2023 Convention Round-Up

The diocesan convention passed a $4.8 million operating budget that reflects a strong commitment to camp ministry and includes a 15 percent assessment of congregational operating income at its annual meeting on October 28, over Zoom.

In presenting the budget, Jim Segovis, chair of the finance committee, said that diocesan funds and congregational contributions made it possible for the diocese to support “life-saving, life-changing diocesan ministries, including a vibrant camp and conference center; college and young adult ministry; Hispanic ministry; responses to climate change; and ministry to unhoused people.”

The budget also includes funds to compensate the diocesan staff, furnish grants and loans to congregations, maintain diocesan property, and support “the churchwide and global ministries of the wider Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion,” he said. (Read a budget narrative.)

In his annual address, Bishop Nicholas Knisely urged the convention to consider the word “parish” in the context of the Episcopal Church’s Anglican heritage.

Churches founded by the Church of England “understand their congregation as the people who worship in the building and the parish as the people who live near the building,” he said. “The people who worship are gathered and sent to care for their neighbors, who are part of their parish whether they worship with them or not.

“We serve the community in which we are planted,” he said. “We serve the people who worship in the building, but not because they’re our loyal customers, though we fall into the trap often enough. We serve the people who worship in the building so that they are equipped and consecrated by virtue of their baptism to serve the parish in which we live.”

The budget is informed by an Anglican understanding of what it means to be a parish, Bishop Knisely said, using the $141,000 contribution from the operating budget to Episcopal Camp and Conference Center as an example.

“[T]he ECC subsidy is the largest part of our common work funded by parish assessments,” Bishop Knisely said. “That speaks to our commitment to this work and reflects its impact on the people who attend.”

Sixty percent of those who attend ECC camps are not Episcopalians, he said. “They are the people in our neighborhoods, not the people in our buildings.”

ECC’s camping programs survived difficult years at the depths of the pandemic, Bishop Knisely said, but they rebounded this summer. “This … tells me that ECC is a sustainable, life-changing program and ministry which we have made significant investments in over the past decade, and which I believe will continue to have an impact across the state and around the wider church.”

The diocesan budget also devotes $56,700 to campus ministry.

“I’m grateful that together we’re able to continue to engage young adults on a number of our college and university campuses in Rhode Island—not just in having identified chaplains on campus, but by having entire congregations recognize that it’s an important part of their local ministry,” Bishop Knisely said. “I’m hoping that in coming years we’ll be able to do more and coordinate the various programs more effectively.”

The bishop said he is also eager to find ways to relieve parishes and parish clergy of administrative burdens, perhaps through assistance with bookkeeping, payroll services and assistance in fulfilling legal and canonical responsibilities.

“I want to try to find ways to put you back in the mission field that we ordained you to serve, that we trained you to serve, and that you want to serve,” he told clergy.

“I want you to cultivate that community so that community can cooperate to solve the larger problems we are facing. And if you convert a few people, that would not be such a terrible thing.”

In other business, the diocese elected members to a variety of offices and confirmed appointments made by the bishop.

Delegates also approved the first reading of a constitutional amendment that would give the opportunity to speak, but not vote, at convention to officers of the diocese, members of diocesan commissions and other individuals selected by the bishop and approved by the convention.

A resolution that would have modified the nominating process for diocesan elections—in part by eliminating the requirement that nominees receive the endorsement of three members of the convention—was narrowly defeated.

The Rev. Dr. Andrew McGowan, dean of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, preached at the convention Eucharist on the evening October 27 at St. Luke’s Church, East Greenwich. Earlier in the day he gave a presentation on “True Bread: The meals of Jesus and the life of the Church” at St. Luke’s.