The Congregational Ministries staff at the Episcopal Church Center will be reconfigured as a response to the 20/20 initiatives and to help guide the Episcopal Church to a mission-oriented outlook.
The changes raise the profile of women’s and ethnic ministries; their directors, who have yet to be hired, as well as the director of congregational development, the Rev. Charles N. Fulton III, will report to the assistant to the presiding bishop for program, Sonia Francis.
Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold reported the staff changes to Executive Council at its San Antonio meeting on February 22. He said the ethnic ministries staff will focus more strongly on congregational development, rather than advocacy. That function will be shared more with the peace and justice staff, including the Washington office. Griswold also underscored the role of local congregations in advocacy work.
“We have come to a new place with regard to ethnic ministries,” Griswold told the council. “In a church free of the sin of racism and the other ‘isms,’ there would be no need for a focus upon particular ethnic groups and identities because the church, in all its variations, would reflect the fullness of Christ and the face of Christ, and be transformed by the multiplicity of languages, races and the cultural particularities incarnate in the members of Christ’s risen body. But we have not yet become who we are called to be.
“Given that, it has become clear that our best energies in seeking to serve the ethnic communities need to be focused on congregational development and clergy recruitment. This is in line with the vision of 20/20, the mission energies around the church, and the demographics of our nation.”
The new cluster will focus on African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic and Native American congregations and on recruiting clergy among those groups.
On the hiring of the new ethnic-ministry staff, Francis said, “It is a completely open process. It’s open to everyone and the current people can reapply for the new positions.”
Enthusiastic reports from Camp Allen
Executive Council also heard from three young adults who took part in the 20/20 meeting at Camp Allen in January.
The Rev. Winnie Varghese of Los Angeles said, “What was hopeful about our time together was that we were all churches that are growing, that are alive.”
Varghese noted that the church needs to seek out new kinds of leaders. “What we want is not necessarily people who know how to be inside church but those who can be leaders in our communities. ... We’re not so much challenged by what it is but by what it can be in our lifetime.”
S. Dylan Breuer, director of youth ministries for the Gathering in Frederick, Maryland, said she arrived at Camp Allen with “some substantial concerns about 20/20 but when I left I was a booster.”
Breuer said the group of 65 who met included many faces who were new to others. “There was a lot of surprise expressed, sort of ‘Where have you been hiding?’ and we hadn’t been hiding; we had been out there working.”
She emphasized the importance of bringing the enthusiasm of the group to the rest of the church. “People who have no sense of ownership have a very high chance of becoming resisters,” she noted, adding, “If we’re going to be a truly multicultural and inclusive community we need to get that into the drinking water.”
The final speaker was the Rev. Timothy Jones of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a deacon who will be ordained priest on April 21. He suggested several ways in which to attract new members, including emphasizing music as a mission strategy in the congregation, developing more Spanish-language liturgies and resources. In addition, “We suggest looking at all kinds of ways to lower the defenses, to make worship less intimidating, less confusing to newcomers.”
He urged the council to adopt the 20/20 group’s “missionary zeal” and asked the church repent of “our failure to commend to others that faith that is in us.”
Two members of the council who are part of the 20/20 teams also reported on the Camp Allen meeting.
The Rev. Kwasi Thornell of Southern Ohio said he hoped the council recognized “the change in tone from vision to movement that has taken place. ... This is not the Decade of Evangelism, folks. This is about changing the church and making it a reflection of God’s community.”
The Rev. Anthony Guillén of Los Angeles praised the Camp Allen meeting. “It was so colorful, it was energetic and it was unlike almost any conference you attend because we heard from almost no one”: almost the entire time was spent in team meetings. Guillén also noted the “energized presentation by our presiding bishop. He was almost dancing off the stage. ... He really brought tremendous energy and passion to that conversation.”
In a press conference during the council meeting, Griswold spoke of the potential impact on the church of the “many young people in the Episcopal Church who are just waiting to be recognized, who are just waiting for their energies to be released.”
He said 20/20 offers the church “the invitation to become a much more multicultural church. We are still essentially white Anglo-Saxon and increasingly there are other cultures that are in our cities and at our doors.” Using the image of “leaven in the dough,” he said the question for Episcopalians is “how is our church going to be reflecting the face of Christ in the years ahead.”