Presiding Bishop opens Executive Council; video available at www.episcopalchurch.org

The Episcopal Church
Office of Public Affairs

Vendredi, Octobre 21, 2011

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori opened the Executive Council meeting in Salt Lake City today with an address that called for a mission focused budget using the Five Marks of Mission.

A video of the Presiding Bishop’s remarks are available on the home page of the website: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/

The following is the Presiding Bishop’s opening remarks

Budgets are moral documents, as it should be evident by what Occupy Wall Street has been saying for the last month.  It should be evident in the advocacy work we have been doing through the Office of Government Relations for decades.

Jesus said far more about money and wealth and its right use than he did about anything else.

We are going to spend much of this meeting, and indeed much of the next nine months, both on adopting a budget for 2012, and shaping a draft budget for the next triennium.  We expect that these budgets will reflect our values as Episcopalians and Christians, and they should reflect our understanding of our part in God’s mission, given that we are the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

In our conversations here in this gathering, you will hear some of the fruit of the Executive Council’s pondering over the last three months in the form of principles that we have been discerning, to use in building the next triennial budget.

If we’re going to be the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, our churchwide efforts, particularly our budgets, should reflect our best understanding of God’s mission.

Mission is what we are sent out to do.  Mission is reconciling the world to God and each other in Christ, according to the Book of Common Prayer.  In Jesus’ terms, mission is both caring for “the least of these” as he talks about Matthew 25 (we might also use the phrase “preferential option for the poor”), and going into the world, baptizing, and teaching others about Jesus’ work, as he elucidates in Matthew 28.

Mission is about transformation, because we don’t yet live in the fullness of Kingdom of God.  Jesus’ own mission statement, his first public statement about what he is about in Luke 4, says that he has been anointed to bring good news to poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of Lord’s favor – another way of saying the coming Kingdom of God.

The Anglican Communion has been talking about mission using a particular framework for 25 years.  This Church has been talking about that framework, the Five Marks of Mission, for at least the last five or six years.  At the last General Convention, we adopted D027, proposed by President of the House of Deputies.  It calls the Five Marks of Mission the “five top strategic priorities for The Episcopal Church,” and that resolution also requested that Program Budget and Finance and Executive Council center the budget for the next triennium around these priorities.  I want to remind you of that charge to Executive Council and PB&F..

The Five Marks of Mission.

First, to proclaim good news of the kingdom.  I would invite you to think about that in terms of how we evangelize in our many different contexts.  This includes communication efforts, both about the Good News of Jesus and what it means to be an Episcopalian.  We proclaim good news through our partnerships in the Anglican Communion, and through the missionaries we send out – the Young Adult Service Corps and appointed missionaries.

I want you to hear the preferential option for the poor (least of these), in our attention to groups who don’t have access to the resources of blessings that others have.  We’re doing that through ministry with Sudanese, with Native Americans, and with many other marginalized groups in this Church.

We promote a widening (and reconciling) perspective that is part of what it means to say The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.  We are countering parochial and provincial attitudes and practices, and our anti-racism work is a piece of that. We are engaged in prophetic and advocacy work.  Our work in ecumenical and interfaith spheres is about what we know of the Kingdom of God.  Even the Archives might be understood as a tool for this work, as it reminds us about the good and the bad that has gone before. 

2.  we teach, nurture, baptize new believers.

The second mark of mission is primarily the task of congregations and dioceses.  We offer churchwide support through networking, and through examples of best practices.  Again we exercise a preferential option for the poor – particularly including dioceses and groups without adequate resources – to teach and baptize new believers through campus ministry, through federal and other chaplaincies.  A growing edge for us as a church is in emerging church and fresh expressions, new ways of gathering Christians and non-
Christians in new those seeking a faith communities. 

We teach and nurture through training leaders.  We do that through campus ministry, through the College for Bishops, through the Young Adult Service Corps, through theological education of many sorts.  We do that by fostering new expressions of church.

There are aspects of this work that simply can’t be done at the local level.  I hear requests all the time for more connections and additional resources.  Two in the last 10 days:
          Networking for developing theological education/formation programs
          A list of Latino ministry resources that have been vetted for usefulness in different context in The Episcopal Church

We teach and nurture new believers through talking about our Episcopal identity, and our churchwide communications work.  We also support this work through the facilities and administrative support we offer to the Bible and Common Prayer Book Society, the Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion, and through the Transition Ministry Office.

Overall it seems to me that we need to increase our churchwide networking, resource banks, and best practices for teaching and baptizing new members.

The Third mark of mission is responding to human need with loving service.
We are connected with many groups in the broader church who have this kind of mission as their central reason for existence, particularly Episcopal Relief & Development and Episcopal Migration Ministries, and the United Thank Offering, to whom we offer office space and administrative support.  We also engage Anglican Communion partnerships for this form of mission, particularly as they equip others in other parts of the church.

Particular initiatives in our Church over the last triennium have addressed this kind of mission through the domestic poverty initiative, particularly in the Native American community, and in our Jubilee ministries.

The Fourth mark of mission: To transform unjust structures of society.

This is the primary work of the Office of Government Relations and their outreach through Episcopal Public Policy Network.  We also do this work through out environmental and economic justice office.  We continue to exercise a ministry of thought leadership – through promoting conversation in churchwide and regional dialogues, theological encounters.  We need to do more of this.

We are planning a poverty and environment summit being for next spring.  The Intersection of Environment and Poverty will be held Saturday April 21, the day before Earth Day.  You will hear more about this example of churchwide thought leadership we can offer.

This Church teaches about transforming injustice through the House of Bishops pastoral letters and teachings on racism, immigration, and the environment.  We do it through support for renewing dioceses and those in crisis – another example of the preferential option for the poor.  We work to transform injustice through the Anglican Communion and other partnerships – and I question if we are always doing this in a just way as we provide funds (e.g., for diocesan budget support) within and beyond the church.  Are we are we fostering continued dependency, or transformation and growth?

We work to transform injustice through our work with the United Nations Consultation on the Status of Women; we do it through our focus on the Millennium Development Goals, especially the ones about women’s empowerment, and equal access to education.

The fifth mark of mission: To care for the earth. 

This is the one that has been most ignored by the church through its history.  I see an ongoing and urgent need for increased networking and resource banks.


We should be building budgets that clearly reflect our commitment to mission.  We should be doing it in a spirit of stewardship of human vocational resources (the gifts of each member of the body of Christ), in the stewardship of finances, and the stewardship of creation.

Here is a caveat:  the dollars spent on an issue or item do not necessarily reflect the value placed on an area of mission.  We should not judge the value of the work by the budgeted dollar amount, though we should attend to whether or not all areas of mission are considered.

I said before that we would talk more about UTO.  A cogent piece of the UTO report says, “here is good reason to believe that the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society/The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church has become an increasingly regulatory corporation in its almost 100 year history.  That is, it has moved from being a source of missionary vision to being a source of regulation of vision articulated elsewhere.”

Can the budget we produce be (or become) a source of leadership and vision for the wider church and indeed for the wider world?

Can we relinquish an excessive focus on control, in favor of networked sharing of information and resources in the service of mission?

Can we lead, or will we continue to be primarily focused on regulation?

I intend these questions as a significant challenge for this Executive Council and for the General Convention.
 
We need to be visionary leaders.

The lively conversations around the Church on structural and canonical shifts or changes or revisions are encouraging the Church to focus on mission.  Diocesan structures are one place where these issues are emerging all over.  Do we have too many, are the boundaries in the right places, should they be redrawn in the interest of mission? 

Dioceses are a good example in that they are both theological and administrative constructs.  I wonder if we have let the administrative structure overwhelm the theological sense that the whole body of Christ is best imaged when all orders of ministry are gathered. 

Are we willing to use criteria like a preferential option for the poor, in tension with good stewardship, to adequately support mission efforts in dioceses?  Do we need to reinstitute missionary dioceses or districts?  And then support them adequately for mission, to eventually be self-sufficient, self-governing, and self-propagating?

More than anything else, I want to know if we are willing to offer up the sacred cows in the cause of God’s mission.  I think it was Bill Easum who said that sacred cows make holy hamburger. 

What are the things that we individually and collectively believe are not open to change?

What seems non-negotiable to you?  Is it a sacred cow?  Could it be holy hamburger to feed somebody?  Or could it be a donkey that might bear Jesus and also some of his redemptive ministry?

This is challenging work, but it is also like the road Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the road of hosannas and alleluias for the presence of Jesus in our midst.  Just remember that it leads to sacrifice, a making holy for the whole creation.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

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Links:
Video: Presiding Bishop opens Executive Council: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/index.htm
The Episcopal Church: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/
Executive Council: http://generalconvention.org/ec