This week I am grateful to The Rev. Anthony Estes, a member of the Resolution Review Committee of Diocesan Council, who offered to write the blog while I am on “baby watch” in Grand Rapids awaiting the birth of my next grandchild. Anthony selected the following resolution to bring to your attention; a timely choice, I believe, following the Big Provincial Gathering which took place in Kalamazoo just a week ago! Here is the news from Anthony as he addresses the following resolution:
A221: Collaboration and Networking
Resolved, That after the 79th General Convention, The Episcopal Church commit to equipping and strengthening the work of networking and affinity groups of The Episcopal Church; including but not limited to: visioning for the kinds of collective aspirations for dioceses and articulating how these aspirations and efforts support The Episcopal Church in the mission of Jesus Christ; building the capacity for idea and resource sharing among dioceses and other networks; articulating the funding issues associated with collaboration; and finding ways to fund ministry; and be it further
Resolved, That this work be initiated by affinity groups, networks, members of dioceses, and the wider Episcopal Church; and be it further
Resolved, That diocesan leadership be attentive to and supportive of these networks, collaborations, and affinity groups which demonstrate and encourage vitality within and among dioceses; sharing the fruits and learnings with the Office of Communications such that others may participate in such learnings.
Most of us know that our parishes are organized into deaneries, and those deaneries (or convocations) make up a diocese. Did you know that the dioceses are grouped together regionally into what is a called a province? In additional to the provincial system within the Episcopal Church (TEC), as a member body of the Anglican Communion, TEC in its entirety is a province of the Anglican Communion. TEC has nine provinces, and the Diocese of Michigan is situated within Province V, along with 15 other dioceses in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin..
At its most fundamental level, provinces and dioceses are the connective tissue between congregations, lay and ordained leadership, and communities. I can imagine that this reality is the bedrock of the mandate for the House of Deputies’ Committee on Congregational and Diocesan Vitality. Over the years, General Convention has worked via committees in the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops to strengthen and focus the work and mission of provinces. As recently as the 78th General Convention, bicameral committees were charged to address issues of leadership, foster mission opportunities, strengthen networking and collaborative relationships, consider geographical bounds of provinces, and come up with measurable outcomes for diocesan bodies. They were charged to have some of the hard conversations about the numbers and sizes of our dioceses and help the church discern what the next faithful steps should be to help us do ministry in Christ’s name together, better, and stronger.
That’s a tall order.
At the 79th General Convention in 2018, Resolution A221 was presented, subsequently amended, and both houses concurred to its final form above. The original resolution cited the following as the explanation for the resolution:
The Task Force for the Study of Provinces acknowledged that the current provincial structure is uneven, and efforts to change it create challenges around funding, human resources, program viability, and representation on Executive Council.
As the Committee for Congregational and Diocesan Vitality, we have discerned that the future of the provincial system is uncertain. In an attempt to move forward, the Committee wishes to focus on the places within and outside the provincial system where networking is flourishing and has potential for furthering the mission of Jesus Christ.
How do we engage this work generally and support the ones who are directly involved in representing us on the provincial level? That’s a great question, so I reached out to Anna Stania, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Michigan and the Diocese of Michigan’s representative on the Province V Executive Board. I asked for her reflections on the Big Provincial Gathering that took place in Kalamazoo a couple of weeks ago. Anna says, “Most came away with the thought ‘we have so much in common.’” There were some 63 workshops with over 85 workshop leaders. Anna says the gathering helped people connect with each other to work on strategy and build networks of support.
Province V’s mission is “Connect. Network. Support.”, says The Rev. Heather Barta. Barta is the priest at Church of the Resurrection in Clarkston and Coordinator of Province V. Her reflection on the Big Provincial Gathering was that it was great for everyone to get together and realize we can do more together. She told me that, “The purpose of Province V is to support the parishes and dioceses that comprise Province V with networks and support.” The work done at the Big Provincial Gathering, Heather says, gives people “a bigger picture of the whole church.”
The Taskforce for the Study of Provinces has a huge task and due to all kinds of constraints, the work is difficult. And what’s more, “the future of the provincial system is uncertain.” My goodness, I hope not! The condensed synthesis of the last two paragraphs of Resolution A221 might go something like this: Let’s get to the good work of collaboration, continue the good work of collaboration, and then communicate the good work to the rest of the church.
How can you get involved? Anna says “Subscribe to their email newsletter, and keep up with Province V on Facebook.” It’s a way of making friends virtually. I already have and I look forward to the videos from the Big Provincial Gathering.
~ The Rev. Anthony Estes
Collaboration and networking are, indeed, an important part of living as the Beloved Community. I was blessed to attend the Big Provincial Gathering for one day and truly enjoyed meeting and sharing with others from around the Province – especially as we joined in worship together! As our society continues to seem more and more polarized, it is crucial that we look for ways to support one another and build bridges together. Thank you, Anthony for bringing this important resolution to our attention!
Let us pray –
Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed
for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one:
Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and
obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit,
that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your
Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in
the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council