by combining with the Rockville, Maryland, Christ Episcopal Church Korean congregation. The two congregations have become one, not only across congregational lines, but across diocesan lines. They show us that what might seem like dividing lines mean very little when hearts are open. They show us that joining together is not a sign of weakness or failure, but a strategy of hope, resilience and promise. 

The revitalized Holy Cross began regular worship in Virginia last month under the leadership of their new vicar, the Rev. Athanasius Choi, who came to the US as a missionary from Korea and who previously served the Rockville congregation. In this time when the Church is changing rapidly, right before our eyes, and when many congregations are wondering about their future viability, Holy Cross is an example of creative, open, risky thinking. And of faithful, bold action. May none of us be afraid to think outside the box, and not only that, but to kick the box aside in order to live and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Please join me in offering congratulations to Holy Cross as they begin this new chapter in their story. 

We have also seen God breaking in and breaking hearts open in our Latino congregations as they live on the front lines of uncertain and shifting immigration policies. Our brother and sister Episcopalians who are immigrants live in fear these days, in a society that seems to be becoming more and more fear based. They live their lives cautiously, sometimes choosing not to drive even with a driver’s license, for fear of being arrested and deported. We as a diocese have experienced the threatened deportation of young people who came to this country as infants and children, and who have for some years been protected by DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Some of our young DREAMERs have voluntarily left this country rather than live in fear of deportation. 

Yes, this is a political issue in our nation. Yes, this has become a partisan issue. But we can’t ignore it or avoid it or say that political issues have no place in our churches, because these are our youth. These are young people that we priests and bishops of this Diocese have baptized and confirmed. These are our children. We as Christians are responsible for them as we are responsible for one another. We are our brother’s keeper, our sister’s keeper. Pensamos en y oramos por los DREAMERs, porque son nuestros hijos y hijas. Son hijos y hijas verdaderos de esta diócesis. 

Because of that, while there is fear among our Latino Episcopal brothers and sisters, there is great resilience as well; there are frequent outbreaks of resurrection life, particularly but not exclusively among young people. Latino youth from San Gabriel took part in the acolyte festival at the Washington National Cathedral this year. A young adult woman chairs the search committee at San Marcos. Pro bono lawyers from our communities provided free orientation to young DREAMers to help them reapply for DACA status, and dominant culture congregations provided scholarships to cover DACA reapplication fees. God is breaking hearts open around our diocese in response to the pain and the resilience of young Latino Episcopalians and their families. 

Thank you to all of you who have given your time, your energy, your money, to love in concrete ways our most vulnerable immigrant brothers and sisters. Gracias a todos que han dado tiempo, energía y dinero para amar de maneras concretas, nuestros hermanos y hermanas que son imigrantes vulnerables. For we are forever connected as one family, one body of Christ, in the waters of Baptism. Somos juntos, unidos para siempre, en la familia de Dios por las aguas del bautismo. 

We have seen God break in and open hearts regarding the inclusion of transgender students in our Church Schools and camps. When we began this work two years ago, it seemed like an issue that was far off on some distant horizon; we suspected it would become more real for us, but not for a good long while. But by the time we gathered school chaplains and nurses and teachers for training on transgender matters in December of last year, there were openly transgender students in each one of our six Church Schools. We bishops developed a set of guiding principles for the inclusion of transgender youth in our church schools and summer camps. Among other things, the principles declare that “we will provide a safe environment in our schools and camps for transgender persons, for those who support them, and for those who do not understand our commitment to these principles.” We realize full well that to some, this commitment represents a strange, new world. For transgender students and their families, however, this is current reality as they know and live it. So we open our hearts in love as we support young people in navigating the territory of gender identity and gender expression.

God breaks in and breaks hearts wide open for the sake of God’s love. Sometimes, God does even more because sometimes more drastic action is needed. That’s when God comes along and does open heart surgery. This is surgery that breaks the ribs and cuts the heart wide open - in order to heal it, to increase its functioning and to expand its capacity. When God opens hearts in that way, it hurts. And it changes everything. 

God performed open heart surgery on me when I visited the Diocese of Christ the King in South Africa in February. I wrote about that in an article about my sabbatical in the summer edition of the Virginia Episcopalian. Just when my heart was beginning to settle into its new shape after that heart-opening experience, God performed open heart surgery in me again. This time it was in the northern reaches of Alaska where the bishops of The Episcopal Church met earlier this fall.

The centerpiece of the gathering for me was a trip on a tiny propeller plane to a small village above the Arctic Circle. I was part of the group that went to Venetie, a relatively large community of 200 on the banks of the Chandalar River. We heard from elders about how their lifestyle and their economy have changed in recent years as weather patterns have shifted. The permafrost, the thick layer of ice beneath the ground, is melting and that is causing rivers to flood in some areas, to recede in others. And it is causing lakes to disappear. The shifting waters, caused by the shifting weather, result in altered migration patterns of the animals and fish on which the subsistence livelihood of the people depends. 

We heard story after story, each one offered without animosity toward those of us whose untempered addiction to fossil fuels is fueling the problem. Where the community had every right to blame us, we received warm hospitality. Where people had every cause to be bitter, we saw resilience. We were invited to go down to the river to pray for God’s blessing on the river, on the community, on the boats, on the fish, on the children. We were welcomed as honored guests and given gifts of the best the community had to offer.

We saw the dots laid out in Venetie, the dots of race and environment and economics, of greed and resilience and dramatic change. God has been working in me since the trip to connect the dots - and those connecting lines have sometimes felt like the cuts of a scalpel. God is continuing to open my heart in ways that hurt, but that I choose to trust are holy and good and right. 

God opens our hearts, sometimes with what feels like open heart surgery, in order to break us open to God, to other people and to the wonders of God’s creation. Allowing ourselves to be open reshapes our hearts. And it reshapes the world. I pray that we as a Diocese will continue to let God open our hearts, to let God crack us wide open for the sake of the world. It will hurt, as every breaking in our bodies always does, but there will be healing and blessing and wild surprises beyond our imagining on the other side.

Thank you. And God bless us all. 

Resolutions

Below are the 11 resolutions adopted by 223rd Annual Convention. To see the three courtesy resolutions passed, click here.

R-1a: Combatting Wage Theft (amended by Resolutions Committee)

Resolved, by the 223rd Annual Convention of the Diocese of Virginia, recognizing that wage theft is repeatedly condemned by the Prophets and remains a serious modern problem victimizing the poor and particularly undocumented workers, so that wage theft in our time not only includes failure to pay basic wages in full, but also that failure to pay overtime, agreed upon benefits, and employer shares of taxes; and be it further

Resolved, that the congregations, clergy, vestries and laity of this Diocese are urged to:

(a) Pay their employees promptly, in full, according to the terms of their employment agreements and as if federal, state and local minimum wage, overtime and similar requirements applied;

(b) Clearly and expressly recognize the valuable contributions made through volunteer labor in service to the church at all levels, in-kind contributions that few congregations and diocesan organizations could afford to pay for;

(c) Require contractors working on church business and for us in our secular occupations to certify compliance with applicable federal Fair Labor Standards Act, state and local labor law requirements (including minimum wage, overtime pay, and benefit requirements) and to certify full and timely payment of employee wages, benefits, and tax withholding obligations;

(d) Refuse to patronize vendors, establishments and contractors who decline to certify compliance or who are reliably reported to fail to pay their workers the full and timely wages and benefits owed;

(e) Support additional appropriations at the local, state, and federal level to fund increased enforcement actions under existing law to combat the theft of wages by unscrupulous employers, as well as to support enactment of additional legal protections to assure workers are timely paid the full wages and benefits they are promised; and be it further

Resolved, That the Diocesan Chancellor, relying upon volunteer pro bono counsel, is requested to provide appropriate contract forms for use by congregations to seek appropriate certifications from their vendors and contractors.

Submitted by the Rev. Fletcher Lowe

Rationale:

This rationale is taken from the original resolution and its “whereas” clauses with minor revisions as set forth below:

Whereas, the Bible commands employers to “pay [workers] their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it;” (Deuteronomy 24:15); and

Whereas the Bible also warns: “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages” (Jeremiah 22:13); and

Whereas, our Lord, Jesus Christ, preached compassion and commitment for the poor; and

Whereas, working people are entitled to all of the wages they have earned; and

Whereas, wage enforcement policies express the moral values of the public, including our valuation of honest work and honest pay; and

Whereas, the General Convention of The Episcopal Church has recognized the importance of wage enforcement policies, when it joined other faith groups in issuing a statement in 2009 to the U.S Congress saying, “As communities of faith, in devotion to our common religious traditions of justice and compassion, we are concerned that wage theft is harming the most vulnerable in our society, drawing working people deeper into poverty through dishonest employment practices that the Department of Labor has not been able to address adequately;” and

Whereas, some employers seek to minimize labor costs, by withholding wages from workers or committing payroll fraud; and

Whereas, wage theft occurs when workers are not paid all their wages, denied minimum wage or overtime pay they are due, or are not paid at all for the work they perform or their tips are stolen or they are called independent contractors when they are really employees; and

Whereas, wage theft is a common problem for many low-wage workers and some middle-income workers particularly in sectors like agriculture, landscaping, restaurants, retail, hotels, construction, car wash and janitorial/cleaning services; and

Whereas, Virginia has a crisis of wage theft, very weak laws protecting workers against wage theft and only a handful of state staff enforcing the wage theft laws.

R-2a:  Way of Light Liturgy (amended by Resolutions Committee) 

Resolved, by the 223rd Annual Convention of the Diocese of Virginia, that the following resolution be presented to the 79th General Convention: 

Resolved, the House of ______________ concurring, That the 79th General Convention direct that “The Way of Light” Liturgy, in the form below included in the next revised edition of The Book of Occasional Services.

Rationale:

Notes from Resolutions Committee:  Based on reports from General Convention Deputies, including two who have served in the past on the Committee which has jurisdiction over the approval of new liturgies, it is believed unlikely that the Committee will approve ANY new liturgy, no matter how meritorious, without a careful and rigorous review, something that the compressed schedule of General Convention, and heavy workload make very unlikely to happen. Given this reality and the apparent absence of consultation with the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, the Committee recommends that this be put forward as a resolution requiring study by SCLM in the upcoming triennium so that the liturgy, with any appropriate revisions, can be presented for approval at the 2021 General Convention in Baltimore.  The Resolution Committee’s proposed substitute does so.

The rationale for the original resolution, together with a link to the liturgy referred to, is set forth below.

EXPLANATION:  The Episcopal Church has no approved liturgy for celebrating a living understanding to the faithful of the second moment of the Pascal event, namely the Lord’s Resurrection.  This proposed liturgy, based on the outline of the fourteen stations of post-resurrection appearances, exclusively incorporates collects and scriptural texts from The Book of Common Prayer and the New Revised Standard Version translation of The Holy Bible.

Whereas, in December, 2001, the Vatican officially endorsed the liturgy, “The Way of Light” (Via Lucis), which incorporates fourteen stations of post-resurrection appearances, culminating in the account of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost; and

Whereas, the said endorsement stated that “the Via Lucis . . . can effectively convey a living understanding to the faithful of the second moment of the Paschal event, namely the Lord's Resurrection” (Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, 153); and

Whereas, no comparable liturgy of The Episcopal Church is or has been available for liturgical use by congregations in any of its official publications; and

Whereas, one of the clergy of Region VI in the Diocese of Virginia has crafted an Episcopal version of this liturgy, retaining the outline of the fourteen stations in the Roman Catholic edition, but exclusively incorporating collects and scriptural texts from The Book of Common Prayer and the NRSV translation of the Bible; and

Whereas, at the Bishop's Spring Conference for Lay Professionals, Clergy and Spouses in May of 2017, members of that Conference participated in a spiritually meaningful enactment of this liturgy; and

Whereas, the clergy of Region VI of this Diocese have reviewed and discussed this liturgy (available to view here or below), and in several instances made use of it within their congregations.

R-3: Family Leave for Church Employees

Resolved, by the 223rd Annual Convention of the Diocese of Virginia that the following resolution be presented to the 79th General Convention for consideration:

Family Leave Study and Possible Expansion by the Church Pension Group

Resolved, the House of _________ concurring, that the 79th General Convention urge the Church Pension Group, acting consistently with its fiduciary obligations and with applicable insurance law, to act through appropriate means, including possible provision of an additional benefit through the Denominational Health Plan, to expand the availability of paid family leave for clergy and lay employees.  The objective of such family leave benefit is to increase the paid time off available to new mothers for recovery from childbirth and for bonding with the newborn, and to provide for paid leave for covered members of a household to address the adoption of a child, for spousal leave when a new-born or newly adopted child is brought into a covered household, and for paid leave when a covered member of a household is obliged to care for a sick or dying child, parent, or other close relative by blood or marriage, and be it further,

Resolved, that the Church Pension Group report to the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church by January 1, 2020, the detailed results of its analysis, including any efforts it has made and any efforts it is planning to make in order to expand paid family leave provided through the Denominational Health Plan or other means; and be it further,

Resolved, the Church Pension Group shall make a follow-up detailed report to Executive Council about implementation of any such efforts by January 1, 2021.

Submitted by the Diocese of Virginia deputation to the 79th General Convention

Rationale: Clergy and covered lay employees in The Episcopal Church have the same kinds of family obligations as people working in secular jobs.  Unlike some large secular employers, which have generous paid family leave policies, many small churches are financially unable to provide for much or any paid family leave.   The inability of many churches to provide such help is particularly an impediment to deploying able younger clergy and lay employees who face these family obligations and whose energy and vision are critical to growing the church and connecting with younger people.  These issues are also generally an impediment to the movement of clergy, as the absence of such a safety net makes people more reluctant to move away from places able to provide such help, or where long relationships in a community may substitute for such church help.

Accordingly, to the extent permissible with sound financial planning and with the obligations of applicable insurance law, this resolution urges the Church Pension Group to analyze, and to the extent feasible, to expand the availability of such family leave.

The resolution specifically distinguishes the issue of leave for mothers who have delivered children, where current disability insurance products provide for some paid time off, and other issues such as spousal leave, leave to address adoption of a child, and family leave to address care of a sick or dying child, spouse, or other close relative.  In the latter cases, disability insurance does not ordinarily address the funding of paid time off, suggesting the need to explore other potential insurance programs to do so.  Finally, the resolution requests detailed reports on such expansion efforts, recognizing that there are complex legal, financial, and actuarial issues to address in any such expansion.

R-4a: Call for Election of Additional Bishop Suffragan (Amended by the Resolutions Committee)

Whereas, the Right Reverend Shannon Sherwood Johnston, Bishop of Virginia, has called for the election of an additional Bishop Suffragan; and

Whereas, Bishop Johnston has referred this call for an election of a Bishop Suffragan to the Standing Committee of the Diocese, which has concurred with the Bishop’s request; therefore be it

Resolved, that the 223rd Annual Convention of the Diocese of Virginia, in response to the request of the Bishop of Virginia, hereby expresses its desire to carry out the request of the Bishop by the election of an additional Bishop Suffragan; and be it further

Resolved, that such election shall take place at the 224th Annual Convention to be held on November 1-3, 2018, at the Downtown Marriott Hotel, Richmond, Virginia, or at a regular or special diocesan convention as soon as possible thereafter, such schedule to be determined by the Bishop and the Standing Committee; and be it further

Resolved, that the Standing Committee proceed to obtain the consents of a majority of the Bishops having jurisdiction and of the several Standing Committees to the holding of such an election; and be it further

Resolved, that the Bishop in consultation with the Standing Committee appoint Nominating and Transition Committees for the election of an additional Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Virginia; and be it further

Resolved, that the 223rd Annual Convention calls upon the Bishop and the Standing Committee to prescribe such rules and procedures as may be deemed necessary for the election of an additional Bishop Suffragan according to Canon III.11.1(a) of the Episcopal Church.

Resolved, that in accordance with Canon III.12.5 at the request of the Bishop and subject to receiving the consent of the Standing Committee to make such a request, this Convention approves the creation of the position of Assistant Bishop, and authorizes the Bishop, with the consent of the Standing Committee, to appoint a Bishop for the position under such conditions as the Bishop may determine.

Submitted by the Rev. Jo Belser, President of the Standing Committee, on behalf of the members of the Standing Committee

R-5: Implementation of Title III, CANON 1

Resolved, that this 223rd Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia approves the following resolution for submission to the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church:

Resolved, the House of __________ concurring, that the 79th General Convention, in recognition of the Jesus Movement and the calling of all the baptized in their daily life and work, appoint a task force to study the implementation of

Title III, CANON 1: Of the Ministry of All Baptized Persons which reads:

Sec. 1. Each Diocese shall make provision for the affirmation and development of the ministry of all baptized persons, including: (a) Assistance in understanding that all baptized persons are called to minister in Christ's name, to identify their gifts with the help of the Church and to serve Christ's mission at all times and in all places. (b) Assistance in understanding that all baptized persons are called to sustain their ministries through commitment to life-long Christian formation; and be it further

Resolved that such task force be appointed by the Presiding Officers jointly and that a report be given to the 80th General Convention with its recommendations for the implementation of Canon III.1 in all parishes, dioceses, provinces, and the wider church, focusing on full engagement of all the Baptized in their ministries beyond Sunday in their daily life, work, and leisure.

Submitted by: The Rev. Fletcher Lowe, The Rev. Deacon David Curtis, The Rev. Sue Eaves, The Rev. Canon Robert Hetherington, The Rev. Dr. Hilary Smith, and J.P. Causey Jr., Chancellor

Rationale:  Canon 1II.1 has been underutilized.  For example, few dioceses have a Commission on Lay Ministry or its equivalent that focuses on empowering all the Baptized in their daily life. This resolution seeks to provide a remedy. The Canon calls on The Episcopal Church to “equip the saints for ministry” (Ephesians 4).  Adopted in 2003, it provides the skeleton that now needs to be enfleshed. In the Catechism under The Ministry (BCP 855) the first order of ministry is lay persons.  They represent the 99 % of The Episcopal Church. The Baptismal Covenant (BCP 304-5) is the “job description” for all the baptized in their respective orders.  This task force’s work is to recommend processes so that the church can affirm the calling of all the baptized, especially its lay persons, and empower them in all the areas of their ministry in work, home, community, and wider world as well as in the Church.

R-6a: Improved Public Transportation in Central Virginia (amended by Resolutions Committee)

Resolved, by the 223rd Annual Convention of the Diocese of Virginia, that Convention recognizes that the absence of a public transportation system serving critical transportation arteries in suburban Richmond and central Virginia results from decisions in the 1960s and 1970s intended to perpetuate patterns of segregation, and that such decisions have had the demonstrable effect of limiting the educational and employment opportunities of Richmond residents, particularly the poorest residents and people of color, by cutting them off from most employers in the area and from community colleges; and be it further

Resolved, that Convention calls on the political and economic leaders of the Richmond area and of Central Virginia to unite quickly in order to start and carry forward the hard work needed to provide a first class public transportation system for the entire Richmond area and Central Virginia, as a tangible way to dismantle this pernicious legacy of segregation, a legacy currently harming thousands of people by making it much harder to obtain well-paying employment and training at community colleges; and be it further

Resolved, that a summary of the RVA Transit Vision Plan be circulated to all the congregations in Richmond and Central Virginia as one example of such a transportation plan; and be it further

Resolved, that Secretary shall forward this resolution to the Diocese of Southern Virginia and its Convention, as well as to leaders of all Christian judicatories in Central Richmond, and to leaders of other religious communities in this region; and be it further, 

Resolved, that the Bishop be requested to convene a meeting of representatives of those religious bodies to seek common cause in this most fundamental establishment of communication through public transportation for all God’s people in RVA and Central Virginia.

Submitted by Ms. Susan Bland on behalf of Region IX and additional sponsors: The Rev. Abbott Bailey, the Rev. Molly Bosscher, the Rev. Ben Campbell, the Rev. Sue Eaves, the Rev. Carmen Germino, the Rev. Shirley Smith Graham, the Rev. April Greenwood, the Rev. Laura Inscoe, the Rev. Gary Jones, the Rev. Fletcher Lowe, the Rev. Claudia Merritt, the Rev. Bo Millner, the Rev. Penny Nash, the Rev. Bill Sachs, the Rev. Hilary Streever, the Rev. Amelie Wilmer, the Rev. Sarah-Scott Wingo.

The whereas clauses of the original resolution are reproduced below for further background:

Whereas, metropolitan Richmond is a single economic entity comprising nine major political jurisdictions and more than one million people; and

Whereas, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has responsibility under God for envisioning health and justice for all of God’s people within this area; and

Whereas, nearly 300 clergy in metropolitan Richmond have stated their conviction that we should now step forward in solidarity, telling the world that we intend to be the Capital City of Reconciliation; and

Whereas, we believe that God wants our people to live in mutual prosperity, in constructive relationships, in educated diversity, in justice, and in hope for the future; and             

Whereas, the historic divisions established to maintain economic and racial segregation within metropolitan Richmond still operate decisively through the absence of full-service public transportation, making many jobs and community colleges inaccessible to many of our most needy citizens; and

Whereas, we know that Metropolitan Richmond is currently ranked in the bottom ten percent of American metro areas in public transportation, and can move to the top ten percent by building the four rapid transit lines, which have been identified by the Richmond Transit Vision Plan, Richmond Hill, the Metro Clergy for Rapid Transit, and RVA Rapid Transit.

R-7a: Support for the 2015 Paris Climate Accord and Energy Efficiency Improvements (amended by Resolutions Committee)

Resolved that the 223rd Annual Convention of the Diocese of Virginia support Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s admonition for the Episcopal Church to continue to uphold the Paris accord as a global effort by 195 nations, which have volunteered to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions with their own national measures as part of the global effort.to address climate change. 

Resolved that the Convention in keeping with prior General Convention and our Annual Convention resolutions urge congregations and individuals in this Diocese to:

  1. Carefully study the theological, scientific, and policy issues around sea level rise, increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and economic impacts of climate change, particularly as such developments are adversely affecting poor people and vulnerable communities in Virginia and among our mission partners.
  2. Participate as congregations, families, and individuals in regular emergency preparedness training and planning, including planning work with Episcopal Relief and Development, in order to reduce their vulnerability to weather-related crises such as hurricanes, flooding, drought, and wildfires,
  3. Increase the proportion of renewable-sourced electricity for heating and cooling such as solar and geothermal to the extent available and consistent with prudent financial stewardship,
  4. Improve the energy efficiency of buildings for which they are responsible, including steps to upgrade HVAC system efficiency and improve ventilation and insulation to the extent consistent with prudent financial stewardship.

Background

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a statement on 1 June immediately following the White House announcement that the US intends to withdraw from the Paris accord by 2020.  He urged the Episcopal Church to join the “we’re still in” movement of states, cities, corporations, non-governmental organizations, and faith communities because, in his teaching, caring for God’s creation by engaging climate change is not only good for the environment but also good for the health and welfare of our people.  He drew upon precedence of General Convention’s adoption of the Genesis Covenant at the 76th General Convention in 2012 that accepted the challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide or methane) from General Convention facilities by 50 percent within 10 years. 

In addition, our Diocese adopted R 15 at its 220th Annual Council in 2015 of “Accepting the Duty of Care for God’s Creation.”  In late October 2017, Anglican Archbishops around the world signed an open letter to world leaders urging responsible climate action ahead of the next UN climate change conference opening on 6 November in Bonn, Germany.

The Task Force on Care of Creation believes it is important to keep a light shined on our duty of stewardship for God’s creation.  The current political context characterizes environmental care as a partisan issue, but Bishop Curry rightly points out that it is the reason God put us here in the first place.  This resolution aims to remind Christians to keep their eyes on their duty to care for creation in spite of changing political attitudes.

R-8a: The Inclusion of Transgender Youth in our Churches, Schools, and Camps (amended by Resolutions Committee)

Resolved, that the 223rd Convention of the Diocese of Virginia affirm these guiding principles for the inclusion of transgender people in the parishes, missions, schools, and camps of this diocese; and be it further

Resolved, that the 223rd Convention of The Diocese of Virginia submit the following resolution to the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church:

Resolved, the House of ___________ concurring, that the 79th General Convention affirm the following guiding principles for the inclusion of transgender people and urge that the Dioceses of the Episcopal Church prayerfully consider adopting and implementing the following guiding principles for the inclusion of transgender people in their parishes, missions, schools and camps:

Guiding Principles for the Inclusion of Transgender People in Dioceses, Parishes, Missions, Schools and Camps

We believe that all people are created in the image of God and that all people are beloved children of God.  Because this is true,

  1. We will protect the rights and respect the dignity of transgender persons, refusing to reject, judge, abuse, belittle or in any way dehumanize them.
  2. We will engage the complex realities for transgender persons in our churches, schools, and camps, and not yield to the temptation to ignore those realities.
  3. We will recognize and accept our responsibility to protect the privacy of transgender persons.
  4. We will make decisions about transgender minors in our schools and camps in communication with their parents.
  5. We will provide a safe environment for transgender persons, for those who support them, and for those who do not understand our commitment to these principles.
  6. We will stay flexible in response to the complex and changing ramifications of this work by being open to relevant stories, to emerging information, and to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

Submitted by the Rev. David Stoddart and the Rev. Kathleen Sturges

R-9a:  Support for the Triangle of Hope (amended by Resolutions Committee)

Resolved that we the Diocese of Virginia commit ourselves, through the Triangle of Hope, to live in covenantal community dedicated to transforming the long history, ongoing effects, and continuing presence of slavery in our world through repentance, reconciliation, and mission.

Resolved that we commit to sustained teaching and preaching on the freedom and dignity of all human beings in Christ.

Resolved that we shall support financially and programmatically

  • The Youth Pilgrimage between Liverpool and Virginia in its becoming a tripartite pilgrimage with Kumasi.
  • Building an online presence for the Triangle of Hope
  • Establishing relationships of prayer with Liverpool and Kumasi
  • Exploring exchange programs with Liverpool and Kumasi

Resolved that we shall educate ourselves about our own histories and the ongoing impact of slavery, racism, and White Supremacy.

Resolved that we shall listen to our sisters and brothers who have experienced such impact when they share their wisdom and experience.

Resolved that we shall engage theologically both the lived experience of our peoples and the biblical witness, trusting in the hope that what humanity has meant for evil, God can and will transform for good.

Submitted by the Rev. Cayce Ramey

Background

The Diocese of Virginia has from its founding benefitted from and participated in the enslavement of human beings. Alexandria and Richmond were for decades two of the largest slave markets in the United States.[1],[2]

The diocese of Liverpool was a major port for the transatlantic slave trade and by 1795 controlled over 80% of the British and over 40% of the entire European slave trade with over 5,000 slaving voyages started from Liverpool.

The diocese of Kumasi is the modern and historic seat of the Asante Kingdom which served as an important supplier of human captives[3]to the over 60[4] slave trading castles built in Ghana.

Each one of our dioceses was directly involved in the dreadful Slave Triangle. We remember and acknowledge with sorrow that human beings were captured and enslaved for financial gain with no regard for their dignity and humanity. We view this history with great pain and in penitence before Go, the god wo wills in Christ to bring freedom and justice for all.

For more than 15 years our three dioceses have been working toward a true partnership of freedom and justice.

Still, there are more people are enslaved today than ever before in human history[5] while the ongoing legacy of slavery continues in force through systems of White Supremacy and belief in racial superiority.

And since the Bishops of Kumasi (in Ghana), Virginia, and Liverpool have committed to the Triangle of Hope ministry partnership

[1]  "Freedom House Museum". The Smithsonian Associates. Retrieved Oct 2017
[2] Trammel, Jack (2012). The Richmond Slave Trade: The Economic Backbone of the Old Dominion. The History Press. ISBN 9781609494131.
[3] From Manhyia Palace Museum curator during tour by Triangle of Hope planning team, Kumasi, Ghana, May 2017
[4] Clair, William St. Door of No Return: the History of Cape Coast Castle and the Atlantic Slave Trade. Bluebridge, 2009. Page 1.
[5] United Nations Labor Organization: Profits and Poverty, The Economics of Forced Labor, 2014.

R-10a: Support for Our Bishops’ Statement on Charlottesville Violence (amended by Resolutions Committee)

Resolved that the 223rd Convention of the Diocese of Virginia support our Bishops’ statement on their non-confrontational protest against the white supremacists’ rally at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville on 12 August 2017, particularly the Bishops’ declaration that “whatever we do, we may not, we must not, be quiet in the face of evil during this era of our lives together.”

Resolved that this Convention support in particular the program the Bishops recommended for the kinds of peaceful actions in the face of white supremacists’ violence, including calls for the Virginia General Assembly to enact legislation to track hate crimes in Virginia and for prayers for our civic and religious leaders who have to contend with racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, misogynistic, and homophobic violence, for those who died or were injured in Charlottesville, and for peace in our nation.  

Resolved that this Convention request the Virginia Attorney General to rigorously enforce current state law regulating armed militias in order to prevent them from fomenting and committing violence and intimidating law-abiding, peaceful citizens and that appropriate amendments to current state law be presented to the General Assembly to tighten such regulations in order to better protect the peace, prosperity, and liberty of citizens of the Commonwealth from unlawful armed forces.  

Submitted by Peter Wehmann, President of Region III, on behalf of the clergy and churches of Region III

Background

Our Bishops were there in Charlottesville and witnessed the tragedy of violence and loss of life as it unfolded on 12 August.  They wrote that their hearts were broken by what they saw.  They admonished us to “heed God’s call to love our neighbors through prayer, speaking out, and for other concrete action” such as being clear about the issues, creating conversation groups with people of different political views, and doing a moral inventory of ourselves, for example, asking ourselves how we feel about free speech and its limits.  Our Bishops expect to see more divisive rallies in the country in the months ahead.  It behooves us as an entire Diocese to support and follow our Bishops’ peaceful admonition.

One of the lessons from the Charlottesville violence is that armed militias dressed in military fatigues came to Charlottesville creating an even greater possibility of violence and adding to an already dangerous situation.  There are Virginia statutes on the books now being used as the basis for a lawsuit against some of the groups thought to have participated in the violence.  Note that the Second Amendment of the US Constitution specifically recognizes regulation of militias as a state prerogative.

R-11a: Diocese and congregations address the drug crisis in America (Amended at open hearing)

Resolved, that the 223rd Annual Convention recognize that the drug crisis in America is a critical national concern that directly impacts our congregations.  

Resolved, that the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and every congregation strive to be an agent of healing for all people affected by the disease of drug addiction.

Resolved, that because drugs such as prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids affect the public health and the social, environmental, and economic welfare of our communities, that the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and every congregation acknowledge its spiritual, moral and ethical responsibility to support:

  1. prevention programs targeting both youth and adults in the congregation and the community;
  2. access to professional organizations that target the illness of substance abuse and learn how to appropriately address the problem and stigma associated with the problem at home, at church, and in the community;
  3. educational resources and professionals to facilitate educational programs;
  4. spiritual support for individuals who suffer from and whose loved ones suffer from addiction.

Resolved, that the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia work in partnership with The Episcopal Church Medical Trust, Recovery Ministries of The Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Province III Opioid Pandemic Response Task Force, and community-based organizations to address most effectively prevention, intervention, education, advocacy, treatment, and recovery, including developing a list of trained therapists and consultants who are available to assist clergy and laity in this education process.

Submitted by: The Rev. Ann Stribling (Retired); Mr. Karl C. Colder, St. David’s , Ashburn; the Rev. Daniel Vélez Rivera, St. Gabriel's, Leesburg; the Rev. Mary Kay Brown, St. David’s, Ashburn

Elections 

In elections for Standing Committee, for the clerical order, delegates voted to elect the Rev. Phoebe Roaf of St. Philip's, Richmond, and the Rev. David Niemeyer of St. Mark's, Richmond. Steve Walker of Cople Parish, Hague, and Diane Wright of St. Mary's, Arlington, were elected in the lay order.

Video Links 

Bishop Johnston's Pastoral Address   

Bishop Goff's Report   

Bishop Ted Tribute  

"All Hearts Open"