The Executive Council met Tuesday, December 8 at St. Christopher Episcopal Church, Fort Worth.
The council approved the Fort Worth West Deanery‘s proposal for the venue for the 2016 diocesan convention, which will be held at All Saints’ Episcopal School. They passed two housing allowance resolutions and two resolutions related to recent changes inTexas gun laws, specifically a law allowing the open carry of weapons in churches. The council also approved grant requests from two congregations: St. Andrew’s, Fort Worth, and St. Alban’s, Arlington.
Bishop Scott Mayer called the meeting to order just after 6 pm and opened with prayer. He then invited updates on the Funding for the Future campaign, litigation, and communications.
Chancellor for litigation Kathleen Wells reported that the legal team recently filed an appelate brief, and that notice would be given when the appeal hearing is scheduled.
Deacon Tracie Middleton reported that, in response to positive feedback on a survey sent out in the October Common Purpose newsletter, the communications staff will shift to producing a longer newsletter. Producing four issues a year instead of six will mean cost of producing Common Purpose will stay the same or decrease slightly.
Resolutions related to gun laws
Bishop Mayer introduced two resolutions related to how congregations might respond to recent gun-related legislation in Texas. Canon Janet Waggoner and the Rev. Kevin Johnson attended an informational presentation by the organization Texas Impact. They shared some of what they learned about how the new laws will affect houses of worship. The presentation from that event is posted on the diocesan website in the Vestry Resources page.
Canon Waggoner noted that she was troubled to hear from Muslim leaders who attended the event that some of them have already experienced people openly carrying assault rifles on the sidewalks in front of their mosques and Islamic centers.
“While I am concerned about how these laws may potentially affect our churches, I was moved to hear what some of our Muslim neighbors are already experiencing,” Waggoner said.
After discussion, the Executive Council passed both gun-related resolutions. The first resolution calls on each congregation to “have a congregation-wide conversation on the issue of weapons in church and in church-owned and controlled property” and send records of the conversation to the diocesan office prior to the Executive Council meeting on March 5. The second resolution notes that the new laws’ signage requirements could potentially pose a significant cost to congregations that might affect their decision to post signs. The resolution passed allows congregations who wish to post signage but who may need help to afford signs to apply to the diocese for assistance.
The Rev. Jim Hazel, president of the Corporation, noted in his report that the Corporation was overseeing property matters, including exploration of new space for St. Francis, Willow Park. There was no report from the Standing Committee at this meeting. Diocesan Treasurer David Lowder distributed his report, including the most recent financial statement. He noted the two grant proposals from the Finance Committee, then turned the floor over to Finance Committee Chair John Banks.
Banks spoke first about the grant request from St. Andrew’s, Fort Worth, which is behind in paying its assessment to the diocese. Members of the congregation met with the finance committee to discuss their circumstances, and the committee worked with them on a proposal to the Executive Council. The committee requested $6,500 in 2015 to allow the congregation to catch up on its assessment, and $7,000 in 2016 to provide a means for the congregation to stabilize its giving further. St. Andrew’s agreed to become current and remain current on obligations to the diocese, to fulfill all responsibilities and requirements of a mission, reporting to the bishop as rector of the mission; and make quarterly development reports to the bishop and finance committee on what they are doing toward the goal of growing and involving more people in the life of the congregation. Members of St. Andrew’s and the Rev. Eddie Barnett spoke further about the congregation’s history around stewardship and some of the challenges they face. The council voted to approve the grant.
The second grant request came from St. Alban’s, Arlington. The finance committee moved that the congregation be given a grant of $16,800 from the New Church Plant line item in the budget to support increased evangelism. The Rev. Kevin Johnson talked about some of the projects the church is pursuing to raise their profile in the community and the critical need to distinguish St. Alban’s Episcopal Church from the campus on Davis Street that is currently not affiliated with The Episcopal Church. These goals also include evangelism on the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington. St. Alban’s vestry will report to the finance committee quarterly about their use of these funds. The council approved the grant.
The council also approved two resolutions identifying the portion of salaries designated as housing allowance for Deacon Middleton and Canon Waggoner for 2016.
All Saints’ school approved as convention venue
Bishop Mayer presented a customary for diocesan convention, created and revised based on the last few years’ experiences and evaluation feedback from attendees, vendors, and staff, as a precursor to the discussion about the November 11-12, 2016, convention location. The Rev. Christopher Jambor, dean of the Fort Worth West Deanery and rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Fort Worth, presented a proposal that All Saints’ church and All Saints’ Episcopal School be considered as venues for the next diocesan convention.
Though further conversation will need to take place in the coming months to coordinate schedules with the school, and the convention schedule will likely need to be shifted in some ways, the Executive Council voted after discussion to approve the location for the 2016 convention at the school and possibly also at the church.
The meeting concluded with deanery reports. Fort Worth West is beginning a feeding program in the Como neighborhood, and Fort Worth South recently completed a Habitat for Humanity build, also in Como. Fort Worth East is making progress toward its collaborative deanery project of a food pantry to be hosted out of St. Luke’s in the Meadow, Fort Worth. They have formed a board.
Three ordinations were announced: Andrew Ellison will be ordained a deacon December 16 at St. Alban’s, Arlington, and Lisa Neilson and Lynne Waltman will be ordained deacons January 15 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Keller.