Lionel Deimel begins his look at “The Missionary Society” with quoting The Cafe’s Andrew Gerns on the “re-branding” of The Episcopal Church (also mentioning Torey Lightcap and Jim Naughton: all in the opening paragraph!)
Deimel takes this all in and offers, “I think I have figured out at least some of what is going on in the church, and I will try to explain and evaluate it.” Deimel’s detailed article on his Web Log is worth the time of interested Episcopalians.
Deimel explains why most people (even many Episcopalians) have not heard of Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, and shares its origins. He attempts to decipher Bishop Sauls use of “The Missionary Society”, considers Bishop Daniel Martins reactions, and admits that we had a nomenclature problem even before receiving the “re-brand”.
He later suggests that, regardless of our questions, the Presiding Bishop is on board with Bishop Sauls:
An introduction on the Episcopal Church Web site to the Five Marks of Mission is titled “The Missionary Society” and begins with a quotation from the Presiding Bishop. The text that follows is unattributed, however:
“The Church, especially the Episcopal Church, is a missionary society for the welfare of the world. That is true for Episcopalians corporately (our official corporate name is the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society), but more importantly, it is true spiritually.
The Missionary Society is a strategy for achieving our common purpose, building partnerships throughout the Church to engage God’s mission to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
The Missionary Society seeks partnerships for mission—dioceses, congregations, and networks. It brings resources from the churchwide level—funding, expertise, and human—to leverage for mission with local partners. We are all about mission. And partnerships allow us to do more mission together.”
I think that many of us would be comfortable saying that our church “is a missionary society for the welfare of the world.” We would be less comfortable thinking of our church as “The Missionary Society.” When I first encountered this text, my mind immediately rebelled against a society being described as a strategy. If, of course, “The Missionary Society” is the name of a program, the second paragraph above makes perfect sense.
Deimel’s final thoughts makes it clear that more explanation is necessary.