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 firstname.lastname@example.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.