Structure task force has first meeting

UPDATED: The Presiding Bishop's remarks are here.

Episcopal News Service reports on the first meeting of the Structure Task Force:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, Feb. 14 each gave the church’s Task Force on Structure their own sense of the work facing the 26-member group.

Their remarks came on the first day of the task force’s initial meeting being held Feb. 14-16 at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, Maryland.

“Your task is to bring all of your creativity, strategizing, thought and prayer to the work of suggesting how we might better support and undergird and challenge the life and work of this Church and to do it with as one person says, ‘sheer holy boldness,’” Jefferts Schori said.

The presiding bishop said church members are currently directing their attention to four areas. The first are the issues around identity, she said, such as “who are we, what we are for.” The second is mission, which she said is “a primary response to the question of identity.” Sustainability in mission is the third area and includes the question of how all parts of the church can grow to be self-supporting. The final focus of attention is organizing and structuring for mission.

Jefferts Schori noted that the group is expected to report to the church in late 2014, “with the hope that our next General Convention will take up your proposals.”

Jennings posted her full remarks, entitled "The end is where we start from". Here is an excerpt:

Put simply, we are longing to be changed from glory into glory. So this is your starting point. What it lacks in specificity it makes up for in faithfulness.

Because we got here the way we did, we don't yet have some things that you'll need to accomplish the work you are charged to do between now and November 2014, when your report is due. Don't worry: You have some of the sharpest, most creative minds I know in this room, and you'll be able to make up ground quickly and collaboratively. But here are some fundamentals you'll want to consider as you figure out how to get the job done:

We don't have agreement on what we mean when we say we intend to reimagine "The Episcopal Church" and reform our "structures, governance and administration." Are we speaking of the corporate structure of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society? Our diocesan and provincial structures? The General Convention? Executive Council? Theological education? Committees, commissions, agencies and boards? Congregations? It is up to you to define the scope of what you will seek to restructure.

We don't have a common vocabulary. Those of you who played Bonnie Ball in the House of Deputies last summer remember the points you scored for using buzzwords like "nimble," "flexible" and "creative." The game was a blast, but jargon clouds meaning, as any of you who have read General Ordination Exams know all too well. I urge you to spend time developing a clear, common vocabulary to use when you communicate with one another and with the whole church—which you are charged to do "frequently" by Resolution C095.

Most of all, we have a lot of unquestioned assumptions and not much data—especially about the energetic, active, Spirit-led mission and ministries that are happening all over the grassroots of this church. As the president of the House of Deputies, which has nearly 900 members, I'm privileged to hear from a lot of laypeople and clergy, particularly young people, who are planting congregations, organizing communities, advocating for justice, and reinventing church. They have remarkably little need for, or interest in, traditional top-down governance structures more suited to the world of Mad Men than Modern Family. Any new structure worth having will need to harness their commitment to the Gospel, their passion for mission, and their energy and creativity.

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