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What’s in a name? More on The Missionary Society

What’s in a name? More on The Missionary Society

Mark Harris is among those who aren’t thrilled by the executive team of the Episcopal Church renaming the staff the Missionary Society. He writes:

The revisioning process, which seems to be going quite well, needs to remember that the corporation called the DFMS is a child of The Episcopal Church, and it can be altered and / or dumped at any time at the General Convention’s pleasure.

But General Convention in turn needs to take care. When Executive Council (also the board of directors of the DFMS) goes against its wishes, it is time to consider altering the constitution of the DFMS to make it clearer that General Convention is the corporate (but not incorporated) body that rules.

Beware the branding that changes who we are without a blink of an eye. Corporate executives may not mind, but we should.

I am not aware of the Executive Council going against the wishes of the General Convention. I am aware, as are many others in the church, of an ongoing struggle between the executive team at 815 and the Executive Council and General Convention to set the direction of the church. This second renaming of the staff (it was only a few years ago that we were told to begin referring to them as the DFMS) is part of this struggle. The original re-naming struck me as an attempt to give the impression that there is some body in the church controlled by the executive team that exercises authority independent of the General Convention. I am not sure what is up this time.

I do know that if the response to the resignations of four board members of the United Thank Offering is any indication, there is a significant amount of anger, resentment and anxiety in the church, and that it has attached to anyone who appears to be exercising churchwide authority. (I suspect this has at least a little bit to do with why the Task Force for Re-imagining the Episcopal Church (TREC) Identity paper is being bashed so heartily on social media, even though TREC is independent of 815/DFMS/Church Center/TMS.)

David Sibley, meanwhile, makes an eloquent attempt to rescue the word missionary here.


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I think the renaming shows the same chauvinism that lead us to adopt the monikers The Episcopal Church (Period) and the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. Just as there are other Episcopal Churches (even in the Anglican Communion) there are other missionary societies. We really do need to get over ourselves.

Bill Dilworth

Ann Fontaine

Ecclesiastes 8:15 LOL — reminds me of that passage in the Bible where it says if you can’t make it to the Temple with your tithe – give yourself a party and invite everyone in your village.

Michael Russell

Renewal will not emanate from the top or the center. It will emerge from the fringes and outliers who are immersed in the conflicts/contradictions of the present moment and through creative experimentation based in convicted hearts. Most likely energized new forms are already out there. They will emerge and gather people regardless of what these committees do.

People will affiliate because their hearts and spirits resonate with something in their local life.

So 815, the COO, rebranding, power struggles, are all irrelevant. That the COO is announcing new structural and branding initiatives in advance of TREC’s work is basic sabotage. EC feels invisible in this at the moment, where are they on all these reshufflings?

We would profit more from trekking about the edges and lifting up things that generate excitement, than we will from have committees formulate reports.

For my money the most galvanizing exciting Episcopal phenomena of the past two years has been Lent Madness. And right behind that Ashes to Go. Multitudes participated without a dime or time from 815.

Our mission is to find more of these.

Beverly Van Horne

So my confusion/frustration has to do in part with why “815” would want to “rename” while the Committee to Reimagine is doing its work. Hence the right and left hands still do not communicate.

Jim Naughton

Jeffri, good reminder. Thank you.

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