From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Council told 20/20 needs data, clergy, funding to succeed

Date 09 Feb 2001 13:33:17


Council told 20/20 needs data, clergy, funding to succeed

by Jan Nunley

     (ENS) It's hard to know where you're going if you don't know where you've 

     That was the conclusion reached by the Executive Council's Congregations in 
Ministry committee, after hearing from the Rev. Richard Kew on progress made by 
the council's "20/20" evangelism task force. The committee met during the 
February 5-8 gathering of Executive Council in Parsippany, New Jersey.

     While "20/20" takes its name from the goal of doubling baptized membership 
by the year 2020, Kew said that in many cases the Episcopal Church's database 
about itself is so sparse that "we don't know what we're doubling." And baptized 
membership may not be the right thing to double anyway. "Membership is 
'Christendom' language," he added. "We're in a post-Christian world. We should be 
talking about doubling the number of worshipers."

     Key aspects of the church's life--population demographics, attendance 
figures, financial information--simply haven't been consistently tracked since 
the disappearance of a separate planning and evaluation office from the Episcopal 
Church Center in the late 1960s. 

     Two resolutions from the 2000 General Convention address the need: 
Resolution A101, calling for a comprehensive demographic census of the church by 
January 1, 2005, and A133, calling on Executive Council to develop a plan for 
data gathering and dissemination. Both resolutions were referred to the 
Congregations in Ministry committee.

Altering the culture

     Kew, a self-described "pastor, writer, speaker, future watcher, innovator, 
and leader of mission" based in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, told the committee that 
the commitment to 20/20 evangelism represents, not another program, but "a 
movement to alter the culture of the Episcopal Church." He predicted that, with 
"60 to 75%" of the existing clergy roster retiring in the next 15 years, 10,000 
new clergy would be needed in the next 20 years to meet ministry needs, and that 
they would have to be "not yesterday's professional priest, but tomorrow's 
missionary pastors"--men and women equipped to transform parishioners from 
"consumers of religious product into disciples." 

     Church planting, Kew said, will be a key component in the success of 20/20. 
"The Episcopal Church will need to plant 2,500 new congregations in the next 20 
years," he said. "To give you a benchmark, we have only planted 360 congregations 
in the last 10 years." 80% of the growth needed to make the 20/20 goal will come 
from new church plants, Kew maintained, and the other 20% will occur in the 
transformation of existing congregations.

The price tag

     But growth comes with a price tag. "We have to be prepared to use energy and 
money to get people in," he warned. "I don't think General Convention realized 
what it was getting into." According to his estimates, it will take at least 
$100-250 million dollars to do the job, putting the finances of the Episcopal 
Church on what Kew termed "a war economy basis." The alternative, he said, is 
continuing demographic decline: "Congregations that open their doors and wait for 
people to come in are dying." 

     Bishop Catherine Roskam, suffragan of New York, agreed. "The statistics show 
that Episcopalians bring a person to church once every 38 years," she commented. 
"I tell people 'you have 19 years to bring someone in'."

     After the ministry committee reported back to a plenary session of Executive 
Council, the council voted to support a data gathering working group already in 
place and requested that the presiding bishop appoint a liaison to the working 
group and report back at the council's fall meeting.

--The Rev. Jan Nunley is deputy director of the Episcopal Church's Office of News 
and Information. 

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