Diocese of California’s 2015 Convention: Celebration, reflection, and jazz

The Diocese of California gathered at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, over the weekend of October 16 and 17, for its 166th Convention. It was a time of celebration, reflection, and action as the diocese planned for the future. Convention began with the welcoming of New Skellig Christian Community into the Diocese of California. New Skellig is a contemplative Christian community drawing on Celtic Christian traditions based in Marin county. Their priest, the Rev. Dr. Vincent Pizzuto, said that he and his community were thrilled by the welcome they had received in The Episcopal Church. 

Pizutto’s speech was followed by a presentation with an introduction of some of the exciting new ministries in the diocese, including the St. Chrysostom Community, an intentional community of young adults; Braid Mission, a mission to foster youth in San Francisco; the Community of St. John Cassian, a new Benedictine community; and the Companions of Dorothy the Worker. The evening finished with a joyful Eucharist with music led by the Theodicy Jazz Collective from Los Angeles and a volunteer diocesan choir.

The second day of convention began with a jazz-styled morning prayer. This was followed by the bishop’s address to the diocese. In his address, Bishop Marc highlighted some of the many ways in which the churches of the Diocese of California have served the people of the Bay Area throughout the diocese’s history: through supporting people after the 1906 earthquake, working for LGBT rights, reaching out during the AIDS crisis, supporting the homeless, racial justice, immigration reform, and environmental justice. “The Diocese of California has walked towards and confronted these traumas,” Bishop Marc said. “However,” he continued, “this work has taken a toll on us as a church...we must discern the state of ourselves as a body to move forward.”

Business continued with the passage of a resolution calling on the church to engage more in mental health outreach and advocacy. During the debate, delegates mentioned that it was especially important at a time where public mental health services are stretched thin. This was followed by a celebration of the movement of Christ the Lord, Pinole from mission to parish status. Special recognition — in the form of courtesy resolutions — was then given to Mary Louise Gotthold, Bishop George Millard, and Salying Wong for their special service to the diocese.

Many delegates were particularly excited that a resolution on environmentally responsible investing passed. This resolution, in line with a similar resolution passed by the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church earlier this year, calls on the Diocese of California to divest from existing and refrain from future holdings of fossil fuel companies and calls on individual congregations to also engage in conversations on divestment. In this way, the diocese continues to work for the betterment of the world now and in the future.

Among other business, a resolution to require that resolutions proposed to convention require deanery support failed to pass. Supporters said that it would prove to be a good way to encourage collaboration and communication across deaneries, while opponents claimed that it would create additional, unncessasry “bureaucracy.” Amendments to the church canons on resignation and removal and representatives to provincial synod passed without opposition. Andrew Lee and Sylvia Vasquez were elected to the Standing Committee as the lay and clerical representatives, respectively. Deborah Hawkins and Robert Middleton were elected to the Executive Council, while Dave Franquist and Bob McCaskill were each elected to another term as secretary and treasurer of convention, respectively.

The certified resolutions and election results of the convention are at www.diocal.org/convention.