Open Wide Your Hearts

One of my colleagues in the Doctor of Ministry program here at the School of Theology is hoping to look at the various emotions displayed in Paul’s writings to try to elucidate what was really important to Paul as he wrote, and what maybe we’ve deemed important that wasn’t.  I find it to be a fascinating project idea, but as one who isn’t too in tune with his emotions, it seems like a lot of hard work mixed with a good bit of speculation.  Of course, there are moments in reading Paul when what he’s thinking just seems obvious, and the lesson from 2 Corinthians appointed for Proper 7, Year B seems to be one of those times.  This section of 2 Corinthians 6 is, without a doubt, serious Paul imploring the Church in Corinth to genuine faith, which involves, much to my chagrin, real vulnerability.

“We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return– I speak as to children– open wide your hearts also.”

Paul has, in his words, opened his heart wide to the Corinthians.  He has risked everything for the sake of the Gospel, that the whole world might come within Christ’s saving embrace.  The response of the believers in Corinth seems to be lukewarm.  They are holding back, keeping things from coming into the light of God’s love, and Paul knows that closed off faith is no faith at all.  “Open wide your hearts,” he begs them, “welcome Jesus and his love fully into your hearts, your lives, your families, your whole community.”

This admonition is a good word for me to hear one week before I get on an airplane headed to General Convention.  There are lots of things from which I would like to close myself off, but if any part of me is closed off, all of me is.  As we gather in Salt Lake City, there will be many opinions, lots of politics, and a few frayed nerves, but if we all enter with our hearts open wide, if we all accept vulnerability and admit our weakness, then perhaps a spirit of grace might enter the Salt Palace like has never been experienced before.

Vulnerability is hard.  It requires a level of trust that many of us are incapable of.  It requires a type of forgiveness many of us can’t fathom.  It is risky, just ask Paul, but it is part of what makes true Christian community, and true community should be the goal of all who seek to further the Kingdom of God.  With God’s help, I’ll come to Salt Lake City with an open heart, and I hope the rest of us will as well.

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The Resurrection Question – #Acts8 BLOGFORCE

The Acts 8 Moment is asking candidates for Executive Council to answer one question ahead of General Convention.  While not in the business of endorsing candidates, the Acts 8 Moment (full disclosure – I serve on the steering committee) is interested in proclaiming resurrection, and therefore is asking each candidate for no more than 350 words on this question:

How will you share your love of Jesus inside and outside the church, and how must the church change in order to be more effective at proclaiming resurrection?


Sharing the love of Jesus is my full-time job, not just because I happen to be ordained, but because I am a baptized member of the Body of Christ.  As a disciple of Jesus, among the many demands that makes on my life, I am called to share the Good News of God’s saving love in word and deed.  As a member of the Executive Council, I would have the unique privilege of working alongside some of the best minds in the Church to encourage the lifting up the gifts of every member toward the goal of bringing the whole world to know of the saving embrace of Jesus.  I would continue to use my blog, Draughting Theology, to help committed disciples, both lay and ordained, engage the Scriptures in that place where those holy words meet everyday life.  In my ministry context, I would continue to reach out to the underserved in my community, particularly lifting up the voice of the more than 70% of students in our public schools that live in poverty.  The world is hungry for love, and there is no love like that of the God of all Creation.

With that in mind, my suggestion to the Church is simply this: in order to proclaim resurrection, you must know and embrace your own story.  The author of the First Letter of Peter admonishes his audience to “always be ready to give an account for the hope that lies within.”  Whether we find ourselves seeking after marriage equality, prison reform, educational enrichment, or holiness of life, we need to be prepared to answer the inevitable question, “why?”  Why do we do the things we do?  Because God’s love is so compelling that I can’t help but share it with the whole world.  For you, sharing the love of God might mean picketing for immigration reform, while for others it is opening a soup kitchen.  No matter the manifestation, the saving love of God shown in the resurrected Jesus must always under-gird the work of the Church and her members.

Why Resurrection? Some thoughts on D009 #EpiscopalResurrection #GC78

While there are several critiques of the content over at EpiscopalResurrection.org, the one we tend to hear most often is about our choice of the word “resurrection.”  Many of the authors of the Memorial and enacting resolutions were critical of the Task Force for Re-Imagining The Episcopal Church’s (TREC) choice to use the image of Lazarus in its Letter to the Church (September 2014).  I was not one of them.  Instead, I applauded TREC for the boldness of their choice.

Until we admit that old ways of being the Church are failing, (miserably according to my friend Susan Brown Snook) we have no motivation to take the necessary steps toward new life.  It is my sincere hope that the 78th General Convention will be able to admit death in order to be open to new life, which is why I am proud to be listed as an endorser on Resolution D009, “Revitalization of Congregations.”

The goal of Resolution D009 is to put in concrete terms what TREC left a little too airy in their Final Report, namely their invitation to “enter into a season of sustained focus on what it means for us in this moment, in our various local contexts, to follow Jesus, together, into the neighborhood, and to travel lightly.”  In D009, we’ve asked General Convention to set aside $1 million in order to begin creating the structures that will be required to help congregations who though they admit they are dead, are readily seeking resurrection.  While this seems like a lot of money, it is really only a drop in the bucket of the investment that must be made if we are going to help revitalize our existing congregations, and it is our hope that the Development Office will, alongside their work raising funds for new church plants, begin to fund a Congregation Revitalization Venture Fund that will fund grants to existing congregations with high potential for growth.

Of course, none of this will work if we just throw money at the problem.  Instead, the funds are only one part of a four-pronged approach to identify, support, and facilitate congregational revitalization.

D009 calls for the creation of a Churchwide Staff position to oversee the whole process and to coordinate training possibilities for congregational leaders.  We seek to create a network of regional consultants who have had success revitalizing congregations who will be trained to coach others in that work.  Together with the staff officer, these consultants will work to develop best practices and offer training opportunities for clergy AND LAY LEADERS from congregations which have been identified as having a high growth potential to help facilitate the hard work required to re-vision their purpose, use of space, outreach to their communities, evangelism efforts, and new ways of proclaiming the gospel of Christ.

The Church will not be revitalized over night, and the harsh reality is that not every congregation can be (or even wants to be) saved, but with the right resources focused in the right places, we believe that many Episcopal Congregations can find new ways of being Church that will speak to the needs of a rapidly changing world.  Resurrection is possible, but it requires 1) that we admit we’re dead, 2) faith that God is still in the business of resurrection, and 3) an openness to change for the sake of the Gospel.  Time will tell if The Episcopal Church can successfully navigate all three of these requirements, but it is our prayer that we can move beyond the crisis of today into a hope-filled future.

A Memorial to the Church

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 SnookScott GunnTom FergusonFrank LogueBrendan 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 endorse@episcopalresurrection.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.

What is the Mission of the [D&F] Missionary Society [of the PECUSA]? #Acts8 BLOGFORCE Challenge

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:

Executive Council

Presiding Bishop
“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.

Why the Diocese? An #Acts8 BLOGFORCE Challenge

As you might recall from a few week’s ago, the Acts 8 Moment, a group of Episcopalians seeking to Proclaim Resurrection in The Episcopal Church, has taken on a three-round BLOGFORCE Challenge on subsidiarity.  Question one dealt with congregations, asking “What is the mission of the congregation?”  You can read my response here and the round up of all posts here.  This week’s question bumps us one level higher to what church types like to call the mid-level judicatory, or in The Episcopal Church, the diocese.  Again there are two questions to answer: What is the mission of the Diocese?  How should it be structured to serve its mission?  Here goes.

On Saturday, February 21st at Trinity Episcopal Church in Mobile, Alabama, the 44th Annual Convention of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast elected the Rev. James Russell Kendrick as its 4th Bishop.  In the months leading up to that election, we were invited, as a diocese, to pray the Collect for the Election of a Bishop found on page 818 of the Book of Common Prayer.

Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a bishop for this Diocese, that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

It seems to me that this prayer sums up not just the ministry of a Bishop as chief pastor, but also makes a bold statement about the mission of the diocese.  To me, the mission of the diocese is quite simply, to equip us for our ministries.  Certainly there a few ministries that are best done at the diocesan level, but to my mind that list is very, very small.  As the hub from which congregations radiate, the diocese should serve to facilitate the ministries of each member congregation.  It should serve as a hub of communication, of best practices sharing, of training, and of support.

I live and work in a diocese that has a very small staff.  With 5.6 full-time equivalent employees, the structure of the Central Gulf Coast is almost entirely focused on administration.  The Bishop’s Secretary, the Financial Secretary, the Diocesan Secretary, and the Diocesan Administrator all work, for the most, to keep the system running.  A 0.1 FTE Canon to the Ordinary and a half-time Diocesan Youth Coordinator are the two positions that exist in order to equip us for our ministries, while the Bishop does his best to keep the myriad plates spinning, all the while changing hats as often as he checks his email.  A three person communications team works as contract employees for the Diocese in order to help tell our stories, but they are grossly underfunded to do that work.

Realizing that this structure does not facilitate congregations in their ministry, my suggestion has been and would be to re-prioritize the paltry staff budget so that at least 50% of the time and money spent in the diocesan budget is used for equipping and engaging in ministry.  In my diocese, for example, this would look like

  • The Bishop – a 50/50 ministry/administration office (1 FTE)
  • A Canon to the Ordinary- Ministry (1 FTE)
  • A Diocesan Administrator/Financial Officer – Admin (1 FTE)
  • Executive Assistant serving the Bishop and Canon – 50/50 (1 FTE)
  • Communications Administrative Assistant – 50/50 (1 FTE)
  • Youth Ministry Coordinator – Ministry (.5 FTE)

This means that 3 FTE are focused on ministry and 2.5 FTE are focused on administration.  We can’t eliminate administration, but it shouldn’t be the overwhelming mission of the diocese.  Equipping congregations for ministry and serving as a facilitator of communication, dioceses can help their congregations flourish and help us move away from being a lose confederation of congregationalists toward once again being The Episcopal Church in a geographic region, serving to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We asked for change, and they delivered – thoughts on the #TREC Report

EpiscoGeeks let out a collective sigh of relief on the morning of December 15, 2014 when the Task Force for Re-Imagining The Episcopal Church (TREC) published their final report, complete with General Convention Resolutions and proposed Canonical changes.  For those who maybe don’t know, TREC was founded out of Resolution C095 at the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church whose purpose was “to present the 78th General Convention with a plan for reforming the Church’s structures, governance, and administration.”

We asked TREC to give us change, and boy have they delivered.  It took less than two hours before the sigh of relief turned into the very visceral response of rending of garments and bowls of tears to drink.  Having served on a Diocesan re-imagining task force that presented its report in February of 2014, I could have predicted most of the responses on Social Media.  The Conventionistas and Status Quo folks will be upset that TREC dared to change anything.  Those who are genuinely interested in change will be upset that their particular version of change was not put forward. Only a very small number of people, all of whom serve on TREC, will be happy with the proposal.  All of those responses are OK because what is most important part the TREC report is that the report exists at all.  The report isn’t perfect (more on that in a moment), but it is a beginning of a conversation, a chance for the Church (ekklesia – the community gathered) to weigh in and think about how we can better serve the world and build the Kingdom of God.  I look forward to the next six months of conversation, dueling blog posts, competing resolutions and debate because I think that is the sign of a healthy Church; one that is able to live in tension and prayerful discern the best way forward.  The TREC Report gives us the opportunity to model for the world healthy disagreement, and I hope we live up to the challenge.

That being said, I’ll take this opportunity to give you my initial thoughts on the actual content of the TREC Report, and as you might expect, I like some parts and I don’t like others.  Let’s start with the good news first.

What I like:

  • TREC has said this before, but I’m glad that on Page 1 they reiterated the fact that “structural and technical changes, by themselves, will not be sufficient for reimaging the Church in the midst of a changing world…” These are the initial changes that need to be made in order to free up “time, energy, and financial resources for innovation and adaptation.”  The Church will not save itself through structure.  The Church will be saved through a commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ: loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.  If our structures are crushing our ability to live into that commitment, either through bureaucratic red tape or undue financial stresses, changes must be made in order to renew our commitment to the Gospel.
  • The word experimentation. In my upcoming DMin thesis, to be written in 2015, God willing, I’ll posit that 13 time General Convention Deputy, William Reed Huntington (1838-1909)and Non-Denominational Pastor and Emerging Christianity author, Brian McLaren (1956-) are correct in their assessment that The Episcopal Church is best suited to meet the needs of a changing nation: post-Civil War or post-Christendom.  Both of them have argued for The Episcopal Church to find a way to be more flexible in its liturgy, theology, and organization in order to more quickly adapt to the changing world.  I’m glad to see the word experimentation in this report because inherent in it is a spirit of flexibility and a willingness to learn from failure.
  • A shout out to the Acts 8 Moment (full disclosure – I serve on the Steering Committee for the Acts 8 Moment) as an example of grassroots networks doing “extraordinary and innovative work, and… catalyzing the kinds of necessary changes at all levels of the Church.” I commend to you the work of the Acts 8 Moment: the BLOGFORCE (of which this post is a part), #Acts8TC tweechats, and especially the Collect Call podcast (available on iTunes).  The Acts 8 Moment’s mission is to Proclaim Resurrection in The Episcopal Church, a mission that I think TREC is aiming for as well and I’m glad to know that TREC was looking to groups like it for input throughout their process.
  • A nod to subsidiarity. On Page 6, under the heading “An Urgent Agenda of Reimagination” come these words: “We believe that to adapt to today’s needs and to strengthen its ability to serve God’s mission as Luke described, The Episcopal Church must address how we ‘do the work we have been given to do’ at every level – congregational, diocesan, and Church-wide.”  This is, I hope, a veiled reference to the subsidiarity conversation that I’ve been arguing for since 2012.  If The Episcopal Church is going to have any hope for the future, this conversation has to happen sooner rather than later.  If we don’t first figure out at what level mission, ministry, and administration are best done, we’ll continue to waste resources at every level: resources that are in scarce supply as it is.  I call it “a nod to subsidiarity” because I don’t believe that in its 3 resolutions, TREC has actually addressed these issues, but I’m hopeful that the conversation can begin in earnest now that their report is published.
  • A002: Reimagine Dioceses, Bishops, and General Convention – Third and Fourth Resolves. The process by which Bishops are elected is in need of major revision, and I applaud the move toward discerning a new model that deals honestly with gifts assessment and expertise.  I’m happy with the size and makeup of the Task Force for study and I will pray fervently for their work.  I currently serve in a Diocese that is engaged in the search for a new Bishop and I think collaborating with our neighbors in Mississippi and Alabama makes a whole lot of sense.
  • The canonical change that moves us from four deputies in each order to three. The Central Gulf Coast cannot afford to send any alternates to General Convention.  That means those of us who are elected as deputies are putting in 15 hour days the entire 10 days of General Convention.  Three deputies in each order would free up money to send an alternate and, I would argue, allow for greater diversity and representation as alternates could now get “on the floor” experience at one Convention in order to move up to full deputy status in the future.  I’m all for this move, but I know that this will be a huge bone of contention with the conventionistas and the “justice” minded crowd.
  • A nod to discipleship. Again we have nods to things, but not the thing itself.  On page 11, TREC suggests the need to “focus more deeply on local missions and community building.”  Included in that section is a nod to discipleship as TREC states the Church must prioritize “forming Christian community.”  That’s the work of discipleship, I think, but again, I’d like to see some concrete suggestions toward that end at every level of the Church.
  • Making the PHoD, newly dubbed the Presiding Deputy, as a paid position. This just makes sense given the way the office has changed over the years.  It is impossible for most to serve this position in its current incarnation.
  • The ability of Executive Council to, by a 2/3rds majority, discharge the four main Officers of the DMFMS.
  • Mutual Ministry Review at all levels of the Church. Accountability does seem to exist the higher one goes in the Church, and I would argue that it is more needed there than anywhere.

What I’m not sure about:

  • A002: Reimagine Dioceses, Bishops, and General Convention – First Resolve. My initial reaction was to hate the suggestion of a unicameral General Convention.  I’m a fan of the checks and balances inherent in a bicameral legislature.  However, the more I think about it, the more I’m thinking that perhaps there is some merit to a unicameral house that is able to deliberate separately, when needed.  The raising up of “historical and current tensions between the HoB and HoD” (pg. 47) needs to be fleshed out some for me.  As I’m keen to say, the plural of anecdote is not data.
  • General Convention as a “Church-wide mission convocation.” I’m not sure what that look like.

What I don’t like:

  • The TREC Report is 73 pages long. This is 100% insider baseball for Bishops and Deputies to General Convention.  In light of a 700+ page “Blue” Book, we probably got off easy, but there must be, in short order, some distillation of this report for consumption by the masses.  If TREC fails to do this work on their own, then the myriad bloggers, each with their own perspective on the issues at hand, will do it, and the average parishioner will be at the mercy of who they read rather than hearing the official word of those who spent the last three years crafting these thoughts.
  • Resolution A001: Restructure for Spiritual Encounter. The name doesn’t seem to match the content of this resolution.  A focus on bi-vocational ministry and new ways of educating clergy is certainly a part of what is needed to meet the needs of a changing world, but restructuring for Spiritual Encounter, in my opinion, is all about subsidiarity.  As I said in the “What I like” section above, we need to take honest stock of what is best done at which level of the Church: local, Diocesan, or Church-wide; and then restructure and reallocate resources to better enable that work.
  • Resolution A003: Restructure Assets in Service of God’s Mission in the Future. In the explanation on page 49, it sounds like TREC is advocating for the renting out of Naves and Sanctuaries for secular use.  While I agree that “we should be incredulous that our building are often empty” and that we should “tap our Anglican understanding of incarnation…” I just can’t wrap my mind around sacred space being rented out to the highest bidder.
  • Shrinking Executive Council by half (full disclosure, I’m a nominee for Executive Council in 2015, so this might just be me not wanting to lose my chance to serve). I had the honor of serving on a similarly enormous board at Virginia Theological Seminary.  Good leadership by Bishop Lee and a strong and active committee structure meant that a ton of good work was done by those 40+ members outside of the Board Room, work that couldn’t have been accomplished by a group of only 20.  If we’re going to eliminate all but two Standing Commissions, then let some of that work be done by a 42 member Executive Council with quality committees.
  • A partnership with ChurchNext that started today (Dec 16, 2014) a full six months before the opening gavel of General Convention. This just felt icky to me given that members of TREC would be teaching courses.  Icky, I say.
  • The word nimble. It is on page 60 and I know everyone who was at the 77th General Convention noticed it.

There is much to digest in this report.  No doubt dozens of self-described “experts” will weigh in.  Some, will actually be experts.  Some, like me, will be merely interested observers.  Some will be yahoos who shouldn’t be allowed to post in the web, but do as often as humanly possible.  No matter what, I’m grateful for TREC’s hard work on an unenviable task and excited for the conversation it has and will continue to foster going forward.

It’ll be an excited few months leading up to the 78th General Convention in Salt Lake City.  As we approach that time, I implore you to pray for the Church and for those who will take counsel for it.  If you can’t find the words to pray, I offer you the Prayer for a Church Convention or Meeting which can be found on page 818 of the Book of Common Prayer.

Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who take counsel for the renewal and mission of your Church. Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.