By Jim Goodson
While General Convention and Episcopal Church Women met at the Austin Convention Center, 92 members of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew gathered about 10 miles north for their triennial meeting. The brothers met July 5-7 at the Embassy Suites Arboretum.
Brotherhood President Jeffrey Butcher has crisscrossed the nation in the last six years, meeting with everyone from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to the brotherhood’s smallest chapters.
During his address to the brothers, Butcher cited one considerable challenge: moving the 139-year-old ministry from a dues-paying structure to pledges based in thanksgiving.
“The idea that we can run this entire operation with volunteers left the station 20-years ago,” Butcher said.
In addition to the hundreds of local ministries by the brotherhood’s 5,162 members in 358 chapters throughout the nation, the national group focuses on seven ministries: discipleship and mentoring, Boy Scouts and youth, restorative justice, veterans affairs, racial reconciliation, fighting human trafficking, and recovery.
The brotherhood has moved its headquarters from Ambridge, Pennsylvania, to Louisville, Kentucky, and in January 2017 its executive board hired Tom Welch as the first executive director in more than 12 years.
In a short but warm address, Bishop Curry praised the brotherhood’s focus on seven national ministries. “Think about what this says about our commitment to our communities,” he said.
“God bless the brotherhood,” Bishop Curry said with vigor after giving a summary of General Convention business.
After workshops on evangelism, scouting, and fighting human trafficking, brothers heard from the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement.
“Once I got a great car wash for $12 at a new place in town,” Gunn said. “I told everybody I knew about this great new car wash. I bet I told 100 people. But then I thought, Why don’t I tell that many people about my faith, which is the most important thing in my life?”
It was the beginning of a personal ministry of evangelism.
Gunn noted that the Episcopal Church is losing one percent of its membership every year, and that this trend could easily be reversed.
“They used to say typical Episcopalians invite someone to church every 40 years,” Gunn said. “That was probably coined during the era of the Greatest Generation. Back in their day, you didn’t have to invite people to church. They just came — not only to church but to the Rotary Club, the PTA, and other community organizations.”
He offered a practical solution to stop the decline.
“If a significant number of Episcopalians invited two people per year to church, this decline could turn into a great revival of the Episcopal Church,” Gunn said.
“Our liturgy, music, and the fact that we kneel are among the unique things that set us apart,” he said. “Every time someone kneels, they are searching for Jesus.”
The Rev. Matt Marino of the Church of St. John the Divine in Houston led a rousing workshop on discipleship and mentoring.
“The youth of today have been advertised to and have seen more ads than any generation in history,” Marino said. “They have great BS detectors.”
Marino said he has seen denominations often spend $150,000 on a college chaplain, only to find their college ministries work better when the students manage ministry themselves.
Marino recommended materials by the Anglo-American author Simon Sinek and GO Ministries.
Jim Goodson is editor of the brotherhood’s newsletter, St. Andrew’s Cross.