Episcopalians begin annual council with a challenge to serve

By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Friday night there was prayer, fellowship and thunderous song at the BancorpSouth Arena, but the louder message was that Episcopalians in Mississippi must care for those in need.
That was what the Rt. Rev. Duncan Gray III, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, said to more than 1,000 members from throughout the state as they gathered for the opening of their 183rd Annual Council.
As the evening started, nearly 100 clergy processed into the south end of the arena to the strains of “Jesus Shall Reign.”
All around them the faithful sang hymns, read from scripture and greeted one another in the name of unity and shared purpose.
The theme of this year’s council is “The Challenge of Mission,” and after the recitation of the Apostle’s Creed on Friday night, Bishop Gray used his opening remarks to urge Mississippi’s 20,000 Episcopalians to look beyond internal conflicts and to engage a world that is in need of the gospel.
“Simply opening our doors to a spiritually hungry world is no longer enough,” said Gray. “We all drink from the same cultural cup that seeks to caricature, stereotype and demonize those with whom we disagree.”
Gray’s remarks set the tone for the three-day council which will include business sessions, social events and a concluding worship service at 9 a.m. Sunday.
This marks the first time the council has been held in Tupelo since 2001, and Friday night, Gray, donning a baseball cap with the logo of the New Orleans Saints, said he agreed to move the Sunday worship service up an hour so that fans could get home in time for the big game.
Jack Conway from St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church in Jackson was pleased with Gray’s opening remarks, and felt confident good things will come from the council.
“We’re facing some tough times and hard issues,” said Conway. “But the bishop seems to understand that, and I believe he’ll help see us through.”
Contact Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com.