The 170th Diocesan Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas held its annual gathering in The Woodlands, Texas, on February 21-23, 2019. During this time, over 600 Texas Episcopalians met to vote for a new Bishop Suffragan, elect members to diocesan boards, celebrate Bishop Dena Harrison, attend workshops and learn of the vision Bishop Andy Doyle has for the future of the Diocese.
Bishop Harrison Celebration
Council began on Thursday evening with a Festival Eucharist and a dinner to honor Bishop Dena Harrison’s many years of service to the diocese. In his sermon, Bishop Doyle recalled memories of Harrison and her leadership in the diocese. Following the Eucharist was a celebratory dinner and program. Many stories and memories were shared, including a video message from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who recalled their time serving together on the Board of Episcopal Relief and Development. The Rev. Susan Kennard, Trinity, Galveston, also shared remembrances of working with Harrison as her Senior Warden at St. James the Apostle, Conroe in 1997. Kennard recalled the words of wisdom Harrison shared with her that would shape her life and help her to realize her call to ordained ministry.
Bishop Jeff Fisher and Bishop Hector Monterroso shared what they had learned from “Dena Harrison’s Book of Wisdom,” including witty one-liners such as “When your horse dies, dismount.” There was also a video montage with pictures of Harrison’s ministry and interviews with Bishop Doyle, Seminary of the Southwest Dean the Rev. Cynthia Kittredge, former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Jill Vassar, Ana Gonzales, Rob Radtke, Bishop Don Wimberly, Anthony Chappel and the Rev. Francene Young. Bishop Harrison and her husband, Larry, were presented with gifts of driving shoes and a gas card to accompany them as they embark on their road trip adventure.
Bishop Suffragan Election
Last year, the 169th Council approved the election of a new bishop suffragan for the western region of the diocese upon the retirement of Bishop Dena Harrison. In November 2018, the diocesan Standing Committee announced the candidates. The three candidates—The Rev. Hannah E. Atkins Romero, the Rev. Canon Glenice Robinson-Como and the Rev. Canon Kathryn (Kai) Ryan—participated in a walkabout at Camp Allen on January 5, 2019. On the first ballot, the Rev. Canon Kai Ryan was elected with a majority in the lay order with 283 votes, and the clergy order with 137 votes. Canon Ryan will be consecrated as the next Bishop Suffragan on June 1, 2019.
Canon Joann Saylors, the Canon for Mission Amplification, shared items of business to report from the Committee on Mission and Parishes, updating the council on the status of current parishes.In 2017, Bishop Doyle established an Episcopal Fellowship, San Romero Episcopal Church, in accordance with Title III of the Canons, Section 5.11. In 2018, Bishop Doyle established two more in accordance with that Canon, Good Shepherd Indian Episcopal Church and St. Philip the Evangelist Episcopal Church. The motion to seat with voice San Romero Episcopal Church, Good Shepherd Indian Episcopal Church, and St. Philip the Evangelist Episcopal Church passed with a majority vote.
Additionally, two congregations that were started as parochial missions have been approved by Bishop Doyle to become missions of the diocese. St. Isidore’s, under the leadership of the Rev. Sean Steele, was formerly a mission of Trinity, The Woodlands. SoCo Community, under the leadership of the Rev. Paul Skeith, was formerly a mission of St. David’s, Austin. In accordance with Title III, Section 5.5, each congregation was admitted into the union of council and their lay delegates were seated with voice and vote.
The Rev. Jason Ingalls, rector of Holy Spirit, Waco announced to the council that they received a large estate gift in 2018 in excess of $2.3 million. As a part of their stewardship of such a significant gift, they gifted a tithe to the Great Commission Foundation to support the work of planting new churches, specifically to support the growth of church plant Holy Family Episcopal Church, Houston led by The Rev. John Soard.
Representatives from St. Isidore’s, SoCo, Holy Spirit and Holy Family celebrated their achievements by ringing the Great Commission Bell.
From the slate of Nominations, the following persons were elected:
Treasurer of the Diocese: Linda Riley Mitchell
Secretary of the Diocese: The Rev. Canon John Logan
University of the South Trustee: Ben Okoh, St. James’, Houston
Church Corporation: Mark S. Browning, St. Andrew’s, Bryan
Executive Board (3 Lay): Carvel Glenn, St. Stephen’s, Houston; Erin Puckett McClure, St. David’s, Austin; Sandra Montes, Trinity, Midtown
Executive Board (2 Clergy): The Rev. Steven Balke, St. Stephen’s, Beaumont and The Rev. Angela Maria Cortiñas, St. Thomas, College Station
For the Standing Committee: Gwendolyn Chance, St. James’ Austin (Lay) and The Rev. Jason Ingalls, Holy Spirit, Waco (Clergy)
Bishop Fisher Update
Bishop Jeff Fisher updated the Council on the work that he has embarked on over the past year. Beginning with a final update on General Convention, he recalled the hard work that took place for the past four and a half years to plan this “once in a lifetime” experience. He continues to receive excellent feedback from the wider church on the amazing convention that the Diocese of Texas hosted.
In April, the Episcopal Seniors Foundation, which Fisher chairs, will begin offering their first round of grants to better foster their goal of health and vitality for seniors in the diocese.
Fisher made several trips this past year with the World Mission Board, including a visit to the Diocese of Costa Rica for the consecration of their new Bishop, The Rt. Rev. Orlando Gomez. He gifted the newly consecrated bishop a mitre and vestments on behalf of the people of the Diocese of Texas. He was also able to visit the Diocese of North Dakota for a pastoral visit this past June.
Fisher is continuing his work with the Small Church Network and has recently begun a task force for liturgical development within the diocese. And as he finished his 6th year as a board member of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, he was named Vice Chair of the Program, Budget and Finance committee for the Episcopal Church by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
Bishop Monterroso Update
Bishop Hector Monterroso provided an update on the work he has been doing since he came to the Diocese of Texas over 17 months ago. He has participated in 46 visitations and ordained several new clergy, which he commented as being his favorite part of being a bishop. During these visits, he finds that growth is a common concern for congregations in the diocese but that all churches have a strong desire to share and proclaim the message of the Gospel.
Monterroso has been working with the Commission on Hispanic Ministry and was able to attend the Hispanic Lay Leaders Conference with 260 attendees this past June. The objective of the conference was to equip lay leaders with the tools and strategies they need to lead their communities and work with their neighbors. Recalling the Bishop’s Address given at the 169th Diocesan Council by Bishop Doyle, Monterroso encouraged those who are considering ordained ministry to pursue a period of reflection and discernment.
The transition of leadership for St. Vincent’s house from Bishop Fisher to Monterroso was completed in the past year, as was the transition of leadership from Bishop Dena Harrison to Monterroso chairing the board of El Buen Samaritano. Monterroso has also been working diligently with the Rev. Stacy Stringer on continued recovery from Hurricane Harvey.