House of Bishops Daily Account for Monday, September 20

Here’s the Daily Account for the HOB meeting, as published by The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs. In particular I recommend the reflections toward the end of this post on mission and ministry in the church.

  • The day began with a celebration of the Holy Eucharist keeping the feast of James Coleridge Patteson and the Martyrs of Melanesia, after which the bishops gathered with the bishops of their province for conversation on a variety of topics.
  • The House reconvened in the afternoon and discussed “The Changing Contexts for Evangelism in the Third Millennium: Developing Leadership for Evangelism.” During this portion of the program, the bishops heard from:
  • Bishop Diane Bruce of Los Angeles addressed the changing demographics of congregations, stressing that what is necessary is the three-fold welcome of radical hospitality, listening, and love. Time is needed to learn about the community, to “honor and welcome those among us” through language needs as well as community needs, such as a communal meal after service (important in the Asian populations).
  • Bishop Michael Smith of North Dakota said his diocese is racially diverse, with six First People congregations on four reservations, as well as those of Swedish descent and Sudanese; one-quarter of the clergy are people of color, 50-50 split of men and women.  He believes people need to grow in their own sense of discipleship He further believes there needs to be an invitation to grow as disciples, which requires people willing to be transformed from church members to actual disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • The Rev. Bob Honeychurch, Missioner for Congregational Vitality for The Episcopal Church, noted, “We live in a world where people have concerns about spiritual issues. They come looking for God and we give them church.  They come looking for a transformative experience, and we give them a pledge card or time and talent survey.”  He said that developing leaders for evangelism – both lay and ordained – is about bringing message on how people’s lives can be changed.
  • Donald Romanik, President of the Episcopal Church Foundation, talked about leadership for evangelism,  presenting four ideas for consideration: reclaiming the church’s missionary roots; revamping ordination processes that raise up clergy who have the ability to be evangelists; develop appropriate processes for discernment of leadership; and reforming the church’s governing structures, which inhibit rather than enhance local communities. He called for “thoughtful, prayerful and contextual ways for people in our congregations to discern appropriate roles.”
  • Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook, professor at Claremont School of Theology, Claremont CA, said, “Jesus is irresistible.” Noting that Jesus taught and people followed him, she believes that we need to return to that.  How we talk about Jesus is a key to our future. There is a yearning for authentic community, which she defined as “that piece of the human soul that is only satisfied by God.” She called a toolkit “an orientation, skill training, openness” that is presented so “people can be equipped to do the ministry that they are called to do.” She added that “key to the missionary movement in this century is to learn how to be Christians in religious pluralism.”
  • The Rev. Jim Lemler, an author and  rector of Christ Church Greenwich CT, asked what it means to be transformed by the holy, and how are we transformed by it?  Noting that we are living in a time of immense change, he asserts that transformation is coming through experience of souls.  He said the task for leaders is to transform and allow God to transform leadership, vocation, scriptural understanding, prayer, and more.  Defining transformation  as “change, renewal, restoration,” he added, “As we approach transformation we are doing it in a time of unparalleled change.”
  • Barbara Wheeler, a leading expert in theological education from Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City, discussed forming leadership in today’s and tomorrow’s context, making two predictions: in the third millennium, North Americans will choose their own religious affiliation rather than having it defined by ethnicity, upbringing or other factors; and there will be less religious adherence in the coming years since patterns of belonging are quickly changing. For religious leadership, the model that has dominated mainline religions since 1950s is no longer going to work.  Religion has become intensely private.  A different kind of ministry is needed,  powerfully learned, with access to info instant, and consummate communication skills are required.  She stressed the importance of seminaries and education to the Episcopal Church’s identity and its preparation for mission in the future.
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