The "vision thing" has tragically become just another way for talking about corporate long range plans. Witness the BUDGET PROCESS FOR THE 2013-2015 TRIENNIUMstatement 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.
- "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.