Study Paper on Episcopal Networks 30


treciconTask Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church

Study Paper on Episcopal Networks (February 2014)

A note regarding TREC Study Papers Click Here.

To Download the PDF version of the Study Paper on Networks please click here.

The sub-group on networks, in presenting its ideas for the wider church community to consider, is looking at how the Episcopal Church(TEC) may best position itself for the future in order to participate faithfully in God’s mission of reconciliation, renewal and restoration.  And this is indeed the challenge: how do we think about the future?  And we might as well ask, how do we think about the present?

If we are to understand better the necessity, limits and potential of networks for ministry—that intermix of human connections, bolstered by technology, and focused on some purposeful outcomes—we will have to take a step back from merely advocating some recommendation or legislation. By stepping back, we can then articulate our assumptions and beliefs.

Without being more explicit about assumptions—and inviting others to think about underlying assumptions—we are liable to make abstract recommendations, or else misunderstand each other, or waste both time and treasure. We may disagree about assumptions—whether historical, theological or strategic—but at least we can be clear about the nature of those differences.

Assumptions

Central/Local Tensions

We believe that in the cultural West, in which TEC operates for the most part, Christian institutional forms have diminished in both impact and visibility. 

We believe that in the cultural West, in which TEC operates for the most part, Christian institutional forms have diminished in both impact and visibility.  A consequence of this diminishment is that the corporate model of doing work/ministry is no longer sustainable: the classic central (up)/local (down) relationship is changing, or has changed.  The center for example, is no longer the source of strategy and programming, nor the networking hub.  It simply does not have the resources or the knowledge to do so in a church community that is diverse, spanning geographies and theological perspectives, and experiencing all manner of challenges and opportunities.

Even if what the central prescribes might be the right thing, there is diminished legitimacy for the notion of centralization.  There are strong trends in both TEC, the other Protestant denominations as well as in American society at large, that distrust what the center—any center—says or does, whether deserved or not, for better or ill.

We thus hold the assumption that a Church Center (dubbed by some as “815”, and by itself as Missionary Society), even if it had the answers, or the resources, or the ablest people, simply doesn’t have automatic legitimacy in these times.  For example, for every $1 an average Episcopal parishioner pledges, 18 cents goes to the diocese (18%) and 3 cents to the churchwide budget (18% of 18%). The final amount, 3 cents, is relatively minuscule, yet is a contested issue. This therefore cannot be just about money or accountability.

Without wading into details, we want to point out the tensions: In the future, should there be a central-anything? If not, where will strategy, program, coordination and networking emerge? Most likely, there will be a central something, if only because people abhor a vacuum.  But then, what kind of strategy and programming and networking will the “center” now provide in these decentralized times?

This tension between central/local is inherent to any organization and community anywhere.  In the Episcopal Church, this tension has been elevated: we split our many powers for decision making and accountability, and solidify them in orders, a vaunted democratic tradition, and the narrative of history. Because of our tradition of shared governance—which sometimes seems like a sacralization of division of powers—it can become hard to explore ideas or to experiment.  For example, some ideas or experiments require a certain level of coordination, even centralization, but the resistance and skepticism that immediately arise appear as if one has advocated joining our Roman brethren. On the other hand, power-centers are defended tenaciously, even when what is presently required is a high level of autonomy and spontaneity.

Uncertainty and the Future: Sin and Metanoia

These tensions lead to uncertainty about the future.(Or, is it uncertainly about the future which leads to these tensions?) In any case, networks are viewed as some kind of solution for the future of ministry—for sharing of information and resources; for self-organizing, self-empowered emergent groups or persons to find each other.  One may point to secular or corporate examples, and certainly a fair bit of research and theory are available to bolster the hope that networks—whether planned by some central agency, or emergent from among the local—are the future.

But there is a prior question, which is:  what are our theological assumptions and beliefs, not so much about networks as a feature of the future, but about the future itself?  What shapes the future?

But there is a prior question, which is:  what are our theological assumptions and beliefs, not so much about networks as a feature of the future, but about the future itself?  What shapes the future?

Theologically and scripturally, God shapes the future: God’s enormous love for us, God’s plans for us “for good and not for evil,” God’s promise for regeneration and renewal (in the Abrahamic, Noahic and Davidic covenants, in the Passion of Christ, and in Pentecost).  That much is promised the church.

But as John the Baptist tells the Pharisees and Sadducess coming for baptism, God is able to raise up children to Abraham from stones, and the early churches were warned that they could be spat out for being lukewarm. In other words, our futures are uncertain because each of us responds to God’s call to choose “life over death” rather differently.  Sometimes—many times—we turn away from God.  The word that our tradition gives us is sin: “in thought word and deed, through ignorance, weakness and our own deliberate fault.” (BCP). Sin—both individual and group—operates to thwart God’s purpose. We simply miss the mark and fall short.  Offered forgiveness, and opportunities for new life, we may not choose it. (The rich young man walks away, the invited guests do not go to the Feast.)

Both the grace of God and the presence of sin have operated in the life of God’s people throughout millennia, and, we assume, are both present in TEC.  TEC is both filled with grace and sinful.  Some parts of this Christian community called TEC will participate more fully in God’s mission, and other parts will not. All parts are being pruned: some will find new life and others will not.

We must be cognizant, that even as we focus on organizational issues—constructing a more elegant legislative process, or creating centers of excellence, or revising the canons (which our colleagues are doing), or building a more connected network, that we are cognizant of sin.

Most organizations do not talk about sin; they talk about dysfunction, bureaucracy, silos, governance, etc.  For us, there is an opportunity to look at organizational life through the theological lens of sin and repentance. 

Most organizations do not talk about sin; they talk about dysfunction, bureaucracy, silos, governance, etc.  For us, there is an opportunity to look at organizational life through the theological lens of sin and repentance.

What then is sin for the church as an organization and community? It appears that the early church leaders were dealing with forms of communal sin: Ananias and Sapphira’s lies about their intentions on behalf of the community (Acts 4:32-5:11); competition among followers of Apollos and Paul (1 Corinthians 1:12); and those who took advantage of other’s generosity and hunger at the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:17).

With respect to ineffective networks, sin might be viewed as the tendency for being mired, knotted, and entangled, the propensity to chain ourselves rather than free ourselves to faithfully participate in God’s mission of reconciliation, renewal and restoration. These knots and chains may be habitual, emotional, procedural, informational, relationship, generational, etc.  While it may be the case that the solution rests in some better technology platform or some other secularly-derived organizational intervention to optimize networking and networks, our spiritual tradition invites us to consider something else: change our hearts and minds. Metanoia.

It is easy in our times to banish, blandish or banter notions of sin and repentance.  But our Anglican tradition is rather upfront and matter of fact about them, and invites us to a fruitful exploration of their organizational implications and applications.

Legislation and Bonds of Affection

TREC’s output is expected to be a set of legislation for the General Convention to consider, including perhaps legislation for how to go about building (central doing), or encouraging (central helping local) networks.  The problem is that if the only tool one has is a hammer, one is likely to see everything as a nail.  As such, if the tool one has recourse to most is legislation, then what does one see? Positions that require advocacy. Everything becomes, “do you support this or oppose this?”

But this, is not legislation or a thing. This, at least when it comes to networks, is always a person.  To help another person does not require legislation or structure; it simply requires one person to act generously towards another person.

Networks form around some invisible invaluable core. Commercial networks—which are dominant in our times—form around self interest and pecuniary gains.  Political networks around power. Self-help networks (AA, immigrant communities), around some deep pain and/or present need.  Alumni networks around affiliation.

If Episcopal networks are to come more fully alive, it requires us to activate our Anglican “bonds of affection.”  Given their recent history of use, these words may provoke skepticism.  Nevertheless, it is affection (or charity, as Paul reminds us), which brings our work alive; it is the electricity running our networks, absent which they are hollow.

How then does love form the energizing, instigating, creative fecundity of our networks? We ask the church to let us know.

A Framework to Think about Networks

We posit four types of networks:

1.         Personal networks—both intimate and social

2.         Issue/lobby/political networks—most active in legislative events

3.         Project/missional networks—centered around missional acts, including networks of those who experience great need and pain.

4.         Knowledge sharing or co-learning networks

Cross cutting these networks are degrees of depth, breadth and diversity.

To illustrate graphically:

chart

 

 

 

 

For people engaged in missional and knowledge networks, we observe these behaviors:

  • identification and response to missional need
  • building of a community centered around common action
  • presence of self-motivated persons acting as connectors to other persons, ideas or resources
  • a willingness to mix formal and informal roles, up/down, central/margins.
  • operating through, and also transcending boundaries of identities (e.g. In TEC, people coalesce into an identity group (high/low church, gay/straight, ethnic etc.), for better or for worse. We believe future productive work requires reaching beyond these identity groups, which are too simplistic and convenient.)

 

All these four different types of networks are present in TEC. As we think about the future of TEC, we are interested in how #1 and #2 are harnessed to serve #3 and #4.

In terms of the movement horizontally, we can posit that what is towards the left and top, is what might be called network version 1.0 (in blue), which was constituted during a time of Christian cultural ascendency, is corporatist with a hub/spoke mindset.  This has been our past for the last five to six decades, and many of us who joined the church in this period valued the ethos (e.g. of order, hierarchy and formality of process) and were shaped by it.

We now face a different world, in which risk-taking, innovation, spontaneity and self-organization are defining aspects, thus requiring network 2. 0.  1.0 and 2.0 are therefore a shorthand to talk about two different paradigms. The transition from 1.0 to 2.0 is not a technical challenge (defined by doing something better with existing skills), but an adaptive one (defined by having a new mindset).Sometimes trying to change the old is like “patching a new cloth on the old, with the tear becoming worse” (as a Gospel passage puts it).

We hear from others that this tension—chasm?—exists, between the network that the church (e.g.815, diocese, and sometimes even parishes) offers, and the networks that actually sustain those who work for justice among the poor, the marginalized and those considered “others.” Ironically they are strengthened sometimes for mission by networks that are not Christian (leave alone Episcopalian). What then can we learn from such networks that are not explicitly Christian and yet equip our saints for mission?

Our Understanding of Change

A key driver of change anywhere is demographics.  Steve Jobs was initially stumped by how to get people to use computer keyboards when he first came up with the personal computer.  It then dawned on him that getting people to change was a problem that didn’t need his solving.  A younger generation would naturally adopt new technology. Those who were resistant to the new could be safely ignored as they would pass away in time. All he needed to do was to cater to the young and the eager.

This positive demographic dynamic of a natural renewal due to younger people coming in, is not available to TEC.  However much we may want to change or talk about changing, especially with adopting new network models that are visible in the non-church world, we are, unfortunately, prone to stick to practices and habits that have conditioned our median generation, who are Baby Boomer and older.  

We must not assume we will be saved by those other natural renewing forces that obtain elsewhere, such as in marketing consumer products. Conversely: the treasures of an older generation will have a hard time finding continuity and heirs.

 We must not assume we will be saved by those other natural renewing forces that obtain elsewhere, such as in marketing consumer products. Conversely: the treasures of an older generation will have a hard time finding continuity and heirs.

Our areas of research in the next 2-3 months.

We have been researching network 1.0 and network 2.0 and would like to enlist the help of the church in understanding them.

1. We plan to examine bodies established under the 1.0 paradigm, and ask: how can they be improved for better networking?

1.1 House of Bishops, House of Deputies, Executive Council

General Convention, our highest legislative body, is made up of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, and includes an interim body, Executive Council.  Among their roles and duties are that of legislation, consultation and governance.  Some members have known each other for years, others are new to each other. We want to understand:

  • to what extent do they go beyond their prescribed roles and positions, to act spontaneously in the service of missional networking (#3) and co-learning (#4)?
  • independent, unofficial email listserves comprised of deputies and bishops exist, and it appears these have been used, sometimes in the rehashing of culture wars.  Is there any way for these lists to serve less partisan ends?
  • these bodies represent a form of “center”—how can they additionally help in a networked church?

1.2 Seminaries

TEC currently has 11 seminaries, and the future of these seminaries, if they are to survive, will depend on their ability to provide value to students, alumni and society at large.

  • We know that our seminaries compete against each other. But how do they collaborate?
  • And what kinds of platforms will help them with improved networking?
  • Would a combined email directory be useful?

1.3 The Episcopal Church Center(“815”).  The network that “815” created in the mid-20th century operated on the spoke-and-hub model, with missions desks providing expert advice and support (and in the past financial resources).

 

  • We seek to find out 815’s perspective and experience in working with change and transition, and how it views its role in networking. What could be improved? What would it do differently?

We note that the skepticism directed towards church-wide structures appears to be deep, and while not complete, affects a sizeable portion of TEC’s membership such that even if a majority were to agree to forms of centrally sponsored networks, the vigor and focus will inevitably be deficient—in other words, unloved and hence illegitimate.

1.4 Provincial structures. These are our regional structures, some of which work well and have the support of their members, others of which don’t.

  • Why the difference?
  • What are the essential factors which make some of these networks work and others not?

 

2. We seek to identify functioning 2.0 networks  and ask them to tell their stories.

2.1  An example we have received of an emergent self-organized network is that of the Episcopal Service Corps. We want to hear its story of networking. We invite other such emergent networks to share their stories, if they choose to.

There is a paucity of qualitative data and candid anecdotes that describe how networks work or don’t work currently in TEC. While we have been asked to be bold and visionary in our recommendations, we think that the most visionary thing is to ask people to boldly describe what they see going on, and how they would turn what currently exists of network 1 (personal/social) and network 2 (political/issue), into network 3 (missional) and network 4 (co-learning.)

 

 

Engagement Questions we like for you to consider as you read our papers:
1. People have told us that there are serious problems in the church. There are also many signs of grace. In this paper, we attempt to address some of these. Where are we on target? What are we missing?
2. What resonates with you about the paper?
3. Please, would you respond to the questions we have posed in through the paper? You can email reimaginetec@gmail.com.
4. What stories, in support, or in contrast, would you like to share?

 

 

 

 

 

30 Comments to 'Study Paper on Episcopal Networks'

Nancy Davidge
February 5, 2014



What comes to mind when thinking about 2.0 networks are Episcopal organizations and agencies, such as the Episcopal Church Foundation, TENS, Episcopal Communicators, Forma… There are others. Most, maybe all, of these exist next to and independent of DFMS, working in partnership with and across all levels of our church: parish, diocesan, agency and organization, denominational.

Each has areas of expertise – which are valued by the faith communities they serve. In my experience, these groups informally cooperate and collaborate – often making referrals to each other. The challenge, as I see it, is that often the services these organizations and agencies offer aren’t widely known across the church. I applaud TREC for working towards a better understanding of existing networks and the opportunities they represent for the future of our church.

Jim Stanley
February 5, 2014



What does this mean “…which sometimes seems like a sacralization of division of powers…”? The sanctity of the division of powers? The whole paper is full of abstract terms and phrases making it difficult to follow. Why use the word Metanoia when Repentance will do? The whole thing is disjointed, wishy washy, and vague.

What is your goal? I see only vague references about networking (something people have done for centuries), the central legislative bodies, and tensions.

What resonates is that you do not seem to have a concrete goal.

Jim Stanley
February 6, 2014



Where are the people? This whole paper talks about processes. To me the purpose of The Episcopal Church is to ask to walk with each person in their journey towards God encouraging, helping, and cheering on where they can.

Start with the people!

Jay Croft
February 6, 2014



I lost count of how many times the buzzword “missional” was used.

It’s all vague 815-style jargon. My eyes glazed over.

Bill McKeown
February 6, 2014



I do hope this effort yields dialogue, and that dialogue yields greater understanding and engagement across the Episcopal Church. I applaud the efforts of the General Convention in creating the Task Force and the TF’s efforts to date.

The first paper near the beginning bears the heading “Assumptions.” That is apt, for within a few sentences the reader has been swept past a number of unexplained ones. (For example, the thought embodied in the second sentence under that heading does not follow from the thought embodied in the first, even though the second begins with “A consequence of this…”)

If there is, as the paper asserts, (now) “diminished legitimacy for the notion of centralization,” with what moment in the history of the Episcopal Church does the paper posit a comparison? Diminished from what and when?

The paper seems disingenuous in identifying the “center” that has diminished legitimacy with “815.” As is suggested later in the paper, the central authority in the EC is the General Convention. The staff at 815 (or wherever they may be located) are the servants of the General Convention. (And, in my experience, they seek faithfully to follow the path set out by GC.) If one feels one has a quarrel with something 815 has done or not done, perhaps in fact one has a quarrel with the General Convention or its actions in adopting or not adopting policies, positions and canons.

Although I have not combed through the paper with this question in mind, I sense that the paper fails to address the concept of authority. However democratic the EC may be, within the EC authority has been lodged in offices and bodies, including, for example, the GC and bishops.

Is one of the principal issues not “centralization” but authority?

Peace to all
Bill McKeown (layperson)

William Winston
February 6, 2014



I am struck by the overall sense of effete fatalism in this paper, propped up with jargon and concerns (ELEGANT legislative procedures? Seriously?) that do not resonate with most folks in the pew who came to TEC because our liturgy is God-centered and it is a rare medium well done. Our spirituality is holistic and touches every aspect of our lives with an expectation of internal consistency. By and large the TEC is not judgmental, misogynistic, homophobic, interested in imposing unreasonable rules, nor are we milquetoast about sin (certainly not during Lent) or justice or peace. One of our strengths is our great diversity gathered in unity through sacraments. And yet none of these things are part of this paper in any sense that “plays to our strengths”. I regret that.

Young people & hipsters are seeking divine-centered mystery in a lot of exotic idioms, but we take holiness and mystery for granted in our prayers – which compose our theology, to the consternation of Christians who want us to be theologically explicit. By virtue of the British Empire, we have a long-standing worldview that is, of course, international and expressed in a wide variety of ways. Lutherans laugh about a Swede being so daring as to attend a Norwegian American congregation. That would never even occur to us, even with our English-ness, we simply assume that we’ll be welcomed at most, if not every, Anglican church around the world. Yet this paper feels very USA-centric, as though we are separate from the Anglican Communion. Part of our Reimagining struggle is to accept that we really are part of an international Church that doesn’t necessarily look/think like us.

Overall, while reading this paper, I felt like I was watching elegant, sophisticated people, with faux savoir-faire eloquently debating how best to gild the deck chairs of the TEC Titanic, while those of us “west of the Hudson” strive to get on with the work of being Episcopalians through prayer, study, and action, in ways that continue to impact our various communities in positively disproportionate ways compared with our numbers.

Everett Lees
February 6, 2014



Just a question of clarification, is this a report of a sub-committee or a report from the whole committee?

W.B. McKeown (Bill McKeown)
February 7, 2014



February 7, 2014

I do hope this effort yields dialogue, and that dialogue yields greater understanding and engagement across the Episcopal Church. I applaud the efforts of the General Convention in creating the Task Force and the TF’s efforts to date.

The first paper near the beginning bears the heading “Assumptions.” That is apt, for within a few sentences the reader has been swept past a number of unexplained ones. (For example, the thought embodied in the second sentence under that heading does not follow from the thought embodied in the first, even though the second begins with “A consequence of this…”)

If there is, as the paper asserts, (now) “diminished legitimacy for the notion of centralization,” with what moment in the history of the Episcopal Church does the paper posit a comparison? Diminished from what and when?

The paper seems disingenuous in identifying the “center” that has diminished legitimacy with “815.” As is suggested later in the paper, the central authority in the EC is the General Convention. The staff at 815 (or wherever they may be located) are the servants of the General Convention. (And, in my experience, they seek faithfully to follow the path set out by GC.) If one feels one has a quarrel with something 815 has done or not done, perhaps in fact one has a quarrel with the General Convention or its actions in adopting or not adopting policies, positions and canons.

Although I have not combed through the paper with this question in mind, I sense that the paper fails to address the concept of authority. However democratic the EC may be, within the EC authority has been lodged in offices and bodies, including, for example, the GC and bishops.

Is one of the principal issues not “centralization” but authority?

Peace to all
Bill McKeown (layperson)

Josiah Daniel
February 7, 2014



I recommend Loren Mead’s *The Once and Future Church: Reinventing the Congregation for a New Mission Frontier*

Josiah Daniel
Dallas

Lionel Deimel
February 10, 2014



Contrary to the comment by William Winston, we are not part of an “international Church.” We are a member of a fellowship of Anglican churches. If we are serious about re-imagining The Episcopal Church, our relationship to the Anglican Communion should not be taken as a given. The case that membership in the Communion advances our church’s mission (or that of Christ) is not at all clear.

Richard F. Grein
February 11, 2014



First, I want to thank the committee for its hard work and good intentions but I could not help but think — ‘Titanic/deck chairs’. The life of the Episcopal Church is lived in its parishes, and they are in crisis. We are not growing, rather shrinking. If we do not address the pastoral care we are delivering to the people in our pews we will continue to shrink — and at an ever increasing rate. It is not structures that need to be addressed but the nurture of the People of God. By that I mean the pastoral care of the People of God — and by that I mean ‘the bearing of Tradition’. I would guess that less than one-half of our parishes have ongoing Bible study. The ‘Tradition’ is largely contained in the Gospel accounts. And here we are not doing a very good job — we are in fact failing. We are not giving pastoral formation to our people in our parishes. As a former professor of Pastoral Care and Ecclesiology, I can tell you we are failing badly.

Joan R. Gundersen
February 15, 2014



This report, as is the case with much in the Episcopal Church seems to have as its assumption that theory will drive practice. In fact, there are as many times that practice drives creation of theory. In the best organizations, both are happening. My eyes glaze over when I start seeing words like “missional.”

If we could actually get to the point where we believed that General Convention ran the church and that bureaucratic structures should flow from that premise and not from servicing an incorporated missionary society, we might be able to rethink things.

Episcopalians have been forming networks for more than 300 years. They were doing it using whatever communication systems were available to them at the time. These networks have provided and channeled most of the vitality and new ministries that helped the Church renew itself and grow. Unfortunately many of these networks do not have a way to connect with each other, or have any visibility at the parish or diocesan level. While reinventing the church, we need to find ways to connect people and groups.

Thirdly, we need to actually rethink how the church deals with clergy formation. The Episcopal Church does not really have 11 seminaries. The church needs to consider what makes a seminary officially a seminary of the church. When we have clergy being educated at Presbyterian, ecumenical, Methodist, etc. seminaries; when one of the “official” 11 has actually removed “Episcopal” from its name and had no entering students last year from Episcopal parishes, and when increasing numbers of clergy are studying in local formation programs, the church may need a different model for determining how one forms a clergy person.

Brent Lamb
February 15, 2014



Gosh this was a cool piece. The elders cling to their conventions and deputies and documents and pronouncements. The young, including the young at heart, indeed are attracted instead to divine-centered mystery as Mr. Winston writes. This attraction is not new. The Desert Abbas and Ammas established the tradition long ago. They were content to work, pray, and gather together to partake of the Mysteries.

Keith Aclin
February 18, 2014



We do indeed need to attempt to find a logical approach to the issues facing the church. However, I noticed something odd that was slipped in. The idea that the church should take current political stance into account. Are we not based upon 3 legs first is the Bible, second is Tradition and third is Reason. Politics have come and gone over the last 2000 years. When the church has attempted to play with politics in the past it has hurt itself.

Yes we need to love all, comfort all, and care for all. It does not mean we are to accept all behaviors. We are not to say that now that society is accepting of certain behaviors that the church is to change the Bible’s stance and 2000 years of tradition.

So while seeking middle ground is admirable, we should not abandon our religion to achieve it as well.

Joe Rogers
February 20, 2014



This is a wonderful 1st step in the process.

Every organization needs structure. I think that we’ll all agree that TEC has plenty of that. I’m a member of a medium sized parish in the Houston Suburbs, there are four parishes within a 10 or so minute drive of my house. There are two big ones, my medium sized and one small. Each parish is wonderful and beautiful in it’s own way. Each parish has things that they excel at and things that they are challenged by.

What we need in a ‘network’ is a way to easily share best practices (things that we’re good at) and to easily find actionable answers to things that are challenges for us. I think that too often, we may view other churches or parishes as ‘competition’. We’re competing for a finite number of Episcopalians in the north Houston area.

What we should be doing is coming together as the The Episcopal Church of North Houston and working together to invite more people into not our own parishes, but our Church. I may be a member of Church A but the music program at Church B has a really cool contemporary program. Why can’t I still be a member of A but participate in the program at B if I have a skill that they need? Church C has a meals on wheels program, Can I as a member of A actively participate? I think that the structure of the church says NO however the spirit of the church tells me YES. There are many other examples like maybe a divorce support group at the larger church. How do we easily disseminate that information and make it available to ‘members’ of the other local parishes and make them feel welcome even though it’s not their ‘home church’?

Now, getting out of home town mode and into 815/Diocese model, our ‘Parent’ organizations should be in the business of helping parishes thrive. When I set out to create a new website for our parish last year, I was hoping that there would be some good resources available to me that were ‘blessed’ by TEC as a best practice. While there were some ‘official’ resources, they were limited or cost prohibitive. I was hoping to find a place to go where I could speak with or maybe see a gallery of TEC websites that were really good. No such luck. I set off to basically build it from scratch. I actually utilized some resources from the United Methodist church which had a really good knowledgebase of examples and how-to guides.
Where is the best practices guide for TEC? Where are the sample press releases, web design templates, podcasting our tweeting guides, etc…

815 and the diocese should be collecting information about what is working and not working from the parishes, putting together the best of the best and then either sending those best practices back down to the parishes or at least make them easy to find. The church should be working to make it easy for the grassroots folks at the parish level to grow their parishes and spread the word of Christ.

My $.02 so take it for what it’s worth. Being that I’m an Episcopalian, I am guaranteed to have at least one other that agrees with me and one that disagrees with me and you know what, that’s why I love my church, you can disagree with someone and still still next to them at God’s table and know that he loves us no matter what.

Matthew Ellis
February 20, 2014



Far too lengthy to post as a comment here, you can see the response from Episcopal Health Ministries at http://www.episcopalhealthministries.org/blog/a-response-to-trec-networks.

Alma Thompson Bell
February 22, 2014



As others have stated, I, too, am grateful to both General Convention and the Committee for the work that went into this paper. What I have come away with is a real need for more face to face communication. Without actual interaction we are left to assume what tone our comments carry,to assume what others beileve, what we or others are doing “wrong” and what will never work. I am pleased that communication tools such as this are available but I do not think they can take the place of being in the room with others.
For reasons we probably all know, the number of days when we are together at General Convention seems to allow less time to inter-act through table groups, etc. With less time to hear each other, we are more likely to come away thinking what we thought before we arrived.
Can more thought be given to strengthening the Province networks? Could they do more to allow us to hear from each other as we try to decide how we must change?

Randall Curtis1
February 26, 2014



Thank you for the mention Nancy.

Forma exists to partner and inspire with Christian Formation Leaders. We are a network of over 400 Christian Formation leaders including retired, part-time and full time. Some people may be familiar with us as NAECED the National Association of Christian Education Directors.

We are focused on networking Formation leaders at the Parish level. In that vein we keep a member’s directory accessible to all of our members, a very active listserve, a Facebook Group open to all for disucssion as well as links and resources on our website to resource Churches and Christian Formation Leaders. Our annual conference regularky draw over 180 people from all over the world. This year we have also begun our Youth and Family Ministry Certification academy as well as Leadership in Lifelong Formation Certification.

We have built strong partnerships with The Center for Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary as well as many other seminaries and publishers. I also believe I can say that the Formations and Vocation’s office at the Episcopal Church considers us us as a partner in ministry.

I believe we can be an even greater network that is responsive to the wider church and we are taking steps to get there.

We are a volunteer board led organization and are very open to exploring what that future might look like in a church re-imagining.

We are exploring what it might look like to add a paid staff person to help us network more people as well as increase our resource gathering and organization to the church.

Randall Curtis
President of Forma
episcoforma.org

Randall Curtis
February 26, 2014



Forma exists to partner and inspire with Christian Formation Leaders. We are a network of over 400 Christian Formation leaders, primarily Episcopalian, including retired, part-time and full time. Some people may be familiar with us as NAECED the National Association of Christian Education Directors.

We are focused on networking Formation leaders at the Parish level. In that vein we keep a member’s directory accessible to all of our members, a very active listserve, a Facebook Group open to all for discussion as well as links and resources on our website to resource Churches and Christian Formation Leaders. Our annual conference regularly draws over 180 people from all over the world. This year we have also begun our Youth and Family Ministry Certification academy as well as Leadership in Lifelong Formation Certification. (More info at faithformationacademy.org)

We have built strong partnerships with The Center for Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary as well as many other seminaries, publishers and other networks. I also believe I can say that the Formations and Vocation’s office at the Episcopal Church considers us us as a partner in ministry.

I believe we can be an even greater network that is responsive to the wider church and we are taking steps to get there.

We are a volunteer board led organization and are very open to exploring what that future might look like in a church re-imagining.

We are exploring what it might look like to add a paid staff person to help us network more people as well as increase our resource gathering and organization to the church and look forward to seeing what comes out of this task force.

Randall Curtis
President of Forma
episcoforma.org



[…] are finally seeing some fruits of TREC. They recently released a study paper on networking, and that one was panned by most of my friends and by several bloggers. Had I made the time to […]



[…] is why the first Study Paper from the Task Force for Re-Imagining The Episcopal Church (TREC) on  Networks passed by without comment.  Thankfully, it was almost universally panned, so I didn’t have […]

Richard
February 26, 2014



The Gospel of Jesus Christ has always been about 3 things:
1) Loving God
2) Loving your neighbor
3) Making disciples of all nations

If we ever forget these NECESSITIES, we are lost as a church body.

Lorraine Mills-Curran
March 3, 2014



I have read this statement carefully but my experience does not support the assumption that “positive demographic dynamic of a natural renewal due to younger people coming in, is not available to TEC.” This appears to assume we can’t renew because we haven’t. The bald statement of it makes me very sad, because it is impossible to see what you have decided isn’t there. I have been in two parishes which have both grown and become younger. I am now in a diocese with a vibrant culture of young Episcopalians (Dio. MA) in positions of major leadership. I would urge the TTEC group to look at some of the lively forms of faith-based community organizing (such as the Leadership Development Initiative in Diomass – diomassleads.org.)

Lorraine Mills-Curran
March 3, 2014



I have read this statement carefully but my experience does not support the assumption that “positive demographic dynamic of a natural renewal due to younger people coming in, is not available to TEC.” This appears to assume we can’t renew because we haven’t. The bald statement of it makes me very sad, because it is impossible to see what you have decided isn’t there. I have been in two parishes which have both grown and become younger. I am now in a diocese with a vibrant culture of young Episcopalians (Dio. MA) in positions of major leadership. I would urge the TREC group to look at some of the lively forms of faith-based community organizing (such as the Leadership Development Initiative in Diomass – diomassleads.org.)

Matthew Bradley
March 4, 2014



Thank you to TREC for publishing this study paper. The paper describes 1.0 networks as those centrally developed by TEC and offered up to those who might be interested in networking. This is contrasted with the 2.0 networks which develop naturally between folks working on common mission and sustain them in those endeavors. The paper’s authors then ask, “What then can we learn from such networks that are not explicitly Christian and yet equip our saints for mission?”

One thing that I have learned from participating in such networks is that they only work when formed organically. Additionally, they will function only as long as they are focused on supporting the network’s efforts on a real, active, common issue or ministry.

TEC central shouldn’t and, I would argue, can’t create these 2.0 networks. They simply don’t originate from a central location. TEC central could, however, provide a resource that lists and describes extant 2.0 networks that Episcopalians have found to be important in carrying out or supporting the ministry of Christ and the Church. Such a resource, regularly updated, could help Episcopalians become aware of the 2.0 networks that exist and get them connected with natural partners in ministry.

I’ll look forward to reading more concrete thoughts and recommendations as they are published.



[…] first, Study Paper on Episcopal Networks, examines the four types of networks: Personal networks; Issue/lobby/political networks; […]

Ellen Osborne
April 13, 2014



Could you try again with this topic? Could you please include some younger people and more lay people in the process of putting together a paper on networks?

David Perry
April 20, 2014



I’m a simple lay person with a vocabulary that’s not incredibly sophisticated, so what I say in this may not be impacting. It just seems to me that the focus of 815 and the various committees, subcommittees, and task forces miss th boat entirely. You’re using a current structure to analyze itself (how has that faired us so far?). It’s too institutionally heavy. Where are the people? Even the pope is recognizing this in his own church. The divide between institution and people is growing, and that impedes mission. And the mission should be simple and focused on Jesus. I don’t recall reading in the gospels that he or the apostles gathered in their offices determining structures. They preached the kingdom of God and lived through example in simple means. They didn’t have a large cathedral or office building to accomplish their means. And if I remember Christian history, neither did the early Christians pre Constantine, and yet faith was strong, and he church grew. Why is it so difficult to simplify our systems and just do what we are called to do? Until the system is simplified all this work and committee stuff is simply people trying to keep themselves busy and grant themselves a little bit of authority. In the end it does nothing to further the kingdom. Simply a thought.



[…] Welcome to Zahal IDF Blog News I need to decide on schools i want to go to and i know i want to study networking security. Every school i look at only has Information Technology. This might be a dumb sub […]



[…] inspiring and helpful to me about TREC’s work is its attention to the power of networks. Networks of invested individuals partnering for ministry are where work gets done, much more […]

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