Survey on Mutual Ministry Completed

Episcopal News Service. September 28, 1978 [78276]

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- A Churchwide survey has revealed a high level of theoretical agreement among Episcopalians about concepts of mutual ministry but considerably less being done to implement the concept.

The survey -- revealed to the Executive Council at its quarterly meeting in September -- was launched in October, 1977 by the Council for the Development of Ministry and the ad hoc Committee on Clergy-Laity Relations of the Council's lay ministries program. It was designed by two leaders of the ad hoc committee, the Rev. David W. Eckman and Ms. Sherill A.H. Akyol and by D. Barry Menuez arid the Rt. Rev. Elliott Sorge of the Church Center staff.

The 16-question survey and a cover letter were sent to each diocesan bishop and each diocesan commission on ministry chair. Sixty of the 93 domestic dioceses responded, enough to give the surveyors a reasonable sample in most areas.

A key factor in the survey was a definition of mutual ministry drawn from a book of that name by the dean of General Theological Seminary, the Very Rev. James Fenhagen. Of the concept Fenhagen says: "Ministry is a special work within the Christian Church.... It refers primarily not to a special office (the ordained ministry) but to a special function.... Ministry is an act undertaken in the name of Christ."

An early surprise finding was that despite the amount of agreement with the definitions of mutual ministry in the cover letter, a large majority of respondents made the assumption that ministry by the non-ordained (not in Holy Orders) was primarily to be done in the institutional Church and not in the world.

In addition to the two specific areas of interest, the survey also sought to inquire of dioceses about the amount of funds allocated in diocesan budgets for lay ministries, specific diocesan schools of ministry, number of lay persons holding key diocesan positions; summaries of diocesan programs of ministry already completed or now in process; and the use of the national office of lay ministry made by specific dioceses. The instrument asked about the things,which festered and hindered mutual ministry, the attitudes of clergy and lay ministers regarding mutual ministry, and institutional structures providing for mutual ministry.

In their summary findings, the surveyors noted that bishops seemed most aware of the concepts of mutual ministry and that commissions on ministry were often not dealing with the subject. Funding for lay ministry training and program was also minimal among the respondents.