Conference Report: Missional Voices
Thank you for the opportunity to attend this year’s Missional Voices Conference at Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS). It was a truly amazing conference—not because of training or receiving answers, but rather it was all about the questions we need to ask ourselves as Episcopalians. It was all about the questions! I heard so many thought-provoking statements and observations! A little about the structure of the conference:
- VTS is gorgeous
- Approximately one-third of attendees were seminarians (free registration for seminarians)
- Two keynote speakers and three missional voices (theological, contextual, and incarnational voice)
- Panel discussions
- Huddles, or breakout groups
- Lots of worship with interesting variations including bluegrass music and Spanish music and liturgy
Keynote: The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Boyle
Bishop Doyle, ninth bishop of Texas, describes his six-word autobiography as: “Met Jesus on pilgrimage, still walking.” Bishop Doyle’s ministry focus is service, evangelism, reconciliation, and challenging Episcopalians to move into their communities with the gospel in word and action.
- Vast amount of time and energy is spent around Sunday morning at the altar. Be sure to also do the audit!
- Feels he spends his time as CEO of an organization that Jesus didn’t even imagine
- All the disciples were turned into apostles and were sent out
- We need to be neighbors to those who look nothing like us, as in the Good Samaritan parable
Keynote: The Rev. Becca Stevens
Becca Stevens is priest, social entrepreneur, founder and president of Thistle Farms, which produces personal and household products. Its motto is to heal, empower, and employ survivors of abuse. Thistle Farms opens sanctuaries for survivors in a loving community. The global market of Thistle Farms helps employ more than 1,800 women worldwide, and the national network has more than 40 sister communities. Becca was recently named a 2016 CNN Hero and a White House Champion of Change.
- Missional programs work
- We still sound so Episcopalian with our insider language: “discernment, call, presence”—are we talking to ourselves or to those not versed in Episcopese?
Keynote: The Rev. Stephanie Spellers
- Canon for evangelism and reconciliation
- Participated in panel discussion and conducted an amazing closing Eucharist
- She’s a real evangelist—this cradle Episcopalian was incredibly moved—very powerful; felt like I was starting to get the Jesus movement emotionally as opposed to intellectually
Throughout the conference, we asked and were asked fascinating and unsettling questions. A few takeaways:
- The golden rule is for insiders (Christians who understand it); the platinum rule: do unto others as they would have you do unto them—how do you know what that is if you aren’t out there building relationships?
- What if we had no bishops? Is our institutional structure actually getting in the way of doing God’s work?
- What is your neighborhood—how do you define it? How do you find it?
- Our neighborhood is wherever we find our brothers and sisters in need.
- Have we institutionalized our ministry to buffer ourselves from doing it individually?
- What if we had no parishes, but only missions?
I’m uncomfortable using the term “transformed,” because it carries the connotation of “I was in Place A and now I’m in Place B” as though Place B is some definable new place. I am still very much working on where my new here is—but following this conference, I am definitely no longer in that old here. I am in a state that is blessedly uncomfortable. +