Diocesan Council Wrap-Up

The 111th Diocesan Council came to a close with a beautiful celebratory Eucharist service, during which Bishop David Reed was installed as our Bishop Coadjutor. You can read about the service here.

Next year’s 112th Diocesan Council will convene February 18, 2016, at the McAllen Convention Center. Council will be hosted by St. Alban’s, Harlingen. View the memorable “passing of the baton” presentation on the Council Live page (under videos).

All the reports, audios, and videos recorded at Diocesan Council are on the Council Live page. On this page you can listen to departmental reports, both bishops’ addresses, and Bishop Sloan’s sermon at the Council Eucharist service. You can also view videos of both bishops’ addresses, the Presiding Bishop’s luncheon presentation, the Ministry Moments, and the Called to Serve videos by the Elisha Leadership Initiative interns (College Missions).

The documents that were distributed at Diocesan Council are on the Go Green page, including now the Prayers from the report of the Committee on the Bishop’s Address.

We will see you next year.

Episcopal Church Foundation in West Texas

Dan Butt, the director of the Episcopal Church Foundation in West Texas, gave the report for 2014, saying at the end of the year, the foundation’s total assets were $61.2 million.

The Foundation invests money for about two-thirds of churches in the diocese, and it invests all diocesan endowment funds investment with gains of $2.8 million (4.7%).

“This year the results were disappointing – the markets in general did better than we did,” said Butt.

2014 was a year when the broad markets – both stocks and bonds – outperformed most investment managers who were actively investing. The Foundation uses four model portfolios – those models equate to investment objectives from relatively conservative to moderately aggressive, said Butt.

The Growth Model – where 75% of the churches’ investments are – achieved investment gains of 5%, compared to 5.4% in a peer group in 2014.

Bishop Lillibridge said, “Even though we were a little underperformed , this was the first year in my episcopacy,” said Lillibridge. “There’s a bump every now and then, but Dan is doing a great job.”

As the saying goes, “it happens,” said Butt.

The Foundation handles 199 accounts, of which 144 are for churches, schools, others and total $33.6 million. There were 13 new church accounts in 2014. The Foundation also manages 55 diocesan accounts that total $27.9 million.

The endowment accounts managed for the diocese are used to support the operating budget. This year, 2015, the Foundation will dist $714,000 for the budget, based on a distribution rate of 4.25%. That rate has been gradually reduced. By 2016, it will be 4%.

More info on the Foundation in West Texas can be found at www.foundation-dwtx.org.

Report on College Missions

Director of College Missions, Greg Richards, said he loves it when Jesus says crazy things, such as “don’t worry about tomorrow,” or “pray for those who persecute you.” He continued, “One of the many things I love about my job working with college students is that many of them can still hear Jesus sound crazy.”

Richards, who was hired to work in College Missions four years ago, said the college students don’t understand the real world yet, so they still believe the crazy things Jesus says and they live into that. “Whether its our interns living together on $400 a month, or our student leaders having conversations that matter with other students, or stepping up to help homeless folks in San Antonio and leading high schoolers in worship and prayer, the most amazing thing is that these young people I work with really try to follow Jesus,” said Richards.

He was happy to report that the four programs in San Antonio: the Bridge, the Fire, and the Road, at St. Mary’s, Incarnate Word, and the University of Texas at San Antonio are thriving and growing. “In a given week, we see about 200 students in our programs and they come together to grow in scriptural knowledge, overall maturity, and many our developing into young leaders,” said Richards.

This past fall, a new program, The Spring, was started at Texas State University in San Marcos under the leadership of Bianca Leonard and Sam Regonini. A core group of students is beginning to emerge. Richards continues to be in conversation with priests and church leaders all over the diocese to plan the next moves.

“We want to be strategic and intentional as we grow, and I am pleased to announce that this fall we will be putting our first person in Corpus Christi with a mission to research, determine what our ministry might look like there, and to build relationships that will smooth our growth in that area,” reported Richards.

College Missions is also looking to see how to replicate the Elisha Leadership Initiative program in other parts of the diocese as a way of providing aid to local churches and helping to grow college missions in those places.

The plan to grow is working. And most of this is because of the good people involved, including the Council on College Missions and the College Missions staff – Allie Melancon, assistant director, and Roberto Cellis and Leonard and Regonini. Richards also gave due credit to the ELI interns team – Willy, Wes, Austin, Caroline, Chelsea, and Michael.

This year the six interns, who are working at churches, non-profits, and Camps and Conferences, were challenged last August with the number 1,000 – a goal as a team to have 1,000 conversations with college students, and those conversations only counted if they were with a new student. They surpassed that number in January, and they are still talking to new students.

Richards extended thanks to the diocese as a whole. “We believe God is working,” said Richards. “It is a specific hope in the specific Jesus who said some of that really crazy stuff. It is this Jesus who we follow onto college campuses, and who students respond to and follow,” he said.

Presiding Bishop on Abundant Life

In her Bishops’ Luncheon presentation at Diocesan Council, the Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church, spoke on answering the invitation to abundant life and being called to serve wherever Jesus may lead.

“Holy living is an adventure,” Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori said. “When we accepted our invitation to Christianity, we agreed to live in ways to reflect the love of God, to put a far more equal focus on our neighbors than ourselves, and to be intentionally grateful.”

She spoke to human beings’ focus on self and desire for self preservation, and when that becomes the sole entirety of one’s focus, it is a sin. “The gift of self preservation is meant to be in balance with the self preservation of others. We need to foster abundant life for all,” she said.

The Presiding Bishop spoke to Jesus’ ministry and how he lived into it in very concrete ways: teaching people about God, encouraging people to see God in everyday life, feeding people, releasing people from bondage, healing and reviving life, building new kinds of families, and challenging the powers around him that wanted to limit the access to God.

“This challenge was what got him crucified,” she said. “Jesus’ ministry reminds us that the Kingdom of God is nearer than we know, and we see it when the widow gets justice, when foreigners are welcome and made to feel at home, when children are fed… that is what service is all about.”

She said no one is expendable in God’s economy. If there was room for the robber on the cross next to Jesus, there is room for us all. “If we continue to build connections and heal relationships with immigrants and our Jewish and Muslim neighbors here, that will ultimately help to build bridges everywhere.”

The Presiding Bishop said we can’t be strangers anymore, because we are neighbors in Christ. We are called to serve the vision of a healed world in neighborhoods both familiar and strange. “Who’s crying out for healing? That’s where you’ll find Jesus’ abundant grace. Will you go?” she asked.

“We have abundant life when we are willing to take the risk and to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. Abundant life comes to those who give thanks and share what they’ve received, grace and hope,” she said.

At the conclusion of her presentation, Bishop Gary Lillibridge asked Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori to draw a card from the 2015 Sharing Faith card deck, with questions relating to the annual diocesan theme of Called to Serve. The question read: How does Jesus’ model of being a servant influence your role of leadership?

Chuckling, the Presiding Bishop said she had just talked to that. For her answer, she said what influences her is going into the world expecting to find Jesus in everyone she meets. She said she does not do this perfectly, but that we should go out expecting “radical perfectedness.” “We can encounter people with a sense of hope and possibility,” she said.

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori Presents National Charter of Diocesan UBE Chapter

The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church presented the Rev. Tony Regist with the official charter for the Artemesia Bowden Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE) in the Diocese of West Texas on Friday, February 27, during the 111th annual Diocesan Council, held in San Marcos, Texas.

The UBE in the diocese was formed at St. Francis, San Antonio, on February 16, 2014, and initiated by the Rt. Rev. Gary Lillibridge, bishop of the diocese. “The main focus of the union is to work on reconciling relationships. The real effort to get this chapter underway has been by the Rev. Tony Regist,” said Lillibridge. Regist serves as president of the diocesan chapter.

“What a blessing. We have three bishops who are honorary lifetime bishops, six clergy members, and members from 12 church across the diocese as members,” said Regist.

The officers include Alexis C. Nicholson (vice-president), Tom and Martha Hardin (treasurer), and Yvonne Walcott (secretary).

The UBE chapter in the diocese was named for Artemesia Bowden, who was recruited by Bishop Steptoe Johnson, second Bishop of the Missionary District of Western Texas, in 1902 to serve as administrator of St. Philip’s Normal, a school designed to educate the daughters of recently emancipated slaves.

Under Bowden’s leadership of 52 years, the school eventually grew to a high school and then to a junior college for young women and men of all ethnicities. Now as part of the Alamo Community Colleges District in San Antonio, St. Philip’s College enrolls 10,000+ students for on-campus classes, and thousands more in continuing education and distance learning courses.

During the presentation, Regist said, “How do we see Jesus? We see Jesus in the face of the sick, of the mentally ill, those in prison, those in nursing homes. So here, we are called to answer the call.”

The first goal of the chapter is to provide campus ministry to all Alamo Community Colleges in San Antonio in three years time. The second goal is plant a seed of ministry in all the junior colleges in the diocese in five years. “We want to take the Gospel outside the walls – to the nursing homes, to the shelters, where Jesus is present. Our goal is to serve all God’s people,” said Regist.

The Presiding Bishop presented the national charter to the officers of the diocesan chapter. “It takes faith, hope, and persistence to make a dream a reality. Dr. Artemesia Bowden, thank you,” said Regist.

“We welcome you whole-heartedly as a new chapter of the UBE. May God bless you all,” said Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori.

Episcopal Schools Commission

Mary Katherine Duffy, head of school at St. Alban’s, Harlingen, and head of the diocesan schools commission, along with the Rev. Lisa Mason, rector of St. David’s, San Antonio, reported on the 27 Episcopal schools in the diocese. The schools serve 4,100 children, with 750 employees.

For churches that also have a school, the school is usually the church’s single largest outreach effort, said Duffy and Mason. “It is notable that almost one-third of our churches have schools, a significant number,” said Bishop Gary Lillibridge.

What makes these schools unique, said Duffy and Mason, is that they represent students, teachers, parents, parishioners, and people from their communities. Every one of the schools, they said, is compassionate and passionate about the formation of the whole child. “Every one of their mission statements address this,” they said.

The strength of Episcopal schools, said Duffy and Mason, is their spiritual components. “Every school has a chapel program, every school teaches children about God, and tell each and every child every day that they are loved unconditionally by God.

Habitat Builders for West Texas

The Rev. John Badders, chair of the Habitat Builders for West Texas, reminded Council of the initiative set by Bishop Lillibridge in 2012 to build three Habitat for Humanity homes in six years in our diocese.

In 2013, the first home was completed in Lockhart, where Emmanuel, Lockhart, served as gracious hosts. Sixteen churches were represented by volunteers.

The second home is underway in Seguin, and is hosted by St. Andrew’s, Seguin. The Rev. Kevin Dellaria, rector of St. Andrew’s, thanked Council for this amazing opportunity. The ground was broken on January 18, and the family was introduced that will receive the new Habitat home. The slab has been poured, and the work has begun. See pictures here. Church volunteers are cooking meals and welcoming others. “I invite all of you – and go back and invite your people – to come to Seguin and help us build this home,” said Dellaria.

“Come answer the call to serve,” said Dellaria. The five-member family is joining in the sweat and putting in their hours before they receive this home. “This family is beautiful and hard working,” he said.

The Guadalupe Valley Habitat for Humanity is helping with the build.

You can visit the Habitat booth to learn how to volunteer for this current build. Or see the information on the DWTX Blog.

“Habitat is not a hand out, it is a hand up, and it is a perfect way to answer God’s call to serve,” said Badders.

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