News from Diocesan Convention 2012

November 21, 2012

More than 800 people met in Lombard, Illinois on November 16 and 17 for the Diocese of Chicago’s 175th annual convention.

Convention goers began by taking part in a Fierce Inc. workshop with Cam Tripp that explored this year’s convention theme: Fierce Conversations for the Future Church. Tripp, who also gave the convention’s keynote address, urged the diocese to heed a Fierce, Inc. maxim: “Our careers, companies, relationships and lives succeed or fail gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time.”

Saturday morning at convention was devoted to practicing fierce conversation skills in groups that addressed issues in which the diocese has a keen interest, including the legacy of slavery, God’s call for ministry with youth, and gun violence against children. Alex Wiesendanger, the lead organizer with Chicago’s Community Renewal Society, issued a challenge to people who want to stop the epidemic of violence on the city’s streets: “We need to bring conflict into our churches and be willing to have people get mad at us to bring about change,” he said.

The issue of gun violence was also addressed by Resolution G-175 of convention, which supports Illinois legislation (HB 5831) that would require the titling of handguns.

During the convention’s business sessions, Bishop Lee and his staff reported on progress in the Campaign for St. James Commons, a new initiative for congregational vitality, and reunification talks with the Diocese of Quincy.

In his address, Bishop Lee reported that the capital campaign to renovate the diocesan center at 65 E. Huron in downtown Chicago has raised gifts and pledges of nearly $7 million toward an $8 million goal and will begin its public fundraising early in 2013. “We have a spectacularly renewed tool at the Commons for making the church visible in the heart of the city and diocese of Chicago,” he said.

The Rev. Jim Steen, director of ministries for the diocese, spoke to the convention about Thrive, a new two-year learning initiative for clergy and lay leaders who want to strengthen the life and health of their congregations. Thrive, which will invite a group of congregations to begin the program in early 2013, will draw on the latest studies on leadership development and congregational vitality.

Members of the Diocese of Quincy attended the convention to learn more about the Diocese of Chicago and its people and take part in conversations about the proposed reunification of the two dioceses, which were split to accommodate growth in 1877. Since 2008, the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, based in Peoria, has been forging a new identity and mission after its bishop and about 60% of its members broke away to become founders of the conservative Anglican Church of North America.

Their visit culminated on Saturday afternoon with the unanimous passage of Resolution A-175 that affirms the Diocese of Chicago’s intent to pursue reunification with Quincy and directs the bishop, with the advice and consent of the Standing Committee, to seek approval of the Quincy Reunion Agreement. At its conclusion on Saturday, the convention was recessed, rather than adjourned, so that it can be called back into session during 2013 to consider a final reunification agreement.

Tobyn Leigh, a member of the Standing Committee in the Diocese of Quincy, voiced her thanks to the convention. “We are humbled by your compassion, energized by your spiritual energy,” she said. “We finally have the opportunity to be part of the wider church and look forward to continuing this ‘fierce conversation’ about how we can move forward and be a witness to Jesus Christ in the world.”

The convention also marked the launch of Thrive!, a new diocesan magazine planned for annual publication. The magazine, copies of which were sent home with delegates to be distributed in each congregation, includes articles about young leaders in the diocese, a lay chaplain training program, interfaith projects that involve Episcopal congregations, and the announcement of a new planned giving initiative called the Society of Miriam after Chicago philanthropist Miriam Hoover.

The Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, director of networking for the diocese, encouraged convention goers to share the magazine with friends. “If you are looking for a conversation starter about the church—or need an answer to the question of what you did this weekend—say ‘This!’ and hold up the magazine,” she said. “I’m excited about this magazine’s particular way of telling some of the stories of vitality, partnership, transformation, gift and legacy that make the Diocese of Chicago an incredible place to live and serve.”

The convention’s heart-stirring worship included scripture and prayer in both Spanish and English, music from the Hymnal 1982, hip hop duo Verbal Kwest, Bishop Lee’s convention sermon and Julian Year director Scott Lybrand’s Evensong reflection on the Annunciation. At Saturday’s convention Eucharist, Bishop Lee asked the congregation to “dig deep” to support the work of CROSSwalk, an initiative to address the escalating violence against Chicago’s youth that was founded by All Saints’ Episcopal Church and is supported by the diocese. The offering raised more than $10,000.

In the coming days, the final resolutions of convention and related materials will be posted on the Diocese of Chicago’s website.