2007-10-21

MY ADDRESS TO DIOCESE CONVENTION 2007

Well, this weekend was the annual convention for the Diocese of Dallas. There was a possibility of things being really contentious (with everything going on in the National Church, and the Anglican Communion). But, I have to hand it to our bishop and our whole Diocese family: We all did a good job of holding it together. I am proud of us.

At the convention I was elected to be one of our representatives to our Province. For those who are Episcopal-challenged, here is an outline of our Church organization, and what a Province is: The basic unit of the Church is the Diocese, which is the entire Church in a geographic region (think of it like this: When Paul writes to "The Church in Rome" or "The Church in Galatia", he is writing to every Christian in that entire area, whether or not they meet in several locations or not. This region is a Diocese).

Within each Diocese are dozens of parishes, or local manifestations of the Church (think of it like this: At the end of Romans when Paul speaks of individual house-churches within the entire Roman Church, this is like a Parish). Now, for the purpose of organizing together, Dioceses are usually grouped in Provinces, which are made up of multiple Dioceses. And provinces make up national churches (like the Church of England, Nigeria, or the United States). Then all of these national Churches make up the whole Anglican Communion. There are some exceptions to this rule (hey, we're Anglican, and there's always exceptions), but this is the general outline.

So, it goes like this from small to big: Parish - DIOCESE - Province - National Church - Worldwide Communion. Make sense?

OK, well I was elected to represent this Diocese at the Provincial level. Our Provence (Provence 7) is made up of the Dioceses of Arkansas, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Kansas, Northwest Texas, Oklahoma, Rio Grande, Texas, Western Louisiana, Western Kansas, West Texas, and West Missouri.

That means that I will have exotic, all-expense paid trips to Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri! But, in all seriousness, it was a real honor for me.

I also got to speak to our entire Convention for 10 minutes about College Ministries in our Diocese, and issue a call for involvement in reaching College Students. The address went over pretty well. Here is what I said:

Right Reverend Sir...

Delegates to the Convention...

I Bring you greetings in the Name of our Risen Lord from Canterbury Episcopal College Ministries.

I would like to begin this address by asking you all to do something for me. If you were involved in a Canterbury program during college, I ask you to please stand up.

And, of those who are standing, I ask you: If your involvement in Canterbury was formative in helping you follow the call of God on your life, please raise your hand.

Hmmm. Just as I thought. You may sit down.

Thank you. It is demonstrations like that which tell me two things about college ministry: First, college ministry works. Second, college ministry is something we need to be passionate about in this Diocese.

College ministry works because, in a way that is unlike any other ministry in the Church, college ministry raises up young leaders who will shape the Church for decades to come as clergy and lay leaders.

College is where we send our best and brightest to learn how to be leaders in the world of business and industry, science and politics.

College ministry is something to be passionate about because through it, we are able to connect these growing young leaders into the Body of Christ, so they can find who God made them to be, and in turn lead the Church to find out who God made us to be.

We don't have to assume that our young women and men will leave the Church during college and become practically pagan. We do not have to wait for them to get married and have 2.5 kids before they realize they need to come back to Church to get everyone baptized.

No. We can be proactive. We don't have to leave college ministry to other evangelical groups. Young adults are hungry for the Christ we can offer them. I tell you, the fields are ripe for harvest!

Do you remember being a college student or young adult? Do you remember the feeling of freedom as you finally were able to spread your wings and explore the world "on your own"? Do you remember the fears and anxieties and questions that arose from trying to find where you fit in the world? Can you remember who helped you on your journey to adulthood?

In a superficial world of social masks and false promises, young adults are looking for deep, safe relationships where they can be who they are, warts and all.

In a world immersed in information, and drowning in activities, young adults need a place where they can escape to think, and ask honest questions, and get real answers about the meaning of life.

In a world stripped of mystery and transcendence, young adults need a sacred space and a sacred time to connect with the God who made them, through meaningful worship and authentic prayer.

And finally, in a world that defines success largely as being king of your own world, young adults need to find a real King they can give their lives to, who will never let them down: the Lord Jesus Christ.

In short, young adults need to find Christ-centered fellowship, formation, worship, and vocation.

The mission of Canterbury College ministries is to provide young adults with guidance on this journey. On campuses all over this Diocese, from Texarkana to SMU, from Texas A&M Commerce to our Community colleges, from private universities to the University of North Texas, we are helping students on this journey.

We are doing this with food and friendship, through fellowship and worship, in Bible studies and mission trips, drinking gallons of coffee, and staying up till all hours of the night.

And, we are rebuilding the student center and chapel at SMU to facilitate this mission to college students, as a hub of college outreach in our Diocese. Thanks to the hard work of the Canterbury board at SMU, dozens of incredible donors, and support from the Diocese, we are almost done rebuilding this fantastic facility. We invite you to take a drive down Daniel street, on the north side of SMU, and come visit the new building, and see what God is doing there.

Yet, as vibrant and hopeful as all of these things are, they are not enough. The fields are ripe for harvest, but the workers are few. We must join together as a Diocese and do this mission together. We need your help.

First and foremost, we need your prayers. Pray for the colleges of this Diocese. Pray that students would be open to the Gospel, and come into a saving relationship with Christ through His Church. Pray for those of us on the front line of college ministry, that we would be effective at what God has called us to do.

Second, we need you to contact us and get involved. For the last year a small group of us have been meeting as the "College and Young Adult Committee". We have been trying to find better ways to get students connected with college ministry, and get local parishes connected with students. If you want to be involved with this committee, come and see us at the Canterbury booth. We would love to get you connected.

Third, we need your support. It takes time, money, and manpower to do effective ministry anywhere, including on campus. We are almost done building the new student center, but we are not done paying for it. We need all the support we can get.

So, will you pray for us, that God would do something incredible at our colleges? Will you join with us in this strategic mission to see young lives healed and transformed? Will you support our call to reach and raise up our next generation of leaders in this Church?

I pray you will. And I pray that 30 years from now, our Church will be packed with men and women who will stand up, and say that the college ministries we support now, helped them encounter Christ and become who they are.

Thank you.
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