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By Bill Campbell
Executive Director, Forma
“It is my belief that if we are going to be the Church that welcomes everyone, we must be the Church that is also committed to forming everyone. Otherwise we run the risk of being a very lovely visitor center for Jesus, instead of a fully formed and healthy body.” – Jerusalem Greer
Jerusalem’s testimony was delivered to the Programs, Budgets and Finances Committee during a debate on funding Lifelong Formation. There were many impassioned comments from teenagers, “older” adults and professionals in discipleship ministry, but Jerusalem’s comments have stuck in my brain as I’ve moved around this General Convention.
There are many ways that a General Convention is like a fabulous ingathering. Certainly, there is serious work going on here, but it is nice to be surrounded by so many people who are in love with this Church. The question I’m left pondering is how many of these people are equally in love with Jesus?
Think about formation and discipleship as the glue of all that we do. Do we want more evangelists? We must form disciples of Jesus Christ who can share their faith stories. Do we want more reconcilers? We must form disciples of Jesus Christ who are ready to do the work of racial and social reconciliation. Do we want more stewards of Creation? Then we must form disciples of Jesus Christ who understand their place in Creation. Do we want to be a Church ready to embrace the #MeToo movement? We need to form disciples of Jesus Christ who recognize God in their female colleagues.
At a recent conference, our Presiding Bishop said, “Sin is the result of a lack of formation. Racism is a lack of formation.” Let’s extend that idea a bit. If our greatest sins are a lack of formation, why isn’t everything we do pointing us toward further discipleship in Christ? Why aren’t we spending every dime we have, using every bit of energy we have to reorient ourselves to the life and teachings of Jesus?
At this Convention, Bishop Curry introduced us all to a new discipleship tool. “The Way of Love: Practices for Living a Jesus-Centered Life” is a free offering to the Church. We are all invited to take on this new way of living. It is past time for the entire Episcopal Church to acknowledge that we have a Church worth loving, but as Evelyn Underhill once wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, “God is the interesting thing about religion and people are hungry for God.” The Episcopal Church must make intentional Christian Formation the forefront of its action in this world. We must fall more deeply in love with God. Our commitment to Jesus must be lifelong, life-wide and life-deep.
Bill Campbell is the executive director of Forma, an international network for Christian Formation for the Episcopal Church and other Christian denominations.
Photo credit: Celal Kamran (of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry)