All posts by Acts 8

#MainlineSummer and the Ecumenical Autumn, by David Simmons

One of the challenges from the movements in the #mainlinesummer, including #acts8, #dreamumc, #dreampcusa and others is how to re-envision our denominations for the future. Whatever those visions entail, I believe they will all include one common ingredient – ecumenism. For those of us who are not ecumenical wonks (and I know that I’m in the less than one percent for being one) “ecumenical” is a word that creates yawns. It brings up visions of long, tepid joint Thanksgiving services. But the future of our churches will be ecumenical for two reasons. One is a glass half-empty, the other is a glass half-full.

The glass half-empty reason is because we can literally no longer afford to walk apart. In the sixties, we could afford to each build high-rise denominational headquarters in major cities and employ hundreds of staffers as our churches built out in the ’burbs. In our time, as denominations shrink down to more historical levels of membership, we are all faced with budget cuts that threaten important ministries. What better way to continue these ministries than to walk together where we can! Do we all need separate denominational health plans? Do we really need completely separated national youth ministries? What about disaster relief? These separate programs used to be tools of competition between our denominations, but they are rapidly becoming ministries that simply cannot stand unless we find ways to cooperate. What about co-locating denominational headquarters? Could not support staff and office equipment contracts be shared? As the corporately-ordered denominations continue to implode, ecumenism is becoming a reality of survival rather than a polite sideline.

But let’s spend more time on the glass half-full, shall we? Jesus prayed in his high-priestly prayer that we might be one. Wow, we’ve really screwed that one up. But we are in a time of opportunity. There are those that have talked about an “Ecumenical Winter,” since we as Christians don’t get mainstream recognition for ecumenical progress like we used to a century ago. No one is handing our Nobel prizes these days for ecumenical work. But I don’t agree with that. Dr. Tom Ferguson, AKA the Crusty Old Dean, has written that we are in an “Ecumenical Autumn”. (His articles are excellent on this, find the first part here.) This is not the dead time, it is the time for harvesting the rich fruits of the Faith and Order movement in order to prepare for winter (see glass half-empty) and then a spring.

Continue reading #MainlineSummer and the Ecumenical Autumn, by David Simmons

Mainline Summer, by Frank Logue

This summer, the Holy Spirit has been moving in and around the old mainline Christian denominations. During conventions of the United Methodist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal churches feeds for #dreamUMC, #dreamPCUSA, #acts8 and others such as #dreamCCDOC and #dreamUCC have talked about a new way of being the church. Each movement has grown out of unique circumstances and will result in different responses in different places, but it is hard not to notice what God is doing this summer.

What is holding us back from taking action within our denominations? What can we begin to do to incarnate the change we wish to see without the denominations’ formal backing? How might we be increasingly faithful to the Gospel?

The Acts 8 Mo(ve)ment — Suggestions for Next Steps

July 16, 2012
Adam Tambley

On of the most exciting and hopeful aspects of the Episcopal Church’s 77th General Convention was the Acts 8 Moment.  The initiative takes its name from the chapter in Acts of the Apostles when the church faced a great persecution and scattered out of Jerusalem.  The result was the spread of the good news to new people and places with great joy.  Three Episcopal bloggers, Scott Gunn, Susan Snook and Tom Ferguson, hatched the Acts 8 Moment idea after reading each others’ writings and thinking about how to move the church forward.  Two meetings at convention gathered dozens of people for prayer, Bible study, dreaming and discussion.  A video of most of the powerful completions of the end of the sentence, “I dream of a church that…” can be found here.

At the end of the second meeting, some time was spent brainstorming how to move forward.  Susan Snook has summarized that discussion in her blog, also posted here at the Acts 8 Moment website. Putting together the website (thank you Frank Logue!) was a big first step.  In the interests of continued brainstorming, I’d suggest the following as a framework for thinking about next steps for the Acts 8 Moment.

Hearing our discussions and thinking about what this group of people could add at this time, I would suggest three broad goals for our work:

Continue reading The Acts 8 Mo(ve)ment — Suggestions for Next Steps

The Acts 8 Moment: Where Do We Go From Here?

July 13, 2012
Susan Snook

The Episcopal Church is a gigantic ship, and surely turning this ship will be a monumental task. Yet a deeply hopeful General Convention created a mandate for change in passing the Structure resolution, providing my favorite moment of the whole Convention. As the vote was taken, the House of Deputies resounded with a hearty “aye” – and not a single “no.” Of one accord, every person present – nearly 900 people – agreed to form a Task Force that would lead a process of change. Then we stood in a standing ovation, cheering and clapping, and joined together in singing the hymn, “Sing a New Church Into Being.”

The Structure resolution was a good one: carefully drafted, taking the input of many into account, providing for an independent group that will not be supervised or sabotaged by current leadership structures that will want to protect their own standing and their natural inclination to say, “But we’ve always done it that way before!” This group is accountable only to the 2015 General Convention.

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Eldad and Medad—an Acts 8 Moment

The following is a reflection of restructuring the church from outside the camp which was written by the Rev. John Ohmer for Center Aisle, a General Convention newsletter created by the Diocese of Virginia. The original article is online here: What If the Real Purpose of General Convention Lies Outside Its Structure?

The unanimous passage of the resolution to create a Task Force to restructure the Church may be the clearest sign yet that the real work of God takes place outside the official structures we’ve inherited. Indeed, the Holy Spirit seems to be most active and alive in what I’d call “Eldad Events” and “Medad Moments.”

Remember the story in the Book of Numbers about Eldad and Medad? God gives official prophetic powers to 70 people whom God has asked Moses to assemble at the Tent of Meeting. Two men, however — Eldad and Medad – have remained behind in the camp, and are not present when God commissions the 70.They prophesy anyway.

When someone complains about it, Moses says, “Don’t stop them – I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets!” In other words, what God is doing outside the official structures is often every bit as important, or even more important, as what God is doing inside, or through the structures.

Continue reading Eldad and Medad—an Acts 8 Moment

An Acts 8 Mo(ve)ment

Nurya Love Parish blogged the following after the Acts 8 Moment meeting on the last evening of the General Convention:

The run-up to the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church was full of drama. There was one proposed budget. Oh-oh, the proposed budget was in error. There was another proposed budget. The fact that the new proposed budget was from the Presiding Bishop was unprecedented. It was like a soap opera, except (for those of us who care about these things) infinitely more frustrating, because it was real life.

But we give thanks to God even in our trials (Romans 5), because what causes pain also brings endurance, courage and insight. In this case, a trio of bloggers (Susan Snook, Tom Ferguson, and Scott Gunn) decided to convene a new gathering at General Convention. (Here’s Susan’s original post describing the Episcopal Church as experiencing an Acts 8 Moment.)

I couldn’t go to the first Acts 8 meeting, because I wasn’t in Indianapolis yet. But as I followed the legislative conversation online, I had no doubt that Susan, Tom, and Scott were accurate in their description of the current state of the church. Approving a task force to review and recommend restructure of the church, approving a move of the Church Center, and approving same-sex blessings… all were signs that the Episcopal Church is in a new moment.

I did attend the second Acts 8 meeting, which was held last night. As before, the agenda began with the study of Scripture (Acts 8:26-40). It continued with people finishing the sentence “I hope the church will…”  And finally, there was open conversation on where to go from here. A suggestion for a corporate Bible study on Acts was greeted with enthusiasm, and a commitment from Scott Gunn that Forward Movement could provide one. A summation of the conversation by Susan Snook produced the tweet: “What we want: spiritual renewal, prayer-led and Bible based. #Acts8 #gc77”

As in every gathering, there was the meeting and the after-meeting. As people dispersed, there became two unconnected groups of people talking in two different corners of the room. As we overheard one another, we realized that with no (human) coordination, we were both talking about the same thing: developing a common Rule of Life.

At the same time we realized that Acts 8 met for the second time on the Feast of St. Benedict. (This wasn’t intentional, but it was certainly a happy accident.) St. Benedict was the person who developed a lasting rule of life for monastics, beginning with the words “Listen with the ear of the heart…” and continuing to prescribe prayer, stability in community, and conversion of life.

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Welcome to the Acts 8 Moment website

We’ll be gathering blog posts, videos and the Twitter feed for the Acts 8 Moment in The Episcopal Church. You too can share your voice at this website. Send an email to theteam[at]acts8moment[dot]org if you want to move from commenting here to being more involved.