I am a firm believer in the future vitality of The Episcopal Church. I have to be. I’m 35 years old and looking at another 30 years of ordained ministry. I’d also like the Pension Fund to still exist when I retire someday. I’ve got two daughters and I’m committed to raising them in the knowledge and love of the Lord. I’m even spending the bulk of my sabbatical time this summer exploring what The Episcopal Church has that makes us special and what we might need to tweak to ensure that the current religious climate isn’t one of crisis, but an opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ for generations to come. All of these reasons, and many more, are why I am thrilled to join Susan Brown Snook, Scott Gunn, Tom Ferguson, Frank Logue, Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale, and Adam Trambley in presenting “A Memorial to the Church” along with several enacting resolutions calling on The Episcopal Church gathered at the 78th General Convention to proclaim resurrection by to acting with boldness to proclaim the gospel in some very specific ways. The Memorial has six points, which I’ve repeated here with some brief commentary.
- Engage creatively, openly, and prayerfully in reading the signs of the times and discerning the particular ways God is speaking to the Episcopal Church now. This means moving beyond politics as usual. It means letting go of our long-standing arguments over any number of things that are adiaphora to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It means listening to the culture and looking for signs of God already at work in the world.
- Pray, read the scriptures, and listen deeply for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in electing a new Presiding Bishop and other leaders, in entering into creative initiatives for the spread of the kingdom, and in restructuring the church for mission. As a democratically governed church, we assume that the Holy Spirit is at work in the election process: from Bishops to Standing Committees to Vestries. This is true of our senior leadership as well. The Presiding Bishop, President of the House of Deputies, and Members of Executive Council will work to enact the vision set forth by General Convention. If they are not willing to risk creatively for the spread of the Good News, then we have already failed.
- Fund evangelism initiatives extravagantly: training laborers to go into the harvest to revitalize existing congregations and plant new ones; forming networks and educational offerings to train and deploy church planters and revitalizers who will follow Jesus into all kinds of neighborhoods; and creating training opportunities for bilingual and bi-cultural ministry. It is no secret that ministry happens at the local level. Unfortunately, many local congregations are too worried about keeping the lights on to think about mission and evangelism. It is our hope that General Convention will put its money where its mouth is and set aside upwards of $10 million to plant and revitalize congregations.
- Release our hold on buildings, structures, comfortable habits, egos, and conflicts that do not serve the church well. In order to move into the future, some of the past must be left behind. This is not new in the life of the Church, but even thought we’ve done it before, change is never easy.
- Remove obstacles embedded in current structures, however formerly useful or well-meaning, that hinder new and creative mission and evangelism initiatives. There is much in our current structures that started out as very useful tools for ministry, but as the world is changing right before our very eyes, we have to look honestly and critically at every level of structure and ask “Is this supporting the work of the Church or could these resources be better used elsewhere?”
- Refocus our energies from building up a large, centralized, expensive, hierarchical church-wide structure, to networking and supporting mission at the local level, where we all may learn how to follow Jesus into all of our neighborhoods. Jesus commissioned his disciples to “go and make disciples” and they immediately sat down in a committee meeting to discern how to do it. Two thousand years later, we have committees, commissions, agencies, and boards asking the same question. While they aren’t inherently bad, CCABs do tend to be self-perpetuating with ever expanding budgets. Let’s turn our focus back on the Great Commission and find ways to work together to help unveil the Kingdom of God here on earth.
I hope you will take a couple of minutes to read our Memorial in its entirety. If you’d like to join the movement by adding your name, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name and whether you are a Bishop, deputy, alternate deputy, or better yet, a supportive Episcopalian. Above all, please pray for the Church, for her leaders: Katharine, our Presiding Bishop, Gay, the President of the House of Deputies, the House of Bishops, and the House of Deputies; and for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we might have the courage and wisdom to move forward with boldness to the glory of God.