The Vision Thing, and the lack thereof.

The "vision thing" has tragically become just another way for talking about corporate long range plans. Witness the  BUDGET PROCESS FOR THE 2013-2015 TRIENNIUM
statement from the Executive Council Finance for Mission Subcommittee on the Budget process, that begins with this:"

A budget is a visionary document.  Therefore, it should be grounded in a high-level vision of what the church should be doing and becoming.  We propose referring to the budget within Executive Council as the “DFMS Budget and Financial Statement of Mission” in order to reflect its visionary nature."

Well that may be what "vision" is about in corporate America, and even in ecclesiastical America, but as every good bible thumpin' Episcopalian (and everyone else who has a touch of biblical literacy) knows, vision is the sort of thing best seen in the prophets. And the prophets would laugh off the statement that "a budget is a visionary document" in a heartbeat.  

When we read the prophecy of Isaiah this Sunday the difference between corporate vision making and real knock um dead VISION is clear.

Isaiah says,
"Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow."

The vision of what it means to cease doing evil and learning to do good is pretty clear. And the consequences of failing to do so are clear as well.

"Vision," if not used carefully by prophetically influenced peoples, as I assume Christians are, becomes a sloppy way of talking about specific proposals in terms of more general goals, and those goals in terms of something like a list of generally hoped for outcomes. Vision becomes an alternative for the phrase, "goals and objectives."

A vision for the Episcopal Church might look like this:

God calls the Episcopal Church to live out the radical inclusion of God's love for all creation, remembering particularly God's preference for the poor and the poor in spirit, and God's call to do justice and love mercy.

That would leave open all the things of liturgy, prayer book, orders, and other ecclesial niceties. It would mean we would interpret Scripture in the light of not just reason and tradition, but in the light of the vision we hold, itself congruent with Scripture.

It would mean that we would take seriously the comment by the Bishops who wrote the Chicago version of the Quadralateral, "That in all things of human ordering or human choice, relating to modes of worship and discipline, or to traditional customs, this Church is ready in the spirit of love and humility to forego all preferences of her own."  We would in other words, keep our eye on the prize, our eye on the vision.

It would also mean that The Episcopal Church would not see itself in competition with other faith groups, but rather doing its own vocation within that larger community of Christian believers.  

Now this may not be the vision for The Episcopal Church. But the vision will look something like that. 

Or perhaps if the right prophetic voice comes along it would be stated more strongly.  Maybe this way: 

The word of the LORD comes to
that little people, the people of
The Episcopal Church:

To those who seek vision 
but settle for priorities,
I care little for your cares and plans,
Your institutional life is bound for death
as is every body. 

Have you forgotten that I called you
to heal by holding the world in your heart,
to make whole by loving one another and
loving the stranger,
to find a way to the reconciliation of all
in my love for all?

I hold the world in my hands,
surely you can hold the world in your heart.

I am the God of common prayer,
whose book is not written, 
save in the hearts of the least of those
who seek me,
and who find me 
in bread and gladness shared.

I call you to be part of my inclusive love,
where justice and mercy meet together.

I call you to live out the radical inclusion of my love for all creation, remembering particularly my preference for the poor and the poor in spirit, and my call to do justice and love mercy.

I call the Episcopal Church to its vocation. Do not be afraid. You will be a leaven in the lump of dough from which I am making the bread for tomorrow. 

Well, if not this (and this is by no prophet but a printmaking priest)  than what?  Surely a visionary budget is nothing without the vision.  Vision brings vocation, then we can talk about goals, objectives, budgets and church life. But vision first.


  1. Nice to hear your voice after all these years, Mark. Same Gospel, too.

  2. Bob McCloskey9/8/13 9:29 AM

    Hi Mark -

    Thanks so much for this article. I have taken the liberty of using the prophetic vision at the end, with due attribution in my sermon for this Sunday. Your article is one of the best I have seen from you and I personally appreciate it!

  3. That's it, Mark. I'll take that vision.

  4. Thank you, Mark. And what makes you think a print-making priest is not a prophet?

  5. I found this mission/vision statement also inspiring:

    Be loose and have fun.
    Bake phenomenal bread.
    Run fast to help others.
    & give generously.

  6. As the Prophet Samuel told King Saul, the Lord prefers obedience to sacrifices. Obey him first, then worry about sacrifices, which would be our Eucharistic sacrifices, IMHO.
    We can have all the Eucharists we wish, but if we ignore the Lord's teaching in our daily life, what will be the outcome?
    There are a lot of people in need in this and other countries. We can have all the meetings we want, but if you don't solve the problems, you become one of them.
    Sandhill Man

  7. Julie Morris10/8/13 11:17 PM

    YES! Thank you!

  8. Dear Mark

    What do you make of the Episcopal Oversight Group's rejection of General Convention's D016, which requested a move from Manhattan to a less expensive place. Over 50% of the TEC budget goes to administration/governance. How is that a morally sustainable figure that dioceses ought to volunteer to support?

    One wonders if the only thing that will bring moral clarity is bankruptcy or a crisis of another kind.


  9. Bob. Glad u used it. Love to see the sermon. If u can. Send to poetmark1949@gmail.com. Thanks

  10. Scm. Re sale. Staff and administration stuck and change very hard. In the short run no savings. Thinking in long range terms not easy when there is talk of major re visioning The 50 percent for governance / administration is out of line but that is to a large extent because face to face governance just costs!

  11. Thank you Mark.

    I mean no discourtesy, but you don't sound like Amos here, but like Amaziah.

    Prophets do not respond like you have responded. At least not according to your own high standard.

    kind regards, in Christ



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