Committee plans further study of small congregation resolution

July 4, 2018

[Episcopal News Service] The Christian Formation and Discipleship legislative committee on July 4 formed a sub-committee to further study a consolidated resolution that proposes the creation of a referral hub and provide additional resources for clergy and lay leadership development in small congregations.

Consolidated Resolution A022 was submitted to the committee by the Task Force on Clergy Leadership Formation in Small Congregations. The revised resolution combines Resolutions A022-26 into one proposal and reduces the initial budget request to $300,000 from $900,000.

Full ENS coverage of the 79th General Convention is available here.

Consolidated Resolution A022 asks that the 79thGeneral Convention, meeting in Austin, Texas, direct that a Theological Education Networking Team (TENT) be established to serve as a networking referral hub for existing and specially developed resources for the discernment, theological education and formation of clergy and licensed lay vocations in small congregations, which comprise 69 percent of Episcopal churches.

The team would be available by telephone and email to individuals, clergy, commissions on ministry, discernment committees, congregations and dioceses and would eventually create a website of curated resources for users to evaluate the suitability of approaches, strategies and materials for their particular needs and contexts.

The resolution grew out of the task force, which was formed three years ago at the 78thGeneral Convention to “develop a plan for quality formation for clergy in small congregations that is affordable, theologically reflective and innovative.”

The task force concluded that there is “already a wealth of resources available for leadership formation” from many different cultural and theological orientations, yet there is a lack of awareness of the existence of the resources, staff to access them and a “siloing” effect that hinders the sharing of resources throughout the Episcopal Church.

Availability of “appropriate and culturally-sensitive vocational discernment and formation materials and strategies for clergy leaders called from ethnic minority communities” was also found to be lacking.  And “there is also a clear need for greater availability of suitable resources in Spanish,” the task force found.

The legislative committee heard a half-dozen speakers voice their support of the task force’s proposed resolution. “We welcome a fellow network joining us in our work. We support the intent of this,” said William Campbell, executive director of Forma, an organization that provides professional opportunities and resources to clergy and lay leaders in the Episcopal Church.

The committee wrestled over lack of specifics in the resolution, such as the source of funding, who the team reported to, the amount of time team members would spend on the project and whether the educational resources were already available and could lead to the duplication of efforts.

Committee member Kay Bowman-Harvey, a deputy from Oklahoma, expressed concern that the consolidated resolution was “way too cumbersome” and that she needed a “better clarification of what we’re actually looking at.”

“I think it needs some shape,” said the Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa.

Another concern was the lack of emphasis placed on developing lay leadership in small congregations. However, the Rev. Susanna Singer explained to the committee that the primary charge given the task force was to focus on clergy rather than lay leadership. Singer served as chair of the task force and is also associate professor of ministry development at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California.

The sub-committee’s job will be to review consolidated Resolution A022, address concerns expressed by committee members and return with any recommended changes. The legislative committee also asked the sub-committee to review Resolution A055 to determine whether it should be incorporated into an omnibus resolution with Resolution A022 or continue to stand on its own.

Resolution A055 would have the 79thGeneral Convention “invite the multicultural ministers” of the church to further develop “channels and pathways for sharing he gifts of ministry that exist in abundance in our Black, Latino/Hispanic, Asian American and Native communities with the wider church.”

In discussing the resolutions, the committee expressed an interest in weighing how to balance the various funding requests coming before it during the General Convention.

– Mike Patterson is a San Antonio-based freelance writer and correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. He is a member of ENS General Convention reporting team and can be reached at rmp231@gmail.com.