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Several colleagues have asked me about my own take on the 2020 Task Force
Report, especially several press reports have mentioned that I raised
concerns when we discussed the Report at Executive Council during our
I cannot speak for anyone else on Council, but feel I owe it to you who
elected me to explain my own part of that discussion, and my votes.
As one who has spent over a quarter of a century trying to bring people
into the Episcopal Church, it distressed me that the 2020 Task Force did
little more than present the vision. We had enthusiastically passed the
vision at General Convention in Denver. Convention asked the Task force
to present us a process, and they did not do that. Their report was
especially short on details about how the vision would be realized in
communities already much excluded by the Episcopal Church -- notably
persons of color, the poor, newly arrived Americans, lesbians and
At times it seemed to me that the church being envisioned for the future
looked much like the church of the past, with its exclusions intact.
Some published data suggest new church plants with the best success rate
occur in zip codes with an average average income of at least $75,000 per
year. Will that information shape where we put our mission dollars? The
Task Force was not saying.
The report uses the word "ethnic" in a few places, but the report never
addresses specific ways to succeed with groups with whom the Episcopal
Church has not yet had a significant presence. How will that happen?
At a national conference on mission last summer a woman from North
Carolina told me that she was concerned about growth measured in terms of
numbers. "My parish lost members when we got serious about racial
inclusion, and I think we grew in discipleship with that faithful
decision," she said. "We lost members when we hired a woman priest
associate, and I think we grew in discipleship with that faithful
decision. We lost members when we began blessing lesbian and gay
relationships, and I am glad we took that risk for the Gospel. Where will
we be in a vision of doubling the church if it means we won't risk
offending people? The Episcopal Church that I care about and want to
nurture is one that is willing to risk all."
The Report specifically says that it is not single-mindedly locked into
numbers, but instead is committed to making disciples. I applaud that
vision. Before funding 10 percent of ECUSA's budget to a a group to help
us carry out the vision, I want to see elaborate details of their process.
One member of the Task Force was quoted by ENS afterward, "[W]e did not
present a detailed route map, replete with budget, specificities, et
cetera. Had we done so, I am sure there would have been even more
Mission is not a new idea. The first 2020 Task Force reported in the book
of Acts, and they named where they had their first major success --
Samaria. Indeed, Samaritans were among those most poignantly proclaiming
how their encounters with Jesus had changed their lives.
The ECUSA 2020 Task Force Report avoids any reference to several of the
most significant changes of ECUSA during last 25 years. Is that a mere
accident, or do did those who wrote the report have to avoid the
references merely to get a document bland enough for them all to live
One on the Task Force reported that they had spent a lot of time just
learning to work with one another at all. That work of reconciliation is
crucial, and I am glad they did it. I believe that all in ECUSA need to
be reconciled, and that genuine growth probably won't occur until the
world sees us loving one another across our differences.
Many parts of ECUSA are not as segregated racially as we were 25 years
ago. We have women in all orders of ministry. Lesbians and gays serve
openly in ordained ministry in most dioceses, and hundreds of parishes
have been settings for the blessings of our relationships.....
These changes have brought many people into the Episcopal Church, feeling
that they too might we welcome. Most estimate that 70% of adult
Episcopalians were once members of other denominations as adult: most are
quite clear about why they joined the Episcopal Church. Among the main
reasons are 1) you don't have to hang up your brain at the door; 2) you
are allowed, even encouraged to experience God in the beauty and mystery
of holy liturgy without having to wear a lie detector....
While it was vague about most details, The 2020 Task Force Report was very
clear about some specifics that it wanted: it wanted to perpetuate the
same people as the leaders of the movement; it wanted 10 per cent of the
budget, and it wanted direct access to the treasurer.
Even before Council had even acted on the report or heard the full
testimony about it, a member of the Task Force not at the meeting reported
on the internet that another member of the Task Force at the meeting said
the report had been accepted and that all of its members had been
By our Constitution interim bodies do not do program in the Episcopal
Church. They recommend policies and programs, but they do not institute
them or oversee them. Program is the responsibility of Executive Council,
which is directly accountable to the General Convention. The treasurer is
a member of Council and sits on Council's Committee on Administration and
I consider myself a part of the 2020 Movement, and I agree with those who
stress that the Episcopal Church must radically to shift our focus to
mission if we're are to be a vibrant and growing church. There are
numerous ways to do this collaboratively. Interim bodies collaborate with
Council and General Convention all the time, without asking any group to
give up constitutional responsibilities.
Executive Council took two votes on the 2020 Task Force Report. On the
first go-round, it pained me to have to vote against even receiving the
report; I did so to register the concerns that I have expressed above.
While I was the only negative voter, the positive vote was so weakly
expressed that there was a long, long pause. Someone expressed how
uncomfortable it felt to be accepting with so little enthusiasm a vision
that we all want to support. Others noted that we really have not been
given a program, only a vision. Someone suggested that the report go back
to committee for them to draft some strong resolutions to go with it,
resolutions that would address the issues that had surfaced in our
The Committee did that. I think they did a good job, especially in
expressing concerns that appointments to expand the Commission on
Evangelism should re-dress the gender imbalance, the age imbalance, and
the minimal presence of sexual minorities....
The first vote had made no commitment, had merely "received" the
report. The second vote, which was unanimous, gave much stronger support
in the form of resolutions.
I am optimistic that we can get serious about making disciples.
See followup clarification to this note in