As Episcopalians from all over gather for the 78th General Convention in Salt Lake City next week, join us in praying for the work they have to do. Bob and Curtis have signed onto a memorial, or written statement to Convention, urging that we collectively seek to proclaim the Resurrection boldly and refocus our vision for how the church might participate in God's mission in the future. Read the memorial below (or here) and keep those participating in General Convention in your prayers.
To the Deputies and Bishops of The Episcopal Church assembled at the 78th General Convention:
Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did. So there was great joy in that city. Acts 8:4-6,8
In the eighth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, the newly formed church of disciples of the risen Savior found itself in a new situation. No longer could Christians depend on traditional ways of following Jesus and traditional places in which to do it. Driven out of their comfortable existence praying in the Temple in Jerusalem and waiting for the kingdom to come, they found themselves in new and unexpected neighborhoods, developing new ways of proclaiming the Word. Yet they found that the crowds were eager to hear the Good News of Christ and welcomed it with joy. The very loss of the old ways of being the church gave them opportunities to expand and multiply the reach of Christ’s loving embrace.
Our beloved Episcopal Church is in a similar situation. We must find new ways of proclaiming the gospel in varied and ever changing neighborhoods. Old ways of being the church no longer apply. We can no longer settle for complacency and comfort. We can no longer claim to dominate the political and social landscape. We can no longer wait inside our sanctuaries to welcome those who want to become Episcopalian.
We have a choice before us. We can continue, valiantly and tragically, to try to save all the rights and privileges we have previously enjoyed. We can continue to watch our church dwindle until it someday becomes an endowed museum to the faith of our forebears. We can continue business as usual until we lose our common life entirely.
Or we can lose our life for Jesus’ sake so that we might save it.
We, the undersigned, hold dear the Episcopal Church and believe passionately in the gift this church offers. Washed in the waters of Baptism and nourished from the deep springs of word and sacrament, we experience the power of God’s presence as we open the Scriptures and celebrate the Eucharist. We stand in awe of the mystery of the Holy Trinity and the power of the triune God to love, to forgive, to make whole. We know the joy of serving God through serving others. We long for a world with every unjust structure toppled. We love this church enough to yearn for it to be transformed.
We recognize the importance of this present moment. We join the Task Force for Reimagining the Church in calling for the church to follow Jesus into the neighborhood, traveling lightly. Our deepest hopes and aspirations are not dependent upon any particular act of this Convention. Many essential steps are found in the daily walk of discipleship undertaken by congregations and individuals throughout the church, and we commend the work of many who are helping the church adopt these discipleship practices. This Convention, however, has the opportunity to act on a number of matters that can support God’s faithful people, our parishes and missions, and our dioceses in living out the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
Specifically, we call upon the people of the Episcopal Church to:
- Recommit to reading scripture, praying daily, gathering weekly for corporate worship, and giving for the spread of the Kingdom, knowing that engaging in these practices brings personal and corporate transformation;
- Share the Good News of Jesus Christ in word and deed, including learning how to tell the story of how Jesus makes a difference in our lives, even and especially to those who have not experienced true transformation;
- Pray and fast for the Holy Spirit to add day by day to those who come within the reach of Christ’s saving embrace;
- Encounter Jesus Christ through loving service to those in need and through seeking justice and peace among all people.
And we call upon those bishops and deputies gathered for Convention to the following actions as specific ways we may enter this time of transition in a spirit of exploration, discovering the gifts that the Holy Spirit has for us in this moment:
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- Release our hold on buildings, structures, comfortable habits, egos, and conflicts that do not serve the church well;
- Remove obstacles embedded in current structures, however formerly useful or well-meaning, that hinder new and creative mission and evangelism initiatives;
- 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.
Like those early followers of Christ, we find ourselves being scattered out of familiar and comfortable places and ways of being the church. Rather than be ruled by memory and consumed by fear, we can embrace this crisis, trusting that the Lord of Life will give us everything we need to spread the Gospel, proclaim the kingdom, and share the love of God. May God grant great joy in every city and neighborhood into which we go.
Susan Brown Snook Tom Ferguson Scott Gunn Frank Logue Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale Steve Pankey Adam Trambley