This week marks the third and final question in the Acts 8 BLOGFORCE Mission and Structure Challenge. You can click to read the various posts on Question 1, on the Congregation, and Question 2, on the Diocese. If you are specifically interested in what I had to say on the subject, you can read “What is a Congregation?” and “Why the Diocese.” As always, the question has two parts. First, What is the mission of the (Domestic and Foreign) Missionary Society (of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America) or whatever you currently insist on calling it? And second, How should it be structured to serve its mission?
Episcopalians tend to sum up our mission in one of two ways: via a bumper sticker or via the Catechism. Our Bumper Sticker mission is quite simple.
We are a community of faith whose mission is to welcome everyone into our midst. The living out of this mission is very congregationally dependent, of course. It would be hard for the Church-Wide Structure to welcome people, though I guess a coffee bar at 815 2nd Ave. in Manhattan would be a start. There is also an insidious side to this particular mission. Welcome assumes that someone has come to us, that they’ve arrived for worship on Sunday morning, for Bible Study mid-week, for the food pantry which is open one Thursday a month. Whatever reason they’ve come, they problem with this motto is that they’ve come to us. In the Nicene Creed, which we recite every Sunday, we say that we believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, and to be apostolic means to be sent. So we have to be about something more than welcoming.
We turn then to our other go-to mission statement, which sits atop page 855 of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
Q. What is the mission of the Church?
A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
Again we find ourselves in a sticky situation where this mission is grand and noble, but it has to be lived out locally. The best that the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (the legal name of The Episcopal Church) can do is not impair the work of restoration by doing, saying, or publishing something stupid. Where The Missionary Society (the in house term for that long title above) gets its mission comes, I believe, in the next question in the Catechism
Q. How doe the Church pursue its mission?
A. The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace and love.
It seems to me that this is the mission of the Church-Wide Structure: to enable Common Prayer, to support the proclamation of the Gospel, and to promote through education, advocacy, and study; justice, peace, and love.
The structure should support that mission with staff teams focused on Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music; Lifelong Christian Formation; Theological Education; and Advocacy. Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music would work to meet the ever changing needs of local congregations, develop liturgical resources, and compile musical resources in a way not unlike Common Worship in the Church of England. Lifelong Christian Formation would serve to enhance education in the Church by developing curriculum, vetting independent resources, training lay leaders, and support lay schools at Episcopal Seminaries. Theological Education would serve to bring together the 11 Episcopal Seminaries under one umbrella to ensure that the diverse needs of the Church are met in the education of clergy. Finally, Advocacy would serve to support justice initiatives on the local, national, and international levels as approved by General Convention with the support of the PHoD. Since the TREC report, the conversation about the merits of the Presiding Bishop serving as CEO rather than some sort of Executive Director. Honestly, I’m not sure what the right answer is as a lot of it would depend on the person elected as Presiding Bishop. Either way, it would seem to me that the best way to structure The Missionary Society would be not too unlike that proposed on page 13 and following of the TREC Report:
“Chief pastor, spiritual leader, principal local and international representative, and prophetic voice of the Church”
Chief Operating Officer Chief Financial Officer President of the House of Deputies
Serves as Mission and Vision Strategist
(Could be the same as VP of Advocacy)
VP of Liturgy & Music VP of Formation Officer VP of Theological Education VP of Advocacy
Call these what you want, they serve as department heads of the four areas of mission with staff members serving to fulfill the Strategic Vision and Mission cast by General Convention in consultation with the PB and the PHoD.
It certainly isn’t a perfect model, but perhaps it is starting place as the Church seeks to be a good steward of resources in support of its mission to restore all people to unity with God and one another through prayer, worship, the proclamation of the Gospel, and advocating for justice, peace, and love.