The final report of the Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church lays a foundation for the strategic thought and action which is necessary to serve God’s mission in the 21st century.
The report makes clear the critical structural issues for the church:
- Many churches are financially unsustainable at their current level of operations.
- Our dioceses are operating independently rather than collaboratively, wasting resources in the process.
- Our thinking about clergy compensation does not reflect the current financial realities of our churches.
- Clergy self-financing seminary educations through personal debt are shouldering undue personal risk.
- Too often we have focused more on maintenance inside our buildings than engagement beyond them.
- Too often we are spending down endowed funds to maintain current practices and budgets because we fear change. This is poor stewardship of resources entrusted to us by previous generations.
- There is lack of clarity in the churchwide staff regarding structures of accountability. This lack of clarity has consequences for the entire church.
These issues have been crystal clear to many people for quite a while. (If I had known that my previous post would quickly become the second most-read on the blog this year, I would have included them in my summary!)
However, there has not yet been the kind of leverage at the churchwide level that would enable effective action to address these issues. The TREC report provides that leverage. When the church empowers some of its best thinkers to name structural issues, the church had better follow up on addressing those issues! My hope is that this report will ground and empower the hard work, church by church and diocese by diocese, of evaluating current mission and asset allocation.
Fundamentally, the report calls for a shift in our habits of mind. It asks us to look toward our future with hope, rather than toward our past with nostalgia. This is an approach which reflects God’s call to us in Christ. It is the only appropriate way forward for people who claim to be His disciples.
TREC offers us a beautiful paradigm in their reflection on Christ’s instructions to the apostles. This is how much I liked it:
— Nurya Love Parish (@nurya) December 17, 2014
Even though I am hopeful, I also have to acknowledge that I am afraid. My fear is that the church will focus on the proposed changes to General Convention and overlook the core issue named in the report: we have largely failed to think strategically and allocate assets effectively to serve God’s mission in the 21st century. This is essentially a prophetic message. If we ignore it, we will endure the consequences.
Although I am sure much virtual ink will be spilled regarding the proposed shifts to General Convention, those shifts are not the most important part of the report. What is most important are the hard conversations in the many locations where Christ has called together a body of people under the rubrics of the Episcopal Church. What is most important is not the report itself, but the work the report calls on all of us to do.
So, church, let’s get to work. Frank Logue has already started filling in the blanks of the report, offering a proposal for equalizing funding for the churchwide budget. My next step is to complete a post about the dangers of networks (as a network founder and participant myself!) which will run in this space next
week month. I’d love to know what you are doing, and what you are thinking about doing, in your neck of the woods.
We have to remember: the structure is not the church. All whom God has called in Christ to serve in this cell of his Body are the church. Each of us has a part to play in practicing resurrection.
What are you considering as your response to the TREC report?