Evangelism in the Episcopal Church is often maligned, dismissed, considered disrespectful of others' beliefs to the extent that we are rarely engaged in it. I have been convicted that I will never again let someone's dismissive remarks about the 'E' word go without a response. We have talked ourselves out of believing the critical need for each of us to share the Gospel, not only personally but corporately. The personal thing is hard. I have often heard it said, 'I joined the Episcopal Church so that I would never have to say the word 'Jesus' outloud.' This remark usually comes from someone who was raised in a more fundamentalist theological background who has found the Episcopal Church to be an open minded, non-pressuring kind of place in stark contrast to their upbringing. I am glad that our church has created a safe place for those who were beat over the head with fundamentalism. However, we do no one any good by dismissing evangelism altogether.
The Diocese of Texas has undertaken a Newcomer Ministry Project that takes a comprehensive assessment/look at the way we corporately invite, welcome and connect new persons into the lives of our congregations. The invitation speaks to the ministry of evangelism. The welcome speaks to the ministry of hospitality. The connection speaks to the manner in which we connect persons into the Body, listening and discerning spiritual gifts, God-given passion and talents and where these people may find a significant outlet for ministry. It takes all three acts of invitation, welcome and connection to open ours doors and closing our exits.
The response to this focus has been significant. It appears that people are realizing the call to evangelism is not one to be dismissed and that intentional work is needed to do this ministry well. We are seeing people get energized by the thought of approaching evangelism in these essential ways. There is alot of work yet to be done but this is a good start.