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Presiding Bishop’s Address – APA Synod 2021

Note:  this gives a good history of our Province and shows a life devoted to Christ and His Church – Fr. Michael Cawthon

theme for this year’s Synod is “Changing Leadership, Still Changeless Faith.”

To our bishops, priests, deacons, and deaconesses, all lay delegates and invited guests and observers and visitors, we extend a warm and cordial welcome to Atlanta, Georgia, and the 10th Synod of the Anglican Province of America (APA).  I wish to extend to the Bishops and others representing G-4 Communion partners a special welcome for taking the time and making the effort to be here for this milestone in the evolution of the APA.  We anticipate our relationship will become stronger and stronger as we work toward bringing the “Continuing Anglican Churches” closer together.

To all who have taken the time and made the effort and the financial sacrifice to be here for this critical Synod of our Church, we thank you.

Thanks and recognition
At this time I’d like to recognize the clergy new to the APA since we last met in 2017.  Will our new clergy please stand to be recognized.

As we gather together this week, I want to thank all those who have worked so hard to put this year’s Synod together.  Special thanks go to Deacon Bill Wall who was called upon by Bishop Jones to coordinate this effort.  Deacon Bill, as a newly ordained deacon, dutifully took on this challenge.  The hard work of planning, negotiating and supervising the Committees to ensure a successful Synod was his to do.  Thank you Father Bill.  Thank you also to Bishop Chad and the parish of St. Barnabas for their hospitality during this Synod week.  Two other individuals who each year provide logistical support as the organizational plans are put into place are Lisa Ulrich, Executive Secretary, and Archdeacon Erich Zwingert.  The registration for delegates and guests is automated through our website and is coordinated by Fr. Erich.  Thanks also to Deacon Wall’s wife Charlene for coordinating the clergy wives’ activities with my wife Mary.  Our clergy wives are very special to us and we honor them at each Synod and Winter Conference with a luncheon and time together.

Getting back to the work of the church
This is a perfect opportunity to start anew in how we conduct ministry in the parish.  It is a time when clergy should remember that many have been out of the habit of getting up on Sunday morning and going to Mass.  It is a good time to help our parish family understand that the work of the church is a team effort and that the term ministry is not exclusive to the parish priest but for all of us to find where we are called to serve.  We are instructed by St. Paul in Ephesians 4:11-12, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” As priests, we are to be preparing and equipping our people for the work of ministry.  We are to be preparing our baptized individuals and families to be disciples and not just spectators.  Jesus insisted on the support and assistance of his disciples throughout his ministry. From the miracle of the loaves and fish to raising Lazarus from the dead, those around him were pressed into service to help him.  They were expected to do their part.

Past, Present, and Future

Past

Having served my entire ministerial career as a Traditional Anglican clergyman, and now at retirement, it is a wonder how quickly the years have gone by.  I think of the lifetime of friends, brothers, and sisters in Christ that I have been blessed to know and have known in my 55 years in the church.  I have been truly blessed beyond any deserving.  While reflecting upon how the Lord has led this diocese along over the past 26 years during my term as bishop, I am amazed how much has changed and has been nearly forgotten with the passage of time.  Let me digress. Soon after the DEUS was separated from the Anglican Church in America, we met and organized an election Synod to replace our former bishop, Anthony Clavier.  That Synod was held in September 1995 at St. Michael’s Anglican Church, Matthews (Charlotte), North Carolina.  There were 53 elected delegates representing 23 parishes and missions and by secret written ballot, I was elected unanimously to be the next Bishop Ordinary of the DEUS.  Father Richard Bakley, then Rector of St. Michael’s Church, North Carolina, and Father Rufus Kite-Powell of St. Paul’s Parish, Melbourne, Florida, both of blessed memory, were the organizers.  The unanimous support of our parishes and clergy was gratifying.

APA Developed out of the DEUS
Soon after re-organizing the DEUS, there were calls by other jurisdictions to be a part of this Diocese.  To accommodate other Anglican Ecclesial Bodies, the Anglican Province of America was soon formed and incorporated in the State of North Carolina in 1998.  Included in these Anglican Ecclesial Bodies wishing to be a part of the APA was a group under the leadership of Bishop Richard Boyce.  In 1998 he requested membership in the APA as the Diocese of the West, headquartered in Seattle, WA.  Following this, in 2003 another group formerly known as the Anglican Rite Synod of America (ARSA) under Bishops Larry Shaver and Herbert Groce were received into the APA as the non-geographical Diocese of St. Augustine.  This was later changed to the Diocese of Mid-America serving a stated territory with Bishop Larry Shaver as the Ordinary.  After Bishop Shaver retired Bishop Robert Giffin was elected Bishop in 2015 by the DMA.  In 2002, while attending the 25th anniversary of the Congress of St. Louis, Father Chad Jones (now Bishop) and I met Bishop Robert Loiselle of the Anglican Independent Communion (AIC).  That meeting started a friendship and an invitation to visit St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Crownsville, MD.  The other AIC Church was not far away in Lothian, MD, named Mt. Calvary Church.  The Canon to the Ordinary, Robert Tregenza continues to serve as Vicar of this church.  I visited both churches on a cold snowy weekend in Feb. 2003 and in due time, both their churches joined the APA/DEUS.  It was clear the Holy Spirit was doing wondrous things.

International/developing countries/Global Partnerships
On the international front, during the earlier years of the DEUS under Bishop Clavier, we rekindled a relationship with the Anglican Church of India (A.C.I.) under the leadership of Bishop Lawrence Jeedi.  While Bishop Jeedi was still alive, among other worthy projects, we established an eye clinic through the efforts and generosity of Deaconess Tina Jenkins.  The Clinic was up and running when an APA delegation visited however, because it was so busy with so many Dalit people needing cataract surgery, eventually it was turned over to the State of Andhra Pradesh authorities to operate.  Following Bp Jeedi’s death in 2008, his Archdeacon Lawrence Jaya Rao was elected and consecrated bishop in 2010 with our enthusiastic support to take over the Diocese of Andhra Pradesh of the (A.C.I.).

In all of our growing Global Partnerships, we clearly have been called to serve the poorest of the poor and the most underserved populations imaginable.  This is why it is our shared opinion and belief that we must have strong and growing parishes in the U.S., not only to build God’s Kingdom here but also so that we can continue to support our missions abroad to spread God’s Kingdom there as well.  So many developments have happened since then, that in the interest of time and not to repeat what Bishop David Haines will present during the APA Synod, I will move onto our domestic history.

Present

Lenten Appeal Foreign or Domestic I am pleased to report through our Domestic Lenten Appeal Fund, we have men now serving in three mission churches positioned to grow and thrive.  This has become a critical way to help place our new young men where they can serve, build up the mission church while providing for their families.  Our three men and their families presently serving with the help of Lenten Funds as of last year are Fr. Steve Miller at St. Matthias Church, Dothan Alabama, and now completing our 2016 Lenten Fund will be our newest priest Father Scott Greene serving at St. Peter’s Church, Kingsport, Tennessee.  Before I mention our latest Lenten Appeal recipient, I would like to mention our first Domestic Lenten Fund recipient.  Father Wade Miller and his family after relocation, began working with a small but dedicated group of 6 members and was able to bring St. Philip’s Church, Blacksburg, Virginia (formerly St. Francis’ Church) back to life.  Father Miller now has a thriving 64 member congregation and growing, located at the door of Virginia Tech University.  As of August 1, our 2021 Lenten Fund recipient is St. James’ Church and Father Kevin Fife.  Fr. Fife and his family are excited to be relocating to St. James’ Church on the Glebe in Gloucester, Virginia.  We need your support of the Lenten Fund, which contributions have diminished due to COVID-19, to continue this vital ministry.  Let the Holy Spirit guide you as you consider supporting this needed ministry already bearing fruit for God’s Kingdom.

Future

Merger of DMA and DOW
The Diocese of Mid-America and the Diocese of the West have voted at their respective Synods to dissolve themselves by resolution and form a new Diocese, which will be put to this body for Provincial Approval. A new name will be chosen by the new Diocese after Provincial Synod approval, at the Primary Synod for the new diocese to be held in August 2021, with Standing Committee members elected and officers both elected and appointed. This action will then mean the APA will be comprised of only two Dioceses and can better utilize its resources for mission and evangelism, as well as provide a streamlined provincial structure that can better work with our G4 partners. Bishop Giffin, presently the Bishop Ordinary of the DMA, will be the new Bishop Ordinary of this combined Diocese. Members of both Dioceses have been extremely encouraged by this development, in what is a particularly large geographical area, stretching east to Ohio, south to Texas, north to Michigan, and West to California.

The Rebecca R. Henderson Fund
This Fund was established by a devout member of our clergy, who wishes to lovingly share with the church and its mission what the Lord has given him after the passing from this life of his wife, Rebecca.  There is a Board established for this Fund and it is presently set up to assist parishes in acquiring a mortgage, expanding or improving an existing building at a 1% interest loan.  We have had a few churches that borrowed money from this Fund.  Board member Jack Erdody has resigned from the Board for health reasons and has been replaced by Ken Lloyd of All Saints’ Church, Wilmington, North Carolina. Thank you, Ken and thank you Jack for your years of service.

Reformed Episcopal/APA Retirement Plan and Trust (Pension Plan)
And finally, one of the Funds I consider essential to the health and wellbeing of our Diocese and Province is the Retirement Plan and Trust, commonly known as the Pension Plan for our clergy.  It was through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and our important relationship with the Reformed Episcopal Church that this Fund was extended to APA participation in 2002.  Compliance is required in the Canons of the APA and will be a blessing to our priests and families in the years to come.  The original idea was to help provide for the future of our younger men coming into the church.  Some of us older guys realized how we wished we had such a pension fund when we were coming into the ministry.  I have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with spouses whose clergy husbands died and had not made sufficient financial provision for the future.  The Plan is to prevent this from happening.  The Plan has a life insurance and disability policy at a small additional cost.  Also, the clergyman may decide to opt-out of this Pension Plan, but it requires his wife’s approval and signature.  Jack Erdody served as our pension Board Member for many years and has now retired. Kathryn Cando from All Saints, Wilmington, North Carolina has agreed to be our Pension Board member going forward. Thank you, Kathryn, and again my thanks to Jack for his help over the years.

May God bless and be with us as we enter a new chapter in our history as we witness “Changing Leadership, Still Changeless Faith.”

In closing some final words
This will be the first transition of leadership in the office of the Presiding Bishop of the APA, when the retiring bishop will be ceremonially handing the Primatial cross and Primatial signet ring to his successor.  It will be a smooth and peaceful transition.  This is indeed a joyous occasion for which we can all be rightfully proud.  Bishop Chandler Holder Jones will be the second bishop of the APA.  We have been through a year like no other as we have made our way through the difficulties of the pandemic.  We look forward to brighter days ahead.

I wish to thank our Missionary Bishop the Rt. Rev. David Haines, who is rector of All Saints’ Anglican Church, Wilmington, North Carolina, for the work he does with our Missionary Partners in foreign lands.  In our Global Partnership, we mourn the loss of the Most Rev. Lawrence Jaya Rao, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church of India, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana.  This is a huge loss and Bishop David is working closely with the bishop-elect to aid in a smooth transition. May Bishop Jaya Rao rest in peace, and may light perpetual shine upon him. I wish to thank Bishop Haines for his work and his counsel and support over the years we have been together.  He will be giving his report later in this meeting.

Bishop Chad Jones was elected two years ago as the Coadjutor Bishop for the Diocese.  Before the pandemic, everything seemed to be going along very peacefully in the diocese, so it seemed the perfect time to propose the election of a coadjutor to replace the Diocesan bishop upon his retirement.  This was done in 2019 and Bishop Chad, who had been a suffragan bishop since 2010, was elected.

With the announcement of my retirement in the meantime, we are here today at this Synod to witness the transition of leadership with Bishop Chad assuming the position of Bishop Ordinary of the DEUS.  The APA House of Bishops has elected Bishop Chad as the Presiding Bishop, which will need to be consented to by two-thirds of both the House of Clergy and House of Laity at the Provincial Synod tomorrow.  It is my wish and prayer that you love and support your new bishop as you have me in my 23 years as your Presiding Bishop.  Bishop Chad brings wonderful talents and gifts to the episcopal ministry of our church.  He is a man of high energy and resourcefulness.  Bishop Chad and I go back many years together as he came to the Province and Diocese in March of 2001.  He became my assistant at St. Alban’s Cathedral in 2005 and was well-known for his teaching ministry.  When he was asked to go to St. Barnabas’ Church, he thought I was demoting him but I told him it was an honor to go and work with Father Bill Weston.  I predicted that St. Barnabas’ Church was destined to be a great church in the diocese and province and he will be a part of that happening.  The rest is history as they say.

I want to give special thanks to Bishop Robert Giffin, our Bishop of the Diocese of Mid-America and soon to be Diocesan Bishop for the Diocese to be formed by the merger of the Diocese of Mid-America and the Diocese of the West.  I also want to thank Canon Robert Hawkins, Vicar General of the DOW, for working so closely with Bishop Giffin to allow for a smooth and amicable merger of these two dioceses.

Speaking of the Diocese of the West, we were saddened by the news of the wildfires in the West and the impact on Father William Baker and his family after their home was devasted by these fires.  I appreciate all those who gave so generously, including our G-4 partners, to assit Fr. Baker and his family in relocating and setting up in temporary housing.  Your continued prayers are appreciated.

It has been my great privilege and pleasure to serve in a predominately peaceful and stable Province and with so many wonderful and capable clergy and lay leaders. It was a rough re-start 26 years ago but God was with us and despite our weaknesses and failures, He has seen us through to this glorious day.

For 17 years, Mrs. Lisa Ulrich has served as my wonderful and proficient Executive Secretary for the Diocese, Province, and St. Alban’s Cathedral.  Thankfully, she will be continuing with the Diocese and the Province with Bishop Chad Jones which is important in maintaining consistency in the workings of this Church.  Pray for all of us involved in the transition of leadership.

A tip of the hat to Deaconess Linda Burns who assists in several ways including keeping track of the APA Registrar Dean Waterhouse’s files.  Deaconess Linda carefully makes sure my vestments are in order and packed for my various travels.  I wish to recognize Senior Deaconess Tina Jenkins and all Deaconesses of our Diocese, if they would stand please and thank you to each of you for the service they render to our various parishes and rectors.

I want to thank Archdeacon Zwingert for the work he does on the APA website.  Also, very importantly, he has run the DEUS Publications which provides Prayer Books of various sizes and descriptions along with other liturgical products.  I especially remind you of our professionally executed APA Sunday School Curriculum, through the efforts of Fr. Bill Martin, and Matt and Amy Clark.  Sales on this have been slowed due to the Covid-19 but now that Sunday Schools are functioning once again, this is a wonderful year’s study for all ages on the life of Christ.  Be sure and check it out on our APA website. Fr. Erich please stand and be recognized.

I wish to thank our Provincial Council for their work and assistance over the years.  I will ask that all members of the Provincial to stand and be recognized.  Rotating off the Committee after six years of service are Fr. Cunningham, House of Clergy, from the House of Laity Rick Watson and Heather Grothaus, who graciously fulfilled the term of dearly departed Dave Arnott.  Bishop Perkins graciously stepped in to fulfilled the role vacated by the previous of Provincial Secretary, and a new Provincial Secretary will be elected later this Synod.  The same holds true for our Treasurer, DJ Fulton, who will be retiring this year.  Glen Wieland, our Chancellor is also retiring and a new Chancellor has been appointed by Bishop Chad Jones, Mr. Charles Miller.  Also, I want to thank our Diocesan Representatives from 2019-2020, Norma Jean Giffin (DMA), John Watson (DOW), and Jack Waytt (DEUS) We thank you for your service.  I ask that our Provincial Council members stand and be recognized at this time.

For those who work behind the scenes and who are absolutely critical to what we do:  D. J. Fulton, Treasurer; Glen Wieland, Chancellor.  I would like both of these men to come forward, please.  We have a layman’s award in the APA which is given periodically to those who have done extraordinary work for the Province and our Dioceses. For the past 12 years, D. J. Fulton has served as both the Provincial and Diocesan Treasurer as a gift to the church.  He has inspired us all in his service for the Lord through the talents and gifts God has given him.  He has done all of this while maintaining a busy CPA Practice.  Glen Wieland has served both the Province and the Diocese as the Chancellor from the time of our previous bishop through my time as Diocesan and Presiding Bishop.  He has provided wise counsel to bishops and all clergy and many laity over the years.  He has supervised a number of episcopal elections.

As Presiding Bishop, I take great honor and privilege in awarding both of these men, retiring from their long service in their respective positions, with the Award of Companion of St. George.  Past recipients of this prestigious honor, have been, Perry Laukoff, organizer and moderator of the Congress of St. Louis in 1977; Ned Brown Managing Editor of Ecclesia magazine along with the Rev. Dr. Carroll Simcox; Frank Coiner, Esquire, handling all the re-incorporation both the APA and the DEUS; Bill Jourdan, long-time Treasurer prior to DJ Fulton, Rick Watson, Synod organist for over 25 years, and Dss Tina Jenkins as our Senior Deaconess for her tireless efforts in our global and deaconess ministries.

Glen and DJ, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Everyone, please join me in a round of applause for these two faithful servants.

I wish to thank my wife, Mary, for her companionship, encouragement, and love for the work of the church, especially with the clergy wives.  Her love and passion for our foreign mission churches, especially her ministry to the women, has been evident during all our visits to our global partners.

The past 23 years as your Presiding Bishop since the founding of the APA is a long time, but it now seems short in many ways.  Much has been accomplished thanks to the guiding of the Holy Spirit and your love and support.  I am encouraged by the fact I leave you with a strong, growing Church.  I leave you with godly capable men to carry on what we have begun.  I leave you with your duly elected Bishop Chandler Holder Jones whom I have confidence will love you as I have loved you and will be guided by the same Holy Spirit to move us all forward to love and serve Our Lord.

I believe the best is yet to come!

God bless you all!

Respectfully submitted
+Walter

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