Disciple: Theological Foundations
The Mission Priority Task Force takes time to explore the core of Becoming Beloved Community
In the last issue of the Disciple (“Mission Possible,” Winter 2021), we shared the first steps in the development and formation of the Mission Strategy Task Force. The work has continued with the first ideas and drafts recently shared during a joint retreat with Diocesan Council and the Standing Committee. The goal of the retreat was not only to share the work to date, but also to gather feedback for revisions and refinements before starting a series of sharing events across the Diocese of North Carolina throughout the summer.
As those offerings develop, details will be shared in diocesan communication channels. But as the task force continues its work toward those events, we invite you to take a step taken by the task force to lay the groundwork for its task: the examination of our theological foundations.
When the task force began regular meetings in December 2020, the first order of business was not to delve into discussing the goals. Rather, the first several gatherings centered on conversation around our core values and theological foundation, discerning what they meant to those on the task force and the role they would play in the strategy. The conversations were deep, rich, candid and faithful, proving to be an invaluable step in the development process.
It is impossible to recount everything discussed in the hours of conversation, and even to try would fail to do them justice. For no matter how much ground was covered, no conversation can be comprehensive, for the influence of our theological foundations is part of every lifelong journey and is ever-changing and growing. We share some of the high points, not only to invite you into this process that belongs to us all, but also to encourage you to think about what each of these themes means to you.
The conversations began with single-word starters:
- Missional (The Jesus Movement)
- Catholic/Anglican (Making disciples)
- Apostolic (Go/Sending disciples)
- Worship/Habits of Grace (Feeding disciples)
- Baptismal Covenant
"Missional” is not a word recognized by the dictionary, but it’s an important one to our work. Paired with the Jesus Movement, missional is in the ethos, spirit and intention of the work we do, and that pairing makes necessary a connection with others, a taking of self out of the center of things to view instead those around us as equals. It is the action of walking with others; walking with God, and, together, experiencing God and the dream God has for us all; and working together to make that dream a reality.
If “Anglican” is a term integral to the construct of how we make disciples, “catholic” is at the heart of our connectedness. In considering these terms as part of our offering to the world, we must also guard against insulating or closing ourselves off with them, remembering not all are familiar with nor welcome the language we hold so dear—even while they may share our desire to connect with and serve our neighbors for a better world.
“Apostolic” brought to mind our call to be sent, to go out in the world and to do. In it, we recognize the gift of the Holy Spirit working through us and guiding us, allowing us to venture out of our comfort zones and set aside the fear of discomfort or awkwardness as we help those around us realize they are loved and loved unconditionally. In doing so, we not only experience Jesus’ love ourselves, but we also know that love gives us a safe place to return and always go deeper into our own relationship with God.
In “worship” and “habits of grace,” we root ourselves in the rituals that give us the space to deepen our relationship with God. It may be time in church or a quiet space where we find stillness in reflection, meditation and prayer. It is the building of muscle and habit, enabling us to find grace for ourselves when we doubt, stumble or fail, and, by extension, learning to extend that grace to others when they do the same. It is the creation and feeling of community when we pray, sing and receive the Eucharist together, knowing we are not alone but rather a part of something infinitely greater than ourselves.
“Collaboration” is, at its core, about sharing. Sharing power, resources, gifts, effort, ideas, love, time and respect. It is about surrendering a part of yourself to make room for others and being open with a willingness to grow. It requires a readiness to lead unselfishly when necessary and to serve when needed. When true, collaboration creates together something greater than the individual parts. It invigorates, it enriches, and it is not easy. Collaboration takes work and is a skill to be developed, and, when it is, it removes the barriers that keep us apart and enables us to move forward together.
“Justice,” if thought about in terms of living the Gospel, is about “right relationships.” Right relationships are not just with each other as individuals but with God, creation and the wider community. This demands fairness, equity, accountability, grace, access, inclusion and the refusal to oppress or put another down. When oppression happens or wrongs occur, it requires action to protest it, dismantle it, correct it and ensure it does not happen again. In doing so, justice becomes one more avenue by which we live into the fullness of God’s dream of beloved community.
“Formation” may be thought of as the same concept discussed in “worship” and “habits of grace,” but there is a different element to it. Formation is the relationship between justification and sanctification. It is our education for transformation. There is something holy about it, as it is the way God transforms us. It is the foundation upon which worship and habits of grace stand, and it can be either a precious opportunity to teach the truth that we are all God’s children, equal in his eyes and beloved, or a dangerous method of creating unjust systems by manipulating the Gospel to agendas of supremacy and dominance. Formation is learning to whom and to what we are faithful, and with that education, transformation becomes possible.
Our Baptismal Covenant offers us the framework from which we can go forth to do our work. Two of its core tenants are the renunciation of evil and the commitment to see the dignity in every person. When we do this, when we live by this, it becomes impossible not to see Christ in every person and to work and speak out on behalf of those who cannot do so for themselves. This covenant is made not just once in our lives, at our own baptism, but every time we witness a baptism. Together, we reaffirm our vows to guard against evil, our commitment to Jesus Christ, and, in turn, we are reminded God is there with us, always, loving us and giving us the strength to persevere. It is a powerful covenant to renew in community, for it is a promise we make to ourselves and to each other, over and over again.
Running throughout it all, and eventually discussed as singular ideas, were “love” and “hope.” For in those two words is contained the power to guide us in a way that is true to the path set before us by Jesus Christ, to persevere in the face of those who would see us stray from that path, and to strengthen us to move forward in the belief that, if we stay true to who we are, we can take the next steps toward Becoming Beloved Community.
This exploration was a key step in the Mission Strategy Task Force process, and it is an important one for all to take. As the task force prepares to share the first of its thoughts with members of the Diocese of North Carolina, we encourage you to prepare to receive them by asking yourself the same questions the task force members asked of themselves. By reaffirming your own theological foundations, you will deepen your ability to see the role you can play and the gifts you might offer in the important work we will do together in the years to come.
Christine McTaggart is the communications director of the Diocese of North Carolina.
Tags: North Carolina Disciple