General Theological Seminary and Virginia Theological Seminary are together launching TryTank: An Experimental Laboratory for Church Growth and Innovation.

The schools have called the Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija of Los Angeles, an alumnus of General Theological Seminary, as founding director.

“I can’t imagine a more exciting time to try new things in the church,” Lebrija said. “It feels as though the Holy Spirit is leading us to new frontiers while remaining loyal to our tradition. To be asked to lead part of that exploration is a distinct honor.”

TryTank will seek to understand the forces threatening the church and identify creative ways to equip future leaders to reinvigorate the church.

“This is an innovative moment in theological education for the Episcopal Church,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary. “Along with these sister seminaries seeking to serve the church together, the whole idea of a congregational laboratory which can try things is exciting. We have sat around for long enough moaning about our predicaments; the time has come to try ideas and initiatives out.”

“We are recommitting ourselves to Jesus’ call for discipleship, which means, quite plainly, church growth, not decline. This takes partnership and innovation,” said the Very Rev. Kurt H. Dunkle, dean and president of General. “We want the model and means of the TryTank to reflect its message. Sister seminaries are coming together to try something new, intending to encourage and enable a new generation of lay and ordained leaders to faithfully grow the church.”

Under Lebrija’s direction, the TryTank Experimental Lab will discover how new church models, business models, and technology can meet the needs of today’s church.

“Anytime we have asked ourselves what if as we do and are church, those are opportunities to explore and try,” Lebrija said. “We are going to be doing a lot of that. And we know we’re going to fail, a lot. But that’s how we can discover new adjacent possibilities: by trying.

“We are really aiming to make this a churchwide effort,” Lebrija said. “We want our experiments to tell a story and that story to be shared, because something that may not have worked in one place may just be perfect in another.”

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