Building the Big Tent with Ancient Future Disciples
Buddha-killer extraordinaire Becky Garrison has a new book! Ancient Future Disciples: Meeting Jesus in Mission-shaped Ministries continues the pilgrimage she began in Jesus Died for This? This time, Becky wanted to find out how some of the more radically inclusive Episcopalian communities work. How do clergy reach out to people who are not likely to set foot inside a church? How do “mission-shaped ministries” coexist with more traditional types of congregations? Among those she spoke to is the Right Reverend M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, who is working to open the Anglican “big tent” to everyone. Here’s a taste of their conversation:
Shaw understands the importance of different forms of church as catalysts for deeper discipleship because of his own personal journey. A lifelong Episcopalian, he found that parish life was not intense enough for him. In the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Anglican monastic order based in Cambridge,Massachusetts, he found an experience that made him want to help other communities to go deeper in their Christian journey, and perhaps to take an unusual approach to get there. More recently, the experience of having two clergy transition their gender identity (one of them during the formation process for ordination) proved to be a life-changing experience for him. He learned that he needs to model radical acceptance and to speak in support of those who are marginalized whenever he’s asked to do so. Because so many other privileged people trust him, he can help to open the door so people in the center can meet those who on the margins.
In his work, he has found that those who are attracted to communities like The Crossing and the monastery want greater intensity, something beyond the structures of a traditional parish. Most members of The Crossing are under the age of thirty-five and are deeply passionate. If they’re going to be part of anything, he said, they want to know it will make a difference. … Rather than focus on creating Episcopalians, Shaw wants people to become as close to God as they can be.