Letter from the Bishop - November 2018

16 November 2018

Dear Sisters, Brothers and Siblings,

Grace and peace be with you in Jesus, the Light for all people!

I hope this finds you well during this season of gratitude and thanksgiving, even in the midst of our challenges and transitions! For most of us, it is a time when we are asked to make a financial commitment in support of the mission, ministry, and management of our particular Episcopal Church and I want to encourage your generosity and steps toward sacrificial giving!

This has been a year of conventions! Over 1,000 deputies and bishops gathered in Austin, Texas in July for the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. Our deputies and I had the opportunity to share the highlights and actions during our Deanery Gatherings in September and October but I thought it would be helpful to share some of them with those who receive our monthly eNews!

At the initiative of members of the House of Bishops, Episcopalians were invited to share, confidentially, their stories of sexual harassment, exploitation, and abuse. A process was designed to receive individual submissions which were responded to by a bishop. We received over 40 submissions. As part of the Episcopal Church’s commitment to respond intentionally, a Liturgy of Lament and Repentance, during which portions of the submissions were read aloud by a bishop, occurred on Wednesday evening, 4 July.

There were also opportunities to bear public witness throughout our time in Texas.  Bishops United Against Gun Violence prepared a time for public witness each day of General Convention focused on various kinds of deaths caused by guns which included days to remember those killed in mass shootings and school shootings as well as those killed by guns in domestic violence and police shootings. We gathered on Sunday, 8 July for a public witness in downtown Austin.

On Sunday afternoon, Episcopalians, on 21 coach buses, travelled to the T. Don Hutto Female Detention Center in Taylor, Texas in public witness to “the actions of the U.S. government in its enforcement of immigration policies that have separated families over the last couple of months and have led to roundups and deportations of migrants.” *

A typical Convention day begins with a legislative committee hearing at 7:30 a.m. followed by a brief break to get to your legislative session in the House of Deputies or House of Bishops which begins at 10:30 a.m. Both houses break for lunch at 1 p.m. and resume their legislative session at 2:15 p.m. The afternoon legislative session ends at 5 p.m. followed by the Eucharist.  After an hour for dinner, the evening typically resumes with legislative committee meetings or legislative hearings at 7:30 p.m. which usually conclude by 9 p.m.  I want to take this opportunity to thank our deputies: Brian Grantz, Ted Kimball, Susan Haynes, Pamela Harris, Matthew Cowden, Christopher Hillak, Terri Bays, Tim Skimina and Michelle Walker for their good and productive work on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana! 

Throughout the nine days, there were four joint sessions.  Three were called TEConversations which focused on racial reconciliation and racial justice, evangelism, and care of creation. The fourth joint session was a presentation on the triennial budget of the Episcopal Church.

Over 400 resolutions were submitted for our consideration during the General Convention.  Some of the key areas of discussion and action took place around Prayer Book revision, diversity and inclusion, marriage access for all, and readmitting the Diocese of Cuba to the Episcopal Church. You can review the actions of General Convention and find a publication on the General Convention website listing the actions of General Convention.

Our Diocesan Convention was held on Saturday, 3 November, in South Bend. We gathered for the Eucharist at the Cathedral of Saint James and then made our way to the First United Methodist Church for lunch and our business meeting. I want to take this opportunity to thank all those who helped in making convention happen for us this year, especially the members of the Cathedral and our missioners, particularly Canon Michelle Walker!

As part of our ongoing work in Becoming Beloved Community, which is our focus on racial reconciliation and racial justice, during our time in convention, we watched three videos prepared by the Presiding Bishop’s Office reflecting on a Truth and Reconciliation Pilgrimage to Ghana taken by the Presiding Bishop and others in January, 2017. After each video, we engaged in table conversation. It is my hope that we will continue this important work and conversations on Becoming Beloved Community throughout Northern Indiana.

With a financial grant of $75,000 from the Roanridge Trust of the Episcopal Church, we will focus our attention on engaging our rural faith communities in story-sharing around race, faith and difference. We had an initial Becoming Beloved Community Gathering on Saturday, 20 October at St. Anne’s, Warsaw.  Our Missioner for Community Engagement, Adrien Niyongabo, is working with a planning team to move this process forward in the coming months.

The wider church has prepared two curricula for Advent focused on Becoming Beloved Community and Journeying the Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life. You can find links to these resources in this eNews!

I want to end with a few sentences which concluded my Pastoral Address at Convention!  “So, let us go forth from this holy place, continuing to build houses of prayer and worship, where all are loved and treasured, taught and claimed…where all are truly welcomed! Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to God from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen!”

Be assured of my ongoing prayer for each of you!

Every blessing,

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Douglas Sparks
Serving as Bishop
The Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana


*from Episcopal News Service, 8 July 2018 by Lynette Wilson