BILOXI -- The Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi will hold its 189th annual Council at the Coast Convention Center, beginning on Friday. It has been about 15 years since the council has been held on the Coast. The three-day conference will end with a diocese-wide Eucharist on Sunday.
The Rev. Patrick Sanders, rector at St. Peter's-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Gulfport, said the council is unique to the diocese.
"Normally, (only a few) parishes will go in together and host the council," he said. "This year, the entire Episcopal congregation on the Coast is hosting the council."
About 1,000 people are expected to attend what Dean of Coast Convocation Robert Wetherington described as "a direct extension of the hierarchical structure of the Episcopal Church.
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"Our administrative structure begins at the parish level and then it moves into the diocesan level," he said. "The Diocese of Mississippi is headed by the Right Rev. Brian R. Seage, our current bishop. This is part of the national entity, which most people know as the Episcopal Church of the United States."
He said part of the council's function is administrative, such as budgetary concerns and resolutions issued by the council on the diocesan level.
"It is the ecclesiastical business session of the church," Wetherington said.
The theme for this year's council is "One Church in Mission."
Sanders said the theme is an extension of a movement started by the diocese's former bishop, Duncan Gray III.
"Bishop Gray tried to unite the diocese with a mission statement that was 'one church in mission -- inviting, transforming and reconciling,'" he said. "What Bishop Seage has done is taken that and broken it into pieces. Last year was 'One Church.' Now that we theoretically understand what it means to be one church, what does it mean to be one mission?"