Saturday, November 3, 2012

Marks of Mission v. Fiscal Responsibility

This past All Saints Day I attended a wonderful service at Saint Luke's and Saint Simon Cyrene Episcopal Church in Rochester.  We were reminded that sainthood is not something we limit to a select few in the Episcopal Church.  The Very Reverend Michael Hopkins talked about being asked about the requirements to attain sainthood in our church in his homily.  "Birth," he replied, "and Baptism helps."

The Holy Spirit was palpably present in the room, as names of the faithful departed were read aloud in mass by congregation.  This tapered into the single voice of the priest reading the names of all those who have died so far this year by gun violence in the city of Rochester.  It was somber reminder of the work that remains for us to "respect the dignity of every human being."

At Our General Convention this year much of our deliberation focused around the 5 Anglican Marks of Mission.  Here they are from the original document "Bonds of Affection" (1984):
To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
To respond to human need by loving service
To seek to transform unjust structures of society
To stive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth  
These drove much of our discussions and the decisions about reorganization and the budget in Indianapolis.  It helped us have serious discussions, establish committees to prepare for our next meeting in 2015 and pass a budget that recognized the tension of fiscal responsibility and our call to be visionary. To be be mission driven.

Following the service on Thursday, the District (Deanery) meeting began.  This is the meeting to prepare us for our Convention next weekend.  For the better part of 90 minutes facts and figures were presented.  Questions were asked about many of the details,  "Were we drawing down the endowment too fast?"  "Were we spending too much on administrative salaries?"  To be sure these are important considerations, but there was something completely absent from the discussion: Mission.

As I sat and listened my spirit became darker and darker.  Where was the soul of the church?  Where was the the forward, out the box, progressive thinking?  Where indeed was the Holy Spirit?

I became so convinced that She had fled the room in horror that I could no longer stand being in this spiritually smothering place and left.

I did not stand, as The Spirit was calling me to do, and say, "At any moment Jesus will walk in here and turn over the tables of the money changers! What kind of church is this?"

I am a candidate for the Standing Committee.  Part of what inhibited me was the fear that I might not be elected if I spoke what I was feeling.

After reflection I realize that if the church wants another money manager in leadership, it is not me and so be it.

I am so proud of the progressive actions taken by the Episcopal Church, so convinced that they are what Jesus Christ wants us to be and do, that I want us to shout about this to the world.  I think if the Church does not do this it will die.  All the pretty buildings will be museums or wedding halls and our mission will be put in the hands of those whose understanding of Christianity baffles me.

I KNOW there are others who feel this way.

The more we disconnect our parishes from the Diocese and therefore from the provincial and global church, the less likely we are to be able to spread the Good News (Gospel) effectively.  We are not a parochial church and yet our distrust of the Diocese and its ability to work with parishes effectively has made us less and less episcopal.

It is the balance of episcopal structure, our wider church polity and our parish life that will allow us to do the good works we are called to do.

This takes people at all levels that follow through on their ideas, let go of their territorial inclinations and  trust that we are on holy catholic and apostolic church.

How do we as parishes, districts, a diocese and a Church balance mission and fiscal responsibility.  I don't have an answer, but I can say that the mission will not happen if it is not discussed as a part of the budget. Our budget must be spiritually driven.  Mission driven.  We must seriously consider the Marks of Mission and our Baptismal Covenant in everything we do.

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