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The Task Force for Re-Imagining the Episcopal Church (TREC) met July 12-13 at the Maritime Institute of Technology in Linthicum, Maryland. The following is a report on their work.
The Task Force for Re-Imagining the Episcopal Church
Background, challenge, and learning
Since our initial meeting in February, we have been working in smaller groups to
1) ensure that all of our members have a common understanding of our current structures, governance and administration;
2) research both successful and unsuccessful attempts at large-scale change in other Christian traditions, in our own history as The Episcopal Church, and in other kinds of organizations, and consult with individuals who helped lead those efforts;
3) develop a common understanding of the central marks of Episcopal identity from the vast work that has already been done in that area; and
4) establish the building blocks for a broad churchwide engagement process that we believe will be a critical piece of our work. We heard reports from each of these smaller working groups. Two of the groups offered written reports, and those are available on our website (www.reimaginetec.org) or here: http://reimaginetec.org/july-2013-meeting-report/
Our greatest challenge so far has been developing a common understanding of the proper scope of our mandate. We are very conscious of the extraordinary energy and consensus demonstrated by the 77th General Convention about the need for bold and large-scale change in our church. Our work thus far has consisted of vigorous and Spirit-filled conversations about the best ways The Episcopal Church might begin to affect the kind of change that was called for and needed, and what specific areas in our common life are most in need of the kind of reform that convention called for.
At least two important principles have emerged from our conversations and our research:
1) Structural, administrative, and governance change is only one component of the renewal to which the church is being called to. Our deepest hope and prayer for our work is that it will be part of, and will continue to catalyze, the renewal that is taking place in many places around the church.
2) In order for structural, administrative, and governance reforms to be compelling and to effect meaningful change, they must be grounded in a coherent vision for what those structures are supposed to do in the life of the church.
Our plan moving forward
To that end, we organized into two main working groups for the next phase of our task. The first will continue to research and begin to codify the broad principles and vision for the overarching purpose of our structures. We have defined a rough working draft of principles based on the Episcopal identity research and will refine those over the next two months. We have also begun to define the specific areas within churchwide governance, structure and administration that they will review as part of their work.
The other working group will focus on moving our engagement efforts toward the kind of broad, proactive, and intentional churchwide conversation that is both mandated by the resolution CO95, and which will be an important piece of any meaningful change the church ultimately adopts. We will begin that process in earnest in early September, and we will use this process to share and test our emerging work on principles and scope with the church as it develops. We hope to share our preliminary work around vision and principles as part of this engagement process.
We will proactively seek out some groups within the church, both some with particular interests and/or capacity for influence, and some that represent voices not often heard from both within and outside the church. We will also make resources available so that any local or regional group can participate in this wide listening process, and provide their input to us.
Our next full meeting will be held in December. At that meeting, we will receive a report on that listening process, finalize a coherent vision for structural reform that takes into account both our own research and what we have heard from the church, and begin to outline a plan for specific change proposals. Between December 2013 and March 2014, we will begin to develop specific and concrete proposals for reform. Between March 2014 and July 2014, we will take those back to the church for engagement and feedback, before finalizing our report to the 78th General Convention, which must be submitted by November 2014. A copy of our projected work plan is also attached and available on our website.
Funding and the Churchwide gathering
Resolution C095 of the 77th General Convention called upon us to convene a churchwide gathering as part of this engagement process. The resolution also asked for $400,000 to fund our work. The final budget adopted by General Convention included a $200,000 budget for all of our work during the triennium, including meetings, administrative expenses, travel, and the churchwide gathering. The budget we have been allotted will not allow for us to fund the kind of gathering mandated by the resolution (the General Convention Office has estimated that fully funding travel and arrangements for a gathering imagined by the resolution would cost around $450,000).
We are continuing to explore ways of convening either a partially funded gathering, a smaller version of the gathering, several regional gatherings, or some other way of fulfilling the spirit of the resolution within the constraints of our available funds. Additionally, we have solicited and received a $150,000 grant from the Rector and Wardens’ Fund at Trinity Wall Street to assist with this work. We are extraordinarily grateful to Trinity for their generosity and support of our critical task. We welcome input from the church on the best way to fulfill this part of our mandate given our budget constraints.
All our work has been grounded in prayer, and we are at all times seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit for our work. We are deeply grateful to those of you who are watching our work, and in the spirit of the authentic community to which Christ calls us, we hope you will help keep us accountable for the task with which we’ve been entrusted. We are grateful, too, to those of you who are holding this process in prayer. We ask for the continued prayers of the whole church as we move into this next phase of this process, and we very much need your ongoing input in order that the whole church might most faithfully respond to God’s call in this moment.
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