Building the Continuum

Supporting Formation and Vocation in The Episcopal Church

Archive for the tag “Formation”

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.”

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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. 

Legacies, Lessons and Lifelines

“One faces the future with one’s past,” or so American author Pearl Buck once wrote.

As Christians and as Episcopal educators, we are clear that how we attend to history matters. In order to find out where we are going in theological education and Christian formation, we need to know where we have come from. We know that there are lessons to be learned. We recall the well-worn saying that those who forget history’s lessons are doomed to repeat them.

For those of us concerned about the future of Christian formation and theological education, we ask: what are the lessons to which we must attend? How might we best be informed by the Episcopal Church’s involvements in Christian education and formation? Are there particular lifelines that might sustain us in days ahead, especially if they are well attended to and furthered? What clues might we find about strategic moments, movements, and messages that we may pass on to strengthen our Church’s educational witness and daily practices in days ahead? Are there new directions we should pursue?

These are daunting questions. They underscore the purpose of this short document focusing upon “legacies, lessons and lifelines” in Christian formation and theological education as we have discerned them over the past half-century of the Church’s life. A study of theological education in 1967 – entitled Ministry for Tomorrow and known as the Pusey Report — called for major changes. It focused primarily on educating male clergy in ten seminaries, using a scholarly university model. Since that time, significant changes in church and society have prompted a need to reconsider the state and direction not only of theological education but of Christian formation as well.

Our current focus on history grows out of a mandate from the 2003 General Convention for a task force – which has subsequently been named PEALL, an acronym for Proclaiming Education for All – to undertake a comprehensive review of Christian formation and theological education in order to present recommendations to the 2009 General Convention. This is the first time the Episcopal Church has called for a systematic look at the broadest spectrum of its educational resources and practices. This includes education designed to advance the mission and ministry of members of every age cohort in a wide variety of cultural contexts. Today Christian formation is centered in congregations, diocesan program and schools, theological seminaries, ministry development groups, continuing education centers, and other initiatives. Read more…

Denominational Faith Formation Ministries

by Cindy Spencer

For my Lenten discipline this year, I gave up complaining.

As you can imagine, this discipline has been sorely tested since last Thursday afternoon when I was sent a link to the draft triennial budget put forward by Executive Council, and discovered that formation ministries on the church-wide (Church Center) level was slated for a 90% reduction, from roughly $3 million to $286 thousand. I read through the document as carefully as I could to be sure I wasn’t missing anything, like a solid rationale of the cuts with a plan for moving forward.

I found I could just sit at my computer, stunned. And yes, I called in a sympathetic colleague and whined a little. And I caught myself and began to think that if I was going to try to keep moving forward with my Lenten discipline (I mean, Lent has just started – am I really throwing in the towel already?) that I needed to really think this through – move beyond my knee-jerk reaction and discover what I thought was wrong (or right) about this proposal, and what I was called to do.

So I thought, where do I start? Why do we need Formation ministries at a denominational level? To answer this, I felt I needed to quickly re-visit what I believe about Formation. This is my short answer to what I believe Formation is: It is how we are shaped as people by our experiences, our disciplines or practices, our environment, and our individual natures. Christian Formation is much the same, but includes the ways in which our lives are brought alongside the stories and faith of the Christian people, our encounters with God, and our participation in Christian community; a “side-by-side story” in Godly Play parlance, in which we ask what our experience has to say to these faith stories/communities and what those stories and communities have to say to our experience, and then how we are changed through the encounter of stories. In my seminary Christian Education classes, this was called praxis – the model of action/reflection as a way of growing in faith.  While the truth is that we are formed by all our experiences, praxis as a way of faith formation requires intentionality and practice. While it sounds simple, my observation over the past 20 years of church ministry is that we are often tempted to skip over the reflection piece.  And the reflection piece is the crucial link in integrating formation into all our practices of worship, outreach, education and congregational care. Read more…

Forma invites reflection and prayer

As you may be aware, the proposed 2013-15 triennial budget for The Episcopal Church as been released.
Of note is that the proposed budget for Christian formation has been reduced by 90% – from $3 million to $300,000 (actual 2010-12 budget as compared to 2013-15 proposed budget).  The budget reductions would affect Christian formation programs for people of every age-children, youth, and all adults. We recognize that the Church has fewer resources and that this proposed budget reflects this reality.  The challenge for educators is that while Christian formation program expenditures represented 2.5% of the overall 2010-12 budget, it accounts for more than 20% of the 2013-15 proposed reductions in overall expenditures.

We as a Forma leadership board are aware, first of all, that livelihoods of the formation officers of the Episcopal Church are at stake and, also, that this means far fewer resources for partnering on formation activities at the congregational and diocesan levels.

As Christian educators who value collaboration and partnership, we can respond with care, creativity, and imagination to support the Christian formation that is so vital to the life of the Church.

We as a board are considering a short-term response and a strategy to challenge General Convention to re-examine budget priorities in Indianapolis.  If you have ideas for how to be influential please contact Wendy Claire Barrie at barrie@stbarts.org.

Let us all be in reflection and prayer for the current and future priorities of our Church.

Lyle SmithGraybeal, President and Wendy Claire Barrie, Vice-President
For the Forma Board of Directors

This letter was sent to the membership of Forma (formerly known as The National Association of Episcopal Christian Education Directors) on Friday, March 2, 2012. It is shared with permission. 

Invite, Inspire, Transform

Welcome to “Building the Continuum!” We hope the conversation, ideas and resources shared here will help build upon the momentum that began at General Convention 2009 in which The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation was passed.

The Charter invites individuals “to enter into a prayerful life of worship, continuous learning, intentional outreach, advocacy and service; to be inspired to develop new learning experiences, equipping disciples for a life in a world of secular challenges and carefully listening for the words of modern sages who embody the teachings of Christ; and to be transformed by striving to be a loving and witnessing community which faithfully confronts the tensions in the church and the world as we struggle to live God’s will.”

Within this site, you can learn more about the resolutions to come before the 77th General Convention that will help us live out The Charter that have been submitted by The Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Education and Formation.

Please join us as we are called to . . .

INVITE . . . INSPIRE . . . TRANSFORM

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