Building the Continuum

Supporting Formation and Vocation in The Episcopal Church

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:

2006-A105: Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Education and Formation

Resolved, That Canon I.1.2(n) be amended to add a subsection (14), reading as follows:

A Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Education and Formation consisting of twelve members (3 Bishops, 3 Presbyters and/or Deacons, and 6 Lay Persons). It shall be the duty of the Commission to develop and recommend to the General Convention comprehensive and coordinated policies for children, youth, adults, and seniors for lifelong Christian formation;

At the 76th General Convention (2009) the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education offered their first resolutions:

2009-A082: The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church adopt the following text as The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation: Lifelong Christian Faith 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. Read The Charter here. 

And be it further

Resolved, That we affirm that Christian Faith Formation in The Episcopal Church is a lifelong journey with Christ, in Christ and to Christ; and be it further

Resolved, That

  1. We urge each diocese to read and study the Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation and to live it out locally.
  2. We urge the seminaries and other institutions concerned with formation and education and leadership in The Episcopal Church, to engage the charter as a tool to advance their support for persons in their Christian Formation.
  3. We urge The Episcopal Church’s Evangelism and Congregational Life Center to commit staff during this triennium to communicate, advocate and implement the charter, and report progress to the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education before the 77th General Convention.

2009-A083: Encourage Dioceses to Formulate a Strategy for Lifelong Christian Formation

Resolved, That the 76th General Convention strongly encourage all dioceses to formulate a strategy for Lifelong Christian Formation in the next triennium; and be it further

Resolved, That such strategies should encompass and be suitable for all persons (e.g. various ages, languages and abilities). These strategies should be responsive to diocesan and societal contexts and accurately depict the current education and formation status. Because formation is not limited to a cognitive experience (classroom), formation should be holistic (encompasses learning, action and reflection); …..

We look forward to resolutions soon to be made public in the “Blue Book” – formerly called the Report to the 77th General Convention. 


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One thought on “Resolutions Passed: Christian Education

  1. Lisa Brown on said:

    Interesting – thank you for this summary overview. One thing that jumped out at me in reading is that while I think it is indeed a good thing that we recognize that formation needs to occur in all stages of life, I think it is an oversight not to recognize the special role that children’s formation plays in the perpetuation of our denomination. It’s as though after years of seeing formation as being exclusively for children, we’ve swung a bit too far in the other direction. Children’s formation, Sunday school , etc., are a unique and essential component of who we are and will suffer if lumped entirely with life-long continuing education. To me it’s the foundation on which a lifetime depends. Yes, it’s my particular area of ministry, but I still can’t help think that not distinguishing children’s formation as its own special ministry does it a potential disservice.

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