TREC issues a letter to The Episcopal Church suggesting changes

Posted Sep 4, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC) has issued A Word To The Episcopal Church.

TREC Letter to the Church: September, 2014

Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”                                                                                                                                                               (John 11:43–44)

As the Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC) has progressed in our work, we have come to see the raising and unbinding of Lazarus as a helpful way of understanding this moment in the life of The Episcopal Church. We believe Jesus is calling our church to new life and vitality, but the church is held back by its bindings—old ways of working that no longer serve us well.

We write this as we begin the final months of our work, to give you an update about our thinking and emerging recommendations for your prayerful consideration and feedback. We will publish our final report and specific legislative proposals in December 2014.

In the 18 months since we first met as a Task Force, we have been in conversation with many of you—in person and virtually—about your hopes, dreams, ideas, and concerns for the church and about our collective mission to serve Christ. We have appreciated your feedback, your encouragement, and your criticism of our work so far. We look to continue our dialogue with you in the months to come and encourage you to respond to this letter, to participate in our virtual town hall meeting that we will webcast from Washington National Cathedral on October 2, and to engage in dialogue with us as we join provincial meetings and other forums. We thank you for your input to date and for your prayers for our work together.

The Need for Change
The Episcopal Church’s structures and governance processes reflect assumptions from previous eras that do not always fit with today’s contexts. They have not adapted to the rapidly changing cultural, political, and social environments in which we live.  The churchwide structures and governance processes are too disconnected from local needs and too often play a “gating” or regulatory role to local innovation. They are often too slow and confusing to deal decisively with tough and urgent tradeoffs or to pursue bold directions that must be set at the churchwide level.

Our study and observations would suggest, for example, that:
■             General Convention has historically been most effective in deliberatively discerning and evolving the church’s position on large-scale issues (e.g., prayer book revision, reform of clergy formation and discipline canons, women’s ordination, same sex blessings). This should continue to be the primary role of General Convention.
■             However, General Convention is not organized to drive clear prioritization of resourcing; address technical issues; set a clear agenda for churchwide staff; launch bold programs of innovation or reform; or ensure accountability for effective and efficient execution by the churchwide staff. At the churchwide level, we lack the ability to focus on the priorities that are most urgent at the local level, where much if not most of our primary mission and ministry take place.
■             Neither the Executive Council nor the Presiding Bishop’s office are fully effective in complementing the General Convention by making tough tradeoffs, setting bold direction, or driving accountability of churchwide staff to local needs. The roles of the Executive Council and the Presiding Bishop’s office are often ambiguous and unclear, and neither are structured, selected, or sized appropriately for their tasks in governance and execution. As a result, churchwide staff report significant confusion as to who sets direction. Power struggles emerge, with all factions claiming alignment with General Convention resolutions, and conflicts are resolved through churn and delay, rather than through clear analysis and accountable authority. We have not demonstrated the capacity at the churchwide level to develop the kind of strategic focus that allows us to address some of our highest and most pressing priorities.
■             Churchwide staff functions have evolved their roles and mindsets to be increasingly responsive and supportive of local mission, but their purpose and scope are not clear and broadly understood across the church. Highly skilled people and well-developed programs are underutilized because local groups do not know they exist.  In other situations, dioceses report frustration that churchwide programs are not responsive or adequate to meet their local needs. There are not sufficient systems of transparency around how churchwide resources are used or held accountable for their effectiveness and resource stewardship.

A New Paradigm
We live in an age of networks, yet our churchwide structure has not fully adapted to this organizational paradigm. The evolution from a bureaucratic/regulatory agency paradigm to a network will profoundly change the role, culture, decision making processes, and leadership paradigms of and within The Episcopal Church’s churchwide structures. This would not be unlike other significant evolutions that have occurred historically around our church’s governance and structures.

We have previously written about the historical evolution of churchwide structural paradigms and described four clear roles that we recommend for the 21st century:
■             Catalyst: The Episcopal churchwide organization should inspire and provoke all members of the church to live fully into its mission of “restoring all people to unity with God and one another in Christ” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 855).
–    Specific examples of what the churchwide structure must and should do to fulfill this role would include inspiring and calling the whole church to baptismal ministry and helping every member interpret the world through the eyes of the gospel, including exercising a prophetic voice on social justice issues and representing the voices of marginalized people.
■             Connector: The churchwide organization should establish and maintain relationships among its member communities and constituents in order to cultivate Episcopal identity, to magnify the mission impact of local communities by connecting them to each other, and to facilitate the sharing of ideas and learning across the Episcopal and broader Anglican networks.
–    Specific examples of what the churchwide structure must and should do to fulfill this role would include representing The Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion; forging ecumenical relationships and alliances; exercising canonical authority to foster and preserve the church’s catholicity (unity in diversity with the wider Christian Church); maintaining the church’s institutional history through the Church Archives; and fostering communication across the church around new ideas, learning, and opportunities for collaboration.
■             Capability Builder: The Episcopal churchwide organization should support leadership development centered around the critical skills necessary for individual and communitywide Christian formation in 21st century contexts. The Episcopal churchwide organization should also ensure that the church is a learning organization—rapidly learning from successes and failures across the church and rapidly sharing these lessons across the church’s network. Key capabilities needed in today’s missionary context include skills in ministry, community organization, reviving congregations, planting congregations, multicultural leadership, evangelism, Christian formation, reaching new generations, and reaching new populations. The expertise in these areas lies primarily at the grassroots level, but the churchwide structure can foster mutual learning, especially on a peer-to-peer basis.
–    Specific examples of what the churchwide structure must and should do to fulfill this role would include cultivating and fostering the sharing of expertise for targeted training and professional development.
■             Convenor: The Episcopal churchwide organization should assemble the church in traditional and non-traditional ways as a missionary convocation. The Episcopal churchwide organization should also convene the church with the broader Anglican Communion, with ecumenical church partners, and with other potential partners and collaborators in proclaiming Christ’s gospel and living the Five Marks of Mission.[1]
–    Specific examples of what the churchwide structure must and should do to fulfill this role would include convening a General Missionary Convocation both in person and virtually, potentially concurrent with General Convention.

Implications for Existing Churchwide Structures
To begin to change the church’s operating paradigm in the ways that we believe will be necessary, we have identified several “critical path” priorities and have worked to more fully develop them. We have concluded these areas are in the most need of our attention if we are to make the church work more effectively in our 21st century context.  These changes will not fully transition the churchwide structures and governance to the network-based model that we describe above. The work of reimagining our church and restructuring the church’s institution will need to be an ongoing process of adaptation as our context continues to shift and change. Taken together, however, we believe addressing these areas constitute a critical first step and will enable further change. We must streamline and focus  the scope of our churchwide agenda, to become a more distributive, networked, and nimble church that is focused on local faith formation and local mission and that enables and accelerates local innovation and adaptation; while at the same time enhancing, not diminishing our prophetic voice to the world around us.
■             At the churchwide level, we must select and fully empower clear and effective leadership to define agendas, set direction, develop expertise around complex issues and their implications, make tough choices, and pursue bold and disruptive ideas where appropriate. There are implications for the General Convention, for the Executive Council, the central executive function of the church, and for General Convention’s Commissions, Councils, Agencies, and Boards (CCABs).
■             Once the direction is set for the work necessary at the churchwide level, we must empower a lean churchwide staff to build capacity across our church and act as network catalysts and network builders. This staff must be directed and supervised by professionals with deep and relevant expertise and experience in the areas that are the focus of their respective projects. The scope of mission-related staff work should be specific and time-bound (see “Developing Recommendations” below).
■             We must create accountability in our churchwide structure so that we are able to measure whether that structure is following the direction that has been set, ensuring a high quality of work, and driving efficiency. For churchwide staff, this means that objectives must be set at the start of any project or endeavor with basic, guiding metrics that are tracked and reported.

We believe that addressing these priorities will enable the church to continue to evolve and streamline its governance and structures in areas that we have not addressed.  We also believe that addressing these priorities will enable the church to be more effective in addressing its most complex and urgent issues where deep study and bold action is required (e.g., sustainability of stipendiary clergy; implications for clergy education and pension structures).

Developing Recommendations
The recommendations that we will submit to the church and to the 2015 General Convention will likely take several different forms:
1.            A complementary set of resolutions that suggest amendments to the Canons and Constitution in order to implement what the Task Force considers “critical path” changes to churchwide structures, governance, and administration. We will strongly recommend that these resolutions be implemented as a total package.
2.            Draft resolutions for further streamlining of churchwide structures and governance that our work tells us represent the wishes of a large segment of church members and that we believe should be debated and resolved in the 2015 General Convention.
3.            A recommended agenda of serious and deep issues on which our church must take urgent action in order to be as bold, adaptive, and resilient as it needs to be over the coming decades, plus an illustration of how this agenda would be effectively and efficiently informed and progressed if our legislative recommendations were adopted.
4.            More specifically, the “critical path” proposals we are considering putting forward in the form of General Convention resolutions calling for amendments to the Canons and Constitution currently include:
■             Improvements to the effectiveness of the General Convention, e.g.:
–    Limits to the overall length of the General Convention and efforts to focus and prioritize its legislative agenda.
–    Reduction in the number of legislative committees for General Convention
–    Express permission for legislative committees to let resolutions die in committee
–    The evolution of General Convention to become a General Missionary Convocation of the Church, with networking and sharing around mission and ministries its primary focus, and hopefully reducing the scope and size of legislation and both legislative bodies, while still increasing overall participation and relevance to mission at the local level.
■             Clarifications around the role of the central executive structures of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS)
–    Presiding Bishop retained as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Church, Chair of the Executive Council, and President of DFMS, with managerial responsibility for all DFMS staff
–    President of the House of Deputies (PHoD) retained as Vice President of the Church, Vice Chair of the Executive Council, and Vice President of DFMS
–    Presiding Bishop responsible for nominating three people to serve in the following offices, with concurrence by the PHoD:  Chief Operating Officer (COO), Treasurer/Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Legal Officer. These positions would serve at the pleasure of the Presiding Bishop.  Approval for the Presiding Bishop to fire any of these officers would not be required from the PHoD or the Executive Council.
■             Changes to the role, size, and selection of the Executive Council
–    The role of the Executive Council clarified as a “governance” role, similar to a non-profit Board of Trustees
–    Size of the Executive Council reduced from 40 to 21 members (retaining proportionality among the orders) to improve its effectiveness as a Board
–    Executive Council membership to include the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies as ex officio voting members, and the COO, Treasurer/CFO and Secretary as non-voting members, plus 20 members elected “at large” rather than as representatives of each province
■             Reduction in the number of CCABs and their scope
–    Elimination of all Standing Commissions except the Joint Standing Committees on Nominations and Program, and Budget & Finance
–    Charging the presiding officers to appoint such task forces as might be necessary to carry out the work of a General Convention on a triennium by triennium basis.
■             A transition in the mission or program-related staff of DFMS to a primarily contractor-only model
–    Contractors to be hired based on a specific project scope, length, and set of objectives
–    Project effectiveness to be monitored by the Presiding Bishop’s office and reviewed annually by Executive Council against a set of pre-agreed metrics
Staff in “support functions” like Human Resources, Finance, IT, Legal, Communications, or Archives would not be impacted

In our final report, we will illustrate how these recommended changes would help The Episcopal Church to more effectively and efficiently address critical and urgent agenda items, with the flexibility to innovate and experiment more rapidly and to adopt bold courses of action where necessary.

In the course of our work as a Task Force, we have identified and are continuing to develop a set of agenda items that we believe must be addressed by The Church in coming years. These agenda items include:
■             Building capacity and capability across the Church around evangelism, community leadership, and non-traditional parish formation
■             The sustainability of a fully stipendiary clergy model and the likely predominance of mixed models of employment and clergy leadership
■             Implications for seminary education, requirements, and debt burden
■             Opportunities for Pension Fund policy changes to improve clergy and lay leadership incentive alignment
■             Diocesan viability, the number of dioceses, and assessment requirements/expectations
■             Parish viability, the number and geographic distribution of parishes, and fostering new church plants

We believe that addressing these types of issues will require strong, inspired and accountable leadership, informed input, and, in some cases, quick action. With the changes we have recommended in churchwide structures, governance, and administration, we see these issues being addressed as follows:
■             The General Convention would call for these issues to be part of the DFMS agenda, to be directed by the Presiding Bishop’s office and accountable to the Executive Council and to subsequent General Conventions
■             The Presiding Bishop’s office (most likely through the COO) would identify the expertise and type of resources required to effectively study these issues and to develop recommendations. The Presiding Bishop’s office, in consultation with the Executive Council, would charter time-bound projects with specific objectives and metrics, and it would hire qualified contractors and establish advisory boards as necessary. The Presiding Bishop’s office would direct these projects and the people hired to accomplish them.
■             The Executive Council would review and provide appropriate oversight of DFMS’s total portfolio of projects relative to pre-established metrics on an annual basis.

Conclusion
It is important to state clearly and emphatically that the work of innovation and adaptation is already underway at all levels of the church. It is clear that with or without the General Convention, with or without any recommendations from TREC, the re-imagining of our Church is already and will continue to take place. The Holy Spirit has breathed new life into the Church at countless times and in countless ways in the past, and the same Spirit will continue to do so in the future. Our hope is that our recommendations will ultimately help focus and direct the extraordinary spiritual, human, and material resources God has entrusted to us toward a clear set of priorities that will help us be most faithful and effective in continuing to participate in God’s mission in the world.

A Prayer for Our Continued Work
Holy Spirit, who broods over the world, fill the hearts and minds of your servants on the Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church with wisdom, clarity, and courage.  Work in them as they examine and recommend reforms for the structure, governance, and administration of this branch of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. Help them propose reforms to more effectively proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, to challenge the world to seek and serve Christ in all persons—loving our neighbors as ourselves—and to be a blazing light for the kind of justice and peace that leads to all people respecting the dignity of every other human being. Be with The Episcopal Church that we may be open to the challenges that this Taskforce will bring to us, and help the whole church to discern your will for our future. In the name of Jesus Christ our Mediator, on whose life this Church was founded.  AMEN
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[1] To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom. To teach, baptize and nurture new believers. To respond to human need by loving service. To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
________________________________________

For more info, questions or comments, contact TREC members at reimaginetec@gmail.com

TREC plans a churchwide meeting on October 2. Details are available here.


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Comments (63)

  1. Leon Spencer says:

    My response is more of a “baby with the bath water” kind of thing. Dissolving all the Standing Commissions sounds like we are cleaning out a bureaucratic mess. But personally, I like the fact that there is, e.g., a commission on liturgy. Here are people with a calling to and expertise on liturgy. For them to reflect upon the theology behind our liturgy, and the pastoral needs good liturgy addresses, and to do so on a sustained basis seems to me to enrich the Church. Under the new dispensation, it appears that our fine liturgists will only be drawn together to work on something when either the General Convention or a Presiding Bishop with more centralized authority identify what that something is and ask them to work on it. There are great themes in ecclessiology, and having ongoing bodies to reflect upon those themes in the life of the Church is important. At least to me.

    St. Augustine Theological School
    Gaborone, Botswana

    1. Sarah Williams says:

      Thank you, Leon!!

  2. Don Reed says:

    The basic idea — though never mentioned — seems to be this: Trim back to things we can afford to keep going and which we cannot give up, even if we retain them on a smaller scale.

    I would welcome explanation of what is not captured by this reading. There is no need to suppose, for instance, that there is some nefarious plan to deprive anyone of power and to transfer power to a few offices. The offices retained cannot be given up, but the bodies scaled back can — of course with some loss of representation — be made more lean.

    At any rate, this looks like a proposal to live within our means, so eventually we’ll want to see the numbers that show it is at least that.

    Don Reed
    Southern Ohio

    1. Eileen Shanley-Roberts says:

      Well said, Don.

  3. Jean McLean says:

    Thanks to TREC for their hard work and this bold report and recommendations. Without local mission and innovative ways of being the church, what’s the point? Welcome back to the future, TEC!

  4. Ted Foley says:

    I like the outline of TREC’s recommendations. The church first needs to become more efficient so that we can be more effective. Once this plan is implemented, we should be able to spend time doing what we are commissioned to do ….. teach, baptize, and spread the Good News of Jesus.

  5. Susanne Watson Epting says:

    In today’s world, and in today’s church, especially one that likes to believe it values the ministry of all the baptized, the phrase “serving at the pleasure of” any one person is simply archaic. Traditionally the Episcopal Church staff has existed to carry out mandates of General Convention, not those of a Presiding Bishop. Have we considered that using networking might mean using effective networks in place outside the current structure? Generally those networks have been formed because needs are not being met inside a central structure. Those networks often produce resources and talent that operate far outside of our current structures. I hope the task force will address, head on, how this differs from placing even more power in the hands of fewer people.

  6. Betsy Greenman says:

    Clearly thought filled work trying to straddle keeping some of the institution while lightening it to be more flexible into the future. Suggest checking out the website WAM (World After Midnight). Descriptive of the way institutions need to re-think in this digital/global age. Collaboration, immediacy, flexibility are just the beginning.
    In your model I am concerned about the 20 executive members being elected “at large” rather than representing provinces. To respond and assist and encourage ministry in the local area – which is the realm of most ministry – as you say – it is crucial to have the local/regional voices involved. “At large” elections tend not to be representative of the organization or of diversity. Thanks for your work.

  7. TREC friends, I would suggest your instructions about how to participate on-line are unclear to a wide variety of un-tech savvy users. I have been urging people to log in and register, but many have never participated in a webcast and simply cannot understand how it can be interactive. How does one “participate” in an on-line meeting? Do you just send an email? Do they need to do a trial run on webex or adobe connect? Will there be a chat-box? Please do not presume all the people who want to participate have professional quality computer credentials and facility. If you could address this on the sign-up link and walk people through what they need to do to get prepared for the day, it would be helpful. Thanks so much.

  8. Just wondering about SCIER – standing ecumenical commission? What would be the justification of ending that if one of the functions of the central body is ecumenical work?

  9. (The Revd. Canon) Kale Francis King, Tssf says:

    As just a long-retired old fool I am also concerned about the wordiness, the jargonese, the lack if specifics, and even maybe efforts to “rearrange the deck chairs’, just not on the Titanic. It has prompted me to find my copy of the 1914 classic, published again in 1960 (could be useful doing it again) The Archbishop’s Test, by E.M. Green. What attracted me to the Episcopal Church in 1942, as a high school senior was the worship. It is still attracting people as we speak. Have we lost sight of the basics of our life together? The Presiding Bishop sounds and acts like a CEO, not a “servant of the servants of God”; I know at least one bishop (who might like to be another “first” for our Church) who proclaimed himself a CEO and finds others to carry our the role of “servant of the servants.”
    But then, I’m retired so long I’m “out of the loop.”
    Peace and all that is Good!

  10. Roger Brown says:

    I think there are some great ideas in this document, but they are hidden in a thicket of prose. The bullet points should really be bullet point, not bullets in front of paragraphs. This is way overwritten and should be reduced by at least half, and further if possible. Start with an executive summary with the main ideas, flesh it out beneath that, as briefly as possible. This at least has more specifics than previous efforts, though much more would be appreciated.

  11. Allan King says:

    Interesting attempt to do something, but I am not quite sure what.

    What comes to mind is the big difference between TEC and most of the rest of the Anglican churches. Namely that our polity is bottom us whereas theirs is largely top down. Hence we have to be concerned with the kind of corporate politics and maneuvering which seem to be behind this document.

    I should prefer that we openly discuss the pros ands cons of bottom up polity. We never do this. I, for one, would prefer a more top down polity which would allow us to move away from the corporate model. To some extent I think that may be what the document is trying to do, however subtly.

  12. Titus Presler says:

    Overall this is an excellent interim report. From a first and quick reading I appreciate the missional perspective and urgency, though obviously that needs to be defined further. The suggestion of a Missionary Convocation is intriguing. Likewise important is the acknowledgment of the centrality and energy of local communities of faith. Many of the specific organizational suggestions are appropriate and timely, while some may need revising or at least fine-tuning. There can be no doubt that the task force is ministering in good faith and is not hesitating to confront long festering issues, and this should enhance its credibility in the coming debates over the further specific proposals that it plans to present.

  13. I find te report good on diagnosis, not so much on treatment. In a “flattened church” no one (COO, CFO, CLO) should serve “at the pleasure” of anyone else, eliminating Province reps on Executive Council assures that “the 20” will be churchwide politicians and not “average” Episcopalians, and was there absolutely no consideration give to a unicameral General Convention (a la ELCA) which might actually be representative of the whole Church and not a clergy super-majority as we have now?

    1. Susan Messenger says:

      Points well taken. I think the corporate model is a big mistake. I like the idea of a unicameral convention.

  14. Carlton Kelley says:

    I have not doubt about the good intentions of all those involved. However, this document is wordy, unclear, and contains nothing about, as another commentator said, the need for repentance and an ongoing trust in the love of the Trinity to fashion a real community. Why are there so many references to “business” models and not theological ones?
    This will not change the church.

  15. Michael J. Ernst says:

    As many people have pointed out this is a very business-like proposal that offers few specifics. Two things stand out in my mind, however. The first is the “reduction in the number of legislative committees” at General Convention. While this seems like a good thing in general I wonder if this will partly cut out the voice of the laity in making important decisions. The second thing that stands out is a need to focus on local circumstances and allow for them to be handled on the diocesan or parochial level. Local problems are best solved at the local level.

    Apart from this there is little focus on exactly why The Episcopal Church (I’ll use TEC from now on) is shrinking, and this is a complex question. Here are my observations. The first is the exodus of many conservative Anglicans from TEC. While some of this cannot be helped due to the changing doctrines and canons of the church there has been, in many cases, an antagonistic approach to parishes that have made no fuss and simply wanted to continue what they have been doing for say 100 years. Many of these parishes had a large number of faithful followers who have now been driven out of TEC by bishops who were intent on antagonizing them. Here in Pennsylvania a few years ago we even had the liberal parishes standing up for the conservative ones in the face of antagonism from our bishop. One of the strengths of Anglicanism has always been that it is a “big tent” that can accommodate many different theological viewpoints–in most dioceses there was a parish for every type of “churchmanship”. However, in recent years TEC seems to want to be more like the Roman Catholic Church and enforce doctrinal conformity on various issues. If this is to be the case then TEC will only attract a small, select group of Christians that all agree with each other. Parishes will not longer have a “speciality” (e.g. Contemporary, ‘old school’ Anglo-Catholic, liberal Anglo-Catholic, family-focused Broad Church, Evangelical Low church, etc.) and most will become redundant and close if they are all too similar to each other. Second, while there has been a great emphasis placed on community service and outreach programmes (which is necessary) there has been a general ignorance about the reason people actually go to church–religion. While Christian “works of mercy” are imperative and naturally flow from a Christian lifestyle and milieu, the Christian religion must be the basis. Otherwise people will see the Church simply as a charitable organization–and often a poorly run organization at that. In this case, why not give or donate time to other more effective charities? The practice of religion, in the liturgy and in our lives, must be the basis of everything that we do. It makes me sad to see parishes, that are fully capable, not have a daily service of either the Eucharist or Morning & Evening Prayer. At some parishes here in Pennsylvania the laity run daily Morning & Evening Prayer throughout the week. If the Church is ever going to attract more people it needs to offer religion, and lots of it. We have a whole generation of “seekers” who want more out of life and look to the Church for that. This is an opportunity of which to be taken advantage and not squandered. Third, the Church needs to keep people. Children brought up in TEC are less likely to stay Christians than in many other denominations. In my opinion, this is a problem of poor catechesis. Few Sunday school programmes that I have seen offer anything other than ‘stories from the Bible’ and simple morality lessons. The younger generations are not told why it is imperative to attend church, nor is the history of the Faith and the Church explained, nor are the Creeds explained! The catechism in the 1979 BCP is so “bare bones” as to explain very little about the Christian Faith. Studies have shown that religions that makes demands of their followers are increasing in number while those that do not are shrinking. While we may balk at the word “demand”, is it really so much to ask our children and adolescents to learn about the Faith in something more than a superficial way? Lastly, there have been many changes to the Church that help to undermine its mission. I came to TEC when I was an undergraduate in college in the late ’90s. I’ve seen many many changes proposed over the years. One of the most disturbing is the tentative plan for yet another revision to the Prayerbook and Hymnal. While I am not a big fan of the 1979 BCP (my parish uses the 1928 BCP and I prefer that) I recognize its merits and think that overall it is a well-thought out revision (except for the catechism). Yet, there seems to be a move to revise it again! Now that I am back as a graduate student working and living with undergraduates I see a generation that is largely “unchurched”, but that has a general interest in things old and timeless. I see this with business students who want to take more Classical Studies courses because they think they are important to learning about Western Culture; I see this with students who like older styles of dress and idolize recent retro movies like “The Great Gatsby”; I see this with students taking more black-and-white photos or making them sepia-toned on-line; and with students who wanted to attend our school because we have buildings that look like “Hogwarts” from the Harry Potter series. In general I have noticed a type of “thirst” for the æsthetics of the past. Some parishes are taking advantage of this renewed interest by offering more traditional liturgies and they are seeing an increase in the numbers of young people. (And traditional doesn’t have to be synonymous with über-conservative–my parish has a diverse congregation!) However, there is a certain mindset in the church that is still stuck in the 1970s and wants to keep forcing a certain agenda on TEC as a whole. This agenda has little appeal other than to a small, select few. If this is to be the case then I have very little hope for the future of TEC and sometimes even wonder how much longer I will stay… All that will be left will be the small, select few.

    My solutions for the Church’s shrinking numbers? Return to Anglicanism.

  16. Rich McDonough says:

    I’m sure many dedicated people spent many long hours putting this report together. However, it appears to be a report assembled by a committee. Everyone has to have their 2 cents worth addressed. My suggestion is to go back, get about 4-7 people to re-write this report in about 1/3 – 1/2 the length and address the real concerns of the people in the pews. We are not a corporation. We are a church. Please start acting like one. We have many strong, vibrant congregations and many weak, nearly dead ones to learn from. Understand what makes the strong ones that way and understand why the weak one are the way they are. We can do better.

  17. Jane Scocca says:

    How disappointing it was to approach this document in the hopes of finding insights into the rejuvenation of our Church and to find instead a pile of corporate-sounding verbosity. We might have been better served if the committee had undertaken an in depth examination of parishes that are thriving such as All Saints of Pasadena (see Canon Russell’s comment above) and uncovered the sound principles that could guide the multitude of parishes that are struggling onto a path of evangelism and growth. Despite our Supreme Court’s ruling that corporations are people, we would do well to avoid trying to convert the people who are our Church into a corporation.

  18. Rev. Mark Hatch says:

    Best class I took at seminary mandated weekly exegetical papers which were a maximum of 50 words. We, this well intended work, is lost and buried in obtuse, numbing, opiated jargon and language. Too long, too vague, too much insider baseball. Revolution from the ground up, at the parish level, in local and authentic context. This is the only way to go.

    “It always seems impossible, until it is done.” ~ Madiba

  19. The Rev. Dana Campbell says:

    As for the Lazarus story, the way I read it Lazarus was already resurrected when Jesus called for him to be unbound. Perhaps we need to realize that Jesus is already at work resurrecting the church which has been dead and we need but unwind the accretions to begin to see the new life revealed.
    (Personally, I had been thinking along the lines of not putting new wine into old wineskins.) In any case, it is important to have a Gospel foundation for our thought process. TREC has my prayers as this unwinding takes place.

    1. Frank Bergen says:

      Thank you, Dana. I’d suggest a good bit of meditation on the metaphor of new wine and old wineskins for all — the task force members and the rest of us — concerned for the re-imagining of the Episcopal Church. And also for its re-imaging: as body of Christ, people of God.

  20. Christine Burke says:

    In the business world, there are clear benefits to a project-driven model for getting things done. The project manager and project team become very focused on a specific schedule, budget, and level of quality of the outcome or “deliverable”. There is a strong sense of accountability, in contrast to the kind of entrenchment or sense of entitlement that can develop in other settings. However, while project managers become so narrowly focused on project goals, they also need to be held accountable to those who keep the bigger picture in mind. I do see the Church being good at the “big picture” values that would inform and guide each endeavor, helped of course by the Spirit. I agree with some of the comments about the risk that the Presiding Bishop would have too much responsibility or authority if all of the project teams–i.e. task forces– reported directly to him/her. Yes, an organizational chart would be helpful here. Also, just another note–just because a project ends, it does not mean that the team necessarily disbands. They can start a new project. I hope this does not sound like too much gobbledy-gook “business speak”! I liked a lot of what the TREC had to say.

  21. Fred Lindstrom says:

    I agree with Doug Carpenter and those who have made similar comments. Instead of the verbosity we are used to receiving from the HoB, GC and EC, we need concise, understandable, reality based presentation.

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