Building the Continuum

Supporting Formation and Vocation in The Episcopal Church

Sine die

The 77th General Convention has now concluded and those who attended this “family reunion” and “legislative mega-meeting” are home still catching up on sleep and resting weary feet. Although with the gavel concluding the last session of the House of Deputies with sine die, we know the work is never truly completed, but to simply be continued on another day.

The Education Committee (a cognate group of 28 individuals from the House of Bishops and House of Deputies) met almost daily to deliberate on numerous resolutions that came before them. Under the leadership of Porter Taylor (Bishop, Western North Carolina) and Debbie Stokes (Deputy, Southern Ohio), each member of the committee engaged in conversation as well as questioning the numerous of individuals (many from Forma) who testified to various resolutions, including many that have been brought forward on Building the Continuum.

A re-cap of resolutions regarding Christian Formation that have been discussed on this site:

Equipping the Baptized Five resolutions (A041, A042, A043, A044, A045) were related to bringing the Constitution or Canons into conformity with the baptismal theology of the Book of Common Prayer, which teaches that “Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church” (BCP p. 299). These resolutions, discussed as a whole, received passionate testimony from those “pro” and those “con.” Many who were against these resolutions felt it they would remove the Rite of Confirmation from our churches. Those who spoke for the resolutions were articulate about our understanding of Baptism as full membership in the church. In committee, deputies were much more open to making changes in the canons, while bishops were not. It became quite apparent that The Episcopal Church needs to further explore and delve into what Confirmation means on all levels of the church. It was also apparent that the practice of preparation for Confirmation differs widely in the church and the preparation used for leaders (such as Vestry) into the history, doctrine and polity of The Episcopal Church is just as nebulous. Despite these resolutions not passing (being rejected in Committee) they were discussed in both Houses, allowing for the first of what will be hopefully many conversations to continue in the next triennium about what the role of Confirmation is in the life of our church. A042, A043 and A044 were sent back for further study to the Standing Commission on Ministry Development. A041 was rejected.

Commend Continued Development of Lifelong Christian Formation (A046) included recognition for Forma (language was changed to reflect the name change of NAECED). It was adopted by the House of Deputies and concurred by the House of Bishops. Another words, General Convention commends the continuing development of lifelong Christian formation and supports those in leadership positions to continue their learning! It was

Develop An Electronic Community (A047) passed the Education Committee easily after discussion and learning of several other similar resolutions – one that was being discussed in Ministry Development and another in Communications. This particular resolution called for an impartial Christian FORMATION hub linking the many resources that are available all in one location. However, when it arrived at the House of Deputies, a deputy of the Structure Committee immediately called that it be tabled as it had funding implications (and a budget had yet to be produced) as well as the undercurrent themes of desiring structural changes in the church throughout convention. This resolution seems to have been left on the table with no action taken.

A Response to the Call of The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation: A Call to Action (A151) regarding Older Adult ministries was approved in the Education Committee but failed in the House of Deputies.

The Budget!!!! This was perhaps the highest area of energy folks had going in to General Convention (besides changing the structure of the church). We entered into General Convention with two proposed budgets – one from Executive Council which had almost eliminated the Office of Christian Formation and Vocations line items. A new proposal from Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was offered (an unheard of occurrence) that was based on the Five Marks of Mission. Numerous Christian formation leaders attended the three hearings scheduled by Program, Budget & Finance; many spoke (Barbara Ross, Vicki Garvey and Wendy Barrie notably) about the importance of lifelong Christian formation. Many youth and young adults also spoke to the importance of EYE, campus ministries and chaplaincies.

A new resolution came before the Education Committee (D037) which called for some funding to be added back into the budget. In its wisdom, the committee rewrote the resolution, adding enough monies to completely fund the Office of Formation and Vocation as it had been in the past triennium. When it came to the floor of the House of Deputies (House of initial action), members of the Education Committee were lined up at the podiums ready to speak. Debbi Rodahafer (Diocese of Kentucky) called the question and it was overwhelmingly approved. The House of Bishops concurred. All was left in the hands of Program, Budget & Finance . . . who brought forth a budget grounded in the Five Marks of Mission, including block grants for eradicating poverty, mission enterprise zones, planting new churches and projects that are collaborative in nature. Specifically for the issues addressed on this website:

Mark #2: Teach, baptize and nurture new believers

Goal: To strengthen Province IX for sustainability in Latin America – $1,000,000

The Office of Lifelong Christian Formation & Vocations – Total $2,875,394 (slightly less than the 2010-2012 budget).

  • Bridging the Gap – funds for lifelong Christian formation to include evangelism & formation as vocation and faith formation resource development – $250,767
  • Formation & Vocation – for networks – building the capacity by affirming and assisting emerging networks and increasing connectivity – $310,447
  • Campus Ministry grants – $300,000
  • Events & gatherings – including EYE, Young Adult Festival and student gatherings – $609,167
  • Other department costs – including travel for staff – $176,400
  • Staff costs – salaries and benefits – $1,247,764

Other funding in this area included the College of Bishops which provides formation to those newly elected to the Episcopate. View the entire 2013-2015 budget here. View a posting of the importance of educators begin advocates at Rows of Sharon.

General Convention is over – but the ministry continues! 

Lifelong Formation: Talking Points

from the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation (Provincial representatives) 

Children’s Ministries and Adult Formation & Lifelong Learning: Talking Points 

The Mission of the Church Is the Mission of Christ: to teach, baptize and nurture new believers. #2 of The Five Marks of Mission

Why are Children’s Ministries and Adult Formation & Lifelong Learning important to the Episcopal Church?

Children’s Ministries provides imaginative, innovative resources for those who work with children and encourages congregations to fully include children in their church communities and in exploring their own ministries.  Through the Children’s Charter, the Episcopal Church is called to love, shelter, protect, and defend children within its own community and in the world.

Adult Formation & Lifelong Learning provides guidance and helps facilitate formation that transforms us as Christians throughout our lives.  Through the Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation, the church is called to invite, inspire and transform people to a life of learning, growth and service.

This work is the ministry of:

  • Equipping, building up and sending out Christians who can be faithful witnesses, mentors and teachers to children, youth and adults as they are formed in faith.
  • Resourcing underserved communities, such as collectively creating new resources for members of the armed services and their families during deployment, or curriculum for Province 9.
  • Connecting people and resources across the church.
  • Collaborating with other Episcopal ministries, such as the Asian American and Hispanic ministries, to develop faith formation as an integral piece of their trainings and gatherings, such as in the New Community Gathering in 2011.
  • Connecting all generations through integrated partnership and planning with Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministries, recognizing that Lifelong Formation occurs across a continuum, not in isolated, age-segregated communities.

What have these program offices accomplished during the last triennium?

These offices have actively sought out partnerships with other Church Center ministries to do this work.  Here are some of the things that have been done together:

  • Children’s Program at General Convention.
  • Development of materials around the Doctrine of Discovery, together with Native American Ministries
  • Development of faith formation materials for use by military families before, during and after deployment, together with the Office of Federal Chaplaincies
  • Gatherings such as the New Community Gathering, together with Asian American, Black, Latino, and Native Ministries.
  • Developing resources and trainings for congregations engaged in ministries with Older Adults.
  • Promoting Children’s Advocacy through the distribution of The Seed of God materials, with Global Ministries.
  • Christian Formation trainings together with the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe and the Diocese of Taiwan.
  • Working together with the Diversity Group as they trained Master Trainers to do their work through the lens of Faith Formation.
  • Building the Continuum Summit work with Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers.

What are the plans for the future?

Moving into the future, this office is needed to continue this work:

  • Identifying gaps in service – needs that are beyond the scope of a single diocese or province.
  • Continuing to work collaboratively to enable formation at every level of ministry in the Episcopal church and through our many networks and focus areas, such as  pending program development with the office of  Economic and Environmental Affairs.
  • Ensuring the continued “seamless” model of program delivery across all age and generational boundaries.
  • Connecting places that have identified needs with best practices discovered elsewhere in the church through observation and relationship that develop as this work continues.
  • Re-energizing our focus on Children’s Advocacy needs and possibilities.
  • Offering church-wide gatherings for the purposes of equipping formation ministers at all levels of the community.

The proposed budget suggests the functions of this ministry should “re-focus work to within dioceses.”  Will this work?

It has been proposed that the work of Formation ministries is best done on a provincial, diocesan or parish level.  The hard reality is that 40% of dioceses have no current staffing for formation ministries.  Less than 10% of dioceses have resource centers.  Perhaps some of this work could be done on this level, but most of the dioceses are not ready to receive this charge.  If this is the direction in which we wish to move as a denomination, we need a fully funded transition period of 3-6 years, in which this opportunity is taken on in an intentional and thoughtful manner.  It is a matter of justice to do otherwise, knowing that only a small percentage of U.S. congregations have faith formation staff at all.  There will continue to be a need, however, from a denominational perspective, for formation staff who can work from a “macro” level to look for the gaps – the very real ministry needs that are beyond the scope of a diocese or even a province to manage. 

  • Mary Ann Kolakowski, Province 1, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Kathy Bozzuti-Jones, Province 2, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Mary Lou Crifasi, Province 3, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Jenny Beaumont, Province 4, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Rev. Mary Perrin, Province 5, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Rev. Kathy Monson-Lutes, Province 6, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • Cynthia Spencer, Province 8, Member of the Council for Lifelong Christian Formation

Download these Talking Points to share with your deputies and bishops.

Related articles

Campus Ministry: Talking Points

from the networks involving Episcopal Campus Ministries and Chaplains

Starting from a “zero base,” we consider the following support from The Episcopal Church’s budget to be vital:

  • A budget sufficient for a staff person whose responsibility is visioning, advocacy, and coordination for campus ministry throughout the Episcopal Church.
  • The resources (financial and technical) to know as much as possible what our several campus ministries in all of their variety are at any given time, and to maintain contact information available to that staff person, to one another, and to students who are seeking connection with our campus ministries.
  • The resources necessary to work with campus ministries “on the ground” on at least a provincial level, on issues of evangelism, creative liturgy, and best practices.
  • The resources necessary to organize an annual conference for Episcopal campus ministers, with meaningful programming.
  • The resources, information, and background necessary to offer training to new campus ministers at such a conference.
  • The resources necessary for provincial coordinators to consult together and to offer annual gatherings of both chaplains and students at a provincial or regional level. Dioceses should of course participate with funding and resources for this as well.
  • Funding for campus ministry start ups.  We would suggest that dioceses should commit funding for a period of years as a condition of receiving this money.

Why is Campus Ministry important to the life of young adults as well as the future of the Church? Read “A National Study of Collge Students’ Search for Meaning and Purpose” from Spirituality in Higher Education from UCLA.

Download a pdf of these Talking Points to share with your bishops and deputies as they prepare to attend General Convention.

Identify yourself and your ministry – share your story!  

Seeds for New Life

by Genelda Woggon

Two seven year old girls miles, worlds and cultures apart bonded together through mutual delight in The Seed of God booklets brought to Bogata, Colombia by a family from Asheville, NC on a family vacation with a mission purpose in mind. Young souls nurtured in the giving and receiving of gifts.  Gifts to be enjoyed and explored together as potentially lasting friendships are formed. Friendships with each other and mutual friendships with the Good Shepherd whose story they read, each in their own language but on the same page. Being “on the same page” is but one step closer to building relationships for understanding that is foundational to world peace.

This is but one story of how these bi-lingual books are being used by the staff at the Episcopal Church Center in their partnership with private funding brings new life and joy to both those who give and those who receive.

Through the generosity of St Luke’s Episcopal Church Foundation, Inc. in Salisbury, North Carolina, a Foreign Mission grant was made available to the Episcopal Church Center for the distribution of the English/Spanish edition of The Seed of God books to be used primarily with mission work in the dioceses of Province IX and other foreign mission places where the opportunity arises.  The fact that the books are best delivered by hand creates further opportunities for partnerships.

Certainly most of the books are distributed evenly to each of the dioceses by ECC staff, especially as Ruth Ann Collins, Staff Officer from the Office of Life Long Christian Formation visits these dioceses, attends regional gatherings and gives workshops at Christian Formation gatherings.  Other books are transported beyond Province IX by a variety of people from local Episcopal churches. This opens up greater possibilities of partnerships as the books become transported by folks traveling with their Companion Diocese, taking family vacations for Spanish Language immersion, or involved with a humanitarian type mission project.

Publishing by the Center for Children and Theology, these charming little booklets (in English and Spanish) are also being used with adults as well as with children.  The simple language and beautiful illustrations offers the Gospel in a nutshell as they invite hungry hearts to enter into the Good Shepherd’s love.

If the budget of the Office of Christian Formation and Vocations is removed, how will such partnerships continue and these types of connections be made?  

Genelda Woggon is the author of The Seed of God and lives with her husband, a retired priest, in Asheville, North Carolina. She is a trained catechist with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.

Liberating Ministry

from the Standing Commission on Ministry Development

Note: This article (and report) was passed along to the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education to share with the greater Church because the SCLLCFE has created a site for its resolutions leading up to General Convention. At the moment, there is no one central location on The Episcopal Church’s website where such a resource could be (easily) found that would prove helpful to the local congregation. Such a website is what is being proposed in A047: Develop an Online Learning Community .

The following resource was developed in response to resolution C080 of the 76th General Convention that:

  • “…call(s) upon the Executive Council, provinces, dioceses, and congregations to promote and develop the discernment that all of daily life and work is ministry, calling for the intentional exercise of the Baptismal Covenant promises in all sectors of public as well as private life…”
  • “…(and to) assist diocesan Commissions on Ministry to promote and develop programs that will engage baptized persons in ministry discernment, and support congregations in providing processes for such discernment in community…”

While the title of the original resolution was “Lay Ministry and Leadership Development” the language of the resolution itself used terms connected to the ministry of the baptized.  A full acceptance of those ideas requires us to address a fundamental truth about ministry.  The ministry of the church grows from a single shared root.  We are not born as “ordained ministers” vs. “lay ministers”.  We are born as children of God all of whom have a ministry given to us at baptism.

Too often “ministry” (and to a large extent “leadership”) is seen as a function of the ordained members of the church.  This puts an inappropriate and destructive burden on the clergy because they are asked to not only fulfill their own roles but take up a large portion of the role of the laity as well. This can be (and too often is) ruinous for the clergy while inhibiting the growth in faith of too many of the laity.  In the end God and his church are not as well served as they could and should be.  The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) reminds us that the church carries out its mission of restoring the world to unity with God through the ministry of all (emphasis ours) its members. It also points out that the ministers of the church includes lay persons, bishops, priests and deacons (Catechism, BCP p.518)

In the search for appropriate resources for lay ministry, we found it difficult to identify resources for lay ministry; available resources most often available for ordained ministry. The purpose of this resource is to offer a starting point for all the members of the church to find their roles within the Body of Christ.  Additionally it offers assets to assist the laity in developing their understanding of their ministry and growing in those roles.  Developmental assets for those called to ordination have a long and proud tradition in our denomination.  It is hoped that this will mark the beginning of an equally rich tradition for the laity that will support the clergy in their ministries, enrich the lives of the laity, strengthen the church in its pursuit of its mission all to the greater glory of God.

Download the entire bibliography here:

  • Liberating Ministry: A Resource for All the Baptized in English
  • Liberating Ministry: A Resource for All the Baptized in Spanish

Supporting Episcopal Campus Ministries

by Reid Hamilton

Why should The Episcopal Church’s budget support Episcopal Campus Ministries? Here are some particular reasons:

The annual Episcopal Campus Ministers’ Conference is a vital opportunity for people who are engaged in campus ministry for continuing education in a highly specialized field of ministry, to exchange ideas and consider best practices, and to offer encouragement and support to one another, as well as to share creative liturgy and music.  Our ministries are highly diverse in context (public universities, private colleges, campuses large and small, urban and rural, residential and commuter), in approach (including free-standing missions, parish-based campus ministries, and independent student organizations), and in staffing (full-time priests, lay chaplains, interns, volunteers and students).  All of us benefit from the mutual support and encouragement that the Conference provides.

The Conference features an annual orientation for new campus ministers.  There are always many new campus ministers every year – partly because campus ministry in generally underfunded, so turnover is high.  The chance for new campus ministers to be in contact with those of us who have experience in the job helps them build effective boards, develop helpful fundraising practices, and move quickly to effective worship, programming, and recruiting techniques.  New campus ministers need to know that they are not alone, and that they need not re-invent the wheel.

Church-wide level funding helps to maintain provincial level programming.  Provincial conferences of chaplains provide an additional layer of networking and support, and annual gatherings for students help build energy for the involvement of young adults in the Church.  College students who are considering vocations to ordained ministry are especially inclined to attend such gatherings, which not only affords mutual support but also an opportunity to engage with chaplains from other ministries and encounter different communities.  Networking at provincial gatherings also encourages young adult participation in General Convention.

In the current proposed triennial budget how will staffing and resources for church-wide and provincial level conferences, networking, training, and support continue to be available?

Reid Hamilton is a Campus Minister at the University of Michigan and active in the Province V Campus Ministry Network. 

Ministry to Children with a Deployed Parent

Old Army Tank

Old Army Tank (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Janie Stevens

Several years ago I was invited to work on a project with Ruth Ann Collins, Staff Officer for Lifelong Christian Formation and Bishop George Packard, Suffragan Bishop to the Chaplains and several other folks.  Our task was to write a program for those deployed and their families that would include a liturgy for leave-taking and one for returning, a Bible study that both the deployed and the at home family members would participate in and a book program for both the deployed and children at home.  These activities would give them something to talk about besides problems when they had their phone calls and to stay connected with each other.

We journeyed to Ft. Hood to visit with some families about things they wished the church would do for them.  One young officer was leaving his children at the preschool at the church where we were and I asked him if he had a minute for a question.  He had just returned from his third tour of duty in Iraq and was anticipating another tour there or in Afghanistan in the near future.  I asked him what he wished the church would do for him.  “The church needs to teach young people how to pray before their tank gets shot,” he said.  “It’s too late then to learn how to pray.”

The resource referred to here, Across the Miles, was published jointly by the Office of Lifelong Christian Formation and the Office of Federal Ministries and is an example of how a church-wide office for Christian Formation can bring the grassroots level together to create a needed resource that otherwise might not come to fruition. 

Several years later, I was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive cancer.  Depression set in and I found myself in the darkest place I had ever been.  I felt that God was nowhere near.  One day I remembered what this young officer had said.  I told my priest who was visiting me that day that I felt that my tank had been shot.  She asked me more of the story and we determined that in fact I did know how to pray, that I did know that God was always there and that I should get busy doing what I certainly knew how to do.  My own prayers and the prayers of many people, known and unknown, were answered.  Today I am cancer free and my prayer life has taken on a deeper and more meaningful life.  By the way, the next morning after my friend’s visit, a very small army tank was found on our porch.  This outward and visible symbol of grace has a prime spot on our kitchen island.  Today it is sitting on a tray filled with Easter grass, Easter eggs and our Easter tree.

We are called in the church to be advocates for children – to advocate for their rightful place in the church, to help them find their ministry and to honor them.  We are called to invite, inspire and watch the transformation of lives that occur when people feel God’s love and our Christian love present.  People yearn for acceptance, love and a feeling of wholeness.  This transforming love is the Gospel message we hear every Sunday, it is what we are called to do in our Baptismal Covenant promises – to pray, to learn, to repent, to love, to teach, to respect.  These are lifelong promises.

Janie Stevens is a member of the Standing Committee for Lifelong Formation and Education.  Previously she served 25 years in 2 small/midsize congregations and as the Missioner for Christian Formation for the Diocese of Texas for 10 years.  She has also served on provincial, national and international Christian Formation boards and committees. 

Forming All Generations in Faith: A Position Paper

The following statement is a collaborative position paper from representatives of a variety of formation networks in The Episcopal Church. If you would like to add your name as an individual endorser to this document, please submit your name, church, diocese and role in Christian formation to spearson@cpg.org. You may also download this document here, to share with your bishops and deputies as they prepare for General Convention. 

FORMING ALL GENERATIONS IN FAITH

Christian Formation IS a Priority for The Episcopal Church

Why should this be a priority?

The Episcopal Church carries out God’s mission through the ministry of all its members, which is dependent on the formation and education of all ages – children (0-12), youth (13-18), young adults (18-35), adults (over 35) and older adults. This is a lifelong journey, requiring a multitude of opportunities for learning and reflection. Theological education takes place in many arenas: the home, community, congregation and institutions of higher learning.

Our Baptismal Promises commend us to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers. We are continually being formed as Christians by being equipped to proclaim the Gospel, offering service to others, advocating for justice and peace, and respecting all persons. It is a lifelong journey.

Why should we have a denominational formation office?

Of the 109 dioceses in The Episcopal Church . . .

  • ­15 dioceses (14%) have a staff person who oversees Christian formation that includes ministry to children and adults (lifelong)
  • 55 dioceses (50%) have a staff person who oversees youth and / or young adult ministry
  • 6 dioceses (5%) have a staff person whose sole responsibility is campus ministry (who are located in a diocesan office). This does not include all those dioceses who financially support chaplains on college campuses, of which there are many.
  • 10 dioceses (9%) have a Resource Center
  • 44 dioceses (40%) do not have any staff person to support any age level of (non-ordained) Christian formation ministries

What has The Episcopal Church said in recent years?

On the church-wide level, an Office of Christian Formation & Vocation can provide the threads to connect those networks who work within dioceses and congregations in addressing specific aspects of Christian education and formation that cannot be done on the local level. Providing a vision, encouraging partnerships, identifying available resources through a central hub and fostering a holistic approach to lifelong Christian formation throughout The Episcopal Church can strengthen the ministry on the local level. Let this next triennium be a time when The Episcopal Church can develop strategies to strengthen diocesan and local networks. Together, we can continue the work that has just begun:

  • The Five Marks of Mission calls Episcopalians to live out our faith in today’s world. Through education, we are equipped to live out Christ’s mission in the world. Mission and evangelism require an educational foundation that continually needs renewal.
  • 2009 A082 affirmed the importance of formation in The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation
  • 2000 D045 affirmed that children are central to the mission of God, lifting up The Children’s Charter for the Church (1997 B005).
  • 2009 A083 directed dioceses to formulate a strategy for lifelong Christian formation in the next triennium (Over these past three years, how many dioceses actually did this?).
  • One third of The Episcopal Church is 65 years and older.
  • According to an Executive Council Briefing on 1/27/12 (Price & Hadaway), congregations with younger members (children and young families) are more likely to grow.  Families seek churches with strong Christian formation programs.

Christian education and formation is foundational to all that The Episcopal Church does – on the local, diocesan and church-wide level. Christian Formation in The Episcopal Church is lifelong growth in the knowledge, service and love of God as followers of Christ and is informed by Scripture, Tradition and Reason. For the Church to pass along the faith to future generations, its members must be equipped to experience, proclaim and invite others to share the Good News.

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13

That IS the mission of God. It should be OUR priority.

Our future depends on it.

Read more…

Why should Christian formation be a priority for the Church?

by Jenifer Gamber
When a person becomes a member of the Church through baptism, his or her first promise is “to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers.” This first of five promises in the Baptismal Covenant acknowledges the centrality of formation to fulfilling the mission of the Church as articulated in the final three promises – to proclaim the good news, to seek and serve Christ in all persons and to strive for justice and peace.

Through formation we know ourselves as created in the image of God so that we can represent Christ and the Church.  Through formation we nurture a relationship with God to bear witness to him. Through formation we come to know the gifts God has given us to reconcile the world. Formation is a life-long journey, a responsibility of and for all ages – children (0-12), youth (13-18), young adults (18-35), adults (over 35) and older adults (over 65) that happens through a multitude of opportunities for learning and reflection in many contexts – the home, community, congregations, camps, and institutions of higher learning, among others. People are formed by all aspects of their lives, and the Church must claim its role to form who we are as God’s people, as members of the Church, and Christ in the world.

Jenifer Gamber is a board member of Forma, Confirmation leader at The Cathedral of the Nativity in Bethlehem, PA and popular retreat leader. She is also the author of “My Faith, My Life: A Teen’s Guide to the Episcopal Church,” “Your Faith, Your Life: An Invitation to the Episcopal Church” and “Call on Me: A Prayer Book for Young People.”

Resolutions Passed: Christian Education

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Acts 2:42, 44-47

Just as the early Church lived out its existence, we are faced with similar challenges today. Our total experience of Christian education and formation involves every facet of discipleship, at every age, when we:

  • Proclaim the word of Jesus’ resurrection (Kerygma)
  • Teach the sacred story and its meaning to our lives (Didache)
  • Come together to pray and re-present Jesus in the breaking of the bread (Leiturgia)
  • Live in community with one another (Koinonia)
  • Care for those in need (Diakonia)

The following resolutions have been passed at recent General Conventions related to lifelong Christian Formation – focusing on a holistic view and understanding that Christian education and formation as a faith journey encompassing all ages.

Going back to the 65th General Convention (1976), numerous resolutions have called upon The Episcopal Church to develop resources, create studies and lift up the importance of Christian education. A sampling:

  • 1991-D178: Requested that priority be given to Christian Education
  • 1997-A069: Include the Entire Life Span in the Church’s Educational Program
  • 1998-D178: (Executive Council) gives a high priority to Christian Education as expressed in the 1998 Presiding Bishop’s Task Force on Christian Education in Congregations (which led to the publication of Called to Teach and Learn)
  • 2000-B015: Support Development of Episcopal Educational Materials for All Ages – directs and provides funding for the Young Peoples’ Ministry Cluster (now known as the Offices of Formation and Vocations) to develop and distribute comprehensive Christian education materials for all ages

A shift occurred in 2003 when local educators from several networks and constituencies called for a more consistent understanding of what Christian formation was on a church-wide level, in our seminaries and local congregations. Two resolutions were passed: 2003-B024: Task Force on Lifelong Christian Education and Formation and 2003-A120: Convene a Strategic Planning Committee for Theological Education. Both were unfunded and went to Executive Council, who in their wisdom, combined them in 2004 to form a theological education “strategy team” consisting of 12 members to “strengthen the theological education, lifelong learning and Christian formation in the Episcopal Church. Appointed members of this Task Force consisted of representatives from the Standing Commission on Ministry Development, Office of Ministry Development, Ministries with Young People Cluster, Council of Seminary Deans, Deacons and local Christian formation leaders. They became known as PEALL – Proclaiming Education For All – and reported to Executive Council for the 2009 General Convention. Their task:

  • Develop a comprehensive vision and strategy to strengthen Lifelong Christian Education and Formation throughout The Episcopal Church and equip people of all ages to experience, to tell about and to invite others into the Good News of the Gospel;
  • Integrate Christian Formation into every area of the church’s mission and ministry, recognizing that learning occurs in multiple ways throughout the entire life cycle;
  • Identify and communicate resources and models that support the gifts and needs of a church of great diversity and that promote outcomes recommended by the 20/20 Strategy Group;
  • Encourage conversation and collaboration among the many entities in the church that address specific aspects of Christian Education and Formation for mission and ministry;
  • Provide international and ecumenical links for Christian Education and Formation

A comprehensive report with documents can be found here and includes “Legacies, Lessons and Lifelines.” At the 75th General Convention approved the following recommendations of PEALL: Read more…

Post Navigation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56 other followers

%d bloggers like this: