Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Saturday, May 21, 2016

VISION ANDREWS-"Asiamerica Network of Disciples Revivalists Evangelists Witnessess & Saints."

(The Rev. Canon Dr. Winfred B. Vergara, Missioner for Asiamerica Ministries, The Episcopal Church, 815 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Presented at the Bay Area Clergy and Lay Leaders gathered at Holy Child & St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Daly City, California last May 18, 2016)

 I envision “ANDREWS” to be a mentoring/coaching program for clergy and lay leaders of Asiamerican and Pacific Islanders in The Episcopal Church.

Churches in concordat with TEC such as Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Church of South India, Church of North India and Mar Thoma Church may also join ANDREWS but priority in scholarship support will given to TEC. ANDREWS will also be open to the newly-formed Anglican CanAsian Ministries (ACAM).

The vision is to train the Baby Boomer Generation (born between 1946-1964), the Generation X (born from 1965-1979) and the Millenials (born between 1980-2000) in a relationship of mentors and mentees (discipler and disciple).

Although it is expected that the mentors may have more knowledge and experience, it is also a process of give and take, as the mentees may have ideas that will enrich an intergenerational relationship.

As a rule, it is good to pair the intergenerational partnership within their racial-ethnic category but exception will be based on availability of mentors and when the context of ministry is multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural.

The strategic purpose of ANDREWS is to recruit, train and develop a cadre of outstanding leaders that shall help renew the church, evangelize the nations (panta ta ethne) and transform the world. In the Episcopal Church today, there are many declining parishes and missions and many congregations are stuck in stagnation.

The visible goal within three years is to have seventy (70) well-trained mentors, leaders who are equipped to revitalize declining churches, strengthen and grow existing churches and plant new churches or create new ministries.

In the Old Testament, Moses developed seventy(70) leaders who assisted him in the exodus. In the New Testament, Jesus called the 70 disciples to go two by two as an advance party to where he was going. 

The funding of ANDREWS will be a triad partnership of (1) the Asiamerica Ministries Office of the Domestic & Foreign Missionary Society, (2) the Mission Enterprise Zone of DFMS and (3) the Diocese/Parish where the ANDREW mentoring program operates.

ANDREWS will provide three areas of development: (1) Training seminars and conferences, (2) Coaching techniques and (3) Resources in books and digital technology.

Provision for these developmental training will be in the form of scholarships and access to free or affordable resources. For example, if ANDREWS participants travel to Israel and participate in the course “Palestine of Jesus” at St. George College in Jerusalem, scholarships will be provided for travel and/or tuition. 

Production of contextual training programs and publication of resources in local levels will be encouraged.

The Missioner for Asiamerica Ministries (of DFMS) will provide the vision, direction and decision-making with the assistance of the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry Council Executive Committee. The EAMC Execom is the Subcommittee on Scholarships. 

What is the meaning of ANDREWS? The following terms describe the scope of the vision:

Participation in ANDREWS will be coming from the following EAM Ethnic Convocations: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, South Asian and Southeast Asian and Pacific Islanders. If the initial goal is to train seventy (70) leaders, it would mean we will be recruiting at least ten leaders (mentors) from each ethnic convocation.

What will be the criteria of recruitment? I need your input on this matter. It is my hope that the EAM Ethnic Convocations will assist in identifying, discerning and recommending at least ten exemplary leaders from each of their constituency.  

What is a network? Episcopal Bishop Steven Charleston gave me an idea of what a network is when he discussed Facebook and Social Networking. He wrote, “One of the realities of post-modern media is that it is like playing a connect-the-dots game. If one person sends something to another person, and that person sends it on to two more people, and those two send it to four more, then exponentially, organically, a network begins to form.”

While it is true that our initial goal is to create 70 mentors in three years, the network of their influence will spread exponentially. If the 70 are able to disciple at least 70 others, that 70 others will also disciple 70 others and in time, we multiply the mentors exponentially.

Mentorship is the contemporary term for discipleship and mentor is the disciple-maker. Some words such as “coach,” and “role model” are also appropriate but “mentor” has a definite ring that goes beyond coaching and role-playing. Perhaps it is closer “big brother/big sister.”

One of the interfaith mentoring program is called “Panim El Panim”(Hebrew for “Face to Face”). One of the PEP testimonies read something like this:

“Frank was born in Ghana. A very gifted child, he was given full scholarship to attend a good school but his father, an abusive alcoholic prevented him. So he ran away at age 15 and worked in a merchant ship and landed in New Jersey where he finished high school and worked as a welder for 10 years and as taxicab driver for 15 years. During this time he got married but his marriage failed and he lost his way and struggled with depression. At Panim El Panim, he was given a mentor who has a heart deep and big enough to listen to Frank and to finally led him to renewal. He just graduated Nursing. At graduation, with his arm around his mentor’s shoulder, Frank said ‘All my life I had been seeking my father’s approval…now I found my father.’ He plans to return to Ghana and serve as nurse there.”
Disciple-making changes character and transforms lives as Jesus has done with his disciples.

New York Times recently published that dozens of Roman Catholic Churches in the New York archdiocese were recently closed due to shortage of clergy, declining membership and church giving. The Episcopal Church is no exception. 

The dioceses in New York, Long Island and other dioceses have been struggling with how to deal with membership and income decline. Some dioceses respond to the decline by closing churches, merging parishes and promoting bi-vocational clergy who work part-time in church and part-time in secular jobs.

This situation in our churches calls for clergy who have the gift and skill of a church revivalist or parish revitalizer. Three years ago, I served very part-time, as a weekend Priest-in-Charge of St. James Episcopal Church in Elmhurst, Queens experiencing a steep decline. When I started on April 2013, the Sunday attendance was 25 and deficit was $93,000; when I ended my term last Easter 2016, the attendance was 150and surplus was $31,000. 

How did I do it or how did it happen? I certainly have a gift of leading a church to revival and so with some of you. We need to impart that gift and skill to mentor clergy who have the passion to revive declining parishes.

One of the things that we, Episcopalians need to learn more is the power of the Holy Spirit to revive churches. Christianity Today reported that for every Anglican Church in London that closes, three Pentecostal churches rise up. What can we learn from our Pentecostal brothers and sisters with regards to the revival fire? How can we allow the Holy Spirit not only to reside but also to preside in our congregations? The task of spiritual revival and parish revitalization is urgent now more than ever.

When we were students at St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary in Manila, we were called “Andresitos and Andresitas” or “little Andrews.” 

In Greek St. Andrew was the “protokletos,” the first apostle to be called by Jesus. He led his own brother, Simon Peter with the words that he learned from Jesus Himself “Come and see.” "Come and see Jesus" would mark the ANDREWS mentoring program.

It is very heartwarming that the rallying vision of our Presiding Bishop, The Most Rev. Michael Curry is the “Jesus Movement” whom he defined as “evangelism and racial reconciliation.” In his recent speech in Puerto Rico, Bishop Curry said that “the Jesus Movement is a movement of people who are so wrapped up with Jesus that their lives start looking like his.”

St. Paul as a mentor reminded his mentee Timothy, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction…Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4). Evangelism is a priority.

ANDREWS style of evangelism will be marked by humility. Sri Lankan evangelist, D. T. Niles said, "Evangelism is a beggar telling another beggar where to find bread." It is an evangelism of attraction not confrontation. Mahatma Gandhi once said something like this, "If your rose garden is so attractive, people will climb the fence or cross the lawn to smell and appreciate it."

Jesus said to the apostles before he ascended to heaven: “And you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria and to the ends of the earth”(Acts 1:8). 

The Holy Spirit descended upon them on the Day of Pentecost and they become witnesses for Christ in the life they lead and in the relationships they create.

Our organization Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry is a witness to the reconciling work of God. It is an umbrella of convocation of congregations: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Southeast Asia and South Asia---and Pacific Islanders. Historically in Asia, we were embroiled in wars and conflicts but in EAM we became brothers and sisters. Because we are able to be in harmony in our diversity, we are able to transcend this harmonious relationships in the greater multiracial and multicultural church and society.

The AMEMS (Asiamerica Mission to End Modern Slavery) is a ministry of witness to the victims of human trafficking. We need entrepreneurial skills and creativity in promoting the ministry of witness to the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized in our society.

The loose definition of saints is being “set apart” and all Christians are in a sense set apart for God. 1Peter 2:9 says “But you are a chosen people, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. That you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

John Wesley, the Anglican priest once told his fellow clergy, “You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent on it. It is not so much to do this and to do that or to become a members of society but to save as many as you can and to bring them up to the holiness, without which they cannot see the Lord.” The Holiness Movement paved the way for the formation of the United Methodist Church.

So the name of our mentoring program is ANDREWS---Asiamerica Network of Disciples Revivalists Evangelists Witnesses and Saints. 

May God bless this vision to the praise and glory of His Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

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