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Re: [HoB/D] Evangelism

> Consider this sobering fact: if every Episcopalian invited just ONE person
> per YEAR and if only 20% of those invited became members, our church
> membership would double not in 20 years, but in less than FOUR years! And
> my experience with the far too few I have invited is that 30-40% will
> become members. So why don't we just DO IT?

XXX, you're absolutely right.  

Too many think we have to pass out tracts or knock on the doors of
strangers the way the Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists do it.  Instead,
we have to behave the way Episcopalians at our best always behave,
hospitably.  Invite folks to lunch and to church at the same time.

Few of my academic colleagues have any interest in church, yet most of us
who are Episcopalian have little interest in the kinds of churches which
have turned them off either.  Most Episcopalians have left those same
denominations as adults.

When I was confirmed (39 years ago this October) I was a theological mess.  
The Episcopal Church emphasized God's love of me, not a formula for
theological correctness as a means to access that love.  I was already
expert in recognizing my own inadequacies, but here was a Church that
emphasized God's manifold and great mercies.  The liturgy spoke to me
powerfully, as did the freedom given for me to explore all my doubts and
uncertainties, until God in God's own time addressed those.

Several academic colleagues who like me look with pity on me because I am
"still religious."  Atheist and agnostic house guests are often intrigued,
and not once has anyone turned down an opportunity to attend with us.  
Through the years many have gone on to join the Episcopal Church, though
that is never our reason for inviting them.  We invite them because we
like them, because they are a part of our lives, and because the church is
a natural part of our hospitality, an integral part of who we are.

Millions are are starved for what Episcopalians enjoy, especially if we
start warmly welcoming those who have never been warmly welcomed by
anyone.  If we sinners would start loving other sinners the way God does,
we would pack every congregation.

Many of the churches which most of us have fled are even more inhospitable
to sinners today than when we left them.  The Baptists and Presbyterians
have even changed their basic polity to exclude those whom we welcome.  
The Methodists are defrocking ministers for affirming sinners as General
Convention acknowledged openly that many faithful Episcopalians are doing.

We need to be much more aggressive about letting the excluded know they
are welcome. Alan French, a conservative rector and chair of the NJ
deputation, now flies a rainbow flag from his parish, for example.  That
speaks welcome to thousands who would not otherwise know that they are
welcome.  Other parishes are getting the word out by taking out "The
Episcopal Church Welcomes YOU!" ads in the local papers of various
minority groups.

Our ads in all venues can be much more effective if we invite people to
rejoice with us in some of the Episcopal Church's special gifts.  Here are
a few suggestions, and I am sure that many can improve on the list:

	Wake up and smell the incense!  

	You don't have to hang up your brain on the hat rack when you
	sit in our pews!

	Love God with your mind -- the forgotten first commandment is
	honored here.

	You don't have to wear a lie detector when you say the creeds
	here:  Faith is God's gift to you, not your gift to God.

	This Church is a safe place for sinners!  Welcome!

	No self-righteous need apply!  All others, welcome!

	This place proved safe by the canaries in the coal mine:
	no toxic fumes here.

	You can be salty here:  don't lose your flavor!

	Experience the Holy Spirit with us in this lovely catacomb!

        You won't be just a number here.  Come share your faith
	journey with us.

	Joy to absolutely everybody!

I disagree with those who say that the Decade on Evangelism failed.  Ten
years ago 'evangelism' was still a dirty word in the Episcopal Church;
that is no longer so.  Let the redeemed of God say so!

Joy indeed!


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