As I scanned the resolutions from General Convention on Saturday, I was considering what kind of resolution might be particularly appropriate for a blog during Holy Week. All the resolutions are important for us to consider before we, as the Diocese of Michigan, are asked to report on what we did with them to the General Convention Office in December 2020, yet not all of them make an obvious connection to this very holy week of the church year. And then I found one that fit my criteria – Resolution A029: Commend The Evangelism Charter for the Church to All Episcopalians.
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention adopt the Evangelism Charter for the Episcopal Church as a framework for joining with our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in expanding the loving, liberating, and life-giving Good News of Jesus through evangelism of the church, by the church, and for the church; and be it further
Resolved, that the 79th General Convention urges dioceses and congregations to read and study its principles and integrate them into their life of faith as part of living into The Way of Love.
During Holy Week, we come face-to-face with the “loving, liberating, and life-giving Good News of Jesus,” for sure.
For many people, the word “evangelism” conjures up images of Bible-wielding preachers on soapboxes or doorbell-ringing individuals sharing tracts and asking if Jesus is your Lord and Savior – and they make us uncomfortable. But evangelism is so much more than these examples. I will, however, be honest that when my best friend from elementary school and her husband came to dinner back in 1975 and told me that I couldn’t be a Christian if Jesus wasn’t my “Lord and Savior,” I was pretty annoyed. They ate my food and sat at my table and told me I was going to hell?? What nerve!! I got up from the table, grabbed some of the dishes and started washing them in the kitchen. I never washed the dishes while guests were present before! But, while I stood at the sink splashing water all around and banging the pots and pans, I prayed, “Lord, if this is what I need to do to know that I’m right with you, please be my Lord and Savior. Teach me what I need to know.” I tell that story because sometimes even those scary images of street evangelists make a difference in the lives of the people who pass by. There is much more to my story but I’ll leave it there for now.
The Evangelism Charter for the Church begins by reminding us of one of the promises we make in our Baptismal Covenant:
Celebrant Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
People I will, with God’s help.
It goes on to say:
Every baptized Episcopalian has vowed to proclaim with our words and our lives the loving, liberating, and life-giving good news of Jesus Christ. Through the spiritual practice of evangelism, we seek, name and celebrate Jesus’ loving presence in the stories of all people – then invite everyone to MORE.
And then asks, “Why and how do we live into this commitment?” The Charter answers that we do this in three ways: Evangelism of the Church, Evangelism by the Church, and Evangelism for the Church.
Evangelism of the Church
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God …. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:19-21)
With God’s help, as members of the Body of Christ, we will …
– Allow ourselves and our churches to be transformed by new relationships.
– Discover a fresh approach to the gospel as we gain new perspectives
– Invite others to discover their own belovedness in Christ.
– Grow more servants for the Jesus Movement to change the world.
Evangelism by the Church
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
With God’s help, as bearers of the Good News of Jesus Christ, we will …
– Invite and listen deeply to the stories of everyone we encounter.
– Name and celebrate stories of the presence of God in Christ everywhere.
– Share our stories of encounter, good news, and resurrection in Jesus.
– Plant seeds of hope, and trust God to give the growth.
Evangelism for the Church
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)
With God’s help, as followers of Jesus Christ, we will …
– Recognize and live into our own belovedness as children of God.
– Engage daily practices of prayer, scripture reading, worship, and service.
– Recall times in our lives when the love of God has been real and present to us.
– Articulate our own story of experiencing God’s love for us.
We can find the mandate for this in Scripture:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
~ Matthew 28:19-20
After I decided on this resolution for this week, I did some hunting on-line and was delighted to find some helpful resources for us. We have not been left to figure this out on our own! You can find Evangelism Initiatives on The Episcopal Church website which has the Evangelism Toolkit containing
– Introduction to the Evangelism Toolkit
– Foundation: Evangelism Charter and Theology
– Episcopal Evangelism on Facebook
– Evangelism 101
– Exploring Evangelism through Social Media
– Beloved Community StorySharing
Each of these resources will provide the tools we need to see our evangelism as a new part of our lives instead of an onerous activity that we’re supposed to engage. For example, the Evangelism 101 Participant’s Guide had a suggestion that really grabbed my attention and seemed like an easy way to grow an intentional evangelism perspective:
– Begin your day by asking: How could my words, actions and heart reflect the loving, liberating, life-giving way of Jesus? Ask God to help you, especially at decision points.
– At day’s end, with genuine curiosity and zero judgment, ask: When did I see myself or others being loving, liberating or life-giving today? Where do I wish I’d seen or practiced Jesus’ Way?
I’m going to add this to my morning and evening devotions for the Easter season and see how it might make a difference in my interactions. Perhaps, by the time we get to Pentecost, the practice will be well-established in my mind and come more naturally each day. This is just one idea. How might you make evangelism a part of your everyday experience?
As we travel through Holy Week with Jesus, let us reflect on our identity as part of the Beloved Community and seek to find ways to invite others to join us on this journey. We all have a story to tell – and that’s truly where evangelism begins.
Let us pray –
Lord Jesus Christ, we come before you as a people of God,
seeking to join your transforming work in the world.
Open our eyes to see the movement of your Spirit.
Open our minds to imagine new possibilities.
Open our ears to hear the voices of all your children.
Open our mouths to speak with honesty and love.
Open our hands to share all that we have.
Open our hearts to receive all that we need.
Thank you, Lord, for calling us as your disciples and friends.
Give us courage to follow where you lead. Amen.
~ A prayer for new mission strategy from the Diocese of Massachusetts
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council