The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of WhereEver have long and grand traditions of creative use of resources for Christian mission. Here locally we have *** years created a great number of parish churches, hospitals, schools, community services organizations and provided an environment to educate and deploy lay and clergy leadership locally, nationally and for the Anglican Communion worldwide.
We know we are immersed in a new era of national, local and congregational life that challenge us and require a new focus for a radical reallocation of our financial, physical and human resources. We know we have hit a powerful spiritual downward headwind that causes us fear that we can no longer cope effectively. This fear is born of scarcity. Our fear causes us to see our situation and mission as fatally threatened.
However, the true compass of faith is the Word, Sacrament with the annual liturgical cycle which we know by experience and hope overcomes pain, suffering and death. All causes of fear are finally transformed by casting our vision toward the resurrection to eternal life and full promise of life and love in the Trinity. When we review our diocesan and congregational histories and our personal circumstances, we are to be guided in faith and hope and lead by the the power and promise of Abundant Life.
Abundance is the real dynamic, overwhelming force of life. Therein we can find renewal. We must see what we have and who we are by discovering the hidden pearls, the dust covered gems in our storehouse of mission lessons, our tales of joy and wonder, that are the vital aspects of our oral and written memories. To do so will allow us an imaginative and rational basis to make challenging and clear decisions about how we structure our circumstance and how we allocate our resources. We need to become once again rigorous and impassioned disciples and the embodiment of hope.
To do so will require historic analysis and a full review of the success and errors of mission in our Anglican tradition, our Episcopal Church, of the Diocese of WhereEver and our local congregations over the last two hundred years. These are some of review tasks:
-the 20th century development of a postcolonial vision of national churches called Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence (MRI) and its organizational development from the 1960’s.
-the further evolution of MRI into the implementation of stewardship education, capital funding and planned giving and its ultimate success in Venture in Mission as the single largest capital funding in North American Church history by the mid 1980’s, our last period of recorded growth, and with it the reintroduction of the legislated leadership principle and practice of tithing.
-the rise of suburban mission development out of urban city and small town/rural congregations and the decline of all these entities over the last 50 years.
-a full diagnosis of our various corporate system failures that have inhibited our regrowth.
In the immediate circumstance and as a show of good faith, we should ask for and legislate a seven year plan to reallocate all but a basic 10% of diocesan assessments from congregations back to them for mission development. The plan would include the following:
1. A progressive decline of congregational assessments to 10% of net parochial income (not monies from capital funding and certain existing mission work) commencing in the third year of the plan for five years so that the diocese can deal with the change incrementally rather than all at once.
2. The first two year period as the implementation of the educational and organizational requirements as noted above.
3. A firm commitment and plan of each congregation to use their extra monies for mission development and their collection of personal or family tithing commitment statements at a minimum of 33% of the households by the end of two years at the latest.
4. A commitment statement of the Bishop(s) with a personal witness to tithing, to reduce the cost of his ministry and staffing by the end of the second year.
5. A collective statement of the Bishop, Staff, Council, Standing Committee, other official committees and commissions and Diocesan Convention to tithing and plan to provide on site, local leadership to facilitate the plan with the congregations.
6. A commitment of the Bishops, etc. to a plan for discussion with Dioceses of X, Y and Z regarding the merger of as many jurisdictional and ministry functions as possible in order to free up all existing physical, financial and human resources for mission and supportive ministry and implementation.
7. At the end of sixth year, a full and open accounting of all work in progress to be in draft form for the review of Diocesan Convention.
8. At the end of seven years, the Diocese of WhereEver will report the changes extensively and be able to start the next seven year cycle of mission development and will state its next step in mission.