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More than 400 lay and clergy delegates gathered Dec. 8 at the National Orange Show Events Center in San Bernardino for the 117th annual meeting of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

The one-day convention — conducted within the context of the Eucharist — was themed a celebration of “Abundant Vineyards” and of gratitude, according to a videotaped greeting from Bishop Jon Bruno who urged delegates “to recognize the abundance we have in this diocese and find new and different ways of sharing it.”
Bruno, who is celebrating a return to health after treatment for leukemia, was temporarily hospitalized with the flu and unable to attend. Bishop Suffragan Diane Jardine Bruce chaired the gathering on his behalf.

In the brief video welcome, Bruno cited the ministries of the Bishop Gooden Center and Hillsides, celebrating 50th and centennial anniversaries respectively, as “what we’re about, loving one another as God has loved us.”

The conference venue was moved to San Bernardino because of renovations to the Riverside Convention Center, where the typically two-day annual business meeting is customarily held the first weekend in December.

Bruce assured delegates and visitors that Bruno’s hospital stay was temporary. “As he recently finished chemotherapy, his doctors are exercising an abundance of caution with him and insisted he go to the hospital to be nursed through this,” she told the gathering before taking up convention business.

“We’re in a different city, this is a different venue, and you’ve got a different bishop chairing convention but the same work to do under the theme abundant vineyards,” she said.

Bruno recovered quickly and thoroughly, and was back in his Cathedral Center office on Dec. 11.

Tending the vineyard

Bruce said the gathering was a kickoff for 2013 ministry focus. “Our work doesn’t stop here,” she said. “The challenge is to take this theme and live into it in the coming year.”

Abundant living may be accomplished by accessing “untapped resources … (and) tending to the vineyard,” she added. “Living with a sense of abundance means focusing on mission and ministry with hearts and minds open to where the Spirit might move.”

Community gardens, youth centers or programs, outreach to the homeless or other at-risk populations, are just some examples of ways to tend the vineyard and cultivate abundant life, she said. “The possibilities are limitless when we cease to live in a sense of scarcity and live instead with a sense of abundance by tending to the vineyard.”

She addressed convention during a “working” lunch, with a light-hearted video featuring Willie Nelson’s signature “On the Road Again” to describe her travels to congregations across the diocese. She invited the diocese to visit her Facebook page for daily travel updates.

In addition to such Episcopal Church-wide responsibilities as serving as a board member for the Church Pension Fund and as assistant secretary to the House of Bishops, her responsibilities include oversight of stewardship, creative or emergent and multicultural ministries. This past year she became “the first white female clergy invited to the worldwide Anglican Chinese fellowship,” and visits to mainland China, Taiwan, Korea and elsewhere “communicated our sincere interest in the work of the church in Asia,” she said.

She highlighted specific ministries as examples of abundant vineyards, including the Episcopal Urban Intern Program, in which young people live in community and do service work in the city; Camp Stevens, the diocesan facility in Julian; and Instituto de Liderazgo, which trains Latino lay leaders, among others.

Bishop Suffragan Mary Glasspool also addressed convention during the lunch, highlighting six ministries within the diocese that illustrate that the “Reign of God is breaking through,” she said.

The ministries often prompt her excited exclamation: “Wow! This is holy, friends!”

She cited: the Abundant Table Project in Ventura County; the Red Shirt Project in South Dakota; the Haiti Partnership with Schools; the Program Group on Ecumenical and Interreligious Life and Response to Hurricane Sandy; and a Spanish language and religious/cultural immersion course set for Jan. 5 – 19 in the Diocese of Cuernavaca in Mexico.

“There are other projects, programs, and places doing spiritual work, reconciling God’s world to God, building holy relationships, making the world a better place,” Glasspool said. “I point to these six this day as special signs of hope. In so many ways, the Reign of God happens right before our eyes.”

Convention business: Resolutions, elections and budget

Intermingled with convention business were light-hearted moments, including a slightly aerobic song that invited bishops, delegates and visitors to get up out of their seats and move to the beat of Fran McKendree’s music.

Delegates also received kazoos with which to accompany the 75-member middle school marching band of St. Margaret of Scotland Episcopal School. The San Juan Capistrano group, along with director Christopher Carbajal, led delegates across campus to lunch.

Additionally, about 28 young people and 14 youth leaders volunteered at convention, helping with the Eucharist, assisting at the business meeting and other responsibitiies.

Retiring clergy were singled out for praise and celebration. Also recognized were newly-designated canons of the Cathedral Center: Florence Mattar, a parishioner at All Saints, Beverly Hills who has been active in the Middle East peace initiatives (who was not present at convention); the Very Rev. Judy Heffron, retiring rector of Holy Trinity, Covina; the Rev. Jaime Edwards-Acton, rector of St. Stephen’s, Hollywood, and director of the Jubilee Center; and Bruce Linsmayer, member of St. Mark’s Church, Altadena, and past president of the standing committee.

In other convention business, delegates elected diocesan officers (see list on page 8) and approved a $6 million budget, representing a slight increase from the previous year and including a salary increase for diocesan staff. At the request of the Rev. Canon Gary Commins, the budget was amended from its original form to reflect specific dollar amounts to fund college chaplaincy programs of the diocese.

Members of the General Convention deputation addressed convention, as did executive directors of two diocesan institutions: the Rev. Bud Williams of the Gooden Center for addiction treatment, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012; and Joseph M. Costa of Hillsides, which will turn 100 in 2013.

Convention delegates also approved a canonical change that would increase the eligibility of institutions of the diocese for secular fundraising and grants by removing a requirement that a majority of board members be Episcopalians.

A second proposed canonical change that would require all vestry and bishop’s committee members to be confirmed members of the church was tabled for further discussion.

Convention adopted two resolutions, asking the diocese to:
• urge reconciliation in the Middle East. The resolution was amended to delete specific examples of religious extremism which named only Muslim organizations;
• include the Rev. Peter Williams Cassey and Ms. Annie Besset Cassey in the church calendar as pioneers of justice, compassion and cultural diversity.

The Rev. Canon Jamesetta Hammons, who proposed the resolution to include the couple, told convention that Cassey was a fourth generation free African American and third generation clergyperson and son of Philadelphia abolitionists and educators who, among other things, in 1861 established a boarding school to educate blacks, Latinos and Chinese children forbidden to attend public schools.

A resolution proposing exploration of possible alternatives to the Church Pension Fund was overwhelmingly defeated in both the lay and clergy orders.

Diocesan appointments for 2013 included: John Shiner as chancellor; John Tucker Jr. and Richard Zevnik as vice chancellors; Canon David Tumilty as diocesan registrar and Canon Robert Williams as historian and archivist (2012-2015).

The 118th annual diocesan convention is planned for Dec. 6 – 7, 2013. An alternate venue will be announced if the Riverside Convention Center is not yet ready for occupancy at that time.