Report on Bishop Reed’s Address: New Initiatives

In his second address to Diocesan Council as Bishop Coadjutor, the Rt. Rev. David Reed outlined his vision for the diocese and initiatives in place to carry out this vision. Reed will become the Diocesan Bishop when the Rt. Rev. Gary Lillibridge officially retires in July 2017.

To the 112th Diocesan Council on Saturday, February 20, Reed recalled the areas of Episcopal oversight that Lillibridge turned over to him following Reed’s election as Bishop Coadjutor: vocational discernment, clergy deployment, and congregational development. Reed said, “As the bishop hands things over to me, I don’t have someone to hand my stuff to. I’m counting on you to elect a really fine suffragan.”

Reed said he has spent much time this past year working in these new areas of oversight. He said many ministries are “bubbling up in the diocese…ministries that look for partners in and out of the Church, ministries that draw from more than one congregation, and ministries that ‘go with what they’ve got’ and add capacity and build assets as they go.”

Last month the Coalition of Corpus Christi Churches was established, creating a partnership of five churches: Good Shepherd, St. Mark’s, St. Bartholomew’s, All Saints, and Reconciliation, as well as Metro Ministries and the diocese. The Coalition, served by the Rev. Bruce Wilson, will link the congregations more closely and connect them to their community in shared ministries, Reed said.

The Curacy Program, established last year, now has one curate, the Rev. Casey Berkhouse, who serves as an assistant to the Rev. Mike Marsh at St. Philip’s, Uvalde, and Berkhouse also serves Church of the Ascension, Montell, and Holy Trinity, Carrizo Springs. A “curate” is simply an assistant rector just out of seminary serving in his first “cure,” or church. The program is a partnership between a church and the diocese in which the expense of having a second priest is shared.

Reed said the Curacy Program took shape under the diocesan Development Committee a couple of years ago. Reed and the Development Committee have developed a few key areas for renewed focus and work. Along with the Curacy Program, these include the Mustang Island Conference Center – where additional housing is needed – College Missions, and securing long-term funding for the World Missions Department.

Moving to his vision for the diocese, Reed said it is “The Kingdom of God.” “That’s my vision, the purpose for which the Diocese of West Texas exists,” he said.

Being the Kingdom of God is what God had in mind when he sent the Holy Spirit to birth the Church and what Jesus had in mind when he called us to come and follow and be his witnesses, said Reed.

“For the sake of this vision, for love of you and the churches of this diocese, my ministry among you may be summed up in the words of those who coach four-year-olds in soccer: ‘We’re going to go this way,’” said Reed.

This way…the way of Christ, the way of the Kingdom. This way…for the Diocese of West Texas to become the best, strongest, most vibrant diocese in the Episcopal Church. This vision includes “every congregation confident in its purpose, drawing people to Christ and sending them out; every church fully the Body of Christ,” said Reed.

Reed then laid out how the diocese will go “this way” with six initiatives: church planting, evangelism, college missions, young adult leadership formation, Small Church: Big Mission conference, and veterans’ ministries. Common threads running through them are collaboration, partnership, and local and regional buy-in. Each group formed to explore these initiatives will report to Diocesan Council in 2017.

The Rev. Ripp Hardaway and the Rev. David Read have agreed to convene two groups to explore opportunities for new church starts in the diocese along Interstate 35 and in South San Antonio. The most recent church start is Grace, San Antonio, which began in 2004 and is a strong reminder of what is possible, said Reed. Churches of various denominations – or no denomination – form all over the place, and with the populations rising in key areas within the diocese’s borders, Reed said the diocese is ready to strengthen such missionary efforts.

Last year, Reed re-gathered the diocesan Evangelism Committee, which the Rev. John Hill now chairs. This group, though not the experts to go around and “do evangelism,” said Reed, “will offer ways for each congregation to engage the urgent work of evangelism.” They will collaborate with churches on plans to invite, welcome, and connect newcomers.

With increased funding, the work of College Missions continues to spread throughout the diocese. Reed announced that in the fall of this year, the program will enter the Valley at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, an entity of nearly 30,000 students. A Valley Advisory Council has formed to support this ministry, in conjunction with the College Missions Board, chaired by Anne Rentfro, a member of Advent, Brownsville, and a long-time faculty member and administrator at UT-Brownsville.

In the area of young adult leadership formation, Reed said he wants to see ways to bring younger Episcopalians together (ages 25-35) for fellowship and also for opportunities for spiritual growth and formation. In his congregational visits, Reed sees a handful of younger adults in the smaller churches in the diocese and thinks it could be very encouraging to bring them all together. The Rev. Ram Lopez and Lisa Earl (St. Peter’s, Kerrville) are convening a group to brainstorm this ministry.

Small Church: Big Mission is a conference the diocese will offer on two Saturdays in two locations: May 21 at St. George, San Antonio, and June 4 at St. Bartholomew’s, Corpus Christi. Two-thirds of the diocesan congregations have fewer than 100 people in church on an average Sunday. The hope for this conference is to bring the smaller churches together to share resources and learn about new ones in several areas of ministry. The Rev. Canon Joann Saylors is the diocesan coordinator for Small Church: Big Mission.

Lastly, Reed has asked the Rev. Karen Brandon, Chaplain Lt. Col. (retired), U.S. Army; and Chaplain Susan Douglas, Chief Master Sgt. (retired) U.S. Air Force, to explore the opportunities for a firm establishment and growth of a Veterans’ Ministry. “We’re privileged to serve those who have served so sacrificially on our behalf. But the needs are complex – not only for combat veterans, but for active duty personnel stationed among us and families left behind and waiting,” said Reed. As Brandon and Douglas layout a plan, they will be in contact with the diocese’s greatest resource – you, said Reed.

In closing, Reed said, during Lent, “pray that the Spirit of the Lord move powerfully in our lives; that we may be renewed in our commitment to the adventure of following Jesus and given grace to seek first the Kingdom of God and to live this way toward it.”

View/print the full address from the Go Green page. Audio and video to come.