A Church Mobilized for Mission
(The 51st General Council of the Reformed Episcopal Church was held in Orlando, FL, June 22, 23, & 24, 2005. The following is an excerpt from the report of our Presiding Bishop, The Most Rev. Leonard W. Riches, D.D.)
We gather in council at an historic moment in our history as a jurisdiction, and at a strategic time in the wider world of Christendom at large, and of Anglican Christianity in particular. This 51st General Council marks the first time that we have joined together with another branch of Christ's church - with the Anglican Province of America - to do the work of the church together; to be mutually encouraged, strengthened, energized and equipped to move forward and fulfill the calling and commission of Christ Jesus our Lord.
But this is an especially historic and critical moment for both of our jurisdictions because, for the first time in our history we have purposefully devoted a major portion of our time together to focus on the work of evangelism; to be informed, challenged, motivated and prepared to return to our respective dioceses and parishes with a new vision for the mission of the church: the task of taking the gospel to a lost and dying world, to make disciples of all people, and to teach them to know Christ and to follow Him. We dare not leave these sessions of Council unchanged and unmoved. By God's grace we must resolve to emerge from the experience together with a new vision, a revitalized commitment, and a renewed determination to be a people mobilized for mission.
The church of Jesus Christ is called to be an expanding community of faith, whose purposeful movement is outward, and whose constant dynamic is growth. The work of evangelism is the cutting edge of that outward movement. The dynamic of growth is realized in the nurturing, training, and discipleship aspects of our Christian calling. Understood in that way, the mission of the church is not something that belongs uniquely to lands across the sea or to remote regions of the globe. It is the calling of the people of God wherever they may be. It is our calling. It is our mission.
A church that represents itself as “evangelical” has an obligation to be evangelistic. It is by no means a distortion to observe that outreach, evangelism, and growth were not the predominant characteristics of the Reformed Episcopal Church throughout most of the twentieth century. For decades the primary concerns that appear to have set the direction of our common life were the perceived needs of maintaining, conserving, and protecting what we had become, and what we believe we had gained. The direction of our focus was largely inward, and much of our life as a church was ingrown. That closeness as a family of believers, sharing a common history and heritage became, at the same time, both a strength and a weakness. Many who have been part of this jurisdiction over a span of years have drawn strength from the bonds of our closeness. But often those on the outside of our fellowship have found us to be something of an enigmatic and closed company, whose identity was challenging to comprehend, and whose association seemed difficult to break into. Many of our established structures and procedures seemed purposefully set in place to thwart change rather that to facilitate growth.
For the most part, those aspects of our ecclesiastical life became so familiar and comfortable to us as a people that we became largely insensitive to the way in which we were perceived by others, and unresponsive to the impetus which is to drive the church ever outward and forward.
Virtually every statistic that measures how churches extend and grow shows that the vast majority of people who visit a church for the first time do so because a lay member of the congregation invites and brings them. Yet the idea persists that, somehow, it is the responsibility of the ordained clergy to “grow the church”. It is undeniable that many Christians fail to fulfill their calling to bear witness to Christ and to the saving Gospel of God's grace because they sense their own inadequacies and their unpreparedness. They see themselves as inadequate to the task because they have not been trained. It is for that very reason that we have incorporated the Christianity Explored training seminar as an integral part of this Council as deputies, both clerical and lay, and as guests, you are being provided training, motivation, and materials to take back to your respective spheres of responsibility and influence throughout the church and to provide both leadership and incentive to our parishes and people to mobilize for mission, and to be faithful and effective in the work of spreading the Good News, to the glory of Christ and to the growth of His church.
All of our efforts in the sphere of Anglican convergence and realignment are driven by a strong mission impetus. The work of mission, both overseas and closer to home, represents one of the areas in which the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America have already joined in common effort. The joint presentation of our respective agencies, and of the bishops who oversee our mission endeavor, will be a highlight of our Thursday evening session. The vision and purpose of the Common Cause Partnership in which both of our jurisdictions share is mission-driven. We are seeking to build relationships with faithful Anglicans in the West Indies, throughout the Global South, and in other areas of the world, for the sake of strengthening and expanding the work of mission. To that end, we are linking with the efforts of Global Mission Partners, and with Ekklesia, to build ever stronger networks of association, personnel, and resources for the sake of mobilizing for mission. The Rev. Canon Bill Atwood, General Secretary of Ekklesia, will be our preacher on Friday morning, and will increase our awareness of the opportunities that await us as we partner in evangelism and outreach with other Anglican Christians of like precious faith throughout the world.
For the past several years we have drawn the focus of our attention and effort to matters relating to our heritage, identity, and distinctives as a church in the Anglican tradition. During those years we have completed preparation of a revised edition of the Book of Common Prayer, modeled on the 1662 Prayer Book, which has stood for nearly 350 years the culminating achievement of revision and reform of the liturgy in the English language. During the past several years, we have also prepared and produced a revision of the Constitution and Canons of the Reformed Episcopal Church, providing a framework and structure within which the church can operate effectively, to move forward in ministry and mission. The results of these undertakings are set before you at this Council in their completed form, awaiting your final authorization and approval.
The efforts behind these achievements have been both time-and labor-intensive; they have been painstaking; they have, in a real sense, been heroic undertakings on the part of many. The fruit of more than a decade of faithful and diligent labor is now in our hands, so that it may become part of our live.
But having devoted ourselves to those endeavors, we dare not ignore or postpone dedicating ourselves with full vigor and determination to what lies at the heart of our calling as a branch of Christ's church. The living Lord of the church sends us out as a people with a mission; to proclaim the Gospel; to make disciples; to be fellow-laborers with Him in building His church. May each of us offer himself or herself anew to this dedicated purpose. And by God's grace working through us, the years that lie ahead in this new era of challenge and opportunity shall offer to us as the people of God unsurpassed joy and satisfaction; they shall bring to us, as a branch of Christ's church, unprecedented growth and effectiveness as a worshiping, witnessing community of faith; and they shall bring to Jesus Christ, the risen Lord and reigning Head of the church, the eternal praise and glory which are due His matchless Name.
“And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, three Persons, one God, be ascribed, as is most justly due, all might, majesty, dominion, and power, both now and for ever, world without end. Amen.”
--The Most Rev. Leonard W. Riches
Missionary of The Month
Sue Brodish, Christian Kindergarten. Schwalmstadt – 1, Germany.
Seminar: Writing a Living Will and Power of Attorney
Saturday, August 13, 2005, 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. Speaker: Rev. Daniel Sullivan, chaplain at Rush-Copley Medical Center.
St. Andrew's Preschool/Kindergarten Open House
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Come sign up and visit other families.
Sunday, August 28, 2005.
After church at the home of Will & Beth Garrison
3406 Norwood Circle, New Lenox, IL
Sponsored by the Sunday School.
Choir practice Wednesday, August 31, 7:00 p.m.
Sunday School Rally Day
Sunday, September 11, 2005.
Sunday School Resumes - Balloon launch
The Rt. Rev. Royal U. Grote will visit St. Andrew's on Sunday, September 11, 2005. Do plan to attend this very special service.
Shield of Faith
WJYS channel 62 in Chicago, 9:00 a.m. Thursday mornings.
Become An Organ Donor
Please make a special donation to your Church now. The cost of purchasing and installing the organ is $50,900.00. We need to raise $12,500.00 in contributions from our church members to take advantage of the matching funds from St. Andrew's and the Christ Church Trust, making your contributions triple! The organ will be in use on September 11, 2005 . Please send your tax-deductible contribution made out to St. Andrew's Church today, mark the memo on check “Organ Fund”. Then come to church to hear the great sound of this magnificent instrument.
VISIT US ON OUR WEBSITE
Aug. 1- Anne Robertson
Aug. 7 – Rev. Levi
Aug. 7 – Florence Auman
Aug. 18 –Adam Sellers
Aug. 22 – John Robert Robertson
Aug. 24 - Joan Reagan
WHAT GOD HATH PROMISED
--- Annie Johnson Flint
God hath not promised
Skies always blue,
All our lives through;
God hath not promised
Sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow,
Peace without pain.
But God hath promised
Strength for the day,
Rest for the labor,
Light for the way,
Grace for the trials,
Help from above,