20/20 energy weaving through convention

July 31, 2003

It’s a movement, not a program. Chances are those at General Convention attending any of the daily 25 legislative committee hearings will hear the term “20/20” as deputies discuss hundreds of resolutions flowing through their hands. That’s just what the 20/20 Strategy Group from the Standing Commission on Domestic Mission and Evangelism hoped would happen. “This is a new vision, a movement to re-form the church for mission in the 21st century. This is a paradigm shift bubbling up in the Episcopal Church in a number of ways,” said Sarah Lawton, strategy group chair. Lawton opened “Who Owns 20/20,” one of five “conversations” drawing hundreds to two-hour presentations on the opening evening of convention. 20/20 is challenging the church to look at itself in dynamic new ways. Though including a goal of doubling churchwide attendance by 2020, the movement is more concerned about proclaiming the Gospel in relevant ways, relating to young people, and changing the culture of the church as it rapidly engages and welcomes all people as the world’s diversity intermingles across oceans and continents. About 110 people gathered for the conversation. They heard statistical data from Kevin Martin of Plano, Texas, who said that if trends continue the way they are now, “a 28-year-old living an average life span would see the complete marginalization of Christianity during his lifetime.” One of six panelists, Martin noted “we are learning to be a missional church in a secular society.” Panelist Kwasi Thornell of Cincinnati noted this will give the church “something to say to these young people who feel they have no hope,” and colleague Winnie Varghese, chaplain at Columbia University, clearly stated, “We are talking about a church we haven’t seen. It hasn’t existed on the face of the planet.” After the one-hour panelist presentation, clergy and lay voices, from teens to retirees, enthusiastically lined up at microphones to talk about how new ideas and cutting-edge ministries were opening exciting opportunities to spread the Gospel. They expressed a dynamic contagion spreading throughout convention. Angela Buckley, a 20-year-old from the Diocese of North Dakota, thanked the church for “empowering teens to take leadership.” Specifically identifying church camp experience, Buckley said, “Give me a Bible and let me preach. We are what you call spirit-filled children. One reason why we’re here is to learn from the past and take the church into the future. We need to get the training we need. There is something in our hearts drawing us to worship. It’s happening in my culture. It’s not about growing up in the church. It’s about what God can do.” Jack Hanstein of Sacramento, Calif., explained one way he experiences bringing generations together. In a mentoring and leadership exchange in his church, “old folks and young people” gather regularly. “Following after school tutoring, children came back to teach old people to use computers.” Twenty-six resolutions are weaving through convention in nine areas touching on leadership, spirituality, prayer and worship, research, new congregational development, vital congregations, the next generation, communication, funding and reporting.