Sunday, November 18, 2012

"The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted . . ."

The title of this post is a quotation from the Chicago - Lambeth Quadrilateral, which sets forth an Anglican view about the basis for eventual organic union among Christian Churches.  I'm pondering the nature of the historic episcopate a little more closely these days because I find myself nominated as one of seven candidates to be the XIIth Bishop of Qu'Appelle.

As part of the process, each of the candidates has completed a profile which includes basic curriculum vitae information as well as our responses to three questions regarding the Diocesan Profile (.pdf).  The profiles of all seven candidates can be found here.

Over the next few days, I intend to share my responses to the three questions.
The diocesan profile speaks about the challenge of moving "from a maintenance mentality to a mission mentality." From the evolution of locally ordained leadership to the use of the internet and social networking, from ecumenical partnerships to the renewal of First Nations ministries, the Diocese of Qu'Appelle has often been prepared to experiment and to take risks. Based on your reading of the profile and your knowledge of the diocese, which of these or other opportunities would you see for the diocese to pursue the Great Commission more effectively in the post-Christendom context?
Shifting from the Christendom / Maintenance mentality to a post-Christendom / Mission mentality will have to run significantly deeper than seizing opportunities or engaging in new and experimental approaches. It will require a complete transformation of our understanding of the mission context.
At the Ascension, Jesus tells the Eleven to return to Jerusalem to await the Holy Spirit. And he tells them, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1: 8b). So they go back to Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit comes upon them and they witness to Jesus in Jerusalem. The earliest followers of the Way are comfortable in Jerusalem. They know and understand the religious culture in Jerusalem. They "get" the familiar rhythm of Temple worship. It takes the crisis of the arrest and stoning of Stephen and the subsequent persecution before the early Church is "scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria" (Acts 8: 1b) and "those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word" (Acts 8: 4).
We are comfortable in our parishes and congregations as they are. We know and understand the religious culture of our congregations. We "get" the familiar rhythm of Anglican worship. But like the early Church, we need to be reminded that the mission of the Church is not in here, it’s out there.
The first Mission Action Plan, entirely appropriately, was mostly focussed internally, on equipping current members. This was essential. But the next iteration of the Mission Action Plan needs to shift us to the next phase, so we can be scattered throughout the countryside of Qu’Appelle to proclaim the word.
Initiatives like the Qu’Appelle School for Mission and Ministry can be very effective at equipping us to be Jesus’s witnesses. Regional approaches like the Pelly Deanery mission can strengthen local congregations as centres of mission. Q-Events not only provide useful learning opportunities, but they also help people to realize that they are part of a much larger missionary enterprise. These things prepare us to be scattered.
We need to learn more about the social context we find ourselves in. In the US, almost 20% of adults (almost 33% of adults under 30) now have no religious affiliation. Yet 68% of them believe in God, 41% say they pray regularly, while 18% say they are religious and 37% spiritual but not religious. Only 10% are looking for a faith community, in part because 70% say that religious institutions are too concerned with money and power. These are American numbers, but I doubt the Canadian numbers are that different.
That is our primary mission field. They are not hostile to the Church. They are largely indifferent and they see little to challenge that indifference. Reaching them will require creative, effective and strategic communications using all the tools at our disposal, including stronger online presence and more visible presence in our communities.
In the heart of our see city is one of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Canada. There are people in communities throughout the diocese who are learning that "more stuff" does not fill their spiritual need. There’s mission to be done and there are people who need to hear the Good News. But to tell them this Good News, we need to have the courage to leave our buildings and to go where they are.

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