Building the Continuum

Supporting Formation and Vocation in The Episcopal Church

Archive for the tag “Resolutions”

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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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…

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.

Why does The Episcopal Church need “The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation”?

The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation (A082) was overwhelming passed in both Houses at General Convention in 2009. Just three short years later, those who drafted the proposed 2013-2015 budget seem to have forgotten this imperative to lift up the importance of Christian formation for all ages – children, youth, young adults, adults and older adults – in our congregations, dioceses and church-wide structures. It was a resolution that had endorsements from a broad range of networks: Forma, NOERC, Episcopal Camps & Conference Centers, Seminaries to name a few. The rationale for this resolution that the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Education and Formation presented still rings true today.

Sadly the statistics that are given here are now dated, but the numbers have only gotten more disheartening since 2009, with many dioceses and numerous congregations laying off lay and ordained staff in the areas of Christian formation.

  • 30% of Forma members desired more Christian formation resources be made available for the local setting. (2008)
  • 50% Forma members desired their dioceses to be supportive of local Christian formation (not including clergy formation programs) by providing a staff person and/or better communication and networking opportunities. (2008)
  • Sociologist of religion have found a correlation between church growth and youth involvement that is consistent across different types of churches – liberal, moderate and conservative. In all these churches, the greater the youth involvement, the greater the church’s growth. Specifically, 58% of growing churches said the level of youth involvement was high. (FACT 2000)
  • Christian education must be viewed holistically, not as a separate entity. Every aspect of a church’s ministry contains educational implications. Basic principles of teaching and learning include: involving everyone in the process, being sensitive to needs of participants, having a clear focus on what is to be communicated and accomplished, enabling participants to make connections between the subject matter and their own lives, providing opportunities to give expression to what they think and believe, and motivating them to put into practice what they believe. (Search Institute, 1993).

The explanation that followed The Charter continues to be a message for the church today: Read more…

Ministry with Children in The Episcopal Church

St. Thomas Episcopal Church
College Station, Texas

A story of faith, passion and wonder ….

by Robyn Szoke

In February of this year, C. Kirk Hadaway, the Staff Officer for Congregational Research and Diocesan and Congregational Ministries, presented some statistics to Executive Council. From 2004 to 2010, Church School enrollment in Episcopal congregations has declined by 33 percent. The number of child baptisms in Episcopal congregations has declined by 36 percent. Moreover, the Episcopal Church’s average Sunday attendance has fallen by 17 percent, while membership declined by 13 percent.

To begin to respond to these changes, it might be helpful to remember the hopes, the dreams, and the passion that the Episcopal Church had for children’s ministry and formation and, indeed, lifelong formation between 1985 and 2009.  Those years were an amazing time. They were alive with vision, ideas, and a commitment to the cultivation of formation – particularly children’s formation and formation within the household.

Looking back, it seems that the theology of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer helped to launch a grassroots mission movement for advocacy with and ministry to (and for and by) children. By 1990, this mission movement had really taken hold. That year, the Episcopal Church Center’s Office of Children’s Ministries began to gather children’s ministry specialists from around the nation. Their mission was to engage in deeper conversations about how best to serve children, including how best to fully include them in our worship communities and the prophetic notion of listening and hearing their voice.

The result of these conversations was that the Office of Children’s Ministries, along with 22 dioceses from all of the Episcopal Church’s provinces, developed and published a most amazing document: the Children’s Charter for the Episcopal Church. (In Spanish) Adopted by General Convention resolution 1997-B005, it provided a model – a standard of excellence – and accountability for congregational, diocesan, and provincial leadership.

Fueled by the publication of the Children’s Charter, the mission movement flourished. Design teams were created. Through the wisdom and hard work of provincial formation leaders, events were held, Charting a Course for Children in the Church which led to strengthening partnerships with the National Council of Churches and the Children’s Defense Fund. Through these teams and partnerships, we were able to hold events, gatherings, and conferences to advocate for children. In addition, a wonderful mission magazine was developed. Called Treasure Magazine, it was designed so that children ages 6 to 9 could read and learn about mission throughout the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.  At the same time the youth ministry office and young adult ministry office was also flourishing. Read more…

What IS General Convention?

The General Convention is the primary governing and legislative body of The Episcopal Church. With the exception of the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Constitution and Canons, it is the ultimate authority in the Episcopal Church. General Convention comprises two houses: the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. It meets regularly once every three years; however, the House of Bishops meets regularly in between sessions of General Convention. From July 3 – 12, 2012, General Convention will be convened in Indianapolis, Indiana.

You can learn more about the schedule of events, resolutions to come before the two houses, who the deputies and bishops are as well as more information on the General Convention 2012 official website.

All diocesan, coadjutor, suffragan, and assistant bishops of The Episcopal Church (active or retired) have seat and vote in the House of Bishops. Each  of the 109 dioceses in 16 countries of The Episcopal Church are entitled to representation in the House of Deputies by four clergy deputies, either presbyters or deacons, canonically resident in the diocese and four lay deputies who are confirmed communicants in good standing. Resolutions must pass both houses in order to take effect.

The convention is divided into committees which consider resolutions. Resolutions arise from four different sources: 1) “A” resolutions from interim bodies whose work is collected in what is referred to as the “Blue Book” 2) “B” resolutions which come from Bishops 3) “C” resolutions which come from dioceses and provinces and 4) “D” resolutions which originate from Deputies. Each properly submitted resolution is referred to a convention committee which makes its recommendation to the House. When one house has acted on the resolution it is sent to the other house for consideration.

The Education Committee (#15), a cognate committee comprising House of Bishops’ Legislative Committee #15 and House of Deputies’ Legislative Committee #15, will hear legislation regarding education and formation issues as assigned. Their meetings will occur throughout General Convention, often first thing in the morning. These meetings are generally open to the public and hearings are held so that the individuals may have their voice be heard regarding various issues. No one needs to be a deputy to speak at these hearings or attend to observe their deliberations. Resolutions from the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education will most likely be addressed by the Education Committee.

The House of Deputies is the house of Initial Action for resolutions that are assigned to the cognate committee #15. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (President of the House of Bishops) and Bonnie Anderson (President of the House of Deputies) determine which resolutions are sent to which Legislative committee for hearings and discussion before being sent to either house for a vote of approval or denial. Votes in committees are done by both Houses – a vote by bishops and a vote by deputies. Their representatives then report back to their House at its legislative committee.

A Call to Action

The Task Force on Older Adult Ministries convened for the first time during the 2010-2012 triennium by an act of the 76th General Convention. The Task Force evolved from the Task Force on Senior Ministries formed in 2003, which was a ministry of The Office for Ministry Development. The Task Force on Older Adult Ministries is mandated to determine programs currently being offered by congregations, dioceses and provinces, to establish a method of sharing this information, and to explore ways the church can connect with each other in intergenerational opportunities. The Task Force is also directed to create a comprehensive plan to raise awareness of issues related to older adults.

The following resolution is part of their Blue Book Report which has been submitted to the General Convention Office:

A Response to the Call of The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation: A Call to Action

Resolved, the House of ______ concurring, that the 77th General Convention adopt the following text as A Response to the Call of The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation: A Call to Action by the Task Force for Older Adult Ministries Our vision for The Episcopal Church is that each congregation will be a place where people of all ages are welcomed and valued, where The Episcopal Church will provide resources and assistance to its members as they go through the lifelong process of aging, particularly those times of change when new callings need to be discerned, and where the grace and fellowship of the local congregation will surround each of its members, wherever they may be in the aging process.  Our vision for our Episcopal Church is that we will support dioceses and congregations in their ministry with older members, and that this support will be reflected in policies, worship, and training for all the ministers of the church.

We Invite The Episcopal Church:

  1. To embrace older adults in all parts of the life of the Church.
  2. To recognize our almost universal fear of our own aging.
  3. To examine our own individual process of aging.
  4. To encourage all generations to make their own discoveries in the journey of lifelong aging.
  5. To foster liturgical rites and traditions that embrace older adults.

We Inspire The Episcopal Church:

  1. To celebrate and learn from the individual, intra-cultural and inter-cultural diversity in aging.
  2. To understand that spiritual discovery and discernment is a lifelong process.
  3. To respond to injustices toward older adults.
  4. To recognize that all older adults have the right to be loved, accepted and included.

We Challenge The Episcopal Church to become a transforming community that:

  1. Includes people of all ages as participants in baptismal ministries.
  2. Responds to the changing culture as it relates to aging.
  3. Confesses that no one has the “whole truth,” or completely understands the aging process.
  4. Believes aging starts at birth and ends at death—it is a life process.
  5. Allows for ultimate freedom, individuality in aging.
  6. Provides a place of resource and solace for families dealing with aging.
  7. Understands there is a wholeness in aging, including mind, body and spirit.

This call to action is grounded in our understanding of the Baptismal Covenant and our identity as Episcopalians. 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. Developed by the Task Force for Older Adult Ministries in response to GC2009 A087.

EXPLANATION

This Call to Action was developed in response to a need expressed in the Church and by the 76th General Convention in D004 for additional resources and encouragement which celebrate lifelong Christian formation for older adults. Informed by our exploration and engagement with the Baptismal Covenant, the Five Marks of Mission, and the Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation the prophetic voice of the Task Force for Older Adult Ministries emerged and this Call to Action reflects the urgency of the need of the Church to engage with depth and breadth the education and formation of people of all ages. All generations working creatively, sharing wisdom and perspectives can enrich formation. The church is most especially enriched when all ages are connected in formation and there is no graduation from our work as Christians. To assist the Church in the implementation of this Call to Action a guide to facilitate conversations and action in congregations, dioceses and provinces has been developed.

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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