Monday, July 20, 2009

TEC Eliminates Evangelism Program

From Fr. Terry Martin (who was TEC's Evangelism Officer), we find out that, as part of the budget cuts at 815, TEC is eliminating the entire evangelism program.

Isn't this like eating your seed corn? Now, more than ever, I am convinced that the leadership of The Episcopal Church does not know Jesus Christ. They may think they know him, but it seems obvious to me that they do not.

Evangelism is essential to the Christian faith. It is part of its very core. Jesus' final "marching orders" to the Church are found in the Great Commission

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been
given to me. God therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching
them to observe all I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the
close of the age." (Matt 28:18-20)

You can also read Luke's version of this

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; andyou shall
be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the
earth. (Acts 1:8)

I am fairly involved in the Cursillo movement here in Dallas. The first talk of the Cursillo weekend in "Ideals" and we learn that you can determine what your ideal is by tracking where you spend your time, your energy, and your money. TEC has budgeted between 3 and 4 million dollars for litigation (depending on how you read the budget). This does not count providing much of the operating budget of San Joaquin and Fort Worth so they can sue the current owners of the property. TEC would rather spend its money on litigation - to recover empty buildings that need to be maintained and cannot be sold for their "book value" - rather than on growing the Church.

815 is a bureaucrats heaven and an evangelists nightmare. The bureaucratic beast that is 815 needs to be starved. Unfortunately, 815 responds by cutting programs that feed the hungry and expand the gospel rather than going on a diet themselves.

Let me get back to the leadership of TEC's knowledge of Jesus. If you know Jesus, you are filled with a desire to make him known to others. It is now a common saying that Evangelism is one hungry person telling another hungry person where there is food. The leadership of TEC does not recognize its hunger and doesn't seem to know where the food it.

As a Deacon in Christ's One, Holy, Catholic, and Aposotolic Church, it falls to me to "interpret to the Church the needs, concerns and hopes of the world." (BCP 543). What the world needs more than anything else is Jesus. TEC would rather give us litigation than Jesus. TEC would rather give us bureauracy than Jesus. TEC would rather give us unending arguments about the blessing of sin than give us Jesus.

We need Jesus. Please, Bishops and leaders in TEC, give us Jesus.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

11 comments:

BillyD said...

I agree with you, Phil (write it down!): a Church eliminating its evangelism budget doesn't make sense. But what exactly did 815 do in terms of evangelism? Besides laying off Fr. Martin, what real effect does this have?

plsdeacon said...

Billy,

That's actually a good question. I think that a large part of our problem is that we have people who are supposed to be leading a group of fishermen who have never (or rarely) been fishing in their lives.

I wonder how many people at 815 would need both hands to count the number of people they have induced to make a commitment to Jesus Christ. Perhaps a better question would be how many hands would a person need to count the number of people at 815 who have brought someone else into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ - NB performing the baptism of an infant or any other person doesn't count unless you brought that person (or that person's parents) to know Jesus.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

Fr. Daniel Weir said...

While I would not have wanted this budget cut, this certainly does not mean that evangelism will not be part of the work of TEC dioceses and congregations. While the Church Center can provide resources, evangelism happens on the local level and will continue to in spite of the budget cuts.

joseph651 said...

+Weir;
Could you please show what dioceses or congregations in tec are showing growth with evangelism, not including +Lawrence who teaches the faith according to the words of the bible. Our prayers are for all the lost souls who are being lead by false profits.

plsdeacon said...

Daniel+

The problem is taht shows us the priorities of the leadership at 815. Yes, evangelism is a local affair. My diocese, Dallas, has a person on staff that is a trained evangelist and she is a resource form the diocese to the parishes to help them become evangelists too. She trained with Michael Green in England and is a wonderful person who loves Jesus and wants to help others love Jesus.

How are you training your congregation to go and make disciples?

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

Bryan Owen said...

Given the Episcopal Church's poor track record on evangelism - the way in which many of us tend to recoil at the very word, the negative associations and stereotypes (and anxieties) it raises, and, quite frankly, an attitude among some Episcopalians that we don't have to "make disciples" of others because that's intolerant and presumes that such persons aren't already loved by God just as they are - we really can use leadership by example at the top.

True, we cannot expect the PB and the folks at 815 or even our diocesan bishops to do this work for us. But gutting evangelism from the budget sends a powerfully negative message about values and priorities that, unfortunately, dovetails all too nicely with our fears, anxieties, and misunderstandings about what evangelism really is, what it means to do it, and just how central it is to the reason why the Church exists in the first place.

BillyD said...

It occurred to me at Mass this afternoon that this might be a blessing in disguise, or an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons, or whatever idiom you want to use. Now that we know that there's no one at the national level taking care of this, maybe we will be jarred out of our collective complacency to take up the slack.

Bryan Owen said...

I hope you're right, BillyD!

But looking at things in the light of my own context, it's going to be an uphill battle. Some people just don't see the need for evangelism. And some of them don't buy into the premise that people need to hear and have an opportunity to respond to the Gospel. I've been told that if we just offer cutting-edge adult formation offerings (Borg, Crossan, etc.), that will inspire people to get out of bed early on Sunday morning and they'll make the effort to drive all the way into downtown Jackson, bypassing several other Episcopal Churches (among others) on the way.

Thus far, the "offer it and they will come" strategy isn't working. And in fact, the growth we have had among folks in their 20s and 30s has no connection to the content of this strategy. They either don't know about or just don't care about the whole Jesus Seminar, deconstruct-the faith-of-the-Church-for-radical-individualism, project. They're looking for something deeper.

Fr. Daniel Weir said...

Phil-

We have been working with other parsihes in the deanery to make contact with people who moved into the area. In the parish we have become more attentive to visitors and rarely is a visitor not greeted warmly by several parishioners and invited to coffee hour or to the post-8 AM breakfast group. We have also encouraged, although formally trained, parishioners to invite friends to worship and to other events and at least one of the new members who came because invited has been inviting her neighbors. I would not claim great success for these efforts, but one of those members who has been actively involved in welcoming newcomers tells me that things are far different from the way they were when she first came and was hardly spoken to for nearly a year.

Robert said...

I think you're right Phil, they don't know Christ. Which means that, committee or no, there is no way they could evangelize effectively anyway because they are evangelizing something different altogether.

I think effective evangelism these days needs some lateral thinking. Most people either assume they know the Christian message and shut it out, or they know the Christian message and have already embraced it. It is considered to be a known entity in either case. We have to find ways to hop over that wall of "I already know what you are about to say and reject it. "

Robert said...

"We need Jesus. Please, Bishops and leaders in TEC, give us Jesus."

Regrettably, they cannot give what the majority of them do not have. :/