"Where there is no vision, the people perish." That's in Proverbs (29:18 KJV), and it's very, very true. Without a vision to guide our mission, the Church can easily become unfocused. That's why Plan 2018 has been developed.
I believe we need to be radical, in the deep sense of returning to our roots and find ways to explain to our contemporaries why it is that the Church exists.
The business of the Church isn't about us, it's about God. The theological principle on which Plan 2018 was based is called (in Latin) the "missio Dei," which can be translated as "the mission of God."
What is God's mission? We believe that God is active in the world through the Holy Spirit, continuing God's work of creation, reconciliation and healing. That's God's mission, and the job of the Church is to figure out where God is calling us to help in this work. A simple way to express this is "God's mission has a church."
More specifically, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has said we should take our cue from the "Five Marks of Mission" that the whole Anglican Communion has worked out through years of study and prayer.The five marks are: to proclaim the Good News of God's kingdom; to reach, baptize, and nurture new believers; to respond to human needs by loving service; to seek to transform unjust structure of society; and to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
The priority of our diocesan life then is to develop vital and sustainable communities of faith in Jesus Christ to carry out our part in God's mission in the world.
This is not a top-down exercise. And Plan 2018 from its earliest formulation has been a "grass roots" initiative, developed consultatively by the Diocesan Council through a working group that Jane Osler and I have had the honour to chair.
A series of 19 consultations in fall 2007 and winter 2008 produced a statement on vision and values and ten strategic priorities enthusiastically adopted at Synod 2008. This plan is what people have been working on at many Diocesan Council meetings and two "SuperSaturdays" to which every parish was invited.
The need for a comprehensive diocesan plan has become even more urgent, with the changed economic conditions of the past several months. No longer can parishes in crisis come to diocese standing committees and be assured they will get the financial aid they may need. The money just isn't there.
One thing we're asking of all parishes-even before they enter into a Ministry Assessment Process-is that they undertake an honest self-assessment to discern their best future for furthering God's mission in the world.
Regionally, we see a need for parishes to plan and work together. We are exploring a variety of alternatives to present arrangements together.
I, and all diocesan leaders, are committed to decision-making at the most local level possible. But we are just as committed to bringing about the changes needed for God's mission to be met.
The Anglican Church of Canada has a rich potential future to meet people's spiritual needs in the place where they are today. We are a sacramental Church. We are a biblically-based Church, which believes its members must be biblically literate. We have a rich communal life. We are socially and ecologically aware. We are a spiritual home to many; we can be that home to many more.
I believe the Anglican way holds treasures and gifts for today's world, and that it is our mission-more importantly, it is God's mission-to serve the world God loves and has saved..
The Very Rev. Peter Elliott is Dean of the Diocese of New Westminster. A proposal for a diocesan strategic plan to go before Diocesan Synod May 22-23 is on the website, click here