Diocesan Council meets via Zoom on March 10, 2022.

[The Episcopal News] Episcopalians across the Diocese of Los Angeles won’t just be waving palm branches and shouting Hosannas on Palm Sunday, they will also be able to officially receive consecrated wine during communion, Bishop Diocesan John Harvey Taylor announced to the March 10, 2022, regular meeting of Diocesan Council.

“The Bishop’s Commission on Liturgy and Music has devised a return to consecrated wine for use during communion. Beginning Palm Sunday, on the commission’s recommendation, we are authorizing four ways to serve consecrated wine, according to what your church prefers,” said Taylor, adding that a formal announcement would be emailed to all congregations the following day.

The four approved ways are: wine consecrated in a single flagon on the altar and then disbursed among smaller containers for consumption; clergy, with a gloved hand, dipping the wafer and administering it to the palm of communicants; parishioners bringing their own vessel for consumption from home, and the common cup. For public health reasons, the bishop is not authorizing the practice, increasingly common before the pandemic, of communicants dipping their own host in the wine.

Meeting attendees also approved a positive financial report from Canon Andy Tomat, diocesan treasurer and heard presentations from four program groups of diocesan council, including Communications and Public Affairs; Ecumenical and Interreligious Life; Hispanic/Latinx Ministries; and Mission Congregations. Regular reports of mission were also received from Taylor and Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy, and diocesan bodies, such as the Standing Committee, the Corporation of the Diocese; the General Convention deputation and the Secretary of Convention’s office.

Financial report: ‘full transparency’

Tomat presented a first-ever consolidated budget, showing all expenses and income in each diocesan program area, and for Corporation Sole (Corp Sole), the Mission Share Fund (MSF), and the Corporation of the Diocese. “This is what full transparency looks like,” he said.

February MSF pledge income was $435,280, up from $190,316 the previous month, and $81,114 higher than the projected $354,166, he said. Of the $190,316 received in January, about $78,000 “was carryover from pledges of last year,” he said. About $128,102 of the January income was to be credited as pledges for the month.

Additionally, about $608,875 of pledge income is shown as outstanding from previous years. Based on an analysis of 2021 payments, the Finance Department anticipates that an additional $169,741 of pledge income submitted in 2022 will be credited to 2021 and will be proactively working with parishes to ensure their prior balances are reflected correctly. Churches are encouraged to contact finance@ladiocese.org with any questions.

Mission Share Fund expenses for January total $294,457, compared to the projected monthly budget of $353,296, with most departmental expenses in line with budget projections.

Tomat reported that 62 pledges for 2022 had been received from congregations by January, totaling $1.9 million, with 65 pledges and/or payments still outstanding. Total 2022 pledge amounts are up significantly over 2021 as churches feel more comfortable about their budgets for the year ahead. The MSF pledging process has also been improved at the direction of Taylor and implemented by the Rev. Susan Stanton and the Finance Office team, Tomat said, adding, “We appreciate the ever-increasing commitment of our churches to the work we are doing at the diocesan and local mission level in supporting and building the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement in Los Angeles and Southern California.”

Tomat also relayed a message from the DIT trustees that distribution of the January 2022 Diocesan Investment Trust performance reports has been delayed because of accounting delays related to a change in the allocation toward real asset funds, which invest in things like commodities and natural resources. “We’ve heard from a number of congregations who have been unable to access their January statements,” Tomat said. He assured the council, “There is no need to worry. The good news is that everybody’s statements are going to be a little bit higher because of that re-allocation.”

Investors will also be notified of the changes via the next transmittal from DIT’s administrator, NRS, he said. Participants with any questions can contact DIT’s dedicated administrative team at NRS_DITLA@nrstpa.com.

 Program Group Presentations

Communications and Public Affairs: making ‘ecclesial journalists’

“Claiming Hope for New Life,” is the 2022 Eastertide theme for the Program Group on Communications and Public Affairs as congregations emerge more fully from the pandemic, according to chair Marisol Barrios.

Program Groups of Diocesan Council exist to help the bishop and his staff in formulating and carrying out plans and programs approved by Diocesan Convention. The bishop appoints all members of the program groups for three-year terms in accordance with the diocesan canons (Canon XIX, Sections 19.07 through 19.12).

The group is updating the diocesan communications plan and working to help 12 congregations establish basic active web pages in the current program year, said Barrios, who is CEO of Mission Driven PR, founder of Nonprofit PR Academy and an adjunct lecturer at Cal State University, Dominguez Hills.

Episcopal News Editor Canon Janet Kawamoto reported that the Wednesday Episcopal News Update is emailed weekly to about 8,000 addresses; while the Resource Roundup is electronically transmitted on Tuesdays to about a thousand clergy, lay professionals, wardens and other church leaders. Angelus, a clergy newsletter, is sent to clergy and selected lay leaders at the first of each month.

Congregations are now able to advertise upcoming events on the Episcopal News homepage and possibly also in the Update, at a monthly rate of $90, she said. She directed council’s attention to the new Bishop’s Blog (link), which brings to a wider audience Taylor’s Facebook posts about visits to congregations and other institutions, as well as daily prayers for Ukraine and others.

Canon for Common Life Bob Williams advised council to stay tuned for an upcoming series of reports about regional ministry opportunities, post-pandemic. Additionally, he is hopeful for a return to Holy Week and Easter church group print and digital advertising in the L.A. Times, the O.C. Register and La Opinion and Excelsior, Spanish language publications in Los Angeles and Orange counties, respectively.

However, “We’re asking for contributions to help fund this group ad,” which also will help direct readers to the diocesan website, he said. “In the past, it has been funded by those congregations who could afford the open rate of display. This year … we’re asking for everyone to chip in to help make the case for the larger display ad of the whole church and the whole diocese in action.”

He invited both followers and “likes” to Taylor’s daily tweets as “@EDLA Bishop” on Twitter, and noted a daily Lenten Facebook offering of daily meditations by the Bishop’s Commission on Gospel Justice and Community Care. A course Williams teaches, “Media in Ministry,” will return to Bloy House: the Episcopal Theological School at Los Angeles, in the fall of 2022, he added.

“Social media enables each of us to be an ecclesial journalist,” Taylor said. “Our churches are where beautiful, exquisite, other-worldly things happen, whether it’s 30 seconds of your choir warming up before church … a photograph of your church … smiling faces after church … a picture of a stained glass window … if there is something you love about your church, put it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and celebrate the churches that you love, so that a spiritually hungry and beauty-deprived social media cohort will be drawn to it.”

Ecumenical and Interfaith Life

The Program Group on Ecumenical and Interfaith Life, in conjunction with the Southwest California Synod of the ELCA, continues to promote interfaith dialogue, working with diocesan interfaith ministers-in-residence Tasneem Noor, Sable Manson and Tahil Sharma, according to convenor Ravi Verma.

The group is also partnering with the United Religions Initiative and Interfaith Youth Core, two nonprofit groups addressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion through a spiritual lens. Together they are collaborating on a series of programs featuring communities who share ethnic social identities, and will focus on the voices of the LGBTQ+ and Asian American Pacific Islander communities, he said. Previously, the group featured African American voices, he said.

Additionally, they are engaging climate wellness projects, including introducing churches to tree planting. “The goal is, how can we work and provide resources for churches that have space for tree planting,” he said.

Taylor said preliminary work has begun on “organizing a mighty interfaith and ecumenical movement to speak in one voice on behalf of an alternative to the Men’s Central Jail,” in Los Angeles where conditions are less than humane.

Hispanic/Latinx Ministries

The Program Group on Hispanic Ministries shared a video tracing the group’s early roots in the 1940s, from the diocese’s first Spanish-speaking congregation at St. David’s Church in North Hollywood through the 1960s Chicano Movement with Caesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, centered at the Church of the Epiphany, Los Angeles.

The group’s mission is multi-layered, involving the creation of programs and projects for formation, fellowship and worship, as well as showcasing the cultural diversity within the Hispanic/Latinx communities, which encompass some 30 congregations and represent about 20 Central and South American countries, according to the Rev. Carlos Ruvalcaba, program group chair since 2012.

The group’s other projects include: Instituto de Liderazgo, a lay leadership training program partnering with Bloy House; “El Gran Convivio: the Grand Banquet,” offering cultural immersion experiences, including an upcoming program celebrating the life of Caesar Chavez. A Cinco de Mayo program is planned for May 7 at the bishop’s residence, he said.

Additionally, “Growing in Faith,” a ministry to connect the Latinx community during the pandemic, has drawn participants from across Southern California, Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala, and is continuing, according to the Rev. Antonio Gallardo, who has facilitated the group.

Mission Congregations

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, current interim Bloy House dean, said he is “excited, pleased and honored” to accept Taylor’s invitation to convene the Program Group on Mission Congregations, noting he has been a member of the group for two years and has served two mission congregations in the diocese; Epiphany, Oak Park, and St. Aidan’s, Malibu (now a parish).

The appointment was announced in the March 9 issue of The Episcopal News Update.

At a recent meeting, the group discussed a counter proposal brought by St. James’ Church, Newport Beach, in an effort to achieve parish status. The program group had recommended the status be granted in November 2023.

Reports from diocesan bodies

Verma reported that the Corporation of the Diocese, which oversees fiduciary aspects of diocesan life, including finance, audits, insurance, taxes, legal documents, purchase and sale of properties, renovations, and bequests, met virtually Feb. 15, 2022.

In addition to examining financial reports and receiving an update about the sale of property in Whittier, the members considered structural changes to their organization, including modeling meetings after traditional nonprofit boards. “Next meeting, we will have a consent agenda for the first time,” Verma said.

Diane Askren reported that the Standing Committee also discussed the recent sale of a property in Whittier, and that some members spent time getting to know priest-hopefuls during a Feb. 26 Commission on Ministry session at St. Paul’s Commons.

Episcopal Church Women

Christine Budzowski, president of the diocesan Episcopal Church Women announced the appointment of a new coordinator for both the diocesan and Province VIII United Thank Offering; Tammy Hain, a parishioner and the UTO coordinator at St. Andrew’s Church in Irvine.

“She came well-recommended by long-time UTO coordinator Lynn Headley,” Budzowski said. Hain, along with Budzowski, Martha Watson from St. John’s Cathedral and the Rev. Julie Bryant will represent the diocese at the triennial meeting of the ECW in Baltimore, concurrent with General Convention.

Additionally, Budzowski and Evita Krislock, Province VIII ECW president, will present “Leading with Heart,” a workshop at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women at 9 a.m. Pacific time on March 20.

Conventions – General and Diocesan

Taylor said that “Back to the Holy City: The Hope of Christ in Our Time” would be the theme and Jerusalem Archbishop Hosam Naoum the keynote speaker for the Nov. 11 – 12 Diocesan Convention in Riverside.

“After two inward-looking years, let’s refocus our attention and set our face for the Holy City, the City of God, that place of God’s justice and peace,” Taylor said.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will join the diocese for the annual January 2023 Martin Luther King event, Taylor announced. “As primate of The Episcopal Church, Curry is also an archbishop, said Taylor. “So we’ll have two archbishops taking us to the mountaintop and giving us a glimpse of the holy city.”

Thomas Diaz reported that the Los Angles deputation to General Convention is meeting, and providing summaries of proposed legislation to stay on top of committee meetings which are already underway virtually.

Canon Steve Nishibayashi said the diocesan convention planning team continues to meet. He reported that 49 parochial reports, due March 1, have been completed. About 14 more are in progress and about 50% have not yet been started. The Secretary of Convention office has until May 1 to verify the reports before they are submitted to the wider church.

Reports from the bishop and canon to the ordinary

Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy reported that the newly created Bishop’s Commission on Climate Change has held a first organizational and informational meeting. She asked for prayers for the new commission, as well as for the search committee for a Bloy House dean. “It is exciting but critical we get the right person for this particular time and place,” she said. She recently visited St. Paul’s Church in Pomona and was looking forward to a Sunday, March 13 visit to St. John’s, Corona.

McCarthy, chair of the diocesan General Convention deputation, reported that both the Rev. Yein Kim, and the Rev. Nancy Frausto, who no longer reside in the diocese, have been replaced by alternate deputies the Rev. Michael Bamberger and the Rev. Canon Susan Russell.

Taylor also noted the Ash Wednesday announcement of “the One Body and One Spirit Annual Appeal,” following the emergency appeal which raised more than $360,000 in grant money for some 37 congregations during the Covid pandemic.

“We want to continue to have those resources available so that our special committee and the Corporation of the Diocese can continue to make grants,” he said. “So I made my first gift today. It’s easy to do online at the very top of the diocesan website, diocesela.org.”

Taylor also noted that he will attend the House of Bishops’ March 14 – 22 gathering at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas, the first such meeting since the fall of 2019. Since the bishops last met in person, 20% of the members are new, he said.

A special guest at the Diocesan Council meeting was the Rt. Rev David Kodiah, Bishop of the Kenyan Diocese of Bondo, who is visiting the Rev. George Okusi, rector of St. John’s Church in Costa Mesa.

The next meeting of diocesan council is scheduled for 4 p.m., Thursday, April 21.