For our recent 192nd Convention of the Diocese of Georgia, I created some videos to show some things underway in the Diocese like in our Peer Coaching Initiative video. I also created some that were just fun. We showed them right before heading out for a break and then when we started again, we would start with a short video catching Episcopalians doing good so to speak like in the story of the Heaping Hands Ministry. But here are two of the just for fun videos:
Four priests in the Diocese of Georgia have proposed a resolution to that diocese’s upcoming convention which is intended to make a recommendation to The Episcopal Church’s restructuring task force. The resolution states:
Resolved, that this 192nd Convention of The Episcopal Diocese of Georgia request that the Special Task Force on Church Structural Reform, created by the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church to present a plan to the next General Convention in 2015 for “reforming the Church’s structures, governance and administration”, include as one of its recommendations a proposal the the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church adopt the tithe as the standard of giving and as the funding forula for diocesan support of the budget of the Episcopal Church and,
be it further Resolved, that this resolution together with its accompanying Explanation, be forwarded to The Executive Council for it information.
The explanation is contained in a PDF file online here: The Tithe as the Standard of Funding PDF. There is no mechanism in place for input into the task force and so these clergy are attempting to create one. How this means of recommending actions to the group remains to be seen. First, the resolution would need to be approved by the convention, which meets February 7-9. What do you think of this approach?
The GOEs happened last week. As per usual, all seminarians seeking ordination in the Episcopal tradition had to take (and pass, in some form or another) these seven canonical areas of study: Liturgy and Music, Christian Theology, Contemporary Society, Theory and Practice of Ministry, Holy Scriptures, Church History, and Ethics Moral theology. It is, essentially, an ecclesiastical equivalent of “Project Runway”, where rather than merely sew a serviceable dress, one must manufacture an understandable doctrine of evil in 3 hours. (For an excellent run down of this year’s questions, see the Crusty Old Dean.
It struck me, however, that while the GOE model can be debated til the cows return, what about the questions?
What questions should be asked of people seeking leadership in the post-Christendom church, that heads out into an Acts-shaped world? What competencies should they have, what areas of expertise?
My immediate thought is that they should have some skill in relating the theology they believe in everyday life–to make the heady stuff real, tangible and heartfelt.
What GOE questions would you ask?
Episcopal News Service shares the news that, “Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings have announced the 24 members of the special Task Force for Church Structural Reform.” The full text of the annoncement is online here: Special task force members named for church structural reform
The article gives us now a list of persons for whom we should be in prayer as the task of making key decisions for the future of The Episcopal Church falls first to this group:
• The Rev. Jennifer L. Adams, Diocese of Western Michigan
• The Rev. William H. Allport, II, Diocese of West Texas
• The Rev. Joseph M.C. Chambers, Diocese of Missouri
• Canon Judith G. Conley, Diocese of Arizona
• Bishop Michael Bruce Curry, Diocese of North Carolina
• Bishop C. Andrew Doyle, Diocese of Texas
• The Rev. Miguelina Espinal-Howell, Diocese of Newark
• Professor Victor A. Feliberty-Ruberte, Diocese of Puerto Rico
• The Venerable Robert Anton Franken, Diocese of Missouri
• Dr. Catherine George, Diocese of New Jersey
• Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, Diocese of El Camino Real
• Ian L. Hallas, Diocese of Chicago
• Julia Ayala Harris, Diocese of Florida
• The Rev. Dr. Bradley S. Hauff, Diocese of Pennsylvania
• The Rev. Leng Leroy Lim, Diocese of Los Angeles
• Thomas A. Little, Esq. Diocese of Vermont
• The Rev. Canon Craig W. Loya, Diocese of Kansas
• Sarah Miller, Diocese of Alabama
• The Rev. Kevin D. Nichols, Diocese of New Hampshire
• Bishop Sean W. Rowe, Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania
• Margaret B. Shannon, Diocese of Texas
• T. Dennis Sullivan, Diocese of New York
• Jonathan McKenzie York, Diocese of North Carolina
• The Rev. Dr. Dwight J. Zscheile, Diocese of Minnesota
Two partners from other Anglican Communion provinces have also been appointed:
• The Very Rev. Peter Elliott of the Anglican Church of Canada, dean of the Diocese of New Westminster and rector of Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver.
• The Rev. Sathianathan Clarke, Th.D., of the Church of South India, who is the Bishop Sundo Kim Chair in World Christianity and professor of theology, culture and mission at Wesley Theological Seminary.
This is the ninth in a series on evangelism by Charles LaFond. For links to earlier posts in the series, see below.
IX. Being Centered in Christ for Evangelism’s Hard Work: Gentleness and Strength
To do evangelism, we will need two things I see in the gospel: gentleness and strength.
Luke 9:51: When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.
In this Gospel passage, Luke depicts a strident Jesus, with his face focused on Jerusalem like a river on its ocean. Jesus decides to move forward into his passion-mission with singular focus and despite all opposition. However, along the way, Jesus is showing his disciples, and all of us, that his form of leadership is different –strong but also gentle and compassionate.
In our culture, we do not usually link those two ideas – gentleness and strength. But the gospel finds them compatible and complimentary- they are fruits of the spirit.
In the Gospel passage, Luke begins to ratchet up his story. The engine of the Gospel shifts from first, to second and now into third gear and Jesus and his rag-tag group of followers begin the climb to Jerusalem. The decision has been made by Jesus in the context of His prayer – the deep love he hears from the Father. Jesus has decided what to do – go where it leads, cost what it will.
The geographical direction Jesus sets is through Samaria. Due to the violently inhospitable Samarians, most Jews would naturally travel the long way around to the East of the Jordan River, through Perea, to avoid Samarians– especially if they were on their way to Jerusalem. But Jesus strides into Samaria –like a modern American deciding to hike through Iraq. The Samaritans hated the Jews at least in part because the Jews hated the Samaritans – who had developed their own form of the Bible, their own liturgy, their own mountain for worship, and their own mystical writings. There was vicious distaste, distrust and distain on both sides. Their very similarity fuelled their hatred.
And, of course, a lack of hospitality in the desert is more than a matter of being impolite. The denial of hospitality in the desert is a matter of life and death. Jesus resolutely decides that it is through this inhospitable, unkind, oppressive region that they shall travel. And of course, they are ruthlessly rejected. So, in a flash of anger and righteous indignation, James and John ask Jesus if they may flex some hocus pocus of their own asking to repeat Elijah’s trick of raining fire down on opponents. Have you ever seen anyone burned alive? I have. It is quite a suggestion to make on one person…let alone on a nation.
Jesus is appalled! Jesus – striding at the head of the line to get to his mission in Jerusalem, physically turns around on James and John and rebukes them. Jesus flatly refuses to identify himself with Elijah, the fiery reformer of Second Kings. He will not drop fire on those who are unkind to him. He will not turn on those who deliberately turn on him. He will not be a conquering king. There is no insecurity in Jesus. He can afford to be gentle precisely because he sets aside his instincts for self-protection, defensiveness and aggression. His gentleness is not flaccid or weak. His gentleness is very strong, precisely because it is real gentleness – the kind which comes from spiritual abundance – form the source of gentleness– from knowing who one is.
Gentleness is so often seen as weak – even flaccid. But here we see a different model. Getting something done without bashing through it. Being that deep river instead of a wild, whipping, out –of-control hose – whirling around like a rabid snake -responding to cruelty and oppression with a resolute determination which is strong but not itself cruel or oppressive. The old adage that we should “fight fire with fire” is actually being reversed in this gospel. We fight fire with cool, baptismal water.
Words are so important and can help us here. The root word of gentle or gentleness is not a weak word. It is actually very strong. The “gen” of “generous” or “generation” or “gentle” or “gentile” or “gentry” or “genuine” or “genitalia” comes from the Latin word “gentis” which means race or clan or family. And the root of the Latin is from “gignere” which means to “beget” or to “come from” (as in Peleg begat Reu and Reu begat Serus and Seru begat Nahor…” ). We moderns often roll our eyes and skip the “begat” passages in the Hebrew Scriptures, but they are really very important…they are always, without exception, formulae which highlight an important passage to follow – these passages mark power.
Jesus was gentle because Jesus was aware of his rooted-ness in God. Jesus was gentle because he lived out of a place of spiritual abundance. Our calling is to that same awareness. We are Easter people. One can wear a tie or a cassock – we can wear a clerical shirt or a habit- we can wear a white doctor’s coat or an academic gown – one can wear black or purple – we can put on anything – dress up as anything. But the real test is not what we look like or what we say or what we wear. The real test is what we do – how we treat each other – as people- as nations. What we do is connected to hearing and knowing who we are – as members of one, connected humanity.
God’s central commandment is a call into the powerful gentleness of love. That is what we are doing in Come and See Campaigns – we are, with quiet confidence, together – inviting people to come and see where Jesus is at work. It’s not even about whether we think our church is pretty enough or well organized enough or has music or liturgy stirring enough – our job is to invite.
We have only to listen to God’s whisper of generous love always flowing through our souls like a great river– really listen to the Generous One of Love speak to us out of our Baptismal waters. And then turn to someone and tell them about how it has changed our lives.
In the end, Evangelism is nothing more than knowing we are loved by God (liked even!) and telling the world this good news. It sounds so simple but it is very hard work on many levels. This gentleness and strength will come to a clergy-person, a warden, a vestry and a congregation when their spiritual lives have the ballast of prayer, study in a mindful and balanced life. Evangelism, like stewardship, emerges out of deep, abiding, strong spirituality. The Come and See Membership Growth Campaign is designed to give function and form to the fire in the belly of those whose spiritual life is deep enough and vibrant enough to want to get out there and invite the hungry world to our churches – places where we beggars just found food.
The Rev. Canon Charles LaFond is the Canon for Congregational Life in the Diocese of New Hampshire. The Come and See Membership Growth Campaign Manual is online and the 7 minute video summary can be found here.
This is the ninth and last in a series on evangelism by Charles LaFond. Click for earlier installments: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8. Check out Charles’ blog for the full text. And check out the Diocese of New Hampshire’s Evangelism Toolkit, on its website.
Y’all know it’s been Christmas out in the stores for a while. A few weeks ago I came across these two churches which are being sold alongside various little village buildings. On first glance, they’re not too different. Quaint little ceramic church buildings all lit up, ready to be placed on mantles or fake-snow-covered sideboards across America.
But look more closely–these two churches express two very different identities. One is white, glittery, and pristine. Three robed choristers stand in front of the church doors serenading passers by with carols. The bell swings in the steeple. All is washed in sparkly white and silver. The building feels closed up, all the light coming from external bulbs. A classic (if oddly glittery!) life-size nativity scene is set up on the corner of the lot.
In the other, the colors are just a bit too vivid, the warm light spills out through the windows. There are two signs to the right of the door: “Canned Goods” and “Christmas Donations & Toy Drive.” The sidewalk is blocked by donated food, blankets, stuffed animals, even wrapped gifts.
Isn’t it interesting that somewhere a marketing team has decided these are the two most expected images of the church?
Which church is most appealing? Which says most about what Christmas–God becoming like human beings–means? Which church looks most like your church?
(Cross-posted from Red Shoes, Funny Shirt, with permission.)
Here is a thing I have noticed:
The Diocese of Kentucky met for its 185th Annual Convention Nov 9 & 10. Bishop White framed our work together as our “annual mission gathering” and invited us to turn our traditional workshop times into opportunities to share stories of mission happening across the diocese. Led by the Rev. Dr. Mary Abrams, Bishop White and the planning team created a rotation that allowed small groups to rotate through each of the 5 Marks of Mission, engaging in a simple bible study and sharing exercise related to each goal. This same process could certainly work in other contexts, so I thought I’d offer it here. The convention seemed really energized by hearing the stories of work being done in other churches and I heard many people say things like “we should get together and do this more often!” The bishop and I chose passages from Luke-Acts since we’ll be entering into the “Luke” year in the lectionary.
(See my post about how this tied into our Acts 8 exercise here.)
Here’s what we did:
As part of registration, we were each assigned a group 1-5. We began with a 15 minute plenary session during which the bishop introduced the 5 Marks of Mission and outlined the process we would follow. Following orientation, each of us went to the room to which we were assigned. We stayed in that room for the duration and the facilitators for each mark rotated through all the rooms. We spent 25 minutes on each mark. The sessions went like this:
- Introduction of the particular Mark of Mission
- Reading of the related scripture passage
- Sharing of what themes stood out for us in the scripture
- Sharing of how we are living out the mark. We were given post-it notes for each question. We wrote answers on the post-its and as we shared with the group, we added our post-it to a large paper banner.
- Question 1: How is this Mark of Mission currently reflecting where you are now in the life and work of your parish? (Current actions)
- Question 2: What are sone others ways your parish could live into this Mark more fully? (Future vision)
- The post-its were all collected under banners for each mark and displayed in the convention hall during our business sessions. They are being compiled and will be published in the coming days.
Here are the associated scripture passages and brief notes each facilitator used:
Mark 1: Luke 5:1-11. Themes: casting nets; repentance; hesitance to go out into deeper water; directed by Jesus.
Mark 2: Acts 8:26-40. Themes: what is to prevent me from being baptized NOW? How do we invite people to baptism? How do we witness to the power of God through baptism that draws others to the front?
Mark 3: Luke 5:17-20. Themes: bringing needs to Jesus. Overcoming obstacles, being creative; stopping at nothing, urgency. What are some of the forms of healing?
Mark 4: Luke 3:3-6. Themes: God’s justice created by crying out in the wilderness. What wildernesses must be confronted? How do we best prepare the Lord’s Way to change the landscape: valleys filled, mountains and hills brought low, crooked made straight, rough smooth, all so that people see salvation, the wholeness of God?
Mark 5: Luke 20: 9-19. Themes: the tenants were motivated by greed and were unjust. How do we model sharing resources with neighbors far and near? Does clean water in Africa begin in Kentucky? What does the youngest generation have to teach us about caring for creation? For the majority of Anglicans worldwide, this mark is very important and signals our willingness to be in relationship.
Read my reflections on the 5 Marks as convention chaplain here.
Over the past few days, I’ve seen Christianity and technology meet in some interesting ways. A colleague and friend related a story about being told that he “wasn’t a Christian” for tweeting during a church event. Meanwhile, various leaders of Episcopal Church Commissions are hosting tweetups (or tweets-up for aficionados of Rite I), while looking at rules for when and how social media is allowable. Many people are all a-“twitter” about how and when churches should use what technology to communicate with current and future members of the Body of Christ.
This week I also re-read a very interesting chapter on technology in Jim Collins book Good to Great . He said that great organizations have a very different view of technology than many other organizations. They don’t try to be on the bandwagon with the newest fad. Instead, they use technology competently in areas that are helpful and are relentless about creating innovation in ways that really matter. Great companies also tend to crawl, walk and run with new technology, rather than run, trip, fall and then crawl before finally dying. Most importantly, they weren’t afraid of new technology, either of using it or of being passed by while they figured out how to use it effectively.
All of this made me think about technology use in the church. Social media is the mark of the day, but many other technologies in church life have come and gone. At St. John’s, for instance, we have a card catalog of members that is decades old — a powerful database before UNIVACs ate punchcards. If I need to find information about members going back a couple generations, it is at all my fingertips. The church could track family relationships, baptisms, confirmations, weddings and all the other information necessary for excellence in sacramental record-keeping and follow-up.
Think, too, about worship technologies and how they have been used. Some churches took to electric instruments and projection screens in all the right ways and grew thriving congregations. Others bought every bell and whistle imaginable — along with the smoke machine to replace an antiquated thurible — and it didn’t go so well. Some parishes passed on those opportunities, but put in quality microphones, speakers, and hearing impaired devices to go with their organ, but are still doing just fine. Others didn’t change a thing and died. The moral for me is that church health and growth has less to do with what technology is used than how well the church is being church. If a church is thriving, technology will be used to further mission and ministry. If mission and ministry are confused, if people in the church don’t deeply love each other, if the place is lukewarm about prayer and worship, then even the trendiest technology doesn’t help.
In recent months, I know there have been times when Twitter and Facebook have been the essential media for the communication, and that our newest members wouldn’t have found us without our simple but updated website. At the same time, parishioners with rotary phones are still important members of the Body of Christ and we are called to meet their needs. I am also aware that a handwritten note delivered by a post office employee can often be the most effective “thank you” I can send. A wise pastor once said something about being all things to all people so we can win some of them to Christ.
Instead of fighting “technology wars”, I think as a church we need to do a couple of things:
1. Relentlessly focus on mission and ministry.
2. Let people who use social media and other newer technologies use it when and how they want and show the rest of the church how it can be useful.
3. Use our mission and ministry goals to see what gaps technology can fill, on local and national levels. In some places, it might be taking mp3 players of sermons and choir anthems to shut-ins. In others, a cutting edge social media presence. In some, a way to communicate cheaply with missionaries sent on projects around the globe. In others, just adding color photos to the parish newsletters that help identify and welcome new members. Urban and college ministries may lead the by innovating so that a few years down the line the small town pastor will know what works and can inexpensively implement it. People on twitter may know what happens at a CCAB meeting before people who read it in the monthly newsletter, but both media can be effective at spreading the gospel.
4. Refuse to be afraid — either of using new technology when it can help or of not using new technologies where they don’t advance mission and ministry in that particular context, however cool they might seem.
5. Have the grace to allow people to build their communities using the technologies they are comfortable with. They will probably be most effective with them, and any medium can still reach segments of unchurched people.
“Surely I have plans for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Who would have guessed that the Biblical passage that concludes the restructuring resolution for The Episcopal Church would be the first words my parish’s choir sang this morning as our priest censed the altar? If even the Anglo-Catholic introit-elves have gotten behind restructuring…can there be a surer sign of God’s favor?
Today Bishop Cate Waynick announced the opening of nominations for a diocesan restructuring task force via a pastoral letter read aloud during Sunday services throughout the diocese of Indianapolis, noting:
In any organization the ‘usual way of doing things’ can become enshrined and go unquestioned, even though situations and needs have changed over the years. We live in a vastly different world than that of our grandparents, and are facing the need to adjust, prune, augment, and re-imagine the structures which support our mission and ministry.
The 175th convention of the Diocese of Indianapolis passed a restructuring resolution that was a very close cousin to the one passed at the General Convention. In the end, passing the resolution proved to meet far less resistance than those of us behind it thought, but now the real work begins.
I am very excited by the enthusiasm with which Bishop Cate and the Executive Council, neither directly involved in the resolution that came to the floor of diocesan convention, have taken this on. The diocesan convention and the leadership of the Diocese of Indianapolis have now done their part. Now is the moment for the rest of us to do ours.
Nominations are due by December 22. The membership of the committee will be announced on or before the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter the Apostle (January 18, 2013).
I ask this of the Acts 8 Moment readership:
- Are you in the Diocese of Indianapolis? Do you have a dream for your church? Nominate yourself for the task force, or someone you know. If you have never been involved in formal church leadership – that is not a barrier to you. The Executive Council is specifically directed to include those “not often heard from”.
- Are you outside the Diocese of Indianapolis? Pray for us. And if you know people in this diocese, please make sure they know about this. The pastoral letter was to be read either today or next Sunday. By coincidence, these Sundays bookend Thanksgiving, so attendance might be a bit low. The Diocese of Indianapolis extends from Lafayette and Muncie at the North end, all the way South to the Ohio River.
- Is your diocesan convention coming up? As far as I am aware (correct me if I’m wrong in the comments), Indianapolis is the first diocese to adopt a restructuring resolution in response to what The Episcopal Church is doing. Consider whether your diocese might benefit from a similar body. Note that your diocese may require a somewhat different approach – in the Diocese of Indianapolis, the diocesan convention has the power to charter committees. This isn’t true in all places, though, so check your constitution and canons!