Building the Continuum

Supporting Formation and Vocation in The Episcopal Church

Archive for the tag “The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation”

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…

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Finding Peace in God at the Center of the Storm

by Lisa Kimball

By now most of you have become aware of the Executive Council’s proposed budget for the 2013-2015 Episcopal Church triennium, which reduces the Christian formation and vocations line item (all things children, youth, young adult, adult and older adult) from $3 million to $286,000. This 90 percent cut is explained as devolution or subsidiarization – the theory that in this extended season of economic strain, Christian formation is most effectively delivered and sustained at a more local level – province, diocese, or congregation.

Church-wide program cuts were anticipated in response to the continuing precipitous decline in membership and commensurate diminished voluntary giving by dioceses (optimistically estimated at 19 percent of diocesan budgets). The proposed budget virtually eliminates denominational staffing, resources, and programming for Christian formation. To make matters worse, the parish and diocesan structures from which Christian formation leadership is intended to devolve are themselves under severe stress. The aggregate number of staff layoffs far exceeds new hires as congregations and dioceses undergo “restructuring.”

It is no wonder the budget news has sparked a firestorm of indignation and protest. People are talking, blogging, organizing, petitioning and, yes, even praying! Perhaps this is not all bad. Oscar Wilde once said, “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about,” and then there’s always the popular (if debatable) adage, “any publicity is good publicity.” Christian formation is certainly getting press.

While there is much amiss with the process and priorities revealed in the proposed budget, the outcome may yet be holy (see the blog by Thomas Ferguson, Bexley Hall Seminary Dean, Crusty Old Dean). After over 30 years of hard, intentional work surrounding the baptismal covenant (inspired by the liturgical revisions of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer), the language and practices of faith formation across the life span are beginning to take hold. Read more…

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…

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.

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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