“That there will be in every locality a living centre of Christian faith,
witness and fellowship”
The Prime Bishop, in his first Address to the ECP Executive Council, has called on the faithful to engage in intentional discipleship and to live out the Five Marks of Mission. This is in line with Resolution 16.01 of the 16th Anglican Consultative Council [ACC] which set the period from ACC-16 to ACC-19 [2016-2025] as a Season of intentional discipleship and invited every province, diocese and parish in the Anglican Communion to adopt a clear focus on intentional discipleship and to produce resources to equip and enable the whole church to be effective in making new disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Prime Bishop’s call is very timely as the ECP goes on a re-visioning process to discern the focus of its work for the next ten (10) years, from 2019 to 2028. The process of discernment has just set off the ground and congregations, institutions and dioceses are now invited to fully participate in evolving a common and shared vision.
While the visioning process involves congregational participation and endeavors to capture the hopes and aspirations of every constituent of the Church, the general membership looks up to the Bishops for guidance and inspiration when looking into the aspirational future. In one meeting of the Council of Bishops, the Prime Bishop expressed that there must be a common thread that winds through the over-all visioning process. Defining this common thread is the function of a visionary leadership.
For the past ten (10) years, the ECP has focused on congregational and institutional development, including the establishment of parishes, growing church attendance and increasing membership. While these underscored quantitative results, they were actually understood as outward expressions of a dynamic and vibrant Church. Much of the full story would be known at the end of this year when Vision 2018 is concluded but amazing results never before imagined are coming out from experiences of dioceses and congregations. For the next 10 years, the gains already realized must be intensified and the focus of aspirational assessments shall be on the quality of Christian life, formation and witness.
Meeting on 29 January 2018, the ECP Council of Bishops shared what they foresee as the areas of focus in the next 10 years. The Council re-affirmed that what makes us Episcopalians is our Baptismal Covenant – the set of vows that each of us has sworn into at our baptism. It is therefore in the passionate pursuit and practice of these vows and in consideration of the particular context of the ECP that the Council has set the following general areas of emphasis in our work towards intentional discipleship and disciple-making. These areas seek not to limit but to focus the various conversations that congregations, dioceses, institutions and organizations are now encouraged to engage in.
1] CHRISTIAN LIVING AND SPIRITUAL VITALITY
“The baptised (should) be lifelong disciples whose faith is to have impact in every sphere of (our) daily experience.” Every member of this Church must continually affirm and live out our baptismal vows in our everyday lives so that we are able to model the values of the Kingdom of God in our own part of the world. Spirituality is a 24-hour affair that should be practiced in every life decision made. In many cases, decisions in line with Christ’s way are the most difficult and challenging to do and so we need to be continually nourished spiritually through prayers, scriptural studies and liturgical services. How can we then further intensify spiritual nourishment and how can we show that the light of Christ is shining in our own sphere of influence?
2] FORMATION AND MOBILIZATION
The past 10 years have yielded countless faith expressions and services by and among our people that are very much inspiring and worthy of emulation. Yet there remains enormous amounts of gifts and resources for mission among our people that are untapped and that are just lying dormant. We need to continually discover, enhance and mobilize these gifts and resources. How can we improve our formation processes so that these lead into a revelation of oftentimes hidden capacities and abilities? How can we encourage talents to be offered and utilized for mission work?
The clergy in the field together with lay leaders are the cutting edge of ministry and mission. How can we enable or energize them to take the lead in “discipling” the people in the pews and those who join the Church by baptism and confirmation or reception? Can this be done without the need for expensive programs and structure?
3] CONGREGATIONAL DYNAMISM AND COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY
As we draw nearer to the conclusion of the past 10 years of Vision 2018, we are hugely and pleasantly amazed by how much our congregations have achieved. Ten years ago, we seriously doubted many of our congregations’ capacities for self-reliance, growth and maturity. But it is now shown that, for one thing, we have established more than twice (2) times the number of parishes we built in 109 years. The shift to asset-based thinking and the strengthening of corporate worship and prayer life among our congregations have resulted in fresh vibrancy and dynamism in our work. How can we sustain this momentum of congregational growth and maturity? How can our dynamic and vibrant work and the positive results inspire others and draw them into our communion?
4] SOCIAL WITNESS
We live in a world of conflict, inequality, violence and the alarming destruction of the environment that is God’s gift to humanity. These are the antithesis of the good creation and Christ’s promise of peace and abundant life. And so our congregations, institutions and national church bodies must continue to propagate Christ’ way and live out the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marks of Mission. How can we continue to respond to human needs by a loving service, seek to transform unjust social structures, challenge violence of every kind and seek peace, and strive to safeguard the integrity of creation in our respective spheres of influence?
 Excerpted from Resolution 37, 1948 Lambeth Conference. Re-stated in Intentional Discipleship and Disciple-Making – An Anglican Guide for Christian Life and Formation.