Once or twice a year, Bishop Bill Atwood visits All Saints, and it’s always a big event. For many of us, this may be the only time of year we think about the fact that our local church is a member of the International Diocese, over which Bishop Bill presides. Even so, you may have wondered, what exactly is the International Diocese, and how does it relate to the Anglican Church in North America and to All Saints and the broader Anglican Communion?
Anglican polity (that is, the Anglican way of organizing ourselves) provides a structure of ministry and oversight built upon four concentric circles of community. In the center is the local parish (for us, All Saints) led by a priest who has been appointed Rector (for us, Fr. Wes). Just as Anglicans in a particular place join together to form a parish under the leadership of a rector, parishes join together to form dioceses (for us, the International Diocese) under the leadership of a bishop (for us, Bishop Bill). Our diocese includes 14 parishes spread across the US from Colorado to Texas to New York. In similar fashion, dioceses join together to form a province (for us, the ACNA) under the leadership of an archbishop (for us, Archbishop Foley Beach), and provinces throughout the world join together to form the worldwide Anglican Communion which is led by an assembly of the Archbishops from all the provinces and convened by a chief Archbishop.
Why this long introduction to Anglican polity? Bishop Bill has announced that he plans to retire a little over two years from now. Because the International Diocese is not based on geographical proximity as many others (to one degree or another) are, he has asked all his parishes to engage in a discernment process about whether to remain in the International Diocese or realign themselves with other existing dioceses. To this end, the Vestry has appointed a Diocesan Discernment Team— chaired by Landon Preston and composed of Jay Beavers, Marty Courcelle, Jane Garrety, myself, and Lynn Tatum—to review the state of the relationship between our parish and the International Diocese and to assess whether another diocese might prove a better fit for us at this juncture in our parish life. The committee will be gathering various kinds of data in support of this discernment process, including feedback from all congregants, and regularly will report to the parish on its findings before we make our final recommendation to the Bishop. Please be on the lookout for more communications from our committee and be prepared to share your thoughts and desires with us. Your voice is vital to our team in discerning God’s will for our parish as it relates to our future diocesan home. Thanks in advance for your help in this important discernment process!