Episcopal Address

Yesterday’s episcopal address from Bishop Huie was the best I’ve ever heard. It began (and ended) with a multimedia component based on Acts 2 and Pentecost. Nice to see a bishop who can use technology.

Here’s a brief summary of what she had to say.
This Annual Conference meeting is “An occasion with the potential for Pentecost,” with the Holy Spirit bringing a fresh vision, a renewed sense of and commitment to mission, and a new urgency for making disciples.

We’re living in at the threshhold of unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Worldwide there is an unparalleled hunger for God, and within the church and our communities a new readiness to hear the essential truths of the Christian message.

There are 7.3 million people living within the bounds of the TAC. Our average worship attendance, however, is only 109,000. Obviously there are plenty of peopel left to reach [even assuming a bunch of the rest are baptists, etc.].

It is time for a bold new step into God’s future.

Part 1 – Current Reality
Her comments are based on visiting 573 charges in the TAC. She saw both strong and fragile congregations. An example from a fragile congregation: She asked, “What are you doing to make disciples?” Answer: “We think we’re ok the way we are.”

Many congregations are just hanging on; many are in transitional communities and have little or no connection to the new people around the church.

20% of TAC congregations have fewer than 20 in worship.

40-50% of congregations are struggling. Their ministry and mission have been reduced to caring for members, maintaining the facilities, and paying the bills. In the eyes of these churches the pastor’s job is to take care of those who pay the bills – NOT to equip the saints for ministry.

Troubling discoveries:

  • She could travel all day without hearing any churches mention worhsip as a strength of their congregation.
  • Frequently laity are unable to speak the language of the faith.

Big picture:

  • TAC membership is up over the past 5 years. This shows our past strength.
  • Over that same period worship attendance is down. This shows our current strength.
  • Professions of faith, baptisms, etc., are also down.
  • 1/4 of the population within the bounds of the TAC are Hispanic; only 1% of TAC is Hispanic.

Her conclusion: We’re only functioning at a fraction of the capacity God has given us. We lack a clear and compelling vision.

We need to discover how to build Vibrant, Healthy, and Fruitful congregations. This is God’s desire for the TAC.

Part 2 – Five Key elements from Jesus’ Model of Discipleship
Leadership is at the heart of each.

A. Radical Hospitality
B. Passionate Worship – dynamic & life changing
C. Faith-forming relationships and experiences – need to add small groups that produce relationships that will mature people’s faith.
D. Risktaking Ministry and Service – We make Disciples for the transformation of the world
E. Extravagant Generosity

There is no quick insitutional fix.

We need to stop making excuses for pastors and churches who aren’t contributing to the mission of making disciples.

No longer acceptable:

  • Having no confirmation classes
  • No professions of faith in a year
  • Flat or declining worship attendance in a community where the population is growing

Part 3 – Vision

Our mission is clear – Making Disciples of Jesus Christ

Every congregation needs to be vibrant, faithful, fruitful and reproducing. We need to act boldly, leaving baggage behind. We need to increase expectations and accountabilities. Obviously this means CHANGE.

4 essential areas of action:

  1. New Church starts – we need to start churches where unreached people are. This means not only in new subdivisions and developments, but in housing projects, trailer parks and the like. We need to start 10 new congregations each year for the next decade within the TAC. This will require current strong congregations to give birth to new congregations. Pastoral leadership is the most important factor.
  2. Revitalizing existing congregations – We need to do some heavy duty training; we need to be open to new models and ways of doing things.
  3. Focus on Youth and Young Adults – in 2006 the Millenial Generation comes of age. Aged 12-17, they will peak at 26 million, more than the Baby Boom generation.
  4. Recruitment, trainign and retention of effective leadership. We need leaders who are spirit filled, bold, and visionary. This is an issue of being formed in the image of Jesus for the sake of the world. Churches have a right to expect pastors who are deeply connected to Jesus and who live as bold leaders. Leaders – especially young leaders (our current average age for pastors is 57) – need to recruited, trained, and retained.

We need to work on resourcing the vision. This will require:
Realigning existing funds [today the cabinet brought forth a resolution that their salaries would be frozen for the next year]
Need to align action and resources with the vision
Realizing this vision will only be accomplished through faith in God.

UPDATE: The text of the address has now been added to the Conference Website.

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