Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Mission Shaped Church: Back to the Future II

Note: I want to continue this discussion by presenting some highlights of Zschiele’s vision of what a ‘Missional Church’ looks like at every layer of the church – denominational, diocesan and congregational - as well as an image of each of the orders of ministry: laity, diaconate, priesthood and the episcopacy.

These are some of my notes which I presented as stimulus for discussion. What you will miss, of course, is the conversation we had, the questions and observations that were made. I look forward to your input in the comment section.

First, some understandings of today’s changed context.

“The conception of an ecclesiastical identity at the center of society simply no longer accords with reality. . . . The Episcopal Church counts for a very small and shrinking percentage of the U.S. population. . . .its influence is diminishing along with its members. . . . it’s voice today is generally disregarded.”

“Basic acquaintance with the Christian story can no longer be assumed on any level. “

“ . . . The parish (or neighborhood church) system around which Episcopal diocese are typically organized in the US is increasingly irrelevant. The idea of domain that has long been hallmarks of Anglican conceptions of the episcopate are also under attack: international and missionary bishops . . . have asserted oversight over disaffected conservative congregations in liberal dioceses.” (I would add that we are observing the reverse of this as well.)

Mission Assumptions of Current Polity

“The underlying mission paradigm in Episcopal polity is a Christendom expansion or colonial model. That is, mission is primarily understood as extending the church’s geographical domain into foreign lands. Historically, this has meant extending European culture and political rule alongside the gospel, whether across the US frontier in the 19th Century or overseas through foreign missions. “

“Subsequent to the 1952 International Missionary Council meeting in Willingen, Germany, . . . leading mission theologians sought to reground mission in the doctrine of God, and specifically in the Trinity. . . .expressed as missio Dei – the idea that God is a missionary God. The Father sends the Son, the Father and Son send the Spirit, and the Father, Son and Spirit send the church into the world in mission.”

“Thus, mission is not a church-centered activity but rather a God-centered activity, the essential nature of the church itself.”

“Mission is God’s initiative, in which the church participates.”

“A missional ecclesiology calls for rethinking many basic underlying assumptions about the church and its participation in God’s mission. The church is turned inside out: instead of focusing inward and on tending to its members’ needs, its purpose and primary activities are out in the world as it in God’s redeeming work as sign, foretaste and instrument of the reign of God. Everything the church is and does must be missionary in character. “

“We can no longer portion off mission as a subordinate activity or program of the church.”

“Mission is the very reason for the church’s being and its lifeblood.”

Zscheile notes that the emergence of a ‘Koinonia ecclesiology’ in ecumenical circles has begun to enter into and influence Anglican theology. Koinonia a Greek word that means communion by intimate participation.

Zscheile writes that “Orthodox theologian John D. Zizioulas has been most influential this reconceptualization of human personhood and the nature and organization of the church through the doctrine of the Trinity, particularly as developed by the Cappadocians, emphasizing the social, perichoretic character of the Trinity as opposed to the economic emphasis typical of the West.”

“Koinonia . . . is a more relational, interdependent sense of the self, based in the social Trinity which better reflects the world view and assumptions of the biblical and patristic sources that are so cherished by Anglican theology.”

“[It]. . . invites fresh imagination about human interdependence and communion across racial, tribal, socioeconomic, geographical and cultural boundaries in an increasingly complex world.”

“[It]. . . offers a rich theological framework for reconciled diversity in mission.’

“[It] . . . presents an opportunity to reframe and enrich theological debate within Anglicanism beyond the current polarities . . . it is through communion God seeks to reconcile the world . . . “

“[Koinonia ecclesiology] presents a paradigm for understanding how the church’s diverse structures, bodies, and offices can collaboratively engage in God’s mission, reflecting reconciled diversity aligned in service to the mission of God.”

The Mission-Shaped Church

From “Mission-Shaped Church’ a recent document for the Church of England, puts it this way: “It is not the church of God that has a mission in the world, but the God of mission that has a church in the world . . . God is on the move and the church is always catching up with m. We join his mission. We should not ask him to join ours.”

The Ministry of the Laity

“The tendency of the Reformation was to define the church not according to the four marks of the Nicene Creed (one, holy, catholic and apostolic), but rather as a place where certain things happen, generally performed by clergy (preaching, administration of the sacraments . . . church discipline).”

“As long as the focus remains on the gathering to the exclusion of the sending, the church will lose sight of its missionary character: it will lose sight of the fact that the frontline missionares are not intended to be specialists sent overseas but rather ordinary Christians in their daily spheres of influence.”

“What that would mean for Episcopal polity is to assert a priority on the ministry of the laity in the world as the primary expression of the ministry of the church.”

The Ministry of the Congregation

“Congregations are local expressions of the gathered church organized around core missional practices that enable all of they members to reach maturity in mission wile at the same time serving as signs, foretastes, and instruments of the reign of God in their own right.”

“These core missional practices include the classical activities of
Worship (leiturgia)

Witness (martyria)

Fellowship (koinonia)

Service (diakonia)

Proclamation (kerygma)

“The congregation is a local manifestation of the reconciled diversity of the reign of God”

“At its grass roots level, Episcopal life has moved from preoccupation with the intricacies of denominational life toward a practical focus on local community and mission” (William Sachs)

The Ministry of the Diocese

“Congregations are connected together into the koinonia of a diocese, itself a regional representation of reconciled diversity. “

“Diocese might more appropriately be recast today, from the Christendom domains of hierarchical authority and regulation to apostolic networks that serve to support, equip, and unify local mission outposts.”

“There are two challenges inherent in network organizations that must be attended to. The first is that networks depend on teamwork and relationships that must be led, managed and facilitated. The second is that thee diversity fostered by networks requires the intentional cultivation and maintenance of a unifying identity.”

“The ministry of the diocese is to support, equip and empower local congregations and their members for mission through missional practices. For diocese, these missional practices include
leadership recruitment and development,

resource sharing,

partnership facilitation,

teaching/interpretive leadership,

oversight and accountability,

and the sacramental expressions of unity traditionally reserved for the episcopate (confirmation, ordination, the consecration of churches, and so on). “
The Ministry of Denomination

“The denomination links dioceses, congregations, and church members on the national level for mission. The corporate emphasis that made so much sense fifty years ago seems increasingly disconnected from the local realities of congregations and their members. “

“The denomination is uniquely positioned to build theological identity, facilitate resource sharing, and link mission partners on a national and international scale.”

“The core practices of the denomination lie in
identity development,

resource development and sharing,

ecumenical relations for mission,

global advocacy,

and relief work.”
“These activities are best organized not within one massive central bureaucracy but rather through a network of linked organizations.”

“Within a plurality of cultures and languages, with an episcopate weakened by its own legitimacy crisis, and reflecting the divisive culture wars of American society, the Episcopal Church today must tend to theology.”

“The lingering class elitism that would construe Episcopal identity around establishmentarianism is not only contradictory to the gospel and sinful; it is also less and less functional as the church ages.”

“Recasting the Episcopal church’s various expressions as a Trinitarian koinonia of interdependent, mission-focused bodies who share resources and a common life would resolve the Christendom bureaucratic legacy of conceiving the church’s expressions as hierarchically ordered.”

“How can the church’s institutional life best embody the character and life of God?”

The Leadership of the Laity

“A missional polity encourages and equips those laypeople in the congregation who have the spiritual gift of leadership to lead teams in mission in the world.

“These mission teams are understood not to be extraordinary and occasional experiences . . . but rather to be ongoing, central dimensions of the church’s life.”

“Lay leadership must be understood not only as pertaining to explicit congregation or diocesan-based mission initiatives, but also to the exercise of Christian leadership in whatever vocation and sphere of influence a leader maybe placed.”

“Laypeople have a crucial role to play in the governance of congregations, diocese and the denomination, but their leadership must be understood holistically and collaboratively. They are partners on an equal basis with clergy.”

The Leadership of Bishops

“Historically, there has been a tendency among low-church, evangelical Anglicans to assert that bishops are of the bene esse (well-being) of the church. On the other hand, high-church Anglicans have more typically emphasized that bishops are necessary (esse) for the church to be the church.”

“The three primary functions of bishops historically may be described as teaching, sending/developing leaders and governance/oversight. . . current realities are heavily weighted toward the governance/oversight function.”

“The role of bishops within a missional polity is crucial. Bishops . . . have the authority to lead system-wide change, creating . . a “holding environment” to facilitate adaptation on the part of members of the system to a changed context.”

“Within a missional polity, the episcopate must be shed of its regulatory, bureaucratic weight and freed up for a focus on mission. . . . through interpretive leadership.”

“Interpretive (or sense-making) leadership . . .questions the premises of command-and-control. Instead, attention has shifted to the leader’s capacity to help others make meaning and define identity in a changing, adaptive environment. “

“Bishops should shift from seeing themselves as providers of pastoral care to the clergy (pastor to the pastors) to instead reclaiming more directly an apostolic leadership development role.

“The bishop can cultivate relational communities of leadership formation, creating a dialogue and learning space in which established and budding leaders can reflect together theologically and biblically on what God is doing in the world and how the church can align with it. “

The Leadership of Priests

“Priests are still predominantly trained to be professional chaplains who cater to private spiritual needs. . . . also expected to be institutional managers, a role for which they are generally ill equipped.”

“Both roles are based on deep Christendom assumptions: that the ministry of priests takes place largely in settled congregations who greatest need is pastoral care, and that the church is primarily an institutional, nonprofit voluntary society that provides religious goods and services to its members and the community.”

“ . . . a ‘ministerial representative model with roots in the Incarnation.”

“ . . . begin to re-conceptualize the presbyterate by focusing on the following three elements:
cultivating missional communities,

interpretive leadership and

leadership multiplication/sending.”
“The priest’s particular role is to cultivate the gathered and dispersed community through teaching and interpretive leadership that opens up the biblical narrative to engagement b the missional imagination of all God’s people

This narrative leadership role has three intersecting dimensions:
Modeling role (articulation of gospel story enfleshed in his/her own life)

Pedagogical role (teaches and interprets Gospel story)

Liturgical role (convenes and serves as an icon of unity within sacramental telling of the Gospel story).”
“[Priests] cultivate missional communities by developing the capacity of God’s people to discern vocation on personal and corporate levels.”

“A missional ecclesiology is by definition a contextual ecclesiology, and church members must be equipped to read their context. Local priests have important roles to play in convening such spaces and fostering such attentiveness.”

The Leadership of Deacons

Historically, the ministry of deacons is “to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as a servant of those in need; and to assist bishops and priests in the proclaiming of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.” Seen as a transitional period before priesthood, reflective of Roman imperial career track.

Zscheile notes that” serving the needy in the community is a ministry of the whole church, not just deacons; setting apart some congregants by way of ordination for the diaconate only feeds the distorted view that mission is an activity done by specialists.”

“In a missional polity, deacons are ‘mobile leaders who initiate, lead and facilitate the church’s missionary witness in the world across congregational boundaries. . . . The deacon also assists members of congregations and the diocese to interpret the mission of God in their context. As emissaries of the bishop, deacons bear the sacred commission of the gospel across boundaries within the larger diocesan mission.”

“Theirs is a regional ministry, while the priest’s is primarily a local ministry.”

Rethinking Diocesan Conventions and General Convention

“ . . . we might reconceptualize such conventions as convocations of missionaries who gather first and foremost to cast vision, share best practices, and build one another up in ministry.”

“In such a model, prayer, Bible study, and theological reflection would take center stage as the main event – with legislation relegated to the sidelines. . . . Collaborate networking for mission partnerships would be a key feature of such events.”

Some Conclusions

The traditional “via media” approach of Anglican ecclesiology leads to “an undigested assortment of contradictory theological impulses that lacks clarity and cohesion.”

“A missional ecclesiology and polity would leverage that richness as a living sign of reconciled diversity, an expression of koinonia whose identity is grounded first and foremost in the triune God’s mission to renew all creation.”

“The Episcopal Church, set within one of the most diverse and dynamic mission contexts in the world today, could contribute significantly to an emerging missional church in North America if it were to live more truly into the comprehensiveness it has historically calimed.”

Questions for Consideration

As you consider the re-vision of the various orders of ministry, what strikes you as most exciting? What does the church lose? What does the church gain?

If you agree that we need a missional polity and ecclesiology, what must we do to begin? What are the ‘growth edges’? What ought we be mindful of as transitional issues in the shift?

When you think or imagine a more missional church, what do you see? What shape and form does it take?

What are your concerns? Where are your hopes?


Grandmère Mimi said...

We will see great changes in the church in the near and distant future. The changes will come whether we are ready or not. It seems best that we be prepared.

There's a lot to ponder and digest here, Elizabeth. Before I say more, I want time to read your post again and think more. One thing that seems certain is that in the changed church, the idea of the laity in a parish sitting back and "letting the priest do it" will be no longer a useful method of operating.

Another possibility is that the laity will move out in ministry with the leading of the Holy Spirit, and the blessing of the church community may come later. I think of the model of St. Francis of Assisi.

I can tell you that I would not spend the time that I do blogging, if I did not hope and pray that somehow the results glorified God. Will we see the church move to incorporate and bless such activities? Mind, I'm NOT comparing myself to St. Francis! I believe that for the most part the members of my church have no understanding of what I do, and what they do understand, they seem to fear a little. "June is somewhat of a loose cannon. What is she about with that blog of hers?"

And each time I read something like your post, Elizabeth, I think of 815 closing down the Office of Evangelism and letting Terry Martin go. Terry has a true zeal for evangelism, and his gifts would be of great value to the church.

Well, I didn't mean to write an essay.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, I'm glad you did, Mimi. I'm really excited by the vision Zscheile offers us. It has an authentic ring to it - to my ears, at least. I don't hear him sacrificing 'Professional Pastoral Care" for the sake of mission, but that the two compliment each other.

I may not see it in my lifetime, but I hope and pray that the church of the future looks more like the ancient church. I'm certainly willing to work for it. The alternative, is death, I think. Which may not be a bad thing. I mean, he is asking for a kind of death, isn't he - so that we can be reborn into our more authentic selves as a Body of Christ.

I think the 'death of the church' was signaled by the loss of Terry's position. Just my nickel's worth of unsolicited opinion.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Elizabeth, "the death of the church" may be necessary for the resurrection to take place. The early church is my preferred model for the church of the future also.

Bill said...

From above :“We can no longer portion off mission as a subordinate activity or program of the church.”

This is going to be a hard nut to crack. Everything else we do whether in business or society is based on taking care of things at home first and then if you can, if you have an excess or surplus in time, supplies or money, then and only then do you reach out to others.

We see this is psych 101 where they teach Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Beginning with “biological needs”, progressing through “Safety Needs, Belongingness and love, Esteem needs, and finally “Self-Actualization.
It teaches that we do not move to the next higher level until we have met the needs below.

As an example, in CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams), the first lesson taught is that you can’t help anybody else until you have taken care of everything at home first. You can’t be effective in the field if you are worrying about things that should have been taken care of back at home.

I’ve seen this same model in many other forms of response training. It’s what we teach and it comes across as a reasonable well thought out plan of action.

I’m not sure how we can convince people that we need to be involved in mission when they’re chief concern is trying to put a new roof on the church.

So how then, do we move forward into this brave new world. Something tells me that the answers won’t be easy.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Bill - see Mimi's comment re; death before resurrection.

On a less cryptic note: In my experience, when you are doing the work of mission, the money comes to fix the roof - never the other way around.

I don't know how that works, I just know that it does.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Okay - I know y'all are reading this. My sitemeter is spinning out of control. Comments?

Anonymous said...

This is a lot to digest. But, I do believe we as the laity need to leave church to love and serve the Lord. I take this to mean caring for our neighbor. The building will take care of itself if you care for the church (Church meaning people.) Have a little faith.

Joie said...

"The voice of one alone in the wilderness crying...."

'Bought sums up my experience of telling the congregation that Mission must take priority over everything.