From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Episcopal Evangelism plan calls for more members by 2020
Daphne Mack <firstname.lastname@example.org>
24 Jul 2000 10:42:35
For more information:
Episcopal News Service
Evangelism plan calls for doubled membership by 2020
by Jan Nunley
(ENS-DENVER) When the "Decade of Evangelism" kicked off at
the Diocese of North Carolina's Kanuga Conference Center in 1990,
there were high hopes that the 20th century's last decade would
usher in a new era of cooperation and unity in the Episcopal
Church. But the next ten years were more like a "decade of
factionalism," with three of the most contentious General
Conventions in the church's history. Even a 2.4% increase in
average Sunday attendance from 1993-1997 was overshadowed by
bitter--and very public--debates over women's ordination and
The debates aren't over. But the deputies and bishops
attending the 73rd General Convention in Denver, sadder but
perhaps wiser about the commitments necessary for successful
growth, adopted an even more ambitious goal. The Convention
approved a "20/20 vision" for the Episcopal Church that calls for
doubling baptized membership within 20 years (A033a) and
established an "Alleluia Fund" (A034s) for new church development
and congregational revitalization.
Retooling the church for mission
The "20/20: A Clear Vision" plan takes its name from a
seminal meeting in the Diocese of Texas in the fall of 1998,
where Bishop Claude Payne and members of his staff shared with
Episcopalians from all over their "clear vision of one church"
constituted as "a community of miraculous expectation." A repeat
of the conference was held in the fall of 1999.
The Diocese of Texas is now four years into a goal of
growing by 200,000 baptized members within 10 years. The mission
imperative was also sparked by a 1998 St. Louis gathering called
"Congregations in Ministry: The Next 8 Years," at which the
largely online Episcopal Network for Evangelism was formed
The new evangelism thrust has several interlocking
components. First is the enabling resolution, A033a, which sets
forth the "domestic mission imperative" of doubling growth by
2020. The suggested means to accomplish such growth include
"creative strategies for evangelism; prayer and spiritual
development; recruiting and equipping innovative leaders;
strengthening congregational life; [and] focusing on children,
youth and campus ministries."
To make certain that vision is implemented, Executive
Council is directed to establish a "20/20" task force (A034s)
whose goals include "recruiting, educating and training
evangelists and church planters who were born after 1964 and/or
are people of color," and training leaders in second-language
skills and cross-cultural sensitivity. The task force has a year
to report back to Executive Council.
Mindful that nothing gets done in the church without money,
another component of the plan is the establishment of the
"Alleluia Fund: Build My Church," a new initiative to provide
funding for new church planting and revitalization of existing
congregations. Money for the Alleluia Fund will be gathered
during Easter 2002 and presented on the Day of Pentecost 2002, a
process to be continued for the next 10 years.
A "census" of church membership will be conducted by
Executive Council with a target date of January 1, 2005 (A101a).
Another survey, by the Standing Commission on Ministry
Development, will be completed with an eye toward more closely
defining statistically who is and who isn't a "confirmed"
Episcopalian (A103a). Evangelism efforts are also to be extended
to singles (A037a) and children (D045a).
Not just another "two decades of evangelism"
Some have questioned whether the church is simply plunging
from its ill-fated Decade of Evangelism into "two decades of
evangelism" that may be just as disappointing. But the difference
between the 20/20 plan and the Decade of Evangelism, say
proponents, is that the Decade lacked some critical components
for success: a clear goal, a clear plan, and some means to
"We just haven't been taking evangelism and Christian
education/formation seriously--meaning seriously enough to
organize to get them accomplished well, and in a major way,"
writes Ted Mollegen, a deputy from Connecticut. Mollegen is a
member of the Standing Commission on Domestic Mission and
Evangelism, and founding member of the Episcopal Network for
Evangelism (ENE). "Our general denominational attitude seems to
have been that those who ought to become Episcopalians will
probably find a way to do so," he said.
Mollegen says the numbers don't indicate an evangelistic
advantage for either side in the debates that roil the church:
sexuality, women's ordination, or liturgical style. What does
work is a commitment to mission, rather than maintenance of
existing structures and systems.
--The Rev. Jan Nunley is director of communications for the
Diocese of Rhode Island.
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