Total visitors right now: 112

Click here to check your private inbox.

Welcome to Stand Firm!

A Report from a Commission in the Diocese of Minnesota

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 • 5:00 am


The entire report—offered by the Bishop’s Commission on Mission Strategy and the Diocesan Council—is fascinating.  See, for instance, “Naming Our Current Realities.”

An excerpt from the “Introduction to the Plan” is below:

“The Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota is at a critical juncture in its life. Almost every measurable trend is downward. Courageous and visionary efforts to address this reality over the past several decades have not succeeded in any measurable way. Apart from a significant change in the way the diocese conceives of its life and engages in its ministry, the BCMS holds out little hope that these patterns will be reversed in the future. That is why this process has focused on rethinking, reframing and reclaiming the identity and purpose of the diocese. Recommendations regarding these matters constitute the first part of this report. The plan outlined on the following pages is designed to build on and help implement the identity and purpose that have been named. It assumes that the following critical realities need to be understood, accepted and addressed.

No Simple Solutions – The crisis within the diocese is systemic. It stems from both a complex set of relationship dynamics and a history dating back several decades. Any effort to plan our way out of this crisis merely by setting more goals and strategies is doomed to fail and will only compound the problems we face. Systemic change takes time. We will surely make mistakes in this process of transformation. We will need to continually evaluate our efforts and progress. We need to be patient and gracious with one another as we move forward.

Continued Short to Near Term Decline Likely – We must face the prospect that the diocese will continue to shrink in size of membership and congregations in the next five to seven years. The complex character of the systemic crisis before us is simply too deep to be resolved quickly. Some congregations and ministries will not survive in the interim period, and the required changes will be too great for others to make and they will continue on the path of decline.”


58 Comments • Print-friendlyPrint-friendly w/commentsShare on Facebook
Comments:

For me the interesting bit is Goal 4, section 11.1.3. “Apportionment for the Common Good (ACG)”. It sounds an awful lot like diocesan assessments to me, especially as later on it says “Create an option for congregations to reduce their ACG if they are able to clearly identify how these funds will be used to enhance local mission and ministry”.

Similarly, Initiative 12 would seem to boil down to forced sales on parish property by the diocese.

Maybe I’m wrong, but the whole document reads to me like a lot of scary (true, but scary) talk followed by a proposal to redistribute money, power and resources further away from the parishes and to the diocese.

There is a lot of verbiage about ‘grass roots’ and such, but the concrete proposals show more ‘top down’ initiatives rather than ‘bottom up’.

I have a blog thingy

[1] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 11-27-2007 at 06:39 AM • top

I think mousetalker is correct.  This middle part of the country is going to have TEC “branch offices” as congregations decline away.  A bishop and some staff will be subsidized, some how, and issue wondrous position papers on cosmic issues while leading and serving next to nobody.

[2] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 11-27-2007 at 06:43 AM • top

The branch offices will be run by Episcopal Visitors.

[3] Posted by Dr. N. on 11-27-2007 at 06:48 AM • top

Sarah, please check: you must not have posted the entire document.  Left out, it seems, were the bits about the Great Commission, the sovereignty of God, greater adherence to God’s Word, and emphasis on the saving, substitutionary atonement of Christ on the the Cross as our only hope for salvation.  Without those sections included, this seems little more effective at regenerating the diocese than a certain fruit punch was for another religious sect that gathered in Guyana some time back.

[4] Posted by VaAnglican on 11-27-2007 at 06:49 AM • top

In my years as a lackey in the aerospace industry, we learned to fear each new “restructuring” or “rethinking”, etc. that came along every few years. We called them BOHICA’s: “bend over, here it comes again.”

...on my way back to the Briar Patch,

[5] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 11-27-2007 at 06:55 AM • top

Hmmmmm.  Minnesota has discovered that there has been a steady decline in the Episcopal Church since the liberal thinking of the 60’s and people like Bishops Pike and Spong, and it is likely to continue for awhile under the current liberal leadership of people like Bishops V G Robinson and K J Schori?

Have you also noticed that the attitude of appeasement by Presiding Bishop Griswold and Archbishop Williams is not helping?

Do you think it is a little too strong to suggest that we ought to pay more attention to following rock solid people like moralist Bishop Iker and uniter Bishop Akinola, and also Scripture?

[6] Posted by MasterServer on 11-27-2007 at 07:41 AM • top

Who knows what the implementation will be, but looks like some people spent a lot of time and effort.  For that they are to be commended.

(Nice fonts, colors and graphics too grin )

There was this quote from the mission surveys -
“There is considerable interest in returning to the church’s roots through a fresh focus on the Bible, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.”—2006 Mission Survey Report

A lot of the other quotes about theological basis seemed to have a lot of “wiggle room” in them - i.e. 2 people could say them and mean totally different things.  We can always pray for revival and renewal for believers there, that they would come face to face with Jesus Christ and see him in all his holiness and glory.

[7] Posted by Cathy_Lou on 11-27-2007 at 07:52 AM • top

I dunno.  The report sure does not “water down” the bad stats—the Very Bad stats—of this diocese.

And the part about creating an option for reducing diocesan pledges—that could be a good thing, if the assessment is currently mandatory.

Think of it this way—would such a report normally be well received by a diocesan staff?

[8] Posted by Sarah on 11-27-2007 at 07:57 AM • top

I’m very much encouraged by the beginning of this report.  First of all, the difficult honest message the report begins with.  Second, the very first Goal outlined, “Spiritual Transformation and Fuller Participation in God’s Mission.”  This does not set out as the first step the eradication of greenhouse gases, poverty, and discrimination - the very first goal of spiritual transformation & theological renewal carries discipleship as its purpose, and check out the operational strategies on page 11:
I.1 Focus on Worship, Bible Study, Dwelling in the Word.
I.2 Make resources available throughout the diocese for renewing worship and the spiritual practices of our members.  These include: (a) sharing liturgical resources; (b) use of Gospel-Based Discipleship and other lay-led Bible study and prayer gatherings; and (c) learning from the Total Ministry model in relationship to discipleship.
[ Note: Total Ministry model is a new term for me - I google this and come up with, amongst other things -
http://www.mnys.org/Headlines/materials/Hein-Fry04.pdf
this document looks very nice and contains a positive quote from Richard Neuhaus from First Things on the desecularization of world history.
...
I.5 We believe there is a need for a sacramental expression of our openness to God’s call that would involve a diocesan-wide liturgy of repentance, reconciliation and re-dedication of our lives to God’s purposes and mission in the world.
It appears to me that there are some very good points indeed in this report, I’d advise reading it before drawing too many negative conclusions.  Nota: I have not read the rest, but the first bit is, for me, very encouraging indeed.

[9] Posted by j.m.c. on 11-27-2007 at 08:03 AM • top

I recently went to TEC list of committees, commissions, agencies, and boards of General Convention.  Each one has a member roster.  I simply tallied the diocesan affiliations of the members.  Minnesota had 16 (3 ex officio nonvoting and 13 voting).  South Carolina, the fastest growing diocese in TEC, had 1 (0 ex officio nonvoting and 1 voting).

[10] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 11-27-2007 at 08:07 AM • top

The graphics are pretty.

As far as the opinion of the Diocesan Staff, I doubt they’re all that keen on it. The fraternal bunny hit the nail on the head as far as most people’s view of reorganizations. It does appear that the staff had input, how much I couldn’t say, on the reorg. The participants are listed in the back of the document. (12.5 is potentially scary in that regard, although it may result in a staffing up at the diocesan level)

As far as assessments go, they are currently in place (Minn. Dio. Const. section 7-G-1). However, the Convention decides whether the assessments have been paid and metes out punishment accordingly. I’m not clear on whether that would change.

The new organization would have a new committee, and all of the existing committees remain. That fact alone makes me convinced it’s a Bad Idea.

I have a blog thingy

[11] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 11-27-2007 at 08:15 AM • top

Minnesotans are as hungry for the Gospel as anyone else; look at the success for example of Piper’s ministry in the Twin Cities.  As others have mentioned, if ECUSA parishes there repent of their ways and start actually preaching the Gospel, people will come.

[12] Posted by physician without health on 11-27-2007 at 08:22 AM • top

The crisis within the diocese is systemic. It stems from both a complex set of relationship dynamics and a history dating back several decades.

As far as I can tell, this is as close as the report gets to actually identifying the systemic problems which are driving decline.  I expected them to lay out the systemic problems, and then provide solutions specific to the problems.  It is after all difficult to fix systemic problems unless you can clearly articulate what those problems are.  But I’m just a Systems Engineer.  What do I know?

Any effort to plan our way out of this crisis merely by setting more goals and strategies is doomed to fail and will only compound the problems we face.

Instead they will envision, and explore, and re-create, and focus, and convene conversations, and identify and walk along-side-of and re-imagine and invite and orient and explore.  Oh, and they empower.  And did I mention they will develop strategies?  They are going to do that too. 

Yeah, I’m convinced.  This’ll work.

carl

[13] Posted by carl on 11-27-2007 at 08:36 AM • top

Perhaps if the report writers dropped the marketing buzzwords and “corporatese” to admit in plain English that what they have been doing for the last 50 years ain’t working, that what is needed is prayer, repentance and a return to preaching, teaching and living the Gospel of Christ and His apostles, they might actually have a shot at improving matters.  I recommend they (and we,too!) pray the Prayer of Manasseh as place to start, especially in Advent.

[14] Posted by Aquila on 11-27-2007 at 08:37 AM • top

Aquila,

To expand on what you said, what is needed is evangelism. Evangelism is most effective when it is most personal. But you can only recruit people to your church when you make plain what your church is about. Your church has to have something the prospect wants. What does the Diocese of Minnesota have that an unchurched person would want?

I don’t think the document addresses that issue adequately.

The new committee still crawls me. wink

I have a blog thingy

[15] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 11-27-2007 at 08:44 AM • top

Lord, we have been fishing since the 60’s and just aren’t catching much.

Put your nets back on the other side of the boat.

[16] Posted by MasterServer on 11-27-2007 at 08:45 AM • top

I am from MN and I voted for the convention to accept this report.  There is a long story behind this thing.  I don’t know all of it, but the bishop was very much against the report ever being written.  He then later tried to claim that he was reason the it is what is. 

From my point of view I see this as a Prodigal step.  MN has realized that they are in the pig sty and they are now starting to question how to get out of it.  The thing to do is hope and pray and nudge and woo and be involved with the aim of pointing us home to Jesus.  The Dio.  of MN is being honest with itself and that is rare and much needed in TEC these days.  Please encourage us to look to the Bible and to read it as if it is the life it really is. 

The diocese has realized there is a huge problem, please pray they see the answer as Jesus.

[17] Posted by Saint Dumb Ox on 11-27-2007 at 09:10 AM • top

Dear St. Dumb Ox (you are not so dumb!), bless you for staying in and being a witness.  Y’all are in my prayers.

[18] Posted by physician without health on 11-27-2007 at 09:15 AM • top

It is painfully obvious that this is a boomer report.  “It’s not our fault, the whole problem lies with the folks from decades ago!”  This seems to be a variant on the theme that our parents left a screwed up world and we have tried really, really hard to fix it and *gasp* it’s not working out as we planned.

Minnesota seems to still want to blame “the man” for all the problems, though I doubt they’re considering Adam nor looking to the Second Adam for relief, since they need to work on ‘spirituality” rather than Gospel.  But maybe it’s just me and my jaded outlook of later boomer-dom and all the failed projects which are ‘somebody else’s fault’.

There is a clear recognition of failure but no identification of the the systemic problems to be addressed.  Perhaps they should have included reparations for their remote ancestors involvement in slavery, theft of Native property (ooh, don’t go there!), and rape of the environment so as to pacify the hearth gods of pop psychology and assure fertility of the fields?  When you get into the ancestral blame game, it’s hard to no who to fault the most, since none of them can make reparation.  But it works really well to keep the current ancestors in control out of the danger zone of repentance, faith, and proclamation of the THE ONE TRUE VEHICLE to the Divine.  “That would be a Cadillac, Kate.”

[19] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 11-27-2007 at 09:16 AM • top

The report which was very well done for the most part, unfortunately, ignores the elephant in the room. The national Church is a liability and the diocese of Minnesota is hopelessly entwined with this liability. The report ignores the controversy, the lawsuits, etc. Putting your head in the sand just won’t work.

[20] Posted by robroy on 11-27-2007 at 09:18 AM • top

The Dio.  of MN is being honest with itself

The Diocese, maybe, but it sounds like the bishop is not.

[21] Posted by Ed the Roman on 11-27-2007 at 09:18 AM • top

An honest evaluation of the present.  However some traditional liberal TEC buzz words and phrases ring alarm bells for me:
 
‘live more deeply into the vision for partnership’
‘expanded imagination for diverse expressions of church’
‘dream big dreams and take big risks for the gospel’

These ideas (taken from the section on Guiding Plan) could easily be interpreted to mean wider acceptance of alternate (read: same-sex) lifestyles and ‘truths’ so long as the practitioner is among the Baptised.  There’s also very little substance here about what it is to live more deeply into (name your vision), or what diverse expressions are to be expressed, or what big dreams are supposed to be dreamt.

[22] Posted by anglicanhopeful on 11-27-2007 at 09:20 AM • top

Saint Dumb Ox, you and your diocese will be in my prayers too.  I’m sure it’s extremely hard in the current climate to find words that enough people can agree to in order to start out on the first steps of healing, the call for repentance here I almost found shocking and it was heartwarming indeed.  Is there anything people can do to carefully, discerningly (i.e., likely to take root) applaud this report and the steps in Goal I it calls for your diocese to take?

[23] Posted by j.m.c. on 11-27-2007 at 09:21 AM • top

The diocese and its congregations have significant resources in land and facilities.

The parishes in Minnesota own their own real estate.  It says so right here in this diocesan report!

[24] Posted by Piedmont on 11-27-2007 at 09:47 AM • top

Membership declined again in 05 and held pretty steady in 06 but asa dropped again in 06.  They are correct in saying there is a problem and the trend will continue.  Hope they can find the solution.  If I were them, I’d check John’s Gospel, Chapter 14:6.

R

[25] Posted by rreed on 11-27-2007 at 09:51 AM • top

I agree with Saint Dumb Ox, such unusual honesty is to be welcomed and commended.  Totally different from the national Zachaeus Report not too long ago that was a complete exercise in corporate denial.

One place to start might be with the now classic book that first analyzed why all the (ex-)“mainline” denominations started declining in the mid 1960s.  Dean Kelley, a Methodist minister on the staff of the liberal National Council of Churches, published a blockbuster book called “Why Conservative Churches Are Growing.”  It came out around 1973 or so.  It ignited a firestorm of controversy, because it called in question the whole approach to doing church on the part of the historic major Protestant groups.  Kelley’s provocative thesis was that “strict churches are strong,” and lax and lenient churches are inherently weak.

I firmly believe that Kelley was absolutely right.  Christianity, like any other religion, is about ULTIMATE values, things you are willing to live and die for.  The so-called “mainline” churches are so compromised by their idolatrous fixation on inclusivity and tolerance that they inevitably water down real religion and alienate their most dedicated members.  Hence the liberal denominations “exports” to more conservative and demanding groups exceed the value of their “imports,” i.e., people fleeing overly strict or abusive past affiliations or simply seeking a new church home more in keeping with their rising social aspirations or more liberal theologies.  That is, all the liberal oldline denominations suffer from a sort of religious “trade deficit” that is as hard to reverse as our U.S. economic trade deficit.

Note that this “strict churches vs. lenient churches” thesis is NOT the same thing as a “conservative vs. liberal” analysis.  There are lots of conservative churches in America that are stagnant or declining, and there are a few liberal churches that defy the national trend and continue to grow, for various reasons such as an unusually capable and effective pastor (All Saints, Pasadena, CA comes to mind as a prominent example).  Kelley’s claim, with which I am in full agreement, is that the single biggest factor that separates the thriving and steadily growing churches from the declining ones is how strict and demanding they are.  Such demanding churches attract the most serious and dedicated followers of Christ, and that is naturally leads to contagious enthusiasm and growth.

Put another way, the great American expert on Church History at Duke, George Marsden, once was quoted in Newsweek years ago on why he thought the “mainline” churches were declining so badly, and he offered a quip that to me sums it all up beautifully.  In noting how younger generations of Americans have lost a lot of the brand loyalty that marked earlier generations, he compared the record amount of denominational switching going on today with the disappearance of loyalty to any particular brand of gasoline.  Marsden noted that nowadays no one cares whether they buy their gas from Mobil or Shell or BP or whatever.  All that matters is price and selection (octane levels, diesel etc.).  And then he dropped his bombshell, “And the mainline churches don’t even sell high octane religion anymore.”  Ouch!  That hurts. 

But it’s so true.  The really serious Christians, who want high octane, high expectation, high performance Christianity (i.e., the biblical kind) increasingly go elsewhere.  Alas, we Anglicans, with our historic “immoderate love of moderation” (as I like to call it), our infatuation with always seeking the middle of the road and avoiding extremism like the plague, have an especially hard time challenging people to love God with ALL our hearts, minds, souls, and strength.  It seems so fanatical, so uncouth.  And so the most serious Christians tend to look elsewhere.  Lord, have mercy.

David Handy+
Committed to true “high church” Anglicanism, in the sense of “high commitment, high demand, high voltage” religion!  Hence the need for a radical “New Reformation.”

[26] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-27-2007 at 09:54 AM • top

I agree, the systemic problems underlying the erosion were not thoroughly addressed both as to cause and solution. I would refer the bishop to VaAnglican above.
One has to admire the bishop for meeting the decline at all levels head on but one also has to wonder which barriers cropped up to cause him to put the brakes on thereby not allowing him to lay out the many roots of the problems. What was the reason why the “history dating back several decades” wasn’t laid out in respect to the gut causes of declination.  Maybe he does not acknowledge the actions taken by ECUSA over those decades as problematical. Maybe he is afraid to lance the boil.  Maybe the “tipping point” has been reached in Minnesota whereby the revisionist vs. reasserter relationship with both clergy and laity is so unbalanced in favor of the revisionist that politically the battle may be lost.  But, maybe enough Minnesotans who hunger for the gospel will turn the Episcopal Church in their diocese around by seriously laying out the root causes and finding ways to do something about it.  Maybe, on the other hand, it is the Lord’s will that certain areas die so they may rise again in His Name. The Lord is waiting. Our prayers go out to the bishop and all in Minnesota.

[27] Posted by Petra on 11-27-2007 at 10:00 AM • top

Since the diocese has tried everything else and still fails, may I be so rash as to suggest to the diocesan convention that it:
1) Declares and acts like it means it when it says “Jeus is Lord”
2) Asks the Holy Spirit to blow where He wills and then stand aside
3) Declares the Old and New Testament, being the Word of God written, to be believed and lived out in all parishes
4) Declares the Catholic Creeds and teachings of the ancient fathers of the undivided Church to be taught and lived in all parishes

My bet would be that the Lord of Hosts would then be only too happy to build up His body and daily add to their number those who are being saved.

[28] Posted by David+ on 11-27-2007 at 10:09 AM • top

Praise God,  finally a revisionist TEC diocese which addresses the true numbers!  Abandoning the faith once delivered and clear scripture teaching will mean continued erosion.
http://www.vermontanglicans.org

[29] Posted by wchogan on 11-27-2007 at 10:15 AM • top

Well, I only had time for a quick scan of the report but one thing stood out. Unless I missed it, there was no direct mention of the “homosexual” issue or “radical” hospitality. That is progress of a sort, I guess.

Aside from that, the report had a “corporate” feel to it. It kind of reminded me of the “Percept” program that a lot of parishes went through some years ago. As I recall, every parish in the Diocese of Mississippi was supposed to go through the program. It was a load of crap, in my opinion. They even had the nerve to call it “revisioning”.

the snarksterino

[30] Posted by the snarkster on 11-27-2007 at 10:20 AM • top

” Almost every measurable trend is downward. “
” The challenge for the church/(diocese) is to align ourselves with God’s
view of the world and NOT NECESSARILY our own. “

First quote: honest assessment and applicable to the vast majority of dioceses comprising TEC.

Second quote: absolutely true…...but will you/they do it? From all indications coming out of 815…....not likely….....although with God, all things are possible. We will pray for your diocese “Saint Dumb Ox”, and hope that, as you say, they see the answer as Jesus.

[31] Posted by irishanglican on 11-27-2007 at 10:24 AM • top

(I seem to have some trouble posting…perhaps this time.)
Indeed, as most commenters state, folks who are theologically poles apart can affirm much of the language in the BCMS report.  However, being personally familiar with the players involved, I know that they were as astounded by the grassroots input as anyone, namely, that the Diocese must return to its Christian identity or die.  The first call is for Spiritual and Theological Transformation.  (In truth, the actual thing called for was “Spiritual Renewal” but some considered the term “renewal” divisive.) When these findings were reported at our Clergy Conference the responses played out generationally with some retired clergy even proud that they knew the innovations of the past fourty years would shrink the church: “after all we were being prophetic.”  The most telling comment on the BCMS findings was reported to have come from the episcopate itself.  The claim: that the one Network parish in the Diocese skewed the results in favour of the need for spiritual and theological renewal.  (The reality is that that one Network parish has not paid much attention to Dicoesan goings on for sometime!  The rank and file, from most parishes, of the Diocese know that we seek renewal or die.)  It was the attitude of our Cannon Theologian who gave me the hope that the BCMS is not just another corporate exercise. Another clergy challenged him, stating that the BCMS’ call for renewal must be within the boundaries of the Episcopal Church, i.e. “full inclusion”, yadda, yadda, etc, anon.  His response: “I’d rather not put any conditions on God. Let’s let God renew us anyway God chooses.”

[32] Posted by dl on 11-27-2007 at 10:28 AM • top

If Moses had such a problem as is described by this report, he would have fallen on his face before the Lord.

If John the Baptist had seen such a problem, he would have called the nation out to repent.

If Jesus had seen such a problem, he would have pointed out the “yeast” that one should beware of.

All of which is to say, does the report call for the Church in the Diocese of Minnesota to fall down on its knees and repent?

No, I guess that’s just too old-fashioned.

...on my way back to the Briar Patch,

[33] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 11-27-2007 at 10:42 AM • top

Just to clarify: “BCMS” = Bishops Commission on Mission Strategy, the official title of the report. (funny cause the bishop was dead-set against this thing.  It was forced on him by the Standing Committee, I believe.)

dl knows what he is talking about.  And the bishop really did think that our parish skewed the results.  Much laughing happened at that news.

[34] Posted by Saint Dumb Ox on 11-27-2007 at 10:42 AM • top

I’d love to hear from Anglicat, since she is from what she calls “The People’s Republic of Minnesota.”  As everyone probably knows, MN is one of the bluest states in the country (land of Walter Mondale etc.).

Despite what I wrote a few entries above, I agree that a return to preaching and upholding the true gospel is absolutely essential in MN, just as elweshere.  God won’t bless lies spoken in his name, such as the “gay is OK” deception.  But my point is that even a return to orthodoxy is not enough by itself.  One can be as orthodox as can be, and still deader than the proverbial doornail. 

“Orthopraxis” is equally important, being doers of the Word and not hearers or believers only.  And that implies restoring Discipline as well as Doctrine.  Or as I tried to indicate earlier, it means ramping up the level of intensity and expectation as to our commitment to the actual living of the Christian life.  Biblical Christianity is radical Christianity.  Always has been, always will be.  And that tends to be at odds with the comfortable, lowest-common denominator Christianity that we have been used to, due to our state church heritage that vainly tried to include the whole populace.

The fundamental reality we still struggle to come to terms with is the death of the old Christendom model of the Church.  By that I mean that the familiar marriage between Church and State (as in Europe), or the more subtle union of Protestant Christianity (in general) and mainstream culture in America, has now passed the point of “separation” of church and state and gone on to the de facto DIVORCE of biblical Christianity and elite culture (e.g., the open hostility to Christianity in our elite universities and in mass media and the entertainment industry).  And in this scary new Post-Christendom world, our only hope is to return to the kind of radical intensity and high commitment standards that allowed the Pre-Christendom Church to take on the mighty Roman Empire, and miraculously win.  Or so I firmly believe.  And that would indeed amount to more than mere “renewal,” that would be a truly radical “New Reformation.”

As far as I’m concerned, state church religion has gone the way of the Dodo bird; it’s extinct, or soon will be everywhere (including England).  In fact, I admit that I HATE state church religion.  I can’t stand its inevitable compromises.  Personally, I couldn’t stand to be a priest in the C of E.  But the only thing worse than a state church is…an EX-STATE CHURCH!  That is, a diseastablished ex-state church that still thinks and acts like the state church it used to be, simply because it can’t adapt itself to any other way of thinking or operating.  After all, 1500 years of conditioning in Constantinian religion is a habit hard to break.  But break it we must, if we are to survive, let alone thrive, in this post-modern, post-Christendom western world we live in.  Lord, have mercy upon us.

David Handy+
Advocate of High Commitment, Post-Christendom Christianity

[35] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 11-27-2007 at 10:44 AM • top

Repentance in institutions often begins quietly.  This report is already so far beyond my expectations and I don’t think it would be reasonable to expect the diocesan commission to suddenly make radical pronouncements about the TEC.
One other thing I find very interesting in this report is Purpose, p.6, “Therefore” point 4:
“Following the example of our Native American community’s practice of Gospel-Based Discipleship, we will dwell together in the biblical narrative, allowing our imaginations to be shaped and inspired by God’s story.”
Certainly not nearly as to-the-point as many here would desire, especially with the word “story” (however allowment certainly must be made for the exceedingly important movement of narrative theology which has borne much fruit in evangelical thought - read Sailhammer) -
Note however how truth found in realistic, healthy multiculturalism - (i.e., promotion of hospitality and understanding, rather than radical Western multiculturalism, espousing the above goals but in actuality promoting western enlightenment values of cultural relativity and western meta-ethical discourse which profoundly clashes with those cultures it professes to embrace) has resulted in focusing attention on the Gospel.  Of course, this can be re-interpreted and pared down - but in the current critical climate, people interested in the Gospel will be turning to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the Gospels.  Exactly where they should be turning.

[36] Posted by j.m.c. on 11-27-2007 at 10:49 AM • top

Will any of this change the direction led by -Jelinek?  Nope.  Iceberg ahead captain!  Stay the course….stay the course.  What is the date of the 2008 Minneapolis Pride parade….gotta get that on the calendars of all the diocesan staff….

[37] Posted by midwestnorwegian on 11-27-2007 at 11:03 AM • top

I am another Minnesota person, and I am suprised by this honesty as well. I think it is a good sign , although I am careful to avoid false hope. I think the problems have to do with what TEC is offering. AMiA was able to successfully plant a parish in one of the western suburbs of Minneapolis. TEC parishes here are insular,self-satisfied and irrelevent, living off dead peoples’ money and accomplishments. The general convention church is nothing more than a elite leftist social work agency. Many here feel no need to outreach and evangleism, because many Episcoplians I have encountered are universalist. It is not that this area is anti-christian. When real Christianity is preached people do show, as evidenced by such examples as Bethlehem Baptist or North Heights Lutheran or any of other large, growing churches here.

There are parishes that are healthy and all are either moderate, family oriented suburban parishes or the lone ACN parish Messiah. There are several imfamously GLBT parishes and none of them have ever had any confirmands at any of the confirmations I have been at, including my own or have they had kids at Teens Encountering Christ. In summary a combination of insular snobbiness and liberal idiocy is killing this Diocese. It is funny how liberal people talk about how great the GLBT agenda is, but even they don’t seem to want their children around it. The quality of some of the Clergy outside my own parish is bad, bad as in dull and dim.
 
This past summer while on vaction I attended a TEC church in town by my families cabin and there was only one family with children there, the rest where elderly and some self-satisfied young adults , who where basically proud of going to the smart people church and not being dumb like those Evangelicals, mean-while there was a pretty successful non-denominational start up meeting in the near by high school drawing lots of young people. This parish will be gone shortly, within 10 years at best.

[38] Posted by Anglo-Catholic-Jihadi on 11-27-2007 at 11:08 AM • top

re: Anglo-Catholic-Jihadi
TEC does not have a monopoly on insular, self-satisfied snobbery within the church.  Some of the TEC refugee groups supported by foreign primates also do quite a good job of looking down their noses at persons in their midst they deem to not be sufficiently Anglican in appearance and practice.

[39] Posted by Daniel on 11-27-2007 at 11:29 AM • top

This report looks to be a step in the right direction.  But there is difference between diagnosing the problem and applying the correct solution.  They may diagnose the problem correctly, but are they prepared to say “We have been wrong in our theology and our outlook on the Church’s mission.  We need to take down the rainbow flag and restore the Cross as the basis by which all people, regardless of their past lives, come to God through repentance and faith in Christ’s atoning death!  We intend to preach that message and evangelize families with dynamic programs that seek to help people of all ages (and especially our youth) experience personal conversion, to live a biblical lifestyle, and to grow to Christian maturity.  And along with that, we need to ask the current bishop and diocesan leadership to retire and elect a bishop and other diocesan leaders who believe in the necessity of salvation through Christ alone and in the authority of Holy Scripture for faith and Christian living. 

The contrast with South Carolina in another comment is an apt one.  South Carolina and Tennessee are the only two dioceses where the membership grew faster than the population in the last year for which I have seen statistics.  They are also among the most prominent dioceses where one is most likely to hear the Gospel preached in parishes as I have just described it above.

Is Minnesota prepared to do that?  Is TEC?  The ONLY way we are going to see a reversal of statistics that, not only in Minnesota, but in TEC as a whole, are going to show a complete implosion of the Church in the next 12 years is a radical reversal of the Church’s liberal theology and conception of mission, and we need to do it now!

[40] Posted by ToAllTheWorld on 11-27-2007 at 11:34 AM • top

StDumbOx,
Don’t sell short the ability of your parish to “skew” the report, even without voice in the meetings.  After all (and in all), You have been praying, haven’t you?

[41] Posted by Rob Eaton+ on 11-27-2007 at 12:08 PM • top

So true, Daniel. Another unfortunate variety of this snobbery are the lone ranger Network parishes in liberal dioceses who, as you say, “do quite a good job of looking down their noses at persons in their midst they deem to not be sufficiently” something or other—I’m not sure what! grin Very off-putting.

And David+—I’m doing a bit of research.  Will check in further when I have something helpful to add. Thanks!

[42] Posted by Anglicat on 11-27-2007 at 12:43 PM • top

Daniel,
I know TEC doesn’t have monoply on snobbery, but theirs sure doesn’t help either. Frankly although I appreciate what they are trying to do, I have had some rather unpleasent dealings with AMIA people. I even had an AMIA person assert in front of other people that I wasn’t really Anglican because I am involved with TEC. Back on topic, I hope there is some change in the Diocese and I would hope that indeed there is revival and the many of the parishes do come back to life. Being out at events around the Diocese the people aren’t bad, they just seem kind of lost. One gets the sense that once there was a vision and that it kinda died.

I should also qualify my statement about some clergy being of low quality. I am thinking specifically of some sermons I have heard at events at the Cathedral or other venues, that where kinda of an admixture of light ,friviolous, New Age, Universalist dreck. Outside of my parish I do know of good clergy and have heard good and interesting sermons. at other churches ( I want to be clear ,that I am not saying my parish alone is good. Not trying to be a snob.) But sadly more often then not I know what expect for a sermon around here and tends not to be much.

[43] Posted by Anglo-Catholic-Jihadi on 11-27-2007 at 01:22 PM • top

As far as I’m concerned, state church religion has gone the way of the Dodo bird; it’s extinct, or soon will be everywhere (including England).  In fact, I admit that I HATE state church religion.  I can’t stand its inevitable compromises.  Personally, I couldn’t stand to be a priest in the C of E.  But the only thing worse than a state church is…an EX-STATE CHURCH! 

Interesting that Catholicism is thriving in all those countries in which it was once persecuted (ex-communist states, Mexico, etc.) and withering in all those countries in which it was/is a “state” religion (France, Italy.)  I remember a great quote (but unfortunately cannot remember who said it) that “Christianity is like a Persian carpet: it is most beautiful when trod upon.”  (Meaning that a great Persian carpet acquires its beauty through decades of being walked on, while Christianity is most beautiful when it is least “powerful.”)

[44] Posted by Catholic Mom on 11-27-2007 at 02:07 PM • top

I believe that the report gives some cause for hope in the Diocese of Minnesota. The version you see on the link here is actually a scaled-down summary of hundreds of hours (and pages) of research, questionnaires, and (yes!) theological examination. That background material, if you can find it, is well worth the read.

While it is possible to be critical of the report’s shortcomings, you must also remember that it had to be written in a way that Minnesota Episcopalians, many of whom have been deprived of the gospel for decades, could understand and accept. As such, it is only a first step, and should be viewed in that way.

There is already evidence that it has begun to have some healthful effects in the diocese. However, the real renewal that is needed (dare I say, revival?) will not come without a deep work of the Holy Spirit (which the report recognizes) and considerable pain—especially for the leadership in the diocese and for many of its clergy. Rather than writing it off, let’s all pray that what the report has begun to unleash may continue in a God-inspired and God-directed manner.

[45] Posted by notworthyofthename on 11-27-2007 at 03:05 PM • top

Minnesota Episcopalians, many of whom have been deprived of the gospel for decades

Just out of curiousity, I did a word search on “gospel” in the report.  It appears 5 times, two of which refer to something called “Gospel-Based Discipleship”. So I google “Gospel-Based Discipleship”, find a document by that name at the ECUSA website, and make the mistake of reading it.  The heart weeps.  The BCMS report will fail because it lacks the power of God unto salvation. Number of times the word “salvation” appears in the report: Zero.

[46] Posted by Chazaq on 11-27-2007 at 03:18 PM • top

Good info, Chazaq. How about a search on “repentance”?

...on my way back to the Briar Patch,

[47] Posted by Br_er Rabbit on 11-27-2007 at 03:25 PM • top

I realize that this report seems to concentrate on organization and stewardship but priorities are being questioned, too, I believe.  Deep down in the report, I hear a real Cri de Coeur—probably the part that came from grassroots participation:  “. . . God is calling the Episcopal Church in Minnesota to a deep experience of spiritual transformation and renewal, one that touches all Episcopalians personally and deepens our collective experience and understanding of God.”  Even if the people can not quite identify the elephant in the room, they are reaching out for the meaning they sense and remember in their foundations—in the Bible and in a church that once believed in the full Christian message.  I feel they may not even realize what is missing because many of them, like most of our church people, have been living in a news “blackout” in the dioceses and have been subject to obfuscating propaganda week after week; in the face of all the emerging malaise in the church, we are all somewhat brainwashed and clueless.  I hope that individual parishioners (and groups) will ask for the “Alpha” program to be presented in the various parishes—ask and see what response they get.  (Of course, revisionists have tried to unseat “Alpha” and replace it with “Via Media” programs.)  The people must be wary of attempts to manipulate their ardor for renewal: for example, “Bible study” might sound great—might sound orthodox—but not if it turns out to be a study of the Bible just in terms of postmodern hermeneutics (as happened in parishes I know, where such classes became training in “how NOT to believe” the Bible but how to deconstruct it, instead).  Finally, the Minnesota Episcopalians will HAVE to recognize the elephant in the room for their own healing and renewal.  It is not just the matter of “same-sex blessings”—and broken promises at the highest levels of the church—but it is now the ever-emerging spiritual sterility, corrupt associations, and unyielding un-Christian cast of mind that dominates the church today.  Any really productive Cri de Coeur must face all that.

[48] Posted by Paula on 11-27-2007 at 03:37 PM • top

EXCELLENT observations Paula. You have hit the nail on the head.

[49] Posted by notworthyofthename on 11-27-2007 at 04:26 PM • top

Another person from the"skewing” MN church weighing in.
For some time now I’ve been frustrated by the attitude
of denial from the Diocese of MN-that all is sweetness and light.
This Report is a small crack of light into a very dark place.Yes we are praying-please keep us in your prayers

[50] Posted by Northern Starlight on 11-27-2007 at 04:34 PM • top

This is slghtly off-topic but I have seen MN referred to on this thread as being blue to the extreme.  From visits I have made up there, I have gotten the sense that the state as a whole is actually a combination of intense blue (concentrated mostly in the Twin Cities) and intense red (out in the country).  Yes, the Democratic Party there is officially the Democrat Farm Labor Party but OTOH, within the past 10 years or so, remember that Jesse Ventura and Norm Coleman have also been elected in statewide elections there.

[51] Posted by physician without health on 11-27-2007 at 05:04 PM • top

physican without health, I think your sense about Minnesota is correct. Though as I recall our electoral votes in presidential elections tend to be for the democrat, our current governor (in his second term) is a republican.

[52] Posted by SJT on 11-27-2007 at 05:18 PM • top

“Courageous and visionary efforts to address this reality over the past several decades have not succeeded in any measurable way. Apart from a significant change in the way the diocese conceives of its life and engages in its ministry…” That says it all.  These several decades - could they be from….say… the sixties onward?  Hmmmmm?

[53] Posted by loonpond on 11-27-2007 at 05:31 PM • top

+Jelinek has filled his staff with glbt staffers or their supporters and when a vacancy in the clergy ranks arise he brings in outside clergy who are glbt to be vicars of mission churches. for the BCMS to have any effect we will have to wait till +jelinek retires in 2009 and make sure we bring in an orthodox bishop. D uring convention when +Jelineks proposal to bring in a coadjutar was voted down he could be seen seething in his seat. I believe the laity especially don’t want to see him have any influence of any kind on a future bishop.
If you are an orthodox clergy or a parish that is orthodox he will go out of his way to ostracise you or do what he can to harass those who opose him. Hw is a very controlling individual which was apparent after he had first come into the diocese and got rid of his staff he had brought in because they didn’t want to toe his line and do exactlly what he wanted. This cost the diocese a considerable amount of money and forced the standing committee to require him to go to counseling. I believ he said whatever the counseler wanted to hear as he didn’t change one iota after he finished counseling.
Art+

[54] Posted by art+ on 11-27-2007 at 05:47 PM • top

I think this is a positive step in the right direction for a liberal leadership diocese. It goes to show you the folks in the pew are more interested in the Faith, and believe more than the professional Church junkies ( Bishop, Clergy and lay delegates and committee folk).

I also checked the web-site for the Gospel Based Bible study method. It is basically the African Bible Study Method, and it is not a terrible approach to bible reflection in my opinion. It is not Bible study per se, but a devotional method; but it does get people into the text and it expects the spirit guiding to motivate change in behavior. It is a good start and in small groups can renew faith in the participants.

The Action Research model of planning also does not seem to have any Red Flags for me. Affirmative Inquiry certainly is better than constantly saying of how terrible we are.  I agree we have become a culture of complaint, criticism , and distrust which no sane person wants to be apart of. Who wants to go to Church for conflict and tension! Most people want to meet God and have their lives Changed to be more Christ-like. We Episcopalians need to get back to Evangelical zeal and Anglo-Catholic Faith and Practice. Then we would grow like the Episcopal Church once did when it was involved in Renewal and Revival in the 19th and 20th centuries.

  I recall a story about a past Bishop of Louisiana who when asked if he was High Church responded——NO, I AM DEEP CHURCH.  I always liked that answer. Were that we all were—DEEP CHURCH
Forever Anglican

[55] Posted by Forever Anglican on 11-27-2007 at 07:12 PM • top

Yes, Physician, the rural areas, what we call Greater Minnesota, tend towards the red (some exceptions) and the Twin Cities and surrounding burbs tend towards the blue (some very notable exceptions).  And, Minnesota did elect independent Jesse Ventura, followed by two-term Republican and current governor, Tim Pawlenty. 

These geographical distinctions are also significant with regard to theology: greater Minnesota tends to be much more orthodox than the cities, and even more likely just to ignore Central mandates rather than wrangle with them. 

Bishop Jelinek has been very open in his belief that secular (and thus Democratic) politics should be a major focus of his Episcopate. Many people, lay and clergy alike, feel that he has been absent, unavailable, and overly-shielded by his hand-chosen staff. The current upheaval in the Diocese is traceable to the current Bishop’s lack of popularity with both conservatives and liberals.  During the crisis that Art+ described above, there was considerable momentum to lose the guy, but ultimately that attempt was squelched. Sit on conflict long enough and it tends to burst out unexpectedly.

[56] Posted by Anglicat on 11-27-2007 at 07:13 PM • top

Wait….don’t tell me they haven’t implemented the <a >clown eucharist</a> that has been packing them in under the Big Top.

It’s going to take a lot of effort for DioMN to overcome the damage TEC is doing to its reputation nationally on so many fronts.  It’s like trying to become the nation’s best Yugo dealer.

[57] Posted by Jeffersonian on 11-27-2007 at 09:05 PM • top

For one thing, +Jelinek is gonna have to stop turning to jelly (as it were) whenever Mrs. Schori glances his way.  Remember earlier this year when he treated ++Nzimbi rudely, in spite of the fact that the diocese had hitherto been on cordial terms with the Church of Kenya?

Do not underestimate the ability of the diocesan leadership and its Integrity chapter to turn all of this into yet another program of left-wing navel gazing, looking for Mrs. Schori’s “deeper place.”

[58] Posted by Craig Goodrich on 11-27-2007 at 09:34 PM • top

Registered members are welcome to leave comments. Log in here, or register here.


Comment Policy: We pride ourselves on having some of the most open, honest debate anywhere about the crisis in our church. However, we do have a few rules that we enforce strictly. They are: No over-the-top profanity, no racial or ethnic slurs, and no threats real or implied of physical violence. Please see this post for more. Although we rarely do so, we reserve the right to remove or edit comments, as well as suspend users' accounts, solely at the discretion of site administrators. Since we try to err on the side of open debate, you may sometimes see comments that you believe strain the boundaries of our rules. Comments are the opinions of visitors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Stand Firm, its board of directors, or its site administrators.