Building the Continuum

Supporting Formation and Vocation in The Episcopal Church

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

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…

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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…

An Official Statement on the Budget

by The Right Reverend Stephen Lane

At last week’s Province I Synod Pre-Convention meeting, I presented the draft proposed budget for 2013-2015. Present with me were Province I’s Executive Council members, members of Program, Budget and Finance, PB&F Chair Diane Pollard, the President of the House of Deputies, the Secretary of General Convention, and Del Glover, Chair of Executive Council’s subcommittee on finance. In the course of my presentation and the subsequent question and answer period, it became clear that there are a some internal inconsistencies and at least one error in the draft proposed budget.

The draft proposed budget is balanced at $104.9 million. However, there is an internal inconsistency related to the Development Office. The amount proposed as income for the Development Office is $3.7 million and the amount proposed for expense is $2.5 million. If the two numbers are brought into alignment, either by decreasing income or increasing expense, then the budget will be unbalanced by about $1.2 million.

There is also an apparent inconsistency in the sum of the amounts proposed for Grants and Covenants. The total listed is $15 million. Adding the internal line items results in a sum of something less. When I do the math it’s about $14 million, but it’s not clear at this time if the active spreadsheet would correct this seeming error in the pdf copy of the draft proposed budget.

Finally, the amount of $286,438 for Formation and Vocation is an error. Although Executive Council was clearly reducing the amount for this part of the budget, the actual number was lost in the complex process of combining the 15% and 19% cases the Executive Council used to build the draft proposed budget. The budget was adopted and Executive Council adjourned before the error was discovered. Questions have been asked regarding what the “real” number might have been. Council members at the Province I Synod suggested something in the range of $1.9 million. Other knowledgeable persons suggested $1 million. PB&F will need to address this matter at General Convention. Restoring funds to Formation and Vocation will require taking funds from other places.

Diane Pollard and I are both very aware of the concern many have about errors in the draft budget. However, we want to emphasize that this is the Draft Proposed Budget that was submitted by Executive Council in January to the Joint Standing Committee on Program Budget and Finance.  This draft budget cannot be changed until the General Convention meets in Indianapolis in July.  In July the budget will be changed not only to reflect the numerical corrections, but it will also be changed to reflect General Convention Committee decisions, hearing discussions and other input that has and is being received.

We encourage your participation in the Provincial Synod meetings that are being conducted at this time as well as the hearings at General Convention, the House of Deputies online forum, and our blogspot. Thank you to all for your continued support.

Steve Lane and Diane Pollard
Program, Budget & Finance (PB&F)

The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane is bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine. This letter first appeared on a list-serve reserved for bishops and deputies to discuss matters of General Convention on April 17, 2012. It is shared here with Bishop Lane’s permission. 

Resolutions Passed: Children

The following are resolutions passed at recent General Conventions that focus on The Episcopal Church’s call for ministry to, with and for children. It should be noted that according to budget allocations, children are considered those from 0 – 12 years of age.

2000-D045: Affirm and Urge Consideration of the Centrality of Children to the Ministry of the Church 

Resolved, That the 73rd General Convention affirm that children are central to the mission of the Episcopal Church and ask each committee, commission, and program of the Episcopal Church, as it plans for the future, to consider how its ministry will positively impact the lives of children in the church and in the world, how it will be impacted by children, and how it will encourage children’s full participation in the worship and mission of the church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 73rd General Convention affirm and lift up “A Children’s Charter for the Church” as a continuing vision of The Episcopal Church’s ministry in nurturing children, ministering to and advocating on behalf of children, and supporting children in their ministries, remembering that “it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14 NRSV); and be it further

Resolved, That the 73rd General Convention ask each diocese to continue to build awareness and increase implementation of “A Children’s Charter for the Church,” and live out its vision locally.

The original resolution regarding the Children’s Charter was adopted in 1997 – Resolution B005 

2003-A077: Develop Strategies for Ministries with Children, Youth and Young Adults

Resolved, That the 74th General Convention adopt a vision as part of the 20/20 initiative that there shall be effective, well-organized ministries with children, youth, and young adults in every congregation where appropriate; and there shall be campus ministries in all colleges and universities where appropriate; and be it further . . . (read more of this resolution here)

2006-D059: Provide Child Care Facilities at General Conventions

Resolved, That the Joint Standing Committee on Planning and Arrangement be directed to make age appropriate care and educational programs available for children birth to age twelve available for the duration of the 76th General Convention and all future General Conventions; and be it further

Resolved, That all dioceses and provinces be encouraged to provide similar services for conventions and synod meetings.

2009-D085: Considering the Transformative Stories of Child Ministry

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention applaud the work of the Children’s Charter for the Church and calls for the next phase of the work of the Children’s Charter for the Church by requesting the Center for Evangelism and Congregational Life, lift up the stories of the ministry of the child in order to educate and transform the Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance consider a budget allocation of $40,000 for the implementation of the resolution during the 2010-2012 triennium; and be it further

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention request the Center for Evangelism and Congregational Life report to the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education before the 77th General Convention on the status of the continued implementation of the Children’s Charter for the Church.

Be the Revolution. Make Your Stories Heard.

by Janie Simonton

Welcome to EpiscoYouthProject 2012, designed to collect stories from everyone concerned about the budget changes for youth and young adults in the Episcopal Church. These changes, which will result in an approximately 90% funding cut for these ministries, have not been approved yet (more information here), which is where we come into play.

Our goal is to make voices heard, quite literally, by uploading personal stories and reasons why we disagree with the allocation of funds (or lack thereof) for youth. Please feel free to upload your own personal story (preferably less than a minute) explaining who you are, why this is important to you, and why you don’t think this proposed budget should come to fruition. While we recognize that there are those who may be viewing this that are in support of the youth funding cut, we ask that they refrain from uploading personal videos here and instead post it elsewhere.

Thank you and happy uploading!

From Building the Continuum: While this is a youth (ages 13-18) & young adult (ages 18-35) project, wouldn’t it be interesting to have children and Christian educators post their own stories? 

 Janie Simonton, a young adult in the Diocese of Southern Ohio, began the “EpiscoYouthProject 2012” on You Tube, with a Facebook page in April 2012. 

Garden Variety Christian Formation

by Cynthia Coe

Two Stabs at a Model of Formation – Good Try, But They Miss the Mark

Two very different models of formation have appeared on my laptop or tablet lately.  Both had good points to make, but neither seemed to me a complete model of what formation in the 21st century needs to look like.  Derek Olsen, in an Episcopal Café article, suggests that the resources needed are already available from a plethora of sources and simply need to be vetted, perhaps by a volunteer.  Diana Butler Bass, in her excellent book Christianity After Religion, proposes mentoring relationships, whereby formation would take place one-on-one.

I am all in favor of online resources – I write them frequently.  But these resources are simply tools of formation.  Someone has to come up with the content, and content might be terrific; it might not be.  Simply vetting the content will not make what we need for formation magically appear on the screen.  One-on-one tutoring and mentoring is extremely useful, but collaborative learning and working and listening within groups is, I think, as much or perhaps more valuable.  Thus, neither of these proposals provides direction for the ministry of formation or address current challenges and opportunities in this important work.

Formation as Gardening

Mature Christians don’t just happen; somebody has to nurture them, tend to them, help keep them watered, and then even help figure out what to do with the fruits of the harvest. Spiritual formation is akin to cultivation of our gardens – planting seeds, waiting patiently for sprouts to appear, keeping young plants well watered and fertilized, then watching in awe as the harvest feeds others.

Formation is cultivation of the human soul.  Formation is growth.  Formation is cultivation of our congregations towards the full stature of Christ to provide abundant life for all.

So . . . how does our garden grow? Read more…

More Reflections on the Budget

Budget

Budget (Photo credit: Tax Credits)

The Report to the 77th General Convention, aka “Blue” Book (it’s going to be a salmon color this time) will soon be released that will contain all the resolutions that have been submitted from Commissions, Agencies and Boards for this triennium.  Provincial Synods will be gathering over the next few months (Province I just met this week) to discuss resolutions and the budget.

Currently on the House of Deputies Online Forum, is “The Budget and the Budget Process.” You can follow the discussion – if you’re a deputy, you can post a question; if you have a question, pass it along to deputy to post. Here is the ‘white paper’ that explains the budget. This forum will continue through April 22.

Over the past few days, several more people have shared their thoughts and reflections about the proposed budget that will be presented at General Convention in July. Some great ideas have been presented. Read more here:

Susan Brown Snook, a deputy from Arizona has written several posts on her blog, A Good and Joyful Thing. Her first post, Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce and Short-Term Solutions to Long-Term Problems offered an assessment of the budget with the eye of a CPA. A sampling regarding what she believes the budget will accomplish in the short term:

Avoid making major shifts.  The Christian Formation office was cut under the rationale that such things are better done at the local level.  I don’t agree, because I think it is tremendously short-sighted for a church that is suffering from failure to form new disciples (especially among the young), and from aging demographics, to cut youth and college programming.  Strategic vision for the future would require increased, not decreased, resources for youth/young adult ministries, at all levels.  True, this is a ministry that is essentially done at the local level – but we can’t simply remove all its churchwide supports and expect it to thrive on its own without strategic work to make sure other structures are in place to support it.  

But that’s my argument; you can disagree.  Here’s the point: if we cut Christian Formation in this budget, we are making a huge long-term decision based on narrow short-term thinking.   Read more…

Implications to Formation if Funding Goes Away

The Episcopal Church Proposed Budget for 2013-2015 has proposed a 90% cut to the Formation and Vocation Ministries Team which includes the offices for Youth, Young Adults, Campus Ministry, and Lifelong Christian Formation, including Children’s Ministries.  To help the Church understand the real implications of what this budget means, we have looked through the Formation and Vocation Reports to Executive Council over the last 2.5 years, and pulled together the lists below.  While it does not represent each minute detail, it does represent the immense and broad work that these offices do each triennium.  We invite you to take some time to look closely at each bullet point and consider if that piece of the budget goes away, what will it mean for the children, youth, campus ministries, and young adults throughout the church.

Formation and Vocation Office: General

  • Partnering and Collaborating with Forma (formerly NAECED)
  • General Convention Youth, Young Adult, and Children’s programming and presence
  • Formation and Vocation Newsletters and resources
  • Building the Continuum Summit work with Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers
  • Collaboration on resources such as the work done with Doctrine of Discovery
  • Joint Network meetings to discuss and collaborate with one another across the age ranges: Children, Youth, Young Adults, Adults and Older Adult ministries
  • Social Media presence
  • Blogs and Web presence
  • Ecumenical Partnerships
  • Newsletters and Communication from the Denominational Staff about formation, resources, events, people, etc.
  • Support and Networking with Diocese and Provinces
  • Episcopal Generations initiative to bridge the gaps to work toward evangelism and mission as the Body of Christ

Youth

  • Ministry on behalf of young people and the Episcopal Church grounded in the Five Marks of Mission in order to keep moving forward with intentionality in mission through outreach and evangelism.
  • Building relationships, connecting and resourcing with those responsible for Youth Ministry and Lifelong Christian Formation and Vocation
  • Meeting with Youth Ministry networks at the Provincial and Diocesan levels, and with affiliated organizations such as Forma (formerly the National Association for Episcopal Christian Education Directors – NAECED) and our seminaries working on continuing education for Lifelong Christian Formation volunteers and professionals
  • Episcopal Youth Event
    • mentoring leadership with youth on EYE Mission Planning Team
    • giving church wide exposure to youth who may not have experienced richness of our diversity in their local faith community context
    • developing follow-up resources from keynotes and workshops
    • establishing personal connections for future mission and ministry
    • Doing something big together to make an impact in the church and in the world (gifts to ERD, Haiti, UTO & Habitat for Humanity)

Read more…

Keeping Easter Alive

by Kaze Gadaway

Five Native young adults from eighteen to twenty-one walk somberly up the aisle to receive the sacrament. Their hands hang comfortably by their sides and they proceed confidently to kneel at the front of the altar. They act like they belong. “This is so awesome,” one of the youth whisper. “Everyone here treats us like we should be here.”

Learn about the journey of how these youth became welcome and incorporated into the church as described in Kaze’s article posted in the Daily Episcopalian on Episcopal Cafe.  

Now we have forty two Native youth who want to be a part of something larger than small town dreams. There seems to be a lot of complaints from local parishes that they are losing members and yet are not willing to spend the personal effort it takes to develop spirituality in youth.With the trend of cutting off national programs and leaving youth formation to dioceses, I am afraid of what is going to happen to these youth when I retire in one year and six months. Dioceses don’t have extra money for youth programs. And new youth programs will not be generated simply because they are not being supplied from somewhere else. In talking with other youth ministers we realize that many do not appreciate how influential National programs have been for youth in all ethnic groups.I am guessing that with the present direction of the Church I will have to create the plan to provide spiritual formation for these youth when I leave.The difficulty is that I have been a volunteer for almost twelve years who had the time to establish the relationships needed for this ethnic group. Since we are not on the diocesan budget, all funds have to be raised slowly through grants, family and friends. Since we are isolated in Northern Arizona in a town of 5,000 people and with no local priest, we drive long distances for Church services or for relevant youth activities or even traditional Native ceremonies. Something new has to come into being.

I don’t know what is going to happen to other youth groups who will be vulnerable by this change. If they are from rich white Churches who have the money to have programs, they will endure for a while. If they are ethnic groups in isolated situations, I fear they will die out. Without programs that push the young ones to think Globally and not be stuck in the local situation, only those with financial resources will be able to get beyond their village.

My prayer is that there will continue to be enough people in the Church who care about the youth that they will help with creative approaches to keep youth formation alive in one fashion or another.

I pray that Easter may continue to be a reality in their lives.

Kaze Gadway has worked with the emerging leaders of the Episcopal Church within the Native American community of Northern Arizona as a volunteer for eleven years. They are youth of promise from ages twelve to twenty-four. The Spirit Journey Youth is an outreach program of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona with forty young people. She is on Facebook and blogs at in faith’s posterous. This article is reposted in part with permission from Episcopal Cafe. 

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