By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry underscored the dual priorities of evangelism and racial reconciliation when Executive Council’s five joint standing committees met on the morning of Nov. 15.
Bishop Curry spent most of the 90-minute block with the Joint Standing Committee on Local Mission and Ministry, which oversees both evangelism and racial justice initiatives. He spoke for only three minutes, and then listened as members discussed what might be needed in the years ahead.
“One of the turning points,” Curry said, “will be if the faithful followers of Jesus in the Episcopal Church, right now sitting in those pews, actually become evangelists in ways that are authentic and genuine to them. Now you’re talking transformative stuff. But that takes work to get there.”
General Convention last summer passed resolutions in support of digital evangelism, church-planting, and racial reconciliation. Curry said a third canon, overseeing evangelism and racial reconciliation, can help feed ideas from the council to the staff so that the council may contribute ideas while keeping chains of accountability clear.
“I’m also sending a signal to the church with that third canon being for evangelism and racial reconciliation,” Curry said. “We’re ready and we’re really serious about this.”
Committee members discussed how racial reconciliation and evangelism go hand-in-hand because a life healed by Jesus Christ is one that bridges barriers and rifts between people. But members also acknowledge that both evangelism and racial reconciliation can be difficult to define and measure. Even envisioning what both look like in an Episcopal context can be a challenge.
“I don’t really know what you mean by racial reconciliation,” committee member said the Very Rev. Brian Baker in response to a staff member’s use of the phrase. “You talked about some nice things about how racism works and privilege and that stuff. But I don’t know what you mean.”
Baker said the council should explain what evangelism and racial reconciliation entail. Otherwise, the council will not provide clear direction in these areas for a church that could become distracted by other issues.
“I’m getting the sense from just listening that when we use the term evangelism, we’re not talking about a marking campaign in response to decline,” said the Rev. Canon Michael Hunn, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry within the Episcopal Church. “Right?”
“Absolutely not,” said the Rev. Canon Frank Logue, adding that the church is talking about something that involves healing lives.
“We’re talking about evangelism as an invitation for people to personally draw closer to Jesus,” Hunn said. He said it would help church staff to have more clarity from Executive Council on what it means by evangelism.
Executive Council logo by Episcopal News Service