“A More True Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society: Toward a Missional Polity for The Episcopal Church,” an essay by the Rev. Dwight Zscheile published in the Journal of Religious Leadership in 2006 has been receiving renewed attention as the church turns its attention to restructuring its governance and administration. Why not read it and tell us what you think.
I was struck by this section:
Rethinking Diocesan Conventions and General Convention
Other than those who relish church politics, most Episcopalians approach diocesan conventions and General Convention with apprehension, for coalition politics, parliamentary maneuvering, and divisiveness typically characterize these gatherings. Within the structure of these gatherings, Bible study and theological reflection are typically subordinate to the central content—the legislative process.
This approach to church assemblies reflects not only the downside of democratic rule, but also Christendom assumptions that the primary reason for the church’s representatives to assemble on regional and national levels is legislative governance. Governance must take place; policy must be made; yet the spirit with which it is undertaken should reflect a larger missionary purpose.
To begin with, we might re-conceptualize 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. This would begin to reshape the way in which the Holy Spirit is attended to in the councils of the church by placing discernment at the heart of things. Stories might be shared of mission experiences that would spark the imagination of those present. Collaborative networking for mission partnerships would be a key feature of such events.
Nothing Professor Zscheile says here makes any sense to me, but as a number of people whom I respect have recommended this paper to me, I am open to the possibility that I am missing something. What do others think about the paper, and about this passage in particular?