In several posts during the last year (here, here and here) this blog has taken a look at the work being done by PECUSA’s Commission on Mission and Evangelism, and while we have not found anything terrifically inspiring in it, it is nevertheless worth noting that the recent General Convention adopted most of the Commission’s recommendations without any major changes. Here are the details:

Resolution A070, Develop a Multimedia-Based Evangelism Guide: adopted as presented. Well intentioned, but vague: it’s not clear who will produce this guide. The ‘appropriate’ office at 815 is all that’s mentioned in the resolution, but the Commission apparently expects the ‘ethnic missioners of the Diversity, Social and Environment Team of The Episcopal Church Center’ to take charge. This is in accordance with the Commission’s emphasis on reaching groups that are under-represented in the Episcopal Church rather than people who haven’t put their faith in Jesus Christ, but this very emphasis is likely to limit the guide’s usefulness to those interested in winning unbelievers to Christ. And the ‘multimedia’ requirement is likely to distract from the ‘evangelism’ requirement, I’m afraid.

Resolution A071 Amend Canon III.8.5(g)(5): rejected. It wasn’t discussed by the Convention’s Evangelism Committee, so my contact on that committee had no information as to why. It would have spelled out the meaning of ‘cross-cultural ministry skills’ in the current canon by referring more specifically to the groups the Commission feels are under-represented.

Resolution A072 Add Canon III.8(5)(h)(5): adopted as presented. Requires that ordinands be trained in story-telling as a practice for evangelism, and a number of other requirements that seem more about the demographics of membership in PECUSA than evangelism (and then there’s ‘building capacity in nonprofit organizations’ as well). How anyone can get as far as being trained for ordination without being able to tell his or her own story, I’m not sure, but now we have this just in case.

A073 Establish Diocesan Mission Enterprise Zones: passed as presented. Requires dioceses to identify geographic areas where the under-represented groups live, and offers matching grants of up to $20,000 toward the cost of reaching their inhabitants. A million bucks to be budgeted for this. The more traditional version of evangelism would save a lot of money: unrepentant sinners seem (in my experience) to be evenly distributed throughout all geographic areas, and can be reached by the resources we already have (ie Christians) if those resources are willing to be used. Congregations in such enterprise zones are to be given ‘greater freedom’ in the use of ordained leadership and authorized texts for worship. Lay celebration, I bet—those Sydney Evangelicals have their tentacles even here!

A074 Identify and Deploy Lay Evangelists: passed with amendments. The resolution ‘encourages’ rather than ‘challenges’ diocese to ‘license’ a number equivalent to 25% of the congregations of the diocese by 2015. Again, we have to point out how much easier the work is if we stick to the traditional understanding of evangelism: Paul’s words in I Corinthians 1:7 were ‘you are not lacking in any spiritual gift’, and there was no need to add ‘but don’t forget to get diocesan permission’.

A075 Restructure General Convention and Church Governance: ‘discharged’, which in this case means ‘we did that already’.

As I say, not terrifically inspiring, but at least the subject remains on the agenda.