"That this General Synod commend the Report on Spirituality to the House of Bishops and to the Doctrine and Worship Committee for study and especially to consider whether new programs should be initiated to strengthen and increase the life of prayer and scripture study of Canadian Anglicans."
Bishop Payne spoke on behalf of Eastern Task Force of L.R.P. It was noted that the Doctrine and Worship Committee has also considered this Act and has set up a Sub-Committee for further discussion. The Long Range Planning Committee sent a message to say that the compilation of the survey on Spirituality is still in the computer at Dalhousie University, and it can be called up, in its entirety or in part, upon request. It was noted that a group at St. John's College, Winnipeg, is preparing Bible Study based on the new lectionary.
"That this General Synod affirm the importance of Evangelism in the life of the Church and request the National Executive Council and the House of Bishops to ensure that the ministry of Evangelism be emphasized throughout the Anglican Church of Canada.
And further that the necessary financial and human resources be made available
- to initiate appropriate expressions of Evangelism consistent with the witness of the New Testament as received by the Anglican Church;
- to encourage those ministries already under way;
- to provide training and materials;
- to coordinate and monitor the exercise of this ministry throughout our Church.
Bishop Conlin introduced Act 68 and addressed the House. (Appendix C).
Text of motion
That this House of Bishops establish a Task Force to be centred in Sault Ste. Marie; including Bishop Nock, or his representative; a representative from the Anglicans in Mission Committee; and one other person to be named by the Chairman, to consider the General Synod reports on Spirituality and Evangelism, and after consultation with the Doctrine and Worship Committee, to present to this House a plan for creative discussion leading to action. CARRIED
The Task Force was asked to use imagination in dealing with this resolution and the Agenda Committee was requested to give adequate time to take action on the findings of the Task Force. A design for achieving this was also requested from the Task Force.
Where Do We Go From Here in Evangelism? - Comments by Bishop Conlin
One of the Church's first tasks is to spell out in simple terms what we mean by the word "evangelism." We wrestled with that in our paper which we presented at Synod, and hoped that we might get a clearer picture from the church in the group reports. Frankly, we were disappointed with what came out of the groups. On reflection, we feel that the fault lay with us in that the question we asked about "style" led people off the track, somewhat. What I gleaned from the report leads me to raise some questions which might be useful to the House in helping us to respond to the General Synod resolution.
How Do We Define Evangelism for the Church?
It is clear that any definition of evangelism must be "holistic" - the whole gospel for the whole man and the whole of creation. We would not sit comfortably in our church with anything that would reduce the gospel to a one-dimensional, fragmented view of man, who has been created in the image and likeness of God. Man must be addressed in the totality of his being and in context - individual and social, physical and spiritual. This I believe is what we tried to do in our Paper when we described our style as balanced, pastoral and centred in community, engaged in the culture.
Such a holistic approach will, as well, bring us back again and again to the roots of evangelism, confirmed in the New Testament and centred in Jesus. The roots of evangelism focus in on metanoia (repentance), conversion and incorporation into the Community of Faith. The final goal of such proclamation or kerygma is the reconciliation of all men and all things in Jesus Christ - the shalom of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Moreover, returning again and again to the proclamation helps us to steer our attention away from the "fruits." The group reports displayed what happens when we start talking about evangelism, and that we concentrate first of all on the fruits of evangelism. We can easily get sidetracked when we concentrate on such fruits. For some, it is scalp collecting (saving souls); for some recruiting new members for the institutional church; for some, social service; for some socio-political involvement; for some, evangelism is the new joy and high feeling of an intense inner experience. If we concentrate on such fruits, then we are putting the cart before the horse. Evangelism produces all such fruits at one time or another. These are the efects of a prior cause; that prior cause Gabriel Fackre describes as, "The flinging of the seed of the Word into the air so that it may settle on good soil." "Evangelism," he says, "is first and foremost the 'scatter-act.' It is getting news out. What happens after that is determined by the Spirit at the seed's core. Authentic evangelism trusts that 'the Word will do it,' without attempting to arrange the Spirit's schedule and without prescribing its routes. It blows where it will. The task of the evangelist is to get the story straight and to get it out."
Trying to piece together a picture of what is said in the group reports prompts one to urge the development of a Theology of Evangelism for the whole church.
It is evident from the group reports that there needs to be more work on the theology of evangelism. The theme of salvation must be related to a doctrine of sin. The Gospel convinces man that he is a fallen creature. What does this mean in a world where man obviously does not see himself as a sinner. The theme of salvation must be related to the theme of creation. The Gospel is world affirming. Christ is the world's creator and in Him, it is brought to its true destiny in the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. What about an Incarnational Theology? How does what God has done in Christ affect the actual, material, collective and cultural context in which we live. The theology of the Cross and Resurrection must be reckoned with (the cost and the joy of discipleship). We cannot invite people to accept the promises and blessings of the Gospel without facing up to the demands of the Gospel. If we do, we are doing what Jesus explicitly asked us not to do. A good deal more reflection, I am sure, is needed on a theology of the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven in the context of evangelism.
It was clear from the group reports that the word "evangelism" has a negative connotation for many Anglicans. The words, "fear" and "lacking confidence" and "not articulate enough," describe an attitude towards evangelism. People are turned off by the word and are critical of both evangelists and evangelism. Would not Anglicans be more comfortable with "storytelling." Gabriel Fackre, you will remember, said "Evangelism is getting the story straight and getting it out." The story, of course, is about what God has done, is doing and will do. The emphasis is on "our learning the story afresh, getting it straight, that is, as we prepare to share it with others, and on our becoming the people of God as we invite others to join God's people." Now the storytelling is there. It is the stuff of which preaching, nurture, teaching and worship are made. But "story-hearing" is what is lacking. A cousin of mine and her husband, living here in Toronto, have just become ardent Christians. Two years ago, they were far removed from Christian concerns in their world of accountancy. Now they are both convinced, articulate and ardent Christians, because they had an opportunity to get involved and in a United Church's Enquiry Class, using the guide, "Telling My Story, Sharing My Faith" (a kind of action-reflection model). The change that I see in them has convinced me of the validity of this relational, non-manipulative, non-imperialistic approach to evangelism. Louis Almen, a Lutheran, describes storytelling a follows: "Evangelical outreach centres around the telling of the story. They are actually three stories. The central story is the story of Jesus, the Christ. This is 'His Story.' But my story is also important, particularly as it relates to the person to whom we are witnessing (their story), is crucial. Effective witnessing is my telling Jesus' story in a way which is relevant to the listener."
Need for Action Centred Models to Assist Us in Our Quest
Action centred evangelism is needed. Many are asking "What do we do and how do we start?" Of the making of many words and books about evangelism, there is no end, but "By their fruits, ye shall know them." Fackre talks about "engaged" evangelism or "action" evangelism. Word and deed together - it is only the incarnate word in action that is effective. Fackre goes on to describe such action centred models - action agent evangelism, issue evangelism, vocational or occupational evangelism, presence evangelism, service evangelism, barricade evangelism, and celebration evangelism. If you want to know a little more about what those mean, I can give you information on them.
The group responses indicated, again and again, the need for (1) training of clergy in evangelism, and (2) training of laity. There is, of course, an enormous amount of material written and tapes available for workshops. Quite a bit of material is available from England, produced by David Watson and others. A guidebook (300 pages), has just been produced by Wayne Schwab, the Director for Evangelism, Renewal and Church Growth in the Episcopal Church. The guidebook covers three years of work. There is always a propensity, however, to program the Spirit, and it would be important to sit loose with packaged programs, learning from a variety, rather than getting caught up into one or two particular programs. In addition, we would also do well to look at some of the church growth material available - even though the theology of the church growth school, and particularly its ecclesiology is not something we would sit easy with in our church. There has been considerable research in the past decade into the principles which govern growth and decline in congregations. One of our urgent concerns ought to be the training for evangelism in small churches. Perhaps congregations of 150 families or less are the norm for a large segment of our Church. The small congregation represents a model for the "covenant community," yet with the growing threat of inflation, how do we train our people in such a way that a spirit of "ministry" must replace a mentality of "maintenance" and "servanthood" must replace "survival" so that outreach shatters the walls of the stayed Anglican Club. Unfortunately, there seems to be little material available for "youth" and the "family" when it comes to the question of evangelism.
Finally, what should be the shape of the structures of the National, Diocesan and Parish levels for evangelism, in order to ensure, as our report on evangelism requested, that the ministry of evangelism be emphasized. When the Western Task Force appended its resolution to its report to General Synod, it was deliberately directed to the House of Bishops and the National Executive Council, and not to the Program Committee. We really felt that the place to start is in the diocese, with the bishop's blessing. For example, a diocese could start with a day-long presentation on evangelism, starting with those interested. You won't get, and you don't need all the clergy. The leader should have sufficient training in this field. Another way is to have an interest group - clergy and laity - encourage them to meet regularly for study and listening, using materials and cassettes. Perhaps another way would be to send teams from dioceses to a provincial conference on evangelism, and it would seem that the province would be the logical structure to monitor and support and promote evangelism. Could not a person be released part time from a parish to coordinate and promote such work? Such a person could be supported and encouraged by a task force with representatives from each diocese. Such a person could monitor and share what is happening across the national scene.
As for the parish, Schwab's guidebook on Evangelism, Renewal and Church Growth, contains a number of models for training in the parishes. Such models have been tested and are being tested presently in the Episcopal Church. The material may be had from the Episcopal Church Centre in New York. Other information is available from dioceses across our country.