Tenth General Convention of the UECNA

The Tenth General Convention of the UECNA was held at the Quality Inn, Heber Springs, AR on May 11th and 12th 2011. The event was hosted by St Barnabas Anglican Church, Heber Springs. The General Convention was preceded by meetings of the House of Bishops and the National Council of the United Episcopal Church. The discussions and decisions made at both of these meetings were preparatory for the main Convention, and will be discussed in connexion with the main meeting.

The first session of the tenth General Convention was called to order at 4.00pm by the Most Rev. Peter D. Robinson, Presiding Bishop of the UECNA. After a brief prayer, Bishop Robinson welcomed the delegates and Bishop Terry Lowe, who was representing the ACC at the General Convention. The meeting then moved on to its first business which was the establishment of a quorum. As nine parishes were represented in the lay order, and ten in the clerical order, a quorum was certified.

The Convention then proceeded to the election of officers. The following were elected by acclaimation:
President of the General Convention - The Rev. Jim McTaggart
Secretary to the General Convention - Mrs Sarahann Jenkins
Treasurer to the General Convention - Mrs Eileen Grant

In the absence of proper minutes, the meeting then received and approved an account of the last General Convention held at Coshocton, Ohio in October 2008.

The Convention then proceeded to the confirmation of the House of Bishop's choice of a new Presiding Bishop. The Right Rev. Joseph H. Dobson informed the General Convention that the actng Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Peter D. Robinson, was their choice as the new Presiding Bishop of the United Episcopal Church of North America. The Venerable John Jenkins, Archdeacon of Ohio proposed that the House of Deputies confirm the House of Bishops choice. This was seconded and approved unanimously. A biographical sketch of Bishop Robinson may be found here.

The meeting then adjourned for the day so that the clergy could caucus to decide who would represent them on the 2011-2014 National Council.

The day closed with Evening Prayer and Holy Communion held at St Barnabas' Anglican Church, Heber Springs. This was led by the Rev. Tom Bradshaw, rector of the parish. Afterwards delegates dispersed into the city for dinner and met back at the Convention hotel for a social "hour" from 8pm onwards.

The second day of the General Convention opened with Morning Prayer led by Canon Richard Desroches. Following Morning Prayer, first session of the day began with the Rev. Jim McTaggart, President of the General Convention, introducing the Presiding Bishop to give his address on the state of the Church. In his remarks Bishop Robinson briefly addressed the departures from the UECNA in 2009, and stated firmly that under Bishop Reber's guidance stability had returned to the jurisdiction; a stability that could serve as a basis for considerable growth. The Presiding Bishop then moved on to the challenges facing the UECNA.

Bishop Robinson commented that the Continuing Churches have had a long tradition of confusing stasis for stability, and that this had led to a marked decline in the recent years. The United Episcopal Church needs to face the fact that if orthodox Anglicanism is to survive the next twenty years it needs to appeal to the rising generations. This involves both preserving all that is best in the Book of Common Prayer and the church's received tradition, whilst adapting to modern times. With this in mind, the United Episcopal Church needs to focus its energy on mission and evangelism and scrupulously avoid ecclesiastical politics and intrigue. The Presiding Bishop gave thanks for the fact that the jurisdiction seemed to be immune from the factionalism, and legalism of some other jurisdictions.

Bishop Robinson highlighted that the UECNA has an active mission programme and has plans to plant six new congregations already in the pipeline. The offered a challenge to the General Convention to double the number of the parishes and missions between now and 2014. To this end he requested the formation of a Board of Mission consisting of at least three clergy to report to the National Council and the methodology of mission and to collect resources.

Bishop Robinson then submitted the report of the National Council starting with the work undertaken in the three missionary districts. He then explained that the National Council had endorsed budgets to the General Convention for 2012, 2013, and 2014. At this point he handed the meeting back to the President of General Convention.

In the second session of the day, the President of the Convention called on Mrs Eileen Grant, treasurer to the General Convention to present her report on the state of the Church's finances. This detailed the financial health of the Church detailing current assets and liablities. Eileen Grant explained that the serious shortfall in funding in 2010 had been due to funding the former Presiding Bishop's retirement. She then went on to explain the 2012-2014 budget, which was approved unanimously. Mrs Grant then went on to explain some of the difficulties and pitfalls faced by parishes in dealing with the IRS.

In the third session of the day, the President of Convention went through the Canon changes proposed to the General Convention by the House of Bishops and the National Council. The first involved amending Canon 3 to allow the Presiding Bishop to use the title Archbishop, if he so chooses. The second was to update the terminology of the Canons so that the term 'Missionary District' is replaced by 'Missionary Diocese' making the use of Diocese as the term for a number of parishes united under the oversight of a bishop consistent throughout the Canons.

The morning sessions of the General Convention concluded at 11.45pm following the election of a new National Council. The new Board of Mission consisting of Bishops Dobson and Robinson, Canon Desroches, the Rev. Steven Reeves, and the Rev. Patrick Rogers met to outline its work over the next six months as it prepares its preliminary report in the form of resources for mission.

A brief meeting of the National Council then followed to discuss reinvesting the UECNA's assets to improve their yield, the treasurer having outlined earlier how poorly some of the Church's investments were working for the Church.

At the end of the National Council meeting the news was received that Archdeacon Jenkins' daughter Elaine had been killed in a road raffic accident. Many of those present at the meeting took the opportunity to express their condolences to Archdeacon John, and to his wife, Sarahann.

The Convention then joined in worship once more. A service of Evening Prayer followed by Holy Communion was held at St. Barnabas Church at which the Presiding Bishop officiated assisted by the Rev. Paul Bachmann (UECNA, Canada) and the Rev. Ralph Caley. In his sermon Bishop Robinson focussed his remarks on the world's need for Christ and the eternal relevance of Christ's great commission to the Church. He dwelt on the comparitive failure of Anglicans to Evangelize, and that mission need to become out main focus in the years to come.

General Convention concluded with a banquet, Dutch Auction for the Mission Funds, and votes of thanks to the St Barnabas Church, Heber Springs and the Rev. Ralph Caley for organising the Convention; to the caterer, and to the hotel for their excellent service. This brought the formal events at the Convention to an end, though conversations continued late into the night as many old-friendships were renewed.

As always, the UECNA General Convention was more of a family reunion than a business meeting. Old friends met once again, new friends were made, and much mutual encouragement given.

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