The Annual Convention of the Diocese of West Missouri is right around the corner. It takes place the first Friday and Saturday of November (the 3rd & 4th) at the Adam’s Pointe Conference Center in the Kansas City suburb of Blue Springs. What makes this convention unusual is that it is the third time the diocese’s Convention will have met in the last 366 days.
We will do many things at this convention that enable us to carry on our diocesan ministry in an orderly way. We will elect diocesan officers and those who make up our Diocesan Council and Standing Committee. We will also elect members of the Commission on Ministry, Board of Examining Chaplains, Disciplinary Board, and directors for the Board of Bishop Kemper School for Ministry. We will debate and vote on over half a dozen resolutions covering various topics. And we will spend some time in fellowship, and in worship, and in celebration. Two members of our diocese will be ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons and one will be received into the Priesthood of our Church from the Roman Catholic Church. And that’s not all.
The overarching, critical focus of this convention, … will be on the serious issue of finances
Perhaps, though, the most critical thing we will do is talk, converse, have a dialog with one another. The overarching, critical focus of this convention, like the 2016 Annual Convention and the Special Convention held in June of this year, will be on the serious issue of finances, and more specifically on how we find the right balance of financial commitments to each constituent parts of the diocese, so that all aspects of our diocesan work might receive a fair share that enables each to have an effective ministry for the good of the whole.
This is hard and holy work, the work of stewardship over the many resources God has placed at our disposal to enable the work of the Jesus Movement. Doing this work together, as one diocesan community — not as 48 disparate, unrelated, independent communities — is crucial. I believe that we must engage this work as a unity of parishes and diocesan ministries, or we will not be the Church for which Jesus hoped and prayed:
17…11 Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. John 17:11
Jesus prayed for us to be one, to act as one, to remember that the Church (and, I will add, a diocese) is the fundamental, inseparable community of the Church, not separable parts.
In Leadership Boot Camp I teach an introductory class on systems. I introduce systems thinking by referring to cakes and bicycles. Cakes, I tell the classes, are complex. Bicycles are complicated. The difference? A bicycle can be disassembled to its constituent parts, and each part, when disassembled, remains exactly what it is and what it was before the bike was built. A pedal was a pedal before assembly. It’s still a pedal after assembly. The same is true for handlebars, saddles, spokes, wheels, etc. A cake, once assembled, cannot be disassembled into its constituent parts. They have acted upon one another and changed one another permanently.
Let me take you back to St. Paul’s lesson about the Church being the body of Christ, and each member a part of the body. Some are hands, some feet, some ears or eyes, etc. Borrowing from that analogy and making it my own, I would say that the Church is the cake of Christ. Once brought together, the several parts or ingredients can never be again what they were and will invariably have changed one another.The individual members, the parishes, the councils, boards, committees, and all that makes up a diocese — which is the smallest building block of the greater Church — are parts of the cake. We have been brought together by Christ to do Christ’s work together.
Now, we must find the way to be good stewards together. We need to find the right way to allocate the resources of time, talent, and treasure that we have received from God, and to use them in such a way that the missional work of every aspect of our common, diocesan life is supported in a balanced and fair way.
May God give us the wisdom to be faithful stewards of his bounty.