From July 31st through August 3rd, the Iona Collaborative at Seminary of the Southwest hosted the Un-Conference: A Collaboration to Imagine Bi-Vocational Futures. This pilot event brought together 51 clergy and lay practitioners, seminary partners, Iona Collaborative Deans, and Bishops from across The Episcopal Church to discuss the emerging model of bi-vocational and multi-vocational ministries. The event was held at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas and generously funded by Trinity Church Wall Street.
“The mission of the Iona Collaborative is to celebrate and support the ministries of lay and clergy leaders serving the church in non-stipendiary and part-time roles,” The Rev. Nandra Perry, Director of the Iona Collaborative shared. “Our dream for the un-conference was to invite a diversity of bi-vocational practitioners and other Episcopal Church stakeholders into a conversation about this emerging model of ministry. We are so pleased by the creative collaborations that are already underway as a result of this experiment and we look forward to hosting more conversations in the future.”
Halley Ortiz, partner in Optimized Learning LLC and Iona Collaborative Education Consultant, shared: “We decided to name this event an un-conference to break the mold of traditional conferences that bring in an expert to share knowledge. Instead we invited participants to come together and be the experts in the room, harness their wisdom, and share their own experiences of bi-vocational ministry. Everyone who attended the un-conference is an expert in their context and lives in this emerging model of ministry.”
The Rev. Alistair So-Schoos, Data Scientist at the Church Pension Group (CPG), kicked off the un-conference with a presentation on the data CPG has gathered on traditional and emerging models of ministry. CPG defines the traditional model of ministry as someone with full-time employment who receives income from a single employer within The Episcopal Church. While the emerging model is defined by someone with part-time employment at multiple employers and includes work outside of the church. The Rev. Alistair shared, “When we look at all the non-retired priests today, we see that 56% of them fit into the description of the emerging model while 44% are in the traditional [model].” This information is based on data collected by the Recorder of Ordinations at CPG from responding clergy.
Representatives from several seminaries attended the un-conference including Seminary of the Southwest, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and Virginia Theological Seminary as well as experts from organizations including College for Bishops, The Gathering of Leaders, Small Churches, Big Impact Collective, Learning Forte!, Try Tank, Church Pension Group, and The Episcopal Church Office of Church Planting and Redevelopment. Leaders in local formation from 10 dioceses were represented, including representatives from Iona Collaborative affiliates and the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry.
“For me, the definition of bi-vocational ministry is not about time or pay or tasks but about my own wholeness,” shared multi-vocational priest The Rev. Leeann Culbreath who serves as the Priest-in-Charge of Worship, Formation, and Pastoral Care at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Tifton, GA and leads immigrant justice initiatives. “I am using my gifts as fully as possible for God’s mission.”
The Iona Collaborative is a learning community of educators committed to helping local leaders and small congregations thrive by offering local formation certificates for priests, deacons, and lay leaders, as well as continuing education courses and spiritual direction for congregations. The Collaborative resources over 30 U.S. dioceses and global partners including Province IX and the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA). They are proud to extend the Seminary of the Southwest’s mission to be a seminary for the whole Church, forming disciples of every order who are committed to their communities, grounded in the Anglican tradition, and prepared to lead a changing Church into a changing world.