Thursday, July 5, 2012


If you follow GC on twitter, you will have noticed another hash tag, #Acts8.  It's the code for a movement that wants to challenge "But we've always done it this way!" and embrace change.   What should the new church look like?

Led by bloggers Scott Gunn, Susan Snook, and Tom Ferguson, it has its first meeting tonight.

more from Center Aisle
Believing that the Episcopal Church will soon “begin to look much more like it did in 250 than in 1950,” with “no vast bureaucracy, not many buildings, and a focus on life-changing encounters with the Savior who called people to costly discipleship,” Ferguson, Gunn and Snook are hoping to replace “petty squabbles over turf in institutions that won’t exist much longer” with a focus on “what the Holy Spirit is doing.” 
How, exactly, does a church do that? The organizers of the Acts 8 Movement won’t give you a simple answer to that question. But they do know where the process begins: by “gathering, praying, reading the Bible, and talking together about the church we dream of seeing.”

Here's more about it:
Facebook page
Scott Gunn's blog
Susan Snook's blog

So, what happened?
Update:  here's news from Tom Ferguson's blog (Crusty Old Dean)
... we invited people to share their dream of what they wanted the church to be. A collection of these dreams can be found here:

...  There was a groundswell of folks in the room, however, who did want further conversation about some specific things we might do -- so we broke up into affinity groups, where people that shared common interests and concerns could gather and talk. Some wanted to talk about how we could pray for one another; others wanted to brainstorm on future leadership of the church; some wanted discussion on what specific proposals for reform we might put forward.... 
One of my main goals was to gather a group of people who are interested in thinking about how we might better do what we do as a church. If you've read this blog much at all, you should know COD thinks we need to adapt some of the structures we have in light of a profound constellation of change that is sweeping over religious institutions. Not throw everything out, not to marginalize anyone, and not disenfranchise anybody -- at times COD cynically thinks these are charges thrown about loosely by those seeking to stifle conversations on reform.
Part of my dream is that those who came to Acts 8 might be the beginning of a network that can continue this conversation about restructuring and reform, should the institutional structures seek to take control of future reform discussions. I hope and pray that a thoughtful and deliberate proposal will come out of this Convention to shape conversations in the next triennium; but if it doesn't, then my dream is to gather those who want to have those conversations.
Discussion about restructuring is also occurring in the regular sessions.  Indeed, it seems to be the topic of the Convention.  But .... does the church need to be careful?  From Dio Cal: (H/T the Cafe)
They spoke in apocalyptic terms of the need for revolutionary change saying “we have hit the iceberg …and the ship is sinking.” They spoke of a “grassroots” demand for urgent change “before it is too late.” They called for inclusion of those at the margin yet their supporters did not include significant representation from the young or people of color or people who live in “blue states” or LGBT people. And for all the testimony, few spoke of the specific changes they desire. 
Instead of specific we heard calls for a “flattening of the organization.” How the voices of lay people, clergy and bishops are to be included let alone balanced went unsaid. ... How the current structure prevents either a parish or diocese from being creative or nimble or effective was not made clear.
If this call for revolutionary change is really about money – about spending less on the national church – then let’s be honest enough to day so.
At stake is a way of governing our church that allows lay people and clergy to acts as equals to our bishops in making decisions. ...
Last night I found myself agreeing with a speaker from the Diocese of Albany – a first – when he warned that structural change is not the answer to lagging attendance or falling revenue. The change we need will come from the hearts and minds of our people as they live out the Gospel; it will flow from their lives into their community. This is change we can believe in, real grassroots change that can spread across all of the church. It does not appear to require changes in how we govern our church as much as it emerges from people being creative and thoughtful and innovative.

But isn't that what the Acts8 folks are saying?


Ann said...

White privileged clergy lead change? I watched the video - while heartfelt - don't see any changes really. Did not see the voices of indigenous and hispanic members -- I fear it is same old same old --
feeling cynical -- especially since the 3 of them have been dissing all the social justice work of the past and patting themselves on the back for not being like us.

IT said...

Well, clearly there's a need to do something. The concern is to do it right. "Restructure" is not a dirty word. Neither is grassroots.

Acts8 appears to be an effort to democratize the effort so it isn't owned by those invested in the power.

One does have a lingering concern that calls to devolve power to the "Grassroots" and defund the "institution" bear striking resemblance to the platform of the Tea Party and Grover Norquist. I'm not talking about Acts8 necessarily but those in institutional roles.

It's an interesting problem, and not one specific to churches. We're in a time where institutions established for years must change, and be changed, to deal with the realities of the new world. How tht happens in a way that keeps things functional without destruction is a challenge.