Diocesan Reimagining Task Force Releases Final Report to the 177th Diocesan Convention

The Diocesan Reimagining Task Force of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis offers its final report to the 177th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, to be held in Muncie, Indiana, October 23-25, 2014.

A time of revolutionary change in the church is here. We, as the Diocese of Indianapolis, the Episcopal Church in Central and Southern Indiana, can affirmatively choose to be part of it, or not. But the change that is happening today, whether rapid technological advances, social norms that no longer expect church attendance, or the harm done the Christian message by its most public proponents, happens with or without our participation.

The church has dealt with revolutionary change since its earliest days. Faithfulness in this time was marked not by playing defense, but by looking for new ways to spread the Gospel. (Acts 8:1-8) In this final report of the Diocesan Reimagining Task Force to the 177th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, we present some potential pathways to future growth in faithfulness and in numbers. In particular, we focus on the following subjects:

  • Our responsibility to do our part in fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission.
  • The leadership model called for today, noting that the networked leadership model that enables many creative Christian endeavors exists in tension with our hierarchical polity.
  • Improving community, communications, transparency and accountability throughout the diocese.
  • Our shared budget, seeking ways to use our financial strength to better enable engagement with our mission field.
  • Removing barriers to the creation of non-parish Episcopal communities, including alternative Episcopal communities which are not dependent on clergy leadership nor have a permanent building.
  • The effectiveness of our deaneries and options for their more productive use.
  • Sustainability models for smaller Episcopal communities.

The purpose of this report is to articulate a positive vision for the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis. Our vision is to invigorate existing congregations; to create new congregations – planting traditional congregations where it makes sense, and experimenting with other congregational models; to encourage cooperation and information sharing among members and congregations; and to care for those in need. Rather than present a specific path to achieve this vision, the purpose of this report is to inform the choices – some easy, many hard – that are ahead of us.

The Diocesan Reimagining Task Force has no power to execute any of the recommendations made in this report. To the extent we have presented a vision the diocesan household perceives as appealing and faithful, it will be up to leaders at every level of this diocese to choose among the options presented (or offer options we have not considered), adjust them where needed, and step affirmatively into our shared future.

Read the full report here (pdf): DRTF Report with Appendices

Diocesan Reimagining Task Force Releases its Interim Report to 176th Diocesan Convention

Below is the text of our interim report to the 176th Convention of the Diocese of Indianapolis. Because we are still at the beginning stages of our work, there is not yet a great deal to report. But we are very excited about the presentation and workshop we will be leading at Diocesan Convention, which is open to any and all who choose to attend, not just delegates. Grounded in scripture and prayer, It will involve some visioning work that we can then use to discern some possible directions for the Episcopal Church in Central and Southern Indiana.

Report to 176th Diocesan Convention – PDF

When the Diocesan Reimagining Task Force gathered for its first meeting in April 2013 at Waycross, we made a startling discovery. Of the more than a dozen people who had come together out of care for the future of the Episcopal Church in Central and Southern Indiana, not one was a cradle Episcopalian; not even our Bishop, who attended this initial session. Some members of the Task Force did not even identify as Christian before coming to the Episcopal Church.

So even as the prevailing narrative both within and outside the church is that our denomination is in decline, we are encouraged that the members of this task force are embodied evidence of the ability of the Episcopal Church to grow.

A statistical analysis of the Episcopal Church, as well as the Diocese of Indianapolis, is dispiriting. There is no denying the reality that membership is down and budgets are strained. But this task force rejects the notion that our recent path must be our destiny. Our Presiding Bishop describes the recent experience of the Episcopal Church as pruning for future growth. Not all of us agree with that metaphor, but we all agree it is time to wrest ourselves from the narrative of decline and engage with the opportunities and challenges before us to grow in numbers, in the relationship with our communities and each other, and above all, in faithfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ.

We take some inspiration from the 16th chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, which articulates a litany of greetings emphasizing the importance of mutuality within communities and across far distances. This is in some ways an analogy for a diocese; people far and near in relationship with each other for the common purpose of deepening our relationship with God and making God known through words and actions.

Following the 175th Diocesan Convention, the call for members was sent out in November and read aloud in each parish. Seventeen members were announced in February, and the task force was first gathered in April at Waycross Camp and Conference Center. Since then, the group has convened monthly via the WebEx teleconferencing software, and held a second in-person meeting at Christ Church Cathedral on September 21. The group has been actively engaged in gathering information and establishing connections throughout the diocese through establishment of a dedicated web presence, engagement on social media, and by committing to visit every parish and ministry in the diocese prior to the 177th Diocesan Convention. We have influenced and supported the diocese through the organization of stewardship teleconferences, a New Media Mondays series, and a workshop at the 176th Diocesan Convention.

At the 177th Diocesan Convention, we will deliver a list of recommendations to the household which is short, actionable, and impactful. In the meantime, we ask for you to engage with us through connections in person and online. Most of all, we ask for your continued prayers for this work.


Materials for August 25 Meeting

The DRTF is meeting Sunday, August 25, at 6:30pm Eastern. The focus of our meeting will be finalizing our agenda for parish visits and dividing labor for our report to Diocesan Convention. You can follow along and participate in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #indydiotf.

Materials for the meeting are below in Word and PDF formats.

Draft/Outline of Report to Diocesan Convention

DRTF Report Draft – pdf

DRTFReporttoDiocesanConvention-DraftOutline – Word

Evangelism/Parish Visit Agendas

DRTF Evangelism Agenda – pdf

DRTFEvangelismAgenda – Word

Materials for the July 21 Meeting

Here are the materials we’ll be using for the meeting on July 21 at 6pm EDT.

Meeting Agenda

June Meeting Minutes

DRTF – Evangelism – Draft Documents

DRTF – Evangelism – Letter: Draft 2

Exec Council Listening Session New Albany Notes

We’ll also be discussing some of the work of Tom Brackett, who has a lot of expertise on Church Planting, Ministry Redevelopment and Fresh Expressions of Church: 5marks.org and facebook.com/ecctombrackett

People who aren’t members of the Task Force are welcome to participate in the conversation on Twitter – use the #indydiotf hashtag.

Things that Inspire Us: Installment 1

In the course of our work, we’re finding lots of materials that inspire us and encourage us in our work on behalf of the Diocese of Indianapolis, and we thought we’d share some of them with you.

To start, we could do no better than a spectacular speech by the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, Bishop of North Carolina on the challenges and opportunities the Episcopal Church has in the modern culture. Bishop Curry is a member the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church, which is operating parallel to our own group. After seeing this, you’ll be glad he’s involved.

More Than We Can Ask Or Imagine: Scripture Study for Vision & Discernment

The resolution that formed the Diocesan Reimaginging Task Force called us to engage in prayer and study of scripture to keep us grounded in spirituality as we do our work. To help us in engaging with scripture, The Rev. Marc Vance, rector of St. Paul’s Columbus and task force member, has provided us with a survey of what the Bible has to teach us about imagination, vision, and discernment.

I have done an admittedly cursory review of scripture (in accordance with the resolution chartering the DRTF – the study part, not the cursory part!).  I looked at three primary biblical concepts: imagination, vision, and discernment (and variations on those themes).  Interestingly, all but one biblical reference to imagination and its variants (thirty-seven, by my count) were negative(!), primarily focusing on the “evil” that lurks in the hearts and minds of those whose highest authority is themselves (think the Magnificat, Luke 1:51).  The lone positive reference is from Ephesians 3:20: “Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.”  (Note: This reference is also found at the closing of the each service of the Daily Office in the Book of Common Prayer, encouraging the community at worship to God-inspired action.)*

The biblical references to vision were more instructive.  Probably the most common reference when people do the kind of work we are engaging is Proverbs 29:18: Where there is no vision, the people perish.  The first mention of vision is Genesis 15:1, when God comes to Abram in a vision, instructing Abram to not be afraid as something of a precursor to establishing covenant.  There are numerous examples of God communicating in like manner across both Old and New Testaments, anywhere from Samuel through the prophets to Paul (Acts 9:10, Damascus road conversion) and Peter (Acts 10:3, taking God’s word to the Gentiles).  Isaiah (28:7) and Jeremiah (14:14, 23:16) both warn of the folly of erring in claiming divine vision that is not actually from God, causing one to “stumble.”  Job (7:14) even speaks of the “terrifying” nature of visions (understandable, given that God’s vision might lead, nay require, one to go where angels fear to tread!) while Daniel (8:27) describes visions as “astonishing” (or even “appalling”!), necessitating the desire for “understanding” (8:16, 10:1).  Habakkuk notes that visions are given for an “appointed time” (i.e. a specific reason, which would seem to be now, given the DRTF’s mandate), but also of the necessity for making the vision “plain,” or communicating plainly so that God’s vision can be understood and accomplish.

Discernment is specifically identified as a gift of God’s Spirit (1 Cor 12:10), but because such gifts are “spiritually discerned” they are reserved for those who are spiritual, that is, who have the “mind of Christ,” (I Cor 2:14-16).  Most other pertinent biblical passages refer to using these gifts for the purpose of discerning between good and evil (for example, 2 Samuel 19:35, I Kings 3:9-11, Hebrews 4:12, and others) so that the “time and way” will be determined (Ecclesiastes 8:5).

We can draw several implications and conclusions from this quick study:

  • Regarding imagination in the context DRTF, we first recognize for whose glory we are working.  In such recognition, the possibilities are “infinite,” more than we can even know to ask, limited only by the limitations we place on ourselves.  Yet, while the imagination is a limitless source of discerning God’s vision, due care in exercising our imagination is warranted because it can very easily take us far afield from God’s mission.

  • Seeking the mind of Christ, God’s vision gives the direction that we (DRTF) need to go (so long as it is God’s vision that we discern and not the fancy of our own imaginations).

  • God’s vision may (and often does) take us in unexpected (astonishing, even terrifying) directions, but trust assuages fear so that we do not falter in the commission of our work.

  • Not only for our own understanding, but clearly communicating our work and findings (the time and way) is essential for the benefit of the larger body (i.e. parishes, diocese, Church, and Kingdom).

There are more than just these references regarding imagination, vision, and discernment, but these give a good sampling of the scriptural treatment of each of them.  Hopefully, this will be adequate for our purposes in the DRTF, but please let me know if it would be helpful to have more in-depth study.

* Thanks to other DRFT members for pointing out the references to Ephesians and the Prayer Book.

First Online Meeting of the Task Force Establishes Priorities for the Next 30 Days

The Diocesan Reimagining Task Force is please to support we got through our first online meeting with minimal technical difficulties. Our agenda for today was to establish some goals for the next 30 days. To that end, we are splitting into four groups:

  1. Data gathering: This group, shepherded by Lara Dreyer, will focus on gathering qualitative and quantitative data about our diocese and its parishes, as well as information about what other diocese are up to.
  2. Evangelism: Scott Wilson will shepherd this group, which will develop means and messages to get information about this task force out to the parishes. This will include developing talking points, frequently asked questions, and getting on the schedules for adult forums throughout the diocese.
  3. Communications: This team will focus on our communications infrastructure (website, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), including developing editorial standards, frequency of communications, etc. Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale will lead this team.
  4. Budget: This group will focus on the narrow matter of the budget request to support the work of this task force. The resolution that chartered this task force did not provide for funding, so we are currently working without a budget. This is a separate issue from the larger diocesan budget, which we expect to spend some time on beyond the first 30 days. The Rev. Steve Carlsen will lead this group.

A question was raised regarding what these tasks have to do with what we are chartered to do as a task force. The fact of the matter is that the resolution calls for discernment, and here we’re doing a lot of blocking and tackling. It’s necessary stuff, but we’re not to the heart of what we’re about yet.

We continue to ask the prayers of the Diocesan Household as we move forward in our work. We also ask for your input. Use this space, our social media presence, or use this map to track down a task force member near you.

Meeting Minutes – April 28, 2013