General Convention is what we call the triennial meeting of the governing body of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America or simply The Episcopal Church. The governing body subsumes all members of this church and is jointly called The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS). At least, that is how I read the Canons and Constitution of our church. I wonder if we would do well to remember that mission should take a preferred seat as we carry on the business of The Episcopal Church. Not liturgy. Not Theology. Mission. What is it that we do for others, for the sake of Jesus Christ?
My digression aside, Resolution D054 builds upon the progress made in the area of youth and mission at the 78th convention. It articulates hope that more missionaries, particularly our youth, may be able to spend substantial time in the mission field of the world listening and learning. Ms. Martha Bedell Alexander, the proposer of D054, wrote in her rationale (this statement is not a part of the legislation): “Overall the number of missionaries supported by the DFMS is relatively small, about one for every two dioceses of the church. Increasing the number of missionaries will intensify the exposure Episcopalians have to the church’s global work; deepen awareness of cultural, religious and socio-economic differences around the world; facilitate learning from mission companions in other parts of the world; and enhance the church’s engagement with Anglicans who differ with the Episcopal Church on various issues.”
D054: Expand YASC and EVIM Support
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 79th General Convention affirm the Anglican and ecumenical mission consensus that incarnational and personal presence is important in global mission alongside funding and program initiatives and that therefore the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society should continue to send missionaries to serve in companionship with others around the world; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention encourage dioceses, seminaries, and
congregations to recruit and support both Episcopal Volunteers in Mission (EVIMs) and Young Adult Service Corps members (YASCers); and be it further Resolved, That the General Convention increase its commitment to EVIM and YASC programs by increasing the budget to meet the escalating costs of travel and insurance for missionaries and to strengthen the promotion of both programs across the church; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance increase the Mission Personnel budget by $250,000 from $4,740,900 to $4,990,900 for the 2019-21 triennium in order to implement this resolution.
Resolution D054 acknowledges at least two missteps we must redress if we want to actualize ourselves as The (Missionary) Episcopal Church. We have not directed enough money to this initiative, and we do not have enough missionaries in the field – demonstrating the need for more financial support and recruitment. We have to leverage our collective and considerable privilege to prioritize mission. Therefore, at its 79th meeting, our missionaries put forth a resolution affirming that incarnational presence is just as significant in global mission as funding and program initiatives. Not only paying up but showing up. Our missionaries moved to encourage the several dioceses, seminaries, and congregations to recruit and support two organizations: Episcopal Volunteers in Mission and Young Adult Service Corps.
The context of our global health crisis begs the question of how can we be an incarnational presence when we cannot leave our homes? I do not know the answer to that, and I pray we all engage in the holy wrestle of discerning the missional way forward.
In the meantime, perhaps the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan and our various congregations and youth and college ministries can think about mission in a changing global society. I did a quick check of Facebook and saw that the Young Adult Service Corps just hosted an online retreat. I am confident they will figure out and help our congregations and dioceses keep thinking and acting missional.
As missionaries, all of us, right now, can take the posture put forth in the rationale behind D054 to “deepen awareness of cultural, religious and socio-economic differences around the world.” The differences are glaring right now, and perhaps space to truly see the differences and to ponder why and how to respond is an unexpected gift Covid-19 has given us.
Let us pray –
Almighty and eternal God, you revealed the depth of your love to us in Jesus Christ. As he sojourned on this earth, he healed, but not without first looking with compassion upon those in need of healing. Grant to us an abundance of silence, that we may hear the pleas of the world; endue us with sight illumined by love, that we may truly see our sisters and brothers; liberate us from apathy, that we may give the extent of ourselves for the sake of others. We ask for your love’s sake, that heals our brokenness even as we bandage the wounds of others. Triune One, hear us. Amen.
~ The Rev. Anthony Estes, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council