Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Missionary Vision Talking Points

If you happen to be a rector, vicar, or priest-in-charge in the Diocese of Springfield, you will be getting this by email in a day or two. (It's a list of talking points that may be helpful at your annual meeting next month.) But I know there are others who are interested in the emerging missionary vision of our diocese, so I share it here.

  • We need to make some deep changes. There are a lot fewer of us than there used to be, and we're getting older. Do the math. This is not sustainable.
  • We don't have any time to lose. The rate of decline is alarming. We've already closed two churches this year. More are on life support. Yes, we need to make the right changes, but we need to start now.
  • Our challenge is to become mission-driven at every level. Ironically, if mere survival is our goal, we are guaranteed not to survive. If true mission is what drives us, nothing can stop us! This change of attitude has to happen among diocesan leaders, in local congregations, and in the hearts and minds of all our members.
  • The text of the Vision Statement:  The Diocese of Springfield is one church, organized for mission into geographic parishes, manifested in Eucharistic Communities and communities-in-formation, with a goal of being concretely incarnate in all of the 60 counties of central and southern Illinois.
  • New way of thinking: We go to "them" rather than expecting "them" to come to us. The world around us has changed. Christianity no longer enjoys the privileged position in our society it once did. We must learn how to operate as a minority in a hostile environment. This means being able to engage unchurched and dechurched people at the level of their felt needs, and show them how knowing Jesus can make their lives and the world better.
  • A common vision reflects our theology as Episcopalians (Anglicans, in the Catholic tradition): The diocese, under the leadership of the Bishop, is the basic and essential unit of the church. We are all for one and one for all.
  • The geographic parish now becomes the organizing principle of our missionary work. Having a defined territory helps us raise our sights where they need to be raised and focus them where they need to be focused.
  • A Eucharistic Community is a group of baptized Christians who regularly worship together at the same altar. (For present purposes, of course, the assumption is that a Eucharistic Community is part of our diocese and under the leadership of our Bishop.)
  • The Eucharistic Communities in a given geographic parish are responsible for discerning, planning, and executing missionary activity in their parish. The Mission Leadership Team (current term: Vestry or Bishop's Committee) in each parish will develop a plan, in consultation with the Bishop and other diocesan leaders, and provide periodic reports on the implementation of the plan. Accountability and transparency are essential parts of a healthy community. 
  • A community-in-formation is a group of people who are coming to Christian faith for the first time or rekindling a prior faith. The assumption is that they not currently celebrating the Eucharist, but are being formed in preparation for baptism or confirmation, and toward becoming a Eucharistic Community.
  • Diocesan leaders will create structures and provide resources that will enable Eucharistic Communities to pursue their mission. The goal is to make the work of mission less intimidating by training our members to a point where they are confident and joyful about doing what they are called to do. 
  • The whole process of change must be constantly surrounded by prayer. Spiritual warfare will follow every phase of the implementation of this vision. We need a cadre of experienced and faithful and courageous "prayer warriors."


Robert F said...

This is an ambitious statement. I don't disagree with its goals or method. But I think there is a problem: the vast majority of Episcopalians are not highly motivated to spread the faith or even necessarily to prolong the life of their parishes into the next generation. Their attachment to the church is not specifically Christian but vaguely spiritual, and so it is also highly sentimental rather a matter of existential commitment. Even those who do appear to have a higher level of commitment have a commitment that is more like the loyalty of a private individual to a secular organization than that of someone in the grip of a deep and compelling commitment to a specifically Christian understanding and experience of life. Is the diocese in support of this agenda? If it is not, then you will probably receive resistance there, too.

Unknown said...

Bravo! Brave!

It will be interesting to see how the chorus goes at the annual meetings.

silvercityrev said...

Changing the way we think is half the battle!!!

Bob G+ said...

Your challenge, Bishop, which I am sure is no new news to you, is to find people who are willing to take up your challenge - honesty, from the heart. There may only be a few, but they are the beginning.

Years ago when I was working in campus ministry, our state director impressed upon me this bit of wisdom when it came to our goal of trans-generational discipleship: "Pastor the unfaithful; disciple the faithful." To overcome (or sidestep) the lethargy and ambivalence of so many, our primary focus needs to be with the willing. God's blessing.