Friday, July 17, 2009

Fuel for the Engine: Getting Our Priorities Straight

“…the heartbeat of our Episcopal Church will forever be ‘mission, mission, mission.’” This statement of “Priorities” appeared in the published budget presented to the 76th General Convention in Anaheim by the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance. There can be no doubt that mission is a central priority of the Episcopal Church. 62% of our budget is expended on program and mission. Sadly, the budget for the 2010 – 2012 triennium shows scant concern for what, in the absence of better language, I would label “branding,” “marketing” and “advertising” The Episcopal Church. Actually, I do have better language - evangelism.
In the upcoming triennium, The Episcopal Church plans on spending more than $3 million to preserve our past through our Archives Offices and another $3 million to communicate with our own members through budgeted communications expenses and such vehicles as Episcopal Life. Nowhere is there evidence of an equivalent financial commitment to sharing The Episcopal Church’s compelling story of mission and ministry and our unique presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a strategic, systematic and significant way to the millions of people in this country who are unchurched and who, according to reliable research, increasingly identify themselves as “not Christian.” In fact, in passing the budget for the upcoming triennium, the 76th General Convention skewered an exciting and carefully developed plan for strategic evangelism and growth among Hispanics and Latinos, the single largest growing segment of our nation, allocating only $300,000 for the project instead of the $3 million originally requested by those ready to do the work.
The Episcopal Church has an amazing story to tell, but too often finds itself in a defensive, reactive posture rather than a positive and proactive one. We are an inclusive body of the faithful who invite all people into a living relationship with a loving God. We offer people an opportunity to be part of vibrant churches that provide genuine, caring, cross-generational communities doing phenomenal mission work in their local neighborhoods and throughout the world. This story needs to be told and retold in bold, creative, strategic and systematic ways through television, the internet, magazines and in any other effective form we can imagine. Accomplishing this will require knowledgeable people, strategic thinking and substantial expenditures of funds.
Some argue that this kind of work is best accomplished at the local level through parishes and dioceses. They are wrong. The kind of branding, marketing and advertising we as a Church require to establish strong “brand identification” throughout the country and beyond can only be accomplished by the central leadership offices and agencies of The Episcopal Church. This ought to be among their top responsibilities and priorities. It is part of the reason dioceses pay their “franchise fees” (i.e. giving to The Episcopal Church).
815 Second Avenue needs to learn from Madison Avenue. Any secular corporation possessing assets and resources similar to those of The Episcopal Church would soon find itself in reorganization if it managed its branding, marketing and advertising functions in as anemic a manner as we do. We appear heading in that direction..
The Episcopal Church has a deep heart and is rightly committed to spending its money beyond itself. Our failure to pay serious attention to the branding, marketing, and advertising side of the equation – to evangelism -- is having a devastating impact on our capacity for mission and ministry.
If we do not alter our strategy, this downward trend will continue. After more than three decades of membership decline, we are now struggling to meet the ever- increasing needs of the world with a diminishing pool of financial resources. Fewer and fewer Americans are identifying themselves as Christian. By neglecting to make “evangelism” (translate: strategic branding, marketing and advertising) the major priority of this Church, we have made a significant strategic mistake. It is costing us and the millions of people in our mission field dearly.
If the heartbeat of the Episcopal Church is to be mission, mission, mission, we must stop doing things the same old way and get our priorities straight. Evangelism and growth provide the necessary fuel for the engine that is our mission. They are also an inherent part of our mission.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Legislative Committee # 12 – Evangelism

A lot of my time this week was spent serving as a member of Committee #12 – Evangelism. Although I have now served for more than 8 years as a member of the Anti-Racism Committee of the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, this is the first time I have served on a legislative committee at General Convention. The Antiracism Committee meets several times during the years between General Conventions. A legislative committee meets during General Convention and is an inherent part of the legislative process.
Prior to General Convention, reports were prepared by the various agencies, commissions, committees and boards of the Episcopal Church for inclusion in the “Blue Book” (which this year has a maroon cover!). Almost all reports conclude with proposed resolutions to be placed before each of the two houses of Convention; the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies.
Through the three years preceding General Convention, other parts of the Church – dioceses, interest groups and individuals, etc – also submit resolutions for consideration by General Convention. Finally, resolutions for consideration are produced during General Convention by the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.
Once a resolution has been submitted, the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Bishops determine which of the many legislative committees the resolution should be sent to in order for hearings to be held and for the resolution to be perfected. Legislative Committees must allow open public hearings on every resolution. These hearings are not just open to Deputes and Bishops, but all persons may be present and anyone is permitted to sign up and to speak to a resolution.
After public hearings, members of legislative committees attempt to “perfect resolutions” and decide what to do with them. Committees can approve resolutions as submitted; amend them, propose substitutes or ask to have them referred to a different committee or recommend discharge. No matter what decision is made, including discharge, the resolution will be presented to both houses of General Convention for action.
Committee #12 – Evangelism, only had 8 resolutions to consider. Other committees had more than 50!
Most days this past week, legislative committees met in the morning at 7:30 AM and worked until 9:30 am, when we left for worship and, usually, legislative sessions of the House of Deputies. We reconvened at 7:30 pm and worked until 9:00 pm. It makes for a long day. My committee’s work is done for now. Unless a resolution is referred back to us, our legislative committee will not meet again. Other subcommittees, and especially the Committee on Program, Budget and Finance, on which Southeast Florida Lay Deputy Tom O’Brien serves, will continue to meet until the General Convention adjourns next Friday. They deserve our thanks. It is a lot of work on behalf of us all. To see a list and texts of the resolutions that are before us, and especially the resolutions on evangelism, go to Click here: View Legislation

Archbishop of Canterbury's Message to General Convention

The Archbishop of Canterbury addressed various groups at General Convention in different venues and ways during his time with s. This included a private session with representatives of the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) community of the church, which I heard from someone who was a part of that conversation, was moving for all involved. The article that I am linking below from Episcopal Life On-Line, contains the full text of the Archbishop of Canterbury's meditation at the Eucharist this past Tuesday, July 9. The first few paragraphs are particularly worth noting.

Essentially, the Archbishop of Canterbury continues to call the Episcopal Church to patience and restraint concerning the full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the life of the Church. This has been his counsel to us for the last six plus years. His message appeals to that part of me that longs for calm and a restored sense of equilibrium in our Church, both domestically and overseas, after years of painful turmoil. Still, each time I hear the Archbishop of Canterbury counsel patience and restraint, and suggest to us that more time is needed, I can't help thinking of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sitting in a Birmingham jail cell, writing a letter to a group of white clergymen who had been counselling King and his followers to be patient and show restraint in their demands for equal rights and treatment under the law. More time is needed, these white clergymen were saying to black Americans whose rights and and claims to equal treatment had been denied for the whole of American history.

"Time is morally neutral," Dr King responded to those white clergymen from his Birmingham jail cell, writing on paper that had been smuggled in to him, "and history has shown that time has been used more effectively by people of ill will than people of good will."

As gay and lesbian persons are harassed and tortured in this nation and around the world, as laws are passed calling for homosexual persons to be imprisoned for seven years, as was done in Nigeria with the open support and endorsement of the Primate of Nigeria, I can't help feeling that the treatment of the GLBT community in the Church and in the world is a justice issue, and that Dr. King's prophetic words should challenge the Archbishop of Canterbury and us all.

For the full text of the Archbishop's reflection, see

Click here: Episcopal Life Online - NEWS

Saturday, July 11, 2009

General Convention Blog Entry – The Peace That Brings Healing

In previous General Conventions, each Bishop and Deputy to General Convention, and each Episcopal Church Women Delegate to their Triennial (which means at the same time as General Convention in a different part of the Convention Center) was assigned to table for common worship and Bible Study in the Worship Hall. The Worship Hall is vast, and able to hold up to about 5,000 worshippers at one time. In past General Conventions, after the sermon at each Eucharist, time was allowed for tables to engage in Bible Study. This year, a different model is being used.
As I described in a previous blog, a process called Mission Conversation: Public Narrative is being introduced at this General Convention. Dr. Marshall Ganz of The Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University took time on Tuesday to brief the General Convention on this process. Four sessions of 1 ½ - 2 hours each have been built into this General Convention to allow this process to take place. Instead of being assigned tables with people from other dioceses or parts of the church, as in previous General Conventions, we have been assigned to tables with others from our own diocese for these sessions. There are three primary elements in which we will engage during these Mission Conversations – Public Narrative Sessions: The first is “the story of self” answering the question, “What does commitment to mission mean for you personally?” The second is “the story of us” attempting to answer the question, “what mission commitment do others at your table share? Third, the story of Self – Us – Now and Commitment to Mission, attempting to respond to the question, “how will you translate your mission commitment into action.”
Integral to this process is the importance of each of us being able to tell our stories in ways that communicate our personal values in a very concise manner. Each of us will only be given two minutes.
During the opening, introductory session, a priest from Falls Church, Virginia, The Reverend Michael Pitmann told his “story of self.” Fr. Pittman is now priest-in-charge of the “continuing church” of Falls Church, meaning those that remain after most of the members of Falls Church voted to leave the Episcopal Church with their previous rector. Fr. Pttiman shared the very powerful personal experience of serving in a healing role as he took on the ministry of Falls Church. His value of healing was shaped early in his life. He came, he told us, from a “family of conflict.” His parents divorced when he was 12. “Conflict almost always meant for me the ending of relationships,” Pittman stated. He told of being a chaplain and of seeing the gaping hole in the Pentagon in the aftermath of 9/11. “Ministry found meaning for me in the midst of conflict…in the worst that people could throw at one another….I am exhilarated to bring the peace of God to them, the peace of God that brings healing.” For Fr. Pittman, the primary image of the priest’s ministry, and the Church’s ministry of healing and reconciliation is the Eucharist and “the breaking of the bread.”

Artilce from Episcopal Life on the House of Deputies Committee of the Whole Session

Resolution B033 continues to spark passionate debate
By Melodie Woerman, July 10, 2009

[Episcopal News Service -- Anaheim, California] A second one-hour meeting of the House of Deputies as a Committee of the Whole on July 10 saw deputies speak with passion and commitment about the impact of B033, a resolution adopted by the 2006 General Convention. It calls for restraint in electing as bishops those whose "manner of life," widely understood to mean homosexuality, would cause concern for the rest of the Anglican Communion....

To Continue reading this article:
Click here: Episcopal Life Online - NEWS

Friday, July 10, 2009

General Convention Blog Entry – Wednesday, July 8 – Part B – Listening for Understanding

This year’s General Convention is attempting to create opportunities for Deputies and others to engage in dialogue that is deep and fosters real listening. This may seem puzzling to those unfamiliar with General Convention. After all, I can hear some asking, weren’t they listening to one another before. The answer is, yes and no.
The fundamental task of General Convention is legislative. Resolutions are placed before both the House Bishops and the House of Deputies. In this manner, resolutions produce debate, rather than dialogue. As a result, one tends to listen for points and either agree with and accept these points, or disagree with and reject them, voting on resolutions accordingly.
Dialogue occurs outside of the legislative process and encourages listening that focuses on sharing and building relationships. The focus is both on the content of what the other person is saying and on the underlying feelings. In dialogue the object is not persuasion, but understanding. I think this is important because I believe a lot of people, and I certainly include myself, have not taken enough time and care, to fully understand the other, especially persons who hold different opinions on important matters.
At the 75th General Convention, held in Columbus, Ohio in 2006, at which I was also a Deputy, Resolution D043 Dialogue on the Mission of the Church was passed calling upon Executive Council of The Episcopal Church and the planning committee for General Convention to build into the 76th General Convention an opportunity for members of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies to engage in “mission based, participatory dialogue on the Mission of the Church.”
To fulfill the mandate of this resolution, and in order to bring about a process of respectful listening about the mission of the Church, the 76th General Convention is engaging in a process that is called Mission Conversation Through Public Narrative. This process, which is also integrally related to Ubuntu, the theme of this General Convention which emphasizes the interdependence of all persons (“I am because you are”), was developed by Dr. Marshall Ganz of the Hauser Center for Non-Profit Organizations at Harvard University. On Tuesday, when General Convention gathered in the worship hall for the first time, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Shori and President of the House of Deputies gave their opening addresses (see my previous blog entry). Following this introduction, Dr. Ganz introduced us to the concept of “public narrative.”
As the introductory materials provided by Dr. Ganz indicate, “Learning the process of public narrative can help us articulate a commitment to mission that is rooted in each individual’s own journey, the shared values of our community, and claim the world makes upon us to act.”
More about how this process unfolded in my next entry. Right now, I have to run for a meeting. That is the story of my life during General Convention!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

General Convention in Anaheim – Wednesday, July 8, 2009 – Hearing from the Presiders.

(Please note that I made a correction to the number of Deputies attending on yesterday’s post. There are about 820 - not 1,500. With the alternates, the number rises to over 1,000. I also corrected the date.)

On Tuesday, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson, greeted the General Convention. In her opening address, the Presiding Bishop spoke of crisis as opportunity and sees the current crises facing the church, both from without and from within, as a time of opportunity. For the full text of her address, please go to Click here:
Bonnie Anderson called the church to focus more deeply on mission and especially to the poorest of the world. Those who attended the previous 75 General Conventions, she noted, could have described their own tough times. She made clear that our times today are different. "Our technology enables us to see and to know not only how we are affected," she said, "but how the global economic crisis disproportionately affects the poorest people in the world. It is within our reach to do something about that, and that is the toughest thing about our tough times." For the full text of her address, please go to
Click here:

Following the address by both presiding officers, the Convention participants engaged in the first part of a project called, “Mission Conversations through Public Narrative” which will be an integral part of the Convention. More about that in the next post.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

General Convention in Anaheim – Tuesday, July 8, 2009 – Off and Running!

General Convention in Anaheim – Tuesday, July 7, 2009 – Off and Running!

The alarm went off at 6:00 AM. I had to be at the first meeting of the Legislative Committee on Evangelism by 8:00 AM. We are staying at the Hilton which is the closest hotel to the Convention Center. This was a nice change. Last convention we were blocks away; in 2003, about a mile.
The forces started to gather yesterday and people were coming in all day Monday and Tuesday. There will be about 820 Deputies; 220 Bishops; and few hundred alternate Deputies, clergy and lay; 1,500 volunteers; 500 women meeting at ECW Triennial. These are the registered participants. In addition, through the next ten days, several thousand visitors from around the country and the world will join us, including the Archbishop of Canterbury who will address the General Convention. At the first meeting of the Legislative Committee, I got to catch up with Brad Whittaker, rector of Christ Church, Grosse Point, Michigan who was at General Seminary with me. One of the joys of General Convention is running into people around the church I have met over the years and don’t get to see otherwise – colleagues from other dioceses; former classmates; lay people from places where I have served.
Most Deputies are assigned to legislative committees. Resolutions that are to come before the General Convention must first go to a legislative committee. Each legislative committee holds open hearings on proposed resolutions. Bishops, Deputies, experts in particular fields and visitors are free to speak at these hearings. The Legislative Committee on Evangelism receives all resolutions that have to do with evangelism in the church. At present, we have had eight resolutions placed before us, which seems a small number to me considering that evangelism should be a mission priority, and that, at present we are a declining church situated in a country in which, according to the American Religious Identification Survey of 2009 (ARIS 2009) fewer and fewer Americans are identifying themselves as Christians. I am crafting a resolution that will seek to raise the profile of evangelism as a mission priority. We’ll see if it flies.
The Legislative Committee spent the morning getting to know one another. We then looked over the eight pieces of legislation that have been placed before us which range from adjusting the ways of measuring attendance and mission, to supporting the creation of a “toolkit” for evangelism for use by dioceses and parishes; to calling for a $3.4 million expenditure for a “Strategic Vision for Reaching Latinos/Hispanics.”
As a legislative committee, we were not allowed to discuss the legislation prior to open hearings being held. We did break up into subcommittees that each took responsibility for “perfecting” a particular piece of legislation once the hearings had been held. The meeting was adjourned before noon. We would reconvene at 7:00 PM for the first hearings that would address four of the eight pieces of legislation. The hearing would last until 9:00 PM. These are long working days at General Convention.
At 2:00 PM, Deputies, Bishops and Visitors filed into the enormous “worship hall’ in Convention area “D.” This is designed to hold more than 5,000 people for worship at one time. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Shori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson addressed the Convention to set the tone for the work that faces us over the ten days. When I have a few moments, I will provide an entry on highlights. Right now, I’ve got to run!