Newly Released Essay Collection Explores Future of Episcopal Church

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Leading thinkers tackle hard questions about structural changes needed for 21st-century ministry in "What We Shall Become" by Winnie Varghese

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In the wake of profound differences that some speculated would split the Episcopal Church, a diversity of church leaders has contributed to a new book that explores what changes may be needed to serve a modern, diverse society. From Presiding Bishop The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori to the The Very Reverend Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, President of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, leaders write boldly about what kind of structural changes will encourage the Church to become what God might be calling it to be.

This book, "What We Shall Become: The Future and Structure of the Episcopal Church,” is published as the governing bodies of the Episcopal Church USA are anticipating formal recommendations that will outline the future character and structure of the Church.

Edited by The Reverend Winnie Varghese, rector of the historic St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, the collection of essays examines the issues that restructuring raises for the church, including:

  •     the historical, sociological and ecclesiological forces that have shaped the Church, how seminaries are reimagining their work for the 21st century;
  •     how the changing landscape of communications and interconnectedness is challenging dioceses to support mission work differently;
  •     and what it means to truly empower laity in our ever-evolving world.

“We have struggled for a generation to find our bearings, structurally, as the circles defining who we are are drawn wider and wider and our expectations and norms as well as our gifts become even more abundantly diverse and at times in apparent conflict within themselves,” Varghese writes. “Some essays argue that significant change to our structures is needed for effective ministry; others illustrate what can be accomplished within the structures we currently inhabit. All call us to consider where we fall short as a church and challenge us to perceive barriers in our current system and eliminate them.”

Jefferts Schori sets a bold, unmistakable tone for the church’s future as she outlines the ultimate goal of the essays’ thinking and work: “The mission we are engaged in is God’s mission to heal and reconcile the world … God’s Spirit is present in varied places and communities, and if we are to be faithful, part of our job is to build partnerships for mission with others who share our understanding of what God’s mission is about.”

In collection, these essays present a thought-provoking, clear-eyed look at the challenges facing the Episcopal Church and begin a pathway toward solutions.

Varghese, who served as the Episcopal Chaplain at Columbia University and UCLA and as an associate at St. Alban’s Los Angeles before beginning her tenure at St. Mark’s, is available for interviews. She is a recognized leader on many of the issues addressed in the essay collection and has published in Episcopal Life, The Witness and the Huffington Post.

Essay contributors include:

  •     The Reverend Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, Director of Networking in the Diocese of Chicago
  •     Kay Collier-McLaughlin, PhD, Deputy for Leadership Development and Transition Ministries for the Diocese of Lexington
  •     The Reverend Gary Commins, DD, rector of St. Luke’s, Long Beach, California
  •     The Right Reverend Ian T. Douglas, PhD, Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut
  •     The Right Reverend Charles Andrew Doyle (Andy), ninth Bishop of Texas
  •     Miguel Escobar, program director for leadership resources at the Episcopal Church Foundation
  •     The Reverend Thomas Ferguson, PhD, Dean of the Bexley Hall Seminary Campus of the Bexley Hall Seabury Western Seminary Federation
  •     The Right Reverend Carol J. Gallagher, PhD, Assisting Bishop in the Diocese of North Dakota and Bishop Missioner for the Bishops’ Native Collaborative
  •     The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, PhD, 26th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church
  •     The Reverend Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies
  •     The Reverend Bonnie Perry, DMin, rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Chicago
  •     The Reverend Robert W. Prichard, PhD, professor of church history and instructor in liturgics, Virginia Theological Seminary
  •     The Very Reverend Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, DMin, President and Dean of Episcopal Divinity School
  •     Mathew Sheep, PhD, teacher of organizational behavior and leadership at Illinois State University
  •     The Reverend Susan Brown Snook, rector of Episcopal Church of the Nativity, Scottsdale
  •     The Reverend Dwight J. Zscheile, PhD, assistant professor of congregational mission and leadership at Luther Seminary and associate priest at St. Matthews Episcopal Church, St. Paul

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