Beyond the resolutions, white papers and even budget numbers that will be debated and parsed in Salt Lake City next year lies an issue that goes to the heart of our identity as the Episcopal Church – our mindset.
A hearty slice of our time together at General Convention will be devoted to “reimagining” our church. The tone and fabric of that conversation have not yet been shaped. But it’s reasonable to assume that at least part of the conversation will focus on efficiencies and “downsizing.” How can we do more, or at least as much, without as many resources?
That’s a conversation that deserves to be front and center. A church that’s more efficient and better organized can be a stronger community for mission. But we need to be wary about how we talk about these financial and structural realities.
It would be all too easy to fall prey to a defeatist attitude – how do we “stop the bleeding,” how do we make the numbers work?
That negative mindset is at odds with the positive opportunities that could lie just ahead for our Church.
Surveys show that many millennials are in search of an inclusive faith community that offers structure and, yes, tradition. (Wouldn’t that be us?) Despite our divisions, the Episcopal Church continues to exercise a leadership role in national affairs that belies our relatively small numbers. The National Cathedral in Washington is truly “national” in a way that extends beyond the community of faith. Bottom line? This is an exciting and important time to be an Episcopalian.
In the Diocese of Virginia, the possibilities are beginning to percolate.
At a time when many churches around the country are being closed, there are rumblings in our Diocese about new opportunities for an “Episcopal presence.” The demand for Latino ministries, in particular, is growing.
There’s more. As a follow-up to a resolution approved at this year’s diocesan Council, a task force is beginning to examine how the vast property holdings of the Diocese, which include 27 churches within a five-mile radius in Northern Virginia, can be creatively used to support new ministry.
The bishop of Virginia, the Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston, believes that a healthy future depends on a Church that’s looking to grow, not to shrink.
So bring on the financial realities, the redundant bureaucracy, and the outdated polices. They all need to be addressed. But let’s make sure that, through prayer and reflection, we leave Salt Lake City invigorated for new ministry, not entangled by the weeds of the past.