I was asked to serve as the bishop vice-chair of the Evangelism and Mission Legislative Committee at this convention – and happily so, as I requested this assignment of the presiding bishop. I chose this particular committee out of my personal interest and calling as the chief evangelist in the Diocese of Maryland, but also because of the Diocese’s commitment to evangelism as expressed in our Horizons 2015 priorities.
Of the several resolutions the committee is dealing with, two especially have some impact on the Diocese. Today, I want to discuss one of them, and write about the other one tomorrow.
The first one is the proposal (Resolution A073) that calls for the development and funding of “Mission Enterprise Zones” within dioceses wherein creative initiatives are launched to evangelize under-represented groups in the Episcopal Church. These groups included youth and young adults, people of color, poor and working-class people, people with a high school diploma or less, and/or people with little or no church background or involvement.
This is a very fine proposal which I think can result in much evangelism being incubated across our Church. As many have well-documented, these have not been good years for evangelization and church growth for the Episcopal Church. We – as all but a very few denominations in the United States – have been faced with steady declines in church attendance and membership, and we need to find ways to tell our faith stories as Anglicans to many more people. Young people especially are not going to our churches in droves, and those who are not white, relatively affluent and well-educated are not well represented in our pews in the Diocese of Maryland given their numbers in our State.
These Mission Enterprise Zones will be initiated, developed, monitored and mostly funded on the local levels, i.e. dioceses. What the General Convention is being asked is to establish a denomination-wide “Mission Enterprise Fund” of $1 million over the next three years able to make $20,000 grants to the local mission enterprise zones.
I enthusiastically support this proposal. This is exactly the kind of thing that many of us have been wanting our national church’s mission units to do. What could $20,000 do? A lot, I think. Such a grant could seed initiatives in the Diocese of Maryland to, say:
- Start neighborhood youth choirs
- Fix up houses in low-income areas to be used for creative ministries
- Provide foreign language training for clergy and lay missioners
- Set up a coffeehouse ministry
- Fund a new campus ministry
- A thousand other ideas…
What could your parish or community do with a $20,000 grant to spread the gospel to more people?