TREC issues a letter to The Episcopal Church suggesting changes

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC) has issued A Word To The Episcopal Church.

TREC Letter to the Church: September, 2014

Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”                                                                                                                                                               (John 11:43–44)

As the Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC) has progressed in our work, we have come to see the raising and unbinding of Lazarus as a helpful way of understanding this moment in the life of The Episcopal Church. We believe Jesus is calling our church to new life and vitality, but the church is held back by its bindings—old ways of working that no longer serve us well.

We write this as we begin the final months of our work, to give you an update about our thinking and emerging recommendations for your prayerful consideration and feedback. We will publish our final report and specific legislative proposals in December 2014.

In the 18 months since we first met as a Task Force, we have been in conversation with many of you—in person and virtually—about your hopes, dreams, ideas, and concerns for the church and about our collective mission to serve Christ. We have appreciated your feedback, your encouragement, and your criticism of our work so far. We look to continue our dialogue with you in the months to come and encourage you to respond to this letter, to participate in our virtual town hall meeting that we will webcast from Washington National Cathedral on October 2, and to engage in dialogue with us as we join provincial meetings and other forums. We thank you for your input to date and for your prayers for our work together.

The Need for Change
The Episcopal Church’s structures and governance processes reflect assumptions from previous eras that do not always fit with today’s contexts. They have not adapted to the rapidly changing cultural, political, and social environments in which we live.  The churchwide structures and governance processes are too disconnected from local needs and too often play a “gating” or regulatory role to local innovation. They are often too slow and confusing to deal decisively with tough and urgent tradeoffs or to pursue bold directions that must be set at the churchwide level.

Our study and observations would suggest, for example, that:
■             General Convention has historically been most effective in deliberatively discerning and evolving the church’s position on large-scale issues (e.g., prayer book revision, reform of clergy formation and discipline canons, women’s ordination, same sex blessings). This should continue to be the primary role of General Convention.
■             However, General Convention is not organized to drive clear prioritization of resourcing; address technical issues; set a clear agenda for churchwide staff; launch bold programs of innovation or reform; or ensure accountability for effective and efficient execution by the churchwide staff. At the churchwide level, we lack the ability to focus on the priorities that are most urgent at the local level, where much if not most of our primary mission and ministry take place.
■             Neither the Executive Council nor the Presiding Bishop’s office are fully effective in complementing the General Convention by making tough tradeoffs, setting bold direction, or driving accountability of churchwide staff to local needs. The roles of the Executive Council and the Presiding Bishop’s office are often ambiguous and unclear, and neither are structured, selected, or sized appropriately for their tasks in governance and execution. As a result, churchwide staff report significant confusion as to who sets direction. Power struggles emerge, with all factions claiming alignment with General Convention resolutions, and conflicts are resolved through churn and delay, rather than through clear analysis and accountable authority. We have not demonstrated the capacity at the churchwide level to develop the kind of strategic focus that allows us to address some of our highest and most pressing priorities.
■             Churchwide staff functions have evolved their roles and mindsets to be increasingly responsive and supportive of local mission, but their purpose and scope are not clear and broadly understood across the church. Highly skilled people and well-developed programs are underutilized because local groups do not know they exist.  In other situations, dioceses report frustration that churchwide programs are not responsive or adequate to meet their local needs. There are not sufficient systems of transparency around how churchwide resources are used or held accountable for their effectiveness and resource stewardship.

A New Paradigm
We live in an age of networks, yet our churchwide structure has not fully adapted to this organizational paradigm. The evolution from a bureaucratic/regulatory agency paradigm to a network will profoundly change the role, culture, decision making processes, and leadership paradigms of and within The Episcopal Church’s churchwide structures. This would not be unlike other significant evolutions that have occurred historically around our church’s governance and structures.

We have previously written about the historical evolution of churchwide structural paradigms and described four clear roles that we recommend for the 21st century:
■             Catalyst: The Episcopal churchwide organization should inspire and provoke all members of the church to live fully into its mission of “restoring all people to unity with God and one another in Christ” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 855).
–    Specific examples of what the churchwide structure must and should do to fulfill this role would include inspiring and calling the whole church to baptismal ministry and helping every member interpret the world through the eyes of the gospel, including exercising a prophetic voice on social justice issues and representing the voices of marginalized people.
■             Connector: The churchwide organization should establish and maintain relationships among its member communities and constituents in order to cultivate Episcopal identity, to magnify the mission impact of local communities by connecting them to each other, and to facilitate the sharing of ideas and learning across the Episcopal and broader Anglican networks.
–    Specific examples of what the churchwide structure must and should do to fulfill this role would include representing The Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion; forging ecumenical relationships and alliances; exercising canonical authority to foster and preserve the church’s catholicity (unity in diversity with the wider Christian Church); maintaining the church’s institutional history through the Church Archives; and fostering communication across the church around new ideas, learning, and opportunities for collaboration.
■             Capability Builder: The Episcopal churchwide organization should support leadership development centered around the critical skills necessary for individual and communitywide Christian formation in 21st century contexts. The Episcopal churchwide organization should also ensure that the church is a learning organization—rapidly learning from successes and failures across the church and rapidly sharing these lessons across the church’s network. Key capabilities needed in today’s missionary context include skills in ministry, community organization, reviving congregations, planting congregations, multicultural leadership, evangelism, Christian formation, reaching new generations, and reaching new populations. The expertise in these areas lies primarily at the grassroots level, but the churchwide structure can foster mutual learning, especially on a peer-to-peer basis.
–    Specific examples of what the churchwide structure must and should do to fulfill this role would include cultivating and fostering the sharing of expertise for targeted training and professional development.
■             Convenor: The Episcopal churchwide organization should assemble the church in traditional and non-traditional ways as a missionary convocation. The Episcopal churchwide organization should also convene the church with the broader Anglican Communion, with ecumenical church partners, and with other potential partners and collaborators in proclaiming Christ’s gospel and living the Five Marks of Mission.[1]
–    Specific examples of what the churchwide structure must and should do to fulfill this role would include convening a General Missionary Convocation both in person and virtually, potentially concurrent with General Convention.

Implications for Existing Churchwide Structures
To begin to change the church’s operating paradigm in the ways that we believe will be necessary, we have identified several “critical path” priorities and have worked to more fully develop them. We have concluded these areas are in the most need of our attention if we are to make the church work more effectively in our 21st century context.  These changes will not fully transition the churchwide structures and governance to the network-based model that we describe above. The work of reimagining our church and restructuring the church’s institution will need to be an ongoing process of adaptation as our context continues to shift and change. Taken together, however, we believe addressing these areas constitute a critical first step and will enable further change. We must streamline and focus  the scope of our churchwide agenda, to become a more distributive, networked, and nimble church that is focused on local faith formation and local mission and that enables and accelerates local innovation and adaptation; while at the same time enhancing, not diminishing our prophetic voice to the world around us.
■             At the churchwide level, we must select and fully empower clear and effective leadership to define agendas, set direction, develop expertise around complex issues and their implications, make tough choices, and pursue bold and disruptive ideas where appropriate. There are implications for the General Convention, for the Executive Council, the central executive function of the church, and for General Convention’s Commissions, Councils, Agencies, and Boards (CCABs).
■             Once the direction is set for the work necessary at the churchwide level, we must empower a lean churchwide staff to build capacity across our church and act as network catalysts and network builders. This staff must be directed and supervised by professionals with deep and relevant expertise and experience in the areas that are the focus of their respective projects. The scope of mission-related staff work should be specific and time-bound (see “Developing Recommendations” below).
■             We must create accountability in our churchwide structure so that we are able to measure whether that structure is following the direction that has been set, ensuring a high quality of work, and driving efficiency. For churchwide staff, this means that objectives must be set at the start of any project or endeavor with basic, guiding metrics that are tracked and reported.

We believe that addressing these priorities will enable the church to continue to evolve and streamline its governance and structures in areas that we have not addressed.  We also believe that addressing these priorities will enable the church to be more effective in addressing its most complex and urgent issues where deep study and bold action is required (e.g., sustainability of stipendiary clergy; implications for clergy education and pension structures).

Developing Recommendations
The recommendations that we will submit to the church and to the 2015 General Convention will likely take several different forms:
1.            A complementary set of resolutions that suggest amendments to the Canons and Constitution in order to implement what the Task Force considers “critical path” changes to churchwide structures, governance, and administration. We will strongly recommend that these resolutions be implemented as a total package.
2.            Draft resolutions for further streamlining of churchwide structures and governance that our work tells us represent the wishes of a large segment of church members and that we believe should be debated and resolved in the 2015 General Convention.
3.            A recommended agenda of serious and deep issues on which our church must take urgent action in order to be as bold, adaptive, and resilient as it needs to be over the coming decades, plus an illustration of how this agenda would be effectively and efficiently informed and progressed if our legislative recommendations were adopted.
4.            More specifically, the “critical path” proposals we are considering putting forward in the form of General Convention resolutions calling for amendments to the Canons and Constitution currently include:
■             Improvements to the effectiveness of the General Convention, e.g.:
–    Limits to the overall length of the General Convention and efforts to focus and prioritize its legislative agenda.
–    Reduction in the number of legislative committees for General Convention
–    Express permission for legislative committees to let resolutions die in committee
–    The evolution of General Convention to become a General Missionary Convocation of the Church, with networking and sharing around mission and ministries its primary focus, and hopefully reducing the scope and size of legislation and both legislative bodies, while still increasing overall participation and relevance to mission at the local level.
■             Clarifications around the role of the central executive structures of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS)
–    Presiding Bishop retained as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Church, Chair of the Executive Council, and President of DFMS, with managerial responsibility for all DFMS staff
–    President of the House of Deputies (PHoD) retained as Vice President of the Church, Vice Chair of the Executive Council, and Vice President of DFMS
–    Presiding Bishop responsible for nominating three people to serve in the following offices, with concurrence by the PHoD:  Chief Operating Officer (COO), Treasurer/Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Legal Officer. These positions would serve at the pleasure of the Presiding Bishop.  Approval for the Presiding Bishop to fire any of these officers would not be required from the PHoD or the Executive Council.
■             Changes to the role, size, and selection of the Executive Council
–    The role of the Executive Council clarified as a “governance” role, similar to a non-profit Board of Trustees
–    Size of the Executive Council reduced from 40 to 21 members (retaining proportionality among the orders) to improve its effectiveness as a Board
–    Executive Council membership to include the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies as ex officio voting members, and the COO, Treasurer/CFO and Secretary as non-voting members, plus 20 members elected “at large” rather than as representatives of each province
■             Reduction in the number of CCABs and their scope
–    Elimination of all Standing Commissions except the Joint Standing Committees on Nominations and Program, and Budget & Finance
–    Charging the presiding officers to appoint such task forces as might be necessary to carry out the work of a General Convention on a triennium by triennium basis.
■             A transition in the mission or program-related staff of DFMS to a primarily contractor-only model
–    Contractors to be hired based on a specific project scope, length, and set of objectives
–    Project effectiveness to be monitored by the Presiding Bishop’s office and reviewed annually by Executive Council against a set of pre-agreed metrics
Staff in “support functions” like Human Resources, Finance, IT, Legal, Communications, or Archives would not be impacted

In our final report, we will illustrate how these recommended changes would help The Episcopal Church to more effectively and efficiently address critical and urgent agenda items, with the flexibility to innovate and experiment more rapidly and to adopt bold courses of action where necessary.

In the course of our work as a Task Force, we have identified and are continuing to develop a set of agenda items that we believe must be addressed by The Church in coming years. These agenda items include:
■             Building capacity and capability across the Church around evangelism, community leadership, and non-traditional parish formation
■             The sustainability of a fully stipendiary clergy model and the likely predominance of mixed models of employment and clergy leadership
■             Implications for seminary education, requirements, and debt burden
■             Opportunities for Pension Fund policy changes to improve clergy and lay leadership incentive alignment
■             Diocesan viability, the number of dioceses, and assessment requirements/expectations
■             Parish viability, the number and geographic distribution of parishes, and fostering new church plants

We believe that addressing these types of issues will require strong, inspired and accountable leadership, informed input, and, in some cases, quick action. With the changes we have recommended in churchwide structures, governance, and administration, we see these issues being addressed as follows:
■             The General Convention would call for these issues to be part of the DFMS agenda, to be directed by the Presiding Bishop’s office and accountable to the Executive Council and to subsequent General Conventions
■             The Presiding Bishop’s office (most likely through the COO) would identify the expertise and type of resources required to effectively study these issues and to develop recommendations. The Presiding Bishop’s office, in consultation with the Executive Council, would charter time-bound projects with specific objectives and metrics, and it would hire qualified contractors and establish advisory boards as necessary. The Presiding Bishop’s office would direct these projects and the people hired to accomplish them.
■             The Executive Council would review and provide appropriate oversight of DFMS’s total portfolio of projects relative to pre-established metrics on an annual basis.

It is important to state clearly and emphatically that the work of innovation and adaptation is already underway at all levels of the church. It is clear that with or without the General Convention, with or without any recommendations from TREC, the re-imagining of our Church is already and will continue to take place. The Holy Spirit has breathed new life into the Church at countless times and in countless ways in the past, and the same Spirit will continue to do so in the future. Our hope is that our recommendations will ultimately help focus and direct the extraordinary spiritual, human, and material resources God has entrusted to us toward a clear set of priorities that will help us be most faithful and effective in continuing to participate in God’s mission in the world.

A Prayer for Our Continued Work
Holy Spirit, who broods over the world, fill the hearts and minds of your servants on the Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church with wisdom, clarity, and courage.  Work in them as they examine and recommend reforms for the structure, governance, and administration of this branch of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. Help them propose reforms to more effectively proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, to challenge the world to seek and serve Christ in all persons—loving our neighbors as ourselves—and to be a blazing light for the kind of justice and peace that leads to all people respecting the dignity of every other human being. Be with The Episcopal Church that we may be open to the challenges that this Taskforce will bring to us, and help the whole church to discern your will for our future. In the name of Jesus Christ our Mediator, on whose life this Church was founded.  AMEN
[1] To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom. To teach, baptize and nurture new believers. To respond to human need by loving service. To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

For more info, questions or comments, contact TREC members at

TREC plans a churchwide meeting on October 2. Details are available here.


  1. James David Walley says:

    It is ironic, to me, that TREC has chosen to invoke the story of Lazarus — for, from what I can read of their proposals, the gist of it seems to be “kill off TEC, then hope that Jesus will raise it again.”

    • I caught that implication also. But Jesus didn’t kill Lazarus, and He will certainly be willing to help resurrect the Church!

    • Tamika Caston-Miller says:

      I believe the reference alludes to the TEC being dead in its boldness and needs a resurrection. At least, that’s what it means to me.

    • Some very thoughtful analysis on the national church. However, I wonder if the change we need is more local? One faithful Episcopalian once said, “Revive your church, beginning with me.” Maybe the problem is not policy, but love. Do we really love the lost people who do not know the love of Christ? If I did, then I would spend more energy, time, and money in tryng to reach them through the power of the Holy Spirit. God bless.

  2. Len Freeman says:

    This shows real thoughtfulness, courage and wisdom. The Spirit has been with you…. and may it continue with all of us as these processes move forward.

  3. Tom Fitzhugh says:

    Brilliant and insightful. Praying for success in your efforts. There will be strong push back from everyone who has special interests, but the tenor of this report and the fact that it clearly states who needs to do what is absolutely wonderful. A huge, fresh wind!

  4. A new organizational chart with bullet points, to identify each of the segments, would probably be most helpful to more people.
    There are a lots of words in your preliminary report and, like long sermons, tend to lull people to sleep rather than stimulation for clarity of action.

    • Ah, yes! And something needs to be done about this report’s reliance on a significant amount of organizational-technocrat, insider jargon that is at least as difficult for many committed church members to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest as the recently vilified terms, Eucharist, coadjutor and diocese, are for outside observers!

      • Donald Graves says:

        The Conclusion and the Prayer for Continued Work are the only readable and coherent parts of the report. I pray the Holy Spirit can forge through the BOMFOG and bring some simple understandable suggestions.

      • Christopher Myers says:

        Amen. Reads like a bunch of consultants from Accenture wrote it, rather than churchfolk. Applaud the sincere work and time spent, but sometimes the medium is the message.

    • Don Plummer says:


    • nancy sargent says:


  5. Robert Walker says:

    This is important work for the future of the Church and it appears you are on the right track. Thank you for all the time and talent you are giving to the job before you. My prayer is that the next convention will take your suggestions for significant change and not only approve but make sure that we follow-through with the necessary changes. Our corporate weakness has always been to approve a change by resolution at General Convention, but not making sure the necessary work takes place after the convention adjourns.

  6. I pray that the people of The Episcopal Church, especially General Convention deputations, Standing Committees, and Executive Council, will read, digest, and dialogue about this report and offer additional thoughts about the reimagining of the church. I also pray that we will be faithful stewards of all the gifts given to the church, including the love and labor of our staff at various levels, and make any changes with both thought and care.

  7. Agree with Pisani that it is too wordy, provoking both sleep and confusion as to what you are getting at. All the charges that new groups or whatever will discover critical path to new directions sound like when one does not know what to do, saying that someone will do something.

    • Douglas M. Carpenter says:

      After a lengthy sermon, our homiletics professor would often say. “Now, please tell us what you were trying to say.”

  8. Jeff Douglas says:

    Very sermonic and filled with executive consultant jargon. You don’t define your acronyms and assume that those in the pews know them. They don’t. However, it seems to be an attempt to raze the bureaucracy and refocus the Church on mission which is commendable. I do worry about adopting the corporate board model with the CEO, CFO and CLO (all endowed in this proposal with greater power to determine the direction of the church) at a time when corporate structures and top-down thinking allow for less bubbling up from those on the front lines, the missionaries, planters, parishioners and priests. Lip service is given to networking but until it is a reality, I don’t think the sense that the national church has little connection to the daily spiritual lives of those in the pews will change.

  9. Dale Osborn Rains says:

    What you have proposed is generally good. However, I was hoping for a lot more specificity. Perhaps, I hope, that will come.

  10. Frederick Rivers says:

    Sounds like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The church does not need more “program”, rather conversion. No mention of the need for repentance, greater faith in Jesus or in living the Holy Gospel.

  11. David Chee (Rev. Canon) says:

    While Lazarus as dead seems odd to describe us (the church) at any point in time whether past or present, to rekindle life in those parts of Lazarus (us) that have died or fallen asleep seem appropriate, so that we can experience a whole Lazarus resurrection or resuscitation, with the words of Jesus setting the tune: let the resurrected Lazarus be “unbound and set free”.

    Having been on Executive Council but basically one who worked at grass-root level, I congratulate the task force for its great insights and extremely good work. I look forward to reading its final report, but can now already start to imagine all the good things that can happen as we continue to move ahead in the 21st. century.

  12. Douglas M. Carpenter says:

    This reminds me of a writing course I once took. The main criticism came like this: “Please rewrite this in half the words.” – Doug Carpenter

  13. John McCann says:

    I found this way too long and convoluted. Need some editing, We need more than anything some bold leadership- a “Pope Francis” who I, even tho an avowed Epsicopalian, will boldly speak out on really important issues, Not a peep out of our Presiding Bishop, she is way too corporate, and does not elicit the type of leadership that garners headlines, “Working quietly behind the scenes” is a bunch of baloney- we need BOLD statements from our leaders and REAL leadership, not just careful bureaucrats and politicians,

    • Totally agree John McCann – and this whole TREC document is sleep-inducing. Someone earlier wrote that we seem to be urging mission without any idea what that might mean – Unless it is God’s mission undertaken by God’s converted people there isn’t any, no matter how expertly managed.

    • The Rev'd Anthony C. Dinoto says:

      John McCann hit the nail on the head. This document is mind-numbing and verbose with little attention paid to specificity on important issues that all too often get steam-rolled by the latest fad of “mission-speak” that makes my eyes glaze over. He’s absolutely correct about the ineffectiveness of so-called “working quietly behind the scenes” – unadulterated baloney. We must do better in our selection of the next Presiding Bishop if we don’t want the next Presiding Bishop to be the last Presiding Bishop.

      • Frank Bergen says:

        Criticism of the Presiding Bishop, like criticism of the President of the United States, ignores the sad truth that institutions do make midgets of us all. Efforts to remake institutions seem to me to be based on the assumption that our vitality as people of God is dependent on the vitality and relevance of the institutions, and I’m not at all sure that is the case. From the local to the national, even to the world-wide level it is the people, not the structures, who live and make known the Good News. My Jesuit brother Francis recognizes this and at least at times ignores the structures to share the Good News with the people of the world, be they within the church or not. Is it not just a tad ironic that he would be ineligible to be considered a candidate for the primacy of our church or of the Church of England — perhaps any Anglican church, due to his age? It is less changes to the size, shape, building materials of the box that we need; it’s leaders willing to step outside the box.

  14. Gary Goldacker says:

    A good first draft for setting the scene and identifying some of the characters, with just enough plot to keep me paying attention. As someone ordained during the struggle for a new prayer book and hymnal, the role of women, minorities, LGBT persons in the full ministry of the Church and development of important justice ministries, I feel like I am part of a whole new era for us as the Church. I look forward to our future and thank TREC for it’s exciting work. Prayers for your continuing faithfulness to the Gospel.

  15. James Manuel says:

    More power to the TREC! May the Holy Spirit guide each and every one of you, much wisdom, greater knowledge ,coupled with a sound mind and body, so that you can come out with a good recommendations , for the good of our beloved Church, and more importantly, for the glory of God.

  16. Livingston Prescott Humboldt IV says:

    So much gobbledygook it seems to this retired English teacher and editor. Get to the point, if you have one. All this technobabble jargon is meaningless. Sounds like something a consultant would get big bucks for cutting and pasting.

  17. Sarah Williams says:

    Glad it’s not just me–just give the bullet specifics, please! How many lengthy meetings went into this? I respect the effort, but still have in idea what real changes are being recommended. And the grammar….”Neither IS….” not “Neither are!” Sigh. How about just outfitting church bathrooms with stools for kids to wash hands, changing tables in all bathrooms, young family-friendly basics? A sense of fun and meeting people where they are in their everyday lives?

  18. Dorothy Leland says:

    I am pleased with the idea of this group working to improve our church. However, when we need to encourage people to be involved with the church, why do we want to limit participation? To have the Executive Committee elected at large rather than having representation from each province seems to me a mistake. Surely there are people in each of our provinces who would be suitable for the task of serving on this committee. I have no office, am not ordained, but feel a need to speak my mind on this one thing. I hope you will reconsider. Dorothy Leland

    • Daphne Hedges says:

      Agree with Dorothy. Sounds like a way to establish a selected group to follow the selecters’ wishes.

      That is one of the few specific, “non-technojargon” phrases. I have to agree with the criticisms of the language. Really!

    • Scott Johnson says:

      I agree. Getting rid of the provincial representatives is a mistake. If you need to cut down the size, get rid of the at large members instead. The proposed change will just result in a further consolidation of power into the hands of GenCon leadership. It will also take away one of the few actual reasons for having a provincial meeting.

  19. Jim Murdock says:

    In spite of the mentioning of networking and the Holy Spirit, the bulk of this seems (at first sight) to lie in the centralizing of power around the Presiding Bishop. Won’t this lead to a loss of diversity and the imposition of a single point of view? Where is there any mention of prayer and deepening the spirituality of the church so that the Holy Spirit can act more creatively?

  20. Shirley Banks says:

    ” A transition in the mission or program-related staff of DFMS to a primarily contractor-only model
    – Contractors to be hired based on a specific project scope, length, and set of objectives”

    A primarily contractor-only model? Which is it? Primarily contractors or only contractors?

    “The sustainability of a fully stipendiary clergy model and the likely predominance of mixed models of employment and clergy leadership”

    Outsourcing DFMS program work and wanting priests to work part-time is a way to avoid paying benefits. As health insurance companies, big pharma, and some types of hospitals have record profits, health care remains simply too expensive for many Americans, especially those of us who are under-employed. Like it or not, having a full-time job remains the only viable means of access to health care. Really, are we OK with depriving our ministers of health insurance and pensions? Do we think they will have another part-time job that offers benefits (nope), or a wealthy spouse, or a trust fund?

  21. Brilliant analysis! … A hearty “Amen” for this preliminary effort headed in the right direction. I do agree it is good in general but lacks being specific on vital issues of the existing structure of the American Episcopal Church and needed changes in line with … ” we have come to see the raising and unbinding of Lazarus as a helpful way of understanding this moment in the life of The Episcopal Church. We believe Jesus is calling our church to new life and vitality, but the church is held back by its bindings—old ways of working that no longer serve us well. … The Need for Change
    The Episcopal Church’s structures and governance processes reflect assumptions from previous eras that do not always fit with today’s contexts. They have not adapted to the rapidly changing cultural, political, and social environments in which we live.”

  22. Rev. Ellen Ekstrom says:

    As a non-stipendiary clergywoman (deacon), I hold down a secular job five days a week and deal with the corporate world. I am bothered that some of the ideas come straight from the corporate mindset and tradition – it doesn’t always work. Our Presiding Bishop is a bishop, not a CEO. Do we really have to go the corporate route?

    • Bingo! Tune in on the 2nd, Ellen. There’s a lot in the TREC report about catalysts for mission and prophetic voices. This is the deacon’s identity, and if you add in nonstipendiary, I personally am of the mind that it is possible that the deacons are pre-adapted to help the church do this. My line is: deacons have been making gold from straw for 40 years!

  23. Susan Russell says:

    They lost me with the Lazarus quote. Seriously. If their messaging is they’re here to save a “dead church” then I’m not their girl.

    I promise I’ll read the whole thing later “for comprehension.” But right now I’m too busy gearing up for a program year with 100 congregational dinners happening throughout the community, over 80 acolytes to train, five children and youth choirs doing signups on Sunday and Homecoming Sunday next week … where we’ll have a video stream into the overflow room for the people who won’t fit into our 900 seat church at 9 or 11:15.

    Everything can be improved. Even the Episcopal Church. But in my corner of the kingdom we are FAR from “DOA.”

    The Reverend Canon Susan Russell
    All Saints Church, Pasadena
    Diocese of Los Angeles

    • Sarah Williams says:

      That’s the bottom line, yes. Tending the flock and those who tend,

    • I agree with Rev. Susan. Our focus at the local level is on the kinds of things she outlined. As one in the pews not in church leadership, I couldn’t find anything in the very church-speak written report that relates to parishes. At some point any redesign of the church will need the buy in of parishioners. I’m not sure TREC has laid out for us in the pews a detailed case for the why such changes are needed in the first place let alone why we should adopt their suggestions. More groundwork is needed I think.

    • Douglas M. Carpenter says:

      The report gives the impression there are no people on the committee who are experiencing the Episcopal Church in parishes that are very much alive. Let’s learn from these parishes.

  24. My response is more of a “baby with the bath water” kind of thing. Dissolving all the Standing Commissions sounds like we are cleaning out a bureaucratic mess. But personally, I like the fact that there is, e.g., a commission on liturgy. Here are people with a calling to and expertise on liturgy. For them to reflect upon the theology behind our liturgy, and the pastoral needs good liturgy addresses, and to do so on a sustained basis seems to me to enrich the Church. Under the new dispensation, it appears that our fine liturgists will only be drawn together to work on something when either the General Convention or a Presiding Bishop with more centralized authority identify what that something is and ask them to work on it. There are great themes in ecclessiology, and having ongoing bodies to reflect upon those themes in the life of the Church is important. At least to me.

    St. Augustine Theological School
    Gaborone, Botswana

  25. The basic idea — though never mentioned — seems to be this: Trim back to things we can afford to keep going and which we cannot give up, even if we retain them on a smaller scale.

    I would welcome explanation of what is not captured by this reading. There is no need to suppose, for instance, that there is some nefarious plan to deprive anyone of power and to transfer power to a few offices. The offices retained cannot be given up, but the bodies scaled back can — of course with some loss of representation — be made more lean.

    At any rate, this looks like a proposal to live within our means, so eventually we’ll want to see the numbers that show it is at least that.

    Don Reed
    Southern Ohio

  26. Jean McLean says:

    Thanks to TREC for their hard work and this bold report and recommendations. Without local mission and innovative ways of being the church, what’s the point? Welcome back to the future, TEC!

  27. I like the outline of TREC’s recommendations. The church first needs to become more efficient so that we can be more effective. Once this plan is implemented, we should be able to spend time doing what we are commissioned to do ….. teach, baptize, and spread the Good News of Jesus.

  28. Susanne Watson Epting says:

    In today’s world, and in today’s church, especially one that likes to believe it values the ministry of all the baptized, the phrase “serving at the pleasure of” any one person is simply archaic. Traditionally the Episcopal Church staff has existed to carry out mandates of General Convention, not those of a Presiding Bishop. Have we considered that using networking might mean using effective networks in place outside the current structure? Generally those networks have been formed because needs are not being met inside a central structure. Those networks often produce resources and talent that operate far outside of our current structures. I hope the task force will address, head on, how this differs from placing even more power in the hands of fewer people.

  29. Betsy Greenman says:

    Clearly thought filled work trying to straddle keeping some of the institution while lightening it to be more flexible into the future. Suggest checking out the website WAM (World After Midnight). Descriptive of the way institutions need to re-think in this digital/global age. Collaboration, immediacy, flexibility are just the beginning.
    In your model I am concerned about the 20 executive members being elected “at large” rather than representing provinces. To respond and assist and encourage ministry in the local area – which is the realm of most ministry – as you say – it is crucial to have the local/regional voices involved. “At large” elections tend not to be representative of the organization or of diversity. Thanks for your work.

  30. TREC friends, I would suggest your instructions about how to participate on-line are unclear to a wide variety of un-tech savvy users. I have been urging people to log in and register, but many have never participated in a webcast and simply cannot understand how it can be interactive. How does one “participate” in an on-line meeting? Do you just send an email? Do they need to do a trial run on webex or adobe connect? Will there be a chat-box? Please do not presume all the people who want to participate have professional quality computer credentials and facility. If you could address this on the sign-up link and walk people through what they need to do to get prepared for the day, it would be helpful. Thanks so much.

  31. Just wondering about SCIER – standing ecumenical commission? What would be the justification of ending that if one of the functions of the central body is ecumenical work?

  32. (The Revd. Canon) Kale Francis King, Tssf says:

    As just a long-retired old fool I am also concerned about the wordiness, the jargonese, the lack if specifics, and even maybe efforts to “rearrange the deck chairs’, just not on the Titanic. It has prompted me to find my copy of the 1914 classic, published again in 1960 (could be useful doing it again) The Archbishop’s Test, by E.M. Green. What attracted me to the Episcopal Church in 1942, as a high school senior was the worship. It is still attracting people as we speak. Have we lost sight of the basics of our life together? The Presiding Bishop sounds and acts like a CEO, not a “servant of the servants of God”; I know at least one bishop (who might like to be another “first” for our Church) who proclaimed himself a CEO and finds others to carry our the role of “servant of the servants.”
    But then, I’m retired so long I’m “out of the loop.”
    Peace and all that is Good!

  33. Roger Brown says:

    I think there are some great ideas in this document, but they are hidden in a thicket of prose. The bullet points should really be bullet point, not bullets in front of paragraphs. This is way overwritten and should be reduced by at least half, and further if possible. Start with an executive summary with the main ideas, flesh it out beneath that, as briefly as possible. This at least has more specifics than previous efforts, though much more would be appreciated.

  34. Allan King says:

    Interesting attempt to do something, but I am not quite sure what.

    What comes to mind is the big difference between TEC and most of the rest of the Anglican churches. Namely that our polity is bottom us whereas theirs is largely top down. Hence we have to be concerned with the kind of corporate politics and maneuvering which seem to be behind this document.

    I should prefer that we openly discuss the pros ands cons of bottom up polity. We never do this. I, for one, would prefer a more top down polity which would allow us to move away from the corporate model. To some extent I think that may be what the document is trying to do, however subtly.

  35. Titus Presler says:

    Overall this is an excellent interim report. From a first and quick reading I appreciate the missional perspective and urgency, though obviously that needs to be defined further. The suggestion of a Missionary Convocation is intriguing. Likewise important is the acknowledgment of the centrality and energy of local communities of faith. Many of the specific organizational suggestions are appropriate and timely, while some may need revising or at least fine-tuning. There can be no doubt that the task force is ministering in good faith and is not hesitating to confront long festering issues, and this should enhance its credibility in the coming debates over the further specific proposals that it plans to present.

  36. I find te report good on diagnosis, not so much on treatment. In a “flattened church” no one (COO, CFO, CLO) should serve “at the pleasure” of anyone else, eliminating Province reps on Executive Council assures that “the 20” will be churchwide politicians and not “average” Episcopalians, and was there absolutely no consideration give to a unicameral General Convention (a la ELCA) which might actually be representative of the whole Church and not a clergy super-majority as we have now?

  37. Carlton Kelley says:

    I have not doubt about the good intentions of all those involved. However, this document is wordy, unclear, and contains nothing about, as another commentator said, the need for repentance and an ongoing trust in the love of the Trinity to fashion a real community. Why are there so many references to “business” models and not theological ones?
    This will not change the church.

  38. Michael J. Ernst says:

    As many people have pointed out this is a very business-like proposal that offers few specifics. Two things stand out in my mind, however. The first is the “reduction in the number of legislative committees” at General Convention. While this seems like a good thing in general I wonder if this will partly cut out the voice of the laity in making important decisions. The second thing that stands out is a need to focus on local circumstances and allow for them to be handled on the diocesan or parochial level. Local problems are best solved at the local level.

    Apart from this there is little focus on exactly why The Episcopal Church (I’ll use TEC from now on) is shrinking, and this is a complex question. Here are my observations. The first is the exodus of many conservative Anglicans from TEC. While some of this cannot be helped due to the changing doctrines and canons of the church there has been, in many cases, an antagonistic approach to parishes that have made no fuss and simply wanted to continue what they have been doing for say 100 years. Many of these parishes had a large number of faithful followers who have now been driven out of TEC by bishops who were intent on antagonizing them. Here in Pennsylvania a few years ago we even had the liberal parishes standing up for the conservative ones in the face of antagonism from our bishop. One of the strengths of Anglicanism has always been that it is a “big tent” that can accommodate many different theological viewpoints–in most dioceses there was a parish for every type of “churchmanship”. However, in recent years TEC seems to want to be more like the Roman Catholic Church and enforce doctrinal conformity on various issues. If this is to be the case then TEC will only attract a small, select group of Christians that all agree with each other. Parishes will not longer have a “speciality” (e.g. Contemporary, ‘old school’ Anglo-Catholic, liberal Anglo-Catholic, family-focused Broad Church, Evangelical Low church, etc.) and most will become redundant and close if they are all too similar to each other. Second, while there has been a great emphasis placed on community service and outreach programmes (which is necessary) there has been a general ignorance about the reason people actually go to church–religion. While Christian “works of mercy” are imperative and naturally flow from a Christian lifestyle and milieu, the Christian religion must be the basis. Otherwise people will see the Church simply as a charitable organization–and often a poorly run organization at that. In this case, why not give or donate time to other more effective charities? The practice of religion, in the liturgy and in our lives, must be the basis of everything that we do. It makes me sad to see parishes, that are fully capable, not have a daily service of either the Eucharist or Morning & Evening Prayer. At some parishes here in Pennsylvania the laity run daily Morning & Evening Prayer throughout the week. If the Church is ever going to attract more people it needs to offer religion, and lots of it. We have a whole generation of “seekers” who want more out of life and look to the Church for that. This is an opportunity of which to be taken advantage and not squandered. Third, the Church needs to keep people. Children brought up in TEC are less likely to stay Christians than in many other denominations. In my opinion, this is a problem of poor catechesis. Few Sunday school programmes that I have seen offer anything other than ‘stories from the Bible’ and simple morality lessons. The younger generations are not told why it is imperative to attend church, nor is the history of the Faith and the Church explained, nor are the Creeds explained! The catechism in the 1979 BCP is so “bare bones” as to explain very little about the Christian Faith. Studies have shown that religions that makes demands of their followers are increasing in number while those that do not are shrinking. While we may balk at the word “demand”, is it really so much to ask our children and adolescents to learn about the Faith in something more than a superficial way? Lastly, there have been many changes to the Church that help to undermine its mission. I came to TEC when I was an undergraduate in college in the late ’90s. I’ve seen many many changes proposed over the years. One of the most disturbing is the tentative plan for yet another revision to the Prayerbook and Hymnal. While I am not a big fan of the 1979 BCP (my parish uses the 1928 BCP and I prefer that) I recognize its merits and think that overall it is a well-thought out revision (except for the catechism). Yet, there seems to be a move to revise it again! Now that I am back as a graduate student working and living with undergraduates I see a generation that is largely “unchurched”, but that has a general interest in things old and timeless. I see this with business students who want to take more Classical Studies courses because they think they are important to learning about Western Culture; I see this with students who like older styles of dress and idolize recent retro movies like “The Great Gatsby”; I see this with students taking more black-and-white photos or making them sepia-toned on-line; and with students who wanted to attend our school because we have buildings that look like “Hogwarts” from the Harry Potter series. In general I have noticed a type of “thirst” for the æsthetics of the past. Some parishes are taking advantage of this renewed interest by offering more traditional liturgies and they are seeing an increase in the numbers of young people. (And traditional doesn’t have to be synonymous with über-conservative–my parish has a diverse congregation!) However, there is a certain mindset in the church that is still stuck in the 1970s and wants to keep forcing a certain agenda on TEC as a whole. This agenda has little appeal other than to a small, select few. If this is to be the case then I have very little hope for the future of TEC and sometimes even wonder how much longer I will stay… All that will be left will be the small, select few.

    My solutions for the Church’s shrinking numbers? Return to Anglicanism.

  39. Rich McDonough says:

    I’m sure many dedicated people spent many long hours putting this report together. However, it appears to be a report assembled by a committee. Everyone has to have their 2 cents worth addressed. My suggestion is to go back, get about 4-7 people to re-write this report in about 1/3 – 1/2 the length and address the real concerns of the people in the pews. We are not a corporation. We are a church. Please start acting like one. We have many strong, vibrant congregations and many weak, nearly dead ones to learn from. Understand what makes the strong ones that way and understand why the weak one are the way they are. We can do better.

  40. Jane Scocca says:

    How disappointing it was to approach this document in the hopes of finding insights into the rejuvenation of our Church and to find instead a pile of corporate-sounding verbosity. We might have been better served if the committee had undertaken an in depth examination of parishes that are thriving such as All Saints of Pasadena (see Canon Russell’s comment above) and uncovered the sound principles that could guide the multitude of parishes that are struggling onto a path of evangelism and growth. Despite our Supreme Court’s ruling that corporations are people, we would do well to avoid trying to convert the people who are our Church into a corporation.

  41. Rev. Mark Hatch says:

    Best class I took at seminary mandated weekly exegetical papers which were a maximum of 50 words. We, this well intended work, is lost and buried in obtuse, numbing, opiated jargon and language. Too long, too vague, too much insider baseball. Revolution from the ground up, at the parish level, in local and authentic context. This is the only way to go.

    “It always seems impossible, until it is done.” ~ Madiba

  42. On Lazarus- For me it’s a reminder that we are a resurrection people, constantly transforming in the love of God. I like that, and I like tying us back to our narrative.

    I am intrigued by the shift from general Conention to a mission focused event, but I want to know what that means. I hope for the day when we live less by Roberts rules and more by Pauls rules, even though sometimes I think Paul was kind of an a-hole.

    The report is definitely hard to read and loses focus, especially related to church-wide staffing and organization. There seems to be a concern with accountability based on an interview with the PB and PHoD, and as a result a shift towards a hierarchical org structure without any theological reflection on how the Church ought to organize itself. Whatever the theological reasons for organizing this way that improve and enhance the mission, I’d like to see the TREC articulate them explicitly for each proposal; e.g “by naming the PB as CEO, the church will be more effective at mission because…”

  43. The Rev. Dana Campbell says:

    As for the Lazarus story, the way I read it Lazarus was already resurrected when Jesus called for him to be unbound. Perhaps we need to realize that Jesus is already at work resurrecting the church which has been dead and we need but unwind the accretions to begin to see the new life revealed.
    (Personally, I had been thinking along the lines of not putting new wine into old wineskins.) In any case, it is important to have a Gospel foundation for our thought process. TREC has my prayers as this unwinding takes place.

    • Frank Bergen says:

      Thank you, Dana. I’d suggest a good bit of meditation on the metaphor of new wine and old wineskins for all — the task force members and the rest of us — concerned for the re-imagining of the Episcopal Church. And also for its re-imaging: as body of Christ, people of God.

  44. Christine Burke says:

    In the business world, there are clear benefits to a project-driven model for getting things done. The project manager and project team become very focused on a specific schedule, budget, and level of quality of the outcome or “deliverable”. There is a strong sense of accountability, in contrast to the kind of entrenchment or sense of entitlement that can develop in other settings. However, while project managers become so narrowly focused on project goals, they also need to be held accountable to those who keep the bigger picture in mind. I do see the Church being good at the “big picture” values that would inform and guide each endeavor, helped of course by the Spirit. I agree with some of the comments about the risk that the Presiding Bishop would have too much responsibility or authority if all of the project teams–i.e. task forces– reported directly to him/her. Yes, an organizational chart would be helpful here. Also, just another note–just because a project ends, it does not mean that the team necessarily disbands. They can start a new project. I hope this does not sound like too much gobbledy-gook “business speak”! I liked a lot of what the TREC had to say.

  45. Fred Lindstrom says:

    I agree with Doug Carpenter and those who have made similar comments. Instead of the verbosity we are used to receiving from the HoB, GC and EC, we need concise, understandable, reality based presentation.

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