Building the Continuum

Supporting Formation and Vocation in The Episcopal Church

Archive for the tag “future”

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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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. 

The Vision and Voice of Youth

by Meg Wagner

Youth began claiming their voice in the Episcopal Church in the early nineteenth century in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. For over eighty-five years, youth have shared their prophetic voices and have sought to be included in the legislative bodies at all levels of church government. Their vision of where the Holy Spirit has been leading the Episcopal Church has helped the church move forward on ecumenism, gender and racial equality, and social justice issues. As released in March 2012, the proposed cuts to the denomination’s budget reduce spending on Christian Formation from around thee million to $286,000, effectively eliminating youth from participating in the larger life and governance of the church.

I have written a paper (read it here) that traces the history of youth leadership in the Episcopal Church. If we are wise, we will embrace the voices of the young people in our church, commit to the personnel and financial resources that support their life and leadership in the church, and take seriously their vision of where the Holy Spirit is leading us.

The General Conventions in 2003, 2006, and 2009 each hosted concurrent events for youth who wanted to learn more about Convention but who were not one of the eighteen Official Youth Presence. But until 2009, General Conventions were scheduled at times that made it difficult for young people to attend, before many schools were finished for the summer.The local diocese hosted the concurrent youth events with support from the Ministries with Young People Cluster. In 2003 and 2006 those events included education about Convention, participation in and observation of hearings, and observation of both Houses.

However, in 2009, the youth event was held at a facility far from Convention, offered little Convention education, and youth had no opportunity to participate in the life of Convention other than the exhibit hall and one Eucharist.  Unfortunately, funding for a concurrent youth event in 2012 was cut from the budget passed in 2009. The Province V Youth Minister’s Network plans to host a hospitality suite for individual churches and dioceses that choose to bring youth as visitors to Convention, but there are no plans as yet to make it an opportunity for a large number of youth and young people to gather to learn about our polity or participate in meaningful ways, outside of the eighteen selected as the Official Youth Presence.

Edward W. Rodman wrote, “Young people have the energy and the enthusiasm to believe they can make a difference when they are properly focused and have the appropriate support and resources to do so.” At every level of the church, support for youth and youth events require a network of trained adults working in relational ministries with youth. As written, the 2013-2015 budget proposes that formation work is really only effective and necessary at the parish and diocesan level. Unfortunately, as budgets have shrunk across the country, often the first cuts have come in Christian Formation and youth ministry at those levels. Budget and staff cuts at the Church Center over the years have meant that the Christian Education department, which had a staff of over thirty-five in 1968, has just three staff positions as we head into General Convention 2012, one of which is for youth. The Ministries with Young People Cluster, which spanned children through young adults, has been dispersed with the recent changes in the organization of the Church Center. Increased communication, coordination, and flexibility will be imperative to keep those networks functioning.

Across the country and all over social media we hear churches bewailing the lack of youth in their midst. For over 85 years now, the Episcopal Church has been abundantly blessed by youth and young people asking to participate in our governance at all levels, who want to come together as a church-wide body to worship, learn and grow in their faith. The budget for the next triennium in its current form from the Executive Council indicates that we need 90% less funding for Christian Formation in the next three years, effectively eliminating support for youth and young adult participation in our larger church family and showing them we have no interest in forming any more involved Christian youth like them.

As we head into General Convention 2012, there will be a lot of tough decisions to make and a lot of hard discussions to have. This shouldn’t be one of the really difficult choices. If we truly wish to inspire, renew, and transform the church we will choose to encourage and embrace the voices of our young people, commit to the personnel and financial resources that support their ministries and involvement, and take seriously their vision of where the Holy Spirit is leading us.

Meg is the Christian Formation Director at Trinity Episcopal Church in Iowa City, an MDiv student at Episcopal Divinity School, and a postulant from the Diocese of Iowa. She writes, “I had the privilege of working with youth in TEC for over 20 years and am in ministry myself largely because I grew up in the Diocese of Chicago where as a teenager I was invited, supported, and encouraged to be an active participant in my church at ALL levels.” The photo depicted here is of Meg with the team from Iowa attending GC 2009. 

Scenarios for the Future

From November 7-10, 2011, leaders from across a variety of ministry settings gathered to envision the future shape of faith formation in The Episcopal Church. Through a scenario planning process the leaders identified significant forces affecting faith formation, determined two critical uncertainties that will shape future directions, and created four scenarios or narratives to capture the possibilities for the future of faith formation. The four scenarios are not predictions, projections, or prophecies but rather an attempt to provoke a realization that the future need not simply be more of the same.

The scenario planning process centered around a key focusing question: How might Christian lifelong faith formation over the next ten years affect the renewal and transformation of The Episcopal Church in 21st century America? After careful study of the significant driving forces, two uncertainties were selected from a longer list of potential uncertainties that might shape the broader context of church and faith formation over the next decade or longer. The two chosen uncertainties together define a set of four scenarios for the future of faith formation in The Episcopal Church that are divergent, challenging, internally consistent and plausible. Each of the two uncertainties is expressed as an axis that represents a continuum of possibilities ranging between two endpoints.

Critical Uncertainties

  • The Relationship of Technology and Community – Will the continuing evolution of technology enhance human community and connection or will technology diminish community and connections among people?
  • The Response of The Episcopal Church to Changing Global Realities – Will The Episcopal Church’s response toward emerging global realities, such as increasing cultural diversity, economic uncertainty and resource availability for all people, lead the Church toward an outward-focused engagement with the world or toward an inner-focused, separation from the world?

One of the resolutions to come before General Convention (Building the Continuum: An Electronic Learning Community) addresses one of the scenarios: A Church Engaged in the World & Community and Connection Enhanced by Technology. Little did the groups working on developing this scenario know that the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education had already proposed an “Online Learning Community” that would address the needs of this possible scenario.

This is a world in which The Episcopal Church utilizes all of the potential in current and emerging digital and web technologies to connect with people 24x7x365, build relationships and engage people in lifelong faith formation and mission to the world. Faith formation in physical places – congregations, camps, conference centers, and school – are all web- and digitally-enhanced, extending their programming into the everyday lives of people, anywhere and everywhere. People connect and mobilize for mission and collective action in the world using the new communication tools and web technologies. The Episcopal Church becomes a leader in utilizing the new technologies to develop lifelong disciples who are growing in their Episcopal faith and are actively engaged in transforming the world.

At the moment, there is NOT one concise location on The Episcopal Church’s website that is a portal for Christian formation resources . . . links to best practices, resources, people and programs. With the decrease in staffing positions on the local and diocesan level, such a portal is needed especially small congregations who struggle to find the resources and connections for engaging and current pedagogy in Christian formation.

Your support (with funding!) of Building the Continuum resolution at General Convention will help accomplish this!

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