BLOGFORCE Roundup: Question for Executive Council Candidates

There are not a lot of good ways for deputies across the country to get to know candidates for the Executive Council, so the BLOGFORCE provided a small opportunity for candidates to answer a question about what we try to do here at Acts8 – Proclaim resurrection.  Submissions from others who are not candidates were also accepted.

The question, to be answered in 350 words or less was:

“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?”

Responses from those who are candidates for Executive Council are listed below in alphabetical order.

Jabriel S. Ballentine blogged,

I share my love by sharing the Word as the Spirit grants it to me, as best I can with everyone that I can. I share my love beyond the church by maintaining strong relationships with the unchurched, the spiritual not religious, and those on the margins of society. I recorded and published an album of poetry as a ministry to others who find themselves searching, hurting, questioning, broken. I maintain a strong social media network with that touches thousands.

I share my love within the church, when called upon, by standing for service in the councils of the church. Beyond standing for nomination to Executive Council, I work in my Diocese to lead efforts at racial reconciliation. I was appointed to serve serve on the Commission on Ministry and Clergy Events committee, helping to discern the will of the Spirit for those presenting themselves for Holy Orders, and nurturing my brother and sister clergy with events for continuing education.

In order to become more effective in its responsibility to proclaim resurrection, I believe the church must return to deep theological work on living in the newness of life granted to us by the Resurrection. I believe that we need a common belief that resurrection is something the church is invited to embrace in this life and not something for which we idly wait. It will remain difficult for the Church to proclaim resurrection when we have clerics who don’t believe in the Resurrection and a Church that appeases such views.

The resurrected life is a life on the Straight Way of Jesus Christ. And that straight way is the way of love. Yet to structure the Church in ways that help it become more effective in its responsibility to proclaim resurrection will take more than most want to bear. It will take an effort not unlike what we are witnessing in the efforts of His Holiness Pope Francis.

It will require us to truly love: to love God so much that what we believe truly matters, and love one another enough to ensure we all stay on the Way.

Yamily Bass Choate wrote,

We know that love of God is shared in so many different ways, both in the church and also especially with our community at large. For me the Church and its members are called to go out into the world with good cheer, serving and being present to all God’s children.  Our churches proclaim the Risen Christ with palpable actions of love and compassion. After sharing in the Eucharist on Sundays, we are reminded at dismissal that our liturgical celebration has ended, but that our work now begins: Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!

This service that is our task, to proclaim the Resurrection, is both as individual Christians and also as a church community, to be present to the people as Jesus was present to the crowds. When Jesus was followed by the people, he did not retreat into his own home (synagogue, church); rather, Jesus engaged the community, went to meet them where they were, and had compassion. We get compassion from Latin, meaning ‘to suffer with’. As a Church, as the Body, we must meet people, ‘suffer with’, if we are to live the Resurrection. To be a diverse and visible presence in community is the Church’s responsibility as bearers of the Gospel.  As Christians the light of Christ is shared when our mission is incarnational.  Our church buildings are the tools to enhance the incarnational presence of Christ in our communities, but our partnerships, interfaith alliances, feeding programs, children’s education, immigrant/refugee services, and prison ministries are where the Body of Christ is saying “Here I am. I am with you” to God’s people.

Each church should see itself as a missionary center, exploring and equipping its members with relevant cultural competencies and evangelist strategies to go out into the community. The Episcopal Church needs to be intentional in celebrating multiculturalism and diversity, transforming its members and empowering them to be tools for transformation, agents of love and hope in their communities.

Julia Ayala Harris blogged,

I am inspired by our Baptismal Covenant with its radical call to love that flows into our call to create the Kingdom of God and proclaim resurrection. I share this love and participate in kingdom building through my ongoing efforts to develop ministries that empower women, mobilize my community to against sexual and gender based violence, advocate my city government to include fully inclusive language regarding sex and gender in their nondiscrimination ordnance, and when I look for ways to include the experiences of people of color in my community. As a proud Episcopalian, I believe I best show Christ’s love by challenging my community to be a more loving and inclusive environment that upholds the dignity of all.

Our Baptismal Covenant and belief in resurrection requires our structure to be more egalitarian and open to those whose ministry or identity has often placed them on the margins of our society and of our own church. As we follow Jesus into our neighborhoods our church needs to be overtly intentional about identifying and including stories of creative and vibrant ministries at the frontiers of love. This is where our resurrected church lives. When I was a member of the Task Force for Reimaging the Episcopal Church (TREC) and a delegate representing The Episcopal Church to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women I heard amazing stories of love in action from those at the margins from Fort Worth to Honduras to Virginia.

Though these stories are in our midst they often go unheard and unheralded. We need to gather these stories lift them up, and learn from them as they are our present and future church. They must be supported through fully inclusive networks and widely accessible funding streams designed to encourage full participation by the whole church body. The Holy Spirit moves us, as it always has, to think beyond the boundaries we set for ourselves. We are being called to be doers, risk takers, and experimenters. We are being called to take a leap of faith, rely on the Holy Spirit and proclaim resurrection.

Moki Hino wrote,

Before I went to seminary in 2002, I was a third-grade teacher. One of the most valuable lessons I learned in my teacher training was that we had to model the behavior we wanted in our students. I think the same holds true for life inside and outside the church. We have to model the love of Jesus; not just talk about it. I think this is especially true when working with young adults. I find that young adults today are extremely adept in perceiving authenticity and they are looking to church leaders to walk the talk. To quote a tenet in many Twelve-Step programs, it’s about, “attraction rather than promotion.”

In terms of the church doing more to proclaim resurrection, I offer a similar response. Rather than proclaiming resurrection, I think the church is called to witness to resurrection. Not long ago I officiated at a same-sex wedding in the church sanctuary for two parishioners who have been living together for seven years. Many of their non-church friends and family came to the ceremony and were touched by the notion of possibility. Three years ago the state in which I live did not allow same-sex marriage and the bishop had not authorized the use of the rite. That changed. And we witnessed that day to resurrection. We didn’t proclaim it as much as we embodied it. I think we need to build on that and do more of the same.

Steven Nishibayashi wrote,

My love for and continued commitment to the Episcopal Church is summarized in a three-fold answer (in addition to the obvious trinity):

1. Inclusivity
2. The three-legged stool
3. “We are the Easter people”

In my over more than 60 years of experience in the Episcopal Church, there have been multiple hymnals and liturgies, ordination of women, blessing of same-sex relationships, and acceptance of Cuban immigrants in the 1960’s. Did any of these examples appeal to all? Of course not! However, they provided opportunities to proclaim our belief in the commandment to love one another.

The ability to adapt to changes in society demands a reasonable interpretation of scripture and create new traditions. If we cannot or do not adapt, we are doomed to live and die in the past. Our tradition, however, is that “We are the Easter people,” a phrase I first learned from the Rt. Rev. Oliver B. Garver, Jr. We are challenged to resurrect our personal and corporate lives when faced with a potentially gloomy future.

Discernment is a dynamic process of on-going education. As a former trustee of Church Divinity School of the Pacific and current vice-chair of Bloy House, the Episcopal Theological School in Claremont, I have been actively involved in the development of new models of theological education. We can maintain the traditional model of theological education. But, if we are to adapt to and prepare for the future needs for the vitality of the Episcopal Church, we must also develop contemporary models.

We will not always choose a path that results in the expected or popular outcome. But we make decisions based on the best and faithful interpretation of the data available at that time. Times change and choices change. And we must change, too. Then we must proclaim our commitment to our beliefs by the words from our mouths, the meditation in our hearts and the actions of our lives. And may they always be acceptable in God’s sight in the building of God’s kingdom in our homes, communities, this nation and the world today and in the future.

Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale blogged,

At Saturday’s Indianapolis Pride parade, two others and I were assigned to carry our diocese’s banner, with some 100+ Episcopalians walking behind us. In large print the banner read: “God loves you. No exceptions.”

The streets on the parade route are narrow enough to allow direct interaction with the crowd. It turns out that when you’re the bearer of Good News, electricity can spark. The crowd greeted our procession with cheers and shouts of “Amen” and “we love you, too!” Don’t take my word for it – Indy’s ABC station’s report backs me up.

I suspect we got such a big reaction because our message was what we believe about God, not who we are. Or, in Paul’s words, “we [did] not proclaim ourselves, we proclaim[ed] Christ Jesus” (2 Cor. 4:5).

Yesterday’s experience exemplifies a principle about proclaiming resurrection. Lead with the message of the faith that has changed my life; follow with the institution that helps form it. I’ve had a lot of practice having this kind of conversation lately through co-hosting a podcast about faith with my friend Holli, that’s also affected the conversations I have in daily life.

That principle of proclaiming not ourselves but our Lord applies equally to the institutional church. Among the more popular items of Episcapparel are t-shirts featuring Robin Williams’ (apocryphal?) top 10 reasons to be Episcopalian. Whatever its resonance when first published, we need to put its status as a lighthearted creed to bed. “You can believe in dinosaurs” and “You don’t have to check your brain at the door,” presuppose an audience that already assumes church is important, with the main question for a denomination to answer being “which one?”

Our activities now and going forward should assume a culture that knows little about Jesus and may be hostile to hearing what we have to say. Except that maybe I’m overplaying that hostility. Because if my experience of yesterday’s parade tells me anything, it’s that our world longs to hear for word of God’s love. But we need to be proclaiming that message much, much more clearly.

Steve Pankey blogged,

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.

Holli Powell blogged,

In Twelve Step communities, the eleventh tradition deals with “attraction, rather than promotion.” In other words, rather than spend money on billboards and advertisements, the groups rely on the idea that people will be drawn to an organization that transforms the lives of its members. My position on the Episcopal Church is much the same. Our organization has the potential to change lives. In 2004, I was confused by my faith, searching for a church home that didn’t require me to deny my deeply-held beliefs around equality, justice, and love. Then the Church did something extraordinary: they consecrated Bishop Gene Robinson. And from the publicity that surrounded that transformative decision, I found the place I belonged. I’m certain there are others out there like me, longing, searching, hoping. When we do bold work in Jesus’s name, the world will take notice. When we leave our worship spaces and walk into our communities filled with excitement and the love of God, people will notice. When we are transformed, we can begin to transform the world around us.
So how does the church need to change? Honestly, I think that’s putting the cart before the horse. We as Episcopalians need to change. We need the resources to help us tell our own stories of faith. We need to recommit to our own relationships with Christ, and then we can faithfully discern how the church can support that. We need to focus less on where resources are being spent, and more on the Giver of those resources. I believe in this church. It has transformed my life. With God’s help, I’d like to give back to it by serving on Executive Council.

Sandino Sanchez wrote,

I firmly believe the Church is the seed of love that God has planted, so through the development of His mission of salvation, the world and the whole creation can have the possibility to obtain it.

Working with missionary groups that come from churches and partner dioceses from the United States that have visited the congregations where i have developed my ministry (Dominican Republic), we have offered medical services to members of the Episcopal Church, people of other denominations and other people that do not attend any church, answer to the people´s needs with loving service inside and outside the Church.

Even when the Church is the family of God, it has it relatives who although they do not congregate and neither have confessed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are ones whom God considers His creatures, hoping that our life’s testimony and our ministry gets them closer to Him through Jesus Christ.

I will continue to share my love for Jesus Christ, inside and outside the Church with a full service as a collaborator in this team called Executive Council (in case I am elected), for the mission of God is fulfilled through TEC, according to the Resolutions of the General Convention.

Yes, the Church has to change in order for it to be more effective in the proclamation of the resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus represents reconciliation of the human being with God as well as eternal life for all who accepts Him as Lord and Savior. That is our job.

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again…All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Co. 5:14-15, 18).

Edgardo Umana wrote,

The Love to Jesus must be shared by living the Gospel in the company of my family, brothers and sisters of the local church; striving to build a more just society with equal opportunities and brotherhood among people of my congregation, fellow professors and students at the university where I teach. Facilitating the understanding between parents and children, promoting harmony among family members. Promoting tolerance, forgiveness and respect for human dignity. In addition, we do not feel forgive and to be forgiven as a sign of weakness but as a way to grow in more human and deeper relationships.

The church should stay in her mission of proclaiming the Good News to every people, race and language. Supporting communities and individuals persecuted by the defense of their rights, the poor and the excluded.

Following the teachings of Jesus, giving love to all existence. “Love one another as I have loved you”. Specially in the church, we do not to forget the role of the good shepherd, where each sheep is important and is known by its name; if lose one, is for the shepherd as if he had lost all the flock, so he should follow up those sheep who have strayed from the mission.

Offering confidence to the downcast, hope to those have experienced failure and encouragement to those defrauded of life.

Demanding of our leaders to seek the good of the people, universal peace and justice above partisan interests.

Promoting hope in resurrection, and this feeling should be stronger than our fear of death, having in mind that only “earn life” that who “offers it” at the service of others.

That the Church (we all are) promotes to all religions of the world, reflect on the meaning of the existence of other religions, and all prepare for approachment and mutual collaboration to build and safeguard world peace.

In addition, we had one independent entry:

Drew Downs blogged,

Words.

I’ve always been drawn to words. Even before I ever thought I wanted to be a writer, long before I wrote poetry, plays, or short stories, I liked to put words together. I liked to experiment and use the words I heard and put them into creative combinations.

In high school, I became much more infatuated with Faulkner while the rest fawned over Hemingway. The evocatively parsed salad bar of words meant much more to me than sparse communication.

Lately, though, words have begun to mean even more to me. Not simply because I write, teach, and preach as a priest or as a sentry posted to defend orthodoxy from the heretics. [That’s all nonsense to me, by the way.] But because our faith keeps coming back to words.

Simply words. Having words. Words to say, to share, to explain, to invite, to invoke, to provoke, to inspire, to proclaim, to hope, to give thanks. Words to be there when we need them.

A couple of General Conventions ago, we got into storytelling as a church, or at least the church wanted to. But we didn’t understand it. We didn’t see the connection between Sunday worship, the altar guild, vestry: all that church maintenance stuff and telling our stories of faith. What we needed was something more elemental, something that made more sense in the context. Not proof, not the solution, not the rule to follow. We needed it.

We needed to know that what was missing from our experience was access to the words.

We love our Book of Common Prayer which provides the words for us. We aren’t used to being without words in prayer or worship. We aren’t ever thinking about the times without the book: without our pre-prepared words.

We need words. And we need to be prepared to share them.

As Jesus reminds the apostles not to worry what to say, for the words will be given to them, we must be ready to speak, for that is the only way the words will come.


Respectfully submitted,

David Simmons
Acts8 BLOGFORCE Wing Commander

If there are any missing entries or corrections, please send them to blogforce@acts8moment.org.

Michael S. Robinson

Where are the one or two sentence replies? Is it impossible to state “… by acting on my baptism vows in sure and certain confidence that these are the path to the realm of God.” or some such. Were the question not a PECUSA inquiry, some further elaboration on those vows might be advisable.

Michael S. Robinson

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