During the 2015 General Convention, one of the greatest moments of excitement happened during consideration of the budget for the next triennium (not kidding). Two resolutions for church planting, 2015-D005 and 2015-A012, had passed both Houses without objection and with great enthusiasm, but they had made it to the budget presentation unfunded. So, the Acts 8 Movement folks worked together with the Latino Ministries group to make a dramatic plea for substantial and hopefully long-term investment in the future of the church. About $3 million for this work ended up in the 2016-18 budget.
Today, A005 will come to the House of Deputies on the Consent Calendar.
A005 seeks to call the Church to continue to let our ‘yes’ to church planting be ‘yes’, by seeking a variety of mechanisms for substantial and long-term investment in church planting on a variety of levels. It asks the General Convention for $5.8 million for sustaining the new church planting network for the next triennium. It asks The Episcopal Church Development Office to raise $6 million/triennium to plant new congregations. It asks dioceses participating in their grant program to put significant funds into church planting. This resolution offers us a picture of the kind of investment church planting will require of The Episcopal Church for the foreseeable future. Are we up for it?
A rumor has been going around that the draft budget is cutting church planting. The budget currently provides $2.6 million for new church start grants and $500,000 for redevelopment grants. So, this rumor is not strictly true, although some might argue that redevelopment should be considered in a separate category than new starts.
Perhaps the basis of the rumor, then, is a fear that the Church has lost its boldness in seeking out new resources for this ongoing work, not just for grants (although those are essential), but for training and equipping the next generation of church planters for the hard road ahead. Like 2015-D005 and 2015-A012, A005 is bold, and we will all probably vote for it. We will celebrate thinking we have done a bold thing, that we have said ‘yes’ to a new future for the Church, and the mandate will largely go undersupported.
Yes, there will be c. $3 million in grants to be had, but the $2.8 remainder looks like a no-go. What about the $6 million/triennium from The Episcopal Development Office? Be sure to ask about what the Development Office’s capacity for fundraising over a triennium is first, and remember they have other priorities set by General Convention.
Legislatures are terrible at prioritizing, and so they often end up with unfunded and underfunded mandates. General Convention is no different. However, if we think that the future of our church depends on how we invest in church planting now, as so many of our churches find themselves at a loss in changing neighborhoods and the shifting winds of culture, we will need to say “no” to some worthy things and “yes” to this future. We will need to say “yes” to church planting on many levels, not just the multinational level of our church infrastructure.
How does your diocese, your congregation, your circle of friends, or your own family invest in the future of the Church through supporting church planting and missional communities? Investment is not just about money, although that’s important. One of the major factors limiting church planting and missional community building potential here in Texas is that we struggle to find church planters and people willing to dedicate their capacity for relationship to building communities of worship and service outside of established settings. Talk to Jason Evans, EDOT Missioner for Church Planting and Missional Communities, and he will tell you that saying ‘yes’ to this work means saying ‘yes’ to expense, risk, and new relationship.
A005 calls us to continue the good work begun in us with great boldness for the sake of the future church. Even if A005 passes us by on the Consent Calendar and we all say ‘yes’ and pat ourselves on the back, let us heed its clarion call to boldly and continuously seek out new capacity for the work of church planting on every level of our Church’s life together.