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Preparing for General Convention: the State of the Church committee seeks survey responses

Preparing for General Convention: the State of the Church committee seeks survey responses

The House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church has issued a press release seeking input from church leaders on the work of the Church Pension Fund, and the work of individual congregations in areas of social justice.

From the Office of Public Affairs:

“The State of the Church committee is canonically mandated to prepare a report on the state of the Episcopal Church for the House of Deputies, which we send to the House of Bishops after we have approved it,” says the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies. “Based on the concerns I’ve heard raised in my conversations with deputies and other leaders at General Convention and as I travel around the church, in 2015 I asked the group to focus on the state of the church in three specific areas:  multicultural ministries, justice and advocacy ministries, and the Church Pension Fund.”

Deputy Winnie Varghese of the Diocese of New York chairs the committee, which includes 16 deputies from across each of the Episcopal Church’s nine provinces (see here.) More information about the committee’s work during the 2015-2018 triennium is available at Deputy News here.

The survey about the Church Pension Fund, available in English and Spanish, is designed to collect responses from lay and ordained people who work in the church regardless of whether they participate in the Church Pension Fund or the Church Medical Trust.

The survey about social justice work, also available in English and Spanish, aims to gather information about the ways that dioceses and congregations are involved in advocating for a fairer and more just society.

“We want to know more about how the church is advocating for economic justice, fair wages, and other justice issues,” says Deputy Laura Russell of Newark, who is part of the committee’s working group assessing social justice work. “Likewise, we want to know about where the church is not just feeding and assisting people in need, but also working against the structures that perpetuate racism, poverty, and hunger in our societies.”

For more information, and to access the surveys, visit the Office of Public Affairs press release before August 18.

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Prof Christopher Seitz

F Schmidt is surely right. It isn't anti-TEC to warn that unless one comes to grips with the data presently in place, the entire enterprise will die. TEC has superb statiistics. Since 1980 baptisms and marriages are one-half; ASA is down a full third; congregations are aged and small; 40% of dioceses are under 4K ASA and 20% well below that. One can only hope that Bishops are not in denial and that something must be done in the way of merging or another strategy...or maybe a church with under 500K ASA in five years is OK?

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Joan Gundersen

I have seen both surveys. I was asked to fill out the CPG one and a friend is trying to answer the survey on social justice. Both are flawed. Although the CPG survey was sent to laity as well as clergy and had a question on what ministry you belonged to, the rest of that survey asked questions either more appropriate to clergy such as canonical residency, or assumed that pension equality was a fact. The only equality is now that lay employees working a certain number of hours must have access to benefits. The reality is that the benefits available to lay employees are NOT equal to those offered clergy. The plans are quite different. As for the social justice survey, it was written assuming individual parishes were working independently on projects. There was no sense of collective work -- through interfaith groups, clusters of parishes, or the diocese. It also had a very limited view of social activism.

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Frederick William Schmidt

Maybe I'm missing something here, but if the Convention is going to review the state of the church, then I fail to see why the Church Pension Fund is given priority here and there are no questions at all about the general and spiritual health of the church itself.

To be sure, we ought to survey the strength of the church's mission and ministry. But, given recent reports on fading attendance and aging congregations, it seems to me that we ought to be asking questions about the viability of the church itself.

Unless, of course, "whistling past the graveyard" is now a church growth strategy.

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Ann Fontaine

It seems to me that the surveys have a basic flaw in that they want responses from people in certain positions but the surveys can be filled out by anyone. How do they plan to assess the validity of the responders?

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