Support for the goals of the Episcopal Church's 20/20 initiative has been expressed by the Standing Commission for Small Congregations, which met in late March at the Bishop Mason Center in the Diocese of Dallas.
While supporting the goals of church growth and renewed missionary endeavor, the standing commission also plans to work with the 20/20 strategy group to 'make sure that the language used is not threatening to small congregations,' said Ramona Burroughs of South Dakota, co-chair of the commission.
Many small churches are in communities that are not growing, and there needs to be 'consideration for their vitality,' said the Very Rev. H. W. Herrmann of the Diocese of Quincy. 'There are different ways to measure vitality,' he added.
Showing understanding for the condition of small churches should be a factor in the 20/20 plans because, according to statistics compiled by the national church, 'two-thirds of all Episcopalians worshipping on any Sunday worship in a church with 100 or fewer in the congregation,' he added.
That statistic was clarified by Lee Clark, manager of parochial report systems for the office of the General Convention. 'It is understandable that on hearing 'two-thirds of Episcopal churches have 100 or fewer worshipers in their pews on an average Sunday,' one could jump to believing,or thinking they had heard that two-thirds of Episcopalians worship in churches of 100 or less in attendance,' he commented. 'But the fact is that 59% of all Episcopal churches have attendance of 100 or fewer on an average Sunday. When the sum total of all attending those churches on an average Sunday is added up, it comes to just over 207,000 Episcopalians. This represents 24% of the total of all who are worshiping (855,761) in all Episcopal churches (7299) on an average Sunday in the year 2000.'
Many of those churches are in dioceses that utilize clergy trained and ordained under the church's local ministry, or Canon 9 model, which the standing commission is on record as favoring. The standing commission also voted to work with the Standing Commission for Ministry Development in monitoring proposed changes in the ministry canons that may be proposed at the 2003 General Convention.
'We are also encouraging small congregations and the rest of the church to be more intentional about involving the youth' in all facets of the church's life, said Burroughs. 'They are not just the hope for the future, but they are the church of today.' She added that she would be in conversation with the 20/20 strategy group to express the position taken by the standing commission.