Vision and mission statements

by Edward L. Lee, Jr.

In my 58 years of ordained ministry, 28 of them as bishop, I have crafted and read many vision and mission statements by parishes, church organizations, and dioceses. They all try to articulate the calling, purpose, and goals of their particular ecclesiastical and ministry enterprise. Collectively they are often a mixed bag of good intentions and wishful thinking, of real and unrealistic plans, of imaginative risk-taking or safe tasks for maintenance and survival. Some have passed my test of being Gospel-based and missional in scope, while many have soft-landed into a bland and predictable Sunday business-as-usual comfort zone.

Recently I came upon a parish’s vision/mission statement that caught my missional attention and ministry imagination. I pass it on for your consideration. What do you think? How does it strike you, or not? Full disclosure: it does pass my test of being Gospel-based and missional in scope. Read on:


Welcome all seekers;

Worship God in liturgy, music and prayer;

Equip all baptized persons for ministry; and

Engage as agents of Christ’s love in the world.



Learning leads to God;

In giving and receiving care we encounter Christ;

Life in the Holy Spirit is beautiful.



Community engagement and social justice;

Unconditional welcome and inclusion;

A community that calls forth the gifts of its entire people;

Becoming a racism-free and diverse community

that reflects the city where we worship.

Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Philadelphia, PA

Museum or base camp?

by Wayne Schwab

What is the church’s mission and who carries it out?

An old answer: the church is a museum; its mission is to preserve Christian teaching and practice.

A popular answer today: the church is missional carrying on programs and activities that serve its community.  The members support the institution in its community service programs and activities.

missional%20livingAn answer we need: the members are the primary agents of God’s mission in today’s world to make each part of daily life more loving and more just.  The institution acts as a base camp, supporting the members in their daily missions in each part of their daily lives.

Who owns ministry?

by Fletcher Lowe

Recently I was in a meeting where a young man was sharing his Christian journey.  He outlined his childhood closely connected to a Church community, then college where he felt called to the “ministry,” which he pursued through graduate school in music, became a Minister of Music, moved on to Seminary to further pursue that call to “the ministry,” had a not-too-challenging time as an assistant minister before finding his ministry fit as a chaplain in a home for disabled adults.

The more I heard his story, the more I felt uncomfortable with the way he was using the word “ministry.”  It was as if the only real ministry was within the church community.

I had a similar conversation at a dinner party a week ago when I was introduced to another guest: “She is a Presbyterian minister,” my friend said.  I looked back at him and said, “Well you, too, are a Presbyterian minister – it’s just that she has been ordained, but we are all ministers by virtue of our Baptism.”  They both looked as if I was speaking a foreign language.

Part of the current missional revolution is challenging the Church to reclaim the sense of ministry, of calling, of vocation for all the Baptized, not just those who are ordained.  As Byron Rushing, the vice chair of The Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies remarked, reflecting on his calling in the Massachusetts Legislature, “Jesus is in the Legislature where I am called to serve. If he were not there, I should not be there either.”

Each of us is empowered by our baptism for ministry in our daily lives of home, work, and community.  We need to claim that calling – and not let the ordained alone “own it.”

Communicating God’s Love in the Workplace

by Pam Tinsley

I walked into the gym the other day and struck up a conversation with a friend I hadn’t chatted with in quite a while. Eventually, our conversation led to her work as a labor and delivery nurse and her consideration of retirement. She shared with me that, as much as she loves nursing, after 40 years the physical demands of the profession are telling her it’s time to slow down.

My friend’s voice revealed how conflicted she was about this major transition in her life. Nursing was what God put her on earth to do, she told me.  Even as a small child she and her family recognized her vocation because of the care she showed toward others.

She went on to describe nursing as her spiritual calling. She expressed it as life-giving – not only because of the new lives she helps moms deliver, but because of the people she comes in contact with, from colleagues to patients and their families. The relationships she forges with others, even for a short time in the hospital, are life-giving and life-changing.

“Ah,” I responded, “you’re living out your baptism. Nursing is your baptismal ministry.” No further explanation was needed. Instead, she told me about helping a woman in labor who spoke no English. With the aid of an interpreter, she communicated maintaining eye contact with the woman throughout the conversation – thus respecting her dignity. She then posed a last question through the interpreter: Do you have any questions for me? To which the woman responded, again through the interpreter, “I just wanted to tell you that I see God’s love in your eyes.”

My friend found the common language of God’s love to communicate with her patient. Sharing Christ’s love with another in need, even if only through her eyes, is one of the many ways she lives into her baptism through her spiritual calling as a labor and delivery nurse.

Have you had an experience in your daily life – at work, in the community, in the local supermarket – where your actions were shaped by your belief in a loving God and a commitment to your baptismal promises? How might another person’s life have been touched by that experience? How was your life changed?

The Missional Church Movement and The Episcopal Church

by Peyton G. Craighill

In America, congregations generally assume that their success is measured in terms of how many members they are able to attract. They also assume that their power to attract and hold members depends on their ability to produce programs that meet the spiritual and social needs of their members. The most successful congregations are those with the most attractive power. The problem with these assumptions is that they ignore why God created – and continues to create – congregations.

The Church came into being when God sent his Son into the world to live, die, and rise again for that world, and to commission his followers to spread the Good News of God’s love and justice through word and action into all that world. The Church exists, not primarily, to attract people into congregations, but to send people out to share with Christ in his mission in all areas of daily life. When we were baptized into Christ, he commissioned us all of us to participate with him in his mission, Monday through Sunday.

The paradigm shift from an attractional to a sending model of congregational ministry calls for a major reconsideration of every aspect of church life – worship, formation, community, and service. Mission is no longer on the periphery of church life. The mission of Christ is why the Church and all of its congregations exists! Parish programs need to be rethought in terms, not only of the corporate life of congregations, but also in terms of how they inspire, guide, and support each member in her or his missions in all areas of daily life – home, work, leisure, community, church, and the wider world.

In regard to the missional church movement in the Episcopal Church, what sets our approach apart from other Churches is our emphasis on baptism and the baptismal covenant. As Christ’s mission began with his baptism, so too our mission, shared with Christ, begins with our baptism. In particular, the nine commitments (Book of Common Prayer, pp. 292-4) we make in our Baptismal Covenant provide us with invaluable inspiration and guidance for our missions in and through Christ.

We recognize of course, that, in mission-oriented congregations, attraction remains an important part of our ministry. Unless congregations attract members in, there will be no missionaries to send out. But attraction is subordinated to sending. Indeed, the best way to attract people into congregations is when those congregations inspire and support all their members to live out their faith in their everyday lives.